Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

How To Be There For Someone With A Chronic Illness

Imagine you have two people who are not on the same page, let alone the same book. One struggles with chronic illness and the other is averagely healthy and maybe even deals with a common ailment here and there, but how can they relate when it comes to health? It may not come easy to some when they have never had their health jeopardized. It is important to build a bridge to have a connection with your family or friend.

Invisible Illnesses

Perhaps your friend or loved one has an invisible illness. This means that they look healthy on the outside but on the inside they struggle with an illness like diabetes, lupus, PTSD, POTS, Thyroid diseases, Cardiac and Neurological diseases, to name a few.

We all have our own battles.

It can be tough to look at someone who looks fully capable of living life the way you do but we are all different. Understand that just because you may be healthy and can juggle so many tasks, does not mean it comes easy for others.

It is important to recognize that with all things, there is a spectrum. With chronic illnesses, that spectrum can vary day to day. One morning, we may have so much energy that we can clean the house and go out to get lunch but the next morning we may be bedridden.

Personally, putting on makeup every day is my way of putting on war paint. I hide my dark circles from waking up every hour. I conceal the redness in my face or sometimes add blush to my pale skin. When I look well, I don’t get asked if I am sick or told I look tired. I feel normal and ready to take on the day.

Just because you friend or loved one looks put together and seems young and healthy, doesn’t mean she wasn’t up at 4am with severe back spasms and again at 5am feeling dehydrated and again at 6am in more pain and a numb arm until it is finally time to get up for the day. She probably got dizzy a few different times while her blood pressure dropped, causing nausea and tachycardia. Be grateful she answered the phone or showed up for lunch and she we be grateful for you.

The Spoon Theory

The Spoon Theory is a metaphor to explain the limited energy that someone with an invisible or chronic illness struggles with. Say you get 12 spoons each day and each task costs a spoon or two. Sometimes a shower can cost 2 spoons on a rough day. Going to work can cost a lot of spoons as well. Cleaning the kitchen? That will be 3 spoons! Sometimes if you push yourself too hard, it costs spoons from the next day which will leave you in bed with limited spoons.

We call people “Spoonies” who fit in to the Spoon Theory.

How to be there for a Spoonie:

  • Understanding – The fact that you have read this so far is already a huge deal for your Spoonie. Trying to understand what life is like for your friend or loved one shows a lot of compassion and empathy. This is your biggest step and the most important. For some, we are constantly judged, assumed we are lazy, told it is in our head, called a hypochondriac or just straight up dismissed. Certain medical conditions sometimes take up to a decade or longer to get diagnosed. Often times there are several misdiagnosis’s and even people get left in a grey area where no one knows what to do. We feel alone and lost.
  • Keep Your Ideals To Yourself – We appreciate your concerns, absolutely. I can vouch for myself that I have done plenty of research, am fully aware of my body and what is normal for me, have a strict diet with optimal nutrition and supplements, non drinker, non smoker and always staying positive as well as seeing a therapist. My health is a full time job. You can’t even pronounce what illnesses I have so please don’t try to cure me. Of course, we appreciate advice but keep it simple and keep it at that. Do not try to push your ideals on someone or tell them if they exercise more they will feel better or that they can meditate to a cure. All we want is a shoulder to cry on, a listening ear, positive vibes and understanding.
  • If You Are Sick, Stay Away! – Seriously, some of us have compromised immune systems and if you have a cold or flu and bring your germs to anyone, even a healthy person, it is just simply rude. If you bring your germs to someone who is already ill, it is cruel. We don’t fight infections and other illnesses very well and most of the time it makes our other issues worse and for some, it could mean a trip to the hospital.
  • Social Gatherings – There is a good chance we might not make it to your event or night out. I can assure you that we wish we were there but more often than not, our health makes us flakey friends. Please don’t stop inviting us! We will always try, even if the chances are slim. Also, please don’t get upset with us if we don’t make it. We would rather be out having fun with you than stuck in bed.
  • Know That We Are Fighting A Battle – If we seem a little off, let us be a little off. There are countless times when I was hanging out with someone while my vision blurred and I start seeing stars, getting light headed and heart palpitations but I push through because this is my normal life. Something that has always bothered me was when strangers, coworkers or peers say “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” Well, maybe I am struggling with an ocular migraine that day, low blood pressure or didn’t sleep well, so if I have a case of resting bitch face then let it be. I know it could always be worse but I am here, smile or not!
  • My Illness Does Not Define Me – I am a strong warrior. I love art, music, travel, culture, anything vintage, food, nature, giving back and being creative. I can be sensitive but I persevere and I keep my chin up. I have not given up and I won’t. I have bad days but I climb above it and stay positive, even it it is a full time job. I am not my illness. However, it is part of my life, whether big or small. It may affect me but it is not who I am.


America Hates Me

Soon, the president of the Divided States of America will be cutting almost a trillion dollars for Medicaid cuts. As I often hear about the complaint for our tax dollars being spent on helping people like me, I never hear any disgruntled comments about the rest of our federal tax spending. We are just shuffling money from one area to another, from healthcare to Military and Defense. And state taxes? How dare we pay for those roads that we never drive on or the schools that our children don’t go to? America is not free, is it? 

Guys, only 28% of our taxes go towards healthcare. No one bitches about where the other 62% goes. Why is that? Do we need to educate ourselves more?

We are very privileged and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to bitch about getting the wrong Starbucks order, don’t get me wrong. I know it could be worse. However, I know it could be better. 

Almost 60 countries Have Universal Healthcare and some have mandated this since the early 1900s. Virtually all of Europe, included. The United States refuses to get on board. We can’t get it right in 4-8 years. It takes time… flipping from red to blue, hot to cold every decade is a disaster when we can look at several dozens other countries that have been doing it for decades. And no, don’t tell me I need to leave my country. My point is that there are answers out there but we have no humility and are drowning in pride and so divided that we would rather turn one half of our own country into a third world status than to pay a couple bucks a week in taxes for healthcare. 

Oh, but we will gladly pay it for military. Just not for the environment though. Seriously, all this is, is taking a budget and moving it somewhere else and that is screwing over your neighbor. New York was known as the melting pot. Now we just want corn dogs and apple pie.

Here in America, we feel that we work hard and must earn our right to be medically treated, granted we have a trust fund and come from wealth or were gifted with healthy DNA. Well, guess what? I work my ass off. I have never only had just one job. I do not come from a wealthy family and I was born with a rare disease. I have even gone to work in severe debilitating pain or irregular heart rhythms and just smiled and pulled through because I have a family to feed and a roof to keep over our heads. I have gone to work instead of the ER because I needed the money. I sometimes would spend days recovering from this… Shutting down my phone and crawling into bed, ordering pizza for the kids and hoping that I wake up the next day. Everytime I would get ahead I would get knocked back down and have to start over, scraping by. 

If I had my health, I would be rich from how damn hard I work and my infinite ambition. I don’t qualify for health insurance and I usually don’t qualify for Medicaid. Seldomly I get access to Medicaid and get the luxury of medical coverage for about 6 months but it is never enough time. 

I am what America hates. Your tax dollars paid for my open heart surgery. I digust you. This year, you win. Your votes will take away my coverage. And when that happens, I hope that you think about my children and the mother that you will take away from them so that you can afford a sweet new car with heated leather seats and Bluetooth and more military whatever. 

I have had some very close calls earlier this year and was often dismissed because I looked healthy. I have spent 32 years of my life looking for answers on my own while being medically neglected, year after year. Even recently, I had my Tilt Table Test and wore my usual light makeup and rosy blush. It is my daily routine. If I don’t cover my fatigued eyes and pale skin then I will be asked if I am sick or tired all day long. The nurse said I looked great and that likely this test would be a breeze for me. “She still has color,” he said seconds before my blood pressure bottomed out and my heart rate plummeted and I felt nauseous and horrible, to say the least. Maybe it’s Maybelline, because suddenly I was head down and being pumped with fluids. Shorty after, I went into hypoperfusion. I was stabilized quickly but despite how horrible I felt, I was relieved to have it all on paper and proof! Each and every ER visit, ambulance ride and hospital stay, dozens in The beginning of the year, my symptoms were dismissed as anxiety and I was prescribed Xanax and Valium and sent home to die because our healthcare is capitalism at it’s finest. It is corupt and unfair because we built it this way and refuse to do anything about it. We are blind. Wake up! For most, they are not poor enough for assisted coverage but not comfortable enough to swing the extra bill for insurance on their own. It is a lose-lose situation. Maybe heart attack statistics would go down if we weren’t stressing about how to afford a doctors visit! 

Despite my 2011 open heart surgery scar and four cardiac ablations, I still was not taken seriously. Hypoperfusion, or Circulatory Shock,  was diagnosed by my neurologist after my clear brain MRI and EEG of my brain waves rules out seizures and any neurological disorders, as well as my recent positive Tilt Table Test, pointing back to cardiac. I went through so many years of tests and no answers but refused to believe that this was anxiety. I was the happiest I had ever been. Finally some progress but time is running out until coverage will end. Life feels like quicksand. 

At one point, I was diagnosed with Acid Reflux, which I do not have and was given medication for that. I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder and given drugs for that. I do not have anxiety. I refuse to take those drugs. Before ruling out seizures, I had debilitating migraines with auras and was given seizure medication. Turns out that all I had to do was cut out preservatives and dairy and my migraines went away. I can’t help but wonder how many people are sent home drugged up to die with a misdiagnosis. How many “young and healthy” looking women were sent home with a new drug dependency while they really just had a deficiency that could have been managed? 

I have children, a business or two, a fiancĂ© and I work very hard every chance I get, when my body allows it. Just because I look fine, does not mean that I don’t feel like shit and have chronic debilitating symptoms. I would be devastated to give up this fight and be home in bed all day, every day. Sometimes I feel like I should be but I have some much to live for and want to see as much of the world as possible,  even if each step hurts and I have to stop often. I will get back up and keep trekking. I am not giving up. 

Fortunately, my patience fizzled and I became an advocate for myself and finally made progress in a diagnosis to get proper management and treatment. My next step is a pacemaker on June 8th but there still needs to be an answer as to what the underlying issue could be. Currently, I am waiting on results for Elhers Danlos Syndrome and Marfan. I recently requested ANA blood work and tested positive, meaning I have one of 120 autoimmune diseases. 

My goal is to help raise awareness to doctors and medical staff about rare diseases and that when you hear hooves, sometimes it could be a zebra. I want to inspire others to get healthy and educate themselves on nutrition and what our bodies need to thrive and learn how to not walk away from doctors without answers. 

I hope that I can still fight this battle or open someone’s eyes to how wrong this government is. I just want to live. I am not ready to go. Please consider people like me before you strip what is left of our medical coverage. Please think abouty soon to be husband and my three children before you ban me from healthcare equality. I am never going to give up but I may die trying. 

If you still feel like reading, I urge you to read Marie Claire’s publication on women’s healthcare.