Tag Archives: chronic illness

What Debilitating Fatigue Feels Like While It’s Happening

I live with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), or Axial Spondyloarthritis (AxSpA) – the two names represent the same disease. AS is a systemic disease, which means it can impact multiple joints as well as organs. Fatigue isn’t an organ or a joint, but it is a big part of living with AS; a part that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

AS is characterized by inflammation throughout the body, which causes pain. Our bodies are busy fighting this inflammation and pain all the time; when we’re at rest as well as when we’re active, which is exhausting to say the least. Fatigue is a result of our bodies working overtime to fight constant inflammation; our body’s response to its own attempts to save us from ourselves.

Note: that paragraph above is my hypothesis as someone with the disease – it’s not something I have researched or proven.

I managed to write the following during one of the worst fatigue flares of my life. I focused all my attention on channeling the fuzzy thoughts in my head through my fingers to the keyboard on my phone instead of allowing myself the rest my body was begging for. I felt it was important to get the experience down in the moment so I could look back later and understand what I was really feeling. I wanted to document the truth so I would believe what I truly go through, because it’s so easy to question and dissociate from such things after the fact.

Continue reading What Debilitating Fatigue Feels Like While It’s Happening

Dan Reynolds Hasn’t Beat AS

I have noticed when Imagine Dragons’ Dan Reynolds is in pain on stage. I see it surface briefly in the form of a grimace with pained eyes, a determined glare into space, or a barely detectable stretch after standing at the microphone for too long. I’ve said to friends, “He’s in pain right now.” Then I blink, and the moment is gone.

I know what Dan’s pain feels like. I know because I have the same disease he has, the one with a name that sounds like a dinosaur: ankylosing spondylitis.

I, too, have learned to mask my pain in public.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a systemic immune-mediated inflammatory disease that causes pain & stiffness primarily in the spine and low back, but it can also impact other joints. AS can damage the eyes, heart, and lungs; as well as cause fatigue and cognitive impairment. The disease is difficult to diagnose, often missed or misdiagnosed by doctors for years, and it impacts everyone differently. There is currently no cure.

For most observers, Dan looks the perfect picture of health; he posts regularly about his fitness journey, and mainstream media encourages that perception. One might think he has conquered AS and that perhaps everyone with else AS would feel great if they just copied his approach.

I had the chance to interview Dan about living with AS in 2017 for This AS Life and again in 2019 to learn about his new project, the Monster Pain in the AS campaign. I discovered in both interviews that his journey with AS is more multifaceted than mainstream media suggests. Continue reading Dan Reynolds Hasn’t Beat AS

I’m Just Another Lazy Faker Living With Chronic Disease

Staying alive is my job.

Taking pills, managing side effects and flares, figuring out the best mix of treatments for each day’s changing symptoms. Playing medical mystery with my own body every 12 hours.

This is my life’s work.

Managing doctor conference calls and meetings each week to negotiate the most effective care to keep me alive. Navigating the ever changing healthcare system, using my body as a bargaining chip for its own survival through treatments. I am my own case manager. Continue reading I’m Just Another Lazy Faker Living With Chronic Disease

The Doctor Will See You Now

It’s the season of dropping things,┬áhips and elbows knocking door frames, “Will this flare ever end?” weeks, buckling knees on flat ground, brain fog competing with memories of the years when I felt younger than my age.

It’s the season of “But you don’t look sick, you look Great!” and “Have you tried yoga?”

It’s the season when, as soon as the door latches shut, the safety of our homes becomes the hell of letting our guards down, removing the mask. Our yoga is the inching off the bed on our bellies, gripping the prescription bottle to suck down a pill and doze for 30 minutes in half-inchworm-half-human-pose before grasping our walker to pee in the middle of the night with shuffle-steps amid stifling stiffness and the pain of partially fused joints that used to swim in the joint juice of cartilage. Chronic yoga.

“Yes, I already do yoga. Maybe I’ll show you sometime.” Continue reading The Doctor Will See You Now