Hi. My name is dSavannah (pronounced dee-Suh-ván-uh) and I have a host of invisible illnesses. In this here #AtoZChallenge2016, I am planning on writing about these illnesses (and others), as I told you in my theme reveal. I am doing this to raise awareness for mine and various other invisible ailments.
Obviously, there are tons of illnesses that people know about: cancer, for instance, or high blood pressure. There are also a ton of illnesses that are relatively unknown, such as CVID (Common Variable Immune Deficiency, a disorder that impairs the immune system; people with CVID are highly susceptible to infection. That means they get sick all. the. time.), which is suffered by a dear friend of mine from college, or fibromyalgia (a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues), which I suffer from.
And there are the mental illnesses that are still very much taboo to talk about in this country, much less have. People with severe mental illnesses are likely to die 28.5 years earlier than the rest of the population, according to study published in JAMA Psychiatry and discussed this past November in a post by the National Institute for Mental Health.
Just because we look fine doesn’t mean we are fine. Just because a normal-looking mom has a disabled tag and rides a cart in stores instead of walking doesn’t mean she’s faking it. (She’s had an ankle transplant, actually, and her ankle causes her horrible pain every day of her life.)
So that’s it for awareness. I just want people to know that there are conditions and illnesses that you know nothing about. Be aware, and stop judging. Cuz being judged sucks.
* visit the site here: she’s talking about the nasty remarks she’s gotten for not losing her hair!
All of us have an immune system. This is taught in like, I dunno what grade; I was homeschooled most of my life, then skipped a few grades. But I know it’s taught!
Your immune system is supposed to protect you from disease and infection. People who have an autoimmune disease don’t have that protection, or it’s lowered. It essentially means that your immune system attacks healthy cells.
Autoimmune diseases are fairly common, but a lot of people aren’t aware of their existence. In fact, I’ve said “I have an autoimmune disorder” before, to be greeted by blank stares.
Some examples of autoimmune diseases are:
- lupus, which can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart, and lungs. Symptoms include a butterfly-shaped rash on the face, easily bruising, fatigue, joint swelling, etc. Because the symptoms mimic those of other diseases, it is VERY difficult to diagnose. There is no one test that you can take that says “yeah, you have lupus”. If you are diagnosed with lupus, there is also no good treatment! Typically, it is treated with steroids, which can cause other health issues, including weight gain.
A former friend of mine has lupus, and a friend’s daughter has lupus, and the singer Seal has lupus – that’s the cause of the scarring on his face. It’s possible that I have lupus, tho I’ve never been officially diagnosed with it.
- fibromyalgia, which I mentioned earlier. It causes overall pain and fatigue. I have this, and will talk about it more in my “F” post.
- rheumatoid arthritis, the severe, crippling inflammation of joints and surrounding tissues. A good friend of mine suffers from this.
- celiac disease, a severe reaction to gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley) that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine. This is more than just an intolerance or allergy, and can cause other damage and symptoms. Hubs’ cousins have this.
- Hashimoto’s, inflammation of the thyroid gland. A college classmate has this. This article details the trials a 12-year-old girl is going through right now; she has Hashimoto’s encephalopathy, which has made her unable to walk, given her poor eye-hand coordination, and other issues.
- Sjögren’s syndrome, which destroys the glands that produce tears and saliva and causes dry eyes and mouth. Another college classmate has this.
- multiple sclerosis, where the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. A writer friend of mine has this.
A “fun” thing about autoimmmune disorders is that the symptoms often overlap, so not only are they difficult to diagnose, but it’s likely you have more than one. And there is generally no ONE good treatment for any of them, much less two or three.
And, these are all pretty much invisible. There’s not much of an outward sign, except if you have the lupus rash, to show there’s something wrong with you. (And if you have that rash, most people think you have bad acne and need to wash your face.)
Interestingly enough, an allergy is actually an autoimmune response. It’s “an abnormal reaction to something that normally shouldn’t cause a reaction”. Most people think “pollen” or “peanuts” or “cats” when they think of allergies, but there’s much more than that.
Allergies can come on suddenly when before you’ve never had a problem. For instance, we were poor when I was growing up. My mother had perfected making lemonade (lemons were cheap), and she developed an allergy to lemon. My ex-mother-in-law has an allergy to chocolate (oh, the horror!), which causes her lips to swell up. Hubs has an allergy to certain nuts. I had a bunch of allergy tests done by my Ear Nose Throat doctor, which determined some of the allergies I’ve listed below.
- Lidocaine (very bad reaction; acted stoned; didn’t know where I was for like two weeks; as of November 2015)
- Penicillin (stopped breathing; in college)
- Surgical tape (causes slight rash and itching)
- Protein in my eye (means they cause a “coating” so I can’t see, and keeps me from wearing contacts)
- Gluten (intolerance, not celiac disease)
- Other food allergies, including beets, cumin, cucumber, plum, red potato, turnip, watercress, artichoke, curry powder, turmeric
- Mold: aspergillis, candida, helminthosporium (severe; can cause insta-headaches)
Thankfully, most of this can be ‘fixed’ by lifestyle changes (no more lasagna! sniff, sniff) or simple avoidance.
A commenter on my theme reveal post said something that gave me the idea of sharing places where I’d like to defect to. One of these is Arizona. Luckily, I’ve been able to visit there, twice, and I absolutely loved it.
Negatives: I had a low-grade headache the whole time I was there because of the low humidity.
Positives: Everything else! I loved it! My heart home is the ocean, but if there was ever a place on earth where I felt, deep in my bones, like I truly belonged, it was Arizona. I made friends there almost immediately, all of whom I’m still friends with to this day. The architecture was super cool. And the colors of the deserts! And the mountains! A photographer’s dream!
Even looking at the photos for this post stop my heart (in a good way). I want to go back. Here is just a tiny sampling of the photos I took in 2011 (for some reason I can’t find the ones I took in 2009. Darnit.):
P.S. Because of my illnesses, I have not been able to work since December 2014. And many of my medical treatments and doctors are not covered by insurance. I have a gofundme campaign set up if you would like to donate or share. All donations and shares are GREATLY appreciated.