This is my story.
Hopefully, it helps others.
The Journey to Catch My Breath, Reclaim Joy, and
Live Thrive with (or without) Chronic Illness
“Our breath is the most precious substance in our lives, and yet we totally take for granted that when we exhale, our next breath will be there.” — Louise L. Hay
It all started with a gasp.
Okay, let me explain:
When I was in my late twenties, I was a part-time student while busily climbing the corporate ladder (like so many other Type A, business-minded twenty-somethings).
My humdrum daily routine went something along the lines of:
- robotically wake up each morning
- brush dog fur off business suit
- guzzle caffeine
- drive to work (where I typically stayed 8-hours-and-then-some)
- grab a quick fast food dinner (cooking? Ain’t nobody got time fo dat!)
- come home & walk the dog
- squeeze in a quick 5K run, if possible
- work some more from home (ah, the joys of being on-call 24/7)
- struggle to stay awake most of the evening
- struggle to sleep through the night
- do it all over again the next day… and the next day… and…
Wait. What’s missing in this picture…?
Where was the passion? Where was the self care? Where was the freedom? I felt like I was sleep-walking my way through much of my life. I was taking things for granted. But wasn’t I doing the things that a twenty-something woman “should” be doing? Wasn’t I working towards that American dream? Wasn’t I too old and wasn’t it too late for me to want anything beyond the “safe” life I was creating for myself?
And then, it happened.
At age 29, I was unexpectedly rushed to the hospital, unable to breathe. For the first time ever, I finally understood what people mean when they say their life “flashed before their eyes.” I revisited all the decisions I’d made over the years, all the dreams I’d placed on the back burner. My lungs were functioning at under 70% capacity. I started asthma inhalers, 6 allergy shots per week, H1 and H2 inhibitors, and various medications to hopefully reduce symptoms. I wish I could say those treatments worked.
It didn’t end there.
Two months later, I nearly lost my father. Like me, he was also rushed to the hospital, unable to breathe. He was diagnosed with COPD and, like me, he suddenly became chronically ill. Meanwhile, my treatments weren’t controlling my symptoms. My doctors were perplexed. One immunologist told me, “I don’t know how to help you. You’re a medical enigma.” It was a stressful and confusing time. I became depressed, anxious and scared as I continued struggling to breathe. On the bright side, I was no longer sleepwalking through life.
I was wide awake and ready to take action.
A month after my 30th birthday, I finally found a doctor who was familiar with immune disorders. We spent $500 testing me for rare conditions, and I tested positive for a specific antibody deficiency. I have hypoimmunoglobulinemia and possible Common Variable Immunodeficiency (CVID). No surprise, as I have every single symptom on the list! A diagnosis was a relief, although treatment options are slim. In March 2014, I was told I still might require intravenous immunoglobulin transfusions to increase the antibodies that fight infections. Just weeks later, I underwent not one but TWO emergency surgeries due to complications from my weakened immune system. After the surgeries, I also had to be tested for MRSA and Staph infection as my body wasn’t healing properly and the surgical areas weren’t responding to multiple rounds of antibiotics. That was the month I lost my job. And my health insurance. Suddenly, I was sick, broke, and scrambling to pay for my $20,000 medical bills.
Obviously, the Universe was testing me. What was the lesson?
I was done being a victim in my own life. There HAD to be a way to heal my body from the inside out! Feeling like Western medicine alone was not working, I combined my existing treatments with a more holistic approach. I reduced stress. I began doing yoga and meditation. I tried ayurveda, elimination diets, aromatherapy, massage, reiki, therapy, coaching, and even accupuncture. I scheduled time for self care and worked on my relationship with my body. Since I could no longer run outside, I began doing fitness routines in my bedroom. I worked through my resulting anxiety, depression and panic attacks by implementing new thought patterns, behaviors and lifestyle adjustments.
I started really living.
And it’s working.
I feel MUCH better. These days, I take risks. I venture outside of comfort zones. I dig deeper. I explore the juiciness of a truly authentic life. And I’m still just in the middle of my story…
And you know what I’ve learned?
We are powerful. Regardless of our situations, we can still live passionately, authentically, and manifest our dreams. When we tap into our inner truth, there is not a damned thing in this world that can hold us back. This website is about the journey I took to literally and metaphorically catch my breath. It’s about reclaiming joy and helping others do the same. This is a deeply personal account of what’s worked (and what hasn’t worked) for me. Hopefully, it inspires or helps others, even if to just let them know they aren’t alone. I’d like to dedicate this site to all the world’s feisty, sassy, driven, rebellious, and beautiful people living with (or without) chronic illness.
Each breath is precious; let’s never take it for granted again.
New here? Read this first.
I’m Brittany Thompson, a
twenty-something thirty-something designer and certified yoga teacher. I’m a Kentucky girl who loves travel, art, and sci-fi movies. I live with my boyfriend, Rafael, and our two Super Dogs (a sassy pug named Ella and a Schnau-Tzu named Luv). And for the past few years, I’ve been living with long-term illness. During that time, I’ve had doctors treat symptoms instead of underlying conditions. I’ve received misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis, and medications for conditions that I didn’t even have. Like so many others with long-term illness, I unfortunately understand the humiliation and frustration of having someone look you in the face and dismiss your condition because “you don’t LOOK sick.” I’ve experienced the elation of having my symptoms go into remission, and the devastation of having my illness come bouncing back with a vengeance. I know how hopeless it can feel when you are driven and ambitious, but your body seems to be working against you. I’ve undergone round after round of emergency surgeries and back-to-back health scares. I’ve dealt with crippling panic attacks, anxiety and depression that result from constantly having your nerves tested — and I’ve seen firsthand how this affects relationships with family, friends and coworkers. At times, I’ve been given grim treatment options and I’ve felt like Western medicine has failed me.I’ve turned to alternative and holistic healing options and learned that the power to flourish in life is still in my own hands, despite everything I’ve been through. Even when I’m sick and tired, weak and exhausted… Even when my symptoms are flaring up and I don’t feel like getting out of bed… I am still in control of my life. I still have the power. This is my story. Hopefully, sharing it will help others.