Health and Wellness, Something to Share, The Chronic Illness Files

Why I keep a Health Journal and How it has Changed my Life

So, to kick this off I would like to give you some background information. I have several odd chronic illnesses: Dysautonomia/ POTS, Periodic Paralysis, Meniere’s Disease, Madelungs Deformity, Chronic Fatigue. Also, a list of more common issues like: Migraines, Asthma, Gluten Sensitivity, Lactose Intolerance, Digestive Issues, Arthritis, and others.

Most of my health issues have impacted my life one by one as I have grown older. I was born with Dysautonomia/ POTS (which is the ailment with the most symptoms) but didn’t know it until I was in my late teens / early twenties. 

Now please think of this: I was born with Dysautonomia. If you are not familiar with the disease it is a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. This affects how I digest food, move blood through my body, control body temperature (sweating or shivering), heart rhythm, how my brain processes (or doesn’t) information, breathing, vision disturbances, mood, pain, and more. Basically, my body is broken and I never knew it

I lived with these symptoms and never even realized there was a problem. I thought I was normal. I would see my pediatrician and ask why my legs would turn blue if I stood for too long. I was told it could be a circulatory issue and that I would grow out of it. Why am I having hot flashes at 12? Puberty. Why do I get dizzy when I stand up? You stood up too quickly. Why does my chest hurt? Asthma. Why is my heart beating so quickly during gym class? You’re out of shape. Why am I having migraines? Must be genetic. And so on and so on….

Okay, so I’m normal. Great!… Until it wasn’t. 

It wasn’t until I was graduating high school that my symptoms were too severe to simply explain away. My mom sat me down and started asking questions about symptoms, it was only through her reaction to what I was saying that I realized I wasn’t normal. In fact, I needed medical help. I went from doctor to doctor to doctor for years before I was diagnosed; and guess what? I am still being diagnosed with new issues to this day. I am surviving day by day and trying my best to recognize problems as they arise. 

That was a bit long, but my story is an important reminder to keep track and take charge of your health.  

Why I keep a Health Journal and How it has Changed my Life.

Now on to: why I keep a health journal and how it has changed my life.

I keep a health journal for several reasons:

  • It helps me to link related problems, that I otherwise may not have noticed.
    • I keep track of things I eat, stomach aches, and bowel movements. (Maybe too much info?) Anyways, it was through this log that I realized I was lactose intolerant. I always drank milk and never used to have a problem, but one day my stomach started aching. I logged what was happening, when, and what I was eating. Boom! I found my answer.
  • It is a visual way to see exactly what is happening and how often it happens.
    • I would always go to my neurologist and tell him that I had a migraine maybe twice a month. Then I started keeping track in my health journal how often I received a migraine and how long they would last. It was only then that I realized even though I was having migraines about twice a month, those migraines usually lasted four to six days. That’s twelve days of migraines when I would tell him ‘just a few’. My doctor can’t help what he doesn’t know about. 
  • Sometimes it becomes my advocate.
    • Sometimes I will come across a new doctor who doesn’t understand my conditions or how they relate to one another. I walk into a doctor’s office and discuss how I’m paralyzed. I know it’s a weird thing to comprehend, but come on. Don’t look at me as if I am crazy. Then all of the sudden I take out my trusty health tracker and show my symptom logs, and I quickly gain their interest. My health journal tells more about my symptoms than I can.
  • I am worth it.
    • I used to have people tell me to write down my symptoms. I would always think to myself ‘my health is spiraling out of control. I have school. I have a job. I clean my house. I take care of my cat. Enter some other excuse lame ___. I don’t have time to keep a log.’ If you have those same thoughts then knock it off. MAKE TIME FOR YOUR HEALTH BECAUSE YOU ARE WORTH IT. 

My journal has changed my life in so many ways. 

  • Logging what I ate helped me discover that I am lactose intolerant and gluten sensitive. 
  • Logging when I exercise helps guilt me into doing it more often.
  • Logging my migraines helped to get me on the right amount of medication.
  • Logging my sleep told me that I was getting too much, when I felt the opposite. 
  • Logging my heart rate lead me to an implant surgery.
  • Logging how often I had a bowel movement has kept me out of the hospital, because I now know when to take medical action. (Again, too much information.)
  • Logging multiple symptoms at the same time allowed me to see connections and get a proper diagnosis. 

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