Chronic illness can be a fiendishly difficult adversary to beat. After fighting it alone for as long as I could, I am finally asking for help.
Hi, my name is Birgit Olzem, mother of five children, grandmother of one cute grandson, beloved partner of a very empathic and loyal man, valued member of the WordPress community, with a natural hunger to learn new things and equipped with realistic optimism.
Today I finally dared to ask a question that has been on my mind for weeks. It cost me a lot to overcome, and I had to think for a very long time about the consequences of making such a personal request public. After I talked about it with my family and close friends and was motivated by every single one of them to take this step, I did it. I have published the following request for help in my Twitter network.
If you’re wondering why I have to ask for help at all, I’d like to tell you more about it in the next section – My health journey.
For better readability, I would like to combine all tweets of this thread in this article.
Dear #WordPress community! Today I turn to you with a request that I find very difficult to make. Over the last 7 years, I’ve invested a lot of time and money in the contributions for WordPress. Despite five children, part-time jobs and chronic diseases.
I’ve translated WordPress, compiled release packages for de_DE, organized Meetups & WordCamps, answered support questions, be part of different make/WordPress teams, some of them as team-rep. I have contributed to WordCamps as a Speaker, Volunteer & Contributor day team-lead.
I’ve given 80% of this time and money investment from my own resources. To make one thing clear, I have always done this out of persuasion and passion! Most of it in the background, without bragging much about it. I wasn’t very vocal about this involvement in detail.
However, at the moment I am in a situation where I need your help. Due to the severe phase of illness at the beginning of the year, I could hardly generate any income as a self-employed person. My financial reserves for special expenses have been drained.
I’m supported by my family on the daily chores, but that doesn’t help me cover the horrendous costs of medical treatment and medication. The treatments that really help me are not covered by health insurance.
I’ve been doing much better than at the beginning of the year, but to keep it that way and get even better, I have to continue my treatments. This is where you come into play. I’ve set up a donation form with which you can appreciate my contributions.
If my contributions to #WordPress have helped in any way over the years, or you just like me as a person, I’d be happy if you would help me become healthy again.
My eternal thanks will come to you.
My health journey
Please forgive me the following detailed insights into my life. They serve a better understanding, why everything developed in such a way.
Most of you know me as a strong and caring woman who has her heart in the right place and has been very active in the community for many years.
But only a few people know that I have had to cope with several chronic illnesses for many years.
You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’Eleanor Roosevelt
The only visible disease or the effects thereof is bilateral hip dysplasia and the resulting hip arthrosis. Five pregnancies and natural births have also left their mark.
At the young age of fifteen, I got diagnosed with hip dysplasia and both hips were already showing signs of arthrosis at that time.
I was a young girl who had played basketball in a male team just for fun, a female human being with the dream to become a police officer. This young lady loved swimming, roaming the woods with her dog, and exploring the countryside by bike. This harrowing diagnosis has destroyed all dreams with a bang.
Over the years, a gradual process has led me to suffer from multiple autoimmune diseases. In retrospect, it started with the first pregnancy 26 years ago, which was dismissed by doctors as hormonal fluctuations. 18 years of marriage – 16 years of it mostly alone, because the father of the children was on the roads of Europe with the truck in the long-distance traffic during the week. Several jobs at the same time besides household and raising five children contributed their remaining to it.
From 2006 to 2009 I was able to control most of the symptoms. The work as a life coach with his own counseling practice as well as the regular meetings with the local healing circle kept all so far in balance.
Life can play extremely unfairly sometimes.
After the death due to cancer of my mother in January 2009, my youngest daughter, then 2.5 years old, fell ill with an autoimmune disease. We were predicted to stay in the hospital for at least 6 months. In good cooperation with conventional medicine in the hospital, naturopathy and spiritual healing, my daughter could be released from the hospital after 8 days symptom-free.
In order to deal with the trauma of the unexpected death of my mother and the illness as well as the healing success, I fulfilled one of my greatest wishes in life and wrote a book which I published myself.
At that time, my close friend was a real pillar of support for me. We were together active in the Healing Circle, which she had founded as a healing practitioner. It hit me very hard to hear that she was diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2010.
The year 2011 was an extremely violent one. In the summer, after my eldest daughter had moved together with her boyfriend, I finally broke free from the toxic marriage with the father of my five children. With the four youngest children I moved into a vacant apartment in an apartment building which I had inherited in part from my mother with a mortgage.
In addition to worrying about my friend with cancer, I now also had to struggle with the effects of a break-up. A man who is hurt in his honor can unfortunately often let himself be carried away to actions that lack all rationality. So I had to fight for the rights of my children, somehow make a living and make sure that the situation with the ex-husband didn’t escalate. Reporting a life-threatening offense to the police can work wonders.
My friend was also good support for me in this phase despite her cancer. Despite all efforts with holistic and conventional therapies, the aggressive type of cancer could not be slowed down. In September 2011 she died surrounded by her family while I was sitting at the WarmUp get-together for the WordCamp Cologne. I was very grateful that I could say goodbye to her in the morning that day at the hospital.
The bitter loss of my close friend and healer colleague hit me very hard. Yet my life had to go on. Under the pressure of divorce with all its hostility and threats, I had to make sure we had enough to live on every day.
A ray of hope on the horizon
Due to the nerve-wracking divorce, I had to close my consulting practice. I had meanwhile specialized as a trainer for WordPress.
In February 2012 I started working as a freelancer and later as an employee at Inpsyde GmbH. Parts of the management are co-founders of the German-speaking WordPress Community. Attending this WordCamp in Cologne 2011 laid the foundation for my active time as a contributor to WordPress and for my career in the WordPress industry.
WordPress is part of my life since its beginning. Shortly after the first release, I played a lot with this piece of Software which let us enjoy great WordCamps and making friends.
Being a part of such a helpful and friendly community can help to survive and overcome real-life rock bottom events. I have found consolation for the challenges that life has held for me, in the Contributions to WordPress. Even though I had to change my employers several times in the meantime due to various circumstances, I have fulfilled as far as possible my obligations, which I took over voluntarily for the WordPress Community.
The constant stress kept my body in perpetual survival mode.
In 2014, the autoimmune disease “Hashimoto thyroiditis” was diagnosed as well as a chronic fatigue syndrome. The resulting weight gain and persistent inflammation of the immune system has worsened hip arthrosis.
It’s a vicious circle that can’t be broken so easily. Especially not through conventional medicine.
A simple cold infection at the beginning of this year completely upset my balance and triggered severe fibromyalgia attacks. I could barely move for weeks without screaming in pain. To give birth to five children in a natural way was a piece of cake compared to the permanent pain that was caused by multiple autoimmune diseases.
Since I have been interested in naturopathy for years and my life partner is also thinking about training to become a naturopath, we now have a large medical library at home. I used the time I had to spend in bed or lying on the couch to refresh my knowledge about the holistic concepts.
School medicine can only help me to a certain extent. But extensive laboratory investigations, nutritional supplements, and micronutrients are not paid by the health insurance company. I also have to pay for acupuncture treatments and osteopathic therapy myself. But that’s shrinking my budget very quickly. Due to the months of illness, I could hardly generate any income.
With the help of a naturopath and a physiotherapist as well as self-study, I have managed to get out of this extreme phase and can now cope with my everyday life without pharmaceutical painkillers. Slowly and with many breaks, but it goes upwards.
I am a person who is used to mastering many things alone. So it’s especially hard for me to ask for help. Nevertheless, I have now arrived at a point where I dare to ask for help in public – especially through good persuasion from my family and friends.
For me to recover, the metabolism has to get back into balance so that I can get rid of my overweight. Only then can I turn to surgery on my two hips. However, this means artificial hip joints on both sides. Such an operation must be well prepared so that I am fit enough afterward.
To achieve my health goals, I need a big wallet.
If it is not financially possible for you to help me, I will be happy if you share my story in your network.
I am also happy to accept help with the realization of my heart project “FemalePress“.
Thank you so much for your interest in my life story.