I don't know at what point sharing on the internet becomes oversharing, or TMI, or whatever you want to call it. But I want to preface today's blog post with a not-so-casual mention that recently I got diagnosed with something called interstitial cystitis or painful bladder disease.
So lest you had gotten the idea that thus far 2018 has been sunshine and rainbows for me, I can assure you it has not.
(You can do some Googling for yourself if you want to know more about IC. I personally think its' common name tells you as much as you need to know.)
Perhaps the nature of my ailment may seem like it's too personal to talk about period, let alone online where you can't control who has access to that information. I went through much of this about 8 years ago, when I first found out I likely had endometriosis (I do). I didn't want anyone to know about something that seemed so embarrassing, but it resulted in a fairly major surgery that required 4-6 weeks of recovery and that's a pretty big life change to try and hide.
Like endo, this particular condition doesn't seem to have a clear explanation. No one really knows why anyone gets it, and there's no real cure for it. I just know I've been having pain and discomfort since November which got increasingly worse after Christmas. There have been multiple trips to outpatients, dr. appointments, and way too much "researching" on my part. (AKA Googling my symptoms and panicking because every story is about someone who basically died.)
It has really struck me over these past few months how bizarre it's been to be going through something really difficult, and to feel that at all costs I can't let anyone know. Maybe part of it has to do with the nature of it being my body- do I really want anyone picturing what's going on inside my body or do I really want to delve into the not-so-pretty symptoms? Probably not.
But it also keeps striking me how much we all fight to keep up the appearance that we're okay when we certainly don't feel okay. Whether we're going through mental health problems, we've experienced something devastating, a difficult health diagnosis, a challenge in a relationship, a disappointment in something we had our hopes up for that didn't work out.
Our social media-saturated lives don't really allow for the ugly unless you can spin it in some way that reassures everyone you've learned a big life lesson or that you're still keeping the beauty of life in perspective. And let's be honest, when we are in the middle of a difficult season of life, there are days upon days where we don't necessarily feel very hopeful or joyful about our current sufferings.
It doesn't make any sense, but I tend to jump to the conclusion that everyone else except me is doing fine. I mean, according to Instagram everyone else I know is doing hunky dory and living their best lives sipping coffee (I currently can't have it) enjoying treats (also not having sugar right now), learning new yoga poses (some days my body doesn't want to move very well) and looking overall very happy and pain-free. Meanwhile, I forget that anyone else who's going to scroll through my Instagram feed is going to assume I'm just fine too. It's just the nature of the social media beast.
While there's nothing I could have done to prevent myself from getting sick, I've realized that I now have new choices to make. I can let this season I'm in keep me feeling isolated by the fear and pain, or open up and give others the opportunity to extend compassion. Whether they choose do that or not isn't really the point. I believe we are meant to share our struggles, and that may sometimes mean both confiding in a close friend and also replying to the obligatory "how are you?" with "I've actually been having some issues with my health and it's been difficult but thanks for asking, how are you?"
So in the spirit of complete honesty: the past couple months have been really awful. I haven't dealt with anxiety like this in many years, and it had started to become my new "normal". I have cried many, many tears more times than I could possibly count. I've missed work, and I've been a bit of a social recluse.
It's been that kind of season.
Today, I'm relieved to say that I have started feeling physically and emotionally a little better after making some lifestyle and diet changes, and I actually have a lot of hope that I'm going to keep improving. I've also chosen to open up to some more people about what's been happening. I don't believe that physical pain is ever just physical- it's the emotional and mental toll that makes living with pain or illness feel so hopeless.
Thus begins a new journey for me, one that I hope will take me back to health (because the Journey Back to Health always seems to be the most appropriate way to describe whatever way you're going to get yourself better, right?)
I haven't arrived there, but I am already sensing there is much to be gleaned from this experience. I can't always control my physical symptoms of my broken insides, but I can choose whether I allow myself to spiral into negativity or take proactive steps toward a better state of wellness.
This is a really hard lesson for me to learn. But I am learning it. And maybe I'm wishing that our societal expectations were a little different so that it didn't feel so difficult for me to open up about what's been going on. But I'm doing it now.
And I'm going to stop the symptom Googling. Turns out I can conclude I have symptoms of 453 other conditions I didn't know I had. It's truly a miracle I've survived long enough to complete this blog post.