When mental meets physical health — its worst nightmare

This blog isn’t perfect, and my life (right now, or ever) isn’t either. I have partially started this blog as an emotional outlet, or as a creative curation of my jumbled feelings and thoughts. Mainly though, I’m writing this to help other young people who are in shitty mental or physical situations, with no courage to tell anyone, or no idea what the hell is going on with their body and/or mind. Perhaps I can help someone have courage, or give someone a diagnosis.

Ever since I was about 11, I have been incredibly anxious. Did I ever tell anyone? No. Not until it was far too much to function. At age 16, I developed a little-known form of OCD called Pure OCD, which revolves around obsessive thoughts and compulsions associated with taboos. Please see my second blog post all about the condition.

After taking medication, reading about others who conquered the condition, and having extensive Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, I recovered from what I thought was the roughest patch of my life. But, the horizon didn’t stay bright for long.

The summer of last year I broke out in a rash called perioral dermatitis, which is an itchy pustular rash that spreads around the mouth and down the neck. I looked absolutely hideous and it destroyed my self-confidence. Luckily, all I needed was a special gel and it cleared it up. I did ditch all my makeup and products for hypoallergenic ones, just to be sure. I then started to experience various illnesses and ailments, which culminated into a kind of health OCD. This included all sorts. From electric shocks to my head, and tingling in my legs, all of which I thought was a result of the invented MS — Multiple Sclerosis, which results in loss of control of limbs, and usually causes sufferers to end up in a wheelchair — I thought I had, but which turned out to be a result of severe anxiety. The next track was, to my dismay, to go back on the medication I had so courageously stopped.

Suddenly, I started to wet myself, usually right after I peed. I went on holiday thinking it was probably anxiety and the medication would sort it, but it seemed to get worse rapidly. After swimming in the sea, I had no control and wet myself without even realising. As a 19 year old healthy female, you can understand my terror. It kept happening, I kept wetting myself without even having the urge. I truly thought my body was shutting down, and that MS must be the reason (incontinence is a symptom of the condition). This obviously heightened my already prevalent anxiety, leaving me in seriously depressed despair. The wetting myself uncontrollably stopped, but the dribbling and burning after I peed continued. I was told it was probably just a little UTI/bladder infection. That would have been the best news I had heard all summer, but antibiotics did nothing. Then, I kept being told by GPs it was just “stress incontinence” or “overactive bladder”, both of which my symptoms didn’t quite match, which I stressed to them, but of course they brushed over.

As someone with a history of OCD, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I researched extensively and exhaustively for hours on end, searching for the answer to my newfound problems (and obsession). MS, it could be, but, eventually, after long deliberation, something was telling me that that was a figure of my imagination. Something that did come up continuously in my searches was a condition called a ‘Urethral Diverticulum’, which matched my symptoms pretty perfectly. This is a “pocket” attached to the urethra that fills with urine when you pee, causing symptoms like a feeling of incomplete emptying, dribbling after you pee, burning and pain. It turns out, after months of anguish over it, that that is probably what I do have, according to a urologist I have finally seen (the NHS make you wait to the point of self destruction). Upon a horrifically exposed examination — a clinical version of a gynaecologist exam with a nurse holding my hand like I was about to give birth, heightening my already burgeoning anxiety — he found a “fullness under the urethra”. This little devil could be the cause of all my troubles, and can be surgically removed. Apparently its prevalence is increasing, as it was previously thought to be quite rare, but more and more people are showing the symptoms. If you dribble after you pee, it burns and you keep being treated for endless UTIs that you don’t have, this could be something to look into!

Unfortunately for me, this was not the end of my troubles. After moving into my new house at University, and living there for about a month, I developed a very itchy rash that spread from the corner of my eye onto my cheek. Not only was it itchy, but boy did it burn. My face flushed like a beet, and the rash kept spreading and getting worse. Thinking it was the previous rash I had, I anxiously applied the ointment I had as safe supply in fear of getting it again. However, the more I applied, the worse it got. It didn’t seem to make a difference, certainly not a good one. The doctors kept telling me it was ‘Slapped Cheek Syndrome’, a virus mainly children get, but that I must’ve caught it as uni students do (get strange illnesses due to our party culture). For some reason, that just didn’t cut it for me. I covered the rash with makeup, which, I think, made it exceedingly worse, and went back to the doctor the next day saying I felt like the rash was pushing up on my eye. She, again, reiterated what the other doc had said, and sent me home. It wasn’t until the next day, when I woke up and half my face was completely swollen and burning hot, that I knew something was really wrong.

I went to A&E, where they just gave me antibiotics for a throat infection, but because the label said they were used for skin infections too, I thought they might help. The swelling wasn’t going down and I think I was more scared than I ever have been in my life. When your face gets disfigured, shit really goes down. You get a very traumatic perception of life. Yellow crust started to develop on my face, and when I went to the GP again they said they thought it was ‘Impetigo’, a bacterial infection that usually only children get. Again, I was horrified that I’d be getting all these supposedly kid-oriented conditions. Was I the real life Benjamin Button case, or was I severely frail? I was 19 and (I thought) physically healthy, I don’t even smoke or do drugs, so I wouldn’t like to think so. They gave me a cream to put on the rash (if you can call it that), and sent me on my way. With the cream, the crusts and pus started to fade away, leaving a bright red base on my once perfectly clear face. I then saw another doctor, who said it wasn’t ‘Impetigo’ I had had, but ‘Erysipelas’, an even rarer bacterial skin infection, and one that can actually be life-threatening. She also said it recurs in up to 1/3 of people, (great!) After research on this infection, I really felt like an anomaly. It is quite rare, and usually occurs in young children, or older people with diabetes and other health conditions. It did not make any sense as to why I had gotten it. I always thought I was blessed with such good skin, what a myth that was.

After finishing up with the course of cream, my face was no longer repulsive, but it was fiery red, and it flushed with a fury in the evenings. No doctor could explain this to me, and haven’t been able to since. It flushes on that side when I’m hot, when I drink alcohol, or sometimes randomly. A month and a half later, I felt the itching in the corner of my eye again, and to my greatest horror, it seemed like the rash was sneaking up again. I went to the GP in a panic, who prescribed me with antibiotics and cream. The rash never got to the extent as the first time, but it was still pretty ugly. Again, the flushing still persisted. And I got the rash again a month after that. I have seen a dermatologist, who has done an abundance of tests. Apparently, my blood didn’t show up with the antibodies it would’ve developed if I had had ‘Erysipelas’, and my skin didn’t have any toxins from staph which it should’ve done if I had had ‘Impetigo’. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have a bacterial infection back in October, the first time I had the rash, but the last times I had rashes, they weren’t bacterial (which I guess is good news?) They also checked me for lupus, diabetes, and immunodeficiency disorders, which were all negative. They are now saying, although it’s rare to occur on one side, that it could be rosecea, a chronic skin condition that includes redness, flushing and pimples. This seems to be a bit amiss to me, but the flushing does match up to the symptoms of rosecea. I can barely drink or get hot without half my face going beet red and burning hot (oh the joys of being me). They also said that it could be the medication I am on for my anxiety and depression, Sertraline (also called Zoloft), as I first got the rash a month after starting the medication again. I also have a lot of other side effects from the medication. I get a petechaie rash on the side of my face and on my chin, which kind of look like how a lovebite does, but in little dots or lines. My vision has been messed up since I started the medicine again, writing shakes and flashes when I read text on screen or on paper. I also have night sweats, but that really is the least of my problems. I am now coming off the medication to see if it changes anything. That takes me to present times.

Feel free to ask me any questions.

Fi x

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