Whether you realized it or not, I’m acutely aware that it’s been seven weeks since I last posted. Even my Instagram and Twitter accounts have been unusually quiet. (Was that the most shameless plug you’ve ever seen?!)
Before I veer farther off course, let me say that all is well in my world. Actually, everything is wonderful! My reasons for failing to keep [still]moving up to date don’t stem from poor health or unfortunate life circumstances, but simply because I’ve been sinking every extra ounce of brain power into another project. Thoughtful meal preparation, socializing with friends, sleeping…it all pretty much fell by the wayside as I worked hard to reach a professional goal. But now I’m picking up the pieces, and that includes this blog.
I think I have a pretty good post for you today, though. It’s about what to do when you decide to treat your chronic illnesses without Western medicine, and you think you have it all figured out, and then your rheumatologist diagnoses you with an autoimmune disease.*
I began this journey feeling as if I had a good grasp on what I’m up against. While I realized long ago that healing is anything but predictable, it would be wrong of me to pretend that this recent development didn’t sway me in the least.
The first dilemma as me and my physician poured over labwork results, x-rays, and MRIs was to figure out how I feel about all of this. A part of me thought that I was supposed to be upset because, well, that’s what I’ve always done. In the past, diagnoses were sentences. You have this, so you’ll do this or you can’t do this, is what I heard. They came with new medicines, therapies, treatments, and sometimes surgeries. Anger, confusion, sadness, and perhaps an odd sense of validation also accompanied the news. These were things I unwillingly received because I thought they were my only options.
But I didn’t feel any of that. To be honest, I kind of didn’t care. I’ve dealt with these symptoms for years. Why would clumping a few together and sticking a label on them mean anything to me?
Still, I listened to my wonderfully patient doctor as she explained some basic biology and her recommended treatment. For me, a crucial element of choosing how I want to approach my health is gathering information from all sides. This is my process for making informed decisions, and on this day it started with hearing my physician’s opinion. After opening my mind to her point of view I was able to voice my own concerns, and for forty-five minutes we discussed different options until we mutually agreed on a treatment plan.
As we talked everything over, though, I was taken aback by how badly I wanted to say yes to the medication she offered. On the day of my appointment, I was inflamed, tired, and sore. My rheumatologist noticed this and mentioned that there was a non-opioid classification of drugs that would likely ease my symptoms. Maybe it would help me have fewer bad days. A little voice inside me whispered that I deserve every shot at having the best life possible and that there is nothing wrong with accepting help. It was the part of me that still wants someone or something to come in and fix me so that I don’t have to do it myself. I hated how deep I had to dig to find the resolve to refuse her treatment, but for better or for worse that’s exactly what I did.
I’m not relaying this story to get some sort of virtual pat on the back for leaving the appointment emptyhanded, or to encourage cries that I was being unnecessarily stubborn (although feel free to express whatever opinion you’d like). My intent, rather, is to convey that even the people with the strongest convictions have off days, doubts, and fears. It’s really easy to use social media to create this persona of wellness as if I spend my days drinking adaptogenic tonics (well, at least more than I do already) or weaving my own clothes from locally-sourced yarn. My reality is that yeah, I do a bit of that – and possibly a little more than the average person – but I’m still fumbling through my desire to get better, and at the end of the day I’m really just someone who, in the simplest of terms, wants to be well.
So, this is what’s up today. Tomorrow might be different, and who knows where I’ll be in a year. But for now, I’m okay with where I stand, even in light all the challenges it presents.
Image courtesy of Kate Arends via Wit & Delight.
*I’m not trying to be vague or secretive, but for now, I don’t wish to get into the specifics of my diagnoses. Their names carry less weight than they once did, and I find that holding onto these labels is largely unhelpful. I also don’t want anyone to feel as if I’m judging their decision to treat the same or a similar diagnosis with a different course of treatment. We’re all just doing our best, and I can only speak for myself.