Parenting is a rollercoaster ride for everyone. Parenting with a chronic illness is a rollercoaster ride without a seat belt. I feel like I am hanging on for dear life most of the time.
My chronic pain began soon after I gave birth to my second set of twins. Yes, you read that right, my second set of twins. I had pushed my mind and body way too far. I was newly postpartum with twins, and already parenting two-year-old twins, a five-year-old, and a teenager. I got to a point where just walking around the house was painful. All of my joints ached. My toenails became extremely painful and began to flake off. I started getting flare ups in my fingers and toes. For the majority of my day, my body was inflamed.
At first, I suspected that my newly placed copper IUD was to blame. I called my midwife and got it removed. The inflammation did not get better—in fact, it got worse. I reflected back on my childhood and noted that I have always had pesky scalp psoriasis. It was unsightly but not uncomfortable or problematic. After consulting “Dr. Google,” I realized that I had all the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis. I visited a rheumatologist and she confirmed my suspicions.
My journey with battling my chronic illness and pain pretty much started at this juncture. A few years after the diagnosis, I started having extreme pain and bleeding while menstruating. I was eventually diagnosed with adenomyosis, which has caused me to become anemic. Adenomyosis is another disorder that is inflammatory in nature. My body was on fire.
As a parent to a shit-ton of kids, I am never not doing. I am constantly cleaning, cooking, driving, and wiping someone’s nose or butt. The demands of my large family do not give me the time or space to be ill. When I was suffering, I felt a tremendous amount of guilt and resentment of my role as a mother. I was always cranky with my kids and would often disassociate, due to the chronic pain. I didn’t like who I had become. I was living in a place of victimhood. The “why me” martyr narrative ran through my head, constantly. I was in denial of my diagnosis and the fact that I would be dealing with chronic illness the rest of my life.
I eventually got to a point where I couldn’t even lift my toddler. The arthritis had affected my spine and was causing a tremendous amount of pain and limiting my mobility. To not be able to pick up my youngest child was heartbreaking. The experience inspired me to become more proactive in healing my mind and body. I decided I no longer wanted to live in victimhood.
I realized that I couldn’t be an effective parent unless I began nurturing myself first. I understood that I had been choosing to be a victim, and I no longer wanted to feed that mindset. I was determined to be a survivor who could thrive and heal. I also learned that healing is more about the journey and not solely the destination. Through support from a wellness coach, I was able to overhaul my approach and target the inflammation and pain with herbs, nutrition, exercise, productivity, and mindfulness.
I am improving, feeling better. I have more energy and less pain. I like who I am now. I still have bad days, but my mindset has changed. I no longer resent being a parent. I have developed strategies, like teaching my kids to be self-sufficient on days where my body hurts too much to get out of bed. I am teaching them what it looks like to care for your mind and body.
Thankfully, I have a way better grip on that parenting rollercoaster ride now!