I am a person who in the first decade and a half of my life experienced a fever maybe three times. I never broke any bones I never faced any serious medical complications, and I enjoyed an active lifestyle that also consisted of pizza, french fry and movie dates every single Friday with girlfriends. But when I was 16 I began experiencing a myriad of health complications-migraines, sensitivity to light, joint pain, bruise-like pain on my spine, fevers, colds, and fatigue so severe it was more realistic to call it exhaustion. Shortly after, during the end of my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and put on an antibiotic regimen.
Fast-forward a year to my freshmen year of college, an anxious person, I was having a hard enough time adjusting when out of nowhere crippling mono (which lasted six months without treatment) and recurring Lyme popped into my life. I spent the last week of the semester with a 104 degree fever, unable to swallow, and when I got home I was in and out of the ER and doctor’s office every other day for 2 weeks for fluids and pain killers. I was only getting worse, and then was hospitalized for a week, hooked up to pain killers, fluids, steroids, oxygen, and heart monitors. I was given pills and jello and force fed sea-sickness pills to counter the extreme nausea from all the codeine. After being released I was told I was not allowed to go back to school for at least a semester, and that following that it would be in my best interest to be near my medical team in Boston and pursue a school closer to home.
This all was devastating for a lot of reasons, I had to take time off-it made me feel stagnant, insecure, and like I was not reaching my full potential. And while I enjoyed this time off, negative thoughts and self-deprecation also had me somewhat convinced I was a failure. These feelings only escalated when I started school closer to home in the Spring, without any friends, and mentally a giant mess. But as it does, life continued on.
While I’m two years out of this medical crisis, I still reap all the negative effects. I suffer from exhaustion, back pain, muscle aches, and headaches. On top of that, my immune system has become so knocked that I get sick all the time, injuries and even little cuts and abrasions take centuries (okay I’m exaggerating but still it’s a long time) to heal, and as of recent my blood-work indicated that my kidneys are giving up on me and my heart is at risk because of the low protein levels in my body. I take full responsibility for not taking better care of my health because I have truly dug myself into a hole. I spent too much time attributing problems as benign, normal ones when in fact they are indications of poor health, originating from the Great Mono and Lyme Incident of Summer 2014. I am on a strict diet that makes me incredibly anxious because eating anything I’m not sure about makes me feel like I’m directly poisoning my body who has already begged me to step up my game.
My point is this: I want to share this story and hope to reach girls and young women out there suffering from anything similar. It is an enormous challenge to track my health while trying to maintain good grades and have an active social life, and it kills me that I cant indulge nearly as much as my peers. But I also want to stress that you don’t need a perfect diet – I still have pizza but I eat a side salad and a handful of cashews with it, but your body is, as my mother says, your temple, and you should worship it. You wouldn’t pee all over a place of religious sanctity, so you should treat your body with the same respect. If you give it what it needs, it will allow you what you want. If you find your stomach distended, and your energy drained, and spending more time wrapped up in blankets instead of experiencing life, go back to the doctors office no matter how many times it takes to get a diagnosis. My biggest regret is not nipping this in the bud, and accepting a diagnosis of “very sore throat/cold” from my college’s health services instead of pursuing a more fitting diagnosis from my doctors at home. My medical team (yes I am a 20 year old girl with a MEDICAL TEAM) has told me that once I get my blood-work looking better, I can normalize my diet once again. Until then, I am babying my body and giving it the TLC it truly deserves. If nothing else, I hope my rant has reached someone out there and helped them.