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I had felt sick for a whole week. The feeling of nausea had me running to and from the bathroom at home and college. At first, I put it down to a sickness bug. I thought to myself, I’ll get better soon. Eat ginger biscuits and sip water.
I remember the exact day it started. It was a Saturday and my dad, little sister and I went shopping. In the car, I was groaning, I felt beyond sick. I didn’t go shopping in the end, I stayed in the car facetiming my boyfriend as I was scared of being alone. The next week passed and at 1am on a Sunday night, I thought I was dying. I had a panic attack and what I call an ‘acid attack’ at the same time. I remember being best friends with the bathroom sink, I cuddled the basin, refusing to let it leave my arms. I called my Dad telling him to take me to hospital, I couldn’t do this anymore. We went to the hospital behind my house and it was shut. 111 was busy for 1am. I went back home and I led in bed, sobbing into my teddy.
The next morning my dad called 111 and said how I felt sick, I had cramps, I couldn’t breathe right, my chest was hurting. They said for us to wait and be called back in 2 hours. 3, almost 4 hours went by and this is when the next ‘acid attack struck.’ We called again and they said go to hospital. So we went back to a local hospital and they sent me to A&E. And that's when I knew it was something bad.
We drove to A&E and I waited about half an hour to be seen. I was hovering over, clutching my belly and sipping water as if it was my last ever drink and I was trying to make it last. I had my temperature taken, blood pressure taken and then finally I saw the nurse. She asked me a bunch of questions - “Are you pregnant?” “Do you smoke?” “Do you drink?” I said no to all them and she asked me about my diet and my mental health. I said I have been depressed the last few years and I’ve suffered with anxiety my whole life. I said how I went through a breakup, how my contraceptive pill made me depressed. I talked about my diet, how I live for Italian food, how I love spicy foods and my true love for a Chicken Korma.
She then diagnosed me with Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD for short. She prescribed me Omeprazole, a capsule that helps to reduce the amount of stomach acid I produce.
At last, I knew what was wrong with me. She told me to rest, eat bland foods, drink plenty of water and to not get stressed. Sounds easy right? Wrong. With the addition of my mental health issues in the rearview mirror, I had a gut feeling that it wouldn’t be an easy recovery.
Having to say goodbye to my favourite foods such as curry, lasagna even pizza was upsetting. A life of toast, banana and rice awaited me.
I told my mum (who looks after old people and knows her stuff about nursing,) and for the first time in my life, I heard the words ‘chronic illness” be associated with me. But I didn’t look ill. I didn’t have any outside symptoms. I looked like a healthy teenager. And that is when it hit me. Not every illness is visible.
I told myself I would get better soon but 9 months later, I’m still here with this chronic illness. I do work to get better, I get counselling, I eat right the majority of the time (you try saying bye to chicken wings), but not much change yet.
And that is the story of finding out I was ill.