How my kidney problem affects my life
In amongst all of the joy of having three lovely girls, of home educating and of planning for our round the world trip, are some darker moments and times where life just doesn’t seem to be playing ball. Something I have struggled with for over half of my life is a chronic fluctuating illness that affects my kidneys and stops them processing hormones correctly in order for them to work. When it flares up it makes me lethargic, affects my sleep (I can’t sleep at night but by morning find it hard to get out of bed) and I get stomach upsets and lose my appetite. Obviously with these symptoms I often don’t feel like socialising, so with it comes isolation which doesn’t help. Thankfully there are some terrific medications that help my kidneys process the chemicals in the right way so that they can function at a normal level, and when I take them I just feel like everyone else who doesn’t have a kidney issue.
Except that I lied, just then. Except that it’s not actually my kidneys but my brain that doesn’t process chemicals properly, and that this is the reason why I have trouble sleeping, regulating my energy levels and appetite.
It’s called Depression.
One of the things that I wish more than anything is that this damned illness would be renamed. Hypo-serotonin syndrome, for example, as it is an issue with processing seratonin that creates the symptoms that I suffer from. Depression just sounds like sadness. Don’t get me wrong, if your brain sludged along like a wounded slug pushing through tar, you would probably be sad too. But one of the symptoms of depression that I have found the most unnerving is the lack of ability to feel anything.
I remember being 15. I had already been depressed for years, with an eating disorder to boot. My mum had taken me shopping to try and cheer me up, which of course worked in the same way that offering someone with diabetes a new pair of shoes to cure them of diabetes worked. She was doing her best, bless her, and one of my worst nightmares is that I have to deal with my kids the way she had to with me. Anyway, we came out of the shopping centre and it started to rain, heavily. Everyone started to walk fast and then broke into a run to get to shelter as it got heavier. I distinctly remember my mum trying to get me to run and offering me an umbrella, and the thought that popped into my head. It was ‘I don’t know why people are bothered about getting wet. It’s just a different version of dry.’
That was probably the first time that I became aware of how numb I was; how little emotion I could muster.
Since then it has been over a decade and thankfully I’ve been lucky enough to recover, with a lot of hard work and support and, frankly, drugs.
“But can’t you just think more positively?”
“Like, don’t be depressed, look at all the positive thing, everything you have. And then you won’t be depressed.”
Shut the f- You diabetic?”
“You know anyone who is?”
“Yeah, my uncle.”
“He take insulin?”
“Well how about he just stop taking it and think more positively?”
“Oh, well-” punch in the face.
Society is still recovering, painfully slowly, from millennia of ignorance about mental illness. Here are some things that you might think about mental illness that are TOTAL RUBBISH:
1. Certain types of people get mental illness, like weak people. People who can’t look on the bright side. People who were born a bit weird. Dramatic people. Mainly girls.
2. You either have mental illness or you don’t, you can’t have it for a bit and then recover, or be completely healthy and then get sick. Once you have it that’s it, you’re destined to live some kind of half-life while you manage your issues.
3. Behaviour stemming from mental health issues such as self harm is for attention and the person isn’t ill (let’s get this damn straight- if someone is cutting into their own body to get someone to notice, that is the illness).
4. People with mental health issues are always sad. (I’m one of the most content, happy people I know. When I have a flare up of Depression it doesn’t usually make me sad; it will take a long time grinding me down with physical symptoms before I get frustrated enough to be sad. What does make me sad is when I go through a bad patch and don’t feel I can talk to anyone about it because of the stigma and the sense that if I tell someone about it, they will forever think I’m just a little bit weak).
I’ve also found exercise and a good diet really helpful, as well as a solid church family and friends. I think that those basic building blocks of life are under estimated when it comes to recovery, and they are something I would advise some suffering from mental illness to try and seek out.
I hope this helps someone. I will probably post a lot more about mental health as it is such as essential topic to discuss and raise awareness about. Please reach out to us via our email firstname.lastname@example.org or @adventuretravelfamily to share your experiences and advice for others. Xx
Travel journalists, home educating our lovely brood of 3 girls. Planning a year-long RTW trip late Summer 2017.