Trusting your gut


by Danielle Blake, Copy Editor

At the beginning of this month, my health took an unexpected turn for the worse, making the simplest of tasks exhausting, and at this time, the majority of my questions are still unanswered.

Not having a relationship with my biological father never crossed my mind often. I have a dad who raised me and loved me like his own, so meeting this man was never an interest of mine. We choose our families, but sometimes what lingers can make things much more complicated.

What my father left for me was potentially a lifelong autoimmune disorder. Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory disease that affects the digestive tract’s lining, specifically in the colon and intestines. The thought of this disorder has plagued my mind for some time now as I reach the age that Crohn’s symptoms begin appearing. Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which Crohn’s falls under, can be genetic. 

According to the Boston Endoscopy Center, having a direct family member with IBS gives you a one in three chance of being affected.

Despite knowing the genetic risk, nothing quite prepares you for getting sick, just how bad you’re going to feel and dealing with doctors who you thought had your best interest at heart.

 I have not been able to retain solid food since Feb. 1. Weeks go by without answers, and every day I find myself growing more exhausted and weaker. Attempting to advocate for my health and to be taken seriously in this state has been an uphill battle.

Many doctors have seen me during this time, all of whom keep running tests but did very little to help me feel better. At the time, I figured telling them I haven’t been able to eat in a week would raise some alarms, but with each test that comes back clear of parasites and infections, I was turned away, still feeling exactly the same. It took me almost a week after being hospitalized for dehydration to get any medication. 

The hospital never even let me finish my IV.

I never realized the impact having an undiagnosed illness would have on every other aspect of my life. Before this, being sick always meant whatever was going on would run its course, and I’d be all better. The problem is things aren’t getting better on their own.

On the one hand, there are physical symptoms. I’m cold all the time, I can’t eat, I can’t stop shaking, and sometimes things like showering takes all the life out of me. I’ve never felt more incapable in my life. 

Some days I can do more, and the next, I’m crying in pain on my bathroom floor. I’m the person who has always been used to doing things for myself, and now that I can barely take care of myself. The vulnerability has become a challenge.

My mental health has also taken a toll. Every time I go to a doctor and return, undiagnosed self-doubt locks in. I’ve begun to question everything. Am I overreacting? Am I really that sick? Will this solve itself on its own if I’m just more patient? The longer this goes on, the more I feel like I have to prove to myself that I need help.

 My body image has also become warped. I’ve never had a good relationship with my body, and my intense weight loss has made it more damaging. I bury myself in men’s clothing to hide what I look like. I’m afraid to look as sick as I feel. Because of what’s happening to my body, I feel gross about myself and frankly shameful.

This hasn’t been a fun journey for me by any means. I don’t think I’ve ever struggled this hard to keep up with not only my education but with my interests, hobbies and passions as well. I feel desperate for something to look forward to and be excited about lately.

Today, we still don’t know what’s wrong with me. Each day I don’t have answers is another day I’m causing damage to my body and put myself at risk of hospitalization again. 

If my father did give me the genetic gift of Crohn’s Disease, at least it’s something manageable. I am confident I will live a normal, successful life no matter what’s wrong with me.

Even if it took weeks, I’m thankful to finally have a team of doctors who are taking me seriously and helping me get to a diagnosis. It isn’t straightforward to treat something when you don’t know what it is, but I finally feel like we’re getting somewhere after weeks of searching.

If anyone gets anything out of my story, I hope they understand that only you can tell how you feel, so be persistent. Advocating for yourself is hard, but it’s more challenging to be told there’s nothing wrong. I use humor as a coping mechanism, so… Trust your gut.