I started kindergarten with a batch of kids, and I stayed with them until 8th grade. New people came, and others left, but I was still with the same group of people almost every day since I was 5. Last fall, though, they all went off to high school, and I didn't go with them. I've been doing online school for the past semester, and today I wanted to finally talk about why we made the decision to go that route.
I've never exactly had the best health. I can pull countless examples of having to miss school, or playdates. I'm sure I've had more doctors appointments than some people have in their entire lives. Thankfully, God gave my family good friends in the medical field, which has been such a huge blessing. I was never able to be completely 'normal,' but with great doctors and a lot of faith, I was doing okay. Then, very early in my 7th grade year, all of that changed.
In 7th grade, my health started getting worse and worse. I had been on a medicine for years, which we did not take lightly. We had tried all other options beforehand, and even had a plan to try and wean off of it in a few years. Overnight, though, the medicine that had been working for years stopped, and I was left with the crippling feeling of nothing. No happiness, no sadness, no anger, no nothing. Every once and a while I would be able to feel, but only sadness and the lack of hope. It was like I was walking in fog; everything was terribly blurred. It seemed like everything was reaching me with a filter that was keeping its beauty from me.
The first part of my story is about mental health. I have clinical depression, OCD, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and tics. All of these things, spare tics, I was born with. Clinical depression is not brought on by anything, unlike circumstantial depression. I don't feel it all of the time, but it is always there. Even if I were to wake up tomorrow and never feel the mental and physical pain that it brings again, I would still have depression.
I always describe Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a smorgasbord of all the different anxiety disorders. It isn't specific, like social anxiety, or separation anxiety. It encompasses a lot of things, more than I could ever name.
My number one pet peeve is when people misuse the term 'OCD.' OCD is NOT wanting to keep a semi-organized room or workspace. It is NOT keeping books straight on a desk at school, or wanting pretty handwriting. OCD is being unable to leave the house for days out of fear of the oven catching it on fire, even if you haven't used your oven in weeks. It's going without sleep night after night because even though you have checked dozens of times, you're paralyzed with fear at the thought of the door's lock being turned too much one way or the other.
Tics are movements that you do that you can't control. They can be verbal or locomotive; I have the latter. They come and go, which means you could have no tics for a while, and then a lot for a bit. You could have all sorts of tics, or just a few. Just a few examples of tics would be wiggling your nose (Bewitched style), eye blinking, or having to shrug your shoulders.
So, back to 7th grade. My depression was back and worse than ever. My anxiety, which had never really gone away, got worse. It made, makes, and probably always will make me be afraid of being away from home too long, afraid of going out with even my closest friends, and so many other things. Recently it's taken on a more social anxiety twist as well. My OCD was luckily staying under control, as it had been really bad a few years prior. My tics were becoming very frequent, only the main ones couldn't be seen. I had, and still have, a tic in my stomach that causes my ribs to get bruised to the point where I wear a brace.
We tried a few different approaches with our regular doctor, but nothing was working, not even a bit. At that point we were transferred to the main doctor for my problems at Vanderbilt. We embarked on a few months-long journey of going back to counselors (I had gone to one in 3rd grade) and trying every single medicine that she could offer. Nothing worked; not only that, but they all made the problem worse. My body needs a certain amount of anti-depression, anxiety, and OCD medicine, but I cannot even handle a very small amount. So for every medicine we tried, which there were a lot of, I got nearly every side effect that the medicines can cause. It isn't uncommon for people to get a few side effects, but it is to get almost all of them. As well, many times the symptoms go away after a few weeks; that wasn't the case for me, though.
I was shaky, dizzy, lightheaded, had very extreme fatigue (as in falling asleep sitting up, no matter how many hours I had slept the night, or even minutes, before), and many other things. I would almost pass out in stores, and I could hardly walk at times. The doctor at Vanderbilt had exhausted all options, and told us so. That day was one of the worst of my life, as my family stood out in the parking lot wondering what we were going to do next.
We continued trying different treatment options, but I was still very sick from the side effects. It took all my efforts just to make it through a day of school, or even half of a day. At this point it was my 8th grade year. Instead of getting better, things were getting worse. My mental health was still struggling, and so was my physical health from medicinal side effects and the strain that depression puts on your body (such as constant pain, and a weaker pain tolerance). My physical health continued to decrease, though. My stomach had always had problems, less-severe ones being a few allergies to foods, but over the years they had worsened. My stomach was in pain twenty-four-seven, no matter what. It hurt to eat, to move, to even just sit still, all day every day. No one could figure out what was causing the pain, or how to stop it.
My family came to terms with how sick I was, and that there was no way I could attend school the next year. My mom began searching for an online school, and finally found one after months of searching. We decided to enroll, and regular high school was suddenly out of the picture.
After a doctor's appointment one day, I was sent to have a cat scan out of fear that I had appendicitis, or that something else was wrong. We weren't sure what we were missing, as the pain was constant and so severe. They found an ovarian cyst, and they realized that I get reoccurring cysts. As soon as one goes away, another forms. They suspected I might have endometriosis, but the only way to diagnose it is through surgery.
Being out of school was good for our schedule, and for me, as I can have things like heating pads while I work, but it also messed (and continues to) with my mental health even more. It caused/causes me to get very depressed about not being able to go to school, see friends, and just enjoy school like everyone around me was. When going out in public, my anxiety and and tics would be off the charts. My OCD started coming back in small ways, such as having to stop and straighten all of the plates in Target. I was constantly exhausted, but I wasn't able to sleep. I had a few weeks where I wasn't able to walk, or even sit up; I had to lie down constantly. I developed horrible brain fog that prevented me from working, reading, writing, or even being able to understand what my parents were saying to me at times.
As well, my stomach problems were getting worse. The pain was still a daily thing, and the prolonged depression was making it hard to cope with the pain. We met with a doctor who specializes in cysts and endometriosis in teens, and started on treatment. The treatment didn't help the pain at all; in fact, the pain got a lot worse. I was also getting even more side effects, like more dizziness and bloating.
So, where am I today? We still haven't found an effective treatment for any of my medical problems. I still have very severe side effects from the depression medicines. I still have all of the ones I mentioned earlier, but I have new ones, too, such as overall increased stomach pain and pain when I eat. The treatment for the cysts are effecting my mental health as well. The pain and bloating have caused my depression and self-esteem to go even more downhill, unfortunately. I still have the constant pain, and the cysts are still forming. If school wasn't an option starting my 9th grade year, then it's absolutely positively not possible now.
My family and I have had good and bad reactions when telling people the truth about our situation and my health in the past, which is why we haven't talked about it much. Now, though, I feel is the right time to finally share my story and my health problems. Not telling those closest to me has been a challenge that I'm ready to diminish.
If anyone has questions, don't be afraid to ask them. If anyone feels someone might be benefited by reading this blog post, then please share it. Posting this should be one of the scariest things I've ever done, but I have such a peace about it. Not having to beat around the bush when talking about anything concerning my health is going to be such a relief for my entire family. I'm also hoping that by this being posted, I can maybe help someone else in similar circumstances. I would appreciate prayers by anyone, and I would love to be able to pray for anyone else who might be going through a hard time as well.
I'm an author; the easiest way for me to speak is through not speaking at all. That's how this came about; a blog post instead of repeating my story over and over, trying to remember all of the details for each telling of it. That doesn't mean that this post is perfect. I'm sure I'll look back and think of things I should have mentioned, or see places that I should have cleared certain things up. It is the perfect way for my story to be told, though, and that's the only kind of perfection it needs to have.