Toxic People

It could be your co-worker, a childhood friend, your mother, or your husband. But at least with your mother and your husband, you’re willing to bend a little to make things work. Toxic people are hard to avoid. That bully you remember in junior high, that blind date that was high on cocaine and drove like a maniac, or that angry boss that curses at you.

Having an auto-immune disease however, puts things in perspective. You realize that you hate feeling sick and whatever you can do to prevent feeling sick, you’ll do it. you realize early on that your disease puts you at a new vulnerable level. you can no longer tolerate that angry boss just because you have to. In doing so, you will have more flares and increase the destruction of your body at a faster rate. You simply can’t “afford” to have him as a boss. And so you leave your job in hopes of finding better surroundings. You realize early on that the friends you had all these years may not even put up with your disease and they might leave you or you might leave them because they are too shallow and consumed with themselves to even care. As time goes on, your group of friends becomes less and less and you avoid stress whenever possible. You learn to make new friends, based on personality only. Are they sweet? Are they kind? If they are, you stick to them like glue and hope that they stick around when you go through a rough patch because you might not come out of your cave for some time.

(due to privacy, I have made a few modifications)

Years ago, I had a co-worker, that over time, I grew to know. In the past, she had rubbed me the wrong way. She made days, weeks even, feel like poison. I am a sensitive person with a sarcastic personality but her personality made me feel raw, like I was chewed up and spit out. On her bad days, she would wear her emotions on her sleeve and if you approached her, you would feel her anger penetrate your soul. I learned to tread lightly and not approach her for any reason, unless she was in a good mood. Sometimes I was wrong, and I’d regret having walked into her office to grab something I needed. When I was near her, I felt fear.

Over the years I have learned to put things in perspective, and find the sympathy within myself to realize that we’re all human.  I wasn’t raised how she was raised, and I was born with my personality while she was born with hers.  I realized that though she would bite, there was not much that I could do. She cried easily. Her life was hard and I felt for her. Eventually I learned her cues on when to talk to her, what to say and when to say it. It was as if I was a dog and she had trained me, without realizing, to feed her so she wouldn’t bite.

Eventually she changed.  Maybe she saw a psychologist, maybe her life became easier, either way, life on my end became easier. The change was apparent to me. She was happier. Just like she wore her anger on her sleeve, she wore her happiness on her sleeve as well. And it was on those days that I felt like maybe she could be a friend. I stopped fearing her and started calling her on long walks on the weekends to see how she was doing. Talks turned into long conversations and soon I had completely forgotten that I had ever been afraid of her.

Until one day.  I had been invited to a party at her house. I considered inviting a sweet friend of mine, but I thought twice. I wasn’t sure why I hesitated in asking my friend to join me. Was it because we were still new friends? Was it because her English wasn’t as good as it could be, which made conversations more of a challenge? No. it was none of those reasons. I realized it was because I didn’t want to worry about her. She is sweet and I didn’t want to worry about her feelings. After all, I had my own feelings to worry about.

Honestly though, I hadn’t put two and two together. When I arrived, I was a little surprised that there weren’t that many people. Perhaps the long drive had kept people away. That’s what I rationalized. But there was a part of me that wondered if it were something else.

I thanked her for inviting me over.  I’m guessing she was two sheets to the wind and had become her raunchy, rancid self, which will exclaim profanity, become loud and scary, and flippantly say things that she won’t regret but will leave other people bothered for years. This can be fun if you’re in her corner, like you’re on a live comedic show. But if you’re not, you better prepare yourself for the mind twisting lashings up ahead. Or perhaps I was being too sensitive?

She told her husband, who is subservient by nature, “when you’re a guest at someone’s house, you bring something.” But it was said in a way, if you can imagine, in a harsh, loud, and angry tone, for all to hear. She is the type of person who will say she is joking but yet, there is truth to every joke. I felt like that dog again, cow-towing to her every demand, giving her the reins to be boss, being subservient and putting up with her less than humorous jokes. I had in fact, asked what to bring, which maybe she had forgotten.  Her response on the phone was, “we have so much food and drink, please don’t bring anything!”  It was as if she was the bully in the schoolyard again. Whether it was a joke or not, I immediately turned red and felt like a child, fearful of the bully near me and letting her have her way. I lost my appetite and no longer wanted any food, or anything for that matter. I realized that even though we had come so far as friends in the past months, that her behavior, whether correct or not, made me feel stressed and fearful. She was toxic and I could no longer really be her friend. Maybe her behavior was totally fine for other people, but that didn’t matter. What mattered most was how it made me feel. I have a disease, a very serious disease, and I could no longer afford to feel stress because a person made me feel embarrassed, subservient and upset. At least, not if I didn’t have to.

When I had a chance, I confronted her and she acted as if she had no idea that she had even rubbed me the wrong way. I asked her if she was upset with me.  Her reaction of course was not kind. She got angry and loud enough that others could hear if they were listening and said, “I am sorry you are so sensitive. I am sorry you aren’t having a good time.” And she laughed at the fact that I had been upset ever since her comment. I realized there was no getting through to her so I had few choices. One choice was to make a scene and leave. Well, I wouldn’t make a scene but she would…. Or I could suck it up and try to get us to a place where at least we were getting along. And so I told her, “I’m not upset. I just thought you were upset at me. I was embarrassed.” It was a partial truth so that I could make it through the rest of the night. She told me she wasn’t upset at me and we let it go…or at least, I made it seem like I let it go. In truth, I didn’t let it go. I decided right then and there that I had been mistaken about our friendship. For better or worse, my personality couldn’t handle her personality. Perhaps in the past, I could have handled her harsh sarcasm and almost bi-polar mood swings. But my new self, my protective, ace-bandage wearing, pill taking, supplement researcher, professional, artist self, could not handle her personality in the long-term.

Will I be kind to her or people like her? yes. Will I always tip-toe around people like her? yes. Will I do my best to avoid people like her? yes. Life is too short. I’d rather have the sweetest, kindest, friendliest people around me or none at all. If I were strong and healthy, perhaps I would try my best to work through this. But I’m not. I simply can’t afford to have toxic people in my life.

What’s Making You Sick?

Obviously if you’ve come to my site, you probably have an autoimmune disease or know someone that does.   Your body is working against you.  So not only is your body making you sick, but perhaps your medications give you side effects or constant popping of supplements has you feeling ill.  Or could there be something else going on that you don’t realize, in addition to these things?

I want to tell you a story about a recent experience of mine.  I joined a clinical trial because I don’t have health insurance, and I was interested in getting some blood tests for free.

I was of course disappointed when I found out I wouldn’t be paid and the drive was quite far.  I would lose a little bit of work here and there, and even more importantly,sleep.  Still, I rationalized at the first visit that if I had the real deal and not the placebo, it would be worth the drive. The tests and the pill would add up to a lot of money, so why not give it a shot?

When I got the pill, I rushed to my car and even though I know you’re not suppose to break open the capsule, I did. I eagerly wanted to know…did I have the placebo or the real thing? It was a bright orangy yellow and it tasted, from what I could remember, like turmeric. I was ecstatic! I believed I had received the real thing!

I began taking the pill as described… 2 pills twice a day for one week, then 4 pills twice a day from thereafter.

My blood tests at initial visit showed that my CRP was within normal range. I still had substantial inflammation in my hands, but the doctor was surprised with my “normal” results.  My next visit however, about a month later, I was having more inflammation and my tests showed it, along with my joints. I chalked it off as being a “healing crises” and continued taking my pills, thinking they were going to soon give me great benefits.

About a month later, I went in again. This time I was doing much worse. Test results showed higher inflammation, hands were far worse and elbows and other joints, including my neck were starting to become painful and really stiff again, something I hadn’t had in years. If you don’t know what this feels like, it feels exactly as you would imagine waking up from a bad car accident would feel like.  Instead of waking up in the hospital bed, with hovering nurses and family, you’re waking up in your own bed, turning off your alarm clock and forcing yourself through the disability and pain to get through your day.  Your neck feels like whiplash, your hands and wrists won’t bend and it hurts to be touched.  Driving is dangerous and near impossible but you do it anyway.

The doctor told me I could come off the pill if I wanted…he hated seeing me suffer. He said the other guy asked if there was prednisone in the pill because he was feeling so good. But since I’ve taken lots and lots of supplements and experienced the “healing crises” first hand from many of them, I decided, “the worse the flare, the better the pill”. I explained to the doctor what had happened to me on other pills that ended up working out and that I had hoped turmeric wouldn’t do that to me, but since it is, maybe I’m not on the placebo and I’ll be reaping benefits here soon. He seemed surprised and sent me on my way. Secretly I was thinking, “wow, how can he not know about the healing crises?” And I felt FOR SURE that I MUST be on the real thing!

But then things got worse…. I missed an entire week of work. yep, seriously, I did. And I continued taking those stupid pills. I kept thinking, “i’m really going to feel great any time now.” But I didn’t. I got night sweats, aches and pains, extreme fatigue… I was at an all time low, one I hadn’t been at since the beginning of my RA, or at least not for some time. I improved my diet, took more pills of the supplements that I knew worked and felt confused why I wasn’t getting better.

Finally it occurred to me, “maybe I’m not on the real pill.” I came home one evening, made a plate of one teaspoon of real turmeric on one side, and the pill’s contents on the other. My husband and I did a look and taste test. The colors were different for sure. And the taste…. turmeric has a very distinctive taste. The powder from the pill however in comparison, I realized, tasted like flour, maybe???? but definitely not the turmeric on the other side. Nope, compared to that, it didn’t have a taste. My mind must have deceived me when I tried it before! I had been so hopeful!  I just stupidly thought that they wouldn’t go to so much trouble and make a powder that looks and tastes like turmeric. Well they did, I was wrong, although the taste in comparison, ISN’T the same, now that I realize.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find out all the ingredients that were in the placebo pill.  But for sure, I had been taking yellow #5 and yellow#6, as well as potato starch.  I am assuming the main ingredient was probably flour.

The day after I stopped taking the pills I started to feel better.  Recovery has been slow but consistent.  It’s completely apparent to me, that my intake of 8 pills a day of possibly flour and food coloring was the big culprit of my wild, almost four month flare.  Since then, I have been trying to eat very cleanly, no processed foods, trying to get my system back to normal again.  Luckily I am feeling fairly good again, but I really did learn a valuable lesson. That lesson is, my body doesn’t have “allergic reactions.”  Instead, over time, it reacts by an increase of inflammation, damaging tissues, organs, and joints.  As a result of this experience, I am far more aware than I ever was, that processed foods and food colorings are a big no-no.  Sure, they are extremely hard to avoid on a daily basis, and I have slipped up a little.  But in general, I am eating a very clean and organic diet and I’m hoping in time my body will continue to improve.

So ask yourself, what are you eating that might be fueling your fire?  Perhaps it’s time to try avoiding it for at least two weeks, which should be enough time to feel the difference.  And let all of us know what increases your inflammation, because we’d all like to know!  :)

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