2018; A Year Of Growing Pains

2018 has been one of the most monumental years of my 32 rotations around the sun. It’s only been 3 years since chronic illness made its impact on my life and also when I started to feel as if I was living in an entirely different world with how the diagnosis impacted my life. I wouldn’t be who or where I am today without my diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people in such a short amount of time. I’ve grown to appreciate my illness for the life lessons and experiences its given me.

I have learned to crave some sort of stability in my life, whether it be for my health, a fitness routine, finances, sleep schedule, or a man or my family. I am stuck in the vicious cycle of chronic illness which is definitely not stable. I’ve witnessed how chronic illness has sped up my maturation process, both physically and mentally.

I sometimes wonder if they could make a soap opera of my life and title it “Young and the Spoonless”. After all, there already is a soap actress named Eileen Davidson.

In 2018 I learned a lot about myself, my health, motherhood and what I am actually capable of despite living with chronic illness. I’ve pushed myself and it proved beneficial. Believing in yourself goes a long way, even when it doesn’t seem like it’s possible and others try to bring you down. Not today self doubt.

Not only is the year approaching an end, but my son has grown along with me. He has shown compassion and empathy not only towards me but others, it’s even in his report card, twice. He’s shown great understanding to why Mommy can’t do things, afford much but still loves our time together even if it might be just him building lego and me watching on the count not feeling well. It’s not just me who’s going through the learning process of chronic illness, but him and how I react matters. This has done wonders for the mommy guilt associated with chronic illness and parenting.

I’ve grown scared to show my pain and illness to people, sometimes showing our vulnerable transparent sides to chronic illness makes others uncomfortable. I found I’ve learned this the hard way, but also learned how beneficial and beautiful it can be. My son has grown to see me for me, not my pain and illness, he loves me despite what is wrong with me.

I’ve grown to love the life lessons pain has taught me.

Listen To Your Body

A simple medical device, the Mirena IUD, in me that I had for multiple years put me into one of the worst and longest flares I’ve experienced. I developed an infection which with an autoimmune disease is never easy to fight off. I struggled so hard with fatigue, I was napping during the day and barely able to make my son’s bedtime of 8:30 pm. This experience really taught me to pay attention to reoccurring symptoms, be vocal about them to all your health care professionals, and understand your disease, even if you have to read medical articles several times to understand them. I find a lot of health care professionals don’t understand Rheumatoid Arthritis or the medications we are on, especially the lowered immune system part. I could not get in to see my Rheumatologist and because I was dealing with an issue other than my RA, I was seeing other doctors. When I finally did see my rheumatologist after the issue had been fixed, her words, “You could have gone septic” were frightening to hear and see the seriousness on her face.

Go straight to a Rheumatologist first if health gets in the way.

It also taught myself to not beat myself up over what I can’t get done because of my health.

2018 was also the year I was to be diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I could see how much growth I made since my first chronic illness diagnosis in 2015, it didn’t really phase me. I was also doing everything I could to treat it by treating my Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Third times a charm. I do wonder if I have had Fibromyalgia longer than any of my other chronic illnesses, I’ve felt this way for so long and it took so long for it to be taken serious by myself, those around me and medical professionals, until that RA blood test came back positive. My RA really became prominent after the birth of my son. Studies have shown symptoms exacerbate in women with RA after childbirth.

Listen To Your Emotions and Your Heart

The same week I did not become a finalist for the 9 WEGO Health awards, I was nominated for I lost a baby. I knew here I had to be strong, my emotions and hormones were unstable. I felt myself slipping into a dark manic pit of depression and self pity. I had to learn accepting all over again that I made the decision due to my progressive illness and doctor telling me to not get pregnant on biologics. I felt like an idiot and I feared being judged for being taken advantage of by someone who lied so cleverly to a sick girl for his own ulterior motives, plus being a fertile myrtle. I questioned myself as a woman, a mother, my self worth, and as a patient advocate. I knew I had every right to be hurting, I knew it would pass. I knew I would become stronger from the experience. Even though my emotions wanted to tell me otherwise. Patience is a virtue. The friends and support I had during this time I will be forever grateful for.

I decided to focus on what I was still good at, still capable of, I held onto hope.

Focus on What You Have and Keep Moving Forward

As the year ends with my father visiting, spending what I fear will be precious memories soon coming to an end. I go a year or more with visits from him. He has been the only consistent family member in my life that has shown me unconditional love and respect, despite all my mess ups or what has been wrong with me. He still brags about an award I won in elementary school, I wanted to give him something new to be proud of and brag about. I did and it wasn’t an award.

-Bone and Joint Health Campaign across Canada. The largest campaign of it’s kind, in 66,000 waiting rooms and page 28 of October’s Reader’s Digest Canada there I was along with The Arthritis Society

-Was a Walk For Arthritis Walk Star when I raised $1050 for The Arthritis Society

-HealtheVoices2018 Conference attendee

-Everyday Health named Chronic Eileen one of the Top Arthritis Blogs in 2018

-Placed 1000 Arthritis Awareness posters around Vancouver BC

-Named a top volunteer during National Volunteer Week with the Arthritis Society

-Joined Arthritis Research Canada’s Arthritis Patient Advisory Board

-Featured in Inked Magazine’s November 2018 issue Inked For A Cause

-I worked hard in the gym and the benefits have paid off physically and emotionally for me

-Jacob tells me I am the best mom ever

I am ready to kick more ass in 2019

Published by Chronic Eileen

Rheumatoid arthritis advocate, writer and speaker.