In the last two years, the following things happened to me (in no clear order):
- I changed jobs 4 different times (different positions at two different companies)
- I added a second job to my full-time job
- I got a dog (this one was positive)
- I moved twice, the second time into a studio alone.
- I gained an embarrassing amount of weight without even realizing it
- I realized this weight gain when, a year and a half ago, I needed to buy a suit for interviews and nothing in my size, or the size up, or the size above that, fit
- I struggled to figure out why this weight gain had happened
- I went without health insurance for two years, starting in January 2014 and ending February of 2015
- I tried 1800 calorie a day diets, 1200 calorie a day diets, I tried 15000K+ step-a-day activity levels, I tried P90X workout plans, I tried yoga 4 times a week, I tried several marathon plans, I ultimately failed
- I failed at my first marathon, hurting my knee and not being able to run for months after
- I dealt with severe menstrual complications, including heavy bleeding and horrible pain, and spent a long time not sure what the cause of this could be
- I decided a year ago that the problem must be my IUD, and had it removed in July
- I realized 6 months later that these problems were continuing to be an issue, and had a series of idiotically expensive tests, the only conclusive on of which was to find out that my iron was dangerously low- 7.5, when the healthy range for women begins at 12
- I joined a hockey team, and played for several weeks with no idea that my iron was near the death range
- Once diagnosed as severely anemic, I eschewed the birth control my doctor suggested I start to control my flow, having had my fill of birth control, and instead decided to focus on diet, multivitamins, and iron supplements
- I finally started to lose weight, have actual energy, and not hate myself
- I realized that nearly all my problems with motivation, anger, exhaustion, sadness, inability to exercise, memory, self-worth, and inspiration over the past two years of my life were due to my anemia
And that is where I am today. Over the past two years, I had days when getting out of bed was a struggle. I had days when getting dressed seemed like the stupidest, most pointless battle in the world. And yet even then I didn’t think I was depressed. How could I be? I still had things I wanted to have and to do. I knew what I wanted. I knew who I was….sometimes.
And sometimes I didn’t. I had days when I couldn’t tell you a single book I had read in the last year or what TV shows I was watching every week. I had days when I literally, truly, honestly, thought I was losing my mind. Days when I didn’t remember my own birthday and couldn’t tell you my best friend’s name. Days and even weeks when I felt like I was completely on autopilot. I thought I might actually be going crazy. But I wasn’t depressed. I’ve never been depressed! So what was wrong with me? …and through it all, always bleeding, always in pain, and no idea what to do about it.
I forgot everything. When I graduated from college nearly 6 years ago, I was a smart, serious person who spent a lot of time thinking about smart, serious things. I remembered everything I read, everything I did. I followed the news, I volunteered for things, I took voice lessons. And while some of that went away when I was teaching abroad, I always thought I would come home and get it back. But somehow, in the last two years, I became some kind of zombie person. I didn’t think about my dreams, or if I did, it was in this weird, far-off, “wouldn’t that be nice” way. I didn’t sing, I didn’t audition, even when I had time to do these things. I didn’t join any progressive causes, or follow local politics, or try to find groups to join who shared my interests. I became so anxious at times that even conversations with my best friend would, for no reason at all, lead me to burst into tears. Forget about putting myself out there. Forget about trying new things or getting fit or finding voice lessons. And of course, part of this was because when I first moved I didn’t have much money. I was working part time, after all. But then I had a full time temp job, followed by a full time permanent job, followed by a part time permanent job on top of that. So I had money, and I wasn’t using it for anything that would further my dreams. I forgot to pay bills, I forgot to return library books. I bought too many clothes and too much yarn, and then I forgot about it.
I had this period of clarity last summer and fall, after my IUD came out and the bleeding stopped for awhile and I actually felt good for a few weeks. I cleaned out my whole room and found boxes and boxes of things I forgot I owned. It was like these things had belonged to a different person. Why had she bought so many? And why didn’t any of it make her feel better? So I did what I could at that time to downsize, but then it started again. It’s so gradual, anemia, you don’t even realize that it’s happening. It will make you crazy, it will make you go through your day like the walking dead, and yet you seem normal enough and alive enough that no one asks questions.
If you read this and wonder why I didn’t think of anemia on my own, especially if you know I’ve had it before, I couldn’t tell you. It’s like I was so used to pain and bleeding and general illness by this point- I’ve had these problems off and on for over half my life now- that I have a hard time realizing when bad is truly *bad*, because for me, normal is probably someone else’s panic mode. But this fall I told my best friend, and former roommate, “if I still feel terrible in a month, I’m going to call a doctor.” And she reminded me when the time came, so I did- or at least, a nurse practitioner, the one I’d seen in the summer. It’s almost funny to think of that visit now- her reaction to my continued problems was basically “I…don’t know?” She wanted me to get an ultrasound, but beyond that had nothing. I was the one who asked for an iron test. A simple, stupid test, and yet it’s rarely suggested. In the past, I think I got checked because I was concerned after getting turned away at blood drives. And here I was, months into my own pointless blood drive, and it still wasn’t the medical professional’s idea, but mine.
I have now been taking supplements for nearly 3 months. In that time I’ve started running again. I’ve cleaned out my entire closet and given away bagfuls of things I had no use for. I started volunteering, at least once a week, for the Sanders presidential campaign. I do my laundry. I do my dishes. I occasionally rage inwardly at how simple my problem was and how easily it could have been solved if I’d had insurance or been willing to go to a doctor without it. I occasionally have incredibly sensitive, moody sadness spells when I imagine everyone I’ve ever met doing fun things, usually all together, without me. I go to work. And I wonder what’s next.
I haven’t maintained this blog well at all since I got it. I’m not sure why I even have a blog. For a long time most of my writing here has been inane. And do I really want a “how was my day” blog? Do I want a “my opinions on the issues” blog? What is this thing even for? And what about my old posts- should I delete them? Hide them? While I want to write again, it’s hard to approach this.
It’s funny, a couple of weeks ago I was out with a group of friends (see, this is progress- “out” with “friends”- plural. A year ago that would have been impossible for me to muster the energy, or interest, to do). Some stranger decided to guess people’s ages, and she thought for sure I was 24. While that isn’t so much younger than I am now, I admit I wish I was 24. Fresh from European adventures, ready to start my post-college, post-abroad life. I feel like I barely even got to live the years since 24 anyway. Most of them- especially these last two- were spent tired, or in pain, or both. A lot more of the last year has been spent at work than I would like, and not always work that I enjoy, or find challenging or interesting. The desire to give myself a clean slate is strong.
Whatever else happens, I imagine I’ll leave this post up. If nothing else, it’s a message to myself and a reminder of where I was and where I am now on track to go. This year I plan to:
- Run a half Marathon
- Run a Marathon
- get a different fulltime job
- Start studying voice again
- Study guitar
- get headshots taken
and most of those, I hope to complete in the next few months. Maybe it will be worth it to write about all if here.