It’s been forever since I’ve blogged. Seriously. Forever. Over 6 months to be exact, which feels like an absolute lifetime. There are so many bloggers that come and go… are so inconsistent and I never wanted that to be me, but there were a few things that happened this spring that caused me to go MIA. Allow me to explain.
To be truthful, in April of this year I got sick and after visiting a slew of doctors, I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis. Until now, I’ve talked to literally no one (other than a handful of my closest family members and friends and my doctor of course) about it. I deeply contemplated ever discussing it publicly, but the more I learned about it and the more women I met who had also been diagnosed with I.C., the more I felt that it needed to be shared.
So what is it? If you haven’t clicked on the Mayo Clinic link yet, basically, while some people have the misfortune of developing ulcers in their stomach lining due to stress, diet, etc., there are others of us who develop an ulcer in our bladder lining instead. (See why it’s so hard to talk about?) But what is worse is that I.C. is so grossly under and mis-diagnosed and is something that is so common in women that the dialogue must start somewhere. I wouldn’t exactly call myself an advocate for I.C. awareness, but if someone stumbles upon this at some point while googling this disease and I’m able to help them in any way, I’ll be absolutely thrilled.
My story of finally being diagnosed with I.C. is just as it is for hundreds of thousands of women every year: See a doctor for what you think is a simple lady issue (a routine UTI – ouch!) – doesn’t go away after a round of antibiotics – try another type of antibiotic or two… or three – all unsuccessful. If you’re one of the 80% of American women who has suffered from a UTI in the past, you know how absolutely horrible these things are. Now imagine that pain for several weeks as you get passed around from doctor to doctor to try to figure out what the real issue is. It is absolutely maddening, horrifying and painful beyond description and all the while alienating beyond belief. Who do you talk to about this? How do you tell your employer what you are going through and why you’re missing work or why you’re so sleep deprived from waking up every hour of the night? And the worst part about it is that once you finally know what is wrong with you, your doctor likely has no idea how it developed in your body specifically or how to cure it. Yes. After all of that, you are stuck with absolutely no answers. The treatment options are almost as terrible as waiting it out to see if it goes away on its own, and the medications only treat one symptom or another and have their expected arm’s-length of side effects. Thankfully, in my case, my doctor was able to pinpoint my case of I.C. to stress and unusually high levels of acidity in my body. I understood the stress part of it, but acidity?
Track back to FIDM finals. Not only was I working a part to full-time job with the amount start-ups that I had going on, but I was also going to school, pulling all nighters left and right to finish school projects and was basically living off of coffee. At the end of the night, I would come home, eat something that was high in acidity (salads with tomatoes, anything with hot sauce or jalapenos added) and drink a glass of wine. My favorite non-alcoholic drink of all time to keep me going when I was tired of coffee? The Arnold Palmer – made with iced tea and lemonade. Acid. Berry smoothie for breakfast? Acid. Once I started picking apart my diet and really taking a closer look at what I was putting into my body, it was crystal clear. I had unintentionally done this to myself over the course of the past few years. The stress and lack of sleep combined with chugging coffee to stay alive and then wine to de-stress at the end of the day was inadvertently killing me from the inside out.
Thankfully, I was considered to have a moderate case of I.C. To this day, I can hardly describe the pain I went through as moderate, but the more I learn about this disease, the more I can put it in perspective and count my blessings… It really could have been a lot worse. I was able to get my symptoms under control by completely eliminating acidic foods from my diet wherever possible. I was no longer allowed to drink wine (my favorite thing in the world) and while coffee was on my “no” list, I don’t think I can survive without it, so I cut back to 1/2 cup per day. Slowly, I would have one good day and then another and another. Some days I would slip up – eat something spicy or have a sip too many of what seemed like a miniscule glass of wine and I would pay the price, but I learned what I could and could not tolerate and kept it under control. Slowly, but surely by mid summer, I was almost back to normal.
So what’s next? I.C. isn’t completely curable – it can only be managed. Some people relapse six months later, a year later or never… but your body has a great way of telling you when you’ve been pushing it too far. Even now I have days when I don’t feel perfect, but I know what caused it and I know that I need to take it easy. I have been able to implement acidic foods back into my diet, but now know that I can’t have them constantly like I used to and I needed to learn my boundaries. Additionally, after learning about how common this disease is, it’s important to communicate about it. If you ever find yourself with I.C., you’ll most likely suffer a bought with depression (as did I) and can’t imagine talking about it. But I promise… talking about it will help you heal. Taking the step to talk about it helped me learn that one of my very best friends from FIDM was also going through the same thing and was diagnosed just a few weeks prior to me. Her condition was far more severe, but I believe that we were able to help each other by simply talking to someone else who understood. We were able to bounce research around and she sent me link upon link of priceless information that ultimately helped me heal. We cried about it, shared our fears of never getting better and eventually our stories of progression toward health. It’s imperative that you find someone to talk to and always remind yourself that it will get better.
So for the exciting news? I’ve been bursting with creativity over the course of the past few months and I just have to get back to blogging. It might take me a few days to get things rolling again, but I’m finally ready to dive in and can’t wait to share what’s been on my mind.
Lastly, a huge thank you to those of you who have checked in on me over the course of the past few months. From my blogosphere buddies, to family, friends and my incredible boyfriend, Jake… Your support and kind words mean the world. I’m looking forward to creatively reconnecting with you all 🙂