I’ve been meaning to post about this for a long time. Not because I want to, but because I should. Once. Only once and then that’s it.
I was the sickly child in my family. The one who would get sick for no reason and require sleep and bed rest to get on with life. In my elementary school days I usually had one or two days a month that I would miss school. I just couldn’t handle the stress of homework(even though I was pretty smart and rarely had homework) and likely much of it was brought on myself. I had the worst stomach aches. They were the ulcer-attack kind and the only thing that ever helped me was 4 alfalfa tablets and a glass of milk. (My mom was big time into Shaklee vitamins so we were quite used to taking supplements.)
The stomach aches continued into my teen years. In fact, my first break from them came after I was married. Actually, having babies pretty much cured them. I have no idea why but in 19 years of marriage I’ve had probably less than 10 attacks total.
I also had terrible rheumatism pain. My legs would ache , my arms, hands, feet…ususally when a change in weather was coming but not always. My mom would rub my legs with Watkins liniment and I would often sleep with a hot water bottle or a heating pad.
Then there were the other illnesses. I had measles with my sisters as a young child. That was nasty enough. But then when I was 8, I got the mumps. What a terrible illness! It did not get better~ it got worse. I ended up with mono and out of school for almost 2 months. Mono sucks the life right out of you. And worse yet, it depresses an already fragile immune system. Every year after that I got a wicked case of strep throat for a couple of weeks in November. My mom would still drag me out to Agribition in Regina even though I should have been in bed. She would wrap a wool scarf around my Vicks slathered throat and that would tie me over for the evening. It was brutal.
When I was 11 I got Shingles. Count yourself blessed if you’ve never had that. It is the same virus that causes chicken pox and since I had that mildly when I was only 6 months old the virus lay dormant in me until grade 6 and then it attacked! I have brutal scars from Shingles. And it also makes your entire body writhe in pain. Nerve endings become ultra-sensitive. I believe that was the start of future troubles for me.
Then when I was 16, following a long summer missions trip in the U.S. I got pneumonia. A cold that never went away~ a cough that would not stop. I was nearly hospitalized but avoided that thankfully. I was home for weeks. My sisters had to bring my homework home. One day I went to school because I thought I was well enough. My mom was at work and so I went. I lasted one class and then I was back home coughing and weak. My mom bawled me out for going to school!! Ha ha! Go figure! Anyways, I couldn’t even fold a load of laundry because it took too much out of me. I feel so bad for people who have pneumonia~ you really can barely catch your breath and it is a scary, lonely feeling.
I have always pushed myself. Even though I missed a lot of school it was not by choice. I would go when I was clearly too sick. I would not tell my mom how bad I was feeling. I didn’t like missing school~ getting caught up on homework when you have not been in class is so hard. Even after high school I remember going to work with fevers and obvious viruses~ so stupid. Who was I being the hero for? It’s not worth it~ if you’re sick, stay home.
Anyways, I got married and started having babies. To the average person this would be normal and routine and it was for me too. Except I did not know how I, as a sickly person, would tolerate morning sickness, pregnancy and labour.
It was rough. First pregnancy I was just feeling “green” for about 5 months. Emergency c-section didn’t completely level me but it sucked the life out of me for a couple months. 2nd pregnancy I was visibly more nauseous and another c-section so soon after the first put me into an anemic state. But thankfully, having to care for babies and toddlers somehow built up my immune system. Then came baby #3~ migraines showed up late in that pregnancy and I was SO sick for the first 5 months again. It was during this time that I realized my body was having a hard time keeping up. I would often lay on the couch for hours a day. My house began to unravel as did my ability to keep up with laundry, cooking and baking.
When I got pregnant with #4 it was a surprise and I was not so healthy. I was tired, exhausted really. I had a lot of heart pain to which my OB suggested I NEVER do this to my body again. 4th c-section and a newborn in the NICU made for a hurried and difficult recovery. My life was going down hill.
I loved my babies. Loved mothering them. There are many days of joy. But when I look back at the photos during that time, I am grey, lifeless, exhausted. I began to self-medicate with Tylenol. At first it was a couple a day. Then it was up to 6 a day. Just to make it through. I would have a bath in the morning to feel better and then another one at bedtime so I could sleep. My body hurt. And I was tired.
About 4 years after my 4th baby I had fallen into a pattern that I could not see. I was taking Tylenol and Advil every 2 hours, alternating. I was having hot baths(the hotter the better) up to 4 times a day. I got a terrible kidney infection that put me in bed for almost a week. It was at this time that my doctor went over some symptoms with me and diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia. I was not surprised. My aunt has it and I had realized that bathing every 3 hours for pain management was probably not what most mothers do each day.
In the years since then, I have read a lot and tried to find a balance. I do not talk about my chronic pain~ it’s just there. I live with it. And really, I’ve been living with it my whole life. A headache worth noting to me is like an axe being driven into my head. Otherwise, it’s just normal since I have a headache pretty much 24 hours a day anyways. Body pain? It’s really not something I pay much attention to unless it puts me in bed. That kind of pain is hard to describe. It’s the kind of pain that is more fatigue than acute. So hard to describe but all encompassing. I have that about once every 1-2 weeks. The only cure for me is a hot bath and a long nap.
We got a hot tub nearly 2 years ago. We look at it as our health care plan. Since that time I am happy to report that the Tylenol and Advil stay in the cupboard for emergencies only. After several years of taking WAY too many it is a relief for me to go 2, 3 or even 4 weeks without any pain medication. I “tough it out” most days, find ways to divert my attention from the pain or do something I love. Most of the time I am able to sleep, read or listen to music in order to get past the worst of it.
I reluctantly share this information with you or anyone. I don’t wear my illness as a badge of honor. It is not. We don’t talk about it ~ my kids just know that I need to lie down some days and that’s the way it is. I don’t ever want this to define me. I want to live as “normal” a life as I can and for me that means I don’t complain or whine about “why me?”.
Yes, my house has suffered. I simply don’t have the ability to clean every nook and cranny. When I get a burst of energy, rarely does it last long enough to get everything done anyways. I don’t cook or bake like I used to which is a real source of sadness for me. It is my goal this year to at least make more of an effort to put more into the freezer when I am feeling well enough.
Chronic pain sucks. Thankfully, I have a husband who has watched me and helped me over the years and he gets it. He lets me slack off and then he pushes me to do more when he knows I can. It’s a good balance and we’re making it work.
And through it all I know that the JOY of the LORD is my STRENGTH.