Autoimmune disease: How to have Sjögren’s, sort of, kind of…

Dry eyes, joint pain and hypothyroidism, all point to Sjogren’s. That’s what I thought I had until very recently when I did not test positive for all the initial tests for this. Not entirely sure what autoimmune disease it is, but I will find out. Whatever it is, how can your body starts attacking itself?

Welcome to my pity party. A few months ago, I just thought I had GERD and LPR, a frustrating silent reflux condition where acid comes up from your stomach, not just to your oesophagus but your throat, that sneaky monster. It can cause throat damage and a whole host of nasty things. Now the blame: I think growing up when mostly everyone I knew (kids!) had perfect health, I was told of my family’s tendency towards heart disease and I somehow felt that I could escape it all if I kept fit. At 12. Everyone is fit at 12. I was convinced that I would stay this way forever more. It’s so immature but no one corrected this logic. Anyway, fast forward to being an “adult” and responsible for my own snacks and food. I was a vegetarian in name only, where I had nothing whatsoever to do with broccoli and its friends, but just had cheese, pasta and lots cakes and pastries. When you’re young, you can eat all those things and not see much of a difference. Not so after your 30’s.

Cue hypothyroidism earlier this year. Night sweats, lethargy and weight gain. Finally a wonderful doctor finally realized that hypothyroidism might be affecting my ability to conceive another child. I was prescribed medication to regulate it. So far, so good. After a few months, I decided to go and see an endocrinologist, just to check that there was nothing more I needed to do. After I started describing a few of my symptoms, including the dry eyes, they mentioned the possibility of Sjogren’s. I had never even heard of it and to be honest it’s the first time I took autoimmune diseases seriously and did some reading. Anyway, since testing negative for it, I have decided to just try and deal with the symptoms and get as healthy and fit as I can, before I try and establish exactly what is affecting me. It is mentally frightening to know that a whole barrage of horrible symptoms can hit you at any time but so many people are dealing with this. I may do some more invasive tests, including a friendly-sounding lip biopsy, but later down the line, once I’ve got myself more healthy.

First things first, diet. I have a pretty poor diet for an adult, and for some bizarre reason am very good at buying and preparing vegetables but then make everyone else eat them, whilst filling myself with bread, cakes and pastries and lots of cheese. Well, no more. Hello, broccoli. I am going to love you, or at least try. Does anyone really love broccoli?

Exercise: exercise has been part of my life off and on, more solo running or swimming than anything else, but I need to fully commit to incorporating strength training and proper cardio where I actually push myself and improve week by week. I’m lucky enough to go to an awesome gym so I should be able to do this if I stick to a schedule.

Dry eyes: I was getting so good at whipping out my water-based eye drops and (almost) expertly putting them in my eyes without a mirror. Unfortunately, whatever my underlying condition is, it has ramped up an awful lot lately, meaning glasses are the only option and contact lens are for “special occasions only.” After being bullied as a kid for huge thick glasses, this has been a really good experience to conquer that fear and realize that glasses are just glasses and lots of people wear them.

So here I am, with most of the adult world out there, grappling with the fact that life and health are fragile and that it’s all about taking care of the body and mind you have and not getting stuck in a swamp of envy and bitterness and regret about what everyone else has. Let’s go be an adult!

I want to chronicle my adventures in the weird and wonderful city of Seattle, including learning to be a data scientist, and other fun things: books, films, food and fashion.


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