I Wondered If I Could Die From Exhaustion
BY: JESSICA P.
DATE: JUNE 4, 2018
"But I can’t breathe. I don’t think the Klonipin
is helping... I need something different."
"I could see the airport from the window of my psychiatrist’s office, the cheap fabric of the chair I’m sitting on scratched at the back of my thighs.
“How is the Klonopin working for you? Any negative side effects?” he asked as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.
“I just don’t think it’s working, it makes my body tired but my anxiety is still there,” I responded through dry lips, my tongue sticking to the roof of my mouth.
“We’re going to up your dosage again, I’m going to write you a new prescription for the two milligram tablets,” he said softly, not looking up from his prescription pad. As soon as the words left his mouth, I wanted to cry. “
But I can’t breathe, I don’t think the Klonopin is helping. I need something different,” I pleaded, holding back tears. “If you take more, it should stop your panic attacks. You can take a lot of the Klonopin without overdosing,” he replied, unphased.
Over (a period of six months) the prior six months, I had watched myself become empty. I was stuck in an endless loop of doctor’s visits, medical tests, and unimaginable fatigue. What started as seemingly routine anxiety, insomnia, and digestive issues, somehow escalated rapidly into a perilous ordeal.
I felt like the longer I was sick, the sicker I got.
Days stretched into months as one medical professional after another filled me with their analyses, I wondered if I could die from exhaustion. It didn’t feel like that long ago since I was a “normal” teenager: going to school, hanging out with my friends, planning my future. After getting sick, my life changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
While my friends were getting their driver’s licenses and going to dances, I was coordinating doctor’s appointments and sorting my pills.
I felt abandoned and betrayed in many ways––by my loved ones, my healthcare providers––even by my own body.
Chronic illness, diagnosed or not, often forces us to play unfamiliar roles. We are thrust into situations we did not ask to be in, and forced to advocate for ourselves in ways that life did not prepare us for. We are aged by years of trauma induced by our own illnesses, the healthcare community, and even people in our lives. This trauma, combined with our inability to have “normal” life experiences, furthers our isolation.
Getting sick changed the trajectory of my life in a way that was not only unexpected, but to me was unfair. Up until this point, I had assumed that my life would go the way I had imagined it would go. It was incredibly difficult to let go of the idea that something was being taken from me. After a seemingly fruitless year-long relationship with traditional Western medicine, I was unable to distinguish my symptoms from the side effects of my medications. I felt emotionally beaten down. When I wasn’t at the doctor, I was trying to recover from my insatiable fatigue and I had fallen behind in school from all the absences.
In mourning my loss of “normalcy,” I realized there was great potential for growth. I tried to let go of the idea that I was owed a certain lifestyle, I took solace in yoga, essential oils, and eventually, alternative medicine. As I sought more natural forms of self-care, I discovered that I could use cannabis to ease a wide array of my symptoms like: anxiety, lack of appetite, and insomnia. I found that CBD tinctures soothed the inflammation that plagued my whole body, providing a great deal of relief from a lot of my neurological symptoms.
After two years, I was able to replace all my psychiatric and pain relieving drugs with cannabis products. While the homeopathic route wasn’t necessarily easier than my pharmacological healthcare experience, I tried to value my new path, gleaning as much knowledge as I could in forming my new relationship with my body in this new age of self-discovery.
I will never be the same. I am okay with that. Some days I am more okay with it than others. Sometimes I still feel envy towards people I perceive to be healthier than me. I do my best to embrace the fact that my options are vastly different than I had anticipated, but I try to see the beauty in the chaotic balancing act that is life with chronic illness. Learning to listen to my body and tailor my self-care to my own unique rhythm has ultimately been such a gratifying experience.
I didn’t get to go to my high school prom. It took me eight years to finish undergrad. I can’t hold down a nine-to-five job.
Instead, I spent my high school years learning how much my life meant to me, and what I was willing to do to keep it.
In college, I learned to care for my body and anticipate when my symptoms would come back. Now, I’m learning to hustle working from home so that I can balance my physical health and financial well-being.
The more I talk to people about my experiences, the more I realize that I am not alone. If you’re reading this, you’re not alone.