Good mental health is critical to managing your physical health

I imagine I’m probably one of the worst patients to treat. I fully understand the advice I receive but I’m horrible at following them. We’ve all been told it; Stress can really affect how we handle existing and future problems arising from having neuromyelitis optica (NMO) and admittedly, I’m in the habit of taking on quite a lot.

stress

I love to work hard and I work to live well. The type who suffers from wanderlust, adventure and trying new things, I generally only operate at hyper speed. A couple of months ago I knew I was at yet another crossroad. Where previously I could manage daytime fatigue, the burning sensation and general pain, my body had started to feel sluggish, unresponsive and exhausted. I tried to sleep it off, eat well and rest but I couldn’t bounce back. I recently blogged about a flare as a result but still couldn’t feel better.  (more…)

Meltdowns are necessary

I love my friends dearly. In a lot of ways they are my family that I get to choose in this lifetime. The friends I’m closest with don’t judge me, they are my cheerleaders and are always there to listen to me. My friends are also very respectful that I’m busy so they’re constantly apologizing when they need to rely on me. That disappoints me because I always hope my relationships to be a two-way street.
Friends are there to help each other through meltdowns. I’m talking about those meltdowns where a good friend asks you how things are going and you start to tell them what’s been going on in your life and suddenly you’re rambling and the stuff that’s just been in your head comes tumbling out and next thing you know you’re in tears and feeling like a complete disaster. Phew! Yes, those kind of meltdowns.
To answer your question, no, I did not have a major meltdown recently but in a way my body was telling me that I was close to a crisis point. I started suffering from vertigo and it didn’t go away for several days. When I finally went for medical help it was determined that it wasn’t a NMO related symptom but rather a sign of serious dehydration and exhaustion. (I’m still suffering from the vertigo but it’s slowly improving.)
Although I don’t enjoy seeing my friends go through difficult times, truthfully it does make me feel less alone knowing that others have meltdowns, exhaustion and stressed out lives. A few excerpts of the lives of my friends:
· One friend is at a crisis point because she’s unhappy with her job and constantly feels discouraged that she’s not landing roles that she’s clearly overqualified for
· Another friend has been taking care of her ailing and elderly father, putting strain on her marriage and her now non-existent career
· Yet another is madly in love with what I think is her soul mate (if such a thing exists) but he lives in another town and neither wants to relocate to be together
· And a good friend is struggling with the decision to grow her family (she’s always wanted to raise a big family) but her compromising health makes this difficult

In my mind I’d deal with each of these situations differently because it’s easier to have an opinion from the outside but that’s not what my friends are asking for. As I’m sure they would deal with my life problems differently too what we’re asking of each other is a shoulder to cry on, someone to listen and just support. I always think to those dark first days of NMO when I was scared, unable to walk and completely confused in a hospital bed – how so many of my friends were just there over the phone, in person pushing my wheelchair and still slinging mud at me like before. Without my friends, without our meltdowns, this would be such a lonely world. So the next time you feel you’re over reacting or things just start spilling out, just embrace it and know your friends love you as much as you do.

You’re Not Alone – Family Drives Everyone Crazy!

Here’s an uncomfortable topic: family. Let me be brutally honest with you. I don’t like to talk about mine. I’m very proud of the one I’m building with my husband (and I get what a blessing that is) but the one I’m derived from is filled with heartache. Recently I’ve seen a lot of posts from the Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) community about the lack of support from family and trust me, I get it. So in true transparent fashion, let’s talk about it.

I’ll start by saying that I will always love my family. It’s in my DNA to always acknowledge my roots despite how unfavourable they are. But yes, when NMO happened (and continues to happen) those roots have failed me. When I suffered my first major attack my Mother and sister were in Europe visiting family. My Dad saw the severity of my attack when he visited me in the hospital but somehow he didn’t articulate that to them. It took my Mom an entire month before she called me to check in. My brothers didn’t bother to visit me in the hospital or even afterwards. I think one of them sent me a “hey, I’m worried about you” email months later. If I had ever needed my family it was then. I was scared, unable to feel the bottom half of my body and couldn’t walk. I felt betrayed by all of them and alone.

There’s a catch with relationships. When you need support the most it’s when you aren’t able to ask for it. That’s when you truly discover how strong (or in my case, flawed) said relationship is.

For me, I went through the full range of emotions. I was angry, I made excuses for them, I grew patient then impatient. It’s been 4 years since that attack. I’ve had more since then and also great successes. In both cases I’ve realized that my family will always continue to fail me and yes, that makes me sad. A little part of me still waits for my family to finally figure it out but in the meantime what’s best for my mental (and ultimately physical) health is distance from them. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly and it isn’t the right one for everyone struggling with family difficulties but do know it’s an option.

What I’ve learned is that you can’t change people no matter how desperate you are to try.

So, my advice? Focus on the relationships that do make a difference. In those first dark days of NMO I had 42 friends and other family visit me in the hospital. My then future sister in law helped me get dressed every morning on her way to work. My then future mother in law brought me a care package of necessities. My cousins and then future husband had my pug waiting just out the hospital doors for a cuddle. People I thought were just acquaintances stopped in to keep me company and offer their support. These are the relationships I grow. These are the relationships that I now call family.