That's sorta' harsh, right? "What the hell is wrong with you?" Ever asked yourself that question? I have. I have totally had major internal dialogues with that question in the staring role. I have shouted myself down with the question, "What the hell is wrong with you?" I even considered toning it down a bit for the story today, like "What in the world is wrong with you?" But the truth is, that I asked the question with alot more self-anger & it mostly came out with the curse in it.
I haven't conducted exhaustive research interviews or anything, but I am willing to bet that lots of peeps suffering from autoimmune disorders have struggled with that question. When I say "lots of peeps," I mean lots. The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Assoc. says that about 50 million Americans, that is one out of every five of us, has an autoimmune disorder. Many of them can not even answer the question, "what the hell is wrong with me," because they are undiagnosed.
I spent years wrestling with the question. For me, answering it proved to be extremely difficult. In the end it took over ten years, involved doctors on three continents & eventually some of the most advanced medical centers out there. So, I thought that I should start by telling you the story of what the hell is wrong with me.
I have three autoimmune disorders. Autoimmunity is the failure of my immune system to recognize its own parts as self, which allows an immune response against its own cells and tissues. That's right, my immune system is on high alert all the time and it often mistakes ME for the ENEMY. Here's the thing, our immune systems are miracles. The immune response is like a super hero capable of incredible feats in order to save the helpless on-lookers (i.e. all the cells that equal a person). Sometimes, usually for an unknown reason, it is doing such major battle that some collateral damage starts to occur & then everything goes haywire. The immune system just goes on attacking the cells & tissue it was previously defending.
I say "an unknown reason," but it is more like a "sort of known reason." There is often a genetic susceptibility and then a trigger. (It also makes a difference if you are a dude or a lady. Ladies make up 75% of those suffering from autoimmune disorders.) Triggers can be well understood, like in Celiac Disease, where the trigger is exposure to gluten (which is a protein found in wheat, barley, & rye). Triggers can also be less well understood. For instance, it is known that surgery, chronic high stress or extremely high-stress events, hormones, & even pregnancy can act as triggers.
That is where my autoimmune story begins. Pregnancy. I gave birth to my daughter on October 2, 2000. (That's right, she's about to turn 12!!) A few months later I noticed the first signs that something had "gone wrong" with my body. I developed a skin condition. It was painful and causing changes to my skin. I did what I normally do . . . I looked up some info. I narrowed down what I thought it could be & armed with my knowledge, went to see my doctor. Surprisingly, he agreed, diagnosed me, gave a steroid cream & sent me on my way.
What he did not tell me was that this skin condition was an autoimmune disorder or that having one autoimmune disorder meant I could be susceptible to developing others. He didn't give me any information about possible lifestyle or diet adjustments to consider in order to help treat the condition & he didn't warn me about the dangers of the steroids. To be fair, maybe he didn't know all of that at that time either. I was a young mom & I was a single, so working, going to college, & caring for my new baby filled up my world & I didn't take the time to learn more on my own. Just a few months after that, I developed new problems. I remember, distinctly, laying in bed one night and thinking to myself as I crashed into the desperate sleep of a new mother, "What the hell is wrong with me?"
More on that tomorrow.