The sun was shining the day the doctor made me officially chronic. I had walked into his office a couple months earlier with a sound self-diagnosis made with the expert assistance of WebMD.com and my sister: Depression. It was a good self-DX and explained the months of increasing fatigue and brain fog that had resulted in the loss of most of my writing contracts and general confusion and anger in my household. After all, when a person's mental faculties go missing for a couple months, people start to wonder why.
So there I was, proclaiming myself depressed and holding out my hand for Prozac or some similar instant relief pill, ready to medicate myself back to normalcy. I left the office with my prescription, but only after leaving a bucket of blood over at the lab.
"Take the pills and rest as much as you can for the next few weeks. Stay in bed most of the time," the good doctor said. Yeah, right.... stay in bed in November. But as it turned out, staying in bed was about all I felt like doing. I took my little pills and I slept. As the month wore on, the depression I was so sure I was e xperiencing lifted, and the fatigue deepened. And a nagging sort of fingernails-on-a-chalkboard feeling had settled into my shoulders and scalp.
"You may need another antidepressant," my sister counselled. "Sometimes it takes months to find the right one for you."
Early in December I walked back into the good doctor's office and informed him that I was no longer depressed, matter of fact my mood was downright jolly. But my body was sicker than ever.
"Well, that's because you have Lupus," he said. He smiled. We laughed a bit. Woo hoo, hehe. Lupus. What a relief! The diagnosis -- which changed slightly in later months -- explained a lot, including the horrible itching in my lower back and arms. Not to worry, he said, take this little pill and this little pill and you'll be fine. I'll send you to the rheumatologist and he'll tell you what you need to do and everything will be fine."
It all seemed so simple. When I told my husband over lunch that I had Lupus, he was relieved. I was relieved. The dark cloud of the past few months lifted. We had a name for the reason I was falling asleep every time I sat down. I had pills to take, a specialist to see. Life would be normal again in just a few weeks.
I won't bore you with the details -- yet (smirk). Just know this: that was December 2002. Today is August 23, 2007 and the only way I can call my life "normal" is because the definition of that word has changed in my household.
So I'm chronic. And if you've read this far you may be chronic too. Maybe we can ride this beast together for a little while. Check back here for more posts. I'll try to write every day or so. But you guys -- you chronic lifers -- know how it is. When you're chronic, all promises and plans come with a disclaimer: "Promises will be kept, plans will be carried out, chronic condition permitting."
See you tomorrow. Life permitting.