Although my sacroiliac joint dysfunction is the worst of my physical afflictions, various other pieces complete the puzzle of my chronic pain and general physical suffering.
Since childhood, I have struggled with my health. From middleschool up through college I would go through episodic periods of illness, followed by months or years of seemingly perfect health. As I child, I mostly struggled with severe stomach pain that was eventually diagnosed as gastroparesis. My stomach basically does not digest food as quickly as it should, and for me, this manifested in severe pain and nausea.
I went through bad flares of gastroparesis in middle school, highschool, and college, and several times my diagnosis was confirmed through a gastric emptying scan. I think my doctors kept wanting to confirm because gastroparesis is not often found in young individuals unless diabetes is also present, which was not the case for me. During flares I would also struggle with fatigue and general feelings of unwellness, like I was constantly sick with a cold or flu. My GI specialist in college was extremely thorough, and he sent out for a variety of blood tests, including several autoimmune markers. This is the first time my blood work came back with an elevated ANA, which can indicate an autoimmune disease such as lupus. At the time, I was not having any associated symptoms besides my gastroparesis and fatigue, and all my other blood work came back normal, so my doctor concluded that I was a part of the small percentage of the healthy population who has this marker.
After a bad flare my junior year of college, I went for over a year and a half feeling in perfect health. Then out of nowhere, one day I became violently ill. I do not feel like going into all the gory details of this illness at the moment, because it brings back a lot of bad memories. But for about three years I was physically unable to hold down a job, live on my own, or barely function. This illness was never diagnosed, and it was only over a long period of time that I slowly began to feel more and more normal over the course of several years. During this time, the only clinical sign of anything wrong with my body was an off-the-charts elevated ANA; my ANA was tested several times, and a clear pattern was present in that the sicker I felt, the higher my ANA blood work came back. However, because this was the only blood test that came back positive, no diagnosis was made.
It was towards the end of this illness that my chiropractic injury occurred, and I sometimes wonder if my inability to heal from this injury is related to an underlying, undiagnosed autoimmune condition. Currently, my body has difficulty healing from other injuries as well, including a minor strain to my wrist that has persisted over the past few years.
My gastroparesis is fairly under control at present, as long as I follow certain dietary restrictions such as eating small meals and avoiding certain foods. At one point I completed an elimination diet, and I my stomach has felt remarkably better since cutting out wheat and eating a mostly plant-based diet. But, more on my diet later.
Right now, I am trying to piece together the puzzle of my symptoms. When new symptoms appear, I am constantly trying to figure out where they fit in the large-scale picture of my SIJD, gastroparesis, and possible autoimmune struggles. When I go to the doctor, every symptom is treated as a separate issue, and I keep thinking there must be some explanation that would make sense of everything at the same time. Unfortunately, I am absolutely terrible at puzzles in general, and this one is no exception.
Of course I want all of my symptoms to fit together into a nice, well-explained package, but I know that is not realistic. For now, I am still taking thing one day and one step at a time.