Exactly three years ago on this date, my body’s thyroid cells grew little stick figure arms and began waving the white flag. “We surrender! We surrender!” I spent eight hours getting acquainted with the porcelain throne that night but little did I know my life was about to change…and for the better.
I believe that nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. 2013 was a very interesting, difficult, happy, thrilling, sad year for me. And it started out like this;
At the beginning of the year, I was SO done with everything. For starters I hated my banking job. In fact, it made me miserable. As soon as I’d come home from work at night, I’d dread going back the next day. Sound familiar? Yeah. It sucked. I’m not the type of person to let shitty circumstances dictate my life, and I kept going back and forth between my head and my heart – “I should quit so I can find a job that I love! But I have bills to pay. Well, you should just quit! You’ll figure it out. But I have bills to pay!”
On top of that, I was ending a relationship with a man who was not good for me. at. all. Ask any of my friends at the time. He was an ass and I deserved way better.
By February, I hit my breaking point. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t bring myself to show up to work and paint on a fake smile while counting down the minutes until I could march on out of there. I just couldn’t do it. So I gave my two weeks notice without having a plan. My heart won, and let’s be honest, I’m not afraid to take a risk every now and then.
March 15, 2013 was my last day at the bank and I was so relieved (heck yeah I remember the date because it was a great freakin’ day). Despite the looming anxiety about not having a job, I was free. Free from the confines of a mundane 8-5 job. Free from my unhappy, bored coworkers. Free from a lifestyle that was contributing to my ongoing misery. And free from a “man” that didn’t deserve me because, well, I’m awesome.
Along came April. My mom and stepdad were traveling around Europe so I was over at their house one evening to check in. I invited my best friend Andria to join me there for a glass of Jack and Coke. We were both going through a rough time in our lives and I will never forget this moment: With my Jack and Coke in hand, I looked at Andria in the dead silence of the house and raised my glass. “You know what I need? I need a good man. I just need a man who’s going to come and take care of me and take all of my fear and anxiety away!”
Then I met Matt. Now let’s be clear – Matt used to annoy the crap out of me. Every time he said something, I just wanted him to stop talking. You best believe I’m putting that in our wedding vows.
Matt gave me something to live for (as soon as I decided he wasn’t annoying anymore). He treated me like a queen. He was so kind, loving, generous. Whoa. Where the heck did this come from? Did I deserve a man this amazing? Apparently he thought so. But in the meantime, I needed to find a job again.
And I did. Come May, I got myself a new job to start in June. I actually really liked that job. It was low stress, I liked my coworkers and despite the fact that the job wasn’t very challenging, I enjoyed going to work. By this time, Matt was living in California but he decided that he wanted to transfer to ASU so we could be together, and he did. On the third weekend in July, we moved into a beautiful rental home together.
Within a six month time period, my life went from full on crap to happiness and sunshine. It was a lot to get used to, honestly. I had been surviving for so long, that I forgot how to live. Matt was teaching me all over again what it meant to truly live life. I was working on my anxiety and I was approaching life from a different perspective.
The first weekend in August Matt went back to California to gather a final load of items to bring to our new life in Arizona. He was also going to head to San Diego with his uncle and cousins for one last family trip. I had no problem staying home alone that weekend. I planned on running errands to pick up things for our house and I was perfectly content relaxing in our new abode. I remember that Saturday morning specifically going to the post office and Walmart.
I recall going to bed early that night. I was tired from the work week and the move. It’s a good thing I decided to call it early that night because I was up at 10:30pm in severe pain. Then it began.
My Journey With Chronic Illness
I was in the bathroom until 6:30am the next morning. I called Matt all night long. I was feeling a sort of sickness like I had never felt before. Since Matt was with his family, his phone was on silent all night but he called me immediately in the morning. Needless to say, he was on his way home when I told him what was going on with me.
The doctor saw me four times that week. Four. Tests, medications, shots – I went through it all. The results? *insert silence here.* The doctors could not tell me what was going on. They had no clue. Nobody could tell me why I was in agony.
Obviously I had to call into work every single day that week. I couldn’t even get out of bed. However, since I was new to the job, my employer decided it’d just be easiest to fire me. After all, they needed “an employee who was actually going to be at work.”
Wardrobe change. Off came the happy pants, on went the sick, anxious pants. Here I was, just turned 25 a couple weeks prior, in my new home with the love of my life who moved states to be with me and I become extremely ill. “Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake!” That was seemingly bullshit at the time.
I was sick for a month. Bedridden and in and out of the doctor. Just thinking about it makes my body ache. All the while I had bills to pay! I had a relationship to participate in! I had animals that needed my attention! But nope! I felt like God was saying “HA! Just kidding! That happy life you thought you were going to have was a LIE!” Down I went into a deep, dark pit of despair.
September rolled around and Matt and I agreed that I needed a job but there was no way I could physically work. I started applying for some jobs working at home and thankfully I found one a short week later. I was feeling relieved again and honestly excited. Although I was sick, I had hated “going” to work every single day since I was 16 years old. I was stoked to be able to pay my bills and do it working from home.
Over the next few months, I will still sick. Doctors still unable to provide answers. I started getting worried and mad. Was I going to feel like this for the rest of my life? What the heck is going on? This is not normal! Why can’t anybody help me?
At least my job was going well and I had Matt’s support. Never once did Matt give up on me or put me down for being sick. All he wanted to do was help in any way he could. I didn’t feel deserving and it was hard to let him help me. I had been independent for so long and it was all going out the window.
In December my work hours were cut. Supposedly the relationship between my employer and their client was going downhill. I was secretly happy about it because less work = more play, although I was never feeling well enough to truly “play.” So what did I do? Start Dog Mom Days. I needed a new hobby, an outlet, something to keep my mind occupied. Another life changing decision.
In 2014 I was in the hospital seven times. Seven. Times. Each time I’d go in the doctor and nurses would say “Amanda, honey, what is going on with you? It’s not normal for someone you’re age to be going through illness all the time!” Ha! No shit. I got sick of hearing it. But I’d get out of the hospital and pray that one day I’d feel better.
This mysterious illness was taking over my life. I could barely muster energy to go out with friends. I had to get 12 hours of sleep a night in order to be able to function. I was in constant pain. Fatigue and weakness ruled my life. And I still had no answers.
The only positive thing that came out of 2014 was the growth of my blog. I had created a newfound passion. Blogging helped me in so many ways and I truly loved it. Since life wasn’t going well and it seemed like everything since 2013 went wrong, I decided to take the plunge and go full force into blogging. I left my work-at-home job to be a full time blogger. That’s how I got around to 2015.
My blog was booming. That spring I was nominated for Best New Pet Blog through BlogPaws. I was on the news. I was in a magazine. I was in two newspapers. And all the while I was working 60+ hours a week. It sounds like a lot, and I remember that it was, but I was loving every second of it. I was doing what I loved, which didn’t even feel like work. I was still feeling sick everyday, however I felt like I had something to live for again.
After I came home from the BlogPaws conference in May 2015, my guinea pig Sammie passed away. It was a very tragic, traumatizing death. He passed the first week in June and a few days later I was in the hospital again. That was enough. I had had enough. I was over it. I couldn’t take it anymore. So one night I made my way into Urgent Care.
At Urgent Care I saw a doctor whom I had never seem before. He was old, kind of stern looking and I was slightly afraid to talk because he was so serious. But then he asked the question that change everything: “Have you ever had your thyroid checked?” I thought deeply to myself, trying to remember all of the tests I had over the past two years. It seemed like I had a needle stabbed into my arm every two freaking weeks for blood tests. “No?” I replied hesitantly. That night the doctor drew blood (for the thousandth time) to test my thyroid.
Two days later I got a call stating that my “thyroid function is extremely poor” and I needed to go in for a thyroid ultrasound immediately. So I did. Secretly I was praying that they’d find something so I would finally have some sort of answer as to why I felt like crap everyday. And I got what I prayed for.
There it was. A cyst on my thyroid. When I heard the results I broke down in tears. Feelings of shock, relief, frustration ran through my trembling bones. Why hadn’t a doctor tested my thyroid sooner? Why did it take some random doctor to ask one simple question? I knew I couldn’t dwell on those thoughts so I took the next indicated action and I saw an endocrinologist. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease and hypothyroidism.
My primary care physician, who I had been seeing for 16 years, was in denial. She wanted to see the actual test and results because I had to be lying. Let’s just say she’s no longer my primary doctor, and I may still be holding on to some resentment from that.
By September, I was feeling great. Finally. I was feeling like a normal human being. Instead of having five bad days out of seven, I was having five good days. What made the difference? Vitamins. Some of my vitamin levels were “dangerously low” so I went on supplements. That’s all it took.
I couldn’t believe how fantastic I was feeling by fall 2015. I felt like a new woman. I could finally enjoy life with Matt to the fullest extent. I was able to blog, go to events and hang out with friends like a normal human being. I no longer had fear of having to cancel plans because I wasn’t feeling well. In November I went to New York City for the first time ever for the Purina Better With Pets Summit and I felt amazing. That was turning point for me.
*As tears start to well up in my eyes.* This June it had been one year since I’ve had to go into the hospital. All because of one doctor and some vitamins. But let’s go back to the beginning. I said that chronic illness saved my life. Doesn’t sound like it, right? If I never would have gotten fired, I’d most likely still be in a boring day job somewhere. If I hadn’t been working part time and needed a new hobby to keep me busy, I wouldn’t have started Dog Mom Days. If I wasn’t laying in the hospital sick as ever (a total of 9 times), I wouldn’t have jotted down new blog ideas and gotten inspiration from the fact that I was a dog mom who had to adjust her life. Chronic illness saved me from a life I didn’t want to continue living. It taught me that I could indeed live a great life, it was just going to take work.
I got sick. I got fired. My hours were cut. I started Dog Mom Days. I remained sick so I kept working from home. I put all of my remaining energy into my blog so I was able to grow it and work toward something great.
Nothing happens in God’s world by mistake. I learned so many lessons through my battle with illness. Everything does happen for a reason. I gained a strong relationship with Matt because we went through so much with my endless sickness and hospital stays. My spiritual relationship with God flourished because I learned to put more faith in Him. My stress and anxiety levels (surprisingly) went down because I had to learn to control them. It would have made my thyroid issues so much worse.
Don’t get me wrong, I still battle pain and fatigue but it’s more of a petty girl fight than a full on MMA slaughter. I have adjusted but I’ve also learned what helps me feel better. For a long time I was stubborn and I didn’t want to admit that I had to rest and take care of myself on a regular basis. But now I do, and it makes a world of difference.
August 3rd, 2013 changed my life. If I wouldn’t have gotten sick, I wouldn’t be writing this. It was a blessing in disguise. Sure, it took me a couple of years to figure it out, but it was worth it. I live my dream. I do what I love. Matt and I are getting married on 12/29/16 and I thank God for the battle, which I won.
If you suffer from chronic and/or invisible illness, I feel your pain. Literally. I know how hard it is and I know how people may judge you. I know people don’t understand. But if you need an ear, I’m here for you.