April Hamilton's story is a difficult one. But she sends you words of inspiration for when you face difficulties in your own life.
You are invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable, and unshakeable.
A Purpose for My Pain
by April Hamilton
It’s hard to tell my story because the first response I hear is, "I'm so sorry.” It’s an automatic response and I know people mean well. But I believe adversity is sometimes necessary for the soul to grow. And boy, have I had a chance to grow. Hardships and suffering shouldn't be looked at as sorrowful as long as you find purpose from the circumstances. Adversity has improved my will to live and to do more than survive despite having to deal with multiple hardships at once.
Back to the Beginning
When I was growing up, my parents raised me to stand up for myself — especially when it comes to something you believe in with all of your heart and soul. And, as it turns out, the “standing up” is the heart of my story. I’ve had to stand up to people in authority. I did not give power to those with "superiority" over me. Had I not stood my ground, I would have succumbed to the same disease that killed my father at the age of just 44. That was the same age I was when the same disease almost killed me.
My Medical Nightmare
My medical nightmare is what I call it. Why? Because there was such a short amount of time it took under one doctor's care to almost lose my life to a rare auto-immune disease. The disease, called Factor V Leiden, causes blood clots in the muscles. For eight months clots had formed in my left calf and my primary care physician (PCP) was aware of the symptoms. But he did nothing.
After being finally diagnosed with this disease, I learned that my own PCP had the same disease. Later, I learned that one in ten people has Factor V Leiden. I’ll never know why he didn’t take action to help me earlier.
Could it be what many women have faced -- a unwillingness to take our health issues seriously?
What my PCP did not know was that I was a former patient, employee, and student at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC). For three years I worked for a breast cancer surgeon as her administrative assistant. Not only did I work there, but I had been a medical and mental health patient at BIDMC. In addition, I had taken free medical terminology classes at night.
Something Wasn’t Right
All my medical experiences led me to believe that something was not right with my body and my brain.
In 2014, neurological issues from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and narcolepsy brought about needed surgery. The neurological issues manifested in chronic sinusitis. The real risk from the surgery was blood clots. I had double carpal tunnel surgery in February and April of 2014, both of which did not heal, By May, edema in my left leg caused my first trip to the ER.
Two weeks after my sinus surgery in December 2014, I was in the ER again with a viral infection and by the last week of December I started blowing out black blood.
On January 3, 2015 I went to my PCP's office and told him about the black blood and swollen leg. The edema was so bad that he immediately sent me to the ER. Once an ultra sound was done on my leg, not only did they find a massive blood clot in my left calf, but they saw it had coagulated and wiped out the entire left calf muscle.
I became unable to walk after leaving ER. This left me stuck on the 3rd floor of a very old apartment that was not insulated and had multiple health code violations.
Fear of Needles
You might laugh, but don’t. By far the most traumatic part for me was brought about by my fear of needles. Why was this a problem? I never had liked it when health care professionals gave me a shot. So you can imagine how I felt when I had to give myself injections in the stomach twice a day for 20 days. By then my stomach was completely black.
2015 became a year of my fight for survival. But it was more than a fight against a disease — it was also a fight with the health care system. I was denied services by MassHealth and the state for lack of documented medical records that were supposed to be logged and submitted by my PCP. But had not been. At the same time, I was forced to take my landlord to court for unsanitary conditions, including non-working heaters. All of this took its toll on me physically and mentally.
A Medical Mess
Yes, back to the medical mess I mentioned above. All the problems resulted in mental distress that led to mental breakdowns. I was hospitalized numerous times for psychiatric problems. Mood disorder drugs were forced on me while hospitalized because the psychiatrists were against the "high dosage" of Adderall I had been prescribed for narcolepsy.
Despite being tested and found positive for this sleep disorder, the psychiatrists I were seeing disregarded narcolepsy as a valid medical condition. This meant they refused to prescribe it to me. Despite being under the care of a sleep doctor who was prescribing the medication, one psychiatrist outright accused me of faking narcolepsy. He said I was an addict and needed to be under the supervision of a psychiatrist while on this medication.
Narcolepsy, unfortunately, is an under-diagnosed disease. Only in the past ten years have enough sleep studies been conducted to show the effectiveness of new medications that are finally available. The only treatment for narcolepsy has been stimulants. But recent studies have found that narcolepsy is not only a neurological disorder but an auto-immune disorder as well.
Taking Care of Myself
What about my survival? My will to live? The one thing I have done is to educate myself on my own diseases. It’s the whole reason I originally went to work at a hospital. I knew something was wrong for a long time, and in my heart, I knew the spirit of my own biological father, plus the Almighty Father, led me to uncovering what truly was wrong with me. Fortunately, the discovery was just in time to save my own life.
I spent the next two years recovering and working to repair the damage to my body — both carpal tunnel surgeries failed and coagulated blood traveled up into my lower digestive system, quickly turning into digestive diseases like GERD, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, and many vitamin deficiencies. By paying attention to nutrition, hydration, medications and supplements, I have been able to overcome all those digestive disorders on my own.
But it was more than my physical health that suffered. I felt my mental health rights were violated by being forced to take mood disorder drugs. The side effects of the drugs, such as my hair falling out, were horrible. No one should ever be forced to take these drugs just because they are having a hard time coping with life. This left me feeling angry and frustrated for the lack of support and communication from providers and social workers.
…I became my own personal health care advocate. This has become my full time job ever since becoming disabled in 2014. Now I am trying to get some resemblance of a life back. It's my quality of life that suffers. For example, since I don’t have a car, I can’t manage complete independence. Until I go back to work, I can't afford a car. And I am still on the waiting list for better housing. All of this means that most of my finances go to necessary living expenses.
But I AM Moving Forward
I just finished my training as a Peer Specialist Advocate, and hope to go back to work so I can reach out to others who need help finding the right resources while going through a medical and/or mental hardship.
I also am going to work with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to help stop the forcing of these pharmaceutical drugs on people like me.
My Personal Take
I’ve come to believe the mood disorder drugs I was given made worse the very disorder they claimed to be treating. From what I’ve read, I’ve concluded there is too much advancement in the study of the brain and neurology to be treating people so barbarically.
My own feeling is that the drugs are forced on patients to line the pockets of the pharmaceuticals at the expense of the patient’s medical needs.
I feel psychiatrists get too much dominance and power over the medical system. For me, this resulted in the dismissal of my medically confirmed condition of narcolepsy. And I want to argue that what I have is not a mood disorder, but post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Furthermore, I believe it is a violation of a person's human rights to force psychiatric drugs on someone against their will. Many people if not all, should be allowed to cope with stress, anger, grief and pain without drugs but through the support of therapy and proper counseling.
I also feel that spirituality is discriminated against as I know in my heart that God has helped me, guided me, and directed me. Yet when I say that I hear and feel God within me, I am accused of hallucinating and that "hearing voices" means I am delusional. That’s ridiculous. I don’t hear the voices of strangers. I hear just my inner voice that motivates me to keep going, to keep hoping, and to keep trying.
Hope and Inspiration through Writers and Singers
Despite all I have been through, I know one day I will move from surviving to thriving.
Who inspires me? I am always inspired by writers such as Maya Angelou. I also I find lyrics of my favorite bands help me to keep going. My current favorite is Carrie Underwood's Champion. Below are a few of her words. I hope you’ll understand how they bring tears to my eyes each time I hear the song or play the video. It is as if the words speak directly to me.
“I am invincible, unbreakable
They knock me down, I get up again
I am the champion…” ~ Carrie Underwood
My Gratitude to God
It doesn't matter how many times life has knocked me down. I have and always will get back up. Standing down or staying down is not an option for me. I never want to look back on life and say “I should have done more”; “I could have done more”; “if only I had done more”. I will do what God put within me to do. God's will be done. I owe my entire life and existence to God. I will forever have an attitude of gratitude.
I know in my heart God made me strong enough to not only get through all I’ve survived, but to also use my own story as a way to help educate, support and inspire others. Your story will be different than mine. But I hope you find inspiration in mine — thoughts and ideas that will help you.
My Message to You
The message I want to send you is taken from Carrie Underwood’s lyrics. I want you to know that you are invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable, and unshakeable. No matter the situations or hardships you are facing, you can get back up again.
A Last Thought
I saw a t-shirt recently that helps to convey my message of perseverance:
They knocked me down 7 times. I got up 8.
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