“But you Look Fine”

"But you look Fine" meme

Boy does this meme relate to a lot of people. I am sharing it because it relates to me too. For a long-time I thought I was presenting a normal human and going through all of my texts, emails and loads of papers over the last 3-4 years I see the progressively declining health, both mental and physical. It is a lot to process.

I have become more of an introvert and have been ghosting people who mean a lot to me because I am not always sure how I will be and for how long. I will admit I am struggling and after seeing how bad it has been I am trying to not only process all of that, I am also trying to work on my physical and mental health. When I make a mistake and am an emotional hot mess, I see this now and am deeply embarrassed. I cannot bear to hurt people and it reinforces my desire to be alone.

It took about 6-weeks of doxycycline and hydroxychloroquine to see the first lifting of symptoms. When you improve, you have hope and being bullheaded, I try harder and more. The problem is that it makes me worse. There is no pattern and for someone obsessed with pattern and pushing myself mentally and physically this has been absolutely brutal. Add trauma responses to what Q-fever did with the added bonus of the fall in October I am surprised I am functional at all).

While I can be articulate, back of the house I have to reread what I wrote and take notes on verbal communications. To use a food safety saying, “If it isn’t written down, it did not happen.” I can go for a 2-3km hike and comment on plants and wildlife, but I take a lot of photos to remember what we saw and sometimes it takes 1-2 hours for me to have blurred vision, cannot stand when my eyes are closed, tinnitus, and overwhelming fatigue for a 20-minutes to 2-days. This varies and I can be fine or there is another mix of symptoms. I cannot predict anything.

I have had improvements monthly. Physical therapist called them benchmarks. I can turn the light off in my bedroom at night and not immediately lose my ability to stand. I can do my vestibular exercises and when I close my eyes, not fall over. I may just have blurred vision, but I am not a shaking mess when I leave.

The things that have helped are the medicines I am on and walking on hiking trails and logging roads alone doing my exercises. It is quiet, kind of dark because tree canopy, I can focus on bird sounds when my mind races and it calms me. The sound of the water (especially when rocky shore or a steam/brook going over stones) helps me focus on something other than my body or the racing thoughts.

I am starting to reach out to people. I am not doing it well, but I am learning and trying to be better about communicating where I am. I am also triggered a lot because I am physically overreacting to things – comments, a photo I just saw, making a mistake because of a physical or brain misfunction, an intense conversation, someone asking me to hold their emotions during a hard thing like I used to gladly, a demand for something out of my control, or grief.

One step at a time. I will get there.

Chronic Q-Fever

The diagnosis came in March 2022. I almost didn’t go to the appointment. It was made a couple months before and like many things now, I forgot about it. I thought the vertigo, nausea, cognitive issues and all were post-concussive syndrome (with the torn labrum) from the fall in October. Insurance covered it and why not go?

I am very glad I did go. I am glad I saw the Dr in Infectious Disease that I did see.

While the fall did leave an impact on my brain health and my hip it was something, many somethings, that were really doing a number on me. I faintly remembered it from pathology and general animal science classes. It is on a list of zoonosis you can get drinking raw milk. Many doctors remember it from similar courses a long time ago and never had someone come to them *with* Q-fever. Veterinarians never suspected that is what my problems were with the cattle and goats after spending a fortune to find out what was going on.

Like PTSD, I could not go for normal straight up Q-fever (acute). That could have gone away on its own without showing symptoms. I may have thought I had a bad cold, flu or COVID. No, I had to have chronic Q-Fever. I am glad it did not do anything to my heart. Men tend to have it settle there, wreaking havoc. I wasn’t jaundiced. I do count those blessings.

The symptoms you get are very patient specific with ranges from mildly disrupted to cannot function at all. For me, this fun little bacterium (Coxiella brunettii) affected my vestibular and cognative functioning.

I did have periodic bouts of high fevers, mad headaches, muscle weakness, absolute fear of falling (it was winter, I was alone in a barn where it could be dark), exhaustion, vertigo, confusion, groggy slow brain, forgetful (often froze hose when watering), stomach discomfort, etc. I had a few of those symptoms or all of them on and off since at least 2019.

I got it from cattle and goats. Most likely came from a group of cattle from TN to a farm I was renting in VT or from the cattle in VT that my landlord kept bringing (illegally) from NY. The cattle I had this winter totally have it. I had been dealing with symptoms of this for years. I have paid thousands of dollars for vets here to misdiagnose. I miss the VT and NY vets they knew the head from the arse end of a goat unlike some here. Treatment for them is not super hopeful.

I am on Doxycyclin and Hydroxycloroquine for the next two years and maybe more. I went from a prefer no meds thank you, maybe a Tylenol for pain only to having a pill organizer. I went from working 5:45am to 11pm on the regular to if I do too much, I am physically a hot mess for a day to a week. Fun trying to find where that sweet spot when there is no pattern and by nature I physically bull through to get things done.

As I go through records, papers, texts and messages, emails, just everything I am in shock. These bacteria if left to go without treatment can kill. For me, it destroyed a lot of things greater than my physical and mental health. Q-fever was my brick wall.

Therapy yesterday struck me. I get frustrated easily when I cannot do things mentally or physically like I used to. Anxiety can go from 3-30 in seconds. It is a PTSD trigger for sure. The thing is that I never stopped to think about the idea that I am grieving for how I used to be able to think before. Healing from brain truama (physical) can be a long slow process, just like healing from mental trauma (past physical and emotional pain).

Even therapy for cPTSD is about giving space to grieve. I have never been good about death. I only recently started to parse out what feelings are again and put emotional and impulse responses to what those mean. I don’t think I fully understand how to process all of this (arms and hands waving about suggesting all the things!!).

Writing and art are my only outlets… and pushing it too much physically and mentally while I try to recover. I don’t have my old ways of processing trauma. My old daily rhythms are gone.