Interview April – Jennifer Purrvis

It’s time to meet my next guest, the wonderful Jennifer Purrvis!

JenniferPurrvis

Introduce Yourself and tell us a bit about you….

My name is Jen. I grew up in the Houston area but live in Wellington, New Zealand. I moved to New Zealand when I was 19 and have lived in various areas in NZ but have kicked around in the capital city for 11 years. I have one daughter who will be 14 and 4 cats. I am single but formerly married. I’m a terrible cook but enjoy baking. I’m currently studying towards a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and hope to get admitted into a Masters of Forensic Psychology programme once I complete my undergraduate. I run Chronic Illness Cat, mostly on Facebook, but you’ll have seen us on other platforms too. Muffin is a real cat, who lives in France, but her dad is from Nelson in New Zealand. He sometimes comes back for a visit but we’ve never met up, though we should.

Chronic Illnesses/Disabilities I have…

I grew up a child of anxiety and depression. After I had my daughter I became severely agoraphobic and was diagnosed with a mood disorder, not otherwise specified. This would finally be diagnosed as Bipolar Disorder in 2018. I also have PMDD.  In 2007, I nearly lost my life after a doctor bagged an IV of an antibiotic I was orange banded as allergic to. I saw a huge white light. I felt a shock hit my body and felt fire ants start biting all over my body. That’s really all I remember. When I woke up I couldn’t unfold my arms or bear weight on my body. It would take years to regain my independence, my tolerance, my sanity. I was so, so angry about the disability attacking me, the pain I was constantly fighting and everything I was losing. It’s been nearly 12 years and things are so much better. I’m so much happier and freer and independent. However, in the last year, I’ve been diagnosed with Autoimmune Urticaria and I’m now on higher dose Cyclosporine. I’ve started to feel those dark shadows creeping in again. The pain is returning, so is the tiredness, reliance on drugs for pain, and I worry about stepping so far back.

My symptoms conditions began…

As a kid. I think I’ve always had an autoimmune disease. I first started getting fevers when I was 2 weeks old. I was just always sick. Always tired. I caught mono twice as a teen. I had chicken pox so severe as a kid I had them down my throat. I know I was severely depressed at 12. I had sleeping issues as a teen. I had coping methods that were not safe or would be suggested. I had a devastating eating disorder.

The night I got so sick back in 2007 was a normal night. I felt slightly off and started feeling worse and worse. I asked to go to the Emergency Department. I expected to have an infection but I didn’t expect to find myself fighting for my life. It turns out I had suspected sepsis. The bag of antibiotics was important, but so was understanding the importance of orange banding of patient allergies.

Fast Forward to the present and the first few days of realising I was getting sick again were terrifying. I knew something was wrong, but I never expected it to be something so full on. The first symptom I started experiencing was itching when sweating. Whenever and wherever the sweat would touch, I would feel like a jellyfish sting and hideous itching. I put it down to being ‘dirty’. The second major symptom that developed was a reaction to showering. Wherever the water hit, another jellyfish-like sting would develop, with burning and itching. But following the itching and burning came nausea, a feeling of being overwhelmed in the head and vomiting.

I started taking antihistamines, antihistamines and h-blockers, more antihistamines and finally saw a specialist who told me that due to my previous history of trialling drugs, I was to start Cyclosporine. At first, I was really optimistic because I had 2 weeks of showering with very little symptoms. But then, as soon as it had arrived, the optimism left. All the symptoms were back.

My diagnosis process has been…

Confusing. When I was first sick in 2007, no one knew what was wrong with me. I saw specialists and doctors all the time. People had opinions from Lupus to Still’s Disease to MS to ‘just experiencing a shock’. To get better care, we sold our home and moved. I saw another specialist who told me I had Lupus and “was just being a woman about it”. I was put on every drug you could find. Nothing helped. Nothing improved.

I saw just about every rheumatologist in the capital city. No one had answers for me. In the end, I just stopped going. It wasn’t worth the money. When I started getting sick again, and the blood tests were all fine, it started feeling like deja vu all over again.

However, this time, the specialist knew that this was Autoimmune Urticaria and that I had some dermagraphica which made him feel more confident. It felt unusual that I actually had symptoms someone was familiar with. Though, he did feel there was more autoimmune going on and asked if I wanted to begin looking for that and I told him I didn’t. I just couldn’t face doing it all again.

The hardest part of living with my disability/illness is…

Not knowing if I’m ever going to live normally as other people do. Will I be able to work? Will I finish my studies? Will I ever be independent? It scares the hell out of me. What if the medicines just get worse? I can’t nap through life. These questions just go around and around my mind sometimes. Fears for my future feel almost disabling at times.

A typical day for me involves…

Waking at 6:30. If it’s my week with my daughter then I get up with her and help her get ready for school. Once she’s left for the bus, I head back to bed. If I’m not with her, I go back to sleep. I try to wake up at 6:30 regardless so as to keep a regular rhythm. Sleep is so crucial for the maintenance and care of the Bipolar person. When I wake up I have a cup of tea and run errands or study, depending on the day. It’s really important for me to keep my grades up, so studying is important.

I’ve gotten it into my head that I need to do some sort of exercise, even though I’m not supposed to change my body temperature and/or sweat. I have some hand weights and I’m looking into belly dancing on youtube. I want to stay active for my brain and I want to stay mobile. But gosh, I know I’ve lost a lot of dexterity and put on weight since I stopped going to the gym. Swimming is out, maybe yoga? Am I that cliche? Just do some yoga?

I try to eat normally but I’ve got some problems with eating and I take Seroquel at night, so that makes up for any lost calories I haven’t eaten during the day. Right now Married at First Sight Australia is on, so I’m pretty addicted to that. Otherwise, I just try to rest and study. Glamorous, right?

One thing I cannot live without is…

Hot tea. I’m thoroughly addicted to caffeine and classic Bell Tea with milk gets me through my day. I probably go through 6 to 8 tea bags a day. It’s probably the reason I actually can move. Also, probably why I don’t sleep much.

Being ill taught me…

To take nothing for granted and to be amazingly grateful for the gifts that I have. Being able to walk is tremendous. I spent 9 months on the couch. Slowly I learned to crawl, then scoot and then walk again. Amazing. Getting the energy to work in cat rescue and change litter pans and chase after cats made me forever grateful for the second chance I was given. Now I’m studying to become independent. I’ve got my brain back. I will never not be angry and horrendously filled with rage at what happened to me, but I will also never not be amazed and filled with gratitude that I am where I am today. I’m a survivor.

The advice I’d given someone newly diagnosed…

Is that life goes on. It’s different but it goes on. It’s like when the brand of your favourite chip alters things and it’s never the same but you just go on buying it all the same. You can’t pretend nothing has changed, but at the same time, you still enjoy it enough to keep buying it. Some days are going to be horrific. And you’ll cry. You’re entitled to cry. And get mad. And kick at things. But some days will be not so bad too. And hopefully, you’ll get more of those not so bad days soon enough. That’s all you can ask for. And hugs. Ask for hugs. No one will think less of you for doing so.

My support system is…

Really small. I have a really truly, true-blood ride or die best friend on the net but-not-imaginary friend who gets me and loves me and would do anything for me named Alice. She’s also on the Page. I hope one day to be able to explain to her how much she means to me. And to thank her for lifting me up on those really shitty days.

I have my ex who does a lot of practical things for me. I have my daughter who shouldn’t have to grow up so quickly. And myself. I lean on my GP, Simon, a lot. And that’s it. I do a lot of the emotional stuff myself. I’ve become a lot quieter and controlled. Well, the Abilify has made me that way. I could do with a therapist. And a boyfriend. But we’ll see.

If I had one symptom-free day…

Gosh, I’d just sleep. Nothing would hurt. I’d shower too. Wash my hair and not throw up. Go lay in the sun. And sweat. Imagine!

One positive of having a chronic illness is…

That it gives me an amazing sense of humour and fantastic charm. I can joke around with just about anyone and I relate to a large number of people going through many things. It’s given me a sense of empathy that’s lead me to psychology and wanting to care for others. I’ve always been sort of activist-y anyways, but being sick has really pushed that envelope in fighting for others to get the same rights and access, which has been super useful having a daughter with extra needs.

Thanks so much for having me. You can find me and Muffin at the links below. And me and my kitties on my personals.

My Social Media links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChronicIllnessCat
The Cat Tree: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thecattree/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/chronillcat
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chronicillnesscat/
Personal Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/smilingtabby/
Personal Twitter: https://twitter.com/kittypajama

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Interview April – Jill Goodpasture

It’s time for our next guest, the delightful Jill Goodpasture!

JillGoodpasture

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

My name is Jill Goodpasture aka Fibroscoop. I have been writing my blog The Scoop on Fibromyalgia and Chronic Illnesses for a year now. I am a divorced mom of 2 teenage boys, 15 and 19. My oldest just left home so things have just changed around the house recently. I also have 3 furbabies and Sophie my support dog is frequently featured on the blog. She is just too stinking cute not to get on there occasionally.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

I have Fibromyalgia, Early Degenerative Arthritis in my lower back and hips, Plantar Fasciitis, Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea, Depression, and Anxiety.

My symptoms/condition began/My diagnosis process was…

In the spring of 2016, I started to have trouble with plantar fasciitis for a second time. I went back to the podiatrist who treated it the first time with cortisone shots. This time the shots didn’t work though. In fact, I had a inflammatory reaction to the shots and can no longer take steroids. I started seeing an Orthopedic Foot Doctor who put me in a boot for 6 months. During that time my back and hip started hurting. When the boot went away, the pain in my back and hip just got worse. When it persisted. I went to the orthopedic for my back and they said I had arthritis in my back and hips.  This was Oct 2016. In about August of that fall I had begun having body aches and nerve pain in my legs. This progressed to numbness and weakness.

The Doctors did nerve tests and MRI’s and finally said there was nothing wrong and sent me to PT. Well it so happens that I had the best PT in the world. She told me that it really sounded like I had something Autoimmune going on with my body. She knew my GP and told me to go talk to him. I did and he said he thought I had Fibromyalgia and maybe MS or RA. He did a thousand blood tests and when everything came back negative he sent me to a Rheumatologist and recommended that my Neurologist do a brain MRI. The Rheumatologist diagnosed early degenerative arthritis in my lower back and hips and fibromyalgia. She ran a bunch of tests that were negative and said we would keep our eyes on and keep checking for muscle conditions based on symptoms. My Neurologist did a brain MRI and there was no sign of MS but we recheck every 6 months.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety since middle school. I have seen a therapist and been on medication for about 20 years now. I like to think I have it pretty much “under control” but anyone with depression knows that is a myth. My therapist and I have a close working relationship and do phone visits weekly, and anytime I feel overwhelmed or that the pain is too much to handle I text her and we schedule extra visits as needed.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

This is a tough one. I would have to say it is a toss up between seeing how it has affected my kids to the loss of the future I had all planned dreamed of for so long.

A typical day for me involves…

I generally wake up early, between 5 and 7. My son gets himself up for school so on the off chance I am able to sleep in, I can do so. When I first wake I lay in the bed and do a few stretches so that when I move to get up it won’t hurt so bad. Then I take my cpap off and put the hoses in the drawer and get up. I stand there and do a few more stretches. I make my bed up and set up a bunch of pillows to recline against and turn on my heating pads to warm up. I let the dogs out. Then I use the restroom and put my medicine bin on the bed so I won’t forget it. I make breakfast, coffee, and a big cup of Diet Dr. Pepper (my lifeblood). When everything is ready I go back to the bedroom and let the dogs in. I filled their bowls while I was in the kitchen.

I make myself comfy on the bed, turn on the morning show and eat my breakfast. Then I take my meds and supplements and do my journaling for the day. I might spend a few hours journaling if I don’t have anywhere to go. If I am going somewhere then as soon as the stiffness leaves my body I will get in the shower so I can sit on the bed for a while after to recover before the appointment. I always schedule appointments with this in mind. After the appointment or a few hours of journaling, around noon or one I will eat lunch if hungry and take a nap. This could be anywhere from one to four hours. When the kiddo gets home from soccer, thankfully transported by friends, we reheat leftovers, eat frozen dinners or he cooks usually. Then he usually does homework and talks to friends and showers til bed. I text with friends and sometimes journal or watch tv or something.

The one thing I cannot live without is…

My phone, it is my connection to the world outside my bedroom. My heating pads for pain control. I can’t decide between them.

Being ill/disabled has taught me…

Well, I think that my illness is trying to teach me patience and the ability to sit and relax, but I have not quite learned the lessons yet. I hate being in the bed all day doing nothing. I get impatient in SO many ways. I am a work in progress.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed…

RESEARCH and FIGHT. Research your disease and not just in the medical journals. Go to the blogs and the internet and read what people who have your condition have. Talk to people. You would be shocked once you start telling people how many people you know will have the same condition. Once you are armed with information then you fight. You fight with the doctors and the insurance companies and make sure you get the diagnoses, treatments, and medicines you need to get better.

My support system is…

My mother, my two kids, my friend Lori, and my ex-husband all provide supports in different ways. My best friend Traci has been there more times than I can count. My biggest support is my therapist who has went above and beyond making herself available by phone 24/7 to help when I am in pain or depressed or having major anxiety or whatever I need.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

Be on the go from sun up to sun down. I would do something fun with my boys. I would go kayaking with my best friend. Go out to eat anywhere I want. Go see a movie. Just go, go, go. Like before I got sick.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

Hmmm…. This question is a tough one for me. I honestly cannot come up with a positive at this point. Maybe I will one day but right now in this journey I cannot.

My social media links are:

Blog:

https://scooponfibro.wordpress.com/

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/fibroscoop1/

Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/fibroscoop/

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Fibroscoop

Interview April – Amber Blackburn

Let’s welcome our next guest, the adorable Amber Blackburn!

AmberBlackburn

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…

Hi y’all! My name is Amber Blackburn, I am 33 (almost 34) and live in the middle of the United States.  I am a Registered Nurse by trade who is now a Chronic Illness Blogger and Advocate due the fact that my health has declined to the point that I can no longer work a standard job!

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have…

Way too many for someone my age!  I don’t even know where to start!! I have Systemic Lupus (SLE), Fibromyalgia, Bertolottis Syndrome, IBS, Anxiety, Depression, Endometriosis, Interstitial Cystitis, Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency due to long term steroid use, POTs, Debilitating Migraines (Some of which are hemiplegic). I think that’s all my conditions. Or at least the important ones. I will note that many of my issues alone are not disabling but in combination with all the others they can be.

My symptoms/condition began and My diagnosis process was

I am going to combine these two questions as it makes my response easier.

I was admitted to the hospital for a respiratory illness in February 2012. I was in the hospital for 5 days and they could never really figure out what was going on. So I was put on high dose steroids and antibiotics and was told that would probably fix it. Over the following months more symptoms started showing up beyond the respiratory issues like extreme fatigue, joint pain and joint swelling. They had done all kinds of labs up to this point and nothing had shown up. But finally my Pulmonologist did a repeat ANA and lupus markers in April 2012 and they came back very positive. The joint pain and swelling continued to worsen to the point that I had to buy bigger shoes and could hardly walk.

So I saw a Rheumatologist in the summer of 2012 and was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus and Fibromyalgia. But looking back my symptoms go back to the late 90s, early 2000s. During my junior year of High School in 2001 I was diagnosed with Mono and it lasted SIX months, which does not happen. So we are pretty sure part of that was actually my first lupus flare. My official Endometriosis and Interstitial Cystitis diagnosis was in November 2011 but those symptoms went back to 1998 when I started having such horrible abdominal pain that no one could diagnose and blamed it on IBS.
The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is…

If I am being 100% honest the hardest part of living with my illnesses is not always dealing with my health. Outside of the pain and fatigue when they get really bad, I find the hardest part to be the social aspects. This may sound silly but it’s super hard to have to stay home all winter because you pick up every germ despite wearing a mask and washing your hands. It’s hard having to cancel plans because you don’t feel good enough to leave the house. Also, trying to explain to those who aren’t sick why you are canceling for the third time this month is awful and hard on relationships. For me (and surely others) the social aspect is probably the hardest part of living with a chronic illness, outside of the obvious health issues.

A typical day for me involves…

A typical day for me starts with me waking up and rolling over and stretching. Trying to see what hurts and what doesn’t. Then spending the next 10-15 min actually getting out of bed because if I don’t do it slowly I’ll pay for it later. What happens after that depends on the day. If I have a doctors appointment or somewhere to be, I will start the getting ready process which can take 10 mins or an hour depending on how I feel, and how ready I need to be. As well as how many breaks I will need to take. If I don’t have anywhere to be I go straight upstairs to eat and take care of my dogs. In the morning I will always be checking social media and do my daily posts (that sometimes become 3 times a week posts) on all my platforms.

I will most likely be writing for my blog and posting if it’s a day to post. I try to write something for the blog everyday, that way I don’t feel rushed at anytime because I don’t have anything written. I may not get a whole piece written every day but I try to write something. There is always an afternoon “nap” if I can’t get comfortable and sleep than I at least lay in bed and rest. And the evenings are usually pretty chill. Generally speaking, I spend the evenings watching a show or reading a book. I take a shower and try to be in bed by nine. When I fall asleep will depend on what I did that day and how much pain I’m in. Everyday is different for me because I never know how I will feel. I always know if I did a lot the day before that the next day will be a day of rest. Honestly, I can’t plan to far in advance because I never know how I will feel.

The one thing I cannot live without is…

I hate to admit this, my phone.  I say this because I use my phone for everything. I use it for communication, with my friends, family and medical providers. I use it to help run the Chronic Illness Support Group on Facebook (Lupie Groupies) I started about 5 years ago which continues to grow. I use it to blog, to research, and post on social media. And I use it for my jobs, I sell Senegence Makeup as well as the Chronic Illness Symptom Tracker that I created for those with chronic illness.. For those reasons my cell phone is important to me.

Being chronically ill/disabled has taught me…

Being chronically ill has taught me so so many things. But I honestly think the biggest thing is that being sick has a way of showing you who your true friends (and family sadly) are. I know it sounds cliche but it’s very true.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed…

The biggest piece of advice I would give to someone who was recently diagnosed would be to find a support group!  No matter if it is online or in person, just find one. Your friends and family are good to talk to, but a support group filled with people in similar situations is imperative for anyone newly diagnosed as well as for those who have been ill for many years. A support groups gives you a place where you can share what is really going on and know that you are talking to people who will understand and won’t judge you.

My support system is…

My support group is AMAZING!! I have the most amazing family and group of friends a person could ever ask for. If I didn’t have my family I don’t know where I would be right now. I am truly lucky.
If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would…

Go to the beach or lake (really any body of water) and spend the day outside playing in the water without the fear of a flare.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

One positive thing about having a chronic Illness is meeting a group of wonderful and amazingly strong people whom you would have probably never met had you not gotten sick.

My social media links are:

Fibromyalgia and Loneliness

Having a chronic illness like Fibromyalgia can be a very isolating experience. Many of us used to work and found a lot of our social life revolved around our jobs, whether it was getting together with the gang after work for drinks or volunteering with a workgroup for a community project. Often, a best friend was made at our jobs whom we would hang out with more frequently, and those sorts of friendships became treasured relationships to us.

group-work-best

After you become chronically ill though, you often have to give up working, and those relationships no longer exist, not even with the “best friend” that you made. How do you handle the loneliness that comes from that? We tend to not go out a lot in the first place, because of pain and fatigue, so without a reason to get together with former co-workers, there’s now more reason to isolate ourselves than ever. It’s depressing to know that you’re no longer “part of the gang”  and that you don’t fit in anymore. It’s even more depressing to know that your former friends don’t even realize that they’ve shut you out. It’s just the natural progression of you no longer being at the job, and nothing personal.

Reaching Out

But what happens when you try to reach out, to make plans, and people don’t return calls? Or when people reach out to you, but you’re unable to go, because their plans are too ambitious for you? I’d love to see people for coffee, but they always want to combine it with shopping followed by dinner and drinks afterwards, and that’s too much of a day for me. Lunch and shopping, I can do that on a good day, but then I want to go home. And if it’s a bad day, then I have to say no right from the start. And what happens if I start having too many bad days when friends want to get together? They stop calling, period. I am “too sick all the time” and no longer any fun to be with.  It’s easy to get depressed when this happens.

180418lonelymum

It’s so frustrating when friends give up on you. I can’t control my good and bad days. I have no idea when a good day is going to go bad. I can feel great in the morning and then start to go downhill by the early afternoon. I try to explain that to people, but they don’t always understand how unpredictable Fibromyalgia can be. Sometimes it can change from hour to hour and even minute by minute. It’s like going outside in changing weather and never being sure of how many layers you should wear. Will you be too hot, too cold or just right? And what do you do with all those layers if you don’t need them?

There’s also the other side of the coin though. What if your friends continue to invite you out, but you keep turning them down? Your reasons seem valid; you’re in pain, it’s too much of a hassle, the weather is too difficult, you’re tired, or you just don’t feel like it. It’s easy to make excuses, but you also need to search the real reasons for saying no. Are the reasons you’re giving valid? Or are you turning down invitations because of depression?

Signs to Watch Out For

How do you know if you’re becoming depressed or socially isolated? Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Being less motivated to leave your home
  • Feeling more anxious or worried when leaving the house
  • Declining invitations from friends or family to meet or attend gatherings
  • Planning fewer social opportunities for yourself
  • Ignoring supports when they reach out to you
  • Seeing only negatives associated with social connections

If you recognize any of these symptoms, please see a doctor in order to be treated appropriately. If you want to be more socially active, but find your friends are not as available as they’ve been in the past, the following suggestions might be helpful for you:

  • Volunteer with like-minded people
  • Help out in an animal shelter
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  • Take up a new hobby
  • Join a support group (in person or online)
  • Join a Social Group in your City (look on Craigslist)
  • Keep a journal – it can help put things in perspective

Loneliness can be hard to deal with, but with the right understanding and support, you can overcome it. Make sure you’re staying in touch with people and not isolating yourself, and reach out to others if your friends have stopped reaching out to you. It’s okay to move forward and make new friends. Listen to your body and do what’s right for you. If you’re feeling up to it, go out and make new friendships through volunteer work or so social groups. If you need to take a break from socializing, that’s fine. Just don’t fade into the woodwork. Remember, your presence is valued no matter how much of it you are able to give at any time. You are loved. And as I always say…

There Is Always Hope!

 

 

Chronic Illness and Anxiety

When you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may feel as if you’ve lost control over your future. The stress of learning to deal with doctors and specialists, coping with physical changes, and managing daily life can often lead to excessive worry or stress. Researchers have found that experiencing a chronic illness puts a person at increased risk for developing anxiety or an anxiety disorder. Roughly 40% of people with cancer report experiencing psychological distress that often takes the shape of excessive worry or panic attacks.* People with ongoing, or chronic pain are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety.**

Woman-in-pain-500x334

The daily demands of living with a chronic illness continues to present challenges and generate anxiety long after the diagnosis has been given. Loss of mobility or other abilities can lead to worry about employment or financial concerns. Depending on others, worrying about becoming a burden or even intimacy with your partner may also be concerns. Some people are more easily able to adapt to the changes in their lives. Others may feel overwhelmed with anxiety and struggle to cope. Still others may be in limbo, unable to make decisions about their future.

The Most Common Anxiety Disorders are:

1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves excessive and uncontrollable worry about everyday things, such as health, money or work. It is accompanied by physical symptoms such as restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, fatigue and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
2. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) entails persistent, recurring thoughts (obsessions) that reflect exaggerated anxiety or fears. Someone with OCD often will practice repetitive behaviors or rituals (compulsions). For instance, obsessing about germs may lead someone with OCD to compulsively washing hands—perhaps 50 times or more per day.
3. Panic Disorder includes severe attacks of terror or sudden rushes of intense anxiety and discomfort. Symptoms can mimic those found in heart disease, respiratory problems or thyroid problems, and individuals often fear they are dying, having a heart attack or about to faint. The symptoms experienced during a panic attack are real and overwhelming, but not life threatening.
4. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can follow exposure to a traumatic event, such as a car accident, rape, a terrorist attack or other violence. Symptoms include reliving the traumatic event, avoidance, detachment or difficulty sleeping and concentrating. Though it is commonly associated with veterans, any traumatic event can trigger PTSD.
5. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by extreme anxiety about being judged by others or behaving in a way that might cause embarrassment or ridicule. People who have SAD have what feels like exaggerated stage fright all the time. SAD is also called social phobia.

Specific phobias are intense fear reactions that lead a person to avoid specific objects, places or situations, such as flying, heights or highway driving. The level of fear is excessive and unreasonable. Although the person with a phobia recognizes the fear as being irrational, even simply thinking about it can cause extreme anxiety. I personally am terrified of the Dentist, even though they treat me gently and with compassion. I have to take medication to help relax me in order to go for a simple cleaning.

Fortunately, anxiety is treatable with therapy, medication and complementary and alternative treatments (i.e. acupuncture, massage therapy, ). But when the focus is on the chronic illness, anxiety is often overlooked. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor about your emotional and cognitive health, and to speak up when you experience signs of anxiety.

Emotional symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody
  • Feeling overwhelmed, like you are losing control or need to take control
  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Feeling bad about yourself (low self-esteem), lonely, worthless, and depressed
  • Avoiding others

Physical symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Low energy
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
  • Insomnia
  • Frequent colds and infections
  • Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
  • Nervousness and shaking, ringing in the ear, cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Dry mouth and difficulty swallowing
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth

Cognitive symptoms of stress include:

  • Constant worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness and disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side

 

What You Can Do

Challenge negative thinking. When you’re anxious, your brain may jump to conclusions, assume the worst, or exaggerate. Catastrophizing and ignoring the positives in your life may occur when you live with the challenges of a chronic illness. One way to manage anxiety is by being aware of the negative thinking, examining it and challenge the irrational thoughts. Counselors/therapists can play an important role in teaching you this important coping skill.

Calm your mind. Relaxation techniques can be an effective way to calm anxious thinking and direct your mind to a more positive place. Consider whether mindfulness meditation, yoga, or other breathing and focusing practices can still your body. Taking  time to relax, increases your ability to think objectively and positively when it comes to making choices about your health and life.

Find a good Doctor. If you take medication for both mental and for physical health, it’s important to that your doctors are aware of all your medications. Some medications may actually escalate anxiety, so it’s essential to work with a prescriber who can make informed choices that address both conditions without worsening either.

Find a support group. Managing a chronic illness can be a lonely job as it may be difficult for loved ones to understand the unique challenges. Support groups, whether online or in person are wonderful for creating community but also for providing information that can help reduce worry. They can also connect you to valuable resources for treating your illness.

Acknowledge successes. Anxious thinking about chronic illness can keep you from feeling that you have control over anything in life. It’s important to acknowledge all successes, both big and small. Keep track of the healthy things you do for your mind and body. Exercising, going to counseling, spending time with a friend–these can all help. Keeping these successes at the front of your mind can help you combat worry. They can remind you that you do have the power to affect your present and future.

If you think that you might have anxiety in addition to chronic illness, be honest with your doctor. Ask for help. Anxiety is highly treatable, so remember…

There Is Always Hope

*https://adaa.org/serious-chronic-or-terminal-illnesses
**http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/depression_and_pain

Interview October – Maya

Today on Interview October, we’re meeting Maya Northen Augelli . Let’s get to know her better:

MayaNorthenAugelli

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

My name is Maya and I’m from Philadelphia, where I live with my husband and our dog. I run a travel planning company, and also work with a local consulting company. I became a mental health and chronic illness advocate in 2009, after being diagnosed with a relatively rare mood cycling disorder. When I’m not working or advocating, you can often find me traveling, hiking or otherwise enjoying nature, reading, writing, or doing yoga – in fact, I’m just starting Yoga Teacher Training this fall!

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

I have Rapid Cycling Cyclothymia, a rare mood cycling disorder that’s similar to, but technically “less mild” (in quotes because it definitely doesn’t feel mild at times) to Bipolar Disorder. I also struggle with anxiety as part of this disorder, though not technically diagnosed with a separate anxiety disorder. In addition to my mental health condition, I  battle IBS and Migraines

My symptoms/condition began… 

I am told I was most likely born with cyclothymia. I started exhibiting symptoms of hypomania as early as two years old, though of course they didn’t know what it was at the time. Symptoms progressively increased in frequency and intensity through my teen and early adult years. I was finally diagnosed just shy of my 30th birthday. The migraines I have been getting since I was a teenager – tough to really say when they started, but I can definitively say I can’t really recall a time when I wasn’t prone to migraines. They’re not continual, but I have consistently gotten them at least a few times a month since I was a teen. The IBS symptoms began around the age of 23, and I was diagnosed shortly thereafter.

My diagnosis process was… 

I’ll speak mainly about my cyclothymia diagnosis process here, as they others were pretty straight forward – went to the Dr, was referred to a specialist, had a couple of tests (colonoscopy/upper & lower GI tests for the IBS) and was diagnosed.

The cyclothymia diagnosis was trickier. I’d been seeing therapists on and off since college. I had only found one I’d really trusted, but long story short, at the time my symptoms weren’t as prominent, and I was more seeing her post-divorce than for my specific mental health symptoms. In the summer of 2009, my GP put me on a low dose of antidepressants, which at first helped, but soon made me feel worse. In August 2009, I was hospitalized for two days with what I thought were non-stop anxiety attacks. The hospital increased my depression medication, and I felt worse. When I got out of the hospital, I went to the one therapist I’d trusted from past years, and we began working through things – including the fact that the medication was making me worse. I even brought my mom to a session, in which she described the symptoms I’d exhibited as a very young child (since I couldn’t quite as accurately describe them, having been a toddler when they started). It was during these visits that I was finally diagnosed with rapid cycling cyclothymia. My therapist explained that the antidepressants made me worse because I cycle so rapidly that basically, by the time the medication that’s supposed to “lift” my mood (for lack of a better phrase) hits my system, I’ve already cycled up, and the effect is compounded. So in essence, the antidepressants were putting me in almost continual hypomania (what I had thought were anxiety attacks). She subsequently brought me down off the antidepressants and we began mood stabilizers.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

It’s two fold for me. One is the feeling of lack of control over my brain. I feel like I often can’t trust my own mind – because I cycle so quickly, literally every day is a complete surprise. I never know how I’ll wake up feeling (depressed, hypomanic, anxious, none of the above), and how often it’ll change each day. Not being able to trust my own brain, or feeling like I can’t, massively affects my self-esteem and often makes me feel hopeless and worthless.

The second is the stigma. The fact that people think you can just smile, change your attitude, be more grateful, look on the bright side, or choose to not feel this way is awful. When this happens, not only do I feel hopeless and worthless, I’m being told it’s my own fault, and shamed for how I’m feeling.

A typical day for me involves… 

I have a full time job, so on weekdays, my day of course involves that. But in terms of illness and coping strategies, I get up early to exercise most weekdays before work – it helps my mood, and it helps me to keep a consistent schedule. I spend time writing each morning – mostly journaling. This helps me brain dump, more or less, so that I can try to sort through the mish-mosh of feelings, emotions, thoughts all going through my brain. Without this outlet, it feels like non-stop stimulation inside of my brain, before even getting much input from the “outside” world, and it makes concentration and focus extremely difficult. Most evenings after dinner, I try to meditate, and/or do some yoga. It’s a wind down for my day, and helps settle my brain, so that I can hopefully get some sleep. If it’s not a work day, I try to spend as much time in the sunshine and fresh air as I can – especially in nature. I’ve been slacking in that lately, and really need to get back into it.

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

My loved ones. They’re my rocks. But if I had to choose an actual thing… I’d be tempted to say my medication, but I’ve had to go temporarily off of it for personal reasons, so technically, I’m living without it for the moment.  So, I’d probably have to say my journal. Writing is my solace. My journal will “listen” to my thoughts and emotions and feelings with no judgement, and it lets me get it “out of my head” without having to actually direct it at anyone, which is huge in helping my relationships with loved ones and friends (note: I’m far from perfect in this regard, but it helps). I work through so much in the pages of my journal, and I can’t imagine not having that outlet on a daily basis.

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

That I am not alone, and that so many people struggle with their mental health. You hear the statistics, that one in five Americans have a mental health condition, but when you begin talking about your illness and advocating, and you have people you would never have thought coming to you and saying, “Thank you so much for speaking out, I struggle too,” it really hits home. That “one in five” goes from being a statistic to something tangible that you can feel in daily life.  My illness has also given me a purpose. In my adult life, I feel I’ve floundered a bit in really finding where I feel I belong. But utilizing my illness to help others has, from the very start, always felt 100 percent like it’s my purpose and a path that I have to follow. It feels such a natural part of my life, almost an extension of myself, when so little else does sometimes.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

I have so much to say here, but I’ll try to condense it!  First, I would tell them to learn everything they can about their illness (from credible sources of course), and that when they’re ready, finding support with others who have the same/similar illness  – whether they find this in an official group or among friends or on social media/online – can make a world of difference. I’d also remind them how often depression and anxiety lie, and that there may be days that their illness wants them to believe every terrible thing about themselves, but that these aren’t true, no matter how convincing the lies sound.  I’d want them to know that there’s hope, there are others who “get it” and are here to help, and that they are not alone. Finally, I’d tell them to make sure that they have a healthcare team that they trust, and just as importantly, that trusts them. We know our bodies and our brains better than anyone else because we have lived with them our entire lives, and it’s important that our health professionals understand this – we deserve that respect as patients, to have our voices heard and not to be discounted.

My support system is…

My husband, my family, my friends, my therapist, my social media/online spoonie family.

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

Live as fully as I could – do activities I love to do, with people I care about, and try my hardest not to, as so often happens, let the anxiety of “Ok, I feel good now, but when is the proverbial other shoe going to drop”  creep in. Afterall, if I let it creep in, I’d cease to be symptom free!

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

For myself, I’d say that it’s helped me to be more understanding and empathetic. Because I know I’m often struggling with a lot that others can’t see, I try to also remember this when the situation is reversed, and I try to put myself in their shoes before passing judgement. For instance, if someone’s speaking to me badly, I try to ask myself “what might they be going through that I can’t see that’s causing them to act this way?”.

In addition, as mentioned above, it’s given me a purpose and direction. Without my illnesses, I wouldn’t be an advocate, I wouldn’t be involved in so many various organizations and causes, and I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people through these.

My links are:

https://spreadhopeproject.com
www.liliesandelephants.blogspot.com
Twitter: @mayanorthen
Instagram: @myohmy23

Interview October – Jenni

Our Interview October series continues with our next guest, Jenni Lock. Let’s meet her now:

JenniLock

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you…  

My name is Jenni Lock.  I’m 43 years old and hail from Ohio. I created Jenni’s Guts blog in 2008 and write about my journey with intestinal nonsense and other health issues.  My sense of humor and sarcasm are all part of my charm. I have a deep love for animals, learning about everything, socializing from a far, and my beautiful daughter.

Chronic illness(es)/disabilities I have… 

Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Bile Acid Malabsorption, chronic nausea and diarrhea mainly. However, I also suffer from Fibromyalgia, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia and struggle with a touch of PTSD.

My symptoms/condition began… 

I started having health problems in roughly 1990, though I wasn’t officially diagnosed with Crohn’s until 1995.  Everything else wrong with me just snowballed over the years after that.

My diagnosis process was… 

Difficult. I suffered from a lot of stomach pain, back pain, joint pain and lost about 15 pounds due to running to the restroom about 15-20 times a day. My family doctor told me I was depressed and needed Prozac. That didn’t help so I went to a specialist. The specialist told me I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and needed to eat more fiber and scheduled me for a sigmoidoscopy, but everything came back normal so I was, again, told to eat more fiber and decrease my stress. I quickly found out fiber made things worse and I continued to get sicker and sicker. I went to a different specialist who did many more tests but everything came back normal except for one blood test. It showed an inflammation/infection rate of seven times the normal rate. I exhausted all the testing options so I was scheduled for surgery to figure out what was happening inside me.  During surgery they found I had about 3 1/2 feet of severely inflamed small intestine and the final diagnosis was Crohn’s disease.  The whole diagnosis process took about 2 years.

The hardest part of living with my illness/disabilities is… 

My inability to do things with my family and friends because of being tied to a restroom and not feeling well enough.  Especially not being able to travel and go to fun events.  I’m not able to do a lot of things with my daughter because of this and it is really hard for me to continually have to say, “No, I’m sorry but I’m too sick” or “I can’t because of the bathroom situation.”

A typical day for me involves… 

After an exhausting night of not sleeping well, or even at all, the mornings are usually met with many trips to the restroom which continues throughout the day but most of the time tapers off at least a little throughout the day.  I watch a lot of movies and television, read and research, or put on music and draw.  I’m unable to work so I mainly just try to keep myself from going stir crazy.

The one thing I cannot live without is… 

Laughter.

Being ill/disabled has taught me… 

I can be a person with a disability (or many actually) but it doesn’t define who I am.  I’m so much more than just someone with medical problems.  And it has taken struggling with so many things wrong with me to actually figure that out.

What advice would I give someone recently diagnosed… 

This diagnosis isn’t the end of you. Study and learn as much as you can about your illness from every source you can get your hands on (except WebMD!!).  You have an inner strength that you never knew you had so use it to fight for proper health care and proper treatments and don’t ever, EVER settle for less – not from your doctors, healthcare professionals, or anyone else.  You’re worth it!

My support system is…

My family and friends.  And a furry little friend or two always make things better!  (Shoutout to all the pets I have had along the way – I miss you guys!)

If I had one day symptom/disability-free I would… 

Grab my daughter, get in the car and just drive.  We would go to all the places she always wanted to go and do all the things she wanted to do that I couldn’t because traveling, for me, is so difficult.

One positive of having a chronic illness/disability is…

All the communities out there that have allowed me the opportunity to meet people and learn about their stories.  I’m so fortunate that my blog has reached so many people and we all get to help each other cope.  I think it is so important to have a community of people who understand, even if they are hundreds of miles away from you and you never physically meet each other.

My link is:

JennisGuts.blogspot.com