One of the big things that I have noticed about having an autoimmune disease is that I am constantly asking myself where my pain is coming from. Is this exhaustion a manifestation of my autoimmune disease, or am I just tired because I have had a lot going on for the past week? Is my headache and this feeling of my thoughts being in slow motion a symptom of my disease or just a regular headache? There are times when my autoimmune disease is clearly the culprit, but other times I wonder if I am making a big deal about my autoimmune disease when really I am just experiencing things that everyone experiences. If I had a dollar for every time that I have told someone not to worry about me because I wasn’t sick, it was just my autoimmune disease acting up, I would be pretty well off by now.
It seems like the longer you have an autoimmune disease the more ‘normal’ your symptoms feel. It is kind of like going ‘nose blind.’ After being exposed to a certain smell for a long period of time it is usual for people to report that they do not notice the smell anymore. The difference between autoimmune diseases and going nose blind is that instead of no longer noticing the symptoms of an autoimmune disease, sometimes people start to question where the symptoms are coming from, or consider the symptoms to be a normal part of life. There are some good things about this, if you consider that you are no longer experiencing shell shock on a regular basis, but this casual outlook is something that should also be kept in check. If you are casually dismissing pain signals coming from your body, you could accidentally overlook something important. Pain is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Unfortunately, when it comes to chronic pain that signal starts looking a lot like the boy who cried wolf, but an outright dismissal of it could allow for the development of new and dangerous aspects of your autoimmune disease. Monitor your pain. When you notice something that is not normal for your disease and you don’t know where it originated, keep an eye on that. It might not be a big deal, but it could also be your body’s way of signaling something dangerous to you. Keeping a symptoms journal is not a bad idea. Your doctor will be impressed when you have documented incidents to ask them about.
Autoimmune diseases are not isolated. They effect your mind and body in many ways. It is not possible to draw a line separating autoimmune symptoms and unrelated symptoms because they overlap with each other. Even getting a common cold can become exaggerated because of an autoimmune disease, or more particularly because of the immunosuppressants that are used to treat autoimmune diseases. Getting too caught up on sorting out what is and is not your disease is not a good idea. Do your best to recognize that your autoimmune disease affects your life in more ways than you might have originally thought.
Have you ever caught yourself dismissing the pain you experience because of its regularity? Do you feel that this normalization of pain has been good or bad for you?