A visual of me at my worst.
I spent around 97% of each day either hunched over squinting at a computer screen, or laying in bed. The other 3% of my day was spent walking my dog around a local park wearing clothing that did not make sense with the weather outside, but ensured my neglected, pale, sun-deprived, ashy, hairy body was covered. This was usually 3-day old pajamas with no bra, sometimes covered by an old and stained UC Berkeley sweatshirt, and Ugg’s, on a day when it was 80 degrees outside.
I would walk briskly with my eyes glued to the concrete, hoping that no one would initiate eye contact with me, sweating profusely while wondering why I had zero motivation or energy to present myself better to the world.
My oily, unwashed hair would begin in a messy top bun, but near the end of the walk, would fall to a loose low bun due to stretched out hair ties I didn’t bother to replace. My husband named this phenomenon “alien head.”
After my walk, it was back to my swamp creature posture in my dimly lit living room to finish out the day glued to a screen with minimal human interaction.
Brushing my teeth and showering were reserved only for situations when I was around other people. I went days without looking in the mirror. Once I did, I was typically shocked with my grown out eyebrows and mustache hair, and even more shocked that it had been so long since I looked at myself. When I ran my fingers through my hair, I found thick scales of seborrheic dermatitis that were glued to my snowing scalp. Dark brown circles and eczema lined my eyes. My lips were dry, crusted, cracked, peeling, and often bleeding.
I ate mainly carbohydrates, sugars, and binged on pleasure foods like chips, chocolate, and ice cream regularly, usually late at night, alone, and in large amounts. I was ravenously hungry all of the time and no matter what I ate, I never felt satisfied. I always wanted more. I would gulp down sizeable amounts of water to ‘bring me current’ when I felt consciously behind on water consumption or parched to actual dehydration.
My feet and lower legs would swell and turn purple or red without warning. When I attempted to walk or exercise, my heart would race, and I would become paranoid, nauseous, and could focus only on speeding back home to ‘safety’ as quickly as possible. This feeling would also sometimes oddly arise when I was sedentary and switching bodily positions, such as going from laying down to sitting up or turning over in bed.
I would get lightheaded upon standing.
I would wake up in the morning and dry heave.
Brain fog was so thick that I was convinced I was developing some sort of mental disability.
The fatigue was overwhelming and turned my muscles, joints, blood, and bones into what felt like thick sludge while my mind remained revved up and wired.
It took a tremendous amount of energy to just exist.
I had erratic bowel movements with days of seemingly endless diarrhea preceded by cramps that left me in the fetal position on the ground, and days of constipation where I was so bloated and inflamed that I looked 5-months pregnant.
I would randomly jolt awake in the middle of the night with sudden nausea, run to the bathroom, and dry heave into the trash can while going diarrhea. Not some of my favorite moments. I would crawl on my hands and knees to and from the bathroom because I felt too weak to stand.
I was unable to shower for more than a few seconds because my heart would race and pound.
I would randomly freeze. I got internally cold and nothing could warm me up. Not even a piping hot bath. (It’s a bizarre feeling when you’re internally freezing while sitting in a steaming body of water and can’t warm up.)
In the days leading up to my period, I would get a fever, body aches, chills, night sweats, tender breasts, lots of nausea, and felt completely out of control in my mind. When I got my period, my cramps stopped me in my tracks.
I was hypervigilant at night. I would feel pins and needles throughout my arms and torso while trying to sleep. They became so uncomfortable that I was unable to lay down or sit still.
I had horrific trapezius pain that would shoot up through my skull and eyes that made my entire head feel like it was on fire and being crushed at the same time.
I experienced hypnagogic jerks, false awakening loops, and night sweats which disturbed my sleep. I had nightmares where I would jolt awake to a racing heart and break out in a sweat.
I had chicken skin on my arms and acne covering my butt.
My breath smelled like fermenting garbage no matter how many times I flossed or brushed my teeth.
Leaving the house for any reason brought extreme fear, nausea, and dread.
I would get demonic (and at one time, they occurred daily) panic attacks where crippling symptoms (sensation of a melting chest and limbs, pounding heart, breathlessness, unable to mentally orient to reality) would swallow my body and make me feel like it was near death.
Most of these things greatly improved and/or resolved by changing my diet. Most notably, my panic attacks. I don’t have them anymore…at all. They were arguably one of my worst symptoms, and I endured one at least once per week. Sometimes, every few days.
With the exception of a few events that had a clear cause (likely related to high caffeine/low salt), I have been panic attack-free since January 2020, well over THREE YEARS.
I still remain dumbfounded and awe-struck by this, which is why I put such a huge emphasis on diet, especially salt. It is not the end-all/cure-all, but this fact alone, for me at least, is too significant to ignore.