Who knew I’d be a “national symbol”?

I’ve written many posts about my history of fibromyalgia, just not recently.  

My “foot episode” has caused a bit of a fiber flare-up, just in time for National Fibromyalgia/ME Chronic Fatigue day on May 12th.  

Here’s my story and I’m sticking to it:

In 1995 I contracted an invisible “illness”.  Out of nowhere I experienced excruciating burning pain in my hands, arms and legs followed  by years of gastrointestinal, cardiological, dermatological and emotional symptoms.  At the onset I was also in peri-menopause and experiencing mood swings, wildly, uncontrollably ric-o-shaying swings between happy to annoyed – which I’m minimizing for public consumption.

Back then fibromyalgia was not recognized by the medical community as a “real” ailment. Doctors considered it to be a syndrome: Unexplainable, unverifiable and psychosomatic. It was a Hysterical Middle Aged Woman’s Syndrome, as doctor after doctor told me. based on test, after expensive test coming back negative.  I was told nothing was wrong with me and to go home and “Get a life”.DSCN1413

Forever imprinted in my memory is an appointment with the chief of neurology at one of Los Angeles’ major medical schools (the doctor and medical center shall remain nameless because this is a true story)  He reviewed the test findings, looked at me knowingly – as if we shared a secret – and said, “You’re a psychotherapist. You know about psychological issues”.  He leaned forward, compassionately touching me on the knee and winked,  “Go home, live a good life and take up a hobby like kick-boxing.”  The only reason I winked back was to blink away the tears that were threatening to disrupt the façade that I wasn’t a hysterical middle-aged woman.

DSCN1414

I searched for anyone – gynecologists, gastroenterologists, cardiologists, neurologists, rheumatologists, environmental specialists, acupuncturists, immunologists, chiropractors – to name to what I had, to give what was invisible to everyone but myself a label other than HYPOCHONDRIAC.  I looked fine, acted fine, and thousands of dollars of medical tests came back negative.  All I took away from the 100’s of doctor’s visits was a stack of psychiatrist’s cards doctors handed to me on the way out of their office.

After years of  pain, escalating exhaustion, depression, countless doctors and tests I did qualify, on all counts, as a hysterical middle-aged woman .

Well over a decade later fibromyalgia was recognized by the medical community as “real”.  Current research indicates it might be a neuro-inflammatory/auto-immune disease impacting the  central nervous system.  No one knows for certain and there is no current cure.  

I’m no longer middle-aged or hysterical.  

But the doctors were right – it is, all in my head.

 Check out Carolyn Thomas’ My Heart Sisters –“You look great!” – and other things you should never say to heart patients and lots of other great posts about invisible illness.

  • Why, when you tell someone who is ill that they look good, they’re offended?
  • Practical ways you can encourage someone who is ill.

May 12th has been designated as International Awareness Day for Chronic Immunological and Neurological Diseases (CIND). The CIND illnesses include Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia (FM), Gulf War Syndrome (GWS) and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

May 12th was chosen as it is the birthday of Florence Nightingale. She was believed to have suffered from ME/CFS.

This is National Invisible Illness Awareness Week

P.S.  There are hundreds of millions of people with “Invisible Illness” in this world.  Click above to  read more information.  

Mooooooooo . . . dy no more

It always “cracks me up” (figuratively speaking) when I see those signs for Chick Fil A.  NOW here’s even better news . . .  whether you are a cow OR a chicken .  Listen to this Nutrition Facts short video on improving depression and anxiety through what you eat:

eat-more-chicken

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/improving-mood-through-diet/

And for those of my blog readers who are too busy (or too depressed) to listen to the video here’s the conclusion:

 “The complete restriction of flesh foods significantly reduced mood variability in omnivores…. Our results suggest that a vegetarian diet can reduce mood variability in omnivores. Perhaps eating less meat can help protect mood in omnivores, particularly important in those susceptible to mood disorders.

 

Title (optional)

What an incredibly wonderful world this is to be missed by people I’ve never met in person yet feel like family.  Wendy, Laurie thank you so much for your concern

I’ve been off for a while – off-line, off mentally, physically and dare I say emotionally. (It’s a bit blasphemous in the therapeutic community for a therapist to be off emotionally and admit it SO PLEASE don’t tell anyone.  I DO have a reputation to uphold)

ImageNot sure which is the chicken, which is the egg.  All this heart tweaking, testing, stopping miracle Mirapex (click for the saga) has set off my fibro “stuff” and/or the fibro stuff caused the heart stuff which set off the fibro stuff.

The upshot:  My body feels like it’s been hit with a train, my brain isn’t remembering, and my affect is rather flat – that’s therapist speak for “depressed”.  I’m blessed that I have enough energy to go to work, and focus while I’m there.  I find other people’s difficulties and issues far more interesting than my own.

This is the first time I’ve used the new word press format – and the WordPressies already gave this post a title: “Title (optional)”   The WordPressie People are really smart.  Most things in life are indeed optional – even health.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE all of you for being so LOVING!

j

Both Sides of Anxiety


Treading frantically

gasping for air while drowning

In a flood of thoughts

http://Haiku-Heights.blogspot.com

People who are highly anxious have brains that want them to survive.  

The brain just doesn’t know they aren’t in danger.

Anxiety creates a hypervigilance – always scanning your environment, your world,  for what could go wrong, what needs attention, what is a threat.  It’s exhausting.  It sets you up for physical, mental and emotional tension.  People who are anxious are also exhausting to be around.  Relationships can be strained, tense, on edge.

Anxious energy that is pervasive is hard to understand if you aren’t the anxious type.  You may have wondered: Why are they making such a “big deal” out of nothing?  Why are they always telling me what to do or how to do it?  Why are they shying away from social interaction, crowded venues?  What’s with the negativity?  Why don’t they just CHILL OUT?

HOWEVER there are extremely high functioning people with anxiety disorders:

  • People who scan their environments make excellent teachers,  – always on the alert for what is working what isn’t, who is working, who isn’t
  • People who are anxious make great athletes —  it can create a competitive edge and it keeps them on their toes (pun intended).  The extreme exercise helps burn off the anxious edge.  Exercise makes them feel better and they can become compulsive about it which makes them better athletes . . .
  • People who are anxious are often tidy and neat.  If their external environment is as cluttered as their internal environment it makes them more anxious.
  • People who are anxious are good planners.  They don’t like surprises which throws their anxiety higher.
  • Hypervigilant people can excel at detail work since they don’t miss much.

There’s always a spectrum, a continuum of any condition.  Anxiety can range from mild to overwhelming, from high functioning to disabling disorders.  The idea here is not to paint everything or everyone with a broad stroke.   The hypervigilance which can drive you crazy can also sustain you in many facets of life.

In addition to doing the breath work and saying “I’m safe” as I talked about in the post     http://wp.me/pLGhj-2LC

exercise is also at the top of the list.  You don’t have to be a world-class athlete to benefit.  Just do brisk walking every day for a total of 29 minutes.

Here’s a short article from the Mayo Clinic:

“How does exercise help depression and anxiety?

Exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:

  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects

Exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits too. It can help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
  • Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
  • Get more social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms.

What kind of exercise is best?

The word “exercise” may make you think of running laps around the gym. But a wide range of activities that boost your activity level help you feel better. Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can gardening, washing your car, or strolling around the block and other less intense activities. Anything that gets you off the couch and moving is exercise that can help improve your mood.”

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043

Depressed, Anxious? You’re Not Crazy & sneaking in a Judaiku

Judy's visual journal entry

My favorite antidote for anxiety was the topic of yesterday’s post.  Today I want to briefly address depression since anxiety and depression often go hand in hand.

Acute, situational depression is the brain’s way of helping us not blow our lid or slit our throats.  When we’re depressed we don’t have the highs or the lows – everything is “flat”.  It’s when the depression lasts longer than the situation warrants and becomes chronic that something needs to be done.

To add insult to injury, clients I see with depression and anxiety  experience trouble with sleep:  Falling asleep ; Staying asleep; Never getting restorative rest.

This is important!

Research findings suggest that there is a neurochemical link between depression, anxiety, and stress.  This has nothing to do with psychology or character or any psychiatric disorder.  This is about disturbances in neurochemical functioning in the brain.  You’re not crazy, not psychological damaged or fragile.  Your neurochemistry is out of wack if you are depressed and/or anxious.

Many of the symptoms of anxiety disorders and depression overlap quite a bit. Depression can lead to anxiety and conversely, anxiety can lead to depression. So we’re talking about a very tight relationship here in terms of diagnosis.

When I was first licensed in 1986 anxiety was treated with different medication than depression.  Today many, if not most, people with anxiety are treated and respond very well to anti-depressant medication.

On Call Plus
ABC News Photo Illustration
NOW THE GOOD NEWS!

Research has shown that the best ways of breaking the depressive cycle are:  1.  EXERCISE, 2. COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY, 3.  MEDICATION

IN THAT ORDER!

The good news is you can do the first two on your own, no Rx and the only side effects are feeling better.

    • Now sneaking in my Haiku for today: Prompt – “hidden”

    Depression visits

Hidden depths, silent despair

Uninvited guest

Why Men & Me are never depressed.

My best friends Sharon and Norris sent this:

WHY MEN ARE NEVER DEPRESSED:  Men Are Just Happier People –What do you expect from such simple creatures?”

I have comments.

Your last name stays put.  I’m THE MAX.
The garage is all yours. Who needs a garage when you have the run of the house.
Wedding plans take care of themselves. Who needs marriage
You can be President. I can live in the White House without having to run for office.
You can never be pregnant. True  (but I’ve suffered other indignities too private to talk about.)
You can wear NO shirt to a water park. I can wear NO shirt where ever I go
The world is your urinal. That’s the truth.
You never have to drive to another gas station restroom because this one is just too icky. Same here!
Same work, more pay. I don’t even have to work.
New shoes don’t cut, blister, or mangle your feet. Who wears shoes?
One mood all the time. Loving and loving
You can open all your own jars.  (I wish)
You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. That’s ME.
If someone forgets to invite you, He or she can still be your friend. Everyone is always my friend
Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack.  Who needs underwear?
The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. Try a lifetime.
You only have to shave your face and neck. (NO shaving please – it’s humiliating.)
You can play with toys all your life. Yup
You can ‘do’ your nails with a pocket knife or nail clippers. I have my nails done.
You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache. And beard
Wrinkles add character. I am a character. 

 

Me, laughing uncontrollably

And that’s why MEN and ME are happier.