Tuesday, December 22, 2009

First Ever Post

Hello! So some of you may be asking: ‘What does “autoimmune” mean? It sounds like a disease. If it’s a disease then why does the blueberry-shaped Little Miss character look so healthy?’ OK, so you may not be asking that exactly but those are the sorts of questions I want to try and answer in this blog.

Firstly, Who am I? I’m a children’s writer from New Zealand. I work as a help-line peer support worker for a mental health service.

Why Little Miss Autoimmune? I have at last count five autoimmune disorders: Psoriasis and eczema, coeliacs, hashimoto’s disease and psoriatic arthritis.

Now, What is an Autoimmune disorder? This is the way I like to describe it to people: Your immune system gets a little confused. Instead of just attacking diseases, it starts attacking healthy cells.

As you might have noticed, with the exception of the eczema and psoriasis character who’s skin is affected, none of the characters above look particularly unhealthy. Often you can’t see the effects of autoimmune disorders.

What are the symptoms?Rather than describing all the possible symptoms, I thought I’d tell you how these disorders effect me on a daily basis.

Psoriasis and eczema – Both of these affect my skin. For me, both are itchy (in some people psoriasis is not itchy) and cause dry flaky skin. When I have a flare up I can get bad skin infections. My eczema is aggravated by certain things – some foods; the glue in shoes, which means I have to wear either slippers or plastic shoes (I know, not the most fashion conscious); and sunlight, which means I have to be very careful about spending time in direct sunlight.

Coeliac’s disease – This is an allergy to gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley and oats.) If I don’t avoid these foods I get an upset stomach and pain. I can also get sore skin and trouble with my blood sugar levels. If I too much gluten I get confused, depressed, shaky and can even get to the point where I have trouble speaking.

Hashimoto’s disease – This affect the thyroid, causing low levels of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. I have to admit I don’t really know a lot about the disease, despite having had it for around ten years. It causes, among other things, tiredness, weight gain, depression and other psychological symptoms.

Psoriatic Arthritis – This affects the joints. Of all the autoimmune disorders I have, this is the one that affects me the most. I have this in all my joints. It causes pain, stiffness and swelling. Because of it, I am unable to do a lot of things – getting down to the floor, lifting/carrying things, walking without a crutch – and find many other things difficult.

This Blog
Over the next few months I’m going to be starting a diet and exercise program to try and improve my health. At the moment, I am not fit and I tend to just eat whatever I feel like. This blog will show my journey with this and probably some random tangents about anything interesting happening in my life. Along the way I hope to raise awareness about autoimmune disorders.

Thanks for reading

Little Miss Autoimmune