Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Living With Anemia

I've had iron deficient anemia for almost four years now. The primary symptoms of my anemia have been fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, irritability, dizziness and lightheadedness. Although I can occassionally get my hemoglobin up to 12, a healthier red blood count, it usually records at a 9 and sometimes drops down to 7. A couple of times last year I was hospitalized because of an extremely low hemoglobin and required to stay overnight to see if I would need a transfusion.

Having been sick for such a long period of time has altered the way I live. I don't have the energy to do all the running around I once did, I can't seem to get motivated to attend anything unless it's absolutely necessary. My social life has been reduced down to nothing. Old friends and family members wonder why I don't call, or don't answer my voice messages. I have little tolerance for going out for a Sunday drive, or shopping just to look around. There's no extra energy to clean a big home, or work in the garden.

While this may sound awful to most people, I have to admit there have been some benefits that I'll be able to use when my health returns.

The number one benefit that I have learned from this illness is time efficiency. No longer do I waste a minute of my time doing things that aren't absolutely necessary. I have created systems in my life that allow me to function to the best of my ability to take the best care of myself.

Even though I have been sober for 16 years, its a necessity that I attend AA meetings on a regular basis for some peace of mind and to connect with other individuals who can understand my problem. This ongoing attendance insures that I can remain sober for another 16 plus years.

Using this as an example: I set my alarm for 6am for a 7am AA meeting. I have 30 minutes to get ready since I have to walk out my door at 6:30 am in order to be on time. Not being a morning person, I have a hard time thinking at that time of day. Its difficult to figure out what to wear, or to pack my gym bag at that time of day for the workout that will follow the meeting . I must eat or my blood sugar levels will drop and I won't be able to function properly.

Rather than having to run around in the morning, or having to get up earlier than 6am, I prepare my food the night before. I keep vegetables cut up in the fridge in case I don't have energy for those times when I need them, I put some onions and green peppers in a pan with some oil, add 3 egg whites and 1 whole egg, 1/4 cup of brown rice (large batch premade) and put together some scrambled eggs for the morning. I lay my clothes out for the meeting the night before or sometime the day before depending on when I have the most energy, and have my gym clothes already organized into an outfit because that's how I've folded them when I did laundry (ie. pants, shirt, jacket, bra, on top of pants, shirt, jacket, bra, etc.) I take a shower the night before and dry my hair sitting down. Sometimes I dry my hair in two spurts of energy so I don't wear myself out too much.

In the morning, I put the eggs in the microwave, and heat them up while I put on makeup. I get dressed in the clothes that are already laid out, grab my gym bag, eat my food and walk out the door. Honestly, there's not much more to it than that.

Other things I've done to accommodate this illness. . . I don't answer the phone unless I have the energy too. I don't take work calls after 5pm nor will I schedule work over the weekend. I underbook my schedule knowing that if I have added energy I can fit a couple of more errands in my day.

Of course, (doesn't it always work this way) my husband has the energy of two people. He plans things one on top of the other. He can't understand why I'd rather call to see when a business is open when you could just drive there, why fax when you can deliver and talk to someone in person, etc. While my schedule must seem crazy to him, his definitely seems crazy to me.

This Saturday I had planned on going to the 7 AA meeting, then over to the farmers market for our weeks groceries. If I have energy, I will go to the gym. To me this seems like plenty of activities to put into my day, knowing that I'll also have to prepare meals and whatever else I do on a daily basis. My husband, however, has plans to do all three of those things with me, and he wants us to go to a party at a friends in Lansing (about 1.5 hours away - think round trip). Later I find out that he made plans for one of our neighbors to come over to our new condo in the morning to discuss design plans for a restaurant.

How can I fit all this activity into one day? I can't. He'll need to call the neighbor and ask him to call me to schedule a meeting, and he'll most likely have to go to the party on his own.

Other areas that have been altered to help me function more efficiently. . . my makeup is laid out on a tray so I don't have to dig into a makeup bag to find things, all financial paperwork fits into three folders and stays together near my computer so I can pay bills, update my budget, and file it all at once. I do ALL of my banking on line and don't even have a checkbook. My cupboards are organized according to the amount of times I use things. I overstock or double stock food items, medications, and toiletries so that I don't have to run out to get something.

Having been ill for so long I've developed an incredibly efficient system for my use of time. Although I'm not looking forward to having surgery (total hysterectomy) next week to correct this problem, I am looking forward to having more energy, building up a social life again, getting back into business, and being able to do things I haven't been able to for the past 4 years.


JW said...

I just tagged you on my Blog.


Anonymous said...

I have the same problem and I can completely relate. I wish there was a support group for anemic people though, as the level of debilitation I am in is kind of invisible and everybody thinks I am well, and somewhow I dont manage to communicate how empty my tank is and how sick I feel! My bad, I need to learn to ask for help. Iam single and I have no husband nor family, so things like cleaning aroudn the house are all on me. I must admit I have had to let go of having clean floors. It takes me a whole afternoon to clean the kitchen floor these day and hours to recover after that.

I hope you are better after your hysterectomy

Many blessings