When You Don't Want to Admit That Your Health Is Not OK
I barely reach the lobby of my cardiologist’s office before I burst into sobbing uncontrollable tears. I haphazardly riffle through my bag to find my sunglasses despite the fact that it’s raining outside. I find them just as my hand reaches the door and I jet to the safety of my car. I close the door and I cry. I cry, I cry and I cry some more. I call my parents who are vacationing in Hawaii and I can barely get out the words “it’s back” without crying all over again. My mom asks me to explain and I keep calm for long enough to tell her that the inflammation and fluid surrounding my heart are indeed back. I’ve feared this for a while now. Each time I felt a twinge of pain run through my chest or felt faint after a short four mile run, I knew in my gut that things were getting bad again. Yet I ignored the little signs and symptoms. I didn’t want to believe it. I take medication everyday to control it. “I don’t look sick, I am fine,” I would say to myself. Yet I knew that I was indeed, not fine.
I have had chronic relapsing pericarditis, or more simply, inflammation and fluid around the heart for the last year and a half. Something that most people have never even heard of; I myself didn’t even know I had something in my body called a pericardium, which is the lining of your heart. My condition is idiopathic, meaning it has no known cause. At times the pain has been so bad it feels like someone is taking a knife and stabbing me in my chest. Other times it feels unbearable just to get out of bed. Most times I am capable of going about my every day life, yet since I was diagnosed I have never felt completely 100 percent like my old self. I often live in a permanent state of tired, and sometimes I can’t breathe when I walk up the stairs. Many times I feel like I cannot do the things I once loved, like long distance running. I have cancelled plans with friends more times that I can even count. I’ve missed out on concerts I’ve paid for, a close friends bachelorette party, and even once my own birthday party. I’ve skipped workout classes, walked miles home from a run I couldn’t finish and have spent more time on the couch and in bed than any young 20-something should have to.
Whether a good thing or a bag thing, I’ve done a pretty good job of hiding from others that I am struggling and not myself – to the point where I’ve almost believed it myself. I’ve tried so hard to force myself to continue to do things with friends and family and be social, even when I know I’m too tired or sick. I’ve forced myself out on evening runs even when I knew I shouldn’t exert myself. The truth is, I don’t want to admit that something is wrong with me. I don’t want to be sick, but the fact of the matter is I am. I have a chronic disease that affects my heart. I am not OK.
It saddens me to write those words, and it brings me a little bit of guilt too. I know that there are people out there who are probably struggling more than I am. I know there are people who have more serious conditions or a fatal disease, but at the same time that doesn’t make the journey I am on any less real, or any less meaningful.
I have learned a whole lot since I was diagnosed. I have learned how strong I am in the face of adversity. I have learned that no matter what happens I will never give up. I have learned that my will and my ability to fight hard through of all life’s challenges is stronger than I ever could have imagined. Most importantly, I have become the best version of myself. I have always considered myself to be a kind and empathetic person, but since I became sick I have learned how important it is to be kind to others. You never can tell by looking at someone what is going on inside. On the outside I look fine. On social media I continue to live my life to the fullest, yet here I am writing this article when I should be meeting my friends at a concert. So if you’re like me and you don’t “look sick,” this one is for you. It’s OK to not be OK, and always remember that you are not alone.
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Gettyimage by: piyapong sayduang