Bodies are complicated things. No two are alike and the different combinations of things means that even when there are similarities in diseases/symptoms, how they interact with each person can vary wildly. However, that doesn’t change the fact that what we each have going on affects how we deal with the world. And each of us individually knows our bodies and interactions better than anyone else. I want to share what MY body is like and how it affects ME every day. I figure I’ll just start at the top and work my way down.
Problem: My brain isn’t wired to function in a neurotypical society – ADHD, depression, anxiety, insomnia
Effect: Working in traditional 9-5 jobs without flexibility is a nightmare. Without medication, I have trouble focusing for any length of time, I am easily distracted, and often forget what I’ve just said or just been told. I grew up believing that to be loved and accepted, I needed to accept that things were my fault, that monetary success was THE key to happiness, as is thinness and conforming to beauty norms. My depression and anxiety feed off this and send me messages, every day, that my inability to be neurotypical means I’m a failure. That my physical ailments, over which I have little control, have left me in a position where I will *never* be successful or happy. I take two antidepressants, an anti-anxiety medication as needed, and a medication for the ADHD so I can focus. I also have trouble falling asleep – my brain races and will not let me fall asleep, no matter how physically tired I am.
Problem: Deviated septum, maxillary sinus blockage, turbinate hypertrophy
Effect: Inability to breathe well through my nose, chronic sinus infections, poor quality sleep. Sleep is when the body and brain have a chance to recharge and heal. Because I can’t in oxygen, I get crappy sleep. Crappy sleep means I don’t heal. Additionally, it makes running and other cardio exercise difficult. I just had surgery to correct these problems, but I am still in the recovery period.
MY IMMUNE SYSTEM
Problem: My immune system mistakes my healthy tissues for invaders and attacks – Lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Type 2 diabetes
Effect: Probably the biggest and strangest thing is that I am basically allergic to the sun. I develop a rash on my face which eventually feels like it’s on fire if I don’t remove myself. Repeated sun exposure also leads to rashes on my arms. The sun is a source of Vitamin D which gives us energy. I have to take a supplement to get to normal levels. More annoying than being allergic to the sun is the constant fatigue. The thyroid regulates a ton of the body functions through thyroid stimulating hormone. My body thinks that my thyroid is an invader and attacks it, causing pieces of it, with the hormone to dump into my body. This causes all sorts of fun problems like menstrual irregularities, fatigue, feeling too hot, not being able to cool down once I get warm. I’ve had to alter my diet to avoid overloading my body with sugar which can cause fatigue and brain fog. Lupus also causes small joint pain in my fingers and toes.
I’m pretty sure that the root of many of my problems is Lupus, which should have been diagnosed when I was younger. It causes reactions to antibiotics that appear allergic, but aren’t. I had such a reaction at 4. I think had it been diagnosed, I may have been able to get treated earlier (instead of starting last year) and I may have been able to avoid the thyroid issues and diabetes. There is also some concern that my kidneys are being affected.
MY MUSCULOSKELETAL SYSTEM
Problem: A developmentally narrow spinal canal and nerves that don’t fire appropriately – Spinal issues and fibromyalgia
Effect: Widespread body pain that comes when it feels like and stays as long as it likes. This includes pain in my upper back, shoulders, wrists, hips, and knees. It can be triggered by stress, food I consume, and trauma (like surgery). Because my spinal canal was small, when I herniated discs, I was in extreme pain as they pressed on nerve roots. This led to two back surgeries, the second of which was a spinal fusion in the lumbar region of my back. I still have some lumbar issues and have pain on certain activities. Additionally, a complication of that surgery was that I woke up with foot drop, the inability to pick up my foot. Bad physical therapy further damaged my leg. This led to a tendon transfer, which gave me the ability to pick up my foot, but has probably caused hallux rigidus in my big toe so that it doesn’t have the range of motion it used to. I also have nerve damage so I cannot feel most of my big toe on my right foot or my second toe. I also have joint pain in the metatarsals of my right foot. I take an antidepressant to subdue the widespread body pain and occasionally other medication for acute joint pain. Fibromyalgia also causes stomach issues like IBS. I have to very careful what I eat lest I have a horrible stomach reaction.
MY REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM
Problem: Irregular menstrual bleeding and hormone issues – uterine polyps and endometrial hyperplasia, PMDD
Effect: From about 2002 until I had my uterus removed this year, I had irregular menstrual bleeding. This was prolonged periods and/or heavy periods. Sometimes I bled 20+ days/month, another time I bled straight for 90 days. This is challenging to deal with mentally and physically. Never knowing when you may start bleeding and how strong it may be makes planning things difficult. I would go to the bathroom at work to discover that I had ruined yet another pair of pants. Additionally, I have PMDD, which is essentially PMS on steroids. It affects people different ways – I get slammed with major depression and anxiety. I hoped that having the hysterectomy would lessen the effects, but that hasn’t been the case.
So you’re thinking, okay, but what does that really mean in terms of your life? Best thing I can do is run you through a typical day.
11:30am-1:30pm: Wake up. Feel bad about having slept so late and letting the day get away from me. Think about how I will never really be a financial contributor to my household if I can’t manage to get up earlier and be more productive. However, body is wiped out and still doesn’t want to get out of bed, even though I am awake. It usually takes me 20-30 more minutes to get up and moving. Also, I probably didn’t go to sleep until 3am or 4am and woke up several times in the night, so even though I’ve slept many hours, I’m still fucking exhausted. I do not feel refreshed.
I drag myself out of bed and take my thyroid medication. It needs to be taken 30 minutes before I eat anything else. I then think about what I’m going to eat. My stomach is usually pretty sensitive when I wake up, so I debate for a while what I can eat that won’t make me feel sick. Sometimes I eat, sometimes I don’t.
I hop on the scale to see where I’m at and how my body is processing what I’m feeling these days. Lately I’m down in weight because the surgeries ruined my appetite. Regardless, I see my stomach in the way of the numbers on the scale and reflect how fat I am. Now not eating anything doesn’t seem like the worst idea.
Since I’m still tired, I get back in bed with my laptop and check email and social media. Since I currently do direct sales and work from home as a lawyer, I handle those emails. Unfortunately, I get distracted by 17 other things and can’t remember what I started out doing. Eventually I remember, but beat myself up for getting distracted in the first place.
Mr. Lyndsy comes home for lunch and I feel bad that I haven’t made him lunch, done the dishes or anything else related to the house. I know that after the surgeries I’m not really supposed to, but since I’m the one who is in the house all day, I feel responsible. I do know that he’s an adult and can handle making his own lunch, but like I said, I feel bad that I’m home all day, making very little contribution to our finances, so I *should* be doing more around the house.
I see doctors pretty regularly, especially since I currently have some surgery complications and follow up, so I throw clothes on and head outside, praying the sun is hiding. It’s gotten cooler here now, but I get warm with a lot of movement, so I hope I’ll be okay. During the warmer months though, simply getting from the apartment to the Uber makes me hot and I take hours to cool down. This takes longer if I’m out grocery shopping or moving a lot. My body is usually in some form of pain at this point as well. Sitting for any length of time causes lower back and hip pain. My stomach may be aggravated as well, so I’ve probably made several trips to the bathroom. These days though, I can’t tell when I need to poop, so it happens after I’ve started experiencing some type of stomach discomfort.
Once I’ve finished whatever I’ve been out doing I am usually worn out. I started the day exhausted and fatigued and nothing I’ve done has lessened that any. I am grateful to get home and crawl back into bed. I wait for Mr. Lyndsy to come home. He is usually home around 6pm, which is our dinner time. I realize I haven’t done anything to prep dinner. He’s also usually pretty tired, so we end up not actually making anything and either ordering out or eating something like a sandwich or just crackers. Yesterday, for example, I ate yogurt for breakfast, pineapple for lunch/dinner, and rusks and cookies for a later dinner.
Mr. Lyndsy usually falls asleep around 9pm. He’s up early and since he also sleeps poorly is pretty constantly fatigued. By this point in the day I feel pretty bad about myself. I have done nothing to contribute to the household. I’m tired. I’m in pain with a sinus headache, body pain, I feel too warm. Yesterday was a banner day because I was also emotionally done. The PMDD was in full gear, exaggerating all of the usual depressive and anxious messages about my lack of self-worth and inability to provide value to the world. This is when I start to serious consider that perhaps I would be better off not living anymore. I hurt all the time, I don’t provide value, and there doesn’t appear to be an end to it. Why live like that? Is that really living? Maybe it’s time to just let go.
That may seem like an extreme reaction to you – after all, this stuff isn’t my fault. I don’t make my body attack itself. I don’t control the wiring in my brain. The problem is that I remember I lived a different way. At one time in my life, I felt like a fucking rockstar.
I USED TO BE A BAD ASS
In my last semester of law school I worked as an extern at a large prosecutor’s office. One of my professors was an adjunct faculty member and he was a senior deputy prosecuting attorney assigned to their homicide division. He encouraged me to do the externship and work with him. At the time I didn’t have any interest in practicing law, but 4 credits not stuck in a classroom sounded like BLISS.
Well, it was the perfect match for me. The prosecutor was so impressed with the work I’d done as an extern that he convinced the elected prosecutor to hire me for a job that didn’t actually exist. He was prosecuting a quadruple homicide at the time and it was a capital murder case. He wanted MY help with it. Yes, me. A 24-year old who just graduated. To put it into context, he hated trying cases with anyone. He only did it if the office made him. So, that’s a massive compliment to me. The elected prosecutor agreed.
For the next three years I worked a ridiculous number of hours on the case. I was a full-time graduate student during 2 of the years. I know at one point I worked 28 days straight, probably 10 hours per day. Otherwise I maybe didn’t work on Sundays. I worked alongside local police and fire departments, the state patrol crime lab, leading DNA experts, and an ATF task force.
And I wasn’t just an errand girl. Yeah, sometimes I ran and got coffee and lunch. But after the jury returned its final verdicts (guilty and for the death penalty), we chatted with them. Turns out some of the evidence they found most compelling was evidence I’d uncovered through research or things we discovered because of an insight I’d had. (For example, by reviewing photographs of the defendant, I realized that some of the injuries on his neck weren’t scratches, but were ligature marks left by someone pulling on his chain necklace. The necklace was sent for DNA analysis and the DNA of one of the victims was found on the chain.) Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I’d single-handedly done anything. My boss is a master in trial. He had the vision, I just helped him execute it. He’d tell me he wanted the evidence presented in a certain way, and I found a way to make it happen. After it was all said and done, he said he couldn’t have done it without me.
I can barely get out of bed some days. I have trouble focusing long enough to read a book and follow it. I can barely do 8 hours awake, let alone 8-10 hours of work and travel. I fight the demons in my head most days. I don’t feel like I add value to the world.
There may come a time when I decide I’ve had enough. It will be at a point where it’s clear that things won’t change or will only get worse. People often think that a person’s choice to end their lives is a rash decision. At least for me it wouldn’t be. I know what I was and what I am now. I know what feels like living and what doesn’t. No one else gets to make that call for me. Also, there isn’t anything that someone could say or do that would affect my decision. I live in this body and mind every day. I know that when it’s done, my energy will return to where it came from for someone else to use and change the world. That’s okay with me.