The first doctor I saw diagnosed me with anxiety caused by my upcoming wedding.
It took two years from that first visit to the doctor for me to feel like myself again.
I want to empower my daughters to speak up when something hurts, so they aren't ignored like I was.
There it was again. Another whine from a child. This time it was my 2-year-old, who - running from the living room to the kitchen - tripped over her own feet and came down onto her palms. My two kids were constantly stubbing toes, scratching themselves with a weird nail, or biting their tongues while they ate. I was exhausted by the long days of parenting.
My patience waning, it was getting harder each day to not roll my eyes at their cries. I feared that my mistrust of my own body was setting my daughters up for the same mistrust.
How my mistrust started
My illness started with a sore throat in January 2013. After what seemed like a minor virus, the weakness and nausea that came with it wouldn't lift. My new fiancé had a sore throat, too, but he was back to work and feeling like himself only a few days later. I tried to push through it, but after two weeks of barely eating and being unable to handle my normal level of exertion, I made an appointment with the doctor.
I was eager for answers, ready for whatever medication I needed to feel like myself again.
"Have there been any big changes in your life?" the doctor asked while examining me.
"Only good ones," I answered. "I got engaged a month ago."
"You're just anxious about your wedding," the doctor said.
In my chart, there was a history of anxiety. I had gone off my low dose of Prozac a year earlier since I'd felt okay without it. I knew what anxiety felt like, and this wasn't it. I begged for a mono test.
When the nurse called the next day with the results of my complete blood count, she didn't mention the mono test. The doctor hadn't ordered it, so I insisted again. Two days later, the nurse called to tell me the test was positive. That night in the bath, I felt swollen lymph nodes along the creases of my hips, my body insisting that it wasn't all in my head.
I still don't have a lot of answers
It took almost two years to feel like myself again. Then the sickness came back in 2017. It stayed for a few months before slithering away, which left me paranoid. I still feel it from time to time, although it's now mild and short-lived.
Armed with my own research, I spoke with two doctors, who agreed that it sounded like myalgic encephalomyelitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome, had plagued me all these years. But because it's an under-researched illness that many healthcare providers aren't educated on, I still don't feel like I have solid answers.
As a woman who wasn't taken seriously in her illness, I'm struggling to understand or even believe my body when it falters.
I want my girls to believe their own bodies
I mentally kick myself when my daughters hurt themselves and I dismissively say, "You're okay." Even in my parenting exhaustion, I'm making the effort to take their cries with a deep breath - to sit on my heels, look them in the eyes, and say, "I'm sorry, are you okay? What can I do?"
I want my daughters to be proud of being in tune with their bodies, to know that I take them seriously, and that they should do the same.
As a woman, I'm learning to trust my body, to let it falter without shame. As a mother, I'm trying to shed all of this learned behavior - as parents are always trying to do - and give my daughters the confidence to live within their complicated bodies. I can only hope that my words make a difference in the long run.
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