Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Learning to Love Yourself while Cushie

A new friend who is facing a Cushing's diagnosis lamented her recent attempt to find a swimsuit for her pregnant-looking Cushie body. She knew she didn't need to let changes to her body affect her image of herself, but it did. She knew she was using society's standards as the yardstick of her personal worth. She asked us for advice.

This topic has invaded the conversations of Cushies for my whole eight years and probably even before. The damage of high cortisol is pervasive, altering the total self --mind, body, and soul. With debilitating effects from a disease no one has heard of (except the vets in your life), the Cushie feels an unfair burden to be a good patient: positive, happy, and strong, not letting the disease change who you are.

Cushing's is insidious. It breaks you down on the inside and outside, and it never lets up. The disease itself prevents you from having the strength in body and mind to fight. Others simply don't understand.

High cortisol damages your muscles including your heart, steals your physical strength, and keeps you from doing daily chores that you never use to consider real activity in your days. Forget climbing stairs, getting up easily from a chair, or standing for five minutes. Cushing's says no to that.

High cortisol also gives you additional
diseases that specialists never consider are related to each other: acid reflux, diabetes, irritable bowels, broken bones, tooth problems, headaches, and unrelenting fatigue. Others do not understand how fatigue cloaks a Cushie in a cement blanket that eliminates any fun of celebrations, family gatherings, or simple trips to the market.

High cortisol affects your brain with anxiety, depression, memory lapses, and confusion. Cushing's makes you feel dumb.

High cortisol takes your ego and replaces it with "ugly symptoms" of unstoppable weight gain, excess hair where women shouldn't have it, red or purple stretch marks, acne, hair falling out, and that buffalo hump you notice when you put your hair in a ponytail.

With all this swirling in my mind, I answered my new friend. On New Years Eve 2013, bilateral adrenalectomy began my escape from high cortisol, after seven grueling years of fighting for a cure.

"This disease is awful. No doubt. Welcome to the days when you learn to love yourself for all that you are, not what you can do or what you look like. In the end, not caring what others think is a very good lesson Cushies learn, and while difficult, it is exactly what we need to learn."