On June 5th, 2013, I awoke with an odd feeling. It was like I wasn't totally there, not completely with it. It had been a restless night, drifting in and out of sleep, vivid dreams that didn't quite end, but really - same old, same old. Up. Dressed. Off to work filled with pervasive questions of when. When would be too much? When would it all just stop? Could it keep going like this? Will I just die? - Now I know those thoughts, especially the last one, are big alarms, but at the time they seemed as normal as the constant grind of work.
At work, it occurred to me that today would likely be the day I died. I hadn't questioned this thought, it just seemed to embed itself as a total truth in my head. I started finishing off some assessment marking, thinking it would be untidy to leave the last four not done. Seems bizarre and laughable now, but at no stage did the thought "Don't be ridiculous..." occur. As the kids rolled in and I saw them sitting, reading, readying for the day I just seemed to crash. They call them severe panic attacks, but it didn't seem panicky. I just didn't want the kids to see me die. I wanted to be with Degs. A lot of what followed seems unreal, and just trying to recall it makes me weep quietly. I was escorted home, and it was indeed the beginning of the end of my teaching life anyway.
Over the following months, it felt like an amplified version of what happens to all teachers and school staff once a holiday arrives. Your body seemed to be holding off on illness and repair and you suddenly get the worst cold, or a bad bug of some sort. My health in general plummeted - my long suffering tummy was dreadful, I had migraines every couple of days, my limbs ached, I couldn't walk due to pain in my feet, weakness and dizziness when I stood up. I coudn't even think straight, it was like wading through mud. People spoke to me but not a lot of it went in...
Blood tests galore and lots of doctor time came up with hyperthyroidism, pernicious anaemia, anxiety, plantar faciitus, and finally after 7 months, in November, they diagnosed Coeliacs Disease. This last one was likely the root of all the others, and had been building up the other problems for 10 years or so. 10 years of my gut not doing its job. Not absorbing medications, or essential vitamins like iron, B12, follic acid and vit D.
Now I think people are aware of Heart Issues (Watch your Cholesterol) and Lung Issues (Don't Smoke) and even liver (watch your alcohol intake) and possibly Diabetes (watch your sugars!!) but I'm not so sure people are as aware of the gut and its impact on your whole body health. That's likely because it has a much lower profile in healthcare. In my case I was able to be sent for a gut biopsy in 2003, have them find some early indications and recommend blood tests, and that be totally glossed over by my GP because it was low priority. But ten years of living with it means my chances of developing bowel cancer or lymphoma have at least doubled, along with increased chance of osteoporosis, and other food intolerances, and a generally compromised immune system. I'm due gut biopsies every two years now to keep on top of it, which is good.
For me now, looking back, the pieces all fit. The history I have of depression, anxiety and fatigue wasn't linked to anything else by GPs , but it seems highly likely that it was at least exaserbated by the low vitamins and poor thyroid performance. However, antidepressants and counselling were the order of the day, and the docs had done their prescribed duty.
I hadn't intended to dwell so much on the past when I started to write, so I'm gonna leap forward to today. Things are healing, slowly. I'm so much happier these days. And its real happiness, a contentedness that things will be alright after all. My mind on the whole has been reset - I'm less likely to see doom and feel fear on a daily basis. I go out more thanks to my lovely Edna - who is six months old today by the way! Still get waves of anxiety all the time, but they are easily handled for the most part.
Oddly, it sometimes feels like my physical health hasn't improved hugely. Balance issues - yep. Fatigue - yep, sometimes crippling. Brain fog - Yep, though not all the time these days. Stomach issues - yep, sometimes far more severe than before I changed my diet, as I'm more sensitive since giving up gluten. Also ever so slightly menopausal (very) to add to the mix. I definitely can't physically do as much as I used to. And yet I am healthier. I've definitely put the brakes on, and am rolling down hill at a far more acceptable rate, as opposed to hurtling down towards an early grave like I was before.
And why? Well, what I can do these days is live. Live my life, breath, relax, love my family, enjoy my days, feel content. Got a ways to go I think, but I have space for the improvements to happen.
So to sum up - feeling better, living better, loving better. - Thanks to all for the support, especially Degs, Rob, Sally and Edna - my personal emergency services. :) Onwards and upwards, eh!
June 5th, 2014 xx