I am a 49 year old female whose illness began at 19 years old with horrible and excruciating IBS-D. This continued off and on for years along with odd aches and pains that a 19 and early 20-something should not be having. My IBS was somewhat under control until after my only child’s birth, when I was 28 years old. That’s when everything really started to unravel. Along with the IBS, I started having pains in my feet, chronic sinus issues, extreme fatigue, red palms, and a general feeling of not feeling good. When my daughter was 2 years I started to realize that something was really wrong with me. I went from doctor to doctor. Nobody could figure out what was wrong. Blood work and X-rays came back normal! They blamed it on depression and lack of sleep…and called it fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Since then, I have taken vitamins, various medications, saw specialists, etc. all while continuing to feel more sick and experience pain. Finally, when I hit 40 years old blood work came back with a positive ANA….autoimmune! Based on my symptoms and tests I have Sjögren’s Syndrome, undifferentiated connective tissue disease, mild Raynauds, Fibromyalgia, flares of IBS, and mild Barrett’s esophagus. No matter what my diagnosis, the fact remains that most of my whole life has been a struggle with my health. I missed out on so many things because of it. Even worse is the fact that for most of those years nobody believed me, nobody understood…not even the doctors! They acted like I was crazy, a hypochondriac and I suffered all those years trying to prove to the world that I was sick and sane! I will never get those years back. This whole ordeal has caused a huge strain and damage to my family and friend relationships and unfortunately, ruined my marriage. More research needs to be done for autoimmune diseases. We need help. We need treatment options that work. We need doctor education and public awareness. I have left many details out of my submitted story. Just know autoimmune diseases destroy so many aspects of our lives and we are no longer able to remain invisible!

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