Tuesday, June 25, 2013

My Story: Part 1, Illness


I thought it would be good to share my story about why I am who I am today and how it has inspired me to have the plans I do for my future. Read (a lot) more below!

It all started a little over two years ago. I was a freshman in my third quarter at the University of Washington. I had just had a challenging, yet rewarding Winter quarter in which I realized that the music major I had entered college to pursue was not what I was meant to be doing and made the switch to the psychology department, where I felt much more at home. Overall, I was excited to be finishing up my first year of college, was having a great time in the dorms with my new friends, and was enjoying my classes. Then all that changed.

One Sunday after having a wonderful weekend and just beginning to prepare for an exam the next day, I was hit with the most painful headache I had ever experienced.

I had a migraine once before, the summer before going to college, but this was nothing compared to that first experience. I also felt nauseous, dizzy, and any sounds or light made things exponentially worse. I assumed my symptoms would pass, maybe I had food poisoning or was getting sick, perhaps I was more stressed by this exam than I had thought, maybe all I needed was a good night's sleep. Surely everything would get better in a few days.

Only it didn't. This became routine. I constantly experienced migraines and headaches, was nauseated, and had extreme vertigo. What I experienced I later learned didn't really fit the mold of vertigo, as my experiences were never accepted as such by doctors, but most resembled how one feels on a boat on rocky water. Swaying back and forth.

Only I could never get off the boat.

Additionally, because of the feelings of dizziness and vertigo I found myself unable to sleep. While walking, standing, and sitting were always hard, I could normally sway through them and get whatever I was doing done. However, when I was laying down that all went away. All I could feel was the sway. Back and forth, back and forth. Sometimes I felt I was about to fall out of my bed. Cognitively I of course knew this was not going to happen but my senses deceived me, leading to many restless nights and torturous days.

Relatively soon after I started experiencing my symptoms I visited my family doctor in search of help. She performed all the tests she could think of but no cause was determined. Vision was fine, heart was fine, blood pressure was fine, no diseases, and so no answers. She was able to prescribe me migraine medication, which did manage to dull the pain that was always present in my head.

Then began the endless passing between specialists.

First I saw a neurologist, only he had fewer answers than my primary care doctor had. After running more tests and passing me off to other specialists (no brain tumor, no inner ear problem, no anything) he resorted to prescribing me medications in the hopes that they might help my symptoms.

"You can't sleep? How about some antidepressants with drowsiness side effects?"

"Hmm, those didn't help? Just up the dose and take these drugs that potentially could help you."

"Nothing? Well you really should address that weight gain, never-mind you can barely walk, you really need to start exercising more."

By that point it was clear to me he was not really believing what I was telling him. All I got from him was that it was all in my head and maybe if I lost some weight or took some more antidepressants it would all go away.

Unfortunately, at this point, because of all the drugs I had been put on, not to mention all of my symptoms that prevented me from functioning normally, I was very unaware of the poor level of care I was receiving and continued going with the program. It was all I knew to do.

About three months went by like this. That summer, summer of 2011, is all a blur for me. I know it included a lot of drug induced sleep, coffee to keep me barely awake during the day, pain, drugs, and tears. I remember visiting a friend in Vancouver WA, almost, a camping trip I went on, mainly because of the terrible pain I was in, and...that's about it.

I do however, remember the end of it. Specifically the turning point where I got closer to finding a way out.

It was late in the summer, August I believe, and my Mom had convinced me to walk, well sway, around Greenlake with her and a friend. As we were going around the lake my Mom was talking about my symptoms when her friend suggested I may have a food allergy.

I immediately responded with something along the lines of "How could I have a food allergy and not know about it? If that were true I must have learned about it sooner." However, thankfully, my Mom's friend went on to tell us about her daughter, who they had discovered had food allergies and were working with a naturopath to treat them.

At this point I was still extremely skeptical. How could I have something like a food allergy? Surely something so basic wouldn't have been missed by all the doctors I had already seen and couldn't be causing so many extreme symptoms.

However, this truly was the turning point. Mainly because I had hit rock bottom and had nowhere else to go. No other options, and no other possible explanation for my symptoms.

So, I made an appointment with a naturopath, which was possibly the best thing I could have done for myself.

Well, that about wraps up part one of my very long winded story.

Thank you anyone who stuck through that whole novel of a story. I've realized through writing it out why only my closest friends, most of whom were there while all this was happening, know in depth about this experience. It would take me an hour to explain it to someone!

Nonetheless, this is something that is now central to my identity, so where better to share it than here!

Please tune in for part two on Thursday, I promise it's much more lighthearted!

Happy Tuesday!

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