This promises to be just the first blog post I write about chronic illness and my experiences as a chronic illness sufferer. I'm going to keep this general but will talk more specifically about how chronic illness impacts on aspects of my every day life in future posts.
A brief history
I want to start off by saying that whilst my illness is chronic it has not been with me all my life. Despite having had various mental health issues since my teens and struggling with emotional overeating, until 2015 I was a generally healthy adult female. The only 'condition' I could claim is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (more on that in a later post) and I was managing it by taking the combined (oestrogen and progesterone) pill, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise.
What happened in 2015? The truth is, I really don't know. I was working for a well known department store (of the bear and the hare fame) in the technology department. When I first started getting the occasional migraine, I just put it down to long hours with little to no natural light and literally dozens of computer screens. I'd have a dodgy day or two maybe once every two or three months. Enough for my bosses to become concerned but not enough for anyone to consider it chronic. At this point I hadn't gone to the doctors about it because, whilst those two days every couple of months were nasty, I just wasn't too concerned by it.
In 2016, they started to get more regular. I was missing more time at work and my law degree (which I was studying full time alongside full time employment - a mistake) was starting to take a hit. I hit the breaking point in April and resigned from my job. I felt deeply unsupported by my superiors when it came to illness and just any time off work - I was even pulled in to a disciplinary meeting following the death of my own grandmother- and I was no longer happy. I knew I wanted a First class degree and something had to give. For the first two or three months, it was bliss. No more early morning commutes or dealing with people who didn't realise that their email addresses had passwords attached to it. I did my end of year exams and did brilliantly...
And then October 2016 hit. I was getting ready for my final year of my law degree. The last big push. I knew exactly what I needed to do to achieve my goal and how I was going to do it. Until I got the flu. I have never in my life had 'proper flu' and honestly I thought I was going to die. Not because my nose was stuffy, I was running a high fever or having the shakes. My head started to feel bad a few days before my full symptoms developed and it just. Didn't. STOP. I had a migraine for three and a half weeks. Even once the flu symptoms left I couldn't stand up without feeling like I was going to pass out from the pain, I couldn't stand light in any form and I generally just spent a month in bed. Afraid to move, afraid to turn on the light.
I became chronic in October 2016 and it has just never stopped. I have tried every migraine medication available on the NHS, apart from botox or the insertion of a nerve blocker and every one has only seen the problem get worse. My life since then is beyond recognition to the generally healthy, active, life I lived before. I would love to say that I have found a solution, that my daily levels of pain and fear of living have reduced- but that would be a bold faced lie. I am simply used to it by now.
But that doesn't mean I've stopped trying and I don't think I ever will.