In October of 2016, I was a fashion consultant for the company LuLaRoe and if I can humble brag for a minute, I was REALLY good at it. So good in fact, I was invited to fly out to California to a leadership conference in Pasadena, CA as a consultant who showed promise in sales and team development. Say what you want against all the negativity about multi-level marketing brands and the ability to make a living wage – I was a success story. I came home from the conference on fire and ready to take the world by storm.
Except I got a cold when I came home.
I recovered and started hitting the pavement. I went in to Black Friday with fierce eagerness and started to plan a multi-consultant event in a prominent shopping district in Atlanta’s Buckhead.
And then I got another sinus infection.
It was starting to look like a pattern. One rocking week of sales and planning followed by two or so weeks of infections.
I started having trouble keeping myself organized. I couldn’t seem to follow my own proven method of selling, invoicing, packing, shipping and processing returns. I was working in circles because my brain just couldn’t seem to hold on to any information. Sometimes I stared at the computer screen minutes at time trying to make sense of what I was seeing. I began to fear logging onto Facebook to find my message inbox full with customers saying I’d forgotten to include an item, or a return credit wasn’t reflected on their invoice, or a question about a tracking number for a shipment I could have sworn I had sent out, but didn’t.
I blamed it on my ADHD. Time to up my stimulant.
About that same time, I was practicing with our church music director to play keyboard duets for the Christmas Eve service. Sometimes I would show up and despite all my individual practice my fingers were stiff and clumsy. My fingers almost refused to play what my brain was telling them to play despite the fact I had done it numerous times before.
So I made a mental note – maybe you should get checked for arthritis. My daughter was currently in treatment for juvenile idiopathic arthritis and she was responding really well. Maybe I was the carrier. So I made an appointment that January with a naturopathic doctor that several ladies from my church recommended.
Christmas came and went and despite my clumsy fingers I managed to pull the duets off fairly well. We traveled home to Knoxville, TN and I decided to take a break from online sales with LuLaRoe. Maybe I was just taking on too much with this big multi-consultant sale and Christmas festivities.
We came home from Knoxville and I once again had an awful viral infection. It settled into my chest and I could barely breathe. I went to urgent care to discover while I didn’t have pneumonia, I had a really bad case of bronchitis and pretty much everything from my chest up was infected. Steroids, breathing treatments and antibiotics were prescribed and I was glad I had that doctors appointment on the book. Clearly something has knocked my immune system back. Maybe it’s the arthritis, I thought to myself. They did say my daughter could have a compromised immune system when she was first diagnosed with a low white blood cell count.
I recovered from the bronchitis but my body was wiped out. I was super tired and my limbs felt heavy, like they were made of lead. This must have been one heck of a virus.
I continued to make mistakes with my sales. They were declining and I was having to get my husband to help me process orders. He would get infuriated at the mistakes I made. “How did you manage to miss all these?” he would say, or “why didn’t you get this out already?”
I didn’t have a good answer so I blamed it on this being the first time I was planning a huge event. It would all be ok I told him, this same style event made over two months worth of sales in one day for the consultants that did it in NC.
I was still blaming all the mistakes and cognitive difficulties in my business on my ADHD. We’re notoriously bad at executive functions. Maybe I was just meant to be the grand schemer, dreamer, seller and motivator-the face of my brand. I promised myself would grow this business and hire someone else to do these small tasks I had trouble with.
My appointment with the naturopath doctor finally rolled around. I mentioned all of the infections but was mostly focused on my fingers and my inability to play piano at times and a little trouble concentrating. The doctor agreed to run a battery of tests and I contacted my psychiatrist to increase my stimulant. Hopefully that would help me until I could hire that assistant.
The week before my big multi-consultant event, my blood work came back and I went for a follow-up with the doctor to discuss the findings.
The blood work was normal. No red flags for inflammation. My white blood cell count was on the low side of normal, but I’d been sick all fall, so that was to be expected. My iron was good. My thyroid levels were “textbook perfect”. There was no reason for me to still feel the lingering effects of fatigue from that bronchial infection. She was a naturopathic doctor so she recommend we run some more extensive blood work on heavy metals, food allergies and mold while altering my diet and eliminating some foods. Once those tests came back we could refine my diet and add some specific supplements that would have me feeling great in no time.
Then my event happened. It went great. I had more than a months worth of sales and more than that, I’d helped twelve other girls do an equally grand amount for their own business. I was on top of the world. I was financially contributing to my family. I was the most confident in mind and body I had ever been and on top of it all, I was helping other women reach their potential.
Then I got sick again. Only, I had no respiratory symptoms. I just slept. and slept. and slept some more.
After two weeks of what felt like sleeping around the clock, I finally called the doctor. I can’t live like this, I told her. I have a business to run, a daughter to keep and a husband to tend to. She told me it would be another two weeks before the tests came back. If my body was telling me to rest, she said, I needed to listen.
I was worried and frustrated. Yes, let’s get a good nights sleep, sure. But I was sleeping upwards of sixteen hours a day. Surely, that wasn’t normal. Surely, she can’t just expect me to lie down and do nothing while I wait for tests to come back.
But that’s exactly what she had me do. Tests came in one after another. No food allergies. No mold allergies. I did however have high levels of arsenic in my blood, but she couldn’t equate that to my massive amounts of sleep. She ordered another test.
I would spend a total of eight weeks in bed between periods of sleep and debilitating fatigue popping a few supplements and waiting for more tests to come back.
My husband, Stephen, became increasingly concerned and pushed me to go to a “normal doctor”. My business tanked but I had another multi-consultant event on the books. If I could just recover in time for that – all would not be lost.
I had no idea my life was about to be turned upside down. I never dreamed I would be writing a blog post over a year later still sick. I certainly never expected I would be diagnosed with a chronic life-long illness with no known treatment.
This was just the start of the road to a diagnosis and the end of life as I knew it – a life defined by success and career and the strong woman I thought I portrayed behind that veil.
Boy, was I in for a ride.