It’s been a minute since I’ve written about my failing health but don’t worry, friends: that doesn’t mean I haven’t been continuing to fall apart!
I notice that if I don’t talk or write about it, people tend to think my issues have gone away. Man, I wish that were the case. To review, here’s my running list of health issues:
Depression and anxiety
Vitamin D “insufficiency”
Getting off birth control: A WHOLE NEW ME
I recently stopped taking birth control, which means that cystic body acne of mine is going to make a reappearance soon. Not looking forward to that. So wow guys getting off birth control has been one wacky ride.
I started taking birth control at the start of 2014 as a last resort for the cystic back acne I struggled with for about 8 years. It worked, it solved the acne problem. But birth control also had a lot of side effects for me, both proven cause-and-effect (nausea and vomiting) and suspected (mood effects, rosacea, loss of libido).
I decided I’ve had enough of the intermittent vommiting and I wanted to see if getting off the pill would help with my rosacea.
I’ve been off it for over two months and so far I’ve lost some weight, my libido has made a dramatic return, and I just feel really different. I got my first real period in a year and a half. I’m excited to ovulate and go through the whole ups and downs of the cycle.
Not super pleased about losing weight and not looking forward to the Return of the Cystic Acne. But overall I’m really glad I’m off the pill. I just feel better.
How crazypants is it that we take these pills so casually? We just mess with our hormones like it ain’t no thing and meanwhile, it’s like THE BIGGEST THING EVER. Your hormones play a role in everything that happens inside of you. I was reading about how being estrogen-dominant (this is what the pill does to you) affects your thyroid, affects your adrenal glands, affects your ability to absorb nutrients…The pill raises your blood pressure, can make you nauseous, affect your mood, your weight, your sex drive…
I mean there’s probably so much more too but it’s just insane. I’m not saying don’t try the pill if you want to try the pill. Try it. It’s a different experience for everyone.
All the meds
When I got back to Atlanta from Baltimore, I made it my mission to actively tackle my accumulating health issues. In the process of visiting lots of doctors, I also uncovered I have a vitamin D “insufficiency” (this is apparently less insufficient than a DEficiency) and anemia.
At one point this is what my bathroom counter was looking like:
So we have a topical antibiotic, prescription-strength moisturizer, and topical ivermectin cream (of all things!) for my rosacea; iron tablets for anemia; vitamin D gummies (why isn’t all medicine this yummy/gummy?); thyroid medication; a muscle relaxer for my jaw…
In comparison to some people, this regimen isn’t even that bad. I recognize that I don’t have a “chronic illness” in the sense that I don’t have an auto-immune disorder or something like that (thank goodness, I’m super grateful for this). But these things do pile up and take a toll on your mental health. It’s like this constant battle to keep everything in check so I can live my life normally. It sucks.
Buckets and spoons
The health issue that most affects my life right now is the chronic pain I’ve been experiencing in my jaw.
It’s such a saga that I don’t even want to get into it too deeply here…The short version is that the cartilage in my temporomandibular joint is displaced and this is causing reduced range of movement and lots of pain. Things like eating and yawning are painful and difficult because I can’t open my mouth very wide. The pain can be so bad, it radiates into my neck and head.
So I’m trying to seek treatment but it’s complicated. Hence the saga part. It would take me another 500 words to explain it here and this post is already super long.
In addition to trying to diagnose and treat this issue, I also have to contend with a healthcare system that capitalizes off my pain and poor health instead of working with me to make me well again. It’s awful and emotionally draining.
Anyways, I’ve realized with this issue as well as the chronic pain I experience in my tailbone when I get up from sitting and lying down (coccydynia), how delicate my resilience is. I’ve always thought of it in terms of a bucket:
Like I have this bucket of problems that reduce my ability to function normally and happily. You can fill the bucket with health issues and as long as it doesn’t spill over, I can still function and be okay. But once it gets too full – once the problems either intensify or I get more problems added in – I can’t live my life normally anymore. My mood sinks, my productivity drops, my mind becomes entangled in circling thoughts of helplessness and frustration.
Because that’s the thing about chronic issues: they often don’t go away. You have to find a way to live with them. Ideally, you would figure out how to make your bucket bigger i.e. grow your resilience “muscle”. My therapist says mindfulness meditation helps with this. Easier said than done.
By the way, there’s a similar but different theory called the Spoon Theory that probably explains what I’m talking about with the buckets much better than I have.
My point is…
Things could certainly be worse and I’m grateful that they aren’t. I just wish I could grow my bucket or get more spoons so I could focus my daily energy on things that bring me joy instead of things that stress me out and cause me pain. And what I really wish is for effective treatment for my jaw (that doesn’t risk me losing my hearing or experiencing nerve damage) so things don’t continue to deteriorate and I can stop putting my life on hold to deal with my health problems.