The Ugly Side Of Recovery

I’m one year and 3 months post round 2 of Lemtrada (the immunosuppressive treatment I underwent for MS).

This was probably the biggest and scariest thing I’ve done in my life

There was caution and risk involved

But I did it anyway

Because my desire to be healthy outweighed my fear

That doesn’t happen often with me

Countless times, I’ve allowed my fear to be in control

To sit in the drivers seat

To call the shots

For whatever reason

That time

I just didn’t

One of the possible side effects of Lemtrada treatment is:

‘Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a condition of reduced platelet counts in your blood that can cause severe bleeding that may cause life‑threatening problems. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms: easy bruising; bleeding from a cut that is hard to stop; coughing up blood; heavier menstrual periods than normal; bleeding from your gums or nose that is new or takes longer than usual to stop; small, scattered spots on your skin that are red, pink, or purple’

I think it’s something like 2% of Lemtrada patients can end up with it

Well I recently went away and while on vacation I noticed huge unexplained bruises.

Then came bloody stool

Some red spots

And a whole lot of anxiety and fatigue

Needless to say

My trip was a bit of a bust

Upon return I reached out to my Lemtrada nurse to explain what I was experiencing and she told me to get my bloodwork done

I did

And my platelets were 53

Normal platelet count is between 150-200

I really had to restrain myself from googling the fuck out of this

I sent my nurse a copy of the lab work

And bright and early this morning she called me

Seeing her name on my phone

I knew it wasn’t going to be a friendly call

She urged me to go to emerge at St. Mike’s ASAP

She was amazing at calming my already sensitized nerves down

So I got my people ready and we went

At emerge and after having to explain Lemtrada repeatedly, I had more bloodwork done and a rectal exam (that was fun)

After lots of waiting

Worst case scenarios playing in my head

And my constant companion of anxiety

My results were back

Platelets up to 87!

Not in the clear but an obvious improvement

With cautions about new bruising or headaches

To return to the emerge immediately

A little bit of good old fashioned fear: you could experience bleeding in your brain

Another blood test on the horizon

And an appointment with a hematologist

I’m headed home

Of course I’m scared

Because yet again

There is uncertainty

For example, what caused this all of a sudden?

What if it comes back?

What if I fall or cut myself?

What if I die?

Uncertainty and anxiety are like yin yang

They feed off each other

And it’s so fucking easy to slip into my old patterns

Fear, panic, sadness, wallowing

Then what?

It doesn’t change my potential outcome

But it does make this whole process that much harder

And why on earth would I ever want to make things harder for myself?

I refuse to allow this to make me a victim

Nope

Today I will do something that I don’t often do

Something my sister said to me

I will deal with this with a grace I don’t often possess

With strength and determination that I’ve not often felt

Gratitude that I often neglect

And I’ll just keep going

Because anything less isn’t an option

Not today anyway

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‘There Are Moments That Mark Your Life. Moments When You Realize Nothing Will Ever Be The Same. And Time Is Divided Into Two Parts – Before This and After This.’ Nicholas Kazan (Fallen)

I had an a-ha moment today in my support group. We were on the first step which is:
1. We admitted to ourselves that we are powerless over our disease. That our lives had become unmanageable.
I got to go last…which meant I got to listen to 3 MS veterans. All having been diagnosed more than 15 years ago.
One spoke of feeling comfortable in being alone on Xmas day.
Someone else spoke of being okay with their sometimes self-imposed isolation. Another spoke of being aware of their limitations, without being self-deprecating.
I sat back and listened.
One in a wheelchair.
One in a scooter.
One with cognitive symptoms.
And I felt envious.
Of them.
Me,with my mostly mobile body.
Me, with my mostly cognitive functioning brain.
I felt jealous of each of them.
I felt jealous of the comfort and grace each of them had come to possess upon accepting their illness.
I sat there and reflected over the last 6 years since diagnosis.
The ups and so so many downs.
The relapses.
The symptoms.
The steroids.
Treatments.
Injections.
Sleepless nights.
Crying fits.
Raging fits.
Anxiety.
So much fucking anxiety.
All of it, having led me to this moment.
Waiting for my turn to talk in a 12 step support group.
Their eyes looked to me.
My turn.
I looked around the table.
Less than a year ago, they were nothing more than three strangers. People I would have passed on the street, without a second glance.
Now we share this inexplicable bond.
This illness we all have.
Referred to often as the ‘snowflake’ disease, since symptoms vary so much from person to person.
These three people who now know more about my feelings and thoughts than most of the people in my more immediate circle. These strangers not so different from this lifelong outsider, after all.
I told them I thought that I had accepted having MS.
6 years ago. I heard the words coming out of my Doctor’s mouth and thought to myself ‘okay….so now I have MS.’
I thought that was enough.
I thought that meant I had accepted it.
But it wasn’t until that very minute that I realized, I would never be able to accept MS, until I had also accepted the negative impact its had on my life.
That meant accepting the change in my job status.
The permanent damage to my eyes.
The toll all of it has taken on my already fragile mental state.
Taking all of that in…and still being able to say that while I won’t succumb to it, I have come to terms with having MS in my life. That I’m OKAY with it.
I’m not there…
Not even close.
But I found hope in looking around me.
Which for someone as chronically hopeless as myself, is a fucking lifeline.

‘Pride Comes Before The Fall’

I like spooky things like Halloween in Salem

And even though I don’t really consider myself a ‘believer’, I like going to psychics and mediums

While in Salem for Halloween and on a boat cruise, I had a free reading done

I sat down and after shaking hands and making introductions

He motioned to a pin on my jacket of a broken heart stitched together

He said it represented me well

I’d been broken hearted

Not by love in the traditional sense

But by the world

I laughed a little nervously and my curiosity was piqued

It was a short reading and I can’t stop thinking about something he said during it

He told me that I always felt like I didn’t fit in

He said that maybe that was okay though

Because some people aren’t meant to fit in

Some people are meant to make a difference

He said that in my work I was trying to make a difference for people

That I’m a healer and a powerful empath

I can’t stop tracing those words in my mind

I continue to think about it and where that leaves me

Which is apparently on long term disability (after finally being accepted a month ago)

In that time period, I feel like I should be doing something

Only I don’t know what

This isn’t new though

I’ve never been someone who had a clear path or knew what they wanted to do from a young age

I went to several different schools and tried on different hats

The only one that fit reasonably well was the last one I wore

Working with youth

I knew even though

That it wasn’t the perfect fit

The school restrictions, the politics, the employer

But it was so close

And then in the blink of an eye

Like things in my life so often do

It didn’t feel right anymore

My direction was blurred

Just like my vision

I only knew I couldn’t go on like that

And it had nothing to do with the youth

It had everything to do with how others made me feel like I wasn’t doing good enough

My pride was so deeply wounded

That I can feel it

Like rubbing salt on fresh wounds

Just thinking about my job, those kids, that work, those people, that job

And I feel it all over again

Every single burn

All the pain

Pride is funny like that

It’s with you during some of your happiest moments and accomplishments

It can carry you through some of the toughest times

And then bury you just as easily

‘There Is More Evil In The Least Sin Than In The Greatest Affliction.’ T. Brooks

Some days my damaged eyes feel as weary as my burdened soul

Some days it feels like I carry the world on shoulders that are tensed with anxious thinking

Some days the world feels as chaotic and unpredictable as the disease discarding lesions on my brain

Some days I feel so jittery that my nerves feel like they’re fraying and uncovering more than just damaged myelin

Some nights I lay awake not able to sleep even though my days are consumed by an overwhelming fatigue

Some nights it feels like electricity is coursing through my limbs and extremities

Some nights I feel like not waking up in the morning still wouldn’t be enough to get rid of all that’s wrong

Sometimes there are moments when I think that even a lifetime isn’t enough time

Time to shed all the broken and irreparable pieces of me

Time to start over

Time to begin again

Or maybe a lifetime is all it takes

To be gifted a new body and mind

And leave all that affliction behind

In the past

Where it belongs

Buried and covered

In someone else’s grave

Project Take Down Paxil 👊

I feel like I should apologize for being MIA lately

But I’m not really sorry

Because it’s for a good reason

It’s for me

Last Wednesday I dropped my Paxil dosage from 40mg to 30mg

I won’t pretend I was totally cool with it

I had a lot of reservations

But I also really wanted to do it

There were some shitty days obviously

Two days when my anxiety spiked to an uncomfortable level and I needed to take more Ativan

Several days where I had dizzy spells that came and went

But I survived

I can tell the following things helped:

Writing affirmations daily

Trying to stay busy

Doing a lot of introspection over the root of my anxiety

Now today I went down to 20mg

Last nite I was really starting to psych myself out of doing this

I kept thinking ‘woah 20 is a big drop from 40’

Then J. reminded me that I was going from 40mg to 20mg

I’ve been on 30mg and am stable there

Now I’m dropping 10mg again

Which I successfully did last week

I needed to hear that

It helped ease my fear

I made him write it out so I could print it

I’ve already reread it a few times

Along with some other affirmations

I need to keep reminding myself that I’ve already dropped 10mg and while unpleasant

I survived it

I’m still safe

I’m still here

And most of all

If I did it once

I CAN most certainly do it again

Changing the narrative helps

Taking the unknown and making it something familiar

Removes the fear

For anyone else out there struggling with anxiety

If I’ve got this

You’ve got this

Hard and uncomfortable as it is

We have what makes people into warriors

I’m going to remember all of the difficult things I’ve been through in my life

I’m scrappy

I am a fighter

Think of everything you’ve survived

I hope you keep fighting

Because I will too

That’s what warriors do

What I wish you knew

Once upon a time I saw a medium

Who told me that someone very close to me has been living their entire life with one foot in the grave

I thought to myself then as I still do now

That it was the most perfect way to describe this person

As a loved one of this person

It’s frustrating and maddening that they can’t shake it off

And see the love around them

Now as a person who can relate all too well

It’s frustrating for a different reason

The people around don’t understand

They don’t understand why that one foot stays firmly planted in the grave

They don’t see how hard it is to keep the other foot out of that fucking grave

They don’t get the difficulty making it through one day is, one function, one more appointment

I wish they knew…

It’s like constantly treading water to keep my head above it

My limbs feel exhausted

My brain keeps wondering when it’s an acceptable time to admit defeat and give up

My heart feels hollow

There’s a bone weary tiredness that permeates throughout every cell in my body and into my brain

I can go to sleep sometimes and sleep for hours

Wake up and feel like it’s never enough

Or I can lie in bed staring at the ceiling

Thinking that if I wished hard enough

I could make this all go away

I’m 36 years old

I can’t even remember a time before this

That’s fucked up

I mean

Surely I know there was one

I just can’t for the life of me picture myself in it

The present is like living in a post apocalyptic world

Where everything is bleak, tarnished and there is no hope

I can say for certain

This is not an enjoyable place to be

Living this way is not only exhausting

It’s also like having a flu you can’t shake off

No matter how many medications you’ve tried and doctors you’ve seen

Yet, even with the desire to feel better

The flu rages on

When you can’t remember a before

And you can’t see a future

The world becomes very narrow

It becomes the perfect setting for a dystopian society in a novel

Of which, one may want to read about

But no one wants to actually live in

It feels like I’ve become the main character in this novel

Searching for a way out

Up against opponents like doctors, employers, insurers

Trying to find allies

Unsure of who you can really trust

Like every good story

There’s a time constraint

I start to fear that I’m running out of time

I’ve read so many books where someone who needs help

Gets saved by a hero

In some form

I know that my story is different

There is no one coming to save the day

It’s just me

Still trying to find some way to fully live in this world

With both my feet firmly planted on the ground beneath me