Anxiety

Anxiety-600X600

 

Anxiety (noun)
a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome

Today started out with loads of things on my to do list in advance of leaving for a business / personal trip tomorrow morning. Anxiety had different ideas for what my day would turn into. Anxiety doesn’t give you a reason, it doesn’t make sense, and it’s super inconvenient. Kind of like a drunk uncle at Thanksgiving that everyone just wants to send home, but you can’t quite bring yourself to say see ya later, bye.

It’s probably been years since I’ve had this type of feeling. It wasn’t that kind of anxiety you feel before a talk, performance, seeing someone you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s the type of dread, and argument your gut is having with your brain, that makes you think, do I need I need to call / text someone, or is this an emergency room visit.

Anxiety forced me to alter my day to give into it, which made me feel even worse. I want to give anxiety middle finger and move on from it, but things don’t work that way. I did all of the usual recommended things like rest, listen to a meditation podcast, go for a walk. Barring an anti-anxiety med, which has helped many people I know, I remembered CBD oil (cannabidiol) can help! Et voila, that I can do.

Over the last two hours I’m feeling a little bit better as a result. Anxiety is still sitting on my shoulder, but it doesn’t feel like my brain and gut are fighting with one another anymore. And I can get on with that to do list.

What do you do to fend off anxiety?

When subscribing to the blog, please check your email (in box and spam/junk) for the confirmation note. Once you confirm, you’re good to go and will receive posts. 

Happy

Happy

Happy (adjective)
feeling or showing pleasure or contentment

These days I am finding myself happy (and healthy) and sometimes it’s hard to say that out loud for fear the other shoe will drop.

In December 2016 I started taking sertraline for depression. It was the first time I had a really bad, spiraling night, that wasn’t related to the multiple sclerosis (but maybe it is because it’s a central nervous system disease), or being treated for a flare-up. I recognized that I needed help. I reached out to a long distance friend who helped me for as long as I needed it. I went to bed and the next day I went to see my neurologist. And when it came to treating this issue, I couldn’t care less about any stigma that society has about brain health. I didn’t think twice about treating the multiple sclerosis or taking medicine for asthma growing up. My only issue was worrying about side effects. And although I didn’t turn purple, boy did I spend weeks insanely nauseous while titrating up to the full dose.

Fast forward 1.5 years later, and about a month ago I realized the sertraline (and probably age) is likely slowing down my metabolism, which already works backwards, so I decided to split the dose in half. I did this on my own without consulting my neurologist, because I know my body. I also now know how I should feel most of the time (say 80/20 rule). And I can recognize the shit for what it is, and frankly most of the time I just don’t care about stupid stuff anymore. I think the 20%, as Gaga would say, Baby I was Born This Way. And you know what? I’m good with that.

So a bit of a long about route to say most days I wake up happy. I enjoy what I do professionally (and the people I work with) and am having wonderful life experiences (on my own and with loved ones). I feel better than I have since before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nine years ago. I’ve been so leery about saying the latter out loud, especially with my once every 18 to 24 month MRIs coming up next month. Feeling physically and mentally great also allows me to be the best I can be for the people I love and care for as well.

I spend way less time these days wondering when the shoes are going to come tumbling and I happily give the middle finger to the shit that just doesn’t matter.

When subscribing to the blog, please check your email (in box and spam/junk) for the confirmation note. Once you confirm, you’re good to go and will receive posts. 

 

Different

different51

Different (adjective)
not the same as another or each other; unlike in nature, form, or quality

Some say it’s not good to look back, but then how do we learn from our past?

For the last three weeks, I’ve been walking around scratching my head wondering what I did differently last year that didn’t result in having a flare-up. Why you ask? Be thrilled that it didn’t happen you say? BUT I want to know why, so I can continue doing what I did last year to avoid one this year, and hopefully in the years to come.

I also know that it’s likely impossible to come up with anything more than anecdotal. Some things I did differently last year:

  • I started a business and am working with people I absolutely 110% respect and learn from all the time, which leads to my better well-being even during stressful times of deliverables. And I look forward to working and helping the team to be successful.
  • I avoid public transportation during commuting hours. While it’s increased expenses, I believe it’s kept me healthy and less stressed, especially since this is the worst flu season since 2009. Or it could just be that my immune system works so well it can fight H3N2 more effectively than the average person.
  • I do quite a bit of walking, but haven’t been in a gym in months due to bullet 1 above. Yes, I know, not the best, and I’m slowly working it back in, but it’s definitely different.
  • I addressed the mental health side of living with multiple sclerosis in late 2016. In my head I knew that it comes with the disease, meds to treat it, and just really living with a chronic illness. I didn’t necessarily underestimate it, but most of the time it was due to having a flare-up and the meds to treat it. Treating your brain health is no different from any other part of your body.

While I will likely never know what I did differently, if anything, I’m just so glad that I didn’t. Which isn’t to say I don’t have symptoms most days, but it’s way different from having an acute multiple sclerosis relapse, which leaves you in pain, exhausted, and wondering if you will ever recover.

Today whatever that “different” is, it’s working. Today I feel good, happy, and productive.

When subscribing to / following the blog, please check your email (in box and spam/junk) for the confirmation note. Once you confirm, you’re good to go and will receive posts. 

Stigma

Stigma concept.

Stigma (noun)
Medicine/Medical – a mental or physical mark that is characteristic of a defect or disease

I’ve been thinking about stigma through most of my career in healthcare communications. Having worked across just about every disease and disorder category you can think of, one of the things we’re often tasked with doing is to help “dispel” stigma around living with diseases. What I’ve learned during the 20 years in this area is that the only people who can truly smash a stigma on its head is someone living with that disease or disorder.

Now herein lies one of the problems with trying to do away with stigma, you have to talk about it publicly. It needs a face. People need to know that stigma is their partner, child, brother, sister, cousin, best friend. Whether it’s with close family and friends or on a broader platform. And in the U.S. at least, if you come out on that broader platform you potentially put your career in jeopardy. I deal with stigma every day whether someone knows I have MS or not. Stigma is all around us. In the media, online, in conversations. Our society favors the able bodied, fit, person.

I’ve seen people in wheelchairs talked over as if the person doing the talking automatically assumes said person in the wheelchair has brain damage and couldn’t possibly understand them. Or better, they shout at them. Now I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this somewhere in my life, but being diagnosed with a neurological disease magnifies those societal blips.

I have a unique story. If anyone has heard the actual way I received confirmation of my diagnosis, they know. It was funny in the moment, and it’s funny now. Combining my experience with living with MS and working in healthcare, I have attained the necessary skills to be able to help people who come after me. BUT I haven’t been able to be nearly as open as I would like due to the fear of said story-telling having a negative impact on me professionally.

Clearly my brain works, no really, it does. And in the past I have gladly accepted that even when I’ve gone through the worst of my flare-ups I can handle doing more professionally and personally then someone without MS. That said, even working in healthcare I couldn’t come out to my managers. There’s that silly stigma again. The idea that I would be looked at as less than if I made a mistake. And most times if I do make a mistake it has absolutely nothing to do with the MS. And if it does, it’s because I’ve worked too many hours and am incredibly fatigued. Under those circumstances everyone makes mistakes.

Another area of stigma surrounds mental health. For reasons unbeknownst to me we don’t treat emotional well-being as importantly as physical. And more often that not, issues with mental health are in fact physical. I don’t know too many people who would ignore having diabetes or cancer. So why do we ignore our mental health? Stigma!

People close to me know I am a total Britophile and eagerly watched Will and Kate get married, awaited both babies with baited breath and have now watched Harry come into this own. Over the last 24 hours he has given interviews detailing that he needed to seek therapy for depression. Remember when he was caught naked in Vegas? Or coming out of clubs in the wee hours? He never fully dealt with the death of his mum and his brother lovingly told him he needed help. When someone of his visibility comes out, especially in the English culture of keep calm carry on, many others feel they can as well.

One of the symptoms of MS is depression. And along with all of the meds to treat the disease and symptoms comes depression. And then you have a flare-up and you’re depressed about that! And then you’re depressed coming off of all of the meds. Screw serotonin! The depression I’d always experienced was either situational or related to being on treatment and follow-up for a flare-up. Until the end of November.

I came home from a grueling day of work and was just spiraling. I stood in my living room feeling as though I needed to head across town to the emergency room where I used to work. I could not stop ruminating. Fortunately a good friend, long distance, over instant message talked me through it. Given this was the first experience I had like this not related directly to meds, I knew medical intervention was a must. This was a Thursday night and Friday I had an appointment with my neurologist for the following Monday. A few days later I started on Zoloft. Hey stigma, how you doin’? Now how can something be a stigma when more than 15 million American adults are living with it?

Those first weeks the nausea was, well,  nauseating. One Saturday night after being out I was wandering the streets at midnight looking for Emetrol for the nausea.

I kept wondering when it was going to “kick in” harkening back to college days. Another friend assured me that I wouldn’t be turning purple or growing a unicorn horn, but that I would “just know.” Part of my fear of new meds is side effects. I would wreck any clinical trial I tried to participate in because I’m the person who gets the side effects. I get side effects no doctor has ever seen before. I’m that person.

Probably about a month into taking it, I started to feel happy. And I mean nauseatingly happy. Like the kind of happy my friends and I would make fun of. Full disclosure, I also started working out every day coinciding with taking the medicine. Fast forward several months and while yes, some say it’s a magic pill (I don’t disagree), but I was also ready for a change. And honestly, it feels GOOD to wake up happy each day. It’s allowed me to tackle something professionally I’ve wanted to do for years (saving that for another post). It’s afforded me the opportunity to start this blog and has cleared my head of “you’re not good enough” and imposter syndrome and most importantly not spending my days hating myself.

I’d like to think this is my little piece of helping to end stigma.