Photo: A glimpse of my planner for September 2012
It has been a while since I shared parts of my healing journey, so if you need a recap, you can read Part 1 HERE and Part 2 HERE. I had a pretty nasty herx during that visit to Colorado, and wasn’t expecting that severity of chest pain again, along with vomiting and diarrhea. So I got scared, and went to the local clinic and asked for a prednisone prescription, because it was the only thing that I knew would take the chest pain away. The chest pain was severe, and medications would not touch it. At the time, I didn’t really put two and two together that I was having a reaction because of the injection of antibiotics I had gotten from the doctor in LA. I hadn’t really thought about the fact that antibiotics would cause my symptoms to worsen before they got better. So I wasn’t prepared to handle the 10/10 chest pain that I was experiencing. I was far from home which meant I was far away from my primary doctor or my cardiologist who could prescribe pain medication for me.
So, I did what I could to get through that time. I took the supplements that the specialist had given me, and followed the guidelines of things I could do to lessen the herx reaction. I was forced to lay low, and missed a lot of the fun activities with family during that trip.
I had been instructed by the specialist to have my prescriptions for antibiotics filled when I got home from Colorado and to start taking them at that point. I started treatment on July 12, 2012, and my world was again turned upside down. The chest pain, high fevers (up to 103 I believe), and general malaise were unbearable at times, and I really felt like I would die. I was doing so terribly that my husband at the time arranged it so that he could work from home, afraid that something might happen to me while he was gone. Aside from the initial instance of illness where I passed out repeatedly from near heart failure, this time in July and August 2012 was the scariest time of my life to date. I did little more than lie on the couch in pain, sleep, and get up to use the bathroom. Walking to the mailbox that was about 30 feet (10 meters) from our house was unbearable, because of the severity of my chest pain. All physical activity aggravated my pain. I was essentially on body-enforced bed rest with a 3 year old who needed me and didn’t understand why I wasn’t the one mostly taking care of him anymore. That was really difficult for me.
I ended up getting hooked on the show “The Walking Dead”. I learned pretty quickly that laughing at comedies, and crying during dramas made me hurt worse. At that time, zombies created very little emotional response from me, because I viewed it as completely fake and unrealistic. The summer of 2012 was a bit of a blur. My severe herx lasted for about a month. Pain medications prescribed to me by my cardiologist began working, though I was having very strange arrhythmias that I could feel. For my friends in healthcare, on July 20th, I found out that my CRP was 491 (normal is 0-3) and my sedrate was 103 (normal is about 0-29)! I ended up having a 24 hour heart monitor placed at one point, but then it the weird heart beats stopped and nothing was revealed. I remember going to my primary care NP during this time, and speaking to her about how awful I was feeling and how scared I was. She encouraged me to keep track of the kinds of days I was having by drawing a smiley face, neutral face, or sad face on each calendar day of my planner. I encourage you to try this method for yourself if you’re experiencing a lot of ups and downs with your health right now as you move towards healing. It can be a good way to realize that you DO have good days.
I was nervous about heading into my last semester of nursing school with the way my summer had stacked up. I honestly didn’t know if I would be able to complete the program. I emailed my teachers to let them know that I wasn’t sure that I’d be finishing with the rest of my class. I knew that if the chest pain and fevers persisted that there was no way that I could focus on school and physically be able to walk to all of my classes. But luckily, as the days went on and I continued to take all of my medications and supplements to help with my herx reaction, I started having more smiley face days, than frowns. On August 4th, I actually got to leave the house and went to a local baseball game with my family. It felt so good to be outside again. Aside from doctor’s appointments, I had not left my house in nearly a month! By August 15th, I was back in my first lecture of my last semester of nursing school. My planner from that semester is loaded with classes, assignments, clinical shifts, doctor appointments, and events and sports related to my son. Remembering back to how i felt during that time, and seeing the fluctuation in smiley faces and frowns (that persisted into October), I am amazed that I pulled it all off!! I completed the semester with my class and went to my Pinning Ceremony on 12/13/12.
By the end of that year, I was feeling a lot better. In fact, I only kept track of my good and bad days into the beginning of November. I was feeling more back to myself, and because I had been off of the prednisone since July, I was losing the extra weight gradually. I don’t think I was prepared for my emotions that released following my Pinning. The whole thing had been emotional, listening to students and our professors speak, one of which was undergoing treatment for brain cancer that eventually took her life. She had been the one who fostered my love of working with the babies. After the ceremony, some of us went outside. It was just us students. And I started bawling my eyes out. I was excited, sure, after all I had worked so hard for this day and had overcome so many obstacles to get there. But more than that, it was like this thing that I had been focusing on for so long was no longer my focus. I realized in that moment how much school had been keeping me going. It redirected my focus and allowed me to focus on something bigger than myself, bigger than all of my problems at the time. It felt like all of my accumulated stress and sadness of the last 3 years began flowing out of me through my tears.
This portion of my story culminated with me taking and passing the NCLEX exam in January, flying home with my son to see our family, and then landing my first full-time Registered Nurse position in the local hopsital on the oncology unit that I started in March of 2013. As this was happening, my marriage was coming to a close. By May of 2013, I was living on my own, working full-time as a Registered Nurse, and taking care of my son on my days off. I continued traveling to LA (and then to one in San Francisco) regularly to see my Lyme Disease specialist and was having my labs closely monitored. I continued taking oral antibiotics daily, as well as other medications, and many handfuls of supplements. I was tired after my 12 hour shifts in the hospital, but my heart felt full, because I was using my experiences to help other people. I used what I had been through to draw in even more empathy and compassion for all of the patients who crossed my path.
I began to feel a lot better, because I was no longer hiding my truth behind the busyness of nursing school and I was following my intuition to a new life for me and my son. It took moving through a lot of fear. I had to let go of a lot of ideals I was holding in my mind’s eye. I had, after all, really wanted to create an intact and happy family for my son that I did not feel I had as a child. I had to let go of something I had comitted to, because I had to start fully putting my happiness and health first. For so many years of my life, I had always put myself last, not feeling worthy of love, not loving myself. My illness forced me to put myself first for a change, and it was a very uncomfortable process. But I can tell you that from where I am now, it was a very necessary process.
You see, I have now worked intimately with thousands of people as a Registered Nurse, and I also have people reach out to me now with serious, mystery health issues of their own. We all seem to have a common thread, an underlying lack of self-love. It can take years to recognize it. Maybe you’re reading this and can relate, or maybe it will open your eyes to it for the first time ever. Think about it: do you take good care of yourself in all ways? Do you love and accept yourself (and show it) fully? Are you always putting other people’s needs or the seemingly endless needs of the world before your own? Do you supress your emotions to make other people feel more comfortable? Are you a people pleaser and/or a peace keeper? We’ve all got to dig down deep to get to the cause of our dis-ease, or lack of enthusiasm about our lives. I have found self-love to be paramount to my healing in all ways body, mind, and spirit.
If you’re struggling with chronic illness, I encourage you to really look at your relationship with yourself first and foremost. Loving myself and taking good care of myself has been my biggest, foundation-building lesson from my dis-ease. Even at Part 3, my healing journey did not stop here…to be continued.
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If you’re on a healing journey of your own, and are feeling overwhelmed reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to work with you to create some healing and transformational magic in your life!
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