One of my goals for this blog is to help others find their voice and if nothing else, know they are not alone – whether you can relate to my struggles, or are dealing with something completely different. Over the next month I want to share with you all an abbreviated version of my own journey which put me on this path a year and a half ago. Until I got sick, beyond your standard cold or flu, and started sharing snippets of what I was going through in conversation with others, I never really realized how many people are suffering in silence or how completely autoimmune diseases can and do make their presence felt in the lives of so many every single day.
I’m not looking for sympathy, I’ve learned to embrace my journey and I’m grateful for it. I simply hope that by sharing what I’ve gone through, others might be able to carve their own path to healing more quickly, or at the very least, with a better sense of direction. The next few blogs will be a general outline of my recent health journey. Included will be the major turning points; at a later date I may expound even more on some of the things that I have tried and that have (or have not) helped me. Today, a look back at how it all began…
I began showing symptoms of Mono around the end of December, 2016. I had done quite a bit of work related traveling in October and with the standard incubation period of mono being around 6 weeks, I suspect I may have picked it up around that time. Contrary to popular belief, there are other ways of contracting it aside from kissing. Or, perhaps it had been laying dormant for years and a combination of events had unknowingly kicked it into high gear. There’s really no way to know for sure. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I started feeling unwell but looking back, things began to unravel on my trip home to visit my family over Christmas.
Everything was status quo when the steering wheel on my car began to lock up. I was able to navigate over a lane and pulled to a quick stop in the median between the highway and an on ramp as my wheel stiffened even more. Thankfully, with cars zooming past me at an uncomfortably close proximity, I wasn’t far from home and my rescue party was able to come and help me. Although there was snow on the ground, it was a mild mid-west winter day so the lack of heat while I waited wasn’t too much of a concern at the time. A parts store was a little ways down the road and after a couple of trips we were able to find the problem and fix my vehicle. Though I hadn’t dressed for an adventure on the side of the road, my soaked feet didn’t really bother me and I finished the drive home in my car albeit wet, hungry and with my nerves on edge but grateful for the quick fix.
It became quickly apparent to me that I was coming down with a stomach virus of some sorts. Restroom visits were frequent and I hesitated eating many of the festive holiday foods that I loved so much. As my trip home came to a close, we decided to shop some of the post holiday sales before I headed back to Ohio. The nausea kicked in full force on the way, and I kept my eyes clamped shut until we arrived, willing myself not to be sick all over the back seat. I made it through the shopping trip but it was rough.
After talking with my mom, we both agreed that I probably had a blood sugar issue (I had had isolated episodes of nausea and dizziness in the past and on a day to day basis, always needed to eat almost immediately upon waking) so I made an appointment to see my doctor once I returned to Ohio. As the weeks went on, the nausea and stomach issues remained, hitting hard early in the day and trailing off towards evening. I didn’t know what to make of it but I pushed through –what else was there to do? I certainly couldn’t put my life on hold because my tummy hurt. I had big plans going into the New Year and didn’t have time for whatever this was.
A blood test revealed nothing too amiss. My doctor prescribed me some pills for anxiety, which I was wary to begin after learning the possible side effects, and I was scheduled to see her again soon. Two evenings later, on January 18th, as I drove home from the barn, my first real anxiety attack hit, hard. I didn’t know what was happening and I couldn’t shake it. I had this horrible feeling that something was not right with my body.
As the night went on, it only got worse. My body felt like it was crumbling to pieces, I had no control. I couldn’t get a full breathe of air, my chest was painfully tight, I couldn’t stop the trembling and the palpitations were constant. I wracked my brain in search of a reasonable cause. The evening before I had gone out and had a few drinks with friends to celebrate my birthday, the only thing I had taken the following day was an Excedrin for a painful headache. It didn’t make sense.
I slept with my eyes open that night, terrified and unable to fall asleep. The next morning, with the palpitations continuing, I went into the ER and they ran a slew of tests. The doctor came in, smiling, and told me he had good news and bad news. The good news was they had discovered my problem – the bad news, I had a case of mononucleosis (more commonly referred to as “mono”). The palpitations? They couldn’t put a finger on it. Their advice? Go home, avoid any strenuous activity for a couple of months, drink lots of fluids and rest. Armed with that meager bit of information I went home, having no idea just how thoroughly mono, the Epstein Barr Virus and autoimmunity itself would weave its way around my life in the months to come.