Are You Haunted?

When I was growing up I was always so afraid of the idea of being haunted. I was terrified of demons and ghosts and all of the things that go bump in the night. I avoided horror movies like the plague and a ouija board could send me running from a house like a bat out of hell.

But as I grew older I started to realize that it wasn’t the literal ghosts and ghouls that I needed to be afraid of haunting me. I stopped being so afraid of “getting haunted” when I realized that I already was.

I think we are all haunted.

We are haunted by the ghosts of our past. By the things we won’t let go. We are haunted by our “what if’s” and “if only’s”. But unlike most spooky stories it’s not the ghosts that need to move on, it’s us.

I am learning that it is good to remember your past. It is good to learn from your mistakes and remember the moments that made us strong.

But not if they are haunting us.

At a certain point it is ok to let go. To let go of the negative parts of our past. It is ok to let go of anger we have been holding onto for years. It is ok to forgive people who have wronged us. It is ok to let go of your ghosts and slowly let them fade away. It is ok to acknowledge that your past made you the person you are today, but it does not necessarily define your future.

The past does not necessarily set the tone for your entire life. You do! Hold onto the happy and let go of the bad.

I hope that everyone has a very happy and safe Halloween, full of positive energy and making joyful memories!

-A

HP Costumes
Chad and I dressed as Hogwarts Students this year for Halloween! I’m only a little obsessed. 
HP Pumpkins
Chad and I carved Harry Potter themed pumpkins this year! 

Brave

What do you think of when you think the word ‘Brave’?

Do you think of knights or warriors or heroes in capes?

Or do you think of everyday people of all sizes and all shapes?

 

Brave is waking up each morning, willing to face the challenges of the day.

It is looking your problems in the face, but never backing down.

It is letting a smile sneak through when all your heart can do is frown.

 

Brave is walking through a valley of fear and doubt and pain.

It is silencing all of the ‘what if’s” smacking around inside your brain.

And somehow calming the restless and anxious soul and letting a racing mind unwind.

 

Brave is showing up to the doctor’s appointment

Even though you are afraid of what they might find.

It is learning to leave the demons of your past behind.

 

Brave is taking a deep breath in… and letting it out again.

Brave is admitting when you need help, that you can’t do it on your own.

It is making it through the night when it’s dark and you’re all alone.

 

Brave is smiling through the tears that are streaming down your face.

And cracking jokes in hospital rooms to ease your loved one’s fear.

Brave is accepting words of help, even when it’s not what you want to hear.

 

Brave is pulling yourself back up to standing, after you’ve taken your hundredth fall.

It is not beating yourself up for the times you showed your pain.

Brave does not mean that you are not scared, that your heart does not race,

and your hands don’t shake, they do.

 

Brave is feeling all of the fear and stepping forward anyways.

Brave is one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

Brave is being patient for the change you need, trusting that the stars will align.

 

Brave can look at you with fear in her eyes, a quiver in her voice.

Brave can break down and be a monstrous mess

But brave knows that eventually, life will coalesce.

 

Brave is the woman at the clinic, or the man who limps slowly down the street.

Brave is the family in the waiting room, or the patient in the bed.

Brave is the battles we have won in the past, and the ones that lay ahead.

 

Brave is falling into bed after a hellish kind of day.

And telling yourself that even though it was so hard, it’s going to be ok.

Braving is reminding yourself that tomorrow is a brand new day.

 

Brave doesn’t always shock and awe.

Brave can be quite simple and quite small.

And sometimes those little tiny steps are the bravest of them all.

-A

A Perfect Storm

The past two weeks have been rough. Very rough. It’s taken me a while to even work up the courage to write this post.

Two weeks ago I started feeling really crummy. I came down with some sort of stomach bug. It sucked, but it was just a stomach bug, I knew it would end. A few days passed…and then a few more. Before I knew it I had been down and out for a solid week. I woke up that next morning to something that I had never experienced before. My whole body was shaking. It wasn’t just shivering, it was violent, uncontrollable shakes wracking through my entire body. I would later find out that this phenominon is called Rigors.

At first my husband and I thought I was just cold. We cranked up the heat, layered clothes onto me, and piled on the blankets. But the shaking just continued. In fact, it got worse. The next day I emailed my doctor asking for advice. I’ve had chills before when I have had the flu, but never like that. My doctor suggested that I be seen that day.

I went in, got some meds. They did some tests and assured me that I had an infection and with some antibiotics I would be fine. Fast forward two days and I could barely walk anymore. My body was exhausted, I was exhausted, and to be honest, I was scared. Really scared.

I ended up spending the day in ER getting fluids and more tests than I could count. Again, they ruled out everything (this time also ruling out an infection, and advising me to stop taking the antibiotics). My heart rate was high, and I was running fever so the ER doc gave me the option of going home and trying to rest, or being admitted overnight for observation. I chose to go home, and try to get some sleep. I felt like that was what my body was needing the most. Looking back, I wish I had stayed.

Two days later I was back in the ER for more fluids and tests. This time I was put on a drug combination of Reglan and Benadryl. The Reglan to help with nausea, the Benadryl to help counteract the side effects of the Reglan. I was so tired of being sick at this point, that I didn’t even question what these side effects could be.

“Reglan can make you a little restless.” The doctor had said.

Well, it did. But it was manageable for the first day. I felt uncomfortably wired, but the Benadryl took the edge off. But that night I barely slept. I had the worst Insomnia of my life. The next morning it only got worse.

I started feeling incredibly anxious. I didn’t feel like myself at all. I could feel every racing beat of my heart pounding against my ribcage and rattling my entire chest. I couldn’t focus on anything, I couldn’t stop moving. I felt like I was dying.

It turns out I was having a severe adverse reaction to the Reglan. My heart rate continued to run high and my body was going completely haywire. It was worse than anything I have ever felt, including from Steroid Infusion Therapy, which anyone who has had done can tell you is not a ride in the park.

I was scared before, now I was terrified.

I ended up being admitted to the hospital due to the extreme adverse reaction to Reglan. Luckily I was able to go home the next day. It’s been four days since I last took the Reglan (and I only took it for one day) and I am still having waves of extreme anxiety and racing heart, although less frequently and intense each day.

It turns out this is not an unheard of reaction to the drug. Although uncommon, it can cause this type of response in some people. My chart now has Reglan listed under my drug allergies.

These past two weeks are a blur of pain, fear, stress, anxiety and tears. I’m having a hard time moving past these painful memories. I know that it is in the past, and that I will never take that drug again so I will never have that reaction to it again, but I am still scared.

It is hard to admit that I am shaken, that I wasn’t able to just bounce right back like I usually do. It’s not easy to talk about things that caused such pain. And it is definitely not easy to look this kind of anxiety in the face and tell it to fuck off.

But admitting I am scared is nothing to be ashamed of as long I don’t give up. As long as I keep my head up and keep moving forward. As hard as the past two weeks have been, I did make it through.

I proved to myself that my body and my mind are strong. No, they are not perfect. But they can take a few punches and stand up again. I might not stand up gracefully, or quickly but I will  stand.

So with shaking hands, but a determined heart I look forward to a new week full of smiles, healing, positivity and growth.

-A

 

Word Mental Health Day

October 10th is World Mental Health Day. I talk a lot about mental health on my blog. I have been affected by mental illness since I was a teenager. Growing up, my parents were very open about mental health and, having experienced anxiety and depression first hand, were able to recognize when I started exhibiting signs of anxiety and depression when I was around fifteen years old.

I have come to realize that not everyone grows up in an environment where mental health is talked about in a very open and honest way. There are many people out there who have no idea that they are not alone in feelings of sadness, or fear or hopelessness. People who have no idea that there is a whole network of people out there dedicated to helping those with mental health issues and getting them to a place where they can enjoy their lives again. Today is about shedding light on mental health and ending the stigma that seeking help for your mental health issues is something to be ashamed of.

One thing I have noticed that concerns me is the trend of “pill shaming”. The idea that there is something wrong with people if they are taking medication to help manage their mental health. If you had a physical illness and there was a medication available to you that would make you feel better would you stop for one second to wonder “what will people think if I take this medication?”…nope! You would take the meds, and get better! So there is no shame in seeking help from a medical professional if you suspect that you are struggling from anxiety or depression. They are there to help you, and they can help.

Now, I am not saying that there is a magical pill out there that will just cure your anxiety or your depression. There are many tools that I have added to my proverbial tool belt to help me combat my anxiety problems. To name a few; Meditation, Self Care, Writing (my personal writing as well as blogging), Eating Healthy, Counseling, Regular Exercise

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One of the techniques that has helped me the most, not just during panic attacks, but also during physical discomfort from MS, illness, etc. is meditation.

I was recently watching an episode of “In Search Of” hosted by Zachary Quinto and they were searching for the answers to how some people are able to exhibit super human strength or feats during periods of meditation.

He was specifically looking at a Shaolin warrior monk who through meditation, is able to complete tasks that would usually leave a human seriously injured. However this monk walks away with not even a scratch to be seen. For example, in this episode the Shaolin warrior monk breaks a wooden staff* over his head. He never loses consciousness, finches, and claims to feel no pain whatsoever!

*** No matter how good you are at meditation I am NOT recommending you do this…unless you are a Shaolin warrior monk…then I guess go ahead.

In search of (haha get it?) an answer as to how this monk is able to endure these superhuman feats Zachary, the monk, and one other person conduct an experiment where they took two MRI scans of their brains. The first scan was a regular scan, but during the second scan the men were asked to put their hand in extremely cold ice water. They were specifically looking for the area of the brain that recognizes pain to light up.

As suspected, when Zachary Quinto put his hand into the ice water his scan showed the pain receptor area of his brain lighting up like a Christmas tree. But when the monk did this same test, while meditating and centering himself into a place a of tranquility, his scan showed extremely limited activity in the pain receptor area of the brain!

Even more interesting, Zachary went into the MRI machine one more time to test just how successful he could be at lowering his pain level through meditation. His scan, while meditating, noted a significant decrease in activity in the pain center of the brain.

Even the doctor who was helping them conduct this tests were baffled at how affective meditation was at physically changing the way our bodies received and reacted to pain!

I have not been feeling great with a stomach bug the past few days and I have found meditation extremely helpful to help ease my discomfort. Sometimes, if your discomfort is too high to even concentrate on a full meditation even just focusing on your breathing can help. “In…two…three…four…out…two…three…for”. That phrase has gotten me through many a tough moment over the past year.

So today if you are struggling with a battle against mental illness, or if you know someone who is, let us all remember that there is always hope, there is always light, and there is an army of people around you (including me!) that are cheering you on and supporting you every step of your journey!

Let’s share some positive vibes today.

-A

 

 

 

Anxiety, step aside. It’s my turn!

I have struggled with anxiety since I was a young teen. I have had times in my life where it was almost non-existent, and times when it felt like it was smothering me slowly. I have utilized many different approaches to help ease my anxiety. I have found that what works best for me is working with a psychiatrist for medication, self-reflection and meditation, creative outlets like writing and singing, and professional counseling with a counselor that I have a good and trusting relationship with. All of those things take time and it can be a bit of a hunt to find the right people/techniques for you, but don’t give up!

I recently had a therapist tell me that my anxiety was controlling my life. They told me that it was affecting me, my ability to enjoy life, and my relationships with others. They reminded me that by allowing my anxiety to make decisions for me (like leaving a vacation early) I am affecting not just myself, but my husband as well. Which is true. I didn’t leave the trip alone, my husband came with me because we always have each other’s backs. But he deserves a full vacation too!

Being reminded of all of those things hurt profoundly. It is not easy to recognize your failures and shortcomings. It’s even harder to have them spoken aloud by others and to know deep down that they are right.

While I did not agree with this person’s recommendations on how I fix the problem, I did take away the very important lesson they taught me, and for that I am grateful!

It was kind of like I closed a chapter in my mind. It was a chapter titled “Anxiety: The Boss”. As if a switch flipped in my mind, I decided ‘No More!’

I was done letting my life slip by while I worried about it from the corners of my mind. I was ready to step back into the spotlight of my life and enjoy it!

My diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis this past fall really thew me into a whirlwind of emotions, and rightfully so! I went through (and probably am still going through) a full process of grieving. Grieving for the life that I always had thought I would have, which had now drastically changed in the blink of an eye.

I am still trying to navigate this new world I’ve been thrown into, and sometimes it’s a lot scarier than others. Imagine walking around with a cement block tied to a balloon on a  string dangling above your head. You know that eventually the string will break, or the balloon will run out of air and the block will fall on you, but there is no way to know when. So each day you wake up to unknown. Wondering, I wonder what my body will be like today.

It is no wonder that people with Multiple Sclerosis often have anxiety and/or depression! Not to mention the mood changes that can come as a result of MS.

All of these fears have been causing me to want to hide inside. To keep myself safe, and not do anything that might cause me to get stressed out, or sick, or overheated and cause a relapse. But when that switch in my mind flipped I realized that I am OK right now!

I have 95% of my mobility, I just need to remember to take it slow and use railings etc to prevent falls! I have my sight, my speech! I am extremely lucky as far as MS goes.

Yes, my chronic fatigue can cause some nasty symptoms. And I stumble over my numb foot every now and then, but as long as I plan my days accordingly (meaning giving myself nap time😋 and a rest day soon afterwards) I can still do SO much!

So this weekend I did not one, but two things that challenged my anxiety, and proved to myself that my body can handle some fun and adventure!

I saw Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour on Friday night with my sister. We have been to all of her concerts together since Speak Now (2010), which is one of our favorite “sister traditions”.

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After my diagnosis I was worried that I would not be able to make it to the tour this year. Stadium crowds, the noise and the lights can all cause overstimulation resulting in my dizziness and vision issues really kicking in. Not to mention, large crowds can cause claustrophobia for me.

Having that ‘kick in the ass’ earlier this week, I went into this weekend telling my anxiety that I was in control! This is my life, and I am going to enjoy it, dammit!

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I had a wonderful time with my sister at the concert and was able to get through my claustrophobia with crowd using some simple breathing techniques!

The next day I went to the Minnesota State Fair with my husband and some of our friends! More big crowds! Again, I proved to myself that I could do it, and it was fun!

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All in all, I’m feeling pretty damn proud of myself. I am excited to continue with this positive energy flow I am on! I am so grateful for this change in perspective and the adventures that it could bring!

I am pretty wiped out today, after my weekend of fun! But it’s a stormy day here in the mini-apple and perfect for resting, recharging my spoons, and snuggling with my boys!

Wishing you all some peace, relaxation and joy this wonderful day ❤️ – A

MS🧠Kicks🧠Ass🧠But🧠So🧠Do🧠I

This morning I woke up for the fourth day in a row with limited (VERY limited/borderline no) feeling in my right leg. I’ve also been having increased tingling in my right foot, and some weird hearing issues. And lastly,  muscle spasms and tremors in my right leg. In the past I have had issues with my right leg losing feeling, but it came back after two rounds of steroid infusion therapy.

I know that this could just be a pseudo relapse due to stress (seeing as most of the symptoms are in a leg that has had issues before makes me think this is likely?) but it scares me nonetheless. It still means that something is wrong. It means that inside my brain there are parts that are dying, being eaten away at by my own immune system.

I have reached out to my neurologist and I am waiting to hear back about what he wants to do about this flare of symptoms.

Today has been a rough day. It’s so hard to explain what it feels like to know there is something wrong inside of you.

It’s so hard to trust your own body and listen to the strange sensations we feel with MS when there are people around you suggesting that it is “just your anxiety” or all in your head. I am still learning how to trust my body, something that is SO important with a disease like MS. God, it’s still weird to say sometimes, disease.

I am the one living in this body, I am the one who knows when something doesn’t feel right. I have lived long enough with anxiety to know when it is wreaking havoc in my body..and when it is not. When it is something else. So I need to trust what I know.

It sucks to have to miss out on things and have to stay inside and rest when my heart and mind still want to be out having adventures. It is unsettling to have a mind and body that are on completely different pages sometimes. I am not choosing to be sick. I am still learning how to accept that some things, like having this disease, are out of my control.

If any of you have someone who is struggling, who is sick, or who just are having a rough day today, give them a hug. Or shoot them a text reminding them they are a badass mother****** and that you love them! We all can use a little pick me up some days.

“Without a little lift, the ballerina falls.” – Next To Normal

So this is for you, yes YOU. The anxious ones, the sick ones, the overworked ones, the black sheep, the depressed ones, the frightened ones, the lonely ones. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE STRONG. YOU ARE EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE MEANT TO BE 💕 Keep on that fight, you courageous warriors!!

With a heart full of hope – A

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It’s OK not to be OK

This is not the easiest post for me to write. It is hard to admit that we are not perfect. It is not easy to discuss our failures and it is so hard to admit that we have thrown in the towel.

Last weekend I left for my first vacation (or even stay away from my home!) since my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) last November. I was extremely anxious about it going in. I was worried about a whole multitude of things. But the biggest and nastiest fear, lurking under the floorboards of my heart, was that I wouldn’t be able to do it. That I would get sick and need to go home, or be too anxious and need to go home, or never even leave the house to begin with!

I went in with a plan. I made lists, did research, and checked and double checked everything. I set myself up for success.

Things went well the first couple of days. The best parts of it were being able to spend time with my family and just laugh, be ourselves, and forget about our everyday worries for a little while. I have an amazing family. They make me laugh like no one else can, comfort me in a way that only years of strong bonds can teach, and they understand me better than anyone on this planet.

Don’t get me wrong, I was anxious those first few days. But it was like the pot was boiling with only half empty water. I wasn’t worried about it boiling over. Things were controlled. Looking back, I was needing to take my Xanax much more often than I normally would, but that is ok! It is what it is there for.

But then on my third night of vacationing I fell apart.

I think I was starting to feel the physical toll of being out in the sun, swimming, cliff jumping etc. It scares me – not cliff jumping, MS – Even though I feel it almost every day, every time my right leg goes numb and tingly it scares me. I tried to remind myself that I have felt that feeling before, it just means I need to rest and I will bounce back in a day or two.

I think I was also having a really hard time being away from the comfort of my routine and familiarity of being at home. I was letting it get to me that my meds weren’t in the same place they always are when I need them, that the bed made my back hurt and crunched like diaper every-time my husband rolled over next to me, that I didn’t have my dog to snuggle and pet when I started to feel the anxiety simmering closer and closer to the surface of the pot.

I don’t know what caused me to boil over. I was fine one moment and in the throes of a full-blown panic attack the next. All I could keep thinking was that I NEEDED to get off this island and go home. My husband tried to calm me down. I took my meds. We went back to our lodgings and laid down and tried to ride out this attack. But I just couldn’t shake it.

We ended up leaving the trip early due to my anxiety. I felt like a failure. I felt like I was giving up on something that I had JUST been so proud of, my courage. I felt weak. It was not a good feeling. I think I cried the whole ferry back to the mainland.

I let myself feel sad for the rest of the night. I allowed myself to feel guilty for leaving the wonderful trip my mom and dad had planned for us. I allowed myself to feel anxious and terrible, but just for a little bit.

I knew I had made my choice, and although I might be a mess right now, that is OK.

It is OK not to be OK. It is ok to admit that you have given it your best shot and you need to go home and rest now. It is ok to say I can only push myself so far. It’s ok to admit that I might not be quite as strong yet as I though I was.

I did a lot of self reflecting on the drive back home. I think it is important for me not to feel ashamed for not being able to stay the whole trip (something I really wanted to do not just for the fun and sun, but to prove something to myself as well). I think it is important for me to recognize that I did my best and that I will continue to work on it. That does not mean I am not strong.

I will continue to work on techniques to manage my anxiety. I will continue to meditate and live in the present. I will continue to be grateful for the little things throughout my day.

And some day, when I am ready, I will try again!

-A

Traveling with MS and Anxiety, Part 1: Leaving the House

As I am sitting here writing this at 4am it is currently the FIRST morning of the FIRST vacation I have gone on since my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

The day before we left I was terrified. I had 2 major manic attacks that day, one of them lasting over 3 hours until I finally passed out for the night. I was quite literally shaking in fear. My husband sat with me patiently, listening to me rattle off every possible thing that could go wrong on the trip and how it would most certainly lead to my death. He held my hands to keep me from digging my nails into my skin so deep that I bled. He counted slowly with me to make sure I kept breathing. He is my superman.

I used to be great at traveling. I moved to Chicago, by myself, when I was only 18. I used to dream of traveling the world and seeing every inch of it! I used to fly back to Minnesota to visit my family and didn’t think twice about getting on an airplane.

I am not sure when that all changed. I think it was about 3-4 years ago, around the time my anxiety became very intense and I was diagnosed with Panic Attack Disorder and PTSD.

Now, even thinking about getting on a plane leaves me scrambling for the bathroom with nausea. Now, staying overnight in unfamiliar places can trigger a panic attack before I even get there. Now, I have to take oodles of medication just to relax enough to be able to go to the place that I am SUPPOSED TO BE RELAXING AT!

Multiple Sclerosis added a whole other level of anxiety to traveling. There are so many “what if’s” and unpredictability when it comes to MS. You can go to bed fine one night and wake up the next morning unable to feel your entire left side, or see, or speak. The thought of having a major attack when I am far away from home, my doctors, and the familiarity of my routine is extremely scary for me. What if something happens to my meds.

I’m going to have to give myself my shots ‘on the go’ for the first time. Woohoo, nothing like injecting yourself with disease modifying drugs and flaunting all of your injection sites in that hot new bikini you bought!

Two nights ago, I did not think I would make it on this trip. Hell, I didn’t even think I would make it out to the car. Even though the massive panic attack was telling me that:

“It’s not safe, it’s an Island for God’s sake!”

or

“You’ll get sick, you’ll be miserable, you won’t have the things you have at home to help you feel better”

or

“You are going to freak out. You won’t be able to sleep there at all. You’ll get so stressed out you’ll give yourself a relapse”

All of those things kept swirling through my head like a corndog in a nauseated kid’s stomach on a roller coaster.

I thought about canceling. But I didn’t.

I told myself that this disease and this anxiety has taken so much from me already. It can’t control my life. I WANT to see this beautiful island and waterfalls! I want to go on this trip!!! So, I mustered up all the courage that I could, packed my bags and we made it here!

I am so happy that I looked a scary thing in the eye and told it to fuck off. I am still having a little bit of anxiety, of course. But it is not stopping me from enjoying this time with my family.

This morning I am going to sit and watch the sunrise on a beautiful island, breathe in fresh air, connect with nature and most of all be grateful. Be grateful that I can still go on trips like this. Grateful that I can conquer some of my fears, one step at a time. Grateful that my family loves me and supports me the way they do. Grateful I found a husband who will always have my back and be my shoulder to cry on, bicep to snuggle, and hand to hold. Grateful for this new day. Grateful for this beautiful life.

Multiple Sclerosis Meltdown

I had a bit of a meltdown today.

I woke up in a body that did not feel strong.

My eyes open in the morning and my mind is 25 years young.

But my body does not feel like 25.

It feels weak. It feels fatigued. It feels unsteady.

Does everyone ache the way I do? Do they feel it at this age too?

I want to go out and explore the world.

I force myself to walk with my dog. Probably pushed too hard.

And after we both end up sleeping on the couch.

I don’t like feeling like my body is failing me.

I don’t like when the words “It’s not fair.” run across my mind for the millionth time.

It’s scary to know there is something wrong inside, something that no one can see.

Its unsettling to know that my own immune system is the thing hurting me.

I’m anxious for all the tomorrow’s and uncertainty they bring.

I am angry at my frantic mind for pulling me out of the present, out of calm.

Today I feel like 25 trapped in 93.

Today is what my husband and I call a “challenging day”.

It’s not bad, because it’s still my life and that is precious.

So we choose to look at this disease as a challenge.

Something that we can overcome.

I had a bit of a meltdown today.

But having good cry is not something that is wrong.

And although I may feel sick today I know

It’s what is on the inside that makes me MS Strong.

-A