Tag Archives: illness

Beneath the surface: Maryville resident fights through pain to live joyfully

By Jacki Wood, Nodaway News Leader

“Look beneath the surface; let not the several quality of a thing nor its worth escape thee” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 167 AD

Karin Yarnell doesn’t have the energy to play with her kids. Or do house projects. Or be involved with her church or help others or spend time with friends.

All of which was a big part of her life just a few short years ago.

“I used to be extremely active,” the 40-year-old Maryville resident said. “I loved to play sports, work out, hike, swim, bike and run.”

Now, she does none of those things.

To look at her, though, nothing seems wrong.

But beneath the surface, she lives her life in pain.

“I rarely have pain-free days,” she said. “I have learned to fight through pain as much as possible to be able to do what I love. Some days, though, the pain wins, and I go to bed.

“I reserve my best for my family and my ministry. After that, there isn’t much left.”

She and her husband Jason, who is the Baptist Student Union minister, have three children, Meghan, Caleb and Allison. She is a homemaker and also serves as a BSU mentor.

Diagnosed illnesses

Yarnell lives with what have been called invisible illnesses – chronic conditions not visible on the outside.

She was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2005 and Celiac disease in 2008.

With Hashimoto’s, her immune system attacks her thyroid and prevents it from making enough hormones.

Celiac disease is a digestive disorder that damages the small intestine and is triggered by eating foods containing gluten.

She was on thyroid medication for several years but her body started having hyperthyroid reaction to it and she was taken off it.

Then in 2012, she was also diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.

CFS affects many body systems making it difficult to do normal activities. Fibromyalgia includes long-term pain spread throughout the body in the joints, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues and is often linked to fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, depression and anxiety.

“I have been under the care of several doctors and functional practitioners throughout the years who have all provided me with great knowledge and have helped in various ways,” she said. “My treatment right now consists of a very strict diet, rest, managing stress, low exercise and managing symptoms with medication as they arise.”

Daily life

“Fatigue is the single most life-changing symptom I have,” Yarnell said. “I can manage pain. I can manage not feeling well, but the fatigue is relentless. It’s not a fatigue that goes away with sleep. It doesn’t go away with a nap. It’s always with me. It affects me every day.”

In addition to fatigue, she is extremely sensitive to gluten and has severe reactions to even a small amount of cross-contamination. She makes her own meals, doesn’t eat out and takes food with her wherever she goes.

“I try to set people at ease, but I know some feel uncomfortable when I can’t eat what they have prepared,” she said. “I never expect anyone to cater to my needs, but I know they still feel badly about it.”

Another symptom is brain fog which has affected her ability to communicate with others.

“I used to be a confident public speaker, but now I have difficulty stringing together coherent thoughts.”

She also can’t drive for long periods of time as her eyes grow weary and her whole system wants to go to sleep.

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Dedicated support

“My family is tremendously supportive,” she said. “My husband is phenomenal. He believes me and affirms me when I tell him how I feel even though I look fine on the outside. He prays for me. He encourages me to try new things that might help my symptoms. He adds extra work on himself so I don’t have to do it and he never complains.”

She said her children are incredibly supportive as well.

“They understand I can’t do the things I used to do. They make me laugh. They are understanding and sympathetic.”

Yarnell said her church recently started an encouragement group for women with chronic illness. It is open to the public and meets at 7:30 pm on the first Monday of the month at Laura Street Baptist Church.

“It is a blessing to be around others who understand how you feel,” she said. “I read a lot of blogs and talk to people online that share my symptoms. Sometimes it’s just nice to know you aren’t alone.”

  

Different view

One of the biggest lessons she’s learned is how to depend on God for everything.

“I need God every day,” she said. “He is my Friend, my Comfort, my Savior. I talk to Him a lot about the pain I am feeling. I know He knows and understands. He sees my struggle that is invisible to everyone else and He is there for me. He gives me joy, peace and contentment.”

She is also continuing to learn it’s okay to not do everything that is expected.

“The reality is that I can’t,” she said. “I have to choose to not feel guilty about it.”

Despite living with these illnesses, Yarnell offers encouragement and hope.

“It’s okay and important to grieve,” she said. “Cry over what is lost, but don’t quit.

“Be kind to yourself. You don’t have to do what everyone else does. You are fighting a battle others know nothing about. Don’t compare what you can do with what healthy people do.

“You can still be happy! It might take some extra work, and you might have to cut things out in order to give your best to what you find the most meaningful, but it’s worth it.”

Background information came from the National Institutes of Health at nih.gov.

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‘Even the darkest night will end’

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By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy” column for the Nodaway News Leader

My mental health has taken a beating over the last year or so.

I have a physical illness that has really been taking it to me, and as a result, affecting my mental health.

I’ve been battling this physical ailment for half of my life. The beginning years were difficult. The middle years were much more tolerable. And the last couple have been the worst.

What makes it even harder for me is I feel I’ve lived two completely opposite lives. The first very active, athletic, outgoing and involved. Now mostly inactive, reclusive and disinterested. There are times when I really miss that first life.

A couple of summers ago, I wrote about my illness, obesity and weight loss. I said at the time, it was the most important thing I’d ever written.

But this might be even more important than that. Now, just a couple of short years since then, I spend most of my time in bed, I’m overweight again and have slipped back into old habits as I struggle to function each day.

That’s when the mental health beating really reared its head. It’s hard to be productive or stay positive or even feel like a human being when you can’t get out of bed.

(Side note: I’ve tried a lot of different treatments. Some have worked for awhile. Some not at all. I frequently get suggestions from people. In fact, I just started something new. And while I appreciate everyone’s concern, that’s not what I’m seeking with this column).

I’ve wondered why this is the load I am burdened to carry and if I will be carrying it my entire life. I mean, why do some people get cancer and some don’t? And even further, why do some people beat cancer and some receive the same treatment and die?

After spending much of the last year contemplating these types of things and feeling sorry for myself, lonely, sad and even angry, I decided I needed to try something different.

For the month leading up to my 40th birthday this summer, I decided to do a #30DaysOfJoy challenge, looking for simple joys in my life and posting them on Facebook.

It was a mostly positive experience. I made some really great memories this summer despite the illness. And I was reminded how much my family cares about me. They’ve really stepped up and took on more responsibilities. They also listen when I need that and are just there when I don’t want to talk. They love me through my nonsense, negativity and annoyance of everything and everyone.

Some days, though, were a real challenge to find any joy at all. I mean, just getting on Facebook and seeing everyone else’s happy, perfect posts made me want to throw up or throw something at the wall. Even worse, I had some really dark days that I’m frankly embarrassed by. Which is really unfortunate, because when I’m at my best, I realize how blessed I am.

But… I’m not always at my best. I’m not always thinking clearly or logically with this illness.

This is not something most of us feel comfortable talking about. Our mental health, I mean. And yet if we would just have the courage to do so, I think we would be far better off.

After someone dies by suicide, people ask why. I think I understand it more now. They’re worn out, tired, exhausted. They want an end to the pain, the hurting, to whatever the problem is. I don’t think most people want to kill themselves. Or hurt those who care about them by doing so.

They just want it to end.

I’ve been there. Even as I write this, I’m in the throes of it all. I don’t want to die. But there are times when I want an end. I want the pain to end. I want my old life back.

And then I realize my old life didn’t include my husband. Or my children. Or the memories we’ve shared together. Or the experiences I’ve gained over the last 20 years that make me who I am and how I am able to write this.

If you’re there with me, if you are just so very tired of it all, don’t give in, don’t give up, don’t quit. No matter how bad it is, just keep trying, for one more day or for just one more moment even.

Get help. Seek professional help if you need to. Or find an outlet like I have through writing.

Talk to someone. A friend, a family member, someone who will listen or just be there. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1.800.273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org where you can chat online.

If that doesn’t work for you and if you have no one else you can to talk to, contact me.

I will listen.

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I’m not so good at the phone thing, but I text, email and message really well. My email is jackijwood@gmail.com and you can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/jacki.wood.

In Les Misérables, Victor Hugo wrote: “Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.”

That’s been true for me. After every single dark night I’ve ever had, the sun has always risen.

    National Suicide Prevention Week is September 7 to 13. To learn how you can help, visit sprc.org.suicide+prevention+lifeline+with+ribbon