memia anemia

For all the work I’ve done to accept my body as it is, and to try to treat myself with kindness, it’s tough not to internalize and feel guilty when my body isn’t operating at its best.

Pumping iron

I noticed I was feeling really run down during my last trip. Actually, if I think about it, I’ve been feeling kind of run down for a while. It’s little stuff; feeling lightheaded if I bend over to pick up something off the floor, feeling dizzy if I stand up too fast, lack of stamina for exercise longer than 10-15 minutes at a stretch, and sleeping ’til 9:30 am and *still* feeling like I could take a nap at lunch.

But…I’m fat. If I’m lightheaded, if my heart is racing, if I’m tired, it’s easy to fall back on the standard explanation: “I’m just really out of shape. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d feel better.” (Ouch, right?)

Then a colleague and I took a short walk (less than half a mile) around downtown Nassau, and I thought I was going to be sick from exertion; my heart rate was in the 150’s after climbing a relatively small hill. I had to stop to rest multiple times.

I blamed it on the heat and a full stomach, but that explanation didn’t sit well with me. I pride myself on being able to keep up with my colleagues, despite my size. Lisbon was all stairs, for example, and I made it up some pretty epic flights without feeling like I was going to puke.

The Paleness

When I got home, I mentioned these episodes to Tim, and he pointed out that I’ve had issues with anemia in the past (I even take a daily iron supplement). Maybe I should get my blood checked?

Insert light bulb moment.

Yep, it’s iron deficiency anemia (IDA), and it’s kicking my ass. My hemoglobin is half what it should be (I’m .2 points shy of requiring a blood transfusion), and basically everything related to red blood cell production is low. I started iron infusion therapy this week, and I’m told it will probably be a couple weeks before I start to feel better.

Hindsight being what it is, I see all sorts of red flags now. I’m incredibly pale, my fingernails are curving up at the edges, and I have the olfactory equivalent of pica — I crave strong chemical smells (I have a bottle of camphor essential oil that I sniff every once in a while to take the edge off). IDA is pretty bizarre!

But I was quick to blame myself as my symptoms escalated, even though it was clear to a third party that I needed medical help. Is that something born out of my touch-and-go relationship to my body, or is that just the kind of thing we humans do to make sense of the chaos?

It’s probably both. In any case, I’m hopeful a couple rounds of IV iron will help me feel better soon. In the meantime, I’ll be working from the couch and catching up on all the TV I missed when I was mobile. Shrill on Hulu is my new favorite thing.