The day starts with me laying in my bed, trying to wrap my mind around the fact that it is time to face another day. I lay there a few moments. My heart rate begins to rise. I feel the familiar ache and throb in my legs, and I quickly calculate the number of hours until I can re-visit my bed.
On the days I can move fast enough, I take a quick shower before I undertake the 10-15 minute process of waking Meghan. Please, save the judgment that she is 14 and should be waking herself. You’re right. Except by the time I get to the top of the stairs there are several alarms sounding simultaneously. She would if she could.
Waking her is no easy task. Her body, so deeply fatigued by her daily physical and emotional battles, resists breaking those last few moments of cherished rest. Never enough. All teens are tired. I get it. I don’t know for sure that YOU get looking into the eyes of a 14 year old, bright, compassionate, articulate, and full of promise, as she pleads for it not to be morning.
The two of us together are some pair in the early hours. My body aches but by the time I get through the shower I can usually shake some off. I am also 30 years her senior, so living in my mid-forties, I can expect some normal aches to start to take hold.
Like so many things, Meghan’s life is mine amped up. I was always tired, but didn’t know “train wreck tired” till the attempts to balance my thyroid in my mid-twenties.
She was 10 when that journey began. It is not right yet, although a competent, sensitive endocrinologist watches closely. Synthetic anything gives her body a problem. Always has.
Adding in the synthetic hormones to contend with the suspected start of endometriosis has added a layer we need, but didn’t want. The pre-cancerous tissue in the uterus is likely to be helped by this step, as well as excruciatingly painful periods, but like all things it is not without cost.
She drags her body down the stairs, walking crookedly to contend with a back, or a hip, inevitably and almost constantly displaced by a full foot size discrepancy. Bi-monthly chiropractic visits put things back in place, for as long as they last on her 5’8″ frame.
As she travels the two flights down to her bathroom, there is an internal, and audible triage of the aches of the day being sorted. It’s agonizing to watch and listen to. You see there is never a day where everything feels well. There is never a day where she is just tired. There is never a day that she wakes eager to face even the most exciting events.
There is a part of me, a small quiet part of me, that sometimes allows myself to believe that maybe she’s playing games, exaggerating, or trying to make me insane. And then I think quite simply, why?
Why would she WANT to hurt, or have an upset stomach, or be in pain. She, who is eager to please her parents, and everyone she meets, would not want to be in internal turmoil or conjure up ailments.
So my mind does it’s thing as well. “How many days has that been bothering her?” “Do I need to take her to a doctor?” “Can they really help anyway?” “Is anything lasting too long?” And so on…
And somewhere in the middle of this, as the moments kick past 6, I have to push. We have to be out the door in order for her to be at her 7:25 period 1, and for me to be in my classroom in time to set up for my 8AM students. There is really no time to deal with any of it. We simply need to press through and get out of the house.
We do a lot the night before. Lunch is packed, swim bags are packed, clothes are picked out. Homework is always in the backpack. Mornings are not for things that can be avoided.
I have to admit there are mornings where it has gone very wrong. There have been mornings where I have not felt well myself, and my patience with the multitude of issues required to just get herself dressed and ready are forgotten temporarily. I am not proud of the mornings where the clock passes the point of panic and I evolve into a screaming shrew. But, this is about honesty, and honestly, it happens.
Smooth or not, we find ourselves in the car on the close to 20 minute ride to her school. And that is where it gets trickiest.
Months ago Meghan was diagnosed with PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, secondary to medical trauma she has endured in her young life. That PTSD has been exacerbated through the years through a variety of triggers she works to manage. But, many days it seems her “fight or flight” is broken and she is wound into a high state of awareness, of EVERYTHING. That means every human interaction, every test, every assignment, every competition, every audition is just amped up. Sometimes the volume is so loud it can feel almost crippling.
And, yet still, as we work daily, she has to get out of my car and walk into that building alone. Some days are easier than others. Some days, I’m tempted to snatch her and drive far away where I can keep her safe and calm. But, she’s not 4 – she’s 14. And, she has to go. She knows it too. So she does.
It’s not about the people anymore. Although it was for a few years. Now, thankfully, it’s not. The people are kind. They students are friendly, and while no one is friends with everyone, she is after only about 20 days, building positive relationships with peers, her swim team, and many adults.
So why? I’m not sure. And I’m not totally sure she is either. That’s why we’re working on it.
But, there are theories.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is not rare. But, Cowden’s Syndrome is. And in my child the two are intermingled. The relationship between chronic medical issues, 18 surgeries, tests, scans, hospitals, isolation, heightened anxiety, the need to self-advocate, a lack of trust for the many medical professionals who have handled things wrong, and the isolation and overwhelming feelings this can cause is just the tip. Coupled with generally feeling off, having a super sensitive stomach, relentless seasonal allergies, and being an athlete who simultaneously loves her teams and fears competition can create consternation. This is the very tip of what I know to be a Titanic sized iceberg we are working on melting.
She likes her school. She likes the people. She likes the environment. And yet there are days it is a struggle, a moment by moment struggle to make it. She hurts. She pushes. She is stubborn. She is strong-willed. And for as many times as those characteristics cause me to want to bang my head repeatedly against a brick wall, are as many times as I thank God she is that way.
She likes to swim too. She likes to swim for her school. She likes to swim for her 12 month team. She enjoys feeling strong, and having a body that reflects her hours of training. I am grateful that she is an athlete. But, the battle to get into the pool when every piece of you just hurts, and you want nothing more than to be in your bed is a battle her coaches or her teammates do not fully see. I mean they see the performance anxiety, which is WAY deeper than what it seems to be, but the rest, the full deal is carefully and intricately hidden like so much else. No wonder she is tired.
We are working on it.
Every day is a battle to get through the day. Sometimes physically, and other times mentally and emotionally. Yet, day after day, it gets done with a grace that often blows me away.
Every house holds secrets. Private, messy moments that are not shared with the world. We are not the only ones, and we are not oblivious to the moments others must hold close to themselves.
Collectively, we all need to stop judging. We must stop imagining their life is perfect because it looks so on facebook, or instagram, or snapchat. We need to be kind. We need to go back to the basic rule that “If you have nothing nice to say – don’t say anything at all.”
We need to not profess that we can fix others problems, or make ourselves feel better by offering “quick” solutions. It is hard to watch others in pain. It is not easy to accept that sometimes there is nothing we can do besides be a friend. We need to acknowledge pain, and struggle as real without giving in.
In this house weekends are still about survival. They are about recovery. They are about storing up a ‘spoon’ or two so that we can use them in the coming week.
One day I’d like us to have a social calendar. I’d like to get out as a family and make some memories on a sunny October day. But, today was not that day. Today was swim practice and vocal lessons. That is what we could do. Today.
The evening winds down and we are faced with the reality that sleep will need to happen again. Sleep is tough times. Not for lack of fatigue, but for a teenagers over worked mind. We are working out a system. We are seeing some progress. The struggle is real.
We are working on it.
This week we contracted with a company for a Service Dog to assist with the PTSD. It will be one of many interventions we will use. We have sent a deposit. The process has begun and can take up to a year. We are hoping it will be sooner.
If you have read this far, and you have real suggestions for grants we can apply for to assist in raising the cost of this dog, your assistance is valuable.
We are not looking for an analysis, or reasons why we Meghan might NOT need a Service Dog. We have medical professionals encouraging this. We will deal with logistics as the dog’s arrival looms. In the mean time, we are working purely on fundraising.
The organization we are connected to is http://www.medicalmutts.com They are an accredited business that we researched extensively. When the dog is ready we will need to spend a week in Indiana picking it up.
The decision to make this move was based on many factors, but it was guided by Meghan. She has researched. She has thought. She has read. Her father and I have learned to trust her instincts. Undoubtedly, that is one of the reasons we have come so far.
Looking forward to hearing your encouraging, helpful comments –
7 thoughts on “Invisible Illness – Sometimes We ALL Need Help”
What about a funding resource like gofundme.com? One of my students raised college tuition through this site.
Trying to keep that as a last option. Hoping I can uncover local grant money. But, thank you!
Lori i miss you and so much seems to have happened to both our families since we last talked. Try a go fund me maybe? Its worth a try.
Trying to get around a gofundme if I can… We shall see. Miss you terribly. It is long overdue for a chat. xx
What a great idea, to get a service dog for Meg! I hope it works out sooner rather than later.
ME TOO! Hope you’re enjoying your #endlesssummer