Category Archives: Mental Well-Being

MS and Anger: “Falling the Fuck Apart”!

So you wanna know about “anger issues” when dealing with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis? This question caused me to go back into my blog post’s and find this post. I knew I MUST have written about it SOMEwhere. I did…and it’s a joke. “To Not Unravel”, clearly, it was early on in my blogging and I hadn’t come to terms yet with how “politically correct” to be. Well, I’m over THAT! How bout ” Falling the Fuck Apart”.

First Christmas as a new Mom, Ho, Ho, Ho.

First Christmas as a new Mom, Ho, Ho, Ho.

When first diagnosed I was cool, but about four years into it, I became a beast. As my husband would say, “A PitViper”. I was unbearable…even to myself. I had no idea it was my MS. I thought I was just exhausted (I now know, THAT WAS MY MS) I had two small children though, and I thought it was just life, not MS. That was until one day I noticed my brain was boiling. I sat down on a footstool in the kitchen and called my sister-in-law, the nurse. (What the hell was I thinking; I should’ve had my Neurologist on speed-dial) She told me to eat some bread and take some ibuprofen. I did that and went into a quiet room to meditate. The boiling feeling stopped.

Now that I’m twenty years into it, I realize “Hindsight truly is 20/20”! That wasn’t the first time I had noticed the “boiling” sensation and I NEVER mentioned it to my Neurologist but, I did recognize that this problem was:

  1. Physiological
  2. In my brain (where I now understand much more about the presence of lesions)
  3. Something that I could stop, with the right tools, knowledge, and sometimes drugs.

The doctor that I DID go to about this was my Psychologist. Yes, it was MS related. Although I didn’t know that at the time, what I did know was that I had to have someone to talk to about it. That someone had to have enough skill (and sense) to know that, I wasn’t crazy. She listened (once a week) and then threw me headfirst into “Mindfulness Meditation”. That is what saved me.

Is this the face of a beast?

Is this the face of a PitViper?

I started with the book “Full Catastrophe Living” by John Kabat Zinn.

JUST DO IT, and remember these things:

  1. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, you are not a bitch (or bastard)
  2. You are still be a good mom, dad, daughter , sister, or brother.
  3. The MOST important thing in MS is that you’ve GOT to take care of yourself…”By Any Means Necessary”.

 COMMENTS:

Have you experienced anger issues with MS or any other Illness?

Have you come to manage it, and if so…how?

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Filed under Mental Well-Being, Stress Management, Uncategorized

MS: Let’s talk about Mental illness…mine.

Today I want to write about mental illness… my own.

Anyone who knows me, just a little would use these words to describe me: happy, cheerful, and never stressed. My husband calls me his “optimism”.

Is this the face of depression? Look again.

Is this the face of depression? Look again.

He also says I can be a “Pit Viper”.

I’ve suffered off and on with depression since 1997. I know what I’m talking about. Not sad or a little down but, depressed. During these years, I raised two children, maintained a healthy marriage and taught school. How? You ask. With the help of my big sister who suggested (insisted) that I, at a very young age, twenty-two to be exact, go to a clinical Psychologist. “GO!” She said. “Just trust me and GO!”

She didn’t explain how it would make my life better, but assured me that it would. She was right. I was exhibiting signs of depression then and she saw it. My psychologist helped me to have a deeper understanding of myself and how certain depressed feelings could be affecting the choices that I made. Not his job to judge my choices or to change them, just to help me make the connection between my depressed feelings and my choices; after all, I did have free will. Looking back, he never even used the word depressed. I was young and he was good. No stigma, no darkness, no shame.

This was unheard of in the deeply southern black community from which I had come. This was and still is taboo. Suggested remedies would have been; go to church, pray harder.

Mental health just doesn’t work that way. Neither does dental health. You could no sooner pray away depression than you could pray away a cavity. We do best when we pray and use the resources we’ve been given. Abandoning my Southern Baptist upbringing was not necessary but being open to other things, was.

Mental Health needs to be dealt with aggressively, like Cancer. We pray…yes, but we also use Chemo when we need it. Is there any shame in that? No.

What did help me? Exercise, Mindfulness Meditation, journaling, therapy and years later…medicine.

Managing all of these in the name of depression also gave me a great defense mechanism against stress, which causes my MS to be more active. I can never really separate these things; MS and depression and stress.

The larger point of this post is: a few days ago a beautiful young brown girl, Karyn Washington, only twenty-two years old to be exact, committed suicide.karyn-washington-http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/news/karyn-washington-suicide

Karen was the creator and founder of “For Brown Girls”, http://www.forbrowngirls.com/, an online inspirational blog which was there for other girls, an undertaking well beyond her years. Her mother recently died of cancer.

She was a gift.

I wish she had had a big sister like mine; or an Auntie, a Teacher, a Minister, a Friend …a STRANGER who cared enough to say “GO! Just trust me and GO to a psychologist”! Someone who understood what was happening and could take the ridicule. There is no shame in that.

There is shame however in letting our ignorance and fear cause us to lose even one more precious gift. We need to open up. Talk about mental health and suicide. Talking about it doesn’t make it happen, just the opposite, it prevents it.

Helpful Links:

New York Times Article: Suicide Prevention sheds Light on Longstanding Taboo.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Depression and Chronic Illness

Psychology Today Magazine

Please share your thoughts and experiences:

 

 

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Filed under Mental Well-Being, Uncategorized

MS: De-stress strategies when you are a TEN

My stress level this morning on a scale of one to ten, was a TEN!
I’m happy to say that I knocked it out of the park! I can’t control how much stress comes my way but, I can control how I respond.Black-woman-meditating1 Do I internalize it, or not? Honestly, in some cases, stress does break through. Usually family stuff, but even that is better controlled with strategies. But work? I don’t think so!
So, what did I do after a horrible morning? When asked to stay extra time (because it would look good to my employer) I said yes, then gave it a second thought, and said, no. I recognized that I was already a TEN and knew that going home to decompress would be smarter. I then drove home, sat in the garage and talked to my husband (who was at work) for 10 minutes about my morning. Talk therapy and support. I eventually came inside the house, and now this…writing.journal50019628_n I had actually written this in my head, while sitting in the car decompressing. Once this is written I’ll do 30 minutes of Mindfulness Meditation, eat lunch, take a nap and head back to work, making sure to stop for a frappaccino on the way.

COMMENTS: What would bring you down from a TEN?

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Filed under Mental Well-Being, Mind-Body Connection, Riding Out a Relapse, Stress Management

Meet me outside my comfort zone: “At the Falls”

After my Photo shoot with Abby, I am feeling quite cocky, maybe a little too cocky. I announce that I am going to Bushkill Falls, PA, by myself. To be comfortable outside of one’s comfort zone, you’ve got to go there daily. Eventually, what’s uncomfortable becomes comfortable again. That’s what I tell myself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve been there many times, hiked the whole thing with my camera and tripod, and taken beautiful shots. So, I know full well the challenge I am about to undertake.  There is no way I can do the hike. I won’t be able to do more than walk in and make it to the first lookout. It’s not far at all from the entrance and I’ll see the first fall from there. I’m sure it is there for old people to enjoy while their family hikes on. Genius! I’ll go THERE! I’ll take my real camera and carry my tripod over my shoulder. This could be a balance catastrophe. If it comes down to me, or my camera, I’m going down!

I make the hour drive high up into the Pocono Mountains. I arrive. Note to my local friends: the flashing light where you turn left is no longer there.

I prepare to get out. Two pound camera around my neck and five pound tripod over my shoulder, and off I go.

I am worried as hell. But I… “look so good”.

High in the Poconos, stream fed waters empty into the Main Fall which is a 100 foot drop, then travels though a 75 foot long gorge and empties into the Delaware River. It’s called “The Niagara of Pennsylvania”.

Gingerly, I make it to the first lookout which is my destination. SUCCESS! But, the shots I get there are lame. It’s just the top of the Main Fall. ANTI-CLIMATIC to say the least. Did I really just lug my camera and tripod here for this?? If I go home now, this will be a TOTAL waste of time.

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I had hiked the entire two mile trail and seen all SEVEN Falls, up close and personal. But…not today. I know my limits.

BAH HUM BUG! I’m going down! Which means going down more than 100 steps (I stop counting at 80) and walking additional trail to get to the bottom of the Main Fall and the top of the Gorge?

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Now THIS is beautiful, and there are six more falls over a two mile hike. Hmmm…maybe not.

The park closes for the season in November and the foliage will be AH-mazing. That does it, I’ll be back. I’ll make it to the second Fall and go home happy.

Push yourself. Go outside of your comfort zone. You’ll discover you can recover some of the old you, or if you’re lucky, you’ll discover something even better…a new you.

Comments: What are you doing outside of your comfort zone?

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Filed under Mental Well-Being, MS and Exercise, MS and Fatigue, MS Symptoms, Riding Out a Relapse

“The Science of Happiness”: An experiment in gratitude.

Who is the person in your life, that you are most grateful for?

THIS is happiness!

THIS is happiness!
Father, Architect-Burt Pinnock and son-Staff Sargent Jason Griffith Eaves

I like, “Kid for President” but he is NOT who I’m trying to share today. If you get the kid, please click on the link below for “The Science of Happiness: An experiment in Gratitude”. I hope it works!

The Science of Happiness. An Experiment in Gratitude.

Who would you write your letter to, and what would it say?

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Meet me at the Photo-shoot: Going outside of your comfort zone.

 

To be comfortable outside of one’s comfort zone, you’ve got to go there daily. Eventually, what’s uncomfortable becomes comfortable again. That’s what I tell myself.

AComposite1

Abby met us at the door. She was glowing, not because it was hot, and it was, but because she is a new mom giving birth in about 4 weeks. She’s one of my “Young Barista’s”. A group of young people who have worked in my favorite cafe’ over the past few years. They had taken very good care of me in my hours there, writing. They have also at one point or another, modeled for me, and I’ve told them all, “when you have your first baby, call me. I will do a photo-shoot for you.” So, I wasn’t surprised to answer my phone and hear Abby say, “Estizer, remember when you said…”

I’ve since learned to never tell anyone what I will do in the future. This could not have come at a worse time. I haven’t taken my “real camera” out in about 2 years, and was honestly just not strong enough to do it now. But…how could I tell her, no.

I mentioned this to a dear friend, Karen T., who has helped me before on photo-shoots.  She said, “you can do it with help though, right? I’ll be your “photo-go-fer”, for a day. I was overjoyed, this meant I could tell her, YES!

The day of the shoot came, and it was extremely hot. The heat was taking it’s toll on me but, my first concern was my pregnant Mom. Did she have water? Was she in the shade? Was she relaxed? While I was watching Abby, Karen was watching me. Do you have any water? Can you come into the shade? What else do you need?

I only had to “think”, I need the camera over here and Abby over there; Karen and “Dad”were on it. In this heat, it was tough for me to think everything through. The technical stuff, F-stops and shutter speeds, filters and sunlight. Ultimately, I had to let the thinking go.The technical stuff was overwhelming. I took a deep breath, relaxed, and let my inner photographer go free. I kept an eye on my watch because I was mindful of my pregnant mom. I wanted to finish and be out the door in under two hours. 1 hour and 45 minutes…SUCCESS!

Karen and I went to dinner. I was so exhausted that I cried in the parking, lot out of sheer gratitude and overwhelming fatigue.

I can push myself through the eye of a needle, but, the cost can be quite high. In this case, so was the pay off.

Push yourself. Go outside of your comfort zone. You’ll discover you can recover some of the old you, or if you’re lucky, you’ll discover something even better…a new you.

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What takes you outside of your Comfort Zone? What things have you changed to make that happen?

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Filed under Ilness and The Arts, Mental Well-Being, MS and Exercise, MS and Fatigue, MS and Pregnancy, MS and Visualization, Riding Out a Relapse, Uncategorized

Illness and The Arts: “CHICAGO”

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Lil. E.: “MOM! Did you see their butts?”

Mom: “Whose butts Honey?

Lil. E. “The guys Mom. The guys dancing!”

Mom: “Which ones Honey?”

Lil. E. “ALL OF THEM!”

CHICAGO- "The Boys"

CHICAGO- “The Boys”

These butts are the ones admired…ALL OF THEM!

We had gone into New York City to see the Broadway Musical, “Chicago”. Art, in all its forms, can be transcending. It can be used (butts or no butts) to get into your mind, and take you to another place: a place of comedy, music, drama, excitement, beauty, longing, love, peace, inspiration, and…for me, ability. It can be used to help heal. Whether it’s on line, in a book, or in person, whether it’s a play, a poem, or a painting, give it a chance.

I found myself in tears as the show ended and I didn’t know why. Lil. E. looked at me in my shame and said, “It’s okay Mom, Theater can be an emotional experience. People are just, moved.”That was comforting. I wiped my tears and looked “normal”. Then it happened.

We were outside the theater so Lil.E. could get autographs as the performers left. The last performer to leave was, Amra-Faye Wright.

Amra-Faye Wright

Amra-Faye Wright

Lil. E. had explained to me already that she, who was one of the two lead characters in the play was, FIFTY-THREE YEARS OLD! I couldn’t believe it! All of the other performers had to be HALF her age and she commanded the stage!

She is older than me (a little), and if she can do THAT, surely I can walk better! She was just the inspiration I needed. She stopped and took a picture with me and yes, I was crying. I was totally embarrassed. I imagined she thought, “What the hell?” But it really didn’t matter.

Arma-Faye Wright and I after the Broadway Musical, "CHICAGO"

Amra-Faye Wright and I after the Broadway Musical, “CHICAGO”

With art, even the artist, will not know how each person will be affected by their work. They’re role is to perform, to paint, to sculpt. Their job is to create, and put it out into the Universe so it can make a difference, whatever that might be.

 

COMMENTS: Is there a work of art that has affected you in a positive way? Anything life changing?

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Filed under Ilness and The Arts, Mental Well-Being, MS and Family, Riding Out a Relapse

MS and Visualization: “My Vision is my Reality”

“My vision is my reality. Make it healthy.” E.Smith

Visualization-Bg

My friend Ruthie is an Equestrian. She tells me that she visualizes her competitive rides being successful and…she’s great. I’m reminded that when I would go on photoshoots, I would visualize the shots I planned to take and they’d come out beautiful. Now, I visualize a full recovery from my last relapse. It works like this:

I nag my husband to clean the garage. My vision is that I’m 100% healthy. I promise to help. I even go out and get started without him. I make lots of noise and throw things away. He rushes into the garage because he’s worried I’ll throw his things away. It gets too hot. My vision is that I’m 100% healthy. My vision is my reality, so the heat is not a problem. This box is too heavy. My vision is that I am healthy. My vision is my reality. I move the box. I see a bag of rocks that is very heavy and dirty. My vision is that I am healthy.  My vision is my reality. I sit down with a bag of chips and call my husband to please come move this bag of rocks.

vision

Next…the basement!

Disclaimer: I realize Visualization is not the cure for MS, but it can’t hurt!

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“How to Meditate in a Moment”

Black-woman-meditating1

Learn to meditate in a moment with this hugely popular animated video, based on Martin Boroson‘s book, One-Moment Meditation. Reduce stress, improve focus and find peace … right now. More info and online training at http://www.onemomentmeditation.com.

I was well into my Mindfulness Meditation practice when my husband shared this video with me. Boy, how I wish I had had it in the beginning! I was introduced to Mindfulness Meditation by my psychologist at the peek of an exacerbation. That was 15 years ago and I have practiced it every since. Sometimes more committed than others but always feeling it’s benefit. I began with the book “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabit-Zinn, and have since recommended it many times. During an extremely  stressful time in my husband’s career I was even able to convince him to take a weekly meditation class with me. After that experience, he recommended it as well. It is safe to say that it has a positive effect on our lives.

Thoughts and Comments:

What has your experience with Mindfulness Meditation been? Do you have suggestions for how you are successful…or thoughts on why you think you are NOT? If you meditate, when and how did you know it was working? How long did you take to feel results?

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Drunk Guy Update

washer

Some of you have asked, “What happened with the dryer?” Long post short, it survived completely, Mr. Maytag made no money. I think the fabric softener sheets really did help! There must have been half a box of them in there so, they did absorb a bit, but more importantly, they reduced the splash. It was cleaned up immediately. The dryer was not turned on which meant the hot air hose was never contaminated.

The real issue here is stress management which some of my friends could not BELIEVE. My response to this fiasco, like all of my responses (on a good day) came directly from a place of hard earned well being. Sound impossible…well it’s not. I have put a great deal of energy over the years into being well and at the TOP of that list has been stress management. Please understand that it has come at a price: Months of rising at 5am so that I could meditate (mindfulness meditation) for 45 minutes before work. This meant going to bed at 9:00 regardless of what else might happen, two small children and all. This meant doing yoga WITH the children, just to get it in. This meant leaving my husband on his own, with everything, much more than I wanted to. This meant leaving a career that I loved, which meant cutting my family income drastically. This meant setting personal boundaries to keep toxic people that caused me stress, out of my life.

I could probably go on and on, but I won’t.

More on Mindfulness Meditation

Thoughts and Comments: Have you been introduced to Mindfulness Meditation? Is there anyone in your life that you have disconnected because they were a definite trigger for stress? What stress management methods have you found successful?

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