Why would this happen? How could I get worse while getting treatment?
Years ago when I started this blog, every time I had a symptom flare-up, I’d ask myself these questions over and over again sure that if I thought about them hard enough it would all make sense.
Unfortunately, when you have an illness which science has only recently begun to understand, you rarely get the satisfaction of knowing why you’ve gotten sick and what exactly will work to get you better. Sure, well-established, proven guidelines for diagnosing and treating PANS exist (though they didn’t when I started), but all too often, I relapsed without knowing why and had no objective test to prove how sick I was; I’d lose my entire personality, but the autoimmune markers you might expect in someone suffering from brain inflammation never showed up.
After eight years of a mysterious illness no one could figure out, one July morning in 2014, a neurologist finally cracked the code: I had PANS.My body was attacking part of my brain, leading to all sorts of bizarre symptoms.
But at the same time that she shed a light onto my case, the new diagnosis plunged my whole family into a darkness we couldn’t have imagined.
Yes, we had an answer, but we’d also just opened a pandora’s box of questions without knowing it.
As I opened my eyes to the morning sunlight peeking through my blinds, for a feel blissful seconds, I forgot the many reasons I shouldn’t feel as calm as I did in that moment.But not a minute later, it all came rushing back, and my stomach did a somersault.
I’ll never forget the day I first set foot in a Lyme clinic, as I watched other patients with pale, exhausted faces roll into the waiting room in wheelchairs. I’d just finished another semester of college and a ten-mile run that weekend. I remember thinking, I can’t possibly be sick enough to have Lyme Disease. What am I doing here?
At the time, I was in a downwards spiral, falling apart and losing my mind. My doctors were baffled and running out of treatment options, and I was threatening to take my life. But then, my family figured out I had PANDAS/PANS. Thus began a three-year fight to regain everything my illness had so suddenly stolen from me.
The other day, while filling out forms for an appointment, I froze, as I came upon the medical history section. How could I even begin to explain it all? Moreover, how could I fit everything on two little lines?
Last week, as I climbed into bed and turned out the lights, I experienced something very strange: I realized I was looking forward to my tomorrow. In that moment, it struck me that after ten years of PANS, I couldn’t recall the last time I was truly excited about waking up for another day.
Anorexia nervosa: two words that hold an unspeakable amount of pain and torment; an illness that takes over your mind and ravages your body; a disease that kills 5% of its victims; a nightmare that ruins your life; a condition that might happen to other people, but not to me… Until it did.