Bridgette

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My Mantra: “All things work together for the good of those called according to His Purpose.” — Romans 8:28

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Hello! My name is Bridgette. While I have suffered from awful sinus headaches due to asthma, allergies and chronic sinusitis, I cannot claim to suffer from migraines. What I do deal with daily is Type 1 diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis in my neck and lower spine, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, herniated disks in my lower back, sciatica, mild scoliosis and flat feet.

My chronic pain journey began when I was a child; my parents and the doctors dismissed my pain as “growing pains.” Still I tried to be an active child and enjoyed climbing trees, riding bikes, playing pick up games at the park… and then would suffer the consequences for hours to days afterwards. A few months before my twelfth birthday, my period started. It was the beginning of 25 years of horrible cramps, vomiting, emergency room visits and fainting for the first 2-3 days of my period. This continued between the births of my three children and I walked around looking pregnant, feeling uncomfortable and growing more miserable. Doctors kept accusing me of being fat. It took six years for me to get a diagnosis of adenomyosis and a hysterectomy.

At the age of 19, I started getting recurrent yeast infections, being incredibly thirsty all of the time, having moments of blurred vision and experiencing soreness in the bottoms of my feet when I woke every morning. I knew something major was wrong, but I had no health insurance. Six months later, I was unable to dress myself without assistance, sit, walk, stand or exist without excruciating pain and stiffness and my joints were inflamed and hot to the touch. Through the pain, I worked two jobs, took multiple classes and took care of my son—RA made it a struggle to even lift his newborn body sometimes—but I am inordinately stubborn and so pressed on.

I have loved the arts from a young age, and I earned an undergraduate degree in English creative writing in 2006. I auditioned to minor in vocal performance at the USF School of Music and was accepted! Soon after, I married my first husband and fell pregnant. My minor was cast aside as I rushed to graduate. I later became a teacher, earned a master’s in educational leadership and had aspirations of becoming a principal until I became discouraged and disillusioned with the system and realized that as a disabled woman, it would be quite a feat to be physically, mentally and emotionally up to the task of running a school.

In 2007, I was officially diagnosed with diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. A year and a few hospital stays later, I was declared Type 1 and insulin dependent. I am a survivor of domestic violence and rape. I remarried seven years ago and my current husband is the wind beneath my wings. We dated in high school and didn’t speak for 10 years. Then he found me on social media and the rest is history, as they say. We have four children; a teenaged son and three daughters who are very close in age. When I reconnected with my high school sweetheart, I was honest about my chronic illnesses and he was accepting. I didn’t realize at the time how much WE would have to accept over the years.

He watched and worried as I had two sinus surgeries, a gall bladder removal and two hernias repaired. He has been there through every surgery and procedure. He is there to massage my sore spots when I can stand it and when I don’t want to be touched because the slightest touch hurts, he makes jokes and buys me Hello Kitty memorabilia to brighten my mood. He encourages me to write and indulge in my love of makeup, fashion and reading.

Over the last 17 years, I have been confronted with many trials and tests of my faith and patience. Some have been caused by my autoimmune illnesses and some by poor decisions I have made thinking that I could “mind over matter” my way through the pain, various specialists, multitude of prescriptions. Others have been created by people in my life who caused me great grief and emotional trauma. Through it all, I have relied on my faith. I still work full-time as a high school educator and every day is a long journey until I am back home and resting in preparation for the next one.

This year I have begun to claim the word “disabled” in reference to myself. I have a wheelchair if I need it and my husband’s grandfather’s scooter. My pain doctor laughed at me when I asked about getting one through insurance. She said I was neither old enough nor disabled enough to qualify. I cannot walk from my car to my classroom without pain—let alone across the school and back. I have the dreaded “handicapped decal” hanging on my rear view mirror due to my limited mobility and almost constant pain.

I realize that wanting to appear normal and fit whatever is considered to be de riguere is a desire I will never fulfill. I will make my mark on this world through my children, my students, my writing; my idiosyncrasies. Because all things work together for the good, I know my pain is not in vain. On the days when life looks bleak and my depression and anxiety threaten to paralyze me and hold me hostage, I take comfort in the knowledge that I have survived everything that was thrown my way so far and I have no choice but to continue that track record.

In my free time, I enjoy dog sitting my nephew dog and watching Frozen 2 with my daughters.