But You Don't Look Sick!

The hardest part of living with any autoimmune disease is the fact that you generally don't appear to be sick. In the beginning when your body starts to betray you, the people in your life will wonder why you've suddenly become lazy, depressed, emotional, etc. No one can believe or even begin to understand what it feels like to be inside your body. Every single day since 1994 I have wondered what it feels like to be in a normal healthy body.

Initially I noticed the panic and anxiety which, as I mentioned, I attributed to the PTSD. Within a few months I was also noticing minor disturbances in my digestion, psoriasis on my elbows, and slight chronic fatigue. By the end of the second year, after my son was born, I was a total wreck. My pregnancy wasn't easy, so once again I attributed my physical ailments to being a new mother instead of the implants. I tried talking to the doctors about these things, but they ALL said the same thing, "you're depressed". I was depressed. I couldn't wrap my head around the strange and debilitating symptoms that continued to plague me daily. Suddenly I was no longer able to eat most foods. One small piece of onion would have me doubled over on the couch for three to four hours with horrific stomach pain. I was living every week with what felt like a case of food poisoning. I was limited to nothing but tea, toast, and crackers, everything else hurt me. The stomach problems made it nearly impossible for me to leave the house. I was cancelling everything. I couldn't go to dinner and a movie, or over to a friends house, and forget parties! Alcohol was pure evil to my delicate intestines. Friends eventually stopped calling.

My marriage was on the rocks. My husband had no empathy and accused me of making it all up to try to get attention. I don't know what he was saying to his friends, but they looked at me as if I were mentally ill. I felt so incredibly lost and alone. Throughout it all I began to question which came first, my depression or my illness. Was I sick because I was depressed, or depressed because I was sick? I couldn't tell the difference anymore. If it weren't for my son I would have given in to the suicidal thoughts. I couldn't eat, I couldn't work, I had no one to talk to about any of it, and I simply had no reason to go on. Then I would look into my sons beautiful little face and know that I could never leave him. Even though I felt like I was dying a slow and painful death, I chose to bring him into this world and I would never ever abandon that perfect little boy. His presence saved my life. 

I eventually left my husband and everything in our life together. I walked away from not only the marriage, but from all of our friends. Not one person understood what I was going through, and no one seemed to care. I have never been more lonely in my entire life as I was when I decided to divorce my husband and become a single parent. 

For a short time after the separation my health seemed to improve. I was able to go back to working part time and slowly began rebuilding my life while making new friends. The introduction of the internet made life bearable because I could chat with people online while sitting at home. My illness had almost caused me to be completely agoraphobic. I was literally afraid to leave my house, my bathroom, because my stomach might decide to have an "episode". I became addicted to Immodium and Zantac. Without them, I simply could not function. It was online that I created new friendships and eventually met my second husband. 

To be continued...

Although the events in the book are personal, this isn't my story; it's our story. We've all been there: shamefully sucking-in our tummies to impress others, or using our sexuality to advance our careers because our intelligence or talent come second. Chapters from the book will be released in no chronological order, organically pouring out of me as emotions and memories resurface. Thank you for being here. —Kristen