Sometime in March I had my blood drawn at a neighbourhood GP. I had wanted to get my blood tested for years, but was unable to overcome my fear of the needle and also the fear of the unknown. I’ve been experimenting with my health since I’ve first gotten back in 2015, and I can’t tell which of my experiments worked well for me or how much progress I’ve made without actual data. Having chronic illnesses is like trying to find my way in the dark, I can only make guesses at what is triggering my symptoms. I was hoping that my blood would shed more light on my condition.
That visit in March was uncomfortable and frustrating. The doctor didn’t understand why I was requesting certain tests to be done apart from the standard ones. He didn’t know that magnesium deficiency can cause troubling symptoms, looked at me skeptically when I requested for a full female hormone profile as well as a blood cortisol test. He probably thought I was a hypochondriac. If I was in the US I could have requested for these tests online and skipped the skepticism of a doctor.
After the unpleasant experience I went to see another doctor my friend had recommended. It was a much longer commute and also more expensive, but she took me a lot more seriously. She recommended that I go for an ultrasound to see whether I had PCOS, and agreed with me what to test for in the the next round of blood tests.
Last year I was worried I was going to be prediabetic, but going on a moderate low carb diet plus a 16:8 intermittent fasting routine improved my HbA1C results. All that walking and cycling with food delivery must have helped too. I go off my routine whenever I travel so I was surprised that my HbA1C got better (5.5 -> 5.2) when I had my blood tested again last week. My guess is that both long-term intermittent fasting and a sustained exercise routine will be protective for a while after even if I hop off the bandwagon.
My c-reactive protein and insulin levels turned out low, so it tells me I am not chronically inflammed that that moment. I do wonder how long these blood tests stand for. Will they rise and ebb dramatically from day to day, week to week, or month to month?
What I do know now, is that I have a slight vitamin D deficiency and a estrogen/progesterone imbalance. I am perversely happy, because at least for me there is some hope and something to work on. My new doctor is confused because my hormonal levels is contradictory to my insulin levels, if both were not in contradiction I would have a PCOS diagnosis. I guess we both wish it was that simple.
She wants me to go on bioidentical progesterone but I am hesitant because I don’t really want to mess with my brain chemistry. I have learned that sometimes it is not as simple as taking something and stopping that if it causes negative effects. We’ll revisit this in another six months when I go for my next round of blood tests.
I wish I had overcome my fear earlier, so I have data from my worst days to compare to. My first blood test in March was already at a time when I was a ton better than when I first started on this journey. It would have been very validating if my blood work correlated to the actual work I have been doing on myself and my body.
Last week I had my menstrual cycle, and immediately after I had that familiar chronic pain in my body and head again. It wasn’t as bad as it could be, but these recurring episodes discourage me. It makes me feel that I am still going to be sick no matter how well I try to take care of myself. I don’t know if I exercised too much or too little. But previously I would still try to push myself even if my body felt bad, this time I just gave it time to recover. I did hypothesize that my pain and fatigue could be triggered by a moderate intensity but long bout of cycling on the heaviest day of my cycle, so I am really just going to chill, wrap myself in cotton wool and be very careful about what I eat for my next cycle. My TCM doctor did tell me I don’t have enough blood in traditional chinese medicine terms, but I am not sure how that translates since my blood work has indicated I am not anaemic, though if blood tests were free I would do another one just to make sure I am not anaemic only during my cycle.
The other thing I am working on is that my body feels chronically tense no matter what I do because it is hypervigilant all the time. I go for deep tissue massages to cope, but I am looking for something that I can do myself. I don’t want to just cope for the rest of my life, I want my body to understand that it can now be safe and relax. My partner suggests yoga all the time, but it feels so sloooow…I guess that is the whole point. People on the cptsd subreddit recommend myofascial release therapy though I wonder if that is actually different from the deep tissue chinese massage I go for.
So many questions, so many unknowns, so many points of balance I have to continually experiment with. But I am still glad I can look to my blood for clues, there are still modals of therapy I haven’t tried, and new ways of caring for myself I still have not learned. I have not yet reached the end of the tunnel. It is still dark, but there is still room to move. I now know it is not as simple as treating deficiencies or imbalances in my body, that to truly heal I need to teach my body to learn what it means to be safe, so it will one day stop flooding itself with stress responses – that is when the rest of my hormones will finally be in balance.