Faith · Family · Health · Perspective

The Anxious Mind

The anxious mind. Last night as I was tucking my 10yr old into bed, we started talking about having busy brains. I have an extremely busy brain. My son does as well.

The thing about a busy brain is that it never stops. All day long, ideas, conversations, and second guesses roll around. In recent memory, I’ve not experienced a truly blank mind. Never have I enjoyed the pleasure of just…. quiet.

When my husband got home late last night from fall (soybean) harvest, I asked him what he thinks about as he cuts. He said “nothing.” My response “Really? Like… Nothing?!” How is that even possible? He said the hum of the combine, the constant feeling of the machine, and all the dust billowing up lead to a quiet nothing. Of course he’s still aware of what’s going on around him, but his brain isn’t also processing phone calls he needs to return, conversations he had with customers, or how he’s going to juggle getting T to the campout Friday night. He does have situational anxious moments, but it isn’t a constant barrage in his mind.

Yoga, meditation, prayer. I’ve tried and continue each of these on a sporadic, regular, and frequent basis, respectively. The only place I’ve felt close to quiet is when I’m running. Then, the kicker is that I have music blaring in my ears but my body is mostly focused on breath and gait. Still not completely quiet, but all my senses are pointed towards supporting the run.

I started talking to a therapist about 5 weeks ago to help sort the thought cloud out. The events of this year pushed me past the realm of my typical coping mechanisms. Do you know the character Pig Pen off of Peanuts? It’s not dirt, but the thoughts that swirl around in my mind feel like that cloud. The cloud is claustrophobic. You want to burst out in all directions, but yet don’t have a pathway to do it.

Peanuts Comic by Charles Schulz

Part of me thinks that all these conversations I’m having with her seem frivolous compared to the mom with post-partum or the woman who lost her husband that are likely part of her clientele. She told me to stop second guessing myself because we all have our things. Goodness, if I could just take out the second guessing part of the mind cloud…

The step I’m working on to shine a light on this darkness is to talk about it. Anxiety had me boxed into thinking that I couldn’t talk about anything non-functional with my husband, family, or friends. “Everybody is dealing with things, so don’t add non-positive issues to their plates.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Anxiety thrives in hidden environments, so bring it to the light and talk about it.

My anxious mind is amazing. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Anxiety. It is a liar.

Health · Perspective

Invisible Symptoms

Today I’m filling a chair. That’s virtually it. At work, I’ve answered the phone (a lot), taken messages, updated the website and made a to-do list. But…. much of that to-do list will just have to wait for tomorrow. My brain is altogether exhausted.

When a brain is tired, one might think it’s from being a contestant on Jeopardy or perhaps sitting at an important round-table business meeting. Today, my brain is fatigued from a main platter of MS with a side of crazy female hormones. Friends, that’s a bad combination!

Last week, my husband and I trekked to Denver for my annual neurology appointment. Overall, I’m doing very well and MRI-land is completely stable. We both love being active and outdoors, so in addition to the yearly neuro appointment we spent the day in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I met with a new-to-me neurology NP for this appointment the day after our hike. This was the most informative appointment I’ve ever experienced. Perhaps this was because she had a medical student with her? The med student actually performed the physical exam (the works – walk on toes, follow finger, tell me when the vibration stops on your foot…). With each test, she explained whether my results were “normal” or “typical of MS patients.”

My three biggest concerns were addressed. Two of these, I’ll talk about here. Numero Uno is fatigue. I found myself needing 20-40 minute naps a few times a week this summer. If you read my previous post about our summer activities, you’ll see a constantly on the go schedule. Who had time for naps?!

Guess her prescription. Seriously, just guess…

It was to…. TAKE NAPS. Her exact words were “a nap can do more for you than any medication I could prescribe. You need to take the guilt out of getting rest.”

She explained that where the lesion is on my spine, I have a “loss system with invisible symptoms.” When my brain contacts my legs (and thankfully they still do), my legs hear the request as a whisper and they SCREAM back. It takes my body more energy to do things because the lesion slows down communication.

When my legs SCREAM back, it comes across to the onlooker as over-reactive reflexes. This was my second concern. My feet and legs have such a touchy reflex that spin class is difficult. As my body heats up from exercise, they become even MORE over-reactive!

Her response: “Get used to it and be happy about it.” Well…. alrighty then… She further explained that I should be ecstatic that my legs and brain are communicating. I guess that means that I’ll strap my feet into my spin bike and just roll with it (pun intended).

After my physical examination, she told me that I’m doing all the right things. I’m drinking a plethora of water daily and my nutrition is good. Continued exercise and guilt-free sleep are my¬† prescriptions in addition to the Tecfidera.

When I relayed this information to a nurse friend of mine, her response was that it was refreshing to have a medical professional NOT push medication. Instead, she recommended I go back to the basics of self-care: sleep, exercise, and water.

Thus, I have. I napped both Saturday and Sunday. I exercised in some form 6/7 days last week. Water? Always 90-110oz a day.

I can’t reverse the damage already done, but I can make sure I’m doing everything possible to prevent progression.

Much love — Jen