Two Days Away From Death: Addison's Disease

I have been sitting with what Brian said about my being somewhat robotic and emotionless when talking about my disease. Am I just so comfortable with Addison’s that the emotion has become moot? Or is it a defense mechanism? Don’t feel so I don’t hurt. Perhaps it is a combination of both. Sure I have cried about it, felt depressed and gone on some dark journeys but it’s not something I wallow in, like I said on the podcast, I am on borrowed time here and I’m not about to spend that time dwelling on the bad emotions surrounding my illness. I was sick, I got better, now I have shit to do.

One thing we didn’t discuss on the podcast was my lack of androgens. See, as a grown woman who has finished with the whole puberty thing androgens aren’t really necessary for me any more, but I could be medicated for androgens if I showed signs of low levels. When exploring this with my doctor he asked me how my confidence is. “Rock solid, doc!” Then he asked me about my libido and sex life. I shrugged. He told me if I feel like those “feelings” are low that I could go on a dosage of androgens, but some side effects include developing a deeper voice and probably growing a beard. Excuse me? Beard?! I figure if anything is going to compromise my sex life I’ll take the decreased libido over growing a fucking beard. I already have enough of an issue with my dainty lady mustache, thank you. Pffft, “beard”.

FUN ADDISON’S FACT - People with Addison’s retain potassium and potassium is a key player in muscle contractions. There are times when I eat too much potassium everything in my body is tight, muscles are cramping and I worry my heart will cease up. Avocados are filled with potassium so I have to limit myself when it comes to guacamole, which, if you’ve had my sister Rose’s stellar guac, you’d know how challenging that is. Her guac is so good that I buy avocados two to three days prior to her coming to town to ensure they are ripe for her arrival but then can only eat like one tablespoon a day! Sucks to suck.

ANOTHER FUN ADDISON’S FACT - People with Addison’s crave salty and sour flavours. I remember before I was diagnosed I would find myself standing in my pantry licking seasoning salt out of my palm wondering what the fuck I was doing but also not stopping. Or buying so many jars of pickles at the grocery store I could hardly carry them all home, contemplating jettisoning some of my other groceries on the sidewalk in order to be able to transport my precious pickle bounty home.

But to get serious now, Addison’s has widened my perspective of what health encompasses. All of your physical systems could be working perfectly but you can still have health problems. Sure your heart is beating but maybe your spirit is broken. Do you feel connected to your community? Is there an emotional support network available to you? Health goes beyond the functioning of the meat of your body. We have all seen someone in the throws of a breakup, they look fine on the outside, tears yes but no bleeding, no broken bones and we all know they are destroyed internally. Emotional pain is as real as a broken leg. Same goes for mental illness. We can’t see these wounds and illnesses but we have to acknowledge that they exist and respect the fact they need to be treated with care. If people walked around holding signs saying “I have anxiety” or “my mother is dying” we could gauge when to lay off, when to provide support, take a guess as to why someone is out of sorts. Go easy on those around you and ask them what they want/need. When you interact with people take a moment to think about what they might be carrying. Would you expect someone with a newly broken leg to climb a mountain? Maybe don’t expect your recently dumped friend to be gung-ho about weddings, or the war vet to be a fan of fireworks. People will often tell you how to care for them so listen up, caring about the people around you is how you build community, it’s how you form emotional support networks and bonds and will contribute to their health and yours.

Late on a Friday night I walked into a living room to record a podcast with three strangers, we sat and had a conversation taking us on a journey that much to my surprise bonded us together. Within an hour I discovered three majestic beasts had been tucked into a special space in my heart. To Brian, Jeremie and Taylor I extend to you my sincere love and deep gratitude. I am endlessly pleased to have met you, to know you and to keep you. You give voice to unique worlds that surround us and I will forever be cheering you on.

- Fiona