An Anemic Year

Financially, 2018 was a huge success, but physically? It was a huge challenge. I have chronic illness and health conditions that are difficult to manage on a good day, but then a new one decided to join in: Iron Deficiency Anemia.

During the first few months of the year I became more and more tired and by April, I could barely get out of bed. I thought I was experiencing a major depressive episode and I couldn’t figure out why. Not that there is always a clear reason when you have bipolar disorder as to why you are having a depression, but usually my thoughts would be darker, but over all, other than the miserable exhaustion, I was my optimistic self. But as the months dragged on, I started to actually become depressed. (There is a huge lesson here I think regarding physical influencing mental and perhaps vice versa. Ponder this.)

What was the point of living if I couldn’t get out of bed. If I was letting everyone down all the time? I didn’t leave the house because I felt in a daze and unsafe driving. I told myself I was a terrible dog mom. My thoughts were spiraling and I finally thought: there is something majorly wrong here. I went to my PCP and told her I was depressed, having suicidal thoughts, and weirdest of all: I felt like I couldn’t breathe – no matter how much albuterol I took! I cried through the office visit, and I closed my eyes against the great waves of shame I felt.

I asked if we could run blood work – just to be sure – before accepting I was having an episode of depression. This just shows me: I knew something was wrong enough to ask for the blood work. I am slowly learning to trust myself. ::pats self on back::

In April the labs came back showing I was severely anemic with virtually no stored iron and blood cells shrunken and malformed. With this information it was perfectly clear why I couldn’t breathe and had no energy. Why gathering laundry and putting it in the wash left me wheezing. Why I had about an hour a day to do anything productive before the exhaustion left me dizzy and bed bound. My red blood cells were starving for oxygen!

I was referred out to a hematologist who could not get me in for two months. I spent hours doing online research and ate an iron rich diet. Unfortunately, I could not tolerate iron supplements for multiple reasons despite my best efforts.

And lastly, I had my IUD removed. It was the only thing that changed in regards to prescription or health in the last year and I discovered through research that a rare side effect is microscopic chronic bleeding – so small you would not even see evidence of it – but happening every moment of every day for months on end.

Despite the removal and healthy eating for nearly 2 months, my labs had not improved, but worsened right before my first appointment with the hematologist! Ye gads! After an incredibly thorough first appointment we began a cycle that would continue for the rest of 2018.

Each cycle of infusions has a 4 month maturation process. 3 weeks of infusions and 3 months for your blood to fully “turn over” and determine if your red blood cells have improved/changed shape. It looks like this:

  • Weekly iron infusions for three weeks.
Blogging while infusing.
  • Daily Prenatal Vitamin. I was able to tolerate these well and while nowhere near the iron of an iron supplement, more than a regular multivitamin. Tastes rather floral too.
  • Labs in 12 weeks to see where we were at.

The first cycle did show marginal improvement. I was still extraordinarily tired, but was no longer losing my breath as easily and the brain fog lifted. I was now able to drive, but lacked stamina. Another cycle began – only this time we were doubling the prenatal vitamin.

Voting while infusing.

Unfortunately, all this laying about and hardly moving triggered a preexisting back problem. Six years ago I was in a car accident that has caused lasting problems on a back already damaged by birth defects and early onset arthritis. BAH.

So my back decided it hated me. I couldn’t stand for more than 2 minutes without pain and spent most of my life laying flat or standing in a squat position. I started stretching, doing massages, and yoga, and they all helped a little, but after three months of pain and inability to get anything done I finally went to a chiropractor. Miracle worker y’all. Three visits and I was 75% improved, and the rest came with time and increased movement.

And here we are to today! The beginning of a new year without back pain, and I just discovered: no longer anemic! My hemoglobin looks great, and while my iron stores leave a lot to be desired, they are finally creeping up. I feel good though. I’m exercising on the regular and I’m keeping up the double prenatals and we will retest in six months barring incident.

We still don’t know what caused the anemia. Was it the IUD? He doesn’t seem to be sure. It shouldn’t have taken nearly 8 months, 6 infusions, and 360 prenatal vitamins to get me to where I am if it was, but as long as it stays away, and the energy stays up I AM HAPPY. 2018 was an interesting year. Full of so many wonderful accomplishments that happened during difficult and painful times. Bitter and sweet, eh?

I’m ready to move on to a joyous and energetic new year filled with new goals and announcements coming soon! I’m so glad to have you with me, and that we can put this anemic year behind us. GO 2019, WOO!



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