It’s been a bad week. Probably, more realistically, it’s been a bad month.
I don’t mean because of work. I mean health-wise, it’s been bad.
I know the mantra, I’ve heard it enough times, “You’re young, you can’t be that sick.”
This statement is more infuriating than you can imagine unless you’ve been there.
I was 17 when I told the doctor I was struggling to breathe and received an inhaler. I was 18 when I got a full cardiac workup and started beta-blockers. By college, I was taking over 30 pills a day.
It started earlier than that, closer to puberty. I just chalked everything up to depression, which hit hard and for a long time. However, my sister, at least in some ways, saw herself in me.
She was sick in high school with all kinds of things, but one day we went to a science museum with her boyfriend and she saw fatigue in me. She didn’t bring it up until years later, when she got a diagnosis that made sense, and suggested that I should get checked too.
It’s a series of bacterial infections that tend to be seen together. Studies have linked their chronic forms to everything from heart conditions to arthritis.
The first doctor I went to ran the tests we asked him for, but I came back negative on what’s called a western blot test.
However, I came back positive for different infections, both bacterial and viral.
I expressed concern that the western blot was unreliable. He said the antibiotics we would use to treat what the test was positive for would also attack that bacteria if it was there.
So, that’s how I started college. An antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal, iron, vitamin C, D and E, folate, B-12, melatonin, 5HTP and valerian root hidden in my dresser drawer. I took pills about five times a day.
Unlike the other people in my dorm that summer, I went to bed at 10 p.m. with significant help from the three sleep aids I took. Eight hours of sleep wasn’t the ideal, it was the minimum.
As college moved on, I changed doctors. That increased the number of pills I was taking and added several detox methods. I went gluten-free and put baking soda on my eggs because that’s what the doctor said to do.
I struggled to have the brain power it took filling pillboxes every week because I couldn’t remember most of what I needed to take when. The paperwork told me.
Energy proved to be a struggle. I went to school, worked at the newspaper and did treatment.
I didn’t feel myself getting any better.
I needed to seek treatment, otherwise working like I do now would never have happened, but at a certain point it wasn’t the bacteria making me fatigued anymore.
With every intention of starting again, I stopped treatment on my own while getting ready for an unrelated surgery between my last two semesters.
I intended to go back and keep going because I didn’t feel healthy. My memory still struggled, my joints and muscles ached, fatigue and sleep issues continued hard, and the nerves in my hands liked to go numb for no reason.
After several weeks off basically everything besides a multivitamin, I felt better.
I still wasn’t healthy, but my energy levels were up and even with surgery I didn’t hurt as much.
Maybe it wasn’t the best way to handle my health. At that point I wanted to feel like a normal human being. So, I didn’t start treatment again.
Now, two years after I stopped, I’ve gotten a little worse again. However, I don’t lay in bed feeling as though the energy to move my legs is too much.
The melatonin I’ve been taking since I started my senior year of high school isn’t a daily requirement to get any sleep anymore.
So far, the new year has brought more fatigue and muscle aches than in recent memory.
Still, I’m far more healthy than I used to be. Sometimes, I have to focus on that.