Fitness Blog

“It’s Just Anxiety”

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A diagnosis of exclusion is defined as: a diagnosis of a medical condition reached by a process of elimination. Many doctors often turn to a diagnosis of exclusion if a diagnosis can’t be made for sure based on the patients medical history, presenting symptoms, and test results. So in return they tell you, “It’s just anxiety”.

I mean, of course I have anxiety, I’m battling like 4 autoimmune diseases, I take medication every single day, and every morning when I wake up, I don’t know if I will physically feel ok or not. The point is, I know my body and I know when something is wrong.

Anxiety is a huge deal, so to say that it’s just anxiety is kind of offensive to those that actually do have to live through it. I don’t like to tell people this, but I will because I know others can relate, but on my medical record it states that I have an anxiety problem. I don’t know how much more rude they can put that, but I don’t have a “problem”. Anxiety, depression, hypochondria, and the “it’s all in your head” speech are so much easier to diagnose people with than digging deeper and finding the actual issue. The reason I am pointing this out is because I have been depressed before, I do have anxiety and sometimes I do worry about my future and if I will be ok, but that is NOT the reason I am experiencing strange symptoms.

I have experienced the “it’s all in your head” accusation not only once, but at least 10 times. And then they pull the “we understand what you’re going through” nonsense once they know what it is…my response is always, well if you knew what I was going through, you wouldn’t be telling me it’s just anxiety and that it’s all in my head.

At age 15 I started to have symptoms of arthritis, myasthenia gravis and gastroparesis. What teenager should have to go through that, or anything health related for that matter? I presented with symptoms of weakness, joint pain, vomiting everything I ate and so much more…how could anyone actually make that up? So now I am in the process of being diagnosed with yet another autoimmune issue and once again, I am stuck with “it’s just anxiety”. I try so hard to tell my story, yet some doctors still don’t at least try to understand. Let me say it again, at age 15 I had a long list of symptoms and for 3 years I went undiagnosed and knew something more was wrong.

I hate to say this, but it’s amazing that I am still here.

I wouldn’t wish the feelings that I had at the time on anyone. Of course it’s devastating to know that I have to live with this stuff but I can get through that. I struggle with physical symptoms and side effects every single day from the medications that I take, but the biggest struggle that I face comes from within.

A lot of people ask me questions about how I am ok with living with all of this? The truth is, I’m not. But I have to learn to be, because I am going to have these medical conditions for the rest of my life. How do I stay positive when I am up against something that I can’t change? What will my future be like? Will I develop more autoimmune diseases? Will anyone love me despite what I go through? Am I good enough? Who is actually going to be there for me when times are hard? These are just a few of the mental struggles that I face daily. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. I don’t want people to think I want attention. I don’t expect people to know how I feel or what I am going through. I just want people to believe me.

Seven years ago when I started having issues with weakness and no one was convinced that anything was wrong, I isolated myself, I was depressed and actually thought I was losing my mind. This was all because doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists told me these things. I didn’t stand up for myself and that was the real issue. That is what I have learned this time around, if you think something is wrong, don’t accept “it’s all in your head”. Push for testing and get it figured out. You want to know why? Because so far, 4 out of 4 times, my gut feeling was right and something was wrong.

Mental illness is exhausting and changes your life, and it’s thrown around too much. If one doctor doesn’t believe you, get second and third opinions. I have come to realize that most doctors work in black and white and aren’t exactly there to tend to your feelings, but a little empathizing goes a long way. Don’t be afraid of asking a billion questions, and most importantly, learn to not care what people think. You are worthy of the right diagnosis and proper treatment. So, don’t stop until you get that.

xo

Olivia

My story

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My name is Olivia, I’m 21 years old and I have myasthenia gravis. What is Myasthenia Gravis? This is still one of the hardest questions for me to answer because the symptoms are very difficult to explain. Myasthenia Gravis is a neuromuscular disorder that causes severe weakness of the muscles. Symptoms include drooping eyelids, difficulty swallowing, double vision, an unsteady walk, difficulty breathing and much more. In August of 2011, I was on vacation with my family, and one of my cousins and I decided to go canoeing. Once we were done I tried to get out and my legs would not move. All of my family rushed over and had to lift me out. Little did I know that that was my first symptom of myasthenia gravis and that it would progressively get worse over the next three years until I was finally diagnosed. At the young age of 15 I was battling 3 autoimmune diseases and the most severe one (MG) is what went unnoticed because of how rare it is. I started to develop headaches, nausea, joint pain and much more. In January of 2012 I was diagnosed with gastroparesis (a condition that affects the stomach muscles and prevents proper stomach emptying) and that went on for about 6 months. I was hospitalized on and off, had NG tubes stuck down my throat, while still feeling weak from the MG. The joint pain continued and in 2013 I was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis. Over time doctors thought the weakness that I was experiencing was because of the arthritis, but I knew something more was wrong. In high school instead of using my lunch breaks to sit with friends and talk, I would go to the library almost every day and research what could be wrong with me, and I eventually started to feel crazy. I saw countless neurologists, gastroenterologists, rheumatologists, psychologists and no one could figure out what was wrong. Not only was I struggling to fit in from being sick so much, but we couldn’t figure out WHAT it was that was making me this way. Not once did myasthenia gravis pop up on google out of the hundreds of times I searched. I started to notice weird symptoms that I just couldn’t explain, for example, I couldn’t brush my teeth, wash my hair, smile, get in and out of a car without some trouble, I had to quit tennis and golf at the time because I could barely hold the clubs or racket up, I was having double vision, I started to choke on food, and I got out of breath very easily. I got many comments from people at school asking why I was always sick, doctors were calling me crazy and dramatic and insisted that nothing was wrong, so it became very difficult for me to be happy anymore. I was even put on an antidepressant that I didn’t need…I was sick, but not mentally like doctors said. In March of 2014 I was put on Enbrel to treat my arthritis (this is one of the worst medications you can take if you have MG) and my symptoms got worse, and fast. The tasks I mentioned above became so difficult that my mom was bathing me, dressing me and doing almost anything you can think of for me. I woke up one day and went to school and I looked over to my brother as we were walking to our classes and told him that I was having a difficult time walking and could barely lift my legs up. He advised me to sit down but I couldn’t because I would’ve been late. I decided to take the elevator and I went to enter and my legs gave out and I fell backwards on my head. My brother, Thomas, who was atleast 200 feet away from me said he heard my head hit the concrete. The nurse called 911 and I was taken to the hospital where they again, found nothing wrong. About a week later, on April 12, 2014 I was with my boyfriend at the time and I went to get into his car and my legs gave out and I fell, again. My eyes started drooping (for the first time in three years) and my dad rushed me to All Children’s Hospital in St. Pete where they diagnosed me 2 days later with Myasthenia Gravis. April 14, 2014 is a day that I will never forget. I was now 18, it was my senior year of high school, graduation was only 2 months away and I was diagnosed with another chronic disease. The thoughts going through my head were unbearable and it was a very difficult time. Luckily, I had an awesome neurologist and she started me on mestinon, 40 mg of prednisone, I got my first round of plasmapharesis, and about 3 months later was in the hospital getting my thymus gland removed. I can’t even begin to explain how devastated I was to know that these symptoms wouldn’t be going away and that I would have a few surgeries in my lifetime and be on multiple medications just to get me through each day. After my thymectomy I started a treatment called IVIG that I received once every 2 weeks. A nurse would come to my home, access my port and I would sleep through my infusions. Because of this and being on 40 mg of prednisone for 3 years, I gained a lot of weight. I never thought I would be normal again, but I am working on losing weight and bettering myself, and I am very proud of where I am so far. I hope my story encourages anyone who is going through a difficult time to NEVER give up. Life is beautiful and my story isn’t over.

xo

Olivia