Growing Up Sick

What You May Not Realize

Does anyone else hate it when you're sick and someone says something like, "Oh, it's not that bad, it's just a cold, stop complaining!" or anything along those lines? I do! Especially for someone like me who grew up being sick. What I mean by that is, from the time I was about 4-years-old I was in and out of hospitals and doctor's offices. First off, I was born prematurely. I was only 4 pounds when I was born. I can't say whether or not that had anything to do with my development growing up, but who knows? I just know that from around the age of 4 anytime I got even a little bit sick—i.e. a cough, a sneeze, a runny nose, it would almost always turn into a full-blown fever and a lot of visits to the doctor. I'll never forget when I was about 5 or 6, I was taken to the hospital for severe dehydration and they ended up having to put a tube down my throat and I remember getting a lot of IV's. It was a stomach virus gone horribly wrong. Throughout the years I would get those a lot and was hospitalized a lot. 

I know what you're thinking—"Why didn't you get tested?" or "Why didn't your parents take better care of you, like change your diet?" Believe me, my parents did everything they could for me. Secondly, they always did blood work on me and everything always came back normal. I was just a sick kid with a very weak immune system. My parents were always very afraid for me. I remember the time I just mentioned above, around 5- or 6-years-old being in the hospital with a stomach virus that caused such severe dehydration in me and seeing my parents sitting outside of my hospital room in the hallway because they weren't allowed in the room when the doctors were administering all these tubes and IV's in me, seeing my dad slumped over and my mom sitting next to him with her hands over her face, crying. They were scared for me. I think they knew that in the end I was going to be fine, but even so I was their only daughter and I'm sure the image for them was terrifying.

Today I am 25-years-old and this kind of stuff still happens to me. In fact, back in February, I was in the hospital for a severe stomach virus that had been going around because flu season this year was especially cruel to people and unfortunately I was caught in that crossfire. I was vomiting for three consecutive days. On top of this, I'm anemic so of course, with such low iron in my blood, the vomiting didn't help. My electrolytes were extremely low. Somehow I made it through that gruesome experience alive! 

But I want to get down to something that really bothers me about this. The comments and opinions of others who haven't experienced this kind of life. One time I had a very bad cold when I was at work and I felt like some dementor from Harry Potter had sucked all the life out of me! I was very lethargic and stuffy and just simply drained. As of course, everyone is when they have a bad cold. I had a low-grade fever and normally I would have stayed home in this kind of condition because my immune system is always compromised seemingly more severely than the average human being.

My manager made a comment to me that really got under my skin at the time. She said, "It's not that bad. I don't want to hear you complaining tomorrow. You're not dying." First off, it is MY body. Second, are you a doctor? You have no idea what could be going on with me. Absolutely no idea. How I feel is how I feel and that's the end of it. How YOU feel is how YOU feel! Don't let anyone invalidate that! No one knows better than you how YOU feel about something! Especially in regards to your own body!

And the last reason I write this somewhat brief blog is I know many people in my life who actually have auto-immune illnesses and it affects their daily lives. I have a very close friend who has fibromyalgia and she constantly struggles with that. There have been people in her life that thought she was being dramatic or complaining when in fact she had a much deeper issue going on that no one knew. I have another friend who has sickle cell anemia. She is in and out of hospitals for weeks sometimes. She's had people tell her, "You're not very social. You don't make time for me. We don't ever see you, etc." So, please, coming from someone like me who is constantly sick, just be considerate and sensitive to people's illnesses. You truly never know if there's a bigger issue underneath the surface of people. Maybe your friend really does just have a simple cold that will go away in a few days or a week or maybe he/she really is just tired from stress, etc. But also consider that maybe something else is going on that they're just trying to take care of the best way they can. Don't tell them how they feel if you are not their doctor or if you're not inside their body.

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Growing Up Sick
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