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When a Healthy Decision Makes Me Feel Worse Than Before

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Recently, I went to my walk-in clinic for an unrelated issue when they asked if I had gotten my flu shot or my pneumonia vaccine yet. (I had life-threatening pneumonia less than a year ago, and they wanted me to get the vaccine since.) Since I hadn’t, we decided to do both my flu shot, my pneumonia vaccine and a tuberculosis (TB) test for good measure.

Here I was being proactive and taking care of myself, thinking I was protecting myself from getting sick. But guess what? I have an autoimmune disorder, namely fibromyalgia. So what I really did is toss all of these things into my body to strengthen my immune system, which caused it to go into overdrive to produce antibodies to protect me after my shots.

The funny thing about an autoimmune disorder is that it is controlled by, yup — you guessed it — your immune system. So basically, what I did is crank up my immune system to high, which then caused me to go into a fibro flare. I have been mostly bedridden for a week now, living off of ice packs, heating pads and pain relievers. I get up and stretch. That helps. Going downstairs? No way, that’s asking too much. The thoughts that went through my head when I was at the walk-in clinic were along the lines of “Let’s knock these out!”

But my body had very different ideas and let me know within a day or two that it was not happy with me. So now here I am, lying in bed, thinking about how I was trying to be healthy. I did what you’re supposed to do to be healthy, and it made me worse, even if just for the short term.

On a similar note, this May I decided I wanted to eat healthier. I went on a total health kick — fruits and veggies all day, every day. After about a month, I noticed I was throwing up increasingly more often. It became so bothersome that I went to my GI doctor.

They did an endoscopy, which discovered undigested food in my stomach. After the endoscopy and a later gastric emptying test, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis. Gastroparesis “is a condition in which the spontaneous movement of the muscles (motility) in your stomach does not function normally,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

They gave me a diet to follow; I still threw up and felt sick. My abdomen was rigid and distended. So I switched to complete nutrition shakes to replace food. That was in June. It is now the middle of September. I have now lost almost 30 pounds. I have tried eating various things. I successfully kept down one meal this week, which is a big step for me.

Ironically enough, eating all those fruits and vegetables actually contributed to my gastroparesis. I was being healthy! I was doing all the things you were supposed to do, and it made me sick.

Fruits and vegetables, sometimes colloquially called “roughage,” are one of the most difficult foods for your body to digest. So by eating all those fruits and veggies, all I did is end up causing myself more issues.

My suggested diet now tells me to avoid everything promoted as healthy: fresh fruits and veggies, whole grain anything, eggs. The list goes on. For three months, I have been living on nutritional shakes and water. Because I ate what I was “supposed” to eat.

The bottom of the line is this: It seems like we can never win. We can beat one thing only to lose to another. Take a different drug to combat the side effect of another. Fix one thing and something else goes wrong. It’s a never-ending struggle, and what works for most of the world doesn’t work for us unicorns.

You think you’re doing the right thing, and it causes a problem somewhere else in your body. It’s the life of disease, the nature of chronic illness. All of the suggestions I’ve gotten over the year about how to better my health and heal myself — I appreciate the sentiment, but my body is not your body. What works for you won’t work for me. I’ve tried all the stuff that works for everyone else. And my body still revolts. So for me, it’s about finding what’s right for my body. Things that are supposed to make me “healthier” make me sicker. Try exercising? I faint. Get some sun? I overheat — and then I faint.

Like I said, it seems like we can never win. But that doesn’t mean we should give up, either. Last week, I lost the fight to my body. I’ve tried to “push past it” and “suck it up.” That’s not working. That’s not even what I’m supposed to do, medically speaking. My body is telling me I need to rest. My body is telling me I’m doing too much. I’m so exhausted, the kind of exhausted that no amount of sleep could cure. Right now, I am not winning. Maybe next week.

Follow this journey on Living Without Limits.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: September 30, 2016
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