Thursday, March 1, 2012

No Denial for the Sick - My Advice for the Autoimmune

So, I started feeling a sore throat Tuesday afternoon. By Wednesday morning, it was terrible. I was laying still in my dark room with my dog. He wanted off my bed (he's too short to jump off the bed on his own), and I kept convincing him that he didn't really want down.

Those of you who know the world of autoimmune know - every little sickness, illness, and hurt is ridiculously many times worse for us than "normal people." If you don't know yet, you either haven't been autoimmune very long, or you are still in denial.

I was in denial for a long time. Loooong time. I have always been one of those people who tried to push on through whatever. It's my personality. I am tenacious. :P You are talking to the girl who when she got her first shot at teaching a leave of absence as a new autoimmune patient would try to will the fork to move on its own when eating dinner after school each day. After school, I would crawl into bed and be as still as I possibly could to get the muscles to stop doing whatever the heck they were doing that day. My wonderful mom would put a tray of food in my lap, and I would just stare at it, starving. (I was also the teacher who stayed a few hours late every afternoon trying to better set up my room as a new teacher.) I used to think, "Maybe if I stare at the fork long enough, I will have a Matilda moment." Never happened.

But teaching was never not an option. Never. Still isn't. When you're called to a passion, you're called. I enjoyed every single minute of that first job in spite of the pain I was in, and I don't think anyone, and I mean anyone, knew about my illness and the fight I was going through at that time. Ironic now. It's kind of amazing to look back on those times now, too, because if I can teach through that and go through that, I can get through anything. Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Anyway, bringing it back - I'm not in denial about the small stuff anymore. I know that I know that my poor little body does not get better on its own. I know two wonderful doctors who know this fact about me, too, and will give me the maximum dose the first time (because we have learned together that if they don't, I just have to come right back anyway). I can't just keep going to work each day when I am sick and hope that it will go away on its own. I have to go to the doctor as soon as I know that I am sick.

My Advice to You

1. Autoimmune person, you need to go to the doctor as soon as something as wrong. As soon as! I didn't go to the doctor yesterday. I wish I had (I KNOW BETTER). I went this 6:45 so that I would be the first one in the door. I did not want to sit in a room full of super germy people. I feel that pretty soon I will be sporting a doctor mask that the elderly ladies and gentlemen wear when they go to the doctor, hospital, pharmacy, walmart, etc.

2. Be proactive. Take whatever best helps your body get some immune system support. I know, I know. I have Lupus, and if I support the immune system too much, it will attack me. I don't know what that does to the rest of you, but it makes me look like a red giraffe with some weird rash. As one of my students used to say when she would see me as the giraffe, "Ew-Ugh."

I have found that Sambucol from CVS is the best immune support for me coupled with Phytaloe from Mannatech. I take that daily before going to school, the store, church, etc. Now, I know I am in one of the germiest professions, but it is not the germiest. I heard on the radio a couple of years ago that they have ruled banks as the germiest places of business because of all the germs on the paper money. The Swiss or Swedish or some "S" European country found that the flu can live on paper money for, are you ready for this, a whopping sixteen days. I share this tidbit with students.

When I feel like I might be getting a cold, I take Zicam for a couple of days. Amazingly, that often knocks it out. If I feel like I am getting anything else, I usually take Airborne. That stuff is fantastic. It even has something in it for nausea. I took some when I was very nauseated once, and that stuff knocked it out! It often knocks out whatever I think I am getting, too. I usually have some in my purse, my school lunch box, and my medicine pantry at home. Yesterday? Couldn't find it anywhere. Everyone else knows that I keep some in my purse, school lunch box, and medicine pantry, too.

3. Notice and know how the barometric pressure, various cleaning products, and the sun affect you. The sunlight makes me break out in a rash sometimes, and sometimes it makes me very weak. I have found a remedy that remedies this reaction for short periods of time outside for a few weeks at a time, and I will try to write about it another day.

The barometric pressure affects everyone. I once met a lady who has an autistic child. She took a barometer with them wherever she went because she knew that sudden changes in pressure and extreme low pressures would really affect how her son felt and consequently how he acted. The barometric pressure really affects my muscles. When it changes drastically or is really low, it can make me feel like "normal" people do that day before they get the flu. You know, they feel tired and achey...but they are still feel well enough to be in denial.

All sorts of products including cleaning products affect everyone. However, I have learned that as Lupus patients (and really patients of most any autoimmune disorder), makes us like human litmus paper for how various products affect us. We are uber sensitive to everything. We are just more sensitive than everyone else, so those adverse affects show up in us more often and with smaller amounts. The very smell of Lysol can make me break out sometimes. Again, the remedy that I have for sunlight helps with this problem now, too. When I had to mop my classroom, I would mop with white vinegar on the weekends. By the time the kids got back on Monday, they couldn't smell the vinegar.

(On a completely irrelevant side note: I used to take my little dog, too. I would let him "inspect" the classroom before breaking out the vinegar. He would find snacks that kids had stuffed in places, food wrappers that had escaped from the garbage can, toys, etc. He would also try to remove the tennis balls from the few pieces of school furniture that had tennis balls. I would close off our hallway, leave my door open, and mop. Unfortunately, if one of my co-workers from my hall showed up at school, he would promptly go ask to be temporarily adopted into their room. He does not appreciate vinegar. :) Love him.) 

Knowing how different products, sunlight, and the barometric pressure affect you can help you rule out times when you think that you may be coming down with something. If you can rule out all of this stuff, go to the doctor.

As for me, I went, and I got a shot. Thank God for shots. I am not better yet, but I am sitting in an upright position. I know that it takes three times as long for me to heal as it does for a normal person. I don't think that is an autoimmune rule, but I would suggest that you notice how long it takes your body to heal in relation to "normal" people especially if you are a teacher. It's easier to get a sub to cover a bunch of days rather than one day at a time, and as much as you want to come back the next day - get real. You don't get better on your own. Stay home, rest up, get better, and come back full force.

And smile. It heals more than you know.