- I got an autoimmune disease at age 21, and didn’t take it seriously because I was in denial.
- Now at 28 and engaged to another chronically ill person, I have to start really investing in our health.
- I’m saving heavily for early retirement and emergencies, and I’m investing in preventive care.
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In early 2015, during my final semester of college, I started experiencing a strange, consistent pain in my hands. I thought it was weird, but I chalked it up to psychosomatic stress pain because I was very busy. I dealt with it by popping an Aleve every morning.
My symptoms rapidly got worse, until I woke up one day during my spring break in excruciating pain and could no longer get out of bed. Then, I finally acknowledged that something was very wrong. However, I thought that finishing school and continuing to work was more important than figuring it out. I limped across my graduation stage.
That summer, I was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis, which is under the umbrella of autoimmune diseases. Before I was put on an effective treatment, I couldn’t do even the simplest tasks like dressing myself, opening containers, and typing. I walked with a cane, and needed to use a shower chair when I washed myself because I couldn’t bend my knees.
It took me months to get back on track with some pretty heavy duty medications from a very helpful doctor. However, once I got my more serious symptoms under control, I went back to burning the candle at both ends.
In hindsight, I think I felt cheated and bitter about the fact that I had serious health limitations now that most of my peers didn’t have. I did everything in my power to pretend that I didn’t, and that I could live like any other typical, healthy twenty-something. So, I ate, drank, slept, worked, and partied like one. I blew off appointments with my rheumatologist and tested the limits of my meds. I wanted to pretend like it wasn’t a big deal, and that my illness was just an inconvenience.
Eventually, these choices accumulated and caught up with me, and I am sicker right now than I realistically needed to be at 28 years old.
Changing my attitude about my health
Whenever I’m not feeling well, I get a lot more calls and texts from my soon-to-be mother-in-law asking me extremely detailed questions that I don’t often have answers to.
Chaya is a warm, very outgoing Orthodox Jewish mother of four who dropped out of medical school after 3 years of study to care for her young …….