Out of Breath: Am I Having Anxiety or a Heart Attack?

Sometimes, it can be a struggle to get a proper diagnosis when something is not right in your body, Today, I’d like to tell you the story about when I was having breathing problems as a teenager. I was misdiagnosed as having anxiety but in reality, I was actually having a much more serious issue. The following is the story of how I was finally diagnosed with a thyroid disorder.

Growing Pains? But I’m not Growing Anymore!

My symptoms started when I was around 14 years old. I was living in Holland at the time and sitting my Dutch class when, out and out of the blue, I got shooting pains in my upper arms and across my chest. These pains were so intense that I got out of my chair in the middle of class. I went to the doctor where they did a lot of tests. They checked my muscles, joints, and blood and nothing showed up so they told me it was probably just growing pains. This didn’t really make sense to me at the time and at my age, but I just listened to the doctor and went on my way.

I’m Calm, Really

Over the next couple of years, my symptoms started to change and still seemed very strange to me. By the time I was 16, I started to constantly experience shortness of breath. I felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath in. Once again, I went to the doctor and they started checking my oxygen levels. My oxygen levels were fine, so they decided it must be all in my head, like I was having anxiety. By the time I was almost 18, the doctor sent me to breathing therapy because he thought I was having panic attacks.

I didn’t feel like I was having panic attacks. To me, it was something that just happened and would subside just as suddenly as it came. I just felt like I couldn’t breathe properly. Around this time, I would also have strange dreams in which I was choking or like I was drowning underwater. After what was probably just a few minutes, I would wake up and take a deep breath. My body just felt like it was under so much stress, but when I would explain this to the doctor, it would be dismissed as anxiety.

breathe, anxiety, thyroid, Hashimoto's, Graves' disease, breathing problems

Breathe in….Breathe out….

The doctor sent me to therapy to learn breathing exercises to help me cope with this so-called anxiety.  I learned to ground myself and to take very controlled breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth and how to do these breathing exercises when I’m  in situations when I feel stressed or need to calm down. Funny enough, this helped me about 15 years later when I was pregnant and found myself in a scary situation, but did nothing to help my current health difficulties as these were not, in fact, panic attacks.  

By the time I was around 19, I was going from hospital to hospital and having test after test, but no one could figure out what was wrong with me. Each test would come back negative, and that was just about the worst thing someone could tell me. According to them, I was  the picture of perfect health.  That really upset me because I knew something was wrong. I know it sounds crazy because to most people, a negative test result would be a good thing, but I knew something was wrong with me so it actually made me quite upset.

A Lead in the Right Direction

When I was 19, they did another comprehensive blood test to really try and figure out what was wrong with me. As a result, my doctor discovered that I had something wrong with my thyroid and referred me to the hospital to have an ultrasound to try and figure out what’s really happening. I called the hospital to make an appointment for the test and to see a specialist, but I was told the first appointment wouldn’t be for four months. The lady who was scheduling asked me if it was an emergency, and my doctor didn’t say it was, so I said no, as my doctor didn’t say it was, and waited the four months until it was time for my appointment.

At this time, I was 19, living independently from my family in another city, and working part-time in a butcher shop. When I was at work one day, people started looking at me really strangely and asking me what was wrong with my neck. I looked in the mirror and it looked like I swallowed an inflatable, donut-shaped life preserver! It looked like a cartoon! My neck was swollen really badly, but even though it looked and felt strange, it didn’t hurt at all. My hands started shaking, but at only 19, I still didn’t know that anything was really wrong.

I went to the doctor, but figured I would probably be okay since I’m already on the waiting list to go to the hospital. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I should call the doctor and tell them what my symptoms are. My neck was huge, but at that point, I didn’t even know where my thyroid is or what symptoms to watch out for. Back then, the Internet wasn’t really available like it is now. I did do some research in the library, but still didn’t think it was a big deal, and by this point, my hospital appointment was only three weeks away, so I thought I could wait. By this point, my hands were trembling so badly that it became a game to see if when I ate something like soup, anything would be left on the spoon by the time it reached my mouth.

As Serious as a Heart Attack

The day came that I had my appointment and I was sitting in the waiting room with one of my friends. The doctors kept coming in calling the names of each patient as it was his/her turn to come back. Finally, I was called by a doctor that was old and cranky to say the least. He called out my name and I got up. He has never seen me before and knows nothing about me. He just knows I’ve been referred and he needs to have a look at me. The doctor looked at me and said that he hoped I had been sent there urgently. I’m like, “What?!” He asked how long I had been on the waiting list. I told him I had been waiting four months. He was shocked and said that I need to be seen by cardiology urgently. Once again, I was shocked! I asked, “What? Where are we going?” He said that he needed to make sure my heart would last the day. “WHAT!?!?”

heart, breathing problems, thyroid, hashimoto's, Grave's, hypothyroid, hyperthyroid

There I am, walking with this doctor, and we’re going past all these elderly people waiting in line. There was a lady who was probably 80 years old sitting with an IV running, and yet I was the urgent one! First, I went to cardiology, where they stuck all these things all over my body to test my heart to make sure I was fine. I’m like, Oh My Gosh! Again, I’m 19, so my friend, who was maybe 21 at the time, and I were laughing and giggling throughout. We would laugh and make jokes to ease the tension, but all the movement was impacting the test, so soon enough, the technician peered through the curtain and told us to stop so he could get an accurate reading of my heart rate. We calmed down so he could check my heart rate. It was not very good, but it was good enough to allow me to go to my consultation.

By this point, I was freaked out. I just wanted to know what was happening to me. I had the consultation, during which he ran bloodwork and tests to make sure I was okay because he was scared that I was going to have a heart attack. Again, I was 19 and had been having these symptoms for three years. I told him about my shortness of breath, that I had to go to breathing therapy, and because of it, I can calm myself down when I get tense, but I still couldn’t breathe normally.

The doctor said that the reason I couldn’t breathe was because my heart was in such distress that I couldn’t get enough oxygen. I just freaked out! I could not believe what he was telling me. Long story short, I had to go into the hospital every four days for a whole bunch of different tests and it turns out that I had Grave’s Disease, which I later found out is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid.

A “Grave” Answer

At the time, I was told I had this condition, Graves Disease, but the doctor really didn’t tell me much about it. He said it should go away on its own in about a year and a half, so we just needed to focus on getting through the next year and a half. Knowing what I know now, I would have questioned this, but at that point, I was still only 19 and didn’t know much about the thyroid. I was told I just needed to take a some pills for my heart and some for my thyroid and additional pills to counteract the effects of those pills, about 13 pills in all. I also had to go into the hospital for tests every four days for the first six months of my treatment.

Pills, medications, Graves' disease, Hashimoto's, pregnancy, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism

I had treatment for about a year and a half. My Graves was under control and I thought I was cured, as this is what the doctor told me. I was taken off all the medicine but warned that in about 20 years, I would have the opposite problem: my thyroid would go too slow instead of too fast like it had worked previously.

The doctor explained that with Graves Disease, your thyroid works too fast. Your thyroid is like the motor of your body. When things like your digestion goes too fast or you feel anxious and jittery, or you have a fast heart rate, you’re hyperthyroid. That’s what had caused all of my weird symptoms. The doctor told me I was cured after taking all the medicines.

My Graves Disease was gone, but in about 20 years, my thyroid will to be too slow, or hypothyroid, but that’s about it. He said I would have to take a pill for it for the rest my life, but that’s about it. That didn’t sound so bad, so I just signed the papers and left the hospital. No more tests, no more pills, no more anything. I was finally free to go enjoy my life. I was cured! Or so I thought….

Pregnant! But Something Wasn’t Right…..

Seven years later, I got pregnant. I had a pregnancy from hell. I didn’t know what was going on. I had bad moods all the time. I was so tired that I couldn’t stay awake for more than 3 or 4 hours per day. It was really extreme. They thought I had postpartum depression 6 months after I gave birth to my daughter. Years later, I found out that I actually have Hashimoto’s Disease, which is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, but now the thyroid goes too slow. The doctors gave me a pill and said to take this pill every morning when I woke up and I’ll be fine. I had to test my thyroid every year.

The numbers looked okay, but I still wasn’t feeling well. Long story short, when I was researching Hashimoto’s, I figured out it’s not just hypothyroidism, or when your thyroid goes too slow, it’s an autoimmune condition. I also figured out that Graves was an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, which I never knew before. Apparently, I had an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, but it was just in remission. I wasn’t cured at all, and the doctor failed to tell me about it because I’m sure that he knew. Since I was 19, he thought he could just keep it light and simple, and just tell me I was cured. You can read more about my pregnancy here.

Pregnancy, Postpartum Depression, Hashimoto's Disease, Thyroid, Grave's Disease

Always Trust Your Instincts!

They lesson I learned and that I hope to convey to others who are teenagers or young adults is that teenagers can remember. I remember every single thing that this doctor told me. If he would have told me that I had an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, I would have done things differently while I was pregnant. I would have pressed for a test of my thyroid. I would have told them that I had a thyroid issue when I was about 19, but I’m cured. Instead, no one ever tested me. No one looked for anything while I was was pregnant, and I think a lot of my cascading downhill health could have been prevented if I would have been presented with the right information when I was a teenager and having all these problems.

Teenagers know when something is wrong with their body. They’re not just being lazy. They’re not just having panic attacks. They’re not just making it up. If they are really suffering from issues or having symptom for years at a time, it’s real, and you just have to search until you find it. If you have a problem with your health, be your own advocate. Don’t give up. Even when the doctor told me I was having panic attacks, I still didn’t believe it. I complied with the doctors and went to the breathing therapy, but I never ever gave up. It didn’t matter how young I was. It didn’t matter that nobody believed me. I just kept going. I got my diagnosis and in the end, I got my treatment.

How My Hashimoto’s got Misdiagnosed as Postpartum Depression

When I was 19, I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, which is an autoimmune condition of the thyroid that causes it to work faster than it should, also known as hyperthyroidism. When I received this diagnosis, I was never told that pregnancy effects the thyroid. I had treatments at the time and eventually the doctors told me that I was cured. Well, eventually I became pregnant and remember these treatments when I was reviewing my medical history with my midwife at me first appointment, which was when I was about 13 weeks along.

I’m Dutch, and in Holland, we tend to use midwives during pregnancy. Most midwives are big believers in home and keeping things as natural as possible. I filled in the forms with all the pertinent information about my parent’s health history as well as my own, and included the information about my previous thyroid issue. They took all of this information and added it to my file along with recent blood tests, which were all normal. However, in Holland, the blood tests do not include anything about the thyroid.

I’m Pregnant…..But Exhausted!

In the first trimester of my pregnancy, I was extremely tired, much more than normal. I could only stay awake for about 3 or 4 hours per day and the rest of the time I would be sleeping. When I told my midwife that, she didn’t think this was unusual. She said that first 3 months of the pregnancy are the most important ones, so I should actually be resting as much as I can. Something still didn’t seem right, and I asked her if it’s normal to only be able stay awake for 3 or 4 hours. That seemed kind of excessive to me. Shes was dismissive of my concerns and just said that everybody’s different, so I should just go with it and I’ll feel better.

Then the nausea started. I was about 10 weeks pregnant when the nausea started. I spoke to my doctor and midwife and was told it will be better when I hit 12 weeks, but sometimes it goes on until about 14 weeks. At 14 weeks, I was so nauseas, I couldn’t eat and I was starting to lose weight, which obviously is not something you want to happen while you’re pregnant. This made them start to take it a little more seriously, and when I was 16 weeks pregnant, they gave me medicine to lower the nausea so I could eat something. That’s medicine helped a little, but the nausea didn’t go away. I didn’t just have morning sickness, I was nauseas all the time, and that lasted until I was 26 weeks pregnant.

By then, obviously, you could see on the outside that I was pregnant and while I was happy to be having a baby, I was not feeling happy. I felt like I had this dark cloud above my head all the time. I was constantly in a very bad mood and I was just very unhappy and I didn’t know why. I was less tired than in the first trimester, but I was still really tired. Everything was hurting me. I kept going to the doctor and would tell him that I understood these are pregnancy symptoms, but this just all feels very excessive. I didn’t know any other moms-to-be that were like this. I wasn’t really depressed, but more like in a bad mood and unhappy about everything. I felt like I wanted to fight about everything and I just didn’t want to do anything but just be laying down. When I was laying down, I felt really bored. I was just really unhappy all the time.

Pregnancy, Postpartum Depression, Hashimoto's Disease, Thyroid

Something Doesn’t Feel Right

When I was about 26 weeks pregnant, those negative feelings finally started to fade and I thought that maybe I was finally get to the part where I do feel better. Things were going okay until I was 32 weeks pregnant. I was still working at the time for my job, and we had a dinner with all the coworkers. During dinner, I started getting these sharp pains in my belly, so I started to walk back and forth in the restaurant. All my coworkers were really nervous that I was going to have the baby right then and there. I thought I would walk it off and I’ll be fine. After an hour of walking back and forth in the restaurant, my manager suggested that maybe I should go home. My mom came and picked me up and took me home with her.

The next morning, these sharp pains still weren’t gone. I went back to the midwife and she told me that the baby wants to come out, but I was only 32 weeks long, so it was way too early. Then, she put me on strict bedrest. I was shocked! I was on strict bedrest until 38 weeks. So for the 6 weeks that followed, I was kind of like an incubator. That’s how I felt. During this time, my mood worsened. I was more and more unhappy and I just wanted to have this alien baby out of me because I was done with this.

I must say that this midwife gave very good mental counseling and support, and she’d come to my house and tell me things to calm me down, like that I may feel this way now, but if my baby’s going to be born now, it’ll be premature and and I’ll have all these worries. She said that even though it’s very hard being stuck in bed, that I should understand that I’m doing this for my child and will be fine. She reminded me that this was just temporary and when my child get born at a normal stage, I’ll feel better about it. I listened to her.

The doctor never did any more tests. They never checked anything extra. They just told me it was all pregnancy symptoms. And then the day came that I went into labor. I was excited and eager to go to the hospital, but that’s not how it works in Holland. The midwife comes to your house and she checks how far along you are and she makes a call if you can go to the hospital or not. She told me, nope. I was too far along already and it’s going really fast. I could not go to the hospital and would be having my baby at home. I’m like, WHAT??? I don’t want to have my baby at home!!! I knew I really couldn’t do anything about it though, so I went along with it. I’m like okay, let’s do this. But the baby did not want to come out.

Welcome Baby!

After about an hour of trying to push her out, nothing was happening, and the ambulance was called. I lived in Amsterdam in an apartment on the 4th floor, and if you know houses in Amsterdam a little bit, the stairs are really steep. I had practiced because I knew if I needed to get down these stairs while I’m in labor, I’m practicing these freaking stairs! It was the middle of the night in January 15th when the ambulance arrived, and it was snowing in Holland at the time. The ambulance was there and they told me whenever I didn’t have a contraction, I should go down the steps and into the ambulance. And I was like, now! I can do it now! I ran down the stairs and I reached it in time for the next contraction. Apparently, I went out just in my bare feet just wearing a T-shirt. The paramedics told me to stop pushing. I didn’t even think that was possible!

Pregnancy, depression, fatigue, exhaustion

During the whole ambulance ride, I’m in the ambulance with 3 men. Men! Three men telling a woman in labor to stop pushing. That is not happening! It’s like, impossible! Anyway, a long story short, we made it to the hospital. I ended up having a cesarean because, despite trying to get her out for an hour, she did not want to come out. My oxygen was starting to get low. My contractions were basically stopping. I felt much better now, which the paramedics said was apparently a bad sign. They rushed me into the operating room and I had a C-section and my daughter was born.

I was really happy to see her, obviously, after she was born, but my recovery was extremely slow. They kept telling me that if I can get up and go to the bathroom by myself, I could go home. After 4 days, that was still close to impossible. I couldn’t move my body. My body was so exhausted that I just couldn’t move it.

At this time, I didn’t know that I have a whole bunch of autoimmune diseases and I just thought, why am I so tired? Why is my body not moving right? With the help of my then husband and my mom, we managed to get me to the bathroom and get me released from the hospital to go home, but as I told you, I was living on the 4th floor with stairs that are this steep, and now I had to get up these stairs. My mom and my then husband literally took my feet and placed them on the next step and I’d pull myself up. We’d repeat this process until I made it up the stairs. They couldn’t carry me because I had just had a cesarean and everything was hurting. Then I was in my apartment in bed where I was just was for 6 weeks before my daughter was born. She was born at 38 weeks and 2 days and then I was in bed for almost another month. I just could not get out of bed.

Something’s Still Not Right……

Once I was home, the midwife came by and said that I should just do it. She insisted more and more that I should push myself to just get out of bed. She said that my recovery was going too slowly. Once again, I had no tests to try and find out what was wrong with me, just all the regular tests they do after you have a baby and they did with my daughter as well. No one was really concerned about why my recovery was so slow and why my mood was so bad.

In the days that followed, psychologists came to my house to check on me. They would sit next to my bed with the midwife and people from all sorts of agencies. There were so many people coming by because they were checking for postpartum depression, but I was cleared and told I was fine. After about 2 weeks they left me alone. I slowly recovered. My bad mood was less, and I lost all the weight that I gained, which was not a lot since I didn’t gain a lot of weight because I couldn’t really eat. But I lost all of the weight from the pregnancy within 10 days after the cesarean.

Hallucinations, fatigue, nausea, Hashimoto's

Then, I started to have a very poor appetite. I was really tired again, but this was more extreme. I knew new moms are really tired because they wake up during the night to feed the baby and everything, but I was deadly exhausted. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t even walk. I started gaining a lot of weight, but I didn’t really eat much. It all seemed very weird to me and I started getting depressed.

I started getting hallucinations. I’d imagine I was standing on top of the stairwell with my daughter and in my mind I saw us tumbling down the stairs. I knew this was not happening. Later, when I felt better and I was able to drive again, I would drive to work. While I was driving and focusing on the road, my mind would show me images of crashes happening and me tumbling over with the car. It was just surreal. It was the weirdest thing! Then, I would look in the mirror and I would not see myself. I saw another person. When I saw pictures of myself with friends and family from before I had the baby, I saw a different person. Only the pictures that were taken when I was feeling like this looked like me. I went to the doctor and described these hallucinations. I said I didn’t know what was going on, but this was all very strange and doesn’t feel like this should be happening to me.

The doctor told me to go to the psychologist. I went there and I felt like she really didn’t take me seriously, so I didn’t want to go to her anymore. I wanted to go to another one. My doctor didn’t agree and was really upset with me. One day, I bumped into him in the bakery and it was just very awkward and I was just very unhappy about it.

Taking Back Control

About 7 years ago, I started doing my own research. I was looking into depression and depression clinics. I found a depression clinic in west Amsterdam that looked like it would be a good fit for me, so went back to the doctor and asked him for a referral so I can try to go there. He came back and reluctantly agreed give me a referral letter. I went there, and that was the best thing that I’ve ever done.

counseling, support, Hashimoto's

My psychologist was just a girl my age that I could speak to on my level. She believed everything I told her. She was even doing research for me based on all my symptoms. She said that she doubted it’s postpartum depression because was about six months after the baby was born, which is really late. She said if it was postpartum depression, I would have had it right away after she was born. She thought the fatigue I had told her about could be chronic fatigue syndrome, and advised me to look into that. She worked with me based on her diagnosis and told me talk to my doctor about it, and see what you think. I worked with her for about three years every week. While that did help me, it didn’t solve the problem. We worked on positivity exercises, how to make my world a little bit smaller, mindfulness exercises, and how to come back to myself and my core, but something was still off.

At some point, I think about 6 months into my work with her, they did a test, and it turns out that my thyroid completely stopped working. Zero. It did not do anything anymore. That explained my hallucinations, my depression, my gaining weight while I wasn’t eating, and all of these previously unexplained symptoms. They gave me the thyroid medicine, Synthroid. I started taking it and the first 6 months, I started to feel much better and after a year, I was almost back to my old self. I still didn’t really lose the weight, which was kind of weird and my moods were still on and off. I was still exhausted and in a lot of pain, but it was much better than it was before.

Years later, I was actually doing research for the Unchargeables Chronic Illness Community to look more into thyroid issues. Back then, the community was more for people with fibromyalgia because I had fibromyalgia and so that’s what I could support people in. Then I realized, well, I have this thyroid thing as well. I take this pill every morning, but there must be other people with thyroid problems like me. I thought maybe I could support them too by sharing my story and just offering them some support.

It’s a Miracle!

I was doing research about thyroid issues, and I stumbled upon this thing called Hasimoto’s Disease and miracle babies. I was surprised and decided to look more into this. There were these stories of women who were pregnant and had all the same symptoms I had that didn’t experience all the stabbing pains in their stomach, but their babies didn’t make it. Only about 10% of these babies survived and actually were born into the world and those were called miracle babies. I’m like, oh my god! I think my baby’s a miracle baby!

By this time, she was already three or four years old. I started looking at all the symptoms and the treatments and everything. I read about a whole bunch of people who were taking the Synthroid medication, but this was just not enough for them and this was not making them feel any better. There were a lot of people that reported that natural thyroid medication made them feel so much better.

I started looking into that and researching more. I read medical books about the thyroid and about Hashimoto’s and understanding everything better and then I discovered this: Thyrovanz. This saved my life! When I switched from Synthroid to Thyrovanz, I got my life back. I wasn’t so tired anymore. I didn’t have bad moods and mood swings all the time, The fatigue and pain and just not happy about life improved. I could move. I could walk. I felt so much better! Today, my daughter is now a happy 7 ½ year old and we are super-happy together.

The lesson I got from this is even though your doctors may know a lot and they studied for a very long time to become a doctor, do your own research. Be your own advocate and make sure that your medical treatment is correct for you because every body needs something different. Do your own research and try to work with your doctor.

Five Reasons Patients With Chronic Back Pain Should Seek Physical Therapy

If you have been experiencing debilitating pain in your back for over three months now, then you shouldn’t rely on home remedies anymore because it could be stemming from underlying illness. Pain that lasts over three months is known as chronic pain, which can occur due to problems like arthritis, osteoporosis, ruptured disks, and ligament strain, etc., so it’s essential to seek professional help.

You can’t afford to ignore a pain that results from a severe health condition. And if you do that, you will have to face its consequences later on in your life. Seeking physical therapy at the right time can reduce your back pain tremendously.

According to Rebound Rehabilitation, “Chronic pain is not only a physical condition as it can also take a toll on your emotional health and well-being. It affects every part of your life, keeping you from enjoying your daily physical activities. Fortunately, physical therapy has been clinically proven to improve your body’s ability to function without pain.

Long-term back pain can lead to psychological distress, which can diminish the quality of your life in a big way. Since chronic back pain reduces your concentration level, you fail to achieve any task effectively, which leads to stress, anxiety, and depression.

However, if you consult a physical therapist, you can see a world of difference in your health. Physical therapy techniques will not only reduce your pain, but will also help in relieving stress, anxiety, and depression. However, not everyone is aware of the kind of benefits that physical therapy provides. Even today, when physical therapy clinics are mushrooming across the world, a wide range of people with sports injuries and chronic illnesses still opt for surgeries over physical therapy, when it comes to managing the pain.

Since people think that surgery can help them recover from their problem quickly, they prefer it over physical therapy. However, they fail to notice the fact that it takes a lot of time to recover from surgery.

Sometimes, patients with chronic pain and injuries also ignore the instruction of their doctor, who asks them to consult a physical therapist – just because they believe that physical therapy is not that helpful.

So, if you are also one among them, here is why you should opt for physical therapy for chronic pain.

Addressing the Underlying Cause of the Pain

When you consult a doctor for relieving your pain immediately, they often give painkillers – which subside your pain temporarily. It means it doesn’t offer a permanent solution to you. However, when you consult a physical therapist, they focus on determining the primary source of your pain.

Apart from that, they also conduct a detailed evaluation of your musculoskeletal fitness. The physical therapist examines your range of motion and refers to your medical history, to get a comprehensive idea of your problem. And once they arrive at a reliable diagnosis, they create a personalized care plan to heal your pain.

By addressing the actual cause of the pain, physical therapy offers a permanent solution to your problem.

Avoiding Surgery

It’s true that you can’t always be successful in avoiding surgeries when it comes to healing injuries and illnesses. However, it is equally correct that if you seek physical therapy at the right time, you won’t always feel the need for surgery. Yes, it’s all about timing.

For example, if you consult a physical therapist shortly after you start experiencing pain in your back, they will create a unique care plan to address its cause. Physical therapy will reduce your pain and speed up the healing process, thus eliminating your chance of requiring surgery. In other words, since it plays a crucial role in preventing the inflammation from worsening, it eventually eliminates the need for surgery.

Apart from that, if you are someone who already had surgery, you can still seek physical therapy to shorten your recovery period.

Boosting Posture

Back pain can also result from poor posture; therefore, you should always focus on keeping your spine in good health. A physical therapist can teach you poster-boosting exercises, which can ultimately help in minimizing the stress on your spine thereby reducing your back pain.

Poor posture also increases the risk of nerve constriction, cardiovascular disease, and poor digestion, apart from back pain. Therefore, if you slouch while walking, sitting, and standing, you should consult a physical therapist right away.

Improving Flexibility & Mobility

There is little doubt that chronic pain that stems from an injury or illness affects your both your mobility and flexibility. And reduced mobility and flexibility prevent you from carrying out the activities of daily living with ease. However, when you seek physical therapy, your therapist will include therapeutic exercises in your care plan to strengthen the ability of your body to carry out physical activities.

In short, therapeutic exercises help in increasing your flexibility and range of motion, which makes it easier for you to get back to your normal life.

Preventing Injury

If you are someone who leads a physically active lifestyle, it’s essential for you to have strong muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints; otherwise, you will end up injuring your body frequently. In other words, people with poor muscle, joint, and bone health receive injuries frequently, so it’s essential for them to work on their fitness. The best way to do that is to seek physical therapy services.

Your physical therapist will include techniques like massage therapy, manual therapy, and therapeutic exercises to improve your overall fitness.

Lastly, if you believe that your body is your most prized possession, you should seek professional help immediately the moment you start experiencing pain and discomfort.

Dreams of Parenting with Chronic Illness

Open Letter to My Baby That May Never Be

Parenting With Chronic Illness

Just a few years ago you are all I could ever dream about: a house, a husband, a place to call my own, pets, maybe even a car, but you – you would have been the cherry on the top. You are the missing piece that would have completed the puzzle, but that’s all you ever may be. A dream. I never knew I would be parenting with chronic illness. The sicker I have become, the blurrier the picture of you gets. My energy levels are non-existent, napping desires increasing by the minute and that’s all before you even exist. Even for someone incredibly healthy, you can jolt their mood, disfigure their body and leave them empty inside. How am I to do it ?

Parenting With Chronic Illness Seems Impossible

Pregnancy with chronic illness

I’m not healthy enough to take care of myself, remember when to take my medication, or even have enough drive for self-care. How am I supposed to care for you when my needs have long been lost? I know there are people out there with chronic illnesses who are sicker than me and do their absolute best to give you a wonderful life. I salute those people. They are special, strong and gifted. I just don’t think I am one of those  


Chronic Illness Can Be Passed Down from Parents

I was eighteen when I first found out I was chronically ill. Nineteen added to the list of diagnosis and don’t get me started on twenty. But none of that matters, none, none at all. What matters is that there is a high chance I could pass it all onto you, all of it. I suffer, and I know I do. I put on a brave face, say ‘I’m fine’ and carry on as normal. But you, I would see through your smile. I would see the despair in your eyes, the pain in your speech and the fatigue in your walk. How could I put you through that?

Yes, there is a chance you could grow up completely fine, have nothing the matter. You could be a normal child, grow into a healthy teenager, live a spectacular life and one day have a family of your own. I would give anything to be able to see you happy, to watch you grow old, to make mistakes and learn from them, but most importantly to watch you smile.

Parenting With Chronic Illness is a Risk

Parenting With Chronic Illness

Do I take that risk ? Risk your health for the sake of my happiness ..? Now I know I am only young, and you wouldn’t even come into question until years from now.  I learned from my mum that nothing should be taken for granted, just as she has learned.

My mum said “As a parent we want to protect our children. I don’t want my daughter to be ill.  I don’t want her to be in pain. I want her to live a ‘normal’ life. I don’t want to see her upset but all this is ringing true, it’s really hard watching her cope with every day tasks we take for granted, even if she is adapting really well. My one true wish is to see her happy. I hope and pray that her life gets easier and symptoms that she has start to disappear and she can start doing other things that she enjoys without constant worry of a flare up. I’m also hoping she will get the answers she needs. It’s a daily battle, but some answers and remedies is what we need right now.”

Parenting With Chronic Illness is Dual Suffering

My Mother may not be chronically ill, but she has learned, just as I have, that we do not suffer alone. Your family, friends, those closest to you also feel your pain.  No they won’t feel it to the same extent as we do, but they know you, they know when you’re faking it. Just as I see their pain, I see my mother’s hurt when she sees me. I see my sister’s agony when she looks at me. How am I supposed to live looking at you, seeing either you in pain or witnessing you see my pain? That is no quality of life. That is nothing.

I am sorry. I truly am. You are all I have ever really wanted: something to call my own, to see you grow up, to be ‘normal’ (whatever ‘normal’ is). I just wanted to have a ‘normal’ family. Like most do. But, nothing about those who are chronically ill is normal. I would not dream of subjecting you to a life like mine. And that is why I am sorry:  because you may never come to be.  Just a dream.That is all you ever may be.


About the Author

Chronic Illness ParentingBethany is a 20 year old from England; she suffers with Raynauds, Erythromelalgia, GERD, Hypermobility, Nail Pompholyx, Subungual Hyperkeratosis, Anxiety, Depression and PTSD. She is also the creator of Young, Sick and Invisible a Chronic Illness Blog. For more information please click below.


Active Listening and Engagement with your Friends

We are in an age of digital connection where everyone declares their own thoughts and happenings while we respond to others with a dismissive click of likes, thumbs up and heart emojis. We are fooled into believing we are interacting when we are just talking at each other without really absorbing or caring what other people are expressing to us. We are left without fulfillment no matter how much we text or message because our need for being heard has not really been met. Basic active listening skills can remind us how to be really engaged with our friends. Meaningful engagement is particularly necessary for those of us struggling with chronic illnesses. Here are some tips you can share with your friends on how to actively listen and engage with each other. You can ask your friends to commit with you to utilize these types of strategies when communicating.

Active Listening

Active Listening implies that the participants are not passively letting the other person talk, but are actually hearing, absorbing and processing the other person’s thoughts, emotions and feelings. To show someone you are actively listening to them you respond in ways that demonstrates you understand, or want to understand what the are saying. There are a variety of way you can do this.


Repeating back what someone has said can show you have heard what they communicated. You do not simply want to recite back what they said, but paraphrase what you understood their thoughts to be. This can help clarify if you understood what the person was trying to express in addition to demonstrating your hearing them.

For example, if your friend says “I had a really rough day, I didn’t sleep well because of pain and then I locked my keys in the car.” Instead of saying simply saying “I’m sorry to hear that” or “That sucks” you can add “Locking your keys in the car is a real pain and on top of being so tired you must be completely worn out!

This example shows the person you understand the aspects of their situation and grasp the extent of what they are dealing with.

        Asking Follow Up Questions

Asking for more details about something someone has told you communicates your interest in the person and what they are saying. For the example above you might add “Locking your keys in the car is a real pain and on top of being so tired you must be completely worn out!Were you able to retrieve your keys and get home ok? This shows your overall concern for their well-being as well as the situation at hand. Another example of utilizing follow up questions might be:

“I was finally feeling well enough to go out today, I took a little walk and had coffee with my niece”

“That’s great, I’m so happy you were able to get some fresh air!” “I didn’t know you had a niece, are you two close?”

        Being Patient and Waiting your Turn

Social Media has conditioned us to be thinking about ourselves first. There can be a strong urge to find a way to move a conversation to your struggles when someone communicates something they need to share with you. It’s important to spend adequate time letting someone express their feelings before you share your own. Rephrasing what someone has told you and asking follow up questions will slow you down and help ensure you are being fair to your friend. If it feels right, you might even ask “Is there anything else you’d like to share, I really need to talk about my day as well, but don’t want to cut you off?” Of course, when you share with your friend you should except the same courtesy of active listening that you have utilized.

        Me Too…

On the surface, telling someone you can relate seems empathic. Unfortunately, it is often dismissive and moves the conversation away from the person talking. If I friend says:

“I had a really rough day, I didn’t sleep well because of pain and then I locked my keys in the car.”

Be careful to not reply with something like:

“That blows. I locked myself out of my car last month and it was a nightmare! It was late, I was tired and I had to wait outside for the Auto Club for 45 minutes! Now I double check I have my keys when I leave my car so that doesn’t happen to me again!”

Take Stock of your Friendships

If you find it difficult to step up your level of engagement with someone it might be time to assess the relationship. If you truly are not interested learning more about your friend or if it feels laborious to ask them follow up questions, then it might ultimately be kinder to let the relationship go.  This will free up that person’s time so that they can find the type of friendship we all deserve. You also want to make sure you are not “breadcrumbing” your friend, feigning interest with short replies to their communications so that you can share your own. Likewise, if you feel unfulfilled by your friendships it might be best to move on.

If you have been feeling unfulfilled by your friendships, examine your communication. Look back on messages and pay attention during future conversations. If you find a lack of active listening between the two of you consider if it might be beneficial to talk about how you support each other or if the relationship is right at all. As Chargie we have to be so careful with the precious amount of energy we have to expend. Make sure the energy you put into your friendship is reciprocated and that the relationship is healthy for your well-being!

About the Author

Rebecca is a free spirit, idealist and dreamer who lives resiliently with fibromyalgia. She lives for sunny days when she feels well enough to make it to the  lake.

Chronic Illness Perspective Attending Warped Tour: Part Two

Chargie Goes Warped

Chargie Goes Warped Part 2

Attending Warped Tour from a Chronic Illness Perspective

The people you meet at Warped Tour are some of the kindest people in the world. Everyone has a different walk of life and their own struggles, mine happens to be Ehler’s-Danlos Syndrome (EDS); yet, on that one day all differences are pushed aside. Everyone shares a bond stronger than most: a love for music.

Story Untold
Janick Thibault, vocalist of Story Untold, singing to the crowd from the Owly stage. Photo taken by Hana Belanger.

Story Untold

I was grateful for a saved spot. People began talking and sharing laughs before the next scheduled set was to appear.  Never having heard Story Untold before the person next to me encouraged staying saying they were pretty cool. I love discovering new music so I locked my wheels and prepared to be amazed by a new band. Just as I anticipated, I became entranced with their sound and thoroughly enjoyed their set, even if they reminded me of an off brand All Time Low from Canada.  Janick Thibault, vocalist of Story Untold, looked just like Alex Gazkarth, vocalist of All Time Low. If it was not for Janick’s tattoo sleeve, one could not be blamed for thinking up conspiracies that Janick is actually a clone of Alex who was shipped as a baby to Canada. Along with their awesome original music, I was thrilled when the band threw a curve-ball of nostalgia to the crowd by covering classic Warped Tour bands in a pop punk mashup.

Where Will We Find New Music Now

Warped Tour was always good for introducing people to new music and creating gateways to fan bases. In 2016 I heard a band called Pepper play their set while I was in line to meet a band by the main stage. I fell in love with their sound and am proud to call myself a fan of their music today. It is a little sad that this is another loss from the end of Warped Tours.

Chargie Goes Warped
UK pop-punk band, As It Is, passing a notebook around. From left to right is Alistair Testo (bass), Patty Walters (vocals), Patrick Foley (drums), Benjamin-Langford Biss (guitar and vocals), and Hana Belanger (Chargie). Ben is leaning over as I talk about the lyrics inside my songwriting journal. Photo taken by Donald Belanger. Edited by Hana Belanger.

As It Is

I found myself singing along to As It Is’s set-list while waiting in the merchandise line for Sleep on it. I was super excited to hear the newest As It Is songs performed live. At the time their third full length album, The Great Depression, had yet to be released. The only two songs from the album available to the public were The Wounded World and The Stigma: Boys Don’t Cry. The Wounded World was about how society is always quick to blame everyone else except for themselves, which in itself is hypocritical. We are so busy pointing the finger and then pulling the same trigger. The Stigma was about breaking the stigma that “boys don’t cry” and that it is okay for boys to both feel and show emotion. Hearing both played live and shouting them at the the top of my lungs was absolutely rattling and surreal.

Set It Off

Wheelchair accessible
Wheelchair accessible

Arriving at the Living the Dream Foundation riser just as Set It Off was playing Killer in the Mirror meant the first two songs, Uncontainable and The Haunting were missed. This information was found on Twitter. The internet is a great place to find leaked set lists and any spoiler imagined. Since I was still using the wheelchair I used the lift to get on the riser while my dad took the stairs. Set It Off were only performing on three Warped Dates and their fall tour did not include a Boston date. I was extremely grateful for catching as much as I possibly could. Who knew when I was going to see them again? After The Killer in the Mirror I was surprised and enthralled that N.M.E was playing. N.M.E stood for No More Excuses and was one of my favorites off of their second full length album, Duality.

Why Worry

As always, Set It Off ended their set in the best way possible with Why Worry. Why Worry usually begins with a sing along. Yet, this show Set It Off went right into it. They even brought on a kid from backstage to sing the chorus before the bridge. The only thing that really bugged me about this show is that with the new era being brought on, the Duality diamond has disappeared and turned into an hourglass. That meant instead of ending the shows with hands forming the diamond when Cody Carson, vocalist of Set It Off, says “We are Set. It. Off” at the end of their set, arms were crossed to form an hourglass. The duality diamond is supposed to represent the balance and duality of good and evil inside a person. The quote from the song “Duality” from the album, Duality, is “I am good, I am evil, I am chaos, I am solace, I am human. And that’s all I ever wanted to be.” That was the representation of the logo being a diamond. To change the logo was to change everything.

Chargie Goes Warped
The crowd at Vans Warped Tour as Set It Off plays in the Journey’s Left Foot Stage. Photo taken by Donald Belanger. Edited by Hana Belanger.

Simple Plan

Immediately after Set It Off’s set on the Journey’s Left Foot stage Simple Plan started their set on the Journey’s Right Foot stage playing “I’d Do Anything”. Simple Plan was absolutely amazing. I planned on watching a few of their songs and then going down the lift to meet Set It Off before returning the wheelchair and using my cane again. But, the wheelchair lift operator was off the platform. Good news was that I got to stay to watch them shoot water at the crowd using super-soakers and play classic hits like “Jump” and “Addicted”. When I finally made it on the ground, Simple Chargie Goes WarpedPlan was ending their set with “I’m Just a Kid” and the line for the Set It Off signing was about a half a mile long! It took the rest of Simple Plan plus the whole entire 3OH3! set before I could finally meet the band and have them sign my notebooks as well as for Cody to write down a quote for me. I had Cody write the lyrics “Devour the critics, dismiss the critics” from the song Dream Catcher because I wanted to get that tattooed on my forearm in his handwriting. Having the lyrics just written down inspires me to not care what anyone has to say while I waiting to get the tattoo. I will continue to fight for my dreams and not let anyone push me away from them.

Dieter Unrath

Immediately after meeting Set It Off it was time to return the wheelchair. I took my cane and went on a search to find Dieter Unrath, photographer/drummer/catering/awesome person, so I could interview him. Once we found each other we made our way to a quieter place near the amphitheater and sat down to have a chat about mental health in general and on tour. Talking with Dieter was an incredible and engaging experience. We went over how tour is both physically and emotionally exhausting as well as the reasons one should reach out for help. We also discussed healthy vs unhealthy coping mechanisms. You can find the video link here to see the awesome interview:

Wrapping Up Warped Tour

Wrapping up the evening we hit the amphitheater to catch as much of R I L E Y’s set before leaving the grounds early due to my father and I not feeling to well. It was a long hard day in the heat, so leaving a little early was not the worst thing in the world. Besides, health comes first. The aftermath of the festival meant a week of recuperation and soaking in the memories made. The end of Warped Tour after 24 summers is an emotional one, yet I feel proud and blessed to have participated in the last three years. I am inspired to always keep believing in the scene as well as believing in myself and my own capabilities.

About the Author

Chargie Goes WarpedHana Belanger is a disability advocate and activist, contributing author for The Unchargeables, slam poet and important part of the Unchargeables Twitter Team. College student and barista by day, music photographer and fan-girl by night, this nerd of all sorts balances chronic illness, a social life, and learning to be an adult. An optimistic gal who always knows where one can turn on the light even in the darkest of times is still trying to find the meaning to life. You can find her living in the moment usually at a concert or cafe with ice packs, a camera, and headphones.


Poems by Capricious: A Chargie Speaks of Pain

Capricious Lestrange writes poetry about pain on The Unchargeables


By Capricious Lestrange

That’s what they call me, but it was never my mind that changed all the time; left my aspirations rotting on the vine. It’s easy to dream. Actualization impossible when energy wanes more than waxes and body break better than breathes. Dreams come to die in bones like these.

Head Pain

By Capricious Lestrange

Headaches arrive daily
like the mail or a horoscope,
never quite the same
ever fortuitous.

Some a wire wrapped cap
a size too small,
lurkers that cause little harm
though they persist.

Some are nebulous yet fierce,
Stomach churning, full of lust.
Blanket my brain in chains
Of iron and rust.

Some hover above one eye
bass speaker, magnifying glass,
A tip tap bombast
of cranial persecution.

Others steal sight, blinding
gems of marquis and trilliant cut,
dancing girls in tight formation
among the whorls and fuzz.


By Capricious Lestrange

It fills every thought the way sand invades every crevice. There’s no leaving it behind or brushing it off and even days later, you still find traces of it, here or there; a haunting of sorts. Before you know it, agony is always tagging along. You take her with you shopping, to parties, your job. Your friends are not impressed. Agony has made you dull and they’re wary of what She wants. To be safe, they move away, hoping you might wise up and dump her. You try to pay her off, but Agony cannot be bought. Before you know it, your Facebook status reads “In a relationship with Agony” and your friends congratulate you and sprinkle you with tiny hearts. One by one they drift away, Agony your only counterpart.

Genetic Stalker

By Capricious Lestrange

You are the boundaries I never wanted drawn.
Fault lines shifting in quicksand, elusive as breath.
Thirsty as a lion in drought, you stalk these dry bones
for a chance to suck the marrow.

What’s this?
Solid earth beneath my feet? Sweet, tender grass
tickling my toes and sunshine pierces the veil, imparting
her promising warmth. I sit for a meal of dandelion wine
and greens at her table, arrange weeds for my bed.

Dream of open prairies until claws hook in flesh—
Jaws sinking into bone. Fault lines shift, I never wanted drawn.

Did you know The Unchargeables feature poetry on the website? Read more here!

About the Author:

Capricious Lestrange offers up poetry for The Unchargeables Capricious Lestrange is a former educator who loves to write. When brain fog prevented her from writing the fiction and poetry she loves, she turned to blogging and now writes about her life, her health conditions and what she does to keep them in check. She enjoys spending time with her loving husband, her adorable Russian Blue kitty and dabbling in the visual arts when she doesn’t have her nose stuck in a book. Capricious has EDS, MCAS, POTS, CPTSD, and gastroparesis.

From Raynaud’s to GERD: My Chronic Illness Voyage

Where do I even begin…? December 2016 would be good start.  The date where it all began. I remember it all so vividly, it’s like my eyes weren’t really open until December hit and boy was I in for a surprise.

December 2016

The weather was around 9 degrees and icicles had begun forming under my nostrils. Despite the weather I was getting my life started. I was looking for work, starting driving lessons and ultimately beginning to feel like an adult. It was about the start of December when my feet started acting weird. They looked like they belonged to a corpse. I’d wake up and my toes and fingers would be purple. They would feel like pins and needles or I couldn’t feel them at all. I didn’t have time to piece things together though. I was beginning my adult life. Onwards and upwards my friend. Driving lessons were around the corner, I mean, I was so excited, who wouldn’t be?

A few weeks had passed and it felt like I had been driving for years. Then in mid-December I woke up with distinctly purple toes. I’m not talking a light bruise sort of purple. I’m talking deep purple, like black purple. I brushed it off though, like heck, my body’s weird already. I’ll just add that to my list of oddities. I hopped into the car and hit the clutch … WOWZERS … I can still remember the pain. It was like someone pushing my feet into a pile of needles. Why the hell did I feel like that? I walked myself home and immediately threw my shoes off. On two of my toes, on both feet there was a circle, a perfect circle on the sides, purple, soggy looking and green under the nail, gross right?

I decided to put my life on hold. Not because I wanted to, no, because I HAD to. Two months of not doing anything, having to cancel everything as walking became a chore. I was gutted, no interviews, no driving and generally not doing anything other then laying or hopping around the house. It was time to see the GP. I so dread a GP visit.

After the first GP visit I had I was told it was a benign Neuroma.  I was referred to a rheumatologist for an ultrasound of my feet (how exciting!!!). A month had passed (3 months altogether) and whatever it was on my feet was still there, so another GP appointment was in store for me. Deep joy…

March 2017

Hospital time. I had been referred to a rheumatology department by my GP, for what I thought was just cadaver looking toes. It turned out to be chilblains, which then turned out to be Raynauds. Raynauds? What in the world is that? Sounds like a fancy French dish to me.

“Raynauds is a condition of the circulatory system in which blood vessels in the fingers and/or toes spasm in response to changes in temperature, which causes them to turn white, blue, purple and red as the supply of oxygen is diminished. Raynauds may occur alone or be part of another condition.”

Now that’s what scared me “may be a part of another condition”.

July 2017

Oh man, it’s hot … 30 degrees and sweat is dripping off of every orifice I have (TMI I know). I have now been officially diagnosed with Raynauds for a while so it had become a part of me; I was trying to figure out ways of dealing with it and trying to cope. Luckily summer wasn’t much of a problem for the cold. What was a problem though was the heat. My feet looked like raw chipolata sausages, bright red and so sore, not sore as in a cut sore, sore as in I’ve only been standing for 5 minutes but it feels like I’ve been standing in the heat barefoot on hot sand for an hour. The heat was affecting me more then usual and this was when I took to finding support on Facebook groups. Everybody had started mentioning something called Erythromelalgia to me. Now what in the world is that? Sounds hectic and man were they right about it.

October 2017

Another hospital appointment folks, how fun. I showed my rheumy all my photos I had compiled of my tomato toes and sausage hands during the summer hoping, but dreading something would come of it.

Ah, Erythromelalgia. They were right.

“Erythromelalgia (EM) is a rare condition that primarily affects the feet and less commonly the hands. It is characterised by intense burning pain of affected extremities. Severe redness and increased skin temperature.”

This wasn’t all I had found out.  I also have low blood pressure and a positive ANA. A positive ANA (Antinuclear Antibody) means there is an antibody within my body fighting everything, my blood, organs, the lot. The ANA will usually show you what secondary Raynauds you may have, whether that is Lupus, Scleroderma or a rarer condition.  They have no clue what it may evolve into or if it will evolve into anything else at all.

April 2018

Who’s ready for some more weirdness?

This really nasty stuff starts happen to my fingers. That’s not only the best way to describe it, but really the only way I can describe it. In a nutshell all 10 of my fingers:

  • Form crusty calluses around and under my finger nail
  • Have brown, red and purple spots around and under the fingernails
  • The whole finger becomes incredibly sore, the smallest of things that come into contact with my fingers makes me flinch with pain
  • The whole finger, from knuckle to nail, itches like crazy

It came totally out of the blue, on all fingers and has continued on and off since December 2017. After a trip to the GP, she ruled out a fungal infection and referred me to see a dermatologist. The dermatology appointment was fantastic. She looked at all the photos I had taken and asked for me to send them to her, not only to be put in my file, but to be used for research. I received a letter from the appointment a few weeks later stating I have another appointment in November for a scratch test (to see if its an allergic reaction). However the doctor believes it to be Subungual Hyperkeratosis and/or Pompholyx.

March 2018

Snow. Snow everywhere. Thick socks, a hat, gloves, winter boots, winter coat and jumpers. Yet my toes would not take to the warmth. Then came the EM. Once I tried to warm myself up the EM would flare up. Ergh, when will this ever end?

It was a few weeks into March when I woke up at 4 in the morning feeling like I was going to puke, that uneasy feeling in my stomach and the light-headedness. Nothing came out, but that feeling never left. I went into work feeling like I was going to vomit everywhere. It makes you feel on edge, like what if I did puke everywhere? How embarrassing. The only thing that stopped this feeling? Eating. I decided to visit my nearest pharmacy.  They informed me that it sounded like acid reflux, but if this problem persists longer than a week then a GP visit should happen. It was time for yet another GP appointment. Turns out that it is in fact GERD.

“Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) the ring of muscle between the esophagus and stomach.”

Great, another thing to add to the list. On the plus side though, I was prescribed meds that completely made it vanish. Since then it has vanished unless I eat or drink something my stomach doesn’t like such as juice, a fizzy drink or weird fruits and vegetables.

June 2018

My rheumy appointment hath landed, it was same old, same old really. Until I mentioned joint pain. My pain is really weird, it used to last a week a month on just my right wrist and right ankle. Now, it’s still in the same places, but pops in every day. That’s when my rheumy mentioned “”Hypermobility”.

“Joint Hypermobility Syndrome is a condition that features joints that easily move beyond the normal range expected for that particular joint. Hypermobile joints tend to be inherited.”

Explains why my hip pops out of place every now and again though. I dread to think what this means for the future. That’s where today comes into play; onwards and upwards all.  I have four more appointments this year, three dermatology and one rheumatology.  As you can see, it’s become a habit that at every appointment that I have something new diagnosed.

Stay tuned though. I’ll be sure to keep you all updated on my roller coaster of a journey.


Bethany is a 20 year old from England; she suffers from Raynauds, Erythromelalgia, GERD, Hypermobility, Anxiety and Depression. She is also the creator of Young, Sick and Invisible a Chronic Illness Blog.

Seven Big Things I Let Go After My Anxiety Diagnosis

anxiety article--woman in semi-profile looking out toward the left

Tossing and turning, I was sweating profusely. My hair and back were wet. I looked at the clock – 4:30 am and I hadn’t slept yet.

Actually, I hadn’t slept for 2 days in a row. My thoughts and heart started to race. “What is happening to me?”

I sat up, called out my mom, and pleaded, “Mom, I’m not sleeping anymore. Please take me to the doctor.” Seeing how awful and serious I looked, she embraced me immediately and assured me that we were seeing a doctor that morning.

Weak, eyes popping out, and as pale as a sheet, I told the doctor what I was going through. His face tightened. He took his prescription pad and wrote the words I dreaded – Anxiety Disorder.

Despite a terrible brain fog, I began to examine every area of my life as best as I could. Throughout this terrifying and eye-opening journey, I let go of seven big things in my life. I’m glad I did.

1. Job Title

How many of you daydream about your current or next project while having a meal with your family? Do you text reminders or call your colleagues or clients after work? Or, do you do “quick” paperwork on a weekend?

I was not the only one, was I?

Six months before my diagnosis in 2011, I was promoted as the head of our teaching department. It was just a small department but it was a very fulfilling job to help students to read, write, and speak confidently in English.

When I hit my rock bottom with the anxiety disorder, I was not the brilliant teacher and sharp leader my students and colleagues used to know. I’d stop mid-sentence not knowing what to say next to my students. I’d sit for hours preparing my lessons but I couldn’t finish anything.

With the demands of my work and diagnosis, I decided to give up job (at least temporarily).

2. (Some) Friends

Crying my heart out, I told Mindy (not her real name), “I don’t know if I can survive this. I’m so scared.” She looked at me and hugged me. A second later, she turned to our other colleagues and said, “Hey, I got new sets of beautiful dresses, wanna buy?”

Did she leave me hanging just like that? I was dumbfounded. So, I thought my other friends would treat me better.

I took a deep breath and confided to my closest friends that I was suffering from anxiety disorder. Laura (not her real name as well), a friend for more than half decade, replied, “Mary, I didn’t know that you were that weak. Just fight it off and be positive. It’s that easy.”

That’s another punch in the gut.

I let go of friends like Mindy and Laura. Despite their indifference and painful words that decision wasn’t easy, though. Eventually, I was able to back off and set boundaries to support my healing process.

3. Food

My pants became tight, it was hard to zip them. No, I did not gain weight. I probably lost a lot because I lost my appetite.

I was bloated and my tummy looked like I was pregnant. And I wasn’t pooping for almost a week at a time.

Aside from inspiring me to have more faith and hope, my mom tirelessly encouraged me to eat. Since I couldn’t take the usual amount, we focused on the nutrient dense food that supported my healing. That also meant eliminating junk foods.

I said goodbye to processed food, fast food, and sugar. I ate the rainbow (veggies of different colors) and lots of bananas.

4. Internet and social media

I learned that it was not a good idea to go online and research your diagnosis while you’re having brain fog and lots of terrifying thoughts (especially if you don’t have a trusted place to go to). One piece of advice I read went something like “Don’t talk about your anxiety and depression to your friends.” I was like, “Oh no, I’m doomed!”

I panicked. Then my mom said sternly, “Shut that down and stop searching!”

The internet has a ton of conflicting information while social media has lots of drama. I stopped going online, at least until I was mentally healthy again.

5. Selfishness

I was desperate to get out of my “darkness” but at the same time, I was losing hope. I even imagined my wake, funeral, and eulogy. Then I’d weep, feeling sorry for myself for dying at the young age of 28.

My world stopped but life around me continued.

I observed my sisters going through their day with puffy eyes and dark circles under them. Were they having trouble sleeping because they were worried about me? Were they crying themselves to sleep? Or, both?

My parents and sisters were trying their best to be cheerful and positive for me but I could smell the strong stench of worry, stress, frustration, and the fear of losing me.

This one got me the most.

Losing my will to live, my mom cried and pleaded, “My daughter, do you love me? Please fight and let us help and support you. We do not want to lose you.”

My heart was squeezed.

“This is not only about me.”, I realized. I had loved ones I hurt so much by not fighting, hoping, and taking steps to recover. We were all in it together.

I let go of selfishness and let love fuel me to stand up again and fight my battle.

6. Debt

Debt is one of the top causes of stress and anxiety. So it was one of the first things I dealt with before I took a long vacation.

No, I did not pay it in full. I was almost broke because of my medical bills and no money would come in because I stopped working indefinitely.

One debt was a loan in the office. I met with our finance officer to discuss it and she assured me that my monthly billings would stop and resume only when I get back to work.

The other one was an expensive gym membership. I asked for my older sister’s help and she gladly paid it in full and terminated the membership on my behalf.

7. The need to be needed

I was a perfectionist, know-it-all, get-things-done-girl who secretly could not get enough of praise and recognition for a job well done.

It was music to ears when people say, “Mary, could you please help me on this?” I was elated when they came up to me over and over again. I was needed!

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not discouraging helping, serving, or going above and beyond. These are beautiful things! But I got it all wrong. This need turned into pride, arrogance, and self-righteousness. Worse, I became exhausted, depleted and empty.

I learned to set healthy boundaries, check my motives and say ‘no’ when my plate is almost full.

Bare-naked But Fulfilled

Anxiety Disorder stripped me naked. Suddenly, I was a nobody. I lost my job, health, money, some friends, ego, etc. I was painfully peeled layer by layer until it reached my core.

But…I got my life back.

Over To You

Have you also given up one of the seven big things mentioned above after a diagnosis? If so, which one?

Have you given up something else? How did giving this up help you?

Is there anything you need to let go but you’re having a hard time doing so?

What’s holding you back?

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.


About the Authormary gutierrez photo

Mary is a thriving spoonie, an online solopreneur and a natural healing advocate. Despite chronic illness, she believes spoonies are valuable, strong, and capable of making a difference in our society. Get 10+ Simple & Life Changing Tips To Improve Your Mental Health here.

How to Know When It Is Time to Start Dating

Am I Ready to Date with a Chronic Illness?

Dating with Chronic Illness


Being single and looking for a relationship at 24 can be difficult enough, but add a chronic illness into the mix and it can really throw a spanner in the works. It seems like everyone and their dog are moving in, getting engaged and married or they’re having babies, and you are just there trying to get through the day without being in immense pain from pushing yourself too far the day before. I became single around the same time I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia – cue the onslaught of panic thinking that I would be alone forever because my life was over right then and there. Newsflash: it definitely was not. I found it way too easy to fall into the trap of thinking I could not progress with my life, but after some amazing sessions and the Pain Management Programme I have a completely new way of looking at my future. I thought I would put together a little list of the main things I am focusing on right now to help me get ready to ‘get back out there’.

It Is Time to Date Yourself!

I do not need to explain how important it is to practice self-love. It is the age-old lesson of learning to love yourself before you go on to start exploring relationships again. For anyone this is a hugely important thing, but I think it is especially important for those living with a chronic illness. I know for me, I started to question everything about myself. So ‘dating’ yourself can really help when it comes to getting ready to get back on the horse! Learn all about yourself again, your likes and dislikes, and all your hobbies, too. How can you tell someone all about yourself if you don’t even know anymore? This is the perfect excuse to indulge in some lush food, watch any film you want (without someone judging your film choices) and just enjoy your ‘me time’ before that becomes a distance memory.

Dating with Chronic Illness

What are you looking for?

In this day and age it can be difficult to find someone you like who is looking for all the same things as you. In the days of Tinder, and all the other dating apps out there, it is a lot easier to get lost in the crowds of people looking for just a quick fling. For me personally, I just do not have the interest, time, or effort for all of that.  I’m ready to ‘settle down’ in some form. No, I’m not expecting marriage within the year; but, I am done with the casual dating where you end up catching feelings while the other person is talking to five other people. Done that, got the t-shirt and it just was not worth it. It is good to decide what kind of person you are when it comes to your love life. I am 100% a relationship kind of gal. I am terrible at ‘being single.’ I’ve spent the time to find exactly what I want out of a relationship and it’s a good idea for you to do the same.

Are You Ready?

This is the most important thing. Chronic illnesses can take a lot out of you.  You might have experienced a relationship breakdown lately or maybe you are just enjoying being ‘just you’ right now. No use rushing into relationships if you are not mentally or physically ready for it. It is hard to remember that sometimes when you are single you end up having people asking you on a regular basis if you are seeing anyone new. There is absolutely no need to rush into any relationship. You have enough on your plate! It is also good to think about whether you are ready to be sharing your chronic illness with someone. I went a few months never bringing it up but at the end of the day it is something I have to live with so now I don’t hide it. It is good to figure out if you are ready for this, too.

Dating with Chronic Illness

Put Your Health First

Do I really need to explain this one? I am sure a lot of you out there have experienced a time where you have put another person’s feelings before your own physical or mental health. Chronic illnesses can impact every single aspect of your life. Your body and your mind work as one, so when you start to feel down or stressed, your pain, fatigue and any other symptom may increase with it. Do not put yourself through any unnecessary stress out in the dating world. It is not worth it and I can guarantee you will find someone who will make living with a chronic illness easier, not harder.

At the end of the day relationships are not the be all and end all. That does not mean you are a terrible person for wanting one. I am still stuck on point three. I can not be sure if I am 100% ready yet, but that’s okay. I’m enjoying my life, working really hard on managing my chronic pain, and that takes up enough of my time!

There is a new solution, the new dating app Lemonayde. It is a dating app especially made for people with health challenges. You can check it out here!

About the Author

Fit Fibro Girl

Abbey is a 24-year-old Scientist with Fibromyalgia. She spent her University life fighting for a diagnosis so now she is trying to reclaim her social life. You can follow Abbey’s blog at Diary of a Fibro Girl.