Living with Multiple Health Conditions
One condition, two conditions, three conditions, four...
Some health conditions are easier to live with than others. I have spent most of my life battling one chronic ailment or another.
I face a variety of health issues including endometriosis, chronic migraine, fibromyalgia, HIV, and some mental health issues.
Conditions I've been diagnosed with
My struggle with endometriosis has been ongoing since 2004. I started experiencing chronic migraines in 2009. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2013, after ignoring all the signs and symptoms for a long time.
My HIV diagnosis did not occur until the end of 2017, although the doctors assume I contracted the virus around 2010. My lung damage and tachycardia also occurred at the end of 2017 due to a severe case of pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP). PCP is an opportunistic infection related to HIV/AIDS.
Since learning of my HIV diagnosis, I have been dealing with an assortment of mental health issues as well.
I have been dealing with endometriosis since I was incredibly young. The endless procedures and medications that I have been through to manage endometriosis could be a book of its own. I ended up having a hysterectomy. That gave me two years of no endometriosis-related issues.
Treatment with hormone replacement therapy
About half a year after that, I started trying to manage the recurrence of the endometriosis. After many struggles, we have managed to find a hormone replacement therapy option that helps deal with my reoccurring endometriosis.
At first, everyone assumed my chronic migraines were due to stress since I was finishing two bachelor’s degrees and working. Unfortunately, the daily migraines did not stop after I graduated.
While no doctors could determine what was causing my migraines, we did try treatment after treatment for them. I have never been able to determine how to prevent my migraines.
In my article "HIV and Chronic Migraine", I presented information about headaches and HIV. Despite what research suggested, my migraines did not go away or drastically decrease as my HIV became controlled. My viral load is undetectable and my CD4 count is at 500 (which is huge considering where I started). Yet, I still have frequent migraines.
I could have received my fibromyalgia diagnosis at least a year sooner. I put it off because I felt overwhelmed with endometriosis and chronic migraines. The migraines took up so much of my energy that I did not want another health condition.
I eventually had to recognize the pain signals that my body was sending me for what they were and seek official help. Learning to balance my fibromyalgia took a lot of listening closely to my body and understanding what would be too much to handle.
My HIV was diagnosed in a very traumatic way since the PCP pneumonia is what pointed the doctors in the right direction.
I started my battle with HIV/AIDS with a CD4 count of just 5. While I may still struggle to come to terms with my diagnosis, I am doing what I need to in order to properly take care of myself. I force myself to eat because I know how quickly I can lose weight. I make sure to take my medicine daily and to keep my doctor and lab appointments.
Depression and anxiety
I likely had some quiet mental health issues hiding out in the corners of my mind prior to my HIV diagnosis. They came out loud and proud after the trauma of receiving my PCP and HIV diagnoses.
Dealing with my depression and anxiety was a serious battle daily. Being able to talk to somebody about the stuck points that my brain formulated has helped so much. To this day, I still see my therapist and work out some of my brain’s quirks.
How I keep fighting on
In order to keep fighting forward, I have many medications on hand. Overall, I have 17 prescriptions that I manage daily. Only 1 is to specifically treat my HIV.
In addition to this, 2 are for my fibromyalgia, 4 are for my mental health, 3 specifically deal with my migraines, 1 for heartburn, 1 is a hormone, 1 manages my tachycardia, 1 is taken as needed for sleep, while 2 are taken as needed for pain.
And, let us not forget my inhaler. I also have KT tape to help support my joint when they are being extra bothersome.
Working with mental health professionals
I also see a psychologist that helps me work on my PTSD using cognitive processing therapy. I see a psychiatrist to work on what medications we need to assist in my healing process.
In order to keep my health under control, I work with a variety of doctors and invest my time in keeping myself healthy. It can be a lot, but staying healthy is worth it.
How often does someone offer you unsolicited advice on your health?