If you happen to be friends with me on Facebook you may have noticed a recent flurry of posts showing my family and me enjoying adventures in NYC and Martha’s Vineyard. The posts tell the gratifying story of a vast improvement in my symptoms and energy over the past few months. I seem to have entered what those of us in the chronic illness world call a “period of remission.” My brain has switched back on, I feel alert, I have decent energy, almost all of my aches and pains are gone, and I have even started hiking again! I am AWAKE. My world has expanded. This newfound freedom happily has had me living more and writing less. My family’s trip back east was a milestone of sorts. When we made our travel plans last spring I was still fully immersed in the throws of my illness. I had no way of knowing whether or not I would be able to enjoy the trip. While Harlan and the kids were exploring NYC, would I be stuck in bed in our Air BnB, curtains drawn and AC unit humming? I didn’t know what to expect, so I decided to take a leap of faith and plan the trip anyway. As it turned out, I had no trouble walking for miles and miles each day. Harlan and I took the kids to the Metropolitan Museum and a Broadway musical. We visited the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side and showed them the tiny (400’ square) East Village apartment we lived in when we moved to the city in early 2001, several months after we were married. We pointed out the hospital where Wyatt was born in 2003. Then we moved on to Martha’s Vineyard, where I had a great time visiting with my sister and her family, whom I hadn’t seen in a year. Aside from needing an abundance of sleep each night, I felt remarkably spry.
For this newfound vitality I have to thank two practitioners I started working with several months ago: a chiropractic neurologist and a nutritionist. Though I am trained in nutrition it was extremely helpful to work with someone who has many years of clinical experience and who specializes in autoimmunity. My chiropractor ran a number of functional labs and determined that I had a recurrence of Epstein-Barr (Mono), hidden Strep bacteria and an imbalance of gut bacteria. He also found that I have antibodies to the receptors on my brain responsible for producing dopamine (hence my history of anxiety and depression). My doctor and my nutritionist put me on a regimen of potent and targeted probiotics, brain boosting supplements, high levels of vitamin D, detoxification support, and a homeopathic protocol for the Epstein-Barr. No pharmaceuticals. Amazingly, this regimen seems to have worked. It took a few months for me to start noticing any improvements. The first sign that I was moving in the right direction was that my brain fog started to clear. I felt sharper and was better able to focus. Following my improved brain function I discovered that I no longer needed naps during the day. I still required 10-12 hours of sleep per night and continued to feel achy much of the time, but while awake I was able to get things done. Finally the aches and pains abated, and I achieved a level of “normalcy” that I haven’t experienced in years. My good health has lasted for over two months, a virtual miracle after the previous nine months of near constant illness. Hallelujah.
While I would love to believe that I have conquered my illness and will remain healthy for the rest of my life, I have been here before and know that my autoimmunity leaves me vulnerable to the effects of stress, viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. As much as I hate to acknowledge it, I may go through further periods of chronic illness in the future. Therefore I am trying to make the most of every moment of this reprieve.
I might even treat myself to the occasional glass of wine ;).