Archive for the ‘Illness’ Category

Having an Endoscopy Tomorrow

PhotobucketAs my regular readers know, I have been battling health issues just about all year. I thought the issue was sinus-related and finally saw an ENT, who did tests that confirmed that my sinuses are 100% normal. While I am thrilled not to have something wrong with my sinuses, this news hardly fixed my medical problems.

A friend with reflux speculated that perhaps reflux could be the culprit. Until she explained to me how stomach acid could harm my sinuses, I was skeptical. Sure enough, my primary care physician gave me a two-week sample of a pump inhibitor, and … voilà … the issues cleared up. I was OK for a while until I ate like a teenager one weekend, and then my problems started all over again. (When will I ever remember that I am a woman in my forties? I really should learn that by now!)

My doctor gave me another two-week sample of the same pump inhibitor, which again fixed the problem. She also referred me to a GI, who I saw yesterday. He scheduled me for an endoscopy on Wednesday afternoon. I should know immediately if there is an underlying issue in my stomach causing the problems, so wish me luck!

Now the big question is how to tie this topic into something related to healing from child abuse … Hmmm… OK, I’ll go with this…

When I first entered into therapy, I kept losing my voice. I had never in my life had laryngitis, yet I had it FIVE TIMES within the first year of therapy. My therapist said this was a fitting representation of the “silencing” I endured as a child and that therapy was helping me to “find my voice.” I later realized that the stress from dealing with flashbacks was churning up my acid reflux, which was damaging my voice box and causing me to lose my voice.

Hey, that wasn’t too bad of a tie in! LOL

Photo credit: Wikipedia.com

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As you know, I took last week off from blogging because I had a very busy week juggling both of my part-time jobs. On top of this, I came down with a cold on Sunday night, so it was quite a week. On Wednesday, I put in an 11-hour day at one job, two hours at the other job, and did all of this while dealing with a cold. I was worn out!

In the middle of all of this, my son pulled something that he got from his father … something that drives me absolutely out of my mind. I made a comment about cutting me some slack because I was sick. His response (just like his father) was, “Oh, you’re not sick.”

Let me tell you – If you want to p@$$ me off, that’s the way to do it. Don’t presume to tell **ME** what **I** am feeling. You are not in my body. You are not qualified to tell **ME** what **MY** body is feeling.

Coincidentally, I had my annual physical the day before this conversation, and my doctor noted that she could see evidence of my virus, both in my red throat and my swollen lymph nodes. So, I popped off at my son that I am so sure that he, at age 10, is in a better position than a MEDICAL DOCTOR to make a determination about whether or not I am sick.

Now, I know exactly why they both do this. They view me as superwoman, and I am supposed to take care of them. If I am sick, then they might have to – G*d forbid – do a few things themselves. I don’t ask them to take care of me. All I ask is that they back the f@#$ off and not make additional demands on me while I am feeling sick.

The same thing happens sometimes with how I am feeling (although not really with the two of them – neither is particularly perceptive when it comes to emotions). People will try to tell me what I am feeling or how I should be feeling. My feelings are **MY** feelings, not anyone else’s, and nobody else gets to tell me how I feel.

I suspect this topic is such a hot button for me because my needs were disregarded so much as an abused child. Even my own body was not “mine.” I didn’t get a say in what was done to it, and my abusers sure did not care about how it felt. Perhaps that is why comments like that are so triggering to me. Regardless, it really p@$$es me off when people try to tell me how I am feeling. I already know how I am feeling, and they don’t get to override that.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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A reader asked me to write about dealing with Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) that were contracted from childhood sexual abuse. The reader said that she has not seen this topic covered in the blogs she follows and wonders whether she is the only child abuse survivor dealing with this issue. I assured her that she is not.

Years ago, I was a guardian ad litem for an elementary-age child who contracted an STD. Because a child generally cannot contract an STD without being sexually abused, the State got involved, and I was called in to represent the child’s interests. While other evidence of sexual abuse might be able to be explained away, it is pretty hard to get around the evidence of sexual abuse when a child has an STD. It might not tell the “who,” but the “what” is undeniable in most cases.

If you do a Google search of STDs and child abuse, you will find numerous articles about children contracting STDs from being sexually abused. Sadly, children have no say in using condoms during the sexual abuse. Many child abusers have multiple sexual encounters with multiple people (I won’t say “partners” because a child is never a willing “partner” in sexual abuse), which puts the child abusers at a higher risk of contracting an STD which, in turn, can be passed along to the child. Some STDs are incurable, so the child must deal with the STD the rest of his or her life.

My partner over at Adoption Under One Roof has been a foster mother for many years, and she says that some children enter the foster care system already infected with an STD. This is a common issue that the foster care system and foster parents deal with. When you are the one who has been hiding the fact that you have an STD from childhood, you might feel shame in being the only person to have had an STD like herpes since you were eight years old. You are definitely not alone. Only a small percentage of sexual abuse survivors ever enter the foster care system, and enough of them have STDs in childhood for the State and foster parents to have to know how to deal with it. Statistically, a percentage of child abuse survivors who never entered the foster care system have STDs from childhood as well.

The same reader asked me to address how to discuss STDs and a history of child abuse with a potential partner. I will address that in my next blog entry.

Additional Resources:

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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I am physically worn out. The week of Christmas, I was an emotional wreck, which I suspect lowered my immune system. The day after Christmas, I woke up with a bad head cold. I am usually able to fight off colds with plenty of fluids, plenty of rest, and plenty of Airborne and Zicam. Because I had company for the holidays, I was not able to do this, and the cold completely slammed me. I was very congested and miserable for eight days.

I never felt better after the cold ended, and I thought it was just allergies. I actually had a sinus infection but didn’t know it. I tried going to the gym, but I simply had no energy. Because I did not know I had a sinus infection, I flew on an airplane to and from Florida for my kid’s birthday. This triggered a bout of vertigo, which lasted for nine days. (Imagine feeling like you just got off a roller coaster or the spinning teacups every minute for nine straight days.) According to my doctor, the only medication available in the United States to “treat” vertigo is very strong motion sickness medication that makes you extremely drowsy. So, I spent Thursday night through Sunday feeling “drugged” and unable to drive.

Thankfully, the dizziness ended midday on Sunday, but then I was slammed with a severe headache. (A friend who has suffered from vertigo twice assures me that this is normal.) I had a severe headache on Sunday afternoon and evening, overnight and into Monday, when it went into a migraine. Fortunately, I know how to treat migraines, so I drank a lot of caffeine (I rarely drink caffeine – only to manage migraines when they come), which helped the headache but made me jittery.

My vertigo friend says that I will feel “off” for a few more days as my body continues to heal from the vertigo. Feeling so badly physically for so long is now triggering my anxiety, but I am hesitant to put any other drug (such as Xanax) in my body right now. I think my body has been through enough, so I don’t want to add anything else. Unfortunately, this means that I have figure out a way to manage the anxiety without any of my usual tools since yoga and exercise are off the table for a few more days. So, I am hoping that blogging about all of this will help.

I feel like I have done nothing but b@#%$ and moan about how I am feeling physically forever. I had a full-fledged panic attack on Saturday morning (Day 8 of the vertigo), and I am glad we don’t have guns in the house because I might have used one on myself. I have not felt the urge to self-injure this strongly in years, but since my preferred form of self-injury is head-banging, I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. (I certainly did not want to make the vertigo worse!)

I had a panic attack, complete with shaking, screaming, and wailing. A part of myself “judged” me for being “dramatic,” but there was nobody home with me other than my dogs, and they are hardly influenced by “drama.” I just wanted the pain to end, and I was willing to drive a steak knife into my ear to make the vertigo stop if I thought it would actually work.

I am grateful that the vertigo has ended, but I am simply worn out, both physically and emotionally. I really need a breather right now. I need to have at least one hour where I am grateful to be alive. I haven’t felt that way in so long.

Photo credit: Hekatekris

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Does anyone else go into a depression after recovering from an illness? This is standard protocol for me, and I hate it. I can kind of understand how it happens, though.

As I shared yesterday, being sick as a kid meant that I was on my own. There was no nurturing to make me feel better. I was just that much more vulnerable.

Now, as an adult, the same dynamic happens. As Ruby mentioned in the comments, my hub also gets angry when I get sick. Unlike Ruby, though, I don’t have a positive spin for it. It just p@$$es me off and makes me MEAN. I really do get mean when I am sick because that is the only way to get my family to LEAVE ME THE H@#$ ALONE. I am not asking them to take care of me but, for g#$’s sake, can they not take care of THEMSELVES for a few days??

Anyhow, back to the post-illness depression… After my body has finished fighting the illness and I am on the mend, I find myself feeling deeply depressed. I think part of it is because I have just been forced to face the reality that there is no one in my family to take care of me. (I’ve gotta say that some of my friends were great, dropping off food and babysitting my kid so I could rest.)

Another part is that I have been isolated from the positive influences in my life. For an entire week, I was in quarantine and saw nobody except for hub and child, both of whom were unhelpful at best. I guess I got of view of my life minus friends, and it wasn’t pretty.

The other piece of it comes from the book Risking Intimacy by Nancy Groom. I can’t find my copy, so I am paraphrasing, but she says something along the lines of:

It is sad that some people never learn that they are loved for being precious, not for what they do.

When I am ill, I cannot do for others, and the phone stops ringing. That makes me question whether I am of any value to anyone other than in what I can do for them. It is quite a depressing thought.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I guess I must be feeling better because I actually feel up to blogging. Hooray!

Last week, I came down with the H1N1 virus. My symptoms matched the CDC’s list of H1N1 symptoms with the exception of one – I did not vomit. My symptoms began with a “drippy” nose on Monday. It was really annoying. Then on Tuesday, I kept getting lightheaded. I even had to stop a few times during the day to put my head between my knees to keep from passing out. I started my monthly cycle that day, so I chalked it up to that. Then, I woke up on Wednesday with a 101.1 fever – not good.

I very rarely run a fever. On the rare occasions that I do, I either have the flu or some sort of infection (sinus infection or bronchitis). I ran down the list of symptoms for the H1N1 virus, and I had every one of them – fever, cough (it felt like someone was stepping on my windpipe, making it hard to breathe), mild sore throat, body aches, severe headache, chills, fatigue, and diarrhea. I did not vomit, but I was very dizzy and stayed nauseous for five days. It was a miserable experience.

Despite the fact that I ran a fever nonstop for two straight days, was extremely dizzy, had a horrendous headache, and mostly stayed in bed for five days, hub didn’t believe that I had the H1N1 virus. Here in North Carolina, medical providers will not screen for the virus unless you are sick enough to be hospitalized, so there is no way to verify your diagnosis officially. However, I am quite capable of reading a list of symptoms, comparing my symptoms, and making an educated guess about what is ailing me. My sister is the only other person who doubts my self-diagnosis. Of course, neither had a better answer for why I was suddenly running a fever for two days (which peaked at 101.5) and was extremely dizzy for five days. Millions of people have had the H1N1 virus — so many that the president has declared this virus a national emergency — but Faith cannot possibly have it. Or course not!

This experience hearkened me back to my childhood days when nobody would believe me when I was sick. When I was around eight or nine years old, I came down with an “out of both ends” virus while spending the night at my cousins’ house. My aunt drove me home with lots of towels to clean up the mess during the drive. When she got me home, my mother was not happy for me to be returned early. Her response to my aunt was, “She’s not sick.” My exasperated aunt invited my mother to come take a look at the floor of her car for evidence to the contrary.

However, nothing would “reach” my mother. She was practicing “calling things that be not as though they were,” which is religious babble for saying what you want things to be like until they become that way. So, while my mother “spoke over me” that I was healthy, I was an eight-year-old kid who had to take care of herself as I vomited and had diarrhea all over the bathroom.

Fortunately, I do have people in my life (none relatives) who do believe me when I say that I am sick. Friends dropped off food and Gatorade so I could nourish myself. (G*d forbid a family member actually take care of me when I get sick!) A friend took my son overnight so I could get some rest. Thank goodness for the family I have built for myself. I couldn’t get through it relying on my relatives to take care of me when I need help.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I have not being doing well lately. It has been one h@#$ of a six-week period, and I need to write about it so I can pour the poison out of my soul and heal. I will probably write a week’s worth of blogs in one sitting, so rest assured that I will probably be feeling much better by the time you read this week’s worth of installments. However, in the moment, I am not doing well at all. It’s all part of the healing process, I guess.

All of the insanity of the last six weeks of my life centers around this memory. This was the first time that I was vaginally raped. My virginity was “sold” to the highest bidder when I was only six years old. I had already recovered and somewhat healed that piece of it. Experiencing the first rape was another story.

My life has been pure h@#$% from Memorial Day through Fourth of July. I don’t know why I “chose” this time to process this memory. Perhaps the rape happened on a holiday, or perhaps I was just ready to heal it. I don’t know.

What I do know is that I have been very sick. I came down with a cold over Memorial Day weekend that went into a sinus infection. As soon as that healed, I dealt with a week of overwhelming anxiety followed by a week of feeling so depressed that I wanted to die. From there, I went into another sinus infection that spread to bronchitis.

By the time that the very strong antibiotics and steroids should have cleared up to the illnesses, I started having trouble breathing. By this point, my family had gone to the beach for the Fourth of July weekend, and I thought that being at the beach would help. Instead, I experienced three straight nights of insomnia (taking two to five hours to fall asleep each night) and difficulty breathing to the point of feeling dizzy and lightheaded. I thought I was going to faint. I also kept coughing.

I went back to the doctor (third trip) and received a surprising diagnosis – There was nothing wrong with me physically. The infections had healed up, and I had no virus. The reason I was having trouble breathing was because I was hyperventilating. (I did not know you could hyperventilate without being aware of it.) I was gasping for air, which was the exact opposite thing that I needed to be doing.

The doctor told me to breathe into a paper bag (it really works!), take Xanax, and try to calm down. He also prescribed Tussionex, which never fails to calm me and help me sleep. The doctor was right – By following his advice, my breathing and overall health improved rapidly.

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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I’m Sick

I have been sick for 12 days and have had laryngitis for three days. I am too cranky to write anything inspiring today. Sorry. :0(

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On my blog entry entitled Rough Day with Eating Disorder Yesterday, a reader posted the following comment:

Isn’t it true that abuse survivors have more illness than those who are not abused? Right now I am into my fifth auto-immune disease diagnosis and I can tell you when I first hear the news I get mad at all those years I spent fearful, abused, anxious, panicked. It downright makes me want to scream even though I know intellectually that this tendency of my body may have been something I was born with and would happen no matter what. ~ Esther

I am sure that informal polls as child abuse survivor sites would show the answer is yes, but we don’t have to rely on informal polls to answer this question. Medical research is showing these results as well.

According to the Adults Surviving Child Abuse website,

Adults surviving child abuse are more likely to suffer from a range of physical health problems than other people. These illnesses include migraines, chronic pain, arthritis, chronic fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome. A recent survey of over 2500 older Australians with a history of physical and/or sexual abuse found that survivors were also more likely to suffer from three or more physical illnesses at once (Draper, Pirkis et al. 2008). ~ Adults Surviving Child Abuse

It makes sense because child abuse survivors do not know how to relax. We have a stress hormone constantly coursing through our veins. That has got to take a toll on our bodies physically over time.

I was not aware that my seemingly unending string of illnesses was related to the child abuse until I read this excerpt from the book Safe Passage to Healing by Chrystine Oksana:

Everything [in my adult life] was perfect – well, almost perfect. I was constantly sick, a condition I kept secret…I woke up every morning feeling dead. The hardest thing I had to do was get my lifeless body out of bed…The slightest cold weather would put me in bed…

I kept trying to find a reason for my illness. I had been such a healthy kid, always on the go, athletic. I almost never got sick. But after the age of eighteen, things began to change. I started getting colds, flus, muscle stiffness, depressions, and just an overall bad feeling…By thirty-five I was barely making it day to day. In search of a cure, I went from doctor to doctor, from test to test, only to be told, “Everything is normal. Continue to rest.” That’s what I’d heard for the past seventeen years as my condition worsened. ~ Safe Passage to Healing, pp. xvii & xviii

Chrystine Oksana goes on to share the same thing that is covered in the Adults Surviving Child Abuse article: The stress from the child abuse causes our brains to overproduce certain stress hormones. Over time, this takes a toll on our physical bodies, causing all sorts of physical ailments.

Since I have been through therapy and worked through many of my issues from the child abuse, my immune system has gotten stronger. Instead of staying sick throughout the winter months, I generally suffer from one or two colds. Instead of each cold lasting for three weeks, I can now kick a cold in under a week. So, there is hope. It is angering, though, to know that the aftereffects of the child abuse echo on for decades.

Other blog entries on illness:

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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On my blog entry entitled Full Moon & Easter – What a Combination!, a reader posted the following comment:

At the same time, I’ve been feeling really physically ill. I saw a commercial for Easter products on tv and I blurted out to my husband, “I can’t wait for Easter to be over.” I was starting to wonder if it’s possible for the physical illness to be a strategy on the part of one of my parts…maybe to keep me from running away during a holiday season as I have in the past. ~ MarjakaThriver

Yes, I have definitely found that there is a tie between my emotional distress and becoming physically ill. I stayed very healthy all winter. I was able to shake off two or three viruses in just 1-2 days by getting lots of rest and taking lots of Airborne. Then, my mother/abuser started contacting me, and I got very sick. No matter how much sleep I got or how much Airborne I took, I just got sicker.

I don’t think this is coincidental. As long as I was sick, I gave myself permission not to deal with my mother’s latest contact. My therapist called to say that we needed to think through what to say to her if she calls me again, but I did not return his call because I was too sick. As long as I was sick, I had an excuse to avoid facing this very distressing decision. I think that being sick was an emotional relief, even though it was terrible physically.

Even after my body kicked the virus, my sinuses remained stuffy and painful. However, I never developed a sinus infection, so I have no explanation other than that I was making myself continue to stay sick to avoid dealing with my mother/abuser.

According to the book Compassion & Self-Hate, physical illness can be a manifestation of self-hate. I believe that this is true, too. I used to joke that I was allergic to the first day of a new job because I had a long history of being very sick for the first day of work. More than once, I had bronchitis. Another time, it was a stomach virus. It’s too coincidental for me just to happen to get very ill for the first day of work multiple times.

I think this was self-hate at work. I would put myself in the terrible position of having to go into work deathly ill or call in sick on the first day. It was a nightmare.

I wish I knew how to fix the problem. Learning to love myself more helped with avoiding sickness for the first day of a new job. However, I am clearly susceptible to getting sick when I am feeling emotionally overwhelmed.

Related Topics:

Blog entries about illness

Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt

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