What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
You know when you have a really bad dream and you wake up and you’re so relieved that Freddy Krueger isn’t ACTUALLY ripping out your veins and using you as a puppet, and you thank the sweet lord that you’re okay? I feel like that.
When I first started writing for xoJane, I was hurtling straight into what would turn out to be the worst bout of my illness I’ve faced so far. In fact, my first post was written after returning home from the hospital. I faced it head on, thinking it was all okay, the steroids would fix me. Then they didn’t.
They instead left me with a whole new plethora of fun and exciting side effects, like my feet swelling up until shoes were but a distant memory. Every day seemed to bring with it a new challenge, and foods that were once "safe" were struck off the list as I discovered they, too, brought ALL THE PAINZ. I would wake up, feel okay until my first bite of whatever it was I was trying out that day, and then I’d be gripped once again, another day written off and more tears.
Doctor’s appointments came and went, nothing changed, my weight dropped, my energy levels depleted to the point where every night I would get home from work, flop on the sofa and go to bed. Life was pretty shit.
After one too many painful attacks rendered me unable to sleep, I spent a day at my very lowest. Unable to go in to work and writhing around at home in utter misery, I was convinced that this was it. Life was not going to improve. If that was how the rest of my life was going to be, I couldn’t do it. I was scared. I couldn’t think about the future, it scared me too much.
I convinced myself that my boyfriend would grow to hate me, that he didn’t sign up for this! He met me when I was clubbing every weekend, I was fun! Coming home to a chronically ill, depressed girlfriend wasn’t what he wanted, surely? This was all completely unfounded of course, as he was supportive and lovely throughout.
As I tried to hide my misery, I instead internalized it, making my symptoms worse. The therapy of writing about it all for this site, and the comments I received telling me it WAS OKAY to feel bad, that I COULD cry, helped me enormously. More than you can know.
Another visit to the hospital proved fruitful, with the specialist informing me that the medication I had been taking every day for 7 years was the wrong dosage. I’d been told by my GP to take two tablets per day. I was meant to be taking EIGHT. Leaving the hospital, I swung between feeling huge relief that there was a REASON I was ill, and anger that my GP left me vulnerable in this way. I also grieved a little for the time that had been wasted.
A month or so on, with my dosage upped to the correct levels, I am (touch wood) mended. I spent 10 amazing days in South Africa eating and drinking like a NORMAL HUMAN BEING. Gone were the noodles and chicken every day, and instead I was eating steak! And drinking wine! And I had ENERGY! I am so happy that the flare-up seems to be behind me that I could well up.
And now, as a NORMAL HUMAN BEING, I am being a complete dick. Along with the relief of being able to function, I have an uneasy feeling in the back of my mind. Now that I can eat again, I’m going to gain weight.
I know this is the most fucking stupid thing ever. But as someone who has lost and gained and lost the same 52 lbs over the course of a few years, I am reluctant to be the heavier me again. Throughout being ill, people kept telling me how GOOD I looked. How skinny! I’d kind of roll my eyes, tell them it comes with not being well, but people didn’t care. They only cared that I’d lost those excess pounds, it didn’t matter how they went.
And now, with every bite I now put into my mouth, I’m thinking, “This will be the one. This will be the bite that puts me back where I was.” That my healthy digestive system will cruelly trick me into not fitting into my clothes. People will remember I’m not actually a thin person at all. I’m a pretender.
Getting healthy is my number one priority right now. I just don’t feel that healthy inside my head.
Keep up with me on Twitter: @Natalie_KateM.