Work Sick

I have a few chronic illnesses. I have Lupus, RA, and degenerative disc disease. Due to a few failed back surgeries, I have been diagnosed with “failed back syndrome.” I also have ADHD, and most of these diagnoses happened prior to my 40th birthday. In fact, I spent #39 in post op from the spinal fusion surgery that ultimately failed to fuse, leaving me in more pain than before. The surgeon said that if he went in to try to fix it or remove the hardware, or to try to fuse it again, I’d have a 50% chance of some pain relief and a 50% chance that it would get worse or stay the same. I sure don’t like those odds. I later had a spinal fusion surgery, but that, too, failed to work. So what’s a girl to do?

Well, at first, I considered filing for disability, as a couple of doctors recommended. I just couldn’t wrap my mind around simply giving up at such a young age. I know that people younger than me have had to file for disability, and their reasons are sound. I’m not judging anyone for that choice, but I just KNEW it wasn’t for me.

I’ve always worked really hard and had big goals. I started babysitting at eight. That sounds ridiculous in today’s world, but I guess in small town Montana in 1983, when people knew my teacher parents (and the parents of the kids) were less than a mile away at all times, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I lied about my age on a job application to get a job waitressing at the age of 14. I worked 1 or 2 jobs at a time while going to college full time, which might be the reason I never finished a degree. I have about 170 credits that don’t form a degree, though, so that’s something. (ADHD was real in the 90s, even if we didn’t really know what it was or how to treat it, especially in adults.)

When I started in real estate in 2005, I knew I’d found IT. My career path, what I was supposed to do. It was all so clear. I’d start as a buyer’s agent on a team at Keller Williams to learn all I could. From there, I’d try to move up to the listing agent on a team, and then go out on my own, and then I’d build my own team. The path laid in front of me was so clear, that about a year into my career, I had my team name and logo designed in my head, and I was certain that nothing could stop me. Hahaha. Doesn’t life always have other plans?

First, the market crashed, and it crashed HARD. Luckily, I’d been recruited over to another, larger team that allowed agents to handle buyers and sellers, and continuously found ways to be successful, even with the median price of homes dropping about $200,000 over a couple of years. However, there was stress all around at that time in my life. My husband’s job changed, making him unhappy. It seemed like we were working harder and harder and making less money. I think just about everyone felt that way during that time, but as a married couple who both worked on commission, it was a BAD TIME.

I started feeling terrible. I have had issues with my shoulders ever since I worked my ass off in restaurants and bars, but this was all over my body. The exhaustion was horrible. The foggy mind and the unpredictable symptoms made working a serious hell on earth. It made LIVING a serious hell on earth. All along, I looked fine. That’s what everyone told me. My weight ballooned due to medications for what they diagnosed as fibromyalgia, and from the emotional eating I reverted to when I had no other way to cope with what was happening to me. I’d never learned healthy coping skills. It was food or booze for me, and at that time, I turned to both.

In 2012, my husband got a great job out of state and we moved. I didn’t work for a while and I focused on my health. I worked out as much as I could, ate well, and got my weight down from 230 something to 184, and I felt better.  Still, mystery symptoms reared their head. Finally, finally, I got a diagnosis. It’s autoimmune disease. It’s here forever, but it can be managed. My doctor gave me an antidepressant for pain, even though I was not depressed at the time. Turns out, my brain processes antidepressants as depressants. I was sunk into depression, anxiety, and misery like I’d never felt, but was assured that it was the result of a scary diagnosis and the realization my life would never be the same. I tried working part time from 2012-2015 but, honestly, that depression and the wacky medications made it nearly impossible. Steroids, low does chemo, biologics, etc. I felt like a chemical shitstorm and felt worse. We moved back to Arizona, which greatly helped my joint pain, but I was still depressed, and still taking Effexor. If I missed a dose by about 3 hours, Effexor withdrawal happened. It was like nothing I’d ever felt. It’s like you have electric shocks from your brains to your limbs. Still, I didn’t connect my depresseion with Effexor until I had what was basically a manic breakdown and started researching.

happy

 

I weaned myself off of it, so a lot of the cloud of misery disappeared, but it left my life in chaos anyway. I was back up to over 240 lbs at that point, and in a great deal of pain still. What in the hell was I going to do? Plus, I needed to contribute to my family, and as someone who has ALWAYS worked, except for a dismal failure of a stint as a housewife when my husband and I got together, and I needed the mental stimulation.

Then came the back surgeries and the recoveries, and an office job that I really liked, but was constantly taking time off from for doctor’s appointments and pain. It really didn’t pay enough to make a huge difference in our finances either. So. What now?

 

TO BE CONTINUED….

 

Love and Health

-Mitch

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