Updated: Feb 2
I was 10 years old when I first realised the fragility of ‘health and wellbeing’…
After finding myself unable to walk without experiencing debilitating pain in my legs, I was taken to see my local GP to try and get some answers. Twenty years on, I now realise it was that day, that first appointment, sitting on the wipe-clean vinyl seats between my parents, unused to being with them both together since the divorce, wishing I was at school with my friends, that my life veered onto a very different path than I had been imagining for myself (I think at the time it was to be a Spanish basketball player, a career with an odd specificity for a 10 year old...)
Before I launch in to the paradoxical Odyssey length synopsis of my health story, I would like to preface it with saying that the last 28 years have been incredible. Full of love, happiness and so many blessings, blessings that now more than ever I will never take for granted but, from that first doctors visit, it has also been a life entangled with hospitals, doctors, medications, therapies, pain, isolation and fear. There's nothing extraordinary about my story - other than extra ordinariness of it, in all of it's beauty and suffering.
Three years ago I was finally given a diagnosis for the pain in my legs – Osteoarthritis in both hip joints, requiring an immediate hip-replacement in the right joint (a bit of shocker for a 25 year old) which I eventually underwent at the end of 2022. In the lead up to the operation, which was postponed four times due to Corona Virus, and having been forced into an extended lockdown to make sure I was well enough for the operation – I went into SAS training mode. I qualified as a fitness instructor and personal trainer and lost five stone in weight through a rigorous fitness regime and diet to make sure I was physically and mentally strong enough for what was to come. Little did I know that the very regime I thought would be make me stronger, fitter and healthier would contribute to a perfect storm of unforeseen circumstances, serving as a catalyst for a devastating decline of my physical and emotional health. A domino affect resulting in a complete shutdown of my autonomic nervous system - responsible for controlling our bodies unconscious physiological processes such as digestion, reproductive system, metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, temperature regulation and more. I have had every 'diagnoses' in the book thrown at me from doctors after 10 minute consultations to try and explain my varying and often conflicting symptoms. From scary, life-altering conditions such as Perthes Disease, Degenerative Arthritis, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Hypothyroidism verging on Hashimotos Disease to more general terms such as as lazy bowel syndrome, IBS-C, chronic fatigue, depression, amenorrhea, disordered eating, stress etc and always under the most useless umbrella term 'autoimmune disfunction'. I've been poked and prodded, had lights shined in and around every part of me, slept on hospital corridor floors alone, I've had emergency and self-administered enemas, had the blood sucked out of me more times than I can count, been cut into, spoken over, talked down to, been dismissed and told I was to blame, been tugged and pulled in every directions and then left completely alone to ruminate and worry over what was happening to me; and possibly the worst of all, repeatedly sat in front of medical professionals weeping, desperately looking at them for help, only to have them look at a screen and tell me ...'everything looks fine...'.
All of which left me feeling overwhelmed, confused, disempowered and just plain broken.
Throughout this period time I have myself at times bed ridden, unable to work, earn money or move out from my family home, suffering from severe physical pain, depressed and I have experienced for the first time in my life, frequent anxiety and panic attacks. The ripple affect has also spread outward from just myself. I have struggled with and even lost important relationships, and although I've been present physically, for the past year I have not been able to be a sister, a daughter, a friend, at least not in any helpful form. In the darkest moments I have found myself losing all hope that my situation would ever improve and questioning my ability to continue.
This experience has taken every ounce of patience, resilience and faith I have to keep pushing through - and as a person who prior to this was renowned for her impatience, it's been a steep learning curve!
For the past year I have dedicated myself to re-learning everything I thought I knew about health and wellbeing, from proper nutrition to what it truly is to be physically and emotionally fit, all to try and better understand and heal my body, to provide myself with the answers that have not been given to me from either functional or alternative medicine. Unfortunately with these types of conditions, with their varied and fractured ways of presenting themselves, it requires a completely holistic approach, an approach often led by the 'patient' (a word I will go on to debunk and scorn in my blogs)
I have learnt that healing can only take place in the grey area - the one between functional and alternative medicine, between 'mystery' and 'cured', between old you and present you, and especially between what you wanted for yourself and where you find yourself. It's an uncomfortable place, a scary and often incredibly lonely place to wander through, but to anyone who finds themsleves here, welcome! You are not alone!
Although my journey is still ongoing, with highs and many, many lows I want to start sharing what has happened and offer support for anyone else who's physical and emotional health is suffering.
The toll that chronic and 'mystery conditions' (as one doctor so helpfully put it) are multi-layered and do not only affect the person in question, but the fallout weighs heavy on the people around them, who care for them, love them, need them. I can honestly say I would not have been able to withstand the weight without the support and unconditional love from a few of the most incredible humans on this planet. Superheroes, every single one of them, and my life-support. I know not everyone will be as lucky as I have been to have a small but powerful army to carry you through testing times so I will endeavour to create a space here where I can promise complete transparency and candour about my 'journey' (urgh but I couldn't find a less gaggy word to replace it) and encourage anyone who is struggling, feels alone or like they are sinking to hopefully find a little solace here, to ask any questions, offer your advice, share stories, or just reach out to simply have someone listen.