Dealing With The Isolation Of Invisible Illness

I'm currently sitting on a plane leaving sunny Houston for snowy Chicago. To my right, is a lady immersed in a riveting game of Candy Crush and currently paying $5.50 for a $.29 Cup of Noodles. Translation: she's paying $5.50 for styrofoam cup of freeze dried gluten, sodium, and chemicals mixed with hot, dirty airplane water. Obviously, this makes me question her judgement and also unquenchable need for this disgusting product that she'd pay a 1,796.6% markup, but mostly, it makes me wonder how she's not sick. Me, on the other hand, I've sanitized my entire seat, haven't touched anything in hours, am wearing a surgical mask, and I'm sick as a dog. I got sick after my initial flight and I'm currently returning home. Every time I fly I get sick. And so I'm sitting here saying to myself, "This just isn't worth it- I'm done traveling." But I love traveling. And if I give that up, it's just another thing about my life that's abnormal (to read more about my health journey click here). One more thing that makes me feel isolated and claustrophobic. It's already bad enough I barely go out because I can't trust the food (I have allergies) and I can't drink anymore because of health reasons, and I can't eat dinner at people's houses, and I have a strict supplement schedule I have to follow every three hours for my host of issues. And now I get sick every time I travel because of a compromised immune system. Where does it ever end?

All of you who are in this boat for one reason or another - you get what I'm saying.

The world of invisible illness - food allergies, autoimmune diseases, digestive and immune deficiencies - is growing in massive quantities. But then there's the other half of the world that just looks at you and thinks you're either being dramatic or making this stuff up because "You look like nothing is wrong!" Oh, and also because "I've never heard of those problems before," which apparently must mean that they don't exist, right ?

When I first started unraveling all these health issues three years ago, it was daunting. Then it just became depressing. I had no clue how to live in this new world where I couldn't do or eat most of the things I used to. Essentially for an entire year, I basically isolated myself. I hardly hung out with anyone or went anywhere. I spent a lot of time alone, crying in my room. I wanted to write about it, but I didn't even have the motivation to do that. It was just... truly awful. Even going to the grocery store became an arduous task of label reading, discouragement, and constant reminders of all the things I'd never eat again.

I'm not here to tell you that everything is better now. But I am here to tell you some ways in which I've learned to cope with healing my body and changing my lifestyle in a clueless world.

1. Learn how to say NO. I used to be such a "yes" person- couldn't say no to save my life. Once I got super fatigued and sick, I had to stop overextending myself. I had to rest. I had to get to bed by 10. I just had to if I had a chance at trying to heal. So, I started learning the art of "Sorry, I'm booked." That's really all you gotta say. I used to think I needed a million excuses. You don't. You have an appointment with your bed and that's ok. We all know that stress is a huge trigger for ALL diseases and conditions, so take steps to reduce stress and stop committing to things you don't want to or can't do. 

2. Really explain what's going on, which means you need to understand it too. I remember when I first got all these diagnosis (and I didn't even know what half of them were), and I would try to explain to people how I couldn't eat or live the way I had been anymore. Oh, the looks of shock and confusion. And because I didn't really understand the WHYS of all these new restrictions, it was hard for them to embrace my changes. Once I became educated on how I got these problems, how the body works, and how I can fix them, it became much easier to simplify it for others. It's important that you can explain it to them so they will be more accommodating to your situation.

3. Realize and ACCEPT that it's going to be a long journey. Your body doesn't unravel overnight, nor does it fix itself in the same regard. You need patience and understanding for yourself. You also need patience with OTHERS who are confused that you are still sick after trying all of these remedies and supplements and making lifestyle changes. I used to get SO frustrated. For two years after being diagnosed, I was going from doctor to doctor who put me on a hundred different supplements, and detoxes, and plans. I spent a fortune. I was living in isolation, eating almost nothing, and seeing no results. That's pretty disheartening. And that might be what happens to you. Not everyone responds to treatments in the same way. We all have different malfunctions and sets of issues and lifestyle factors that play in. You have to keep pushing til you find a doctor and path that your body responds to. And you will. And I have made progress since then, but I'm aware I have a long way to go.

4. Remember that they could be in the same boat as you, but just don't know it. In the same way that you don't have any visible signs of sickness, there are hundreds of thousands of people just like you. Just because you see them shoveling pizza and pop in their mouths or buying carts full of Pop Tarts and TV dinners, doesn't mean they are perfectly fine. Maybe they are. But maybe they aren't. And if they aren't, that means they either don't know there's something wrong, or they do know and they are choosing to ignore it and not make any changes. Either way, you win. Because you were fortunate enough to discover what was making you feel sick, and you were able to get information on how to get better. And bonus: you have the intellect and self discipline to follow that path, which is going to give you a longer, healthier life with less future problems.

Wondering who's the mysterious wordy genius behind these posts? Follow this little rabbit trail to read more About Me! The use of the term genius is open to interpretation. Like just about everything else on this site.