What Am I Really Feeling?: The Thought Process of a Person Diagnosed with a Chronic Illness During a Global Pandemic
By Demi Ramos
All my life, if I was able to avoid visiting a doctor’s office, I would. It wasn’t like I was scared of sitting in the triage chair or getting my flu shot. I simply never wanted to go. It felt like a task since I always had to leave school or extracurricular activities to go to the doctor’s office.
In times of sickness or injury, I am not the one to reach out to a medical professional first. I do not even reach out to my family members. If I do not have a home remedy for it, as home remedies are very popular in my Latin household, I then go to the Internet. I analyze exactly what my body is feeling, type it into the white Google search bar, and hit enter. I hope to find the best suited solution for my sickness or injury. However, in December 2020, a Google search wasn’t enough.
Analyzing what my body was feeling, I first felt sudden and sharp pains in my lower abdomen in November 2020. During this time, I was in my first semester of my sophomore year. At first, I thought my menstrual cycle was beginning. When I realized that wasn’t the case, I simply pushed it off and thought it was a “going-and-coming” kind of thing. I would just have some Advil and hope for the best. Unfortunately, that did not help me either. Alone in my college dorm room, as my roommate relocated during the first week of classes, I would curl up on my bed and hope for the pain to go away. Luckily, all of my classes were online and I could afford to lay in bed and find relief from this confusing pain.
One night, I was out with one of my friends and all of a sudden, I was met with this exact pain. It was a stabbing kind of pain, which then became a dull throb. It resulted in me wincing and not being able to speak through the pain for about a minute. This was the first time that I had experienced the pain in front of somebody. I later explained to the person, that person being my best friend, that I was going through this for quite some time. It was “normal” to me, but not to her. She reminded me that pain isn’t normal. Pain is not something you should be accustomed to. I tried explaining it, but I couldn’t. She then motivated me to seek some medical attention. While her voice rang clear in my head, it wasn’t until January 2021 that I actually took these steps.
I was given antibiotics, a referral for an ultrasound, and more confusion when I first saw a doctor. The doctor told me that I might have an ovarian cyst, but getting the ultrasound would allow a clearer and more accurate view of what was going on. Turns out, I had an ovarian cyst. I was then prescribed birth control, and told to watch for any differences in my pain level. How was I supposed to pay attention to these differences if I only had three Mind, Body, and Spirit Days to attempt to take a break and really understand what I was really feeling? To no avail, I did not find any relief. Instead, I actually began to miss class and work during the Spring 2021 semester. It was during these times, that the pain would become so bad, that I would not even be able to walk or eat. I didn’t know what to do. I became extremely reliant on heating pads, healing crystals, and music to help me remain calm and level headed until I got more medical and professional opinions.
I kept taking all precautions in regards to COVID-19, and that was extremely difficult. I kept away from public spaces. I stood in my room, drinking hot tea, taking vitamin after vitamin, and disinfecting everything I touched. Once all of that was done, I had to tend to my classes once again, fully online semester. Once classes were handled, I was too exhausted to tend to my condition. Luckily, my best friend was also my suitemate, and she helped me through it all. While she had her own things to worry about, she still managed to squeeze in time to help me.
After months and months and months of going back and forth with receptionists, doctors, and medical specialists, I finally received a diagnosis. No ultrasound, hysteroscopy, or MRI was able to pick up on the fact that I had Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome (CPPS). It was July 2021. I was working two jobs to pay for the following school year. I was, and still am, on bad terms with my father. I was simply trying to live the life of a nineteen year old, but this diagnosis did not make that feel possible. Instead, I felt like my life came to a halt. Chronic meant that there was no cure. Chronic meant that I would be living with this pain for the rest of my life. Chronic meant that I had to rearrange my life to this condition. I had to rearrange my life all during a global pandemic. How was I supposed to do that?
I am still struggling to rearrange my life with this condition, as I am still working two jobs, taking five classes, and am trying to be a twenty year old student. My life now consists of pelvic floor physical therapy, Preleif tablets, and even more heating pads.
In the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester, I informed all of my professors and employers of my condition. I have been lucky enough to receive such grace from them, as they understand how hard it is for me to function when I am experiencing my pain. I am lucky to have access to healthcare. I am currently finding online groups, pain tracking mobile apps, and so much more that is helping me feel supported in this condition. I am lucky to have an amazing best friend still by my side.
While a home remedy is something that I might always run to first, I must remember that the medical field is there for a reason. I must remember that Vicks Vapor Rub and apple-orange-cinnamon-celery-nutmeg teas can’t fix everything.