Extol December 2019 - January 2020 - Page 37

SALLY HUGHES basis. My menstrual cycle went from normal to unmanageable and irregular. My blood pressure was low all the time, and I fainted often. My body odor was so bad that deodorant didn’t cover it up. My hair fell out in clumps in the shower. I had cystic acne, ringing in my ears and my nervous system wasn’t functioning properly. My senses became overwhelmed, and any loud or unexpected noises became overwhelming to the point they caused me physical pain. I also became unable to process alcohol. Even two glasses of wine caused me to black out and gave me a hangover lasting two to three days. I had trouble recalling the names of people I knew, and socializing became very difficult because even when I was able to will myself out of bed, I couldn’t concentrate on conversations. I would stand in front of people I’d known my entire life and not be able to remember anything about them because my mind was blank. Over the course of three and a half years, I was diagnosed with several hormone imbalances, hypothyroidism, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ovarian cysts, chronic mono, depression and anxiety. I was referred to the Mayo Clinic and the Visit 1si.org Cleveland Clinic but neither would accept me without a more definitive diagnosis. I was told I was crazy, literally, more than once. I was told I was depressed, regularly. I was told I was a hypochondriac and that these symptoms were imagined. I had scans, saliva tests, MRI’s, stool tests, urine tests, genetic tests, food allergy tests, hair growth analysis, muscle testing and more. I saw every kind of doctor that would see me, often waiting months and paying thousands for appointments and testing. I explored every opportunity for help, which always ended up being a road to none or little relief at best. My husband and I struggled to manage our daily lives, and he had now known me longer as a sick person than he had as a healthy person. So, this became our normal. He often took the girls to birthday parties and family events without me because I couldn’t get out of bed much of the time. He drove the girls to school every morning as I laid in bed angry and hurting emotionally and physically. Scheduling meetings or planning get-togethers with family or friends became difficult because we never knew how I would feel when the time came. Canceled plans became my normal and I began to ridicule myself with guilt for all of the life events that were missed. I assume people just thought I was depressed, or that I didn’t love them anymore. The confusion, shame, and frustration wore us down and inevitably took a toll on our own relationship. We hid my physical suffering from almost everyone other than our children. The reasons for this were complicated. Neither of us are good at asking for help, but my father also had cancer at the time and I didn’t want to put any extra health-related stress on my family. But most importantly the underlying (and direct) messages we were getting from doctors were not supportive or hopeful. There was almost always an element of “You are making this up. This is depression. This is imagined and/or psychological.” After hearing that so many times, I was conditioned to think no one would believe me even if I did tell them what was going on. Because I had prescriptions for an a n t i d e p re s s a n t , a b e n z o d i a z e p i n e, a n amphetamine and three different hormones, I was able to use these to maintain a somewhat normal outward appearance. I worked a part-