This woman is living with an autoimmune disease, which left her needing to sleep for 19 hours a day.
Kristen Devanna, from New York, started to notice her body changing but didn’t understand why her skin has cracking, why she was constantly cold and why she needed to sleep within an hour of waking up.
The 27-year-old has suffered these symptoms for the last six years, but doctors only diagnosed her with a genetic autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s syndrome in 2013.
“There were many subtle changes throughout my body, but the symptom that affected me the most was that I was sleeping a lot more,” Kristen said.
“My skin became flaky and easily irritated, my extremities would feel freezing cold even in warm weather, to the point where they were completely numb.
“I would wake up in the morning and have to go back to sleep an hour into the day and struggled to stay awake.
“There were many days where this disease had complete control over me and my body ached. I would feel sick after just going to the shop or taking a shower, and I cried making the bed.”
The last year was a tough battle for Kristen as she saw her symptoms worsen. She would sleep for longer and longer whenever she had the chance and couldn’t do menial tasks due to her fatigue.
Despite seeing many doctors and specialists, Kristen hasn’t been able to have any treatment to help with her condition.
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“There is very little awareness regarding Hashimoto’s, even doctors who I encountered knew very little about it,” Kristen said.
“When the world around you can’t understand your struggles or how to help you, it becomes a very daunting and lonely place.
“Having an autoimmune disease is frustrating because the world around you sees you differently on the outside than how you feel on the inside. People just assume I’m tired and they can’t wrap their head around it.
“I had to stop visualising myself as a ‘normal’ 27-year-old and I needed to realise that my body has limitations.”
However, after learning to cope with her diagnosis and managing her symptoms for the last few years, Kristen is now building her strength and increasing her energy by pushing herself to work out in the gym and defy the crippling disease.
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“I love having control over how I can take care of it and build my strength,” Kristen, who works as a teacher, added.
“I limit myself to between two and four workouts a week, either at home or in the gym. I enjoy running, HIIT workouts and lifting some weights.
“I’m proud to say that I’m much stronger than I look. Endorphins are key and help me get a boost of energy.
“My goal is to show others that not everything is as it seems and not all disabilities are visible. You should never judge someone’s capabilities based off their appearance.”
She hopes to continue to build awareness and help other people with chronic illnesses feel less alone.
“Life has its ups and downs and although it is easy to view any disease as negative, you’ve been dealt these cards for a reason – it’s because you can handle it and you are meant to impact the world with so much more,” she said.
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