Auto-Immune & Thirty

My 30th birthday was pretty perfect. I was excited for this new chapter and starting to see the daylight again in my postpartum/new motherhood slump. It actually took a few more years to come out of that – but I was on my way nonetheless. My husband and friends surprised me, not my favorite past-time, but it was nice to be taken care of especially on the party/host scene that I usually take control of by choice. We had a blast. I mean for 30 somethings with kids and jobs to show up for on Monday – we partied hard. They even let me DJ – y’all. Talk about some good, gracious friends.

Then life laughed at me. “You think this is what 30 is about?” No. No, I didn’t. Especially the next day. Who did I think I was staying up so late? I have a tiny toddler who has no stop button! And alcohol – she’s not your friend. You thought she was, you thought she had your back, you thought she brought out “fun you” but now she lingers. She no longer gets the memo to hit the road, jack. If you’re smart, you’ll be sure she’s invited way less than she used to be when you hit that big 3-0.

Over the course of the next year, life seemed to gradually slow down for me. I started slacking off from the gym after a good 6 months of solid commitment. I started feeling tired more often. Less motivated to do pretty much anything. I was having strange episodes of weakness, exhaustion and migraines. During the summer of 2018, I was having numerous heart palpitations and ended up diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism. I started my first journey of one-a-day pills for life. I was still having bouts of postpartum depression and anxiety and couldn’t seem to keep up with my fluctuating hormones. I’d have a great month, then a really bad one. I even began to wonder if the new low-estrogen birth control I was on was making me crazy. Something was off. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it, yet.

So, I started going to therapy. I didn’t know what I wanted to talk about. I had no idea what therapy was like. I just knew something in me had changed when I became a mother and I needed help sorting it out. I will dive into my journey with postpartum, therapy and motherhood on another day and another post. Although, it does play is part in my auto-immune story. I don’t think I could have dealt with all of the changes coming my way had I not had such a solid foundation of therapy already in place. There is so much power in sharing your story. Depending on the type of therapy you seek and what you need – it can change your life.

Sometimes, just speaking your problems, fears and frustrations aloud can help you move mountains.

MAH

I had been in therapy for about 10 months when life really took a turn for me. In the beginning of October 2018 – I took a leap and started this blog. I was so scared to put myself out there. I knew I wanted to help women suffering with the same struggles I was. I didn’t understand why no one was talking about it. Motherhood was hard. Harder than I’d ever imagined. In ways I never fathomed. My entire IDENTITY shifted and no one told me it was going to happen. Not one single mother. Maybe they didn’t change as much as me. Maybe they didn’t know they did. Or maybe they were ashamed. I don’t know why – but I knew I wanted to do something different. I wanted to connect with every mom I could get to and tell her that I know. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was that no one else saw it. Saw HER! I wanted to hug her. I wanted to praise her. I wanted to be there for her. My direction and focus for this blog has shifted a little, too – but the mother is still my focus. The self-sacrificing, guilt-ridden, broken women who call themselves mothers but feel so unworthy – you are still my heart. ❤

After the blog launched I was on cloud nine. It was hard to put myself out there all the time – but I did it anyways. I was learning about myself and consuming content about motherhood and self-growth at every single solitary moment I could steal. At the end of October, I found out I was pregnant. 6-7 weeks. I had held off on baby #2 until I sorted through whatever plagued my mind and body after #1. I was finally ready so the news was welcomed and exciting. I proceeded to surprise family, celebrate and take Big Brother pictures with Hunter. Then on October 26th I started the process of miscarrying. Just 6 short days later. I’ll save the details of this story for another blog, too – but it was a painful, heartbreaking process. My heart goes out to any of you who have experienced it. ❤

This miscarriage is what I believe sent my body into attack mode. Whether or not the miscarriage caused the onset of illness or the illness caused the miscarriage – I’ll never know, but this shift in my body is what sent me spiraling into the world of auto-immunity (See Epigenetics). I don’t know if I really even knew the meaning or details of any autoimmune diseases before they were a part of my world. Sadly, like most of us, I definitely took advantage of a healthy body while I had one.

Throughout November 2018 my body started really struggling. I was so tired – like pregnant tired, which was a cruel reality in itself because I was definitely NOT pregnant. I assumed my body needed to go through some kind of recovery processes and heal after the miscarriage, but I just wasn’t feeling better. I made it through Thanksgiving and our annual trip to the Outer Banks feeling like this was my new normal. I have a wonderful and awful coping skill of ignoring the problem. The week after Thanksgiving I could have sworn I had the flu. I felt achy, tired and like I was “starting to get sick” for days. No fever came. No coughing. No runny nose. I went to the doctor convinced I had a flu-like virus with no solution and would be sent home with a prescription for rest and Advil.

My doctor decided to do bloodwork. He thought none of my symptoms were connected, but they may be related. I left there that day with a list a mile long to google. Auto-immune disease? ANA? Sed Rate? What IS all of this stuff and what does it mean? I started researching, read several books and listened to every podcast I could get my hands on.

The nutrition and lifestyle aspect of disease was brand new to me. My coping mechanism of ignoring the problem had definitely not been serving me. I educated myself on the diseases in my family and what I could do to help myself. I started a journey of whole, clean eating and eliminating any and all possible inflammatory foods. I joined Facebook Groups and communities for support. I went all in. And I started feeling better! I was blown away that I could go from all-over pain and tears after eating my favorite Arbys’ Sandwich to eating sheetpan after sheetpan of vegetables and feeling more energized than ever. I discovered Whole Foods and The Fresh Market and local Farmer’s Markets and all the goodness these places have to offer to support a healthy lifestyle.

FORTY FIVE days later I got to see a Rheumatologist. FORTY FIVE DAYS! I would have suffered that long had I not jumped in and fought for myself. And guys, I was suffering those few weeks before I started doing anything. I had days where I couldn’t get out my bed. I had days that my insides hurt so bad in a way I couldn’t even put into words that I was convinced if this is the way I had to live – I couldn’t. I had never in my life been knocked down so hard and so fast. It was earth shattering for me. It was eye opening. It was the hardest month of my life and equally – the most substantial.

The first Rheumatolgist I saw diagnosed me with Lupus. The second and current one I see diagnosed me with UCTD – Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease. Which means I have one or more of 5 auto-immune diseases. My blood work shows signs differently than my symptoms present. So I’m in a waiting game and may be here awhile. I’m very blessed to be early in this disease and to have found relief right now in minimal interventions. I know that others are suffering greatly from an auto-immune disease or other health issues and my heart and prayers are with you.

I’ve decided that I’m not waiting around, though. Living with any chronic illness has challenges. I’ve been up and down on this journey. I’ve been strong. I’ve been weak. I’ve been angry. I’ve been sad. Through all of it, I’ve learned how important it is to nourish my body from the inside out. I know that starts with how I eat and move my body, but it also matters how I speak to myself and how I honor my mind, my body and my soul. The products I use, the content I consume, the negativity I let in or the positivity I radiate and the spiritual path I’m on – all impact my well-being and health. I’m on a lifelong journey and I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. I have big dreams that look way different than they did a couple of years ago. Though I may not have as many spoons to give (See – The Spoon Theory), I will give what I have whole-heartedly with purpose, intention and a love for myself and others that I never knew was missing.

Be kind,
for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

ian maclaren

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