Autoimmunity. It’s the (often) invisible disease that will turn your life upside down and is sure to spark more debate at a dinner party than any presidential election or bathroom segregation. Everyone seems to have an opinion these days.
Chronic fatigue syndrome? Poor diet. Adrenal fatigue? You need to exercise more. No, don’t exercise. Sleep with a grounding pillow. Fibromyalgia? Try yoga. Acupuncture. Arthritis? Cut out gluten and dairy. Go Paleo. Go alkaline. Try some CBD oil. Hypothyroid? You need more iodine. Less iodine. No, you need to remove that root canal. Did I mention I have some magic beans to sell you?
Surely there must be a reason why we’ve seen such a spike in autoimmunity. It’s all caused by leaky gut. No, it’s parasites. Epstein Barr Virus. Vaccines. Heavy metals. Nope, it’s just mental.
Feel free to roll your eyes now if you haven’t already. Ugh, I’ve heard it all. And I’ve said it all at some point in my sixteen years since I was first diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.
I’m not here to tell you why we suffer. I don’t know the root cause, and I don’t know the cure, although I’m working to find mine.
I do know what it feels like to suffer, though. At the age of 23 I was diagnosed with RA. I have since been diagnosed with hypothyroid and adrenal insufficiency. I’ve had high uric acid (no, I don’t drink beer or alcohol of any sort, thanks for asking). I’ve suffered through fibromyalgia pain and all sorts of other weird symptoms that would probably have an autoimmune diagnosis if I felt like going to a doctor. And it sucks.
But I’m not looking for sympathy.
You see, before I was diagnosed with RA, I never thought I would get it, despite the family history on my mother’s side. I was my father’s daughter in so many ways: athletic, always on the go, a busy body. RA just didn’t fit in with my lifestyle.
And then I was diagnosed and figured there must be a reason. Everything happens for a reason, right? Right?
Days when the air outside is damp, the bags under my eyes are more pronounced courtesy of a 2:00am wakeup call from my daughter, my knees hurt too much for a bath but my feet are too sore for a shower, and the dog is eating the sofa …it’s not always easy to appreciate my suffering. But maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better and find someone who is living my yesterday. And I’ll be able to empathize, lend an ear or a helping, albeit slightly swollen and tender, hand. Because you never know who else is suffering silently.
And that is what it is all about: making the best of this journey, bringing awareness, picking up friends- and strangers- along the way. I hope you’ll join me as I share my not-so-invisible autoimmune life.