Wednesday, January 22, 2014

WWWW: Sicko.

I’ve always had this obsession with finding rather roundabout ways of learning basic life lessons so that I can document them in ways that people might actually find interesting and not cliché.  I was handed one of these life lessons on a silver platter this year, and I hope this piece that I’m sharing is refreshing, rather than redundant.

That being said, I guess it’s only fair to say that for the purpose of this post, I’ll have to sacrifice the normal sarcasm and wit that our previous posts have contained in pursuit of being as honest as the subject matter deserves, but not to worry – this isn’t meant to be a sob story, and also nothing gets published here if it’s not KEEPIN’ IT WAY REAL.

What I’m here to preach about today is the lesson whose moral we all have to come to terms with at some point: We all have crap to deal with. Sometimes it's really, really difficult crap, and we either become consumed by it, or accept it and figure out how to move forward. I finally got this message through my thick head when I finally came to terms with the fact that 
in one way or another, I’m probably going to be sick for a very long time. 

(Slightly funny Leslie Knope-related gif inserted here to lighten things up a little):

I’m sensing in a few of you a hesitation to continue. “Oh brother. *eye roll* Now I get to hear all about another 'sick’ person begging for attention and pity, but like we all get under the weather amirite?” Mhm. You’re super right. So true. And I feel for you, I really do. But first of all, if you think there's any CHANCE I'm here for pity, you are so so so so very very so wrong. 
But let me lay it down for you anyway real quick just so I can maybe regain some credibility here:

Such bad insomnia. Seriously..
      The things that happen to my body in the mere presence of red meat. I'll leave it at that. Cheeseburgers? Not an option.
      Completely unexplainable, non-injury-related knee issues.  One has been fixed by surgery.  The other is well on its way to that point.
      I carry all the stress of a  Fortune 500 CEO in their mid-30s in my shoulders.  Tension headaches are a WAY OF LIFE
      Lifelong anxiety, depression, and acute panic disorder
       And here’s the big one. Congenital Hypothyroidism. And by that I mean: I was born with no thyroid, the key player in your endocrine system. It regulates growth, brain development, and...lots of other hormonal things. What this also means is stuff like:
Lots of cavities.  This is also genetic though. Thx mom.
Very little circulation in my hands and feet.
Only half of my eyebrows grow in. In a family full of people who were blessed with unbelievably perfect, supermodel-esque, Cara Delevingne eyebrows…that one sucks like just a little.

So this is where I learned my lesson in the realest way. Last summer, I lost 18 pounds through absolutely no efforts of my own. I suddenly found myself with zero pants that fit, and even less energy than I normally do. Within a matter of weeks, I weighed less than eight years ago during my freshman year in high school.

If I’m being honest with you (which I am), I’ll tell you: For a few minutes, being very thin without working for it at ALL can be a lot of fun. So how is this possibly a bad thing? Because. When you suddenly find yourself with a perfectly  summer-ready bikini body, but then start going BEYOND that, people begin making comments and asking questions.

I figured out before too long that, thanks to a lucky combination of factors mostly related to my lack of thyroid, my body retained zero nutrients from my food.  It all just went right through me. And here’s the funny thing about weight: no nutrients = no pounds. So I was losing out on both very fast. And when an already small human starts shrinking right before your eyes, people NOTICE. And ASSUME. SO MUCH. Something you need to understand about me: I am actually the LAST human on earth who could EVER have an eating disorder.  Just ask the number of donuts I consume on a weekly (daily) basis. But it is a serious SERIOUS issue that our society deals with today, so it’s no surprise that people jumped right to that conclusion.

All the while this was going on I practically lived at the doctor's office. I was passed around to every kind of specialist, and was tested for every possible disease, and nothing was conclusive aside from the fact that my thyroid levels were always off the charts, and that the weight scale NEVER LIES. We considered several possibilities I didn't want to think about, including somatoform disorder (which sort of means it's all in your head), but we ruled that one out since there really  had to be some explanation for the very real, very frightening things my body was deciding to do.

I have been working with an absolutely tremendous doctor this year, who really goes to the ends of the earth to try and explore everything. I owe her my life in many ways. I am also unbelievably blessed to have been born into a family with a medical background. Otherwise, I’m sure I would have put my family on the streets by now with all the bills I’ve racked up. Anyway, over the course of so. many. months. I was finally able to gain back most of the weight I lost, so in some ways, I feel like myself again. But there’s still so much we have left to discover, and every time we answer a question, we find a thousand more to investigate…and there really are times when I believe it won’t ever get sorted out.

Looking back on everything my body has put me through this year, it was so, so easy to become bitter.  And let me tell you. I DID. After finding myself in the hospital with stomach pains that kept me bedridden for a week, I stopped blogging and writing altogether last year on my old website because I couldn’t find a single way to describe anything that was happening in my life without complaining about it. 

This is still something I struggle with daily. I mean, everybody gets sick. And if I’m being honest (which again, I am), I care 0% when I see facebook updates complaining about the random stomach bugs and headaches that knock people down for 2 days a year. So when I think about the fact that I have been “under the weather” every day for as long as I can remember, some days far worse than others, I hide away and think “who in their right mind would ever want to take on a problem like me? I am going to be such an inconvenience,” because I automatically expect people not to care, even though my health issues are a different beast entirely.  I expect that after so long, people think I’m crying wolf. This is a completely irrational and blatantly incorrect thought process that has actually destroyed potential relationships, simply because I just refuse to ask for help and be vulnerable.

I have faced the harsh reality, though, that there really are people that just plain don't care, and that's fine. This year really showed me who my friends are. I am so fortunate, though, to have found an incredible support system of people who I know I can turn to when I’m definitely in crisis mode. This, my friends, is what I think the biggest lesson is that I’ve learned (am still learning) of them all: I was only able to make peace with my situation when I accepted that doing it alone was truly out of the question.

In no way do I claim to have suffered the worst kinds of medical pains that exist, but all the same I really hope none of you have been put through the same health issues as me in your life. I do know, though, that each and every person will face something momentous. Whether it’s your confidence, body image, a destructive habit you’re trying to break...we all have something

I have no thyroid. I take nine pills a day. I have anxiety. Nine days out of ten, I could give you a legitimate excuse for why I can’t get out of bed, but I get up anyway. I keep moving upward and onward. I have chosen to not be consumed, and I have chosen not to hide it away.

I'm Birdie. And I'm just fine with that.