The road to recovery

Wow! This is a fairly amazing post for me to be writing. As I was filling out my diary last night, I looked back at last year’s entry and realised it has been a whole year since I started my road to recovery and exactly two years ago since I left my job in Taiwan because I was so ill, even then. 

I do realise that in the last year many of my posts have been professional and teaching related, but it is still my blog and I’d like to write about this. And if you’ll have a read, that would be nice as well.

Some of you have known about my health for years, and many of you joined me in the midst of it all, but there are also a lot of people that I’ve met this year who probably never even knew I was ill. So… here goes.

(Disclaimer: This is a rambling post. You should know me by now!)

This time last year I was off to the doctor’s after waiting nearly 6 weeks to have the Mirena coil removed, something I never really wanted to have inserted in the first place. For those of you that don’t know, you can find the information here: What is the Mirena coil? And read up on my past experiences here and here

I was nervous, that’s for sure, but I was positive this little piece of demonic plastic needed removing from my body. I was nearly sick with nerves in the waiting room, but hobbled quickly down the hall as soon as my name was called. The doctor could not have been nicer and continuously apologised for what I had been through (as she was the same doctor that fitted the coil to begin with). I wish she was my actual doctor and not just a stand-in.

I was prepared for it to hurt, especially as the insertion felt like I was dying, but honestly, I was so relieved when the pain only lasted a couple of seconds. It was horrific pain, but it was over so quickly. They let you lie / sit for as long as you need, so I stayed, waiting for the pain to come flooding back but it didn’t. After a few minutes I got up, dressed and I left.

This time, thank god, Jonas was waiting for me at the reception (last time, he went off to get coffee and I couldn’t find him).  

We had agreed that if I wasn’t in (too much) pain we would try and have coffee or lunch together, which was something we hadn’t been able to do since… the summer, perhaps? And we did just that. He let me look in the shops, we got coffee and then had a huge lunch before watching football. It was the first day in months that I had not felt like a complete waste of space and it was so uplifting.

Unfortunately I wasn’t ‘instantly’ cured or suddenly running marathons, but what I was able to do was feel a little more hopeful about life. I actually went back to work for two weeks, which was a crazy feeling and also ridiculous. After my first day back, a four hour commute and 5 degrees on a train with no heating, I was in so much pain I could barely walk, and cried every night of that first week. But, I did go back to work. And for me, that was huge.

By the third week I had caught the dreaded cold that was going around. Everyone was sick and I knew I would catch it, because I always do, and then I had to call in sick again. I had a cold and flu all wrapped in one. I had lost my voice completely. I couldn’t speak for 3 days and Jonas and I had to communicate by texting, pointing or miming. It didn’t work very well, unfortunately. Looking back on it now it was quite funny at how poorly we were at communicating without words.

The only day I went back to work was on a Friday, which was also my birthday, because it was testing day and I didn’t actually need to do anything. My mum was coming to stay for the weekend and we had planned a nice shopping day in Manchester, followed by dinner out in Sheffield. 

Worn out

We had lunch and about an hour of shopping because I just couldn’t walk, talk or carry anything. I felt like a lump and the weekend wasn’t much better. My poor mum spent most of our weekend sitting on my sofa, bored out of her mind, because I was too poorly to go anywhere. It sucked.

A very tired Claire – what will I look like on my next birthday?

But, from this weekend forward, things started to look up. I was able to make plans for the following weeks, where we went to Manchester to look for a new home, and to meet one of my best friends, Helene, there as well. I was able to do a little more each day and it felt great. I was on edge though. The slightest twinge of pain or an ache sent me into a mad panic of whether or not it was all coming back. I knew this was normal though as the pain I had felt for so many years was traumatic and debilitating.

It was pain that had ruined so many jobs, relationships (now, thank god it had!) and other opportunities. 

It was just before Christmas when I realised that I was starting to feel better. I was able to get up early, put on makeup and finally wear jeans again after living in joggers for so long. I was able to spend the day shopping and drinking coffee with my mum without hobbling around at a snail’s pace or having to bundle us back in the car to go home.

Finally, I was able to take the car out on my own. I went to pick up my boyfriend when he arrived in Wales for Christmas. It was amazing to be able to do things on my own again. 

My beautiful Mummy 🙂

January wasn’t bad, although I was still anxious about my aches and any pains that started, and I was so surprised that I made it through without any real problems. February was much the same, as was March. The first time I really felt any pain and began to worry was in April, and then again in May. I put this down to being slightly unhealthy during the start of lockdown and definitely due to stress. However, in five months I had only taken 2 days off of work. One due to pain and the other due to a heavy cold. Considering in 2019 I barely worked a full week throughout the entire year, this was huge. 

What has changed since 2019? I started eating again. In 2019, around May, I decided to follow a completely vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, oil, salt, garlic, alcohol and caffeine-free diet. Ugh, it sounds awful, doesn’t it? It was, if I’m honest. My diet was bland, boring and uninspiring. It’s not because I can’t cook great vegan food, because I can. But I was so used to eating whatever I wanted, when I wanted. I occasionally bought a packet of biscuits or had a single shot coffee at home, but they never agreed with me and I often regretted it.

In 2020 I decided that my diet had made absolutely no difference to my health. It didn’t make my skin clearer, it didn’t reduce my pain or nausea and I’m not entirely sure it contributed to my weight loss, although perhaps it did slightly.

I wanted 2020 to be fun. I wanted to work a lot, meet new people, have a drink at the pub and treat myself to chocolate if I wanted to. Granted, the lockdown really pushed me to the extreme of unhealthy eating here and I know I should have been stricter with myself – but I was enjoying eating junk food again.

The summer was a stressful few months. We were trying to move, dealing with noisy (and racist!) neighbours, I was trying to work 12-16 hours a day and we were in lockdown. I know that this stress contributed to a few aches and pains, headaches and so on but still nothing was even close to the pain I felt before. 

Even now, in November, a whole year later, I haven’t felt pain anywhere close to how I felt it at any point in 2019 and I’m still not entirely sure why. My only assumption is that the contraceptive pill wreaked havoc on my body for two years and adding the coil to it only escalated it further. 

Now, I’m not saying ‘the pill ruins lives’, because there are millions of women who it works for. I’m just saying that it isn’t suitable for everyone and doctors should be more realistic about it.

I have taken some stronger pain relief throughout the year, so I haven’t been managing ‘solo’ the entire time. But I’m running out and I know I have little chance of seeing a doctor any time soon. In the height of my pain and sickness, I was dismissed by every nurse and doctor that I saw, so I doubt I’d be considered important during the pandemic. This month, I’m going to see if I can manage without any medication at all (which is the ultimate goal). I’m nervous, which won’t help, but I think it’s time to give it a good go.

For the first time this year, aside from the one week holiday I took to move house, this is the least amount of work I have had and I’m making the most of it. I suddenly have time for myself and it is a weird, but freeing, feeling. It also makes sense to try and be medicine free, as I have time to stay in bed if I really need to. 

So, looking back on 2019 (and beyond), what have I realised? 

  1. Having an everything-free diet won’t necessarily make you healthier, fitter, skinnier or happier. I was glad that I tried it, but it was expensive, time-consuming and definitely didn’t help my pain.
  2. Taking medication doesn’t give you a pain-free life. Every time I have been on medication it has only caused more problems. At 18 the pill turned me into a demon. At 23 it made my anxiety and depression far worse than it was before the medication and at 26, 27 and 28 I felt it was destroying my body, and my life, once again.
  3. Doctors aren’t always right and you need to know your own body. I have been told 50 times, if not more, that there’s ‘nothing wrong with me’ and that I don’t look sick. That women can’t bleed for 50 days straight and that a clear x-ray means I’m fine. Thanks, doc.
  4. Pain can ruin your life, but there should be light at the end of the tunnel. Although I find it difficult to find that light, it eventually came through. Both physical and mental pain have tormented me for years, but with the right help and support I have found ways to cope and move forward. It’s not easy, but it is possible to varying degrees.
  5. I’m luckier than ever to have my family and friends that have stuck by me through this. I have a small circle of friends who have been more supportive than I could have ever imagined. People I never thought would understand, have and people I thought would support me, haven’t. That’s okay. I’m grateful for what and who I have in my life and this experience has certainly helped to strengthen those relationships and myself as a person.

If anyone reading has struggled, or is still struggling, I am sending you the biggest (virtual) hug and want to remind you that there is always hope. Life may not be perfect and I have no idea why the world throws these things at certain people, but stay strong and surround yourself with people who you love, and love you back. 

And to those of you who have been there for me, virtually or in real life, you are absolutely rock stars!

Thanks 2020, you’ve been good to me x

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