I'm sorry that it has been so long since I wrote last. Writing has been pretty difficult since about April due to some personal issues that I have been dealing with. I've worked really hard this summer to take care of myself, both mentally and physically, so I can achieve my highest potential this coming fall!
I move into my very first apartment on the 1st to begin my first set of major specific classes at the Health Sciences Center this fall! Before I get into how excited I am for everything to come this upcoming semester, I want to talk about what I've been through this summer. Hopefully it can help anyone out there that has struggled with finding help for mental illness or help for a very difficult physical illness!
During the past year I tried a new medication as we all know. I wrote about the scary side effects of the medication, what it was like to try a new medication, and many other little things that chronically ill people deal with when starting something new.
I spent 7 months on this medication, a very tough 7 months. Not only did the medication only help a small fraction, one of the incredibly rare side effects is a crippling depression.
I have never, in my life, been depressed. I have extreme anxiety and sometimes go through depressive episodes, but I've never dealt with full blown depression. I had no idea what was going on as I was falling into this incredibly rare side effect. Throughout the year I had a lot of issues in my personal life that I had to deal with, but I progressively deepened into a terrible depression.
By the end of the year my whole body was tender and I couldn't handle hugs, I had absolutely no will power to drag myself to class, and focusing on homework was impossible. If you've met me or know me personally, you know that I am normally a motivated, hard working, and very determined individual. You would not have known the Elizabeth that came home from school. She wasn't even a real person anymore, just a shadow of herself.
I had a night during dead week (the week before finals for those of you who don't know) that I couldn't take it anymore. I had very scary thoughts and I terrified myself and my family. It wasn't like me and they were worried, so when my dad decided to dig through his medical books to look at side effects of medication, he finally found the ridiculously rare side effect of the one that I had started 7 months before. Depression.
When my family brought me home my mom described me as a shell of myself. She didn't recognize her child. According to her I had two emotions: irritability and love. That was it. Other than that I was a ghost that would stay in bed, didn't laugh, didn't smile, and either slept all day or didn't sleep at all.
Luckily, I have an amazing boyfriend who has stuck by my side since March. He helped me through the end of the school year and handled mental emergencies with a grace that I haven't ever seen in a 20 year old boy. He visited me all summer, took the time to research and learn from my parents about all of my illnesses, and became my biggest supporter. I wouldn't even call him a boy, he's truly a man.
During the summer I had doctors appoints every week, sometimes up to 6 in a week! I went to a psychiatrist, my rhuemetologist, my neurologist, acupuncture, massage, therapy, and so many more. I worked hard at my mental health and slowly learned that my depression was nothing to be ashamed of. It was just a moment in my life and I could overcome it with the help of my family, just like overcoming SMAS. By the way, never be ashamed of a mental health issue. It is no different than a physical one and should be treated the same way. It should be treated with diligence and care, the same way someone would treat the flu.
Thanks to one of my amazing doctors, I underwent a cutting edge treatment to clear the dredges of my depression that were still hanging on at the end of June to beginning of July. I spent two weeks going every other day to the infusion center in my doctor's office and having a crazy cool treatment done. It knocked me out for hours, days even, but sitting in a coffee shop today I know that my depression is gone because of it. If you have refracted migraines or reoccurring depression, message me and I can tell you a little bit about it.
As for my physical illness.... WEEELLLLLLLL... We've been working on it! I was taken off all of my arthritis medication and waited until I could see my rhuemetologist. My joints were red hot and swollen beyond recognition. You couldn't even touch my spine and I could barely grip a steering wheel. It was pretty bad. Some nights I would cry in pain and my parents would have to try to medicate me.
At the appointment with her she confirmed that I had spondlyoarthritis, the reactive arthritis form, but that I also had osteoarthritis. a 20 year of with the old people's form of arthritis. Excuse me?? I had not one, but two forms of arthritis!
We decided that it was time to try a biologic, so I started Cimzia. It starts with a dose every 2 weeks for three doses and then monthly maintenance doses after that. I'm really excited to see if it works! I've only had two doses so far because I came down with an upper respiratory infection after the first round, but so far that has been the only little speed bump with this medication so far. It is an injection in either my legs or my stomach, but I've been giving myself shots for the past year.
All the while I have been working to get my body back into shape. I started a ketogenic lifestyle change this week and it has gone really well so far! I've also taken up yoga, Vinyasa being my favorite, as well as going to the gym to hop in the elliptical and do some light weights. I eventually want to take a barre class again, but for now I am content with just having the time to nurture my body back to where I want it.
It's been a long summer that has also flown by so fast. I can't wait to move into my brand new apartment with my new roommates! I am excited to start my major classes (finally) and for the entire year ahead!
Stay tuned to Walking Through the Fog for more posts on chronic illness, college, campus involvement and to hear about an all around awesome year!