So, now that I can actually sit down without the fear of throwing up for the first time in about a week (keeping the fingers crossed on that one), I wanted to explain to you all where I’ve been. For a while now I’ve been having blood tests. I’ve had about three or four rounds since I returned to Newcastle in September- the last ones on Monday being urgent with same day results.
It’s a very long story as to how I managed to get my blood cells (the doctors speculate) into their current mess. We’re talking a good five or so years. But lets begin at the beginning: before returning to Newcastle I had some tests on my Vitamin D levels, due to my bones making an irritating clicking noise when I was doing double leg lifts in Pilates, and then when I was running, doing yoga etc…Turned out I did have low Vitamin D levels, and I was put on a three month course of tablets. But something else came up: My white blood cells and platelets had dropped slightly. Not enough to be concerning- just enough to indicate a possible virus- but still, it warranted a repeat blood test.
The results of that test came in when I was at Newcastle again: my white blood cells and platelets had dropped further, to worryingly low levels. For the two days I had to wait for more tests I was warned that there was the possibility I had liver damage, or, less likely but more seriously, leukaemia. One more test and they had plummeted- but I was clear of both the above, thank god. My white blood cells and platelets resembled (resemble I guess) those of someone with malnutrition. Which anyone who follows my IG will know is one thing I am not suffering from. My doctor however, doesn’t follow my IG. And on my notes detail that I did have minor issues with binge eating, and that rapid weight loss has caused me to develop amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle), going on six years now. At this point you may have realised that I was already in the gym every week attempting to build muscle, and eating as much as physically possible in an attempt to gain weight. After arguing with the doctor (and not to my credit, being extremely defensive) that I did not have anything wrong psychologically concerning my food or health (indeed, in the past month I had actually started to develop what was probably one of the most positive relationships I’d ever had with my body image), she asked me to step onto the scales. I expected some weight gain (smugly), but my weight had fallen to 47kg, leaving me in the underweight category. Having linked together the only possible cause on paper with my blood cell counts, I was told that what I was doing wasn’t enough. I needed to eat more.
Queue almost two weeks of trying to cram in 2500kcal every day. I lost my interest in food, I felt sick constantly, I was never hungry. I was also tired. I had been tired for nearly a month now, but try as I could I couldn’t shake it: no amount of early nights, lie ins, chill days, meditation, yoga, and skipped social events could lift it. My skin was breaking out due to this and the increase in Kcal firing up my hormones again, I had under eye bags, and at the end of last week my gym performance (which had been coming on in leaps and bounds- I can now do proper push ups) was non-existent. I had to cut my session short and head home. I was still pushing through work, uni, and general every day living like nobody’s business, determined that being a little tired wasn’t going to stop me. If it meant coffee every day, so be it. And eating so much in such a short space of time (I have only one month to gain weight before I see the doctor again, and I wanted to do it healthily- which was a slight conflict in interests) meant my body was constantly having to work.
That Friday I came home and went to bed early. I was developing a cold but I have the constitution of an ox- I knew I would be fine. But I’d forgotten my white blood cells were practically none existent, and so I couldn’t fight infection too well. On Saturday morning before work I found blood spots under the skin on my arm, and remembered that the doctor had warned me to come back if I did. It’s a sign that the clotting factors in the blood aren’t behaving themselves. I also felt a little queasy. But I went into work, not wanting to let anyone down. By Saturday night my head was pounding, Sunday night I wasn’t sleeping and my throat was on fire, and Monday I stopped eating. I made a doctor’s appointment and this doctor was lovely. In the back of my mind I was certain that they had missed something, and I had leukaemia. Which lead to me bawling my eyes out in the doctor’s room, which as someone who cries only when they drop food, was pretty much the most embarrassing thing that could have happened. Having ravaged the entire surgeries supply of tissues (still had the cold guys), the doctor promised me I didn’t, and sent off urgent blood tests. She also wrote me a sick note, and told me to just focus on getting better. My tests came back to show a slight upping in white blood cells (probably as the little buggers were deciding to try and do something to fight off my cold now), but another drop in platelets. I had gained 3lbs as well, which was wonderful- but should have correlated with an increase in both cells. I have also probably dropped those lbs this week as well, which is a bit of a bummer. So, more repeat blood tests are to come, and I will probably end up in a haematologist’s office in the coming weeks. Which isn’t exactly how I pictured my second year of uni going…
But back to being ill. Since Monday I have probably eaten just enough to feed a toddler. Any none of it has been particularly photogenic. I have moaned down the phone to my mum, told three of my closest friends what’s going on (though there are a few more I want to tell it’s not something I want to do via texting, because it means bringing in all of the stuff that landed my cells in this mess), and been forced to miss uni, the gym, and work.
I tried to speed up the process because I have discovered I am a highly impatient person: on Tuesday I managed to eat a grand total of two shredded wheat, one banana, and a pitta bread. Definitely getting better- think I’ll have some yoghurt. No one ever told me yoghurt and sickness don’t mix. Spent Tuesday night lying on the floor of the bathroom cursing my existence. Wednesday morning I was determined to get to uni for creative writing. It took me one hour to brush my teeth and put a t-shirt on back to front, before I finally accepted I wasn’t going anywhere. Not eating can make you dizzy, and so I’ve spent the majority of my time crawling from the sofa to the bathroom. I only told closest friend no.3, my flatmate, what was going on yesterday morning. I have been a creature that resembles a bear with a sore head for the past month or so, and once I’d told her she remarked “I knew something was up”. But then instead of the expected “You dozy cow, why didn’t you say something?!” I got: “I was really worried about you.”. And she managed to talk some sense into me. And I stopped trying to make escape attempts to drag myself to uni/work. She said to think of it as “Forced Me Time”. I said I couldn’t let work down- my mum is up next weekend and I already have time off then. She said what was more important: my health, or waitressing? I said I couldn’t miss any more uni or work and that I was missing the gym. She said it was better to be completely certain I was well again before I go back to any of them, or in the long run I would make myself worse, and end up back where I am now. I said I was missing Mockingjay Part 2. She said we would go when I was better. Which was great advice, expected as she’s a medic. But she was also hungover. In all seriousness, I am trying to make this a light-hearted read for you guys, but this past week has been a huge threat to my health. My body was not equipped to deal with getting ill, both technically on an immunity level, and also due to the fact I’d driven myself into the ground for the past month or more- egged on by coffee whispering “you’ll be fine!”. And I began to realise just what a dangerous game I had been playing. This could have been so much nastier than it currently is.
So What Now?
Well, for now I need a few days to get my body back into some form of working order. A lot of sleep, some food that may not be kale and unicorn endorsed super-food salads, but that is healthy enough, and rest. Something my body has been neglected of lately.
The odd thing is, I am grateful for this past week or so. Because it’s forced me to finally realise a few things:
- Acknowledge that I am not superwoman, and I need time off. I need to stop saying I can do things for others when I can barely do things for me. I need to stop saying I’ll do things for me, and then not doing them.
- It is okay for my body to properly rest. To not go to the gym for it’s usual 3-4 workouts, to just be. Yes, I feel like a blob because I haven’t even been able to go for a walk, but I need to get my body back into peak condition first, and not just a half hearted excuse leaving a trail of used tissues and paracetamol foils.
- It’s okay for me to eat food that isn’t technically all that balanced, but that my body needs. Because my body is telling me I need the salt and sugar., and I’ve learnt over the years to listen to it. I’m actually craving chicken, having not been able to stomach meat in over 9 months. Last night was the first almost-meal I’ve eaten since Sunday, and it was half a chicken breast with wholemeal noodles and ketchup. And although for an hour my stomach thought about bringing it back up- it stayed down. Other than that I’ve been living off of shredded wheat and bananas, both of which I never want to see again. Or at least for a long time.
- It is okay to trust others. I told two of my friends from uni what I was going through with doctors appointments (I didn’t have much of a choice, having turned up to a seminar with puffy just-been-trying-to-convince-a-doctor-I-don’t-need-a-psychologist eyes. One look and I knew it wouldn’t wash with them that I’d fallen asleep with contacts in), and they have been fabulous. Along with my mum I would probably say they have been my rock over the past few weeks. And I may not text them 24/7 with my problems, but it’s good to know I could. One of my oldest friends lives with me, and I wish I’d told her sooner- because as a medic she actually gives awesome sick day advice to someone who has no idea how to deal with being sick- having not been so in a long time.
- Slow progress is better than no progress. Now I know I’ve gained 3lb in a decent space of time I feel like I can take it a little easier. I cant go back to eating as much as I was as my stomach has already pinged back a little. The next few weeks I’ll be taking it slow: still aiming to build up muscle and gain weight, but at a pace that doesn’t leave me feeling like crap. In terms of workouts, eating, and life in general. And also in getting over my virus.
There you have it, where I’ve been the past week. Today I may try and take a walk to the end of the road and back, y’know really go wild. But these next few days are about little steps, and that’s something no one should ever feel bad about taking. For me it’s frustrating, but perhaps this is meant to teach me some patience. And that I should pay more attention to my health outside of food and exercise. Or maybe just that you should never eat yoghurt when you have a dodgy stomach.