Health Update

     I've wanted to write this post for a while now, but I've also been dreading it. I'm so glad I shared some of my health problems this time last year, and I'm immensely grateful for all the kind words I've received. Even so, it's been hard to give updates since then. There are some things I'll forget to mention and others I don't want to share. The whole story will never be written out, because there's no need for everything to be told. I still worry, though, about how much to share. For someone who's used to keeping many things private, it's a hard line to navigate. People are judgemental, and even the most calculated story can easily be misinterpreted. Apart from that, though, my story's not the one people desire. It's not one of fast recoveries; it's one that continually goes through ups and downs.

     Since my post about why I attended an online school for a year, I switched antidepressant medications. If this was a movie, the ominous, foreboding music would begin playing. This medicine was created in the 1960s. For those of you who don't know, modern antidepressant medicines have some pretty terrible possible side effects. Most people don't experience them at all or for long, but I tend to experience most of them. As you go back in time, possible side effects get worse. My family had been avoiding older medicines for as long as possible, but we'd run out of options and weren't ready to completely halt medication yet. 

     This medicine caused my heart rate to rapidly increase, which meant I was constantly burning a large amount of calories. At the same time, the combination of severe stomach pain from birth control, anxiety, and many other sources caused me to stop eating. I lost a large amount of weight over the next few months, but the bloating from birth control was so severe I didn't realize the full extent of it until I was weighed. After a couple of EKGs and concerned doctor's appointments, I weaned off the antidepressant medication I had been on. I also stopped the birth control I had been on, as it made my endometriosis worse instead of better. From there, though, the weight kept dropping.

     I began having strict caloric requirements and times I had to eat. I cannot stress how painful this was. I had to go from eating a piece of peanut butter toast a day to eating six or more times daily overnight. No matter how upset or full my stomach was, I had to eat on the designated snack times. I was also asked to start eating dairy and gluten again at this time to broaden high-calorie options. While I wouldn't eat gluten, I did begin eating dairy again. Food allergens have always been tricky for me; dairy won't always cause me stomach pain, but it commonly does. This caused additional issues with eating until it was again taken from my diet.

     The weight kept dropping, but it was more gradual. It finally stabilized, and it remained that way for a bit. I'd been religiously eating for a couple months, though, and it was exhausting. I was always in pain, and my family and I hated the routine. My family went to the beach on spring break, and I was sick the entire time. We decided to let the calorie tracking fade away for a week, but it never really came back. I was eating at least three meals and a snack every day, but the weight began trickling down again. Between last October or November and just a couple months ago I lost over 30 pounds, and I hadn't been overweight or near it to begin with. 

     My endometriosis got better during this time, but that was just about the only pro. I'd lost a dangerous amount of weight, and the results were that my body didn't have the nutrients it needed. A couple months ago, my family found out I'm borderline anemic, and that things needed to go back to the way they had been last winter and spring. For a while, I was eating three meals a day and about four snacks; I was constantly sick and incredibly distraught over this (necessary) arrangement. After constantly having to eat last winter, I had a poor relationship with food in terms of how I regarded it. I hated that I didn't have control over what I ate, how much of it I had, or when I wanted to snack on something. I still don't have a fantastic relationship with food, but I have days where I am okay with the way things have to be. I don't think there's any way to look at eating the way I did when I hardly gave it a thought. There was a time I didn't have to choose junk food over fruit; I didn't constantly feel nauseous and drowsy from unhealthy foods. I could turn down an evening snack if I wasn't hungry. I was free to eat a second helping of dinner if I was still hungry, and my stomach wasn't in incredible pain from being so full. The weight gain process has been going on for many painful months now, and it has taken a strong toll on me emotionally. However, I'm very thankful my family has been figuring out ways to ease the process. For example, I wasn't allowed to exercise for a long time. As someone who loves exercising, this was very upsetting. As well, having to eat at least six times a day without doing anything to stimulate an appetite was difficult. While I'm still not allowed to do extensive exercise, I am allowed to do things like walk on the treadmill for ten to fifteen minutes a day. My family has also been trying to rotate through dense, high calorie foods, which helps immensely. Trail mix, smoothies, and bars have become my best friends.

     Over the past few months, the pain I experience from endometriosis has returned. So little is known about endometriosis that the only treatments are birth control and surgery. Birth control failed miserably, and surgery has been very strongly advised against. The sooner I begin having surgeries, the more often I'll likely have to have them. For obvious reasons, as well as the fact that endometriosis flourishes on scar tissue, this isn't something my family and I want to rush into. We also didn't want to rush into another antidepression medication after the horrible results of my last one. In February or March, however, we began a new medicine. We increased it until August, when we finally began weaning off of it due to (surprise!) its little effect. 

     For better or for worse, all my time and energy has been put into school. I have not missed a single day this year despite being very sick many days, which is a vast accomplishment for me. While my three months at school have always coincided with many health problems, these issues have increased over the past month. It's frankly been torture to attend school every day. I wish I could simply go to school and enjoy it. I wish I could attend school with no problems other than the annoyance of homework, dress code, or unfavorable classes, but that has never been and never will be the case for me. I'm often in pain from endometriosis, exhausted from the chronic fatigue it causes. and struggling with my mental health issues (which cause many problems with my physical health).

     There aren't many improvements in anything to report. I've gained a few pounds, but my doctors aren't satisfied with the slow progress, and there is still a long ways to go. As for my personal life, there isn't much positivity to spread. I haven't been able to do any of the tasks I enjoy, such as writing or playing instruments, hence such a long absence online even though I've hesitantly returned to social media. I finished the (very) rough draft of a new novel at the beginning of fall break in October, but I haven't been able to edit it at all. I've only read one novel that wasn't required by school in at least a year. 

     The thing I've missed the most is spending time with my family. I come home and work until bedtime or later, so there isn't any time to spend with them. As someone who is rarely away from home, this has been hard. This week and the past one, though, I've had some room to breathe. I'm currently on Thanksgiving break, and while I'm surrounded by piles of homework, I also have plenty of free time. I'm enjoying some time with family, much-needed rest, and getting to finish this post (which, full disclaimer, I may or may not have started back in August).

     My doctors and family don't know what the next step in attempting to improve my health is, but it's something we're used to. For now, life goes on a day at a time. What keeps my family and me going is our faith. One of my mom's favorite Bible verses is Romans 12:12. It says, "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." I won't lie and say that I always go to God first when things are rough. I won't tell you I constantly pray. I won't tell you that my faith takes away all the pain. Even when I am being stubborn, though, it provides constant support. I constantly feel God's love, even when I don't show love to Him. He gives comfort in the midst of the worst days. He makes the unbearable bearable.