(Not possession, female hysteria or stress)
It’s been a hard day.
As a person with chronic illness and chronic pain, you always come upon people who may not exactly believe you.
You’re too young to have so many illnesses going on, too young to have so many structural problems with your body that required so many surgeries and too young be in so much pain.
But it’s not only that you’re too young, but it’s also this idea that you’ve not done enough to help yourself to get better and therefore, in some underhanded way, your illnesses are your fault. This is if they aren’t all in your head or you aren’t in fact, possessed.
If I sound a little raw, it’s because I am. I’m raw and hurt and I feel like the person I trust most doesn’t really believe in the validity of my illnesses and quite possibly may feel like it’s all stress-related. Oh, yes. I forgot to list that as one of the possibilities for all my illnesses- stress. While I can concede that stress has a very real impact on the body and can cause both psychological and physical ailments, I will not concede that in my personal case it had a hand in all my physical illness. I don’t have the flu. I don’t have a cold. This isn’t the 1800’s and I don’t have female hysteria! And while stress may have a pivotal role in aggravating my illness, it is not the reason I have these illnesses. I may never fully understand why the genetic roll of the dice gave me the medical equivalent of snake eyes; I’ve asked, I’ve searched and so far, I really don’t have an answer other than sheer, dumb luck.
It’s damaging to the psyche, to mine personally and to all those who battle chronic illness and who are disbelieved, who are told it’s all in your head or it’s just stress. You are left questioning every decision you ever made for your health and your body as people you love to criticise you, pass judgment on you and leave you feeling as though you are not even capable of doing that anymore because surely you’d be in better shape. You wonder if your symptoms, symptoms that you yourself quietly ignored so that you could soldier on with your day if you were being overly dramatic? You begin to wonder if symptoms are just all in your head and stress-induced? If your illnesses, these illnesses that debilitate you, that you take medicine for, that cause you to walk with a cane with 24hr 7 day a week pain and have changed your life, these illnesses, could just be one Zen moment away from gone?
But then, I am jolted back to the reality that is my life and my body and my mind. The place where I live 24/7 unfiltered. The moment I wake up, my consciousness seeping back into my body, pain is the first thing that greets me. During the day, there can be any number of symptoms that plague me, from joint pain, muscle pain from RA, stomach cramping and pain from the Crohn’s too mad itching from the chronic urticaria and various other things that I have going on. It’s a veritable pot luck of what could happen from one day to the next, and sometimes I am surprised with something entirely new. Does this mean I am possessed? Demonic take-over would be preferable at this point because honestly, I almost have more faith in the Catholic church than doctors. And I’m Pagan. My point here being, there is nothing for me to gain by creating new symptoms and as the person suffering from them, no one has any clue what it’s like to live like this other than other people like me. If I could wave a wand and return myself to the healthy person I was before all this I would. We all would.
Before I go, I wanted to share this. This isn’t a complete listing of all my illnesses, but I thought it was interesting to note how many of them were autoimmune related. And for me it was just driving home the fact I’m not crazy, I’m not possessed, this isn’t female hysteria, this isn’t stress-related, this is an actual medical illness. I do have bipolar disorder, anxiety and PTSD. Those can all be aggravated by stress, and I’m sure my medical illnesses can be aggravated by stress. But I am sick.
Why Rheumatoid Arthritis (to included psoriatic and inflammatory): “Doctors don’t yet fully understand the cause of RA but know that than the abnormal response of the immune system plays a leading role in the inflammatory and joint damage that occurs. No one knows for sure why the immune system goes awry, but there is evidence that genes, hormones and environmental factors are involved. https://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/rheumatoid-arthritis/causes.php
Why Crohn’s Disease: “The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown. However, the medical community believes the condition is an abnormal immune response to gut bacteria. This results in inflammation of the digestive system. Crohn’s disease is now suspected to be hereditary because of its link to the immune system.” https://www.healthline.com/health/crohns-disease/jewish-ancestry#symptoms
Why Cholinergic Urticaria: Researchers just aren’t sure why this happens, only that there is mast cell involvement of acetylcholine, the hypothalamus and histamine during a cholinergic reaction. At this point, researchers and doctors aren’t sure why this process causes cell degranulation. https://www.cholinergicurticaria.net/cholinergic-urticaria-causes-what-causes-cholinergic-urticaria-to-develop/
There have been many hypotheses to include autoimmune:
- Hormone imbalance
- Vitamin deficiency: Vitamin D
- Autoimmune: acquired becoming allergic to chemicals in sweat.
- Some type of allergy or intolerance
- Genetic susceptibility
Why Delayed Pressure Urticaria: This is a cousin of cholinergic, slightly more uncommon. Unlike its cousin, the weal’s from pressure applied to the skin may not appear immediately, but instead 4-6 hours later. They can be induced by things like sitting, standing, walking and wearing tight clothes. Though as anyone suffering from this will tell you, tight clothes aren’t remotely an option. Like everything else so far, the cause is unclear but likely autoimmune. https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/pressure-urticaria/
Ankylosing Spondylitis: As the running theme seems to be, autoimmune seems to be the winner, though genetics here seems to be a strong key role. “Most individuals who have AS also have a gene that produces a “genetic marker,” a protein called HLA-B27.” It is important to note that you don’t have to have this marker to develop AS and many who have this marker don’t go on to develop AS. “There is a hypothesis that AS may start in the intestines when the defences of the intestines breakdown and certain bacteria pass into the bloodstream, triggering an immune response.” https://www.spondylitis.org/Ankylosing-Spondylitis
Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is a disorder that is characterized by chronic pain and fatigue. The cause of fibromyalgia is unknown.
Restless Leg Syndrome: “Often, RLS can appear for no real reason. Some researchers have suspected it is caused by an imbalance in the dopamine chemical of your brain responsible for sending a message to control the movement of your muscles.” https://www.vein911.com/people-get-restless-leg-syndrome/
Heredity: In some cases, RLS has been known to run in families and researchers have been able to identify genes for RLS in people.
Chronic Disease: Certain medical conditions and chronic diseases like Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes and kidney failure can trigger RLS symptoms. Relief is experienced typically when these conditions are treated.
Medications: Different types of medicines have been known to worsen the symptoms of RLS including antidepressants, anti-nausea drugs, allergy and cold medications that contain antihistamines and antipsychotic drugs.
Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and pregnancy in women can worsen RLS temporarily. Some women end up getting RLS when pregnant when they never had it before, particularly in their last trimester. After delivery, however, the symptoms tend to go away.