The “Cool Kids”…as if I know how they are…

I just wanted to be like the “‘Cool Kids” tonight. That’s all.

You know. The “Cool Kids”. The people who are doing stuff that is cool that I don’t get to do.

Right? Aren’t those the “Cool Kids”?

Well that’s what it feels like tonight. I did all my stretches and workouts today which is pretty darn good. I did everything I could do for me and for my health. And…

I ADDED A NEW STRETCH…

That NEW STRETCH has kicked my butt. Everything changed from that point. Even attempting this NEW STRETCH did me in. It was sooooo hard. I haven’t had to attempt such a hard stretch in a long time. Oh good. I’m glad I’m not putting the word “stretch” in capital letters anymore. It doesn’t deserve to have such Power over me. But it sure did take over my life today. Everything in my body changed at that point. I was able to keep exercising but I had to rest after trying to do the stretch and then start up again. My whole body was yelling at me. This is a new stretch given to me by my Chiropractor. I had tried to do this stretch last year with my Physical Therapist at the time and I couldn’t even get in the right position so we decided it wasn’t the “right” time to even TRY it. And now, the stretch is back to haunt me. At least I was able to get in the right position and I kinda pulled it off but it was one of the hardest things I’ve had to try in a long time.

HOLY CRAP.

I’m determined to conquer this stretch. I know it’s a good one. I know it affected my whole entire body. I’m gonna get it. I am. BUT not today.

So because of that stretch…and the fact that I have multiple sclerosis, lupus, irritable bowel syndrome and all kinds of other crappy issues that go with these three yuckies, I DON’T GET TO HANG OUT WITH THE “COOL KIDS” TONIGHT. (I know I know. Perhaps I’m the “Cool Kid” for staying home and resting and not pushing it too hard. Yeah whatever. Still not Cool. I’m not in the mood to look at the brighter side of things just yet. Sometimes I don’t want to make concessions.)

Corey has an Improv show tonight. Actually, it’s debuting tonight. Brand new and full of silly. I just know it. I love to see him up there. He looks so full of joy and really blooms on stage. Makes me happy to see him happy.

BUT NO.

MS, lupus and IBS have reared their ugly heads…YET AGAIN.

YET AGAIN…

They decide my night.

YET AGAIN…

They stop me from getting out.

YET AGAIN…

They interrupt my life.

And you know what? It’s not OK. Not tonight. I will deal. I will get some rest. Everything will happen even if I don’t get to go. I’m not as upset as I used to be about it but I’m definitely not happy either.

AND I’M TIRED OF NOT “GETTING TO GO”.

I’M TIRED OF HAVING TO SAY “NO”.

I’M TIRED OF BEING “LEFT OUT”.

I’M TIRED OF HAVING TO CALCULATE WHEN I CAN AND CAN’T DO STUFF. FUN STUFF!

And it’s when I can’t do the FUN STUFF that’s the worst.

And time will happen. I’ll have another chance to see this new show next month again. Perhaps I’ll be able to go. Maybe I’ll even be able to hang out with the “Cool Kids” and be one of them.

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THE OK POLICE

It’s time for a confession:

I haven’t written in awhile. It looks like it’s been over 2 months. The truth is, I’ve been watching my back. I’ve been keeping an eye on happenings around me. I’ve been looking over my shoulder even more. I feel like my last post revealed something illegal.

It feels ILLEGAL to say “I’m OK”.

WHAT????

To be honest, I have been waiting for the “OK Police” to track me down, to find me. Clearly if I have put in writing that “I’m OK” then I’ll be found out. How dare I have MS, lupus, IBS and all kinds of other issues and be OK? What am I thinking? Clearly then I should be working and living that “normal” life right?

I MUST be ready for a job. I MUST be ready to add that chaos back into my life. I MUST feel well enough to work.

Something happened in April of this year that I have yet to write about here because to be honest I’m still not ready to get into too many details. What I will say is that an entity who shall remain nameless stopped helping me financially and my legal counsel advised me that it was because by writing a Blog and being “able to write” then CLEARLY I can WORK.

OBVIOUSLY.

OH WHAT A FANTASY. I WISH IT WAS THAT EASY.

Or maybe it is right? Well let’s see what I can do in the morning if I were to go to work right now? I can get up early in the morning, stretch my body in the bed before I even get up because due to my MS and lupus my body has stiffened through the night, I can try to do some spiritual routines to help me have hope to get through even the next hour, I can shower which ALWAYS feels like an EVENT, I can put on all the creams and do all the Dermatologist ordered regimens in order to protect myself against sun sensitivity due to my lupus, I can feed my Cleo Kitty, I can think through my fog-addled brain that includes a regular feeling of tired along with MS fog and lupus fog, I can make my breakfast, I can take all my vitamins and medications, I can pull together a lunch for the day, oh yeah and how could I forget putting on clothes which can wear me out, I can put my shoes on with hands that are probably achy and stiff due to MS and lupus, I can do my stretches that usually now take 2 hours to do that have been provided to me by my Chriropractor, my Physical Therapist and those I have learned over the years, I can brush my teeth that requires movement of my hands and arms, I can go to the bathroom which is probably TMI and obvious to some but that depends on the ingredients of this experience, I can find my keys which even to normal people is hard to do, I can be sure to wear my sun protective jacket or shirt AGAIN because of my lupus sun sensitivity issues, I can put my hat on my head and flatten anything that might have looked like a PASSABLE hair do, I can grab my bags and hope I can even carry them, not to mention just dragging and pushing through all my symptoms I might be having for the day like FATIGUE which is a huge issue for me, stiffness as mentioned a bit before, weakness, balance issues, aches and pains, the itchies, HEAT FATIGUE which is separate from regular fatigue and is still playing a bit part of my life here in LA even as October looms, SUN FATIGUE where yes even the UV rays sneak through the CLOSED window blinds and can affect my lupus, dry mouth, dry eyes, numbness, tingling, nausea, constipation, and all the other digestive icky stuff and I could go on and on about symptoms, and THEN I can hopefully remember what I need to bring and actually bring it (Memory is also a serious issue and symptom), go into the hallways into different UV rays and temperature, lock the door if I can remember to, go into the elevator, deal with the fluorescent lights that could also affect my lupus due to the UV rays that blare from these awful lights, ride the elevator and hope I don’t get dizzy (another symptom) from movement, all the while hoping I can stand this whole time if my legs will let me, walk to my car, unlock it and put the stuff in my car and then get into the other side of the car…….AND is anyone else tired?  I mean, I haven’t even left the apartment building yet.

AND THAT IS JUST THE MORNING.

I’m exhausted just thinking about it. This is what I go through every morning if I have a morning doctor appointment to go to. This is what so many of us do. Have you all realized what you do in the morning? JUST the morning? It’s a wonder we can do anything EVER.

AND YET, I’M WORRIED ABOUT THE “OK POLICE”. That I might get “found out”.

I mean, Gawd forbid I say I’m OK. It’s as if the Disability Police are going to come and tackle me and say they “caught me”. That I’m going to admonished for being “OK”.

What is OK? Well, that is a very broad term for all of us. Yet some people and entities who shall not be named choose to think it must mean all is right with me or you or whomever it the subject of those 2 LETTERS.

2 LETTERS can implicate you. 2 LETTERS have the power to make me feel guilty. To make me feel guilty about what????? I have friggin’ MS and lupus! It’s a miracle to even think I could be the LETTERS “O” and “K”. Seems to me, those that think I can do more than I do should feel guilty if anyone.

Come on now. Sure, a lot of this is in my own head. But where did it come from? It came from a society that believes that we have to keep going and going and we’re NOTHING if we don’t keep going and we must be “LAZY” (if we stop and smell the roses for goodness sakes–needless to say I really don’t like that word because there is such a negative connotation to it) and that we have to accomplish the world and yet that’s never good enough is it? We live in a world that judges based on words, based on outward appearances when so much of what we ALL go through is invisible to the eye. So we live in a life of constant stress don’t we?

WHY?

Why are we so concerned with what others are doing?  Why do we decide it’s wrong? Why do I think I’m wrong for being “OK”? Why can’t I celebrate it?????

For so long I have struggled. For so long I have felt CRAPPY. For so long something was wrong.

So why be so worried about the “OK Police”? Why can’t I just live my life? Why on earth do I have to be punished for feeling a bit better?

BETTER.

Now there’s a wide open word for ya. Oh my goodness! She said she’s better so it must mean that all bad and uncomfortable things have come to an end. I have news for everyone who thinks these things and all entities who use that word to stop taking care of someone who actually deserves the help (YES I SAID DESERVES THE HELP)! Guess what???? BETTER DOES NOT MEAN THAT I AM ALL BETTER AND I AM READY TO STEP BACK INTO THE WORLD AND WORK MY BUTT OFF NOT JUST ON TAKING CARE OF ME BUT ALSO TO WORK 40 HOURS A WEEK AND WORK AT LEAST THE EQUIVALENT OF MY PAST JOB AND WORK UP TO 50 (YES I SAID 50) MILES AWAY FROM WHERE I LIVE! And yes I am yelling.

Better means there is improvement. It means that I don’t feel so absolutely miserable that I don’t know how I can make it another day. And no that has nothing to do with ending my life. It means what I just said. It means that maybe, just maybe I can eat more than toast. It means that I might even be able to write a bit. It means I might be able to take a shower without wearing myself out.

OH NO! I’m writing a Blog! A Blog! I can clearly work right?

WRONG. Since I’ve been writing this post today my hands and arms have been throbbing a bit but I am determined to write it. I will not keep it all in and be quiet and stuffed into a dark corner where no one even has to know I exist. I have news for you. I do exist. I have a name and I have a life and I am not less than. I deserve to be heard. I have so much that I could feel crappy about. I have so much reason to think no one wants to hear me or see what I write. Those are delusions however. I will FEEL this afterwards. I won’t be able to wash the dishes by hand because we have no dishwasher and it’s the only way to get them clean. I won’t be able to think clearly for awhile because I’ve used so much of my mind energy to write and focus on this that is also so fulfilling.  I won’t be able to do the 4 loads of laundry even with my husband’s help because I’ll need to rest. I also won’t be able to focus on the bills that need to be done. Yes, I even do bills. I struggle through them cognitively (I deal with a hard time concentrating quite often due to MS symptoms.)

Oh sorry. Should I have even mentioned that I can sometimes do dishes and sometimes even do laundry with help? Or that I do bills? Yes, even those of us who are disabled have bills to pay. Lots of them. We may not have a lot of money to pay for them though. Heck, we might even have more due to health insurance and other medical expenses that drive us out of our minds. Or maybe I shouldn’t be writing this because then it will look like I can work. Again, I’d be expressing myself too which might be bad.

My awesome Chiropractor, or Holistic Healing Coach as I like to call him, ordered me to celebrate me feeling better and turning a new corner to improved healing. He said I should shout it out. I still cowered a bit when he said that and he noticed it right away. “Why are you sinking a bit?”, he asked me. I had to tell him I felt guilty. “Guilty? Why? Embrace it! Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise, especially you.” I’m trying Dr. D I’m trying.

Isn’t that the whole point? Shouldn’t I be encouraged to take the time I need to be getting the help I need even financially that by the way is not mooching from the system? Shouldn’t it be OK to see me out and about? (There’s those 2 letters. Uh oh.) Shouldn’t I be cheered on to keep doing what I need to do so I can become even more of an “accepted” member of society? Here’s an idea. Perhaps if I keep doing what I need to do to heal and recover I can go back to working because yes, I do want to be working. Sure I don’t think I can ever go back to doing what I was doing or being in that kind of environment again. It was too chaotic. It was just too much for me. That’s OK. (those 2 letters just keep sneaking up on me). But I’d really like to help people in some way. That would be neat. Maybe there’s a future career in that for me.

So today I declare that I shall not let my own mind become the “OK POLICE”! I shall not let the thoughts, attitudes and feelings of others affect how I live my life. (Oh wow. This might be too much to ask for at once.) I shall not let others get me down.

I SHALL RISE UP!

Perhaps maybe even one day in the near future I’ll be better than “OK”. How cool would that be?

But I have news for everyone who thinks that I should be able to jump into the life of a “working” person. Actually, this brings me to a new tangent. Just writing that line has sidetracked me. I’m going to keep these thoughts in this order for you all to read because sometimes stream of consciousness is so important to help us understand each other. Here’s a thought:

I AM A WORKING PERSON ALREADY.

My JOB is to keep taking care of myself. Do you know how hard that is? How good are you at taking real care of yourself? It is much more than a full time job! Heck, I need an assistant just to help take care of ME. I DO WORK. I still go to AT LEAST one doctor appointment a week. I still have to chase down my medications and supplements. I still have to try to eat healthy. I still have to exercise. I still have to make sure I get enough rest because gosh darn it life is tiring and then adding multiple sclerosis and lupus on top of it magnifies it a gazillion times more.

IT’S WORK.

ANYWAY…back to having “news for everyone who thinks that I should be able to jump into life of a ‘working’ person” as mentioned above before my tangent. MS and lupus are no joke. They are not CHOSEN as part of my life path. They are DISEASES. They literally cause way too much “Dis-Ease”. They are always making me feel something uncomfortable. Yes, I am STILL always feeling a symptom. There has not been a break in years. Over 10 years AT LEAST. And they can get worse and flare up WITH NO NOTICE. They are completely unpredictable.

SO NO. I’m not OK enough to work just yet. I’m not sure I will ever be. This doesn’t make me feel so good about myself sometimes. It’s one of the hardest realities to ever have to live with.

WHY? Maybe we’re not all supposed to be members of the Rat Race. There are so many other ways to live our lives as part of humanity. If we all did the same thing we wouldn’t get anywhere.

So you know what, “OK Police”, try it. Try to tackle me and then what? Because here’s the thing. YOU ARE NOT GOING TO CURE MY MS AND LUPUS. THEY ARE ALWAYS GOING TO BE THERE.

And it is OK (I say this proudly now) for me to be OK. It is OK for me to need your help if I asked for it. It is NOT OK for you not to help me if you are judging all I do on what you read on a screen. (I am sending this message along to an entity who judged me by my writing.) And while I continue along this path of OK-ness I’d really like it if you would at least join me before judging. We can walk together. We don’t have to stand next to each other especially because I’ll still be working on even being “OK” with you being on my path but I’d really like it if you’d try to UNDERSTAND me first before PUSHING ME DOWN and doing your best to make me INVISIBLE.

And to tell the truth to my own mind, since this really is just one big discussion with my insecure sensitive mind, it’s been 2 months since I wrote that lost Blog post about how “I’m OK” and not once have I even caught a glimpse of the “OK Police”. I can let it go now. I can at least try to.

AND I WILL CELEBRATE AND EMBRACE THE FACT THAT I AM GETTING BETTER! Sure it’s not the better I want but it is still Progress. It doesn’t have to be Perfect (dang it), but it’s in the right direction. I deserve a good quality of life just like everyone else. And I am really starting to feel it.

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I’M OK

I’ve been reflecting a lot about my Blog post yesterday, “Diagnosis Part 5: MRI”.

It helped so much to write that. I needed to really get that out. I needed to tell the whole world about my experience. It freed me a lot. I felt lighter after I wrote it and I’ve been breathing easier ever since.

And what I’ve become aware of even more today is something so enlightening and positive.

I’M OK.

I, Nahleen Virginia Blake (yes that’s my Middle Name), am OK. Oh my goodness! I’m OK. If you had told me that night of my first MRI that over 10 years from that whole experience I’d say I was OK I’d have pushed you away. I’d have ignored you. I wouldn’t have believed you. I probably would’ve gotten sick to my stomach.

No Way! I was so terrified about my life, about my future, about my body and everything that I had no control over. I “HAD CONTROL” of my life back then…I thought. I was on my path. Full speed ahead! Get out of my way. I’m following my dream. Actually…I’m chasing my dream. It can’t get away. My grip is so tight and I won’t let go. Keep on going and going and going and going. Well, guess what Energizer Bunny? You can’t keep going either no matter what those commercials say. Sorry but you run out of Oomph too!

Throughout these 10 plus years since I have been told by so many people older than me that I am too young to think the way I do. That I am too young to go through what I’ve gone through. That I should be going through all of this illness and crap when I’m older. Well, let me tell you all, I HAVE NO CONTROL AND I NEVER HAVE. I was powerless over what was happening in my body and my mind was bound to change. My life was bound to change! My outlook was bound to change! Change change change! Life is about change!

How could all of that not change?

I couldn’t work 2 jobs anymore. That was crazy to start with. I couldn’t be a Production Assistant for 12 hour days on my precious weekends anymore.  I couldn’t couldn’t with the couldn’ts. Suddenly my life came to a halt.

SORT OF.

I had to rest more.

I’M SORRY. DID I SAY REST?

What is REST? Well, that means I STOP all I’m doing to the best of my ability and sit my butt down. I can lay down on the bed. I get some quiet. I learn how to meditate. If I can’t stop I at least SLOW DOWN. Yes, slower is OK. Really. There are so many ways to rest. Forcing everything to a point of a racing heart is NOT RESTING. Nope. Everything in Fast Forward is not resting.

Actually, my life is usually better than OK but I didn’t know that until 8 years later when I was diagnosed with a second disease of lupus. A…SECOND…DISEASE……..OF…LUPUS….Now THAT ONE KICKED ME OFF MY FEET AND STRAIGHT ONTO MY BUTT and there was no getting up.

No question.

I hit a wall so hard it’s a wonder I even survived and I am NOT EXAGGERATING.

And my choices were simple yet so complicated for someone like me to understand. You see, simple is not simple. It can’t just be that pretty much everything in my life has to STOP AND SLOW DOWN and not just a few things here and there. This affected EVERYTHING.

I HAD TO CHANGE.

MY LIFE HAD TO CHANGE AND FAST.

I FELT I HAD NO CHOICE.

See, I used to say I had no choice. I had to stop working…for now…until further notice…maybe…no really…I still wasn’t feeling up to it months later…symptoms just kept kicking my butt…I needed Tender Loving Care from everyone but especially from ME. I could’ve gone back to work. Right. OK. And run around and been in an environment that was so toxic for me that I would’ve ended up in the hospital the next time. Sounds like a great quality of life.

It was ME. I had to change MY LIFE.

I had to take care of ME.

Why was that so hard? Why IS that so hard?

I know it’s worth it. I know I’m worth it. And it’s a work in progress…It really is about Quality of Life, not Quantity.

But when I focus on TLC and turning the attention of my TLC to me my life gets better. My life looks different, feels different, and even smells different. There are flowers to smell and see everywhere here in LA. There are trees with leaves that blow in the breeze. That is one of the most lovely sounds I have ever heard. There are clouds. Oh I have always loved clouds ever since I was a little kid. Give me a cloud to look at and I am thrilled. Everything else goes away. There is an ocean that keeps me Present when I can see it. Even driving by it changes my mood if I can see it. I am in the moment. Do you know how beautiful the moment is? Have you been able to feel your breath as you look at the vastness and the colors of the ocean as the sky and the light of the sun reflect on the ocean? Have you watched a seagull float along in the sea breeze? Even watching other people in the water puts a smile on my face.

Smiling. I do that so much more than I used to. I used to be told all the time to smile when I was in my 20s before the MS diagnosis. I had no idea I wasn’t smiling. I was so dang busy pushing and pulling and forcing and going that I forgot to smile. I had a frown on my face I was so intense. It’s a wonder I had any friends, family, work colleagues or anyone else who wanted to be in my life.

But somewhere along the way I forgot me. I still do sometimes and I am constantly working on bringing ME back.

And bringing my focus back to me, I see the shining emerald green glimpse of hummingbird. I see the butterfly off in the distance. I find myself sitting in my car listening to my favorite song and not getting out until I’ve finished belting it out to myself. And back to smiling because I find it so powerful. Smiling at others? Smiling at others and watching them smile back. It is so rare now for me not to connect with others with a smile. I have met some of the best people in the grocery store. We are all just people living our lives trying to get by. I have had lovely conversations in hospital building elevators with others about colors and clothing and my Muppet bag/purse.

I have sat next to some wonderful people while sitting in doctor waiting rooms. See doctor waiting rooms are tricky for me. I still can’t stand going to the doctor. In fact, I think in some ways it’s worse now because I have so much chronic illness doctor’s office visit fatigue if that makes any sense. I am sooooo done seeing so many doctors even though the appointments are currently usually further apart. Usually. But those waiting rooms can be so grueling and talking to others helps. If I don’t I feel closed off and not grounded. I find myself more nervous about the appointment than I was before. I find myself noticing that so many people are not feeling well, that they’re older and looking at me wondering why I’m there at whatever Specialist Doctor I happen to be at. It’s rough.

I have gotten to know the office staff at almost every doctor. I now have at least 2 friends at the Pharmacy I go to and I’ve had coffee with one of them. They are people too. Great gals actually. I have learned that it’s really not a problem usually to stand in line at a store. Why not look around? Why not watch a little girl or boy with their Mom and see what they see as they look around? Getting annoyed and irritated is probably going to make me feel worse. Life does not have to be lived so fast.

And what about finding myself through writing? I think I’ve always been a writer. I have written off and on all my life. This Blog has helped me get through what was a huge writer’s block for too many years. I need to write. It is part of my Being. Even if I write the hardest and deepest thoughts and words I still come out of it smiling. I wrote! I expressed myself!

And then there’s meditation, guided imagery, spiritual support groups, coffee groups, texts with friends, Facebook, Twitter, the online community in general, the longer conversations I get to have with people on the phone if I feel up to it (this one is still hard for me because being social is one of my favorite things but it also tires me out very quickly and as I get better I am more able to talk and maybe even visit but it’s still a one day at a time thing), the exploring of neighborhoods as I walk every day (by the way it’s been over 450 days since I started taking a walk every day!) I never know where I’ll end up. I have found the greatest local businesses that way. Some of the best coffee shops are in Santa Monica. I wouldn’t have known that before.

And sitting on my balcony especially at night is one of my favoritest things to do ever. I sit back in my lounge chair and look at the sky, look at my iPad (feel so fortunate and lucky to have such a supportive husband who bought me an iPad even before my lupus diagnosis and it has changed my life–the online world is a much more accessible place because sitting at the computer with the big screen can be hard for me for so many reasons), talk to my plants, and I can even have plants that I love and adore! And let me tell you, they respond so much better when I talk to them and give them love.

I have found faith and hope during these slower times. During these quiet times it has not all been fabulous. As they say every rose has its thorns and that is so true. There is beauty in life everywhere. There is also struggling, and excruciating feelings, and trudging, and crying, and anger, and memories, and reliving traumas, and temper tantrums, and grieving, and missing the old days when I thought my life was something else, and when I was younger before my MS diagnosis, and wanting to punch things and having very very hard times and hard days. I find I’m also having an identity crisis. Who am I? Who is Nahleen with MS and lupus? Will I ever work again? What will I do? Which idea am I going to pursue? Where is my life leading? Is this my life? I can’t live my life as someone who is identified only as my illnesses but it is a major challenge to break away from that when my life is lived in doctor’s offices talking about everything that’s still wrong with me, even talking about those few things that are getting better is still on the subject, just being there reminds me too much about my reality, having to prove my Disability to other entities who are trying to not help me, dealing with insurance issues, reliving the past for new doctors, taking over 4 hours to get going before I feel human in the morning, taking my medications, keeping up with my medications, keeping track of symptoms and the severity of them and watching for patterns, exercising so I can keep functioning and I could go on. Please let my life be more than that.

BUT YOU KNOW WHAT?

I’M OK.

I’m better than I was 10 years ago even before my MS diagnosis. I see the world in front of me more. I see the world. I am in the world. I am not on the outside looking in. I am NOT living the life I want to live on a whole just yet but isn’t that normal? I want to live a life WITHOUT MS and lupus but that is a lot to ask right now and to be honest it pisses me off and I can feel the rage right now even as I write this. But right now I’m in a better wave. I don’t know how long it will last or if it’s the new norm. Life is always happening and it is always in session. I have learned that time and time again. And I don’t know how I’m going to feel the next moment from when I write this sentence but for now I’ll take the feeling that life is a bit easier. How cool is that? I’m a bit more at ease. What a gift.

But it is not a life to be rushed through. Time goes by too fast. I was a tied up ball of knots rushing around plowing my way to the next goal in my mid-20s thinking I would someday rule the world, but it was never good enough. And in the past few days, life is good enough. Sure, I want more money, I want a bigger place to live in, I want that dent out of my car that someone so nicely put in there at a time I wasn’t around to see it happen, I want to be thinner, I want to feel so good that I am frolicking and skipping down the street and I don’t ever want bad things or hard things ever to happen again.

But that’s not real.

And I’M OK.

And the best part is there are parts of my life that are so very happy. I am happy with my husband and my Cleo Kitty. Corey keeps me laughing and on my toes. He is so incredibly supportive and always by my side. We are the best team I know. Cleo Kitty and I are best friends. We have been there for each other during each of our health problems for the past 3 years. She cuddles and plays and needs to eat and she demands her pets.

I also have a roof over my head, wonderful people in my life who don’t let me isolate even for one minute and they are from all parts of my life, 2 cars that run well, air conditioning that usually works, clothes to wear, food to eat, a bed to sleep on even if the mattress is so old there are hills and valleys in it and the list is endless.

I have a full life. A pretty darn good life. It can be very hard. And sometimes it can be easy but those times seem rare. Perhaps that will change. I don’t know. What I do know is that I breathe easier. I’m not nearly as tense. I feel much better than I did last year in July 2012 (and it doesn’t mean I am all better but I will take whatever I can get), I smile and giggle more than I frown and grumble. My bad days aren’t nearly as bad and intense and I recover quicker. And this is all just for today.

That is all I have. That is all WE have.

And that is OK.

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Diagnosis Part 5: MRI

I looked back on the last time I wrote a part of the “Diagnosis” story of my life and saw that it was on 05/17/12. It has been over a year since I wrote about the story of my diagnosis. That is how painful and hard my story is and how excruciating this next chapter is.  I had to be so ready to write it that I was bursting at the seams! Lately I have found it very challenging to come up with the words. I am a writer with too many words and no words. I truly believe there are not enough words in the English language to describe so much of what I’ve been through.

BUT IT’S TIME. IT’S TIME TO GET IT OUT. IT’S TIME TO TAKE ANOTHER STEP TO BE FREE OF THE TRAUMA.

As you can tell from the title, my focus will be the first MRI that changed my life. THE MRI.

Here goes. I know you’re all here with me so I’m going to jump in. I can already feel the adrenaline of anxiety rushing throughout my body. The emotions are rising to the top. Those really really hard emotions. I can do this.

It’s November 2002. I’m 25 at what I believe is supposed to have been the Prime of my life. Or at least I “believed” it was supposed to be. I gotta admit, if that year was the Prime of my life then I’d have nothing to hope for. That year my family had decided to have a family reunion of sorts with my Mother’s side of the family for Thanksgiving. We were all going to meet at my Grandpa’s up north in Monterey, CA and it was going to be a grand ole time! My sister had planned on visiting me in LA for the first time the week before Thanksgiving and we were supposed to hang out and cause some trouble before the family shenanigans started.

Looking back I’m not sure what I was thinking when I scheduled my first MRI to be at night on the first night my sister was visiting. I mean, I know why I scheduled it at night. I had to work during the day. My sister and I met at a small mall for lunch and she was going to hang out for awhile before I could get out of work. I was scared that day but on top of the world. I can remember feeling so proud and so “up”. My sister was visiting MY WORLD. I was going to show her MY WORLD. I had seen HER WORLD before in the past but this was mine. She’s older and I was so proud to show her LA, to show her I was “making it” out here. Still not sure what “making it” means but I digress. I can remember walking down the sidewalk at this mall and looking for her and thinking it was a pretty day and oh by the way, I had lost almost 50 pounds so I couldn’t wait for her to see that too. Weight has always been a challenge for all of us in the family so the idea that I could even lose 50 pounds was AMAZING!

Anyway, we met up, had lunch, I took her on a tour of my workplace and I was so so proud to do that. Look Lori, I work at a television station! I’m really starting to do what I came out here to do! Those were the thoughts in my head. Isn’t it weird how we can bring ourselves back to our past mindsets and know they’re familiar but almost not recognize them? That was over 10 years ago. I have been through so much since then. My mind even feels different.

I don’t remember much until I showed up at the hospital in Burbank with Corey and Lori and had to fill out the paperwork. Actually, much of that is a blur. I was so nervous. I’m sure I had decided to just have the MRI then because I had to wait weeks for my HMO at the time to process all the red tape to even approve an MRI for me so I just wanted to get it over with. Plus I had had sooooo many medical tests by then that had come up with NOTHING that I might as well get this done. If I didn’t do it then then I’d have to wait till after Thanksgiving. On a side thought, I wonder if that would’ve changed much of the course of events?

I then remember being called by a lady to “Come on in and we’ll get you started” and she lead me through white hallways. Please tell me, why must all hospital hallways be white or yellow? Why can’t they be calming colors or fun colors? And I know they’re supposed to be sterile but some decoration of some sort would be nice. And about the fluorescent lights…PLEASE GET RID OF THEM!

So the next thing I know I’m being sat down at a small table to the side in the middle of the hallway it feels like (at this point I was so not used to being in a medical fishbowl and everything felt like it had to be a secret and why were we sitting in public–even though no one was really walking by or anything) and this nice lady with long dark hair (blurred out everything else) sat me down, pulled out a pile of paperwork and a pen and proceeded to ask me questions I could not answer. That was the first day/night I ever heard about fibromyalgia. The who the what now? That was the first day/night I ever heard I could have symptoms of fatigue and that they were real. That was the first time ANYONE had ever asked me if I felt any real pain and where and did I have any other autoimmune diseases? What are those? Why was she bringing them up to me? That was the first time for so many things. I think I was a medical virgin or something. It was all so surreal.

Back then, the MRI machines (this was only 10 years ago) were very different than they are now. They were long tubes and they were dark and they were skinny. Here’s my thing. I was so much skinnier and yet I felt cramped in there. How could anyone bigger than me fit in there at all? I don’t remember much of the process just yet but I know I was hardly wearing anything. I had to take off all metal, all jewelry, my bra with the metal underwire, my pants with even a hint of a metal button (don’t think the button was metal actually). To be honest I can distinctly tell you what I was wearing that day. So weird. So much of it is a blur but what I was wearing is clear as a bell still to me. I was wearing my favorite navy blue long sleeve button down shirt that I had just bought in a size smaller due to my weight loss and I was so proud of me and of it. I was also wearing khakis that I don’t think I’d be wearing now. Not that I’d even fit in these clothes now but still. At the time I was wearing contacts so I didn’t have to worry about not seeing and feeling vulnerable that way and I had to wear a very thin white hospital gown. I felt so vulnerable and I also knew I was claustrophobic but I didn’t know how much because luckily I had never been put in that situation before.

These days I have had much better experiences with MRIs. I usually have one a year. I believe I’ve had at least 15 MRIs but if I count any that have been done in a row in the same session (meaning 4 in a row with all kinds of machinery and equipment locking me down and in and not being able to move for OVER 2 HOURS) I’d say it’s close to 20 by now. Each time they’re different. Fortunately, the technology is so much better and the MRIs I have had have been shorter, a bit wider, some of them have music and I don’t have to take off much of anything. The ONLY thing I usually have to take off is my bra still but that’s it. Why? Because they are usually only interested in my brain to see where lesions are for MS. Why did I have 4 in a row once? Well I was at USC where they have state of the art equipment and my MS Specialist Neurologist at the time wanted a whole picture of me. The technicians usually ask me if I want to take a mood enhancer drug of some sort to help me not care about the experience and I have told them No. I like being with it afterwards. Then again, if I EVER have to do such extensive MRI tests AGAIN that make me stay in one position for 2 hours then I will have to take a drug. I WILL NOT DO THAT AGAIN COMPLETELY CONSCIOUS. I was in so much pain from not moving and I was told that if I moved even a little bit then they’d have to start over. Plus it can be extremely hard to get my head out of the “tunnel mode” and back into the big wide world with no tubes enclosing me. Oh and I have had an Open MRI before but to me it was worse because there’s no tube BUT it’s like they put you inside a sandwich of a top and bottom of a machine and you can see out the sides but it’s not like you can move your head to see them and all I kept thinking about was how it was going to crush me or the machine would eat me or something. But I digress.

You know, A LOT of people knew what was going on with me at that point and a bunch of them had had MRIs before and they all had different ideas of what they were like and some told me that they were awful and some told me that they were easy and so on…However I will tell you this, if you have never had an MRI before I will not tell you what it’s like for you. I will only tell you what it was like for me if you ask. I will however tell you that I’m sorry you have to go through that and wish you all the best. My experience was different than that of anyone else who told me what their experience was like. In fact it was so unique and traumatic that it’s so hard getting over it still which is why it’s so important for me to share with all of you what happened and to get it out.

Anyway, when the paperwork was finally done and I already was so nervous my heart must’ve been beating out of my chest at that point and I was in the paper thin white gown, I was lead into the room with the MRI. I remember the room being a yucky yellow and I saw this big machine and a little circular opening into darkness was there. I knew right away this was the MRI. It’s fight or flight right? My head was running away so fast yet my body stayed put. I’m sure I tensed up all over the place. I’m sure my breathing was labored. But I toughed it out. I could do this. Oh yeah and the room was cold because the machine could overheat fast. Plus it was already so so loud in there just from the monster machine. So they had me lay down on the thin flat cold table and locked my head in telling me not to move it. They put earplugs in my ears or headphones on (don’t remember), asked me if I was OK–UM does anyone see the logic in this? I still have technicians doing that with me. They block my ears and lock my head in so I can’t turn and can barely interact and then they ask if I’m OK. WHAT????? Did you say something? My instinct is to move my head. And then panic, oh wait I can’t. GEEZUM! Someone’s gotta tell them that makes no sense. Perhaps walking us through some hand signs would be helpful or something. Eye contact with me directly over where my head is locked in would be good too.

The next thing I know the table starts moving and I’m sent into the dark tube. The tube I could barely fit in. And they kept sending me into the darkness. Oh thank goodness the MRI machines I go in now are white and have a lot of light. I kept trying to remember what my Rheumatologist had told me. Look straight up and you’ll see a mirror that reflects the window to the room where the technicians are. Look at them if you need to. She reminded me that I’m not stuck in there. I could slide out if I wanted to. However all I could picture was panicking and trying to sit up and knocking myself out because I’d hit my head on the head cage or the tube or both. She told me I could wiggle my fingers if I crossed them on my stomach (really not too comfortable for all that time) and I could see them in the mirror so I’d be aware that I hadn’t detached from my body somehow. However, I was still sooooo scared to move. I didn’t want to have to do this over again. I just wanted it done with.

Meanwhile I’m aware that Corey and Lori are in the Waiting Room. I think it was in that dark long squished tube where I got a glimpse of how vulnerable I really was. I was locked in. I was taken away from my people. Yes I had watched too many movies, TV shows and read too many books but I’m not convinced “weird” stuff doesn’t happen. How do I know? I started thinking about how they were looking at my brain. I started thinking about how I had a brain. Hey, I really had a brain! What were Corey and Lori doing? Wow, this machine is really loud even with my ears blocked. Oh my goodness I have an itch on my nose. How much can I wiggle my fingers? Can I move my feet at all? Doesn’t any movement of my body move the rest of it? As I looked in the mirror into the other room, I wondered, how I had not seen that room when I came in? Where was it? What were they seeing? Why were there so many people in the room? Dang it! Breathe! Oh my goodness I’m in a dark long tube! How long has it been? Why aren’t they talking to me? Can they please not talk to me? Can they please not tell me how much longer? Wait why is it so silent? What do the sounds mean? What does my brain look like? Oh my goodness this tube is long. I hope there’s not a monster just waiting to grab my head in the part of the tube I didn’t enter. Why am I so far in? Didn’t Dr. S say I wouldn’t be pulled all the way in? Uh oh. Why the silence? That’s a long silence. I can do this.  Really I can. Uh huh. I got this. Soon enough it’ll be over and I’ll be on my way and Lori and I can have our visit. Why is it taking so long? Or has it been long? I’m feeling cramped. I’m so hungry! UM DID THEY FORGET ME? Why does this machine vibrate too? No one told me about that part? WHAT IF THERE IS SOMETHING REALLY WRONG WITH ME? WHAT IF I HAVE MS? The mind loop was endless and I worked so hard not to get worked up that I was so stuck in my head. Did I have a body anymore?

So then I feel the table start sliding me out. I must be done. OK. I can do this. Phew! I’m done! Wait, that long haired lady is back and she has a serious look on her face. Does she have a serious look on her face? What is she doing? Shouldn’t she be pulling me out? I’ll ask her. Where’s my voice? Why can’t I say anything? Did I forget how to talk? Can I move? AM I DONE? What is she doing with that needle? WHAT’S HAPPENING?! No. No more needles. I’ve had enough needles and blood taken from me in the past 6 months. (Little did I know it was only the BEGINNING…).

I really don’t know if she told me she was putting “Contrast/Dye” into my veins. I just remember thinking that I felt like a specimen and some kind of experiment. I must be a part of a horror movie right now. Wait! I don’t remember being told I’d have this done. Why is it happening? She asked me what arm was best for veins and I told her I wasn’t sure. So she just tried. (I now know it’s my left arm just on the outside. Otherwise, my veins hide and don’t like being bothered. They’re busy.) OW! WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?! The shooting pain was abominable. I was strapped down. I think I jerked and she tried to hold me down and apologized and said she had missed it and would have to try again. I asked her what she was doing anyway I think finally and she said she thinks they might have seen something (ummmm not a good idea to tell me this and aren’t they supposed to keep their mouths shut?) and so they are putting ink in my veins to find out.

FREAK OUT BUT STAY STILL!

STAY STILL?! STAY STILL?!

OH MY GOD! WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?! SOMETHING WRONG? WHAT DO I DO? I can’t have something wrong with me. My sister’s here. I’m supposed to be tough for her. I’m not supposed to show any weakness. And then she moved to the other arm. Yes, I’m still locked in. I have a ridiculous force of will to stay in one place because honestly my head had me sprinting out of there so fast and yelling and screaming down the hallways. GET ME OUT OF THERE!

And something in my head told me to try to calm down. Let’s just get this over with. It may be nothing. They had told me that before during this journey of finding out what’s wrong with me. They thought they saw something and I’d freak and worry and lose my mind and then I’d found out it was nothing or that oh so fun medical word, “inconclusive”. Oh the things I could do with that word…

So she tries my other arm and she just couldn’t get the vein. She didn’t just stab me this time but squeezed my arm so tight and had me clenching fists and FINALLY I think she got it. Meanwhile, the other arm was still screaming. She had gotten the ink in my muscle. Who knows what that did to me. I still wonder. Before she sent my head into that dark tube she asked me if I had anyone there with me  in the Waiting Room and I told her yes and who they were. She said she’d tell them it was taking longer than expected.

So she says, OK, this shouldn’t take too much longer and she sent me back into that dark tube abyss…to be in my own head…to freak out…to be so horrified and think I was living in a nightmare…Did anyone really tell Corey and Lori why it was taking so long? What did they say? Did they know more than me? A part of me knew, I KNEW, that something was really wrong with me. What it was was terrifying me. The possibilities were endless. Would I find out right away? Would I have to wait forever to find out? What now? This should be done with me! I want out! Get me out of here! I was clearly wound up with so much stress I could barely stand it. I don’t know how I did actually. I guess a survival instinct took over. I was so worried about what Corey and Lori were thinking and that this shouldn’t have had to happen while she was here and now what and my head just kept exploding with crazy thoughts.

FINALLY…

THE MRI MACHINE STOPPED…

AND I WAITED FOR-WHAT SEEMED LIKE-EVER FOR SOMEONE TO PULL ME OUT OF THAT TUBE.

I had tensed up so much I could hardly move. I was so in my head I could barely function. This time the person taking me out was a blonde older woman with curly hair and glasses and she looked directly over me where my head was and I’ll never forget her eyes and the way they looked at me and kept staring at me as she unhooked my head and loosened it all up around me.

SHE LOOKED AT ME AS IF I WAS GOING TO DIE.

DIE.

I still have those eyes of her’s so stuck in my memory that I don’t think they’ll ever come out. So as I’m still laying there and I now have my ears clear, she asks me all kinds of questions. How am I feeling? What are my symptoms? When did they start? Do I have anyone here with me now? And I can hardly talk. I try to sit up really quick and I almost fall off the table I’m so dizzy and out of it. I’m so traumatized. I’m 25. I’m invincible remember?

I also was incredibly tense with MS and didn’t know and probably lupus and didn’t know that for so many more years after that that it’s a wonder I didn’t have a major attack/exacerbation/flare right there on the table or in that room. She kept those “You are going to DIE eyes on me the whole time.” I felt violated and so alone. I just wanted to get out of there. And in that same tone with those eyes, she said, “Now I need you to call your doctor right away in the morning. It’s too late now because you’ve been in here so long.”–Oh it wasn’t just me thinking it was long? It REALLY was that long? Poor Corey and Lori! I was so used to trying to please everyone and entertain everyone that I couldn’t be anything but that strong person. How was I going to show myself? I didn’t even know what they had said to them. They must be so worried.

So I tried to sit up and that wasn’t happening very well. I almost fell off the table. I had “freaked out dark tunnel scared to death” head. Horrifying. Why didn’t I wake up yet? Worst nightmare ever. Especially those “death” eyes of her’s. She caught me as I teetered to the side and held me upright and still looked at me as if I was going to DIE right there on her. I wish I could be exaggerating here about how she was looking at me but to this day with everything else I’ve been through, I have yet to see “THOSE DEATH EYES” on anyone else. So she told me to just sit there for a bit and she’d go out into the Waiting Room and tell Corey and Lori I was done and coming out soon. She came back in and asked me if I was OK getting up.

YES! GET ME OUT OF HERE NOW!

And I jumped up. Ooops. I stumbled and almost fell. Get me away from this woman please! She’s scaring me! Where was my voice? Did I even know how to talk? I had hidden me away somewhere deep into my brain. I was protecting me. I think I was a shell at that point. So upon seeing that I’m stumbling and clearly my legs are jello she tells me I’m going to have to ride in a wheelchair out into the Waiting Room and she’d be back.

WHAT?! A WHEELCHAIR?! I’M STRONG! I CAN WALK! I’M OK! I HAVE TO SHOW EVERYONE I’M OK! I CAN’T BE WEAK! PLEASE! NO!

I think I mumbled to please not do that but if she heard me she ignored me. All the while those “death” eyes on me as much as possible. I’m surprised she left me alone at all.

So she helped me a little too much into the wheelchair. By that time I had more of my bearings and was entering my body a little bit more from my hiding place in my head and I gave her a look like, “I GOT IT!” and forced myself into that chair. And then horrified, I was wheeled into the very bright Waiting Room where I saw Corey and Lori. As she’s rolling me she’s on a constant loop of telling me to call my doctor and not to ignore it and it was very important and when I finally found a voice to ask her what was wrong she told me she couldn’t tell me but that it was so very important and oh my goodness.

I was mortified that Corey and Lori would see me in a wheelchair because I mean really, I had only had an MRI. I was fine. I could walk. What the heck? I couldn’t look weak. I got this. Really. So still struggling to find my words, I try to get up out of the wheelchair ASAP and that blonde woman was STILL THERE! GO AWAY! LEAVE ME ALONE! DON’T TALK TO THEM! I HEARD YOU! I’M RIGHT HERE!

“Please make sure you talk to her doctor tomorrow OK. It’s so very important. You really need to do that. You can’t waste any time.”–as if I’m not there and I’m not understanding what she means and she gave them those same “death” eyes.

HERE’S MY QUESTION  TO HER OVER 10 YEARS LATER:

WHY DID SHE NOT MAKE SURE SOMEONE CALLED MY DOCTOR THAT NIGHT NO MATTER WHAT IF IT WAS SUCH AN EMERGENCY TO HER?! WHAT AM I MISSING?!

So she walks away and Corey and Lori are looking at me like I need to be treated with gentle hands. That’s what I felt like. Now I know they were looking at me like they were concerned and worried and they were allowed to be. They got those same EYES from that woman that I did about me. Scary! So as I start bawling and Corey’s telling me it’s OK and I can stay in the wheelchair as long as I need to and ALL I WANT TO DO IS GET THE HELL OUT OF THAT WHEELCHAIR! I CAN WALK! I CAN GET UP ON MY OWN! LET ME!

I still had a bit of a hard time talking especially with the crying and finally he understood that I wanted to get OUT OF THAT FRIGGIN’ WHEELCHAIR and into a regular chair and I wanted to throw that wheelchair as far away from me as possible. Somehow FINALLY I found my way into a regular chair and I bawled and bawled. I think I left a piece of me in that MRI room. I lost a lot of innocence that day. I found out I was mortal. I found out I wasn’t invincible.

I was human.

HUMAN.

We sat in that Waiting Room for a long time while I regathered myself a little bit more. When I look back on that night I think about how Lori was there and Corey was there. I wasn’t alone. That was no mistake. That was why I had scheduled the MRI for that night. I needed my Sister. Corey needed my Sister too I think. My Sister and I were still struggling with our relationship then and I had to be me with her the next few days. ME. And that was OK.

And one side note: I’m not surprised I couldn’t stand that wheelchair. It turns out I get very dizzy in them or I used to even up to a year and a half ago. I don’t know about now and I’m very fortunate not to know. I’m so grateful I can still walk. It’s weird. I’m OK with others in wheelchairs (well as OK as I can be considering these people are having a hard time in some way) but I felt like I couldn’t be in one. However, I now know that it’s hospital protocol. The last thing they want is me falling on their watch because uh oh I might sue. Oh poor things…

That’s it for now. I’m glad I got it out. As you can tell, I didn’t DIE. I haven’t DIED  yet. I don’t plan on dying anytime soon. I’m too busy living.

And what happened after that?

ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE! So much so that I need to recover from this post in order to write another one. I hope it doesn’t take me over a year because I think it’s ready to come out and I can tell already that I’m more healed from finally writing this.

Therapists have now told me that I am still suffering a bit from PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from just that one experience and that there are separate episodes to work through too all connected with this one. I believe it. I wish there had been enough sensitivity at the time to really see what I was going through. I feel it in my heart that we all need to see Therapists at some point in our lives but when going through such trauma as medical tests and the limbo part before diagnosis and then the diagnosis of the Chronic Illness along with maintenance care throughout–we should be REQUIRED to see a Therapist. To not talk about it is poison and can only make our health worse.

Medical Journey Trauma (I think I just came up with a new term) is REAL. And we all deserve to talk about it, process it and move on with our lives.

Oh and how do I feel about MRIs these days????

THEY STILL SUCK!

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I’m On The Right Track Baby, I Was Born To Survive

Thank you Lady Gaga for those incredible words!

“I’m on the right track baby, I was born to survive.”–Wow. Profound for sure.

Lady Gaga’s song, “Born This Way” inspires me to get up in the morning. It helps me to keep on moving. It’s been over a month since I’ve posted anything and I think a lot of that is because I have had so much up here in my mind and yet not a lot of words or perhaps too many words to process it all. It’s been quite a month. We traveled to lovely peaceful Cambria again and were able to get away for a few days. I had a wacky week beforehand running around (as much as someone who doesn’t like to run and isn’t able to really run with MS and lupus can), then was on the trip and was able to take some deep breaths and let go, and then when I came back I crashed.

Life started getting really hard again when I was back home. The sun started getting more intense as June traveled through its days and the temperatures climbed higher and my body reacted right away to it. As I’ve mentioned so many times before, the summer is the hardest time for me. The heat makes my MS act up and the sun makes my lupus act up and they act up together and that creates what I keep hearing from everyone I encounter the oh so technical term and experience of a “Double Whammy”.

GOOD TIMES ALL AROUND.

Um actually…NO. NOT GOOD TIMES.

This has happened to me every summer since at least right before my MS diagnosis in December 2002. Summer kicks my butt. I feel like a different person. I wonder if everything has gone “kerflooey” with my body and this is it. This is the big bad ATTACK of all attacks and it’s a “loopty-loop rollercoaster” (phrase given to me by my fabulous Chiropractor last week and I’m stealing it because it is a perfect description) and I’m done for. Except…that doesn’t really happen. What happens is I feel crappy. I start to get the “heavies” a lot more which remind me of heavy fatigue that feels like a dental x-ray vest thingie from the ’80s and that to me is a HUGE reminder of RED FLAGS GALORE to slow down and pretty much stop EVERYTHING. That includes using my brain too much because even overstimulation is a problem. Plus I start to tingle more, my muscles get tighter and achier and have a harder time releasing, I feel more weak, I get the MEGA BLAHS, I just feel gross, my cognitive symptoms really start acting up more than ever and I have a hard time focusing and dealing with numbers (used to be so good at numbers and math in high school and college and THANK GOODNESS I didn’t go into Accounting or something when I was being encouraged to because I’d really be at a loss now), I most often feel like the life is being sucked out of me and I could go on. Then I have these “better” times where I feel like I could get through. I still don’t feel as good as when all temperatures are cooler and my body finally has a real chance to cool down but there’s a calmer plateau to land on for a bit. Then it starts up again and it’s not usually the same as before but different so I have no idea what’s going on EVER.

The point is, life with my poor inflamed body is EXTRA EXTRA HARD.

EVERYTHING TAKES SOOOOO MUCH MORE EFFORT.

ACK!

So right now I’m trying to keep things more simple. Ha! Turns out life is still happening and things still need to get done but I need to go with what my body needs and the lines get blurry there. What does my body need? Does it need more rest? Does it need my mind to stop worrying about how I’m feeling and get a break? Does it need to be cooler? Sometimes it doesn’t like the cooler temperatures because then the lupus starts acting up more and making my joints hurt. Sooooooooo, I’m constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place and there is always a compromise of sorts. There is never a time my whole body (including mind) are happy.

And that’s why I share this Lady Gaga song with you. So much of this song is about acceptance of self. And what’s even more interesting about her is that lupus runs in her family and there has been so much talk that she has lupus but she says it’s borderline lupus. Who knows what that means but to me this song means even more because maybe just maybe she might GET IT.

This video may be just a BIT, yeah JUST A BIT, theatrical and over the top but the words say it all. The message is so clear.

I AM WHO I AM AND I NEED TO LOVE ME.

I’M BEAUTIFUL…I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK (even if it doesn’t feel like it right now)…AND I WILL SURVIVE.

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Doctors: Please Take ME Into Consideration

Full Name: Nahleen Virginia (Knight) Blake. Knight is my Maiden Name. Where did Nahleen come from? Well funny you should ask. I’m sure I’ll have to repeat to you over and over how to say it and how to spell it but let’s get it right the first time. What’s the significance of Virginia? It’s my Grandmother’s Name.

Birth Date: 5/28/77. Thanks! Yes I just turned 36. Uh huh. I’m aware of what 36 means. Wait, what does it mean? Do I dare ask?

Male/Female: I’ll let you guess.

Phone Number: Oh great now you’re gonna bug me all the time.

Any Other Good Numbers to Call?: Nope. And even if there were some I wouldn’t give them to you because you’d chase after me and I’d get no peace. And no you are NOT getting my work number. I made the mistake of telling you that number before and you kept calling me there. Um hi. I’m busy there.

Address: Great. You might stalk me. You’ll at least be sending me bills here. Why else would you want it? Why do I want to give this to you?

Is This a Good Billing Address?: Knew it. It’s all about the $.

Emergency Contact Phone Number: ACK! What’s gonna happen here? There’s gonna be an Emergency here? What if I have no one? And if I give you someone, will you call them every time you can’t reach me? What if that person is across the country? How will they know where I am? Great, now they’ll be worried.

Weight: Does that really matter? Is this any indication of anything? There is no black and white here.

Height: 5’Short–according to my Chiropractor I should be 5’5″ someday as long as I keep going to get adjustments/treatments from him.

Usual Blood Pressure Reading: As if I’m gonna tell you if it’s high. Uh huh. But you’ll take it here in the midst of White Coat Land and freak me out EVERY TIME and take that as a regular reading. Oh you want me to check it at home to get a more accurate reading? How will that be accurate again? I’ll know when I’m gonna be doing it and it will go up.

Usual Body Temperature: 97.5 but you won’t believe me so when you check my temperature and see that it’s 98.6 you’ll say that’s normal and I’ll say it’s high for me and you’ll pass it off.

Hair Color: Well now that’s a good question. Some kind of purple since March 2012.

Hair Type: Pretty dang curly. It’s really short right now.

Eye Color: Blue and to me my eyes are tiny. I also wear glasses so it’s hard to tell they’re as blue as they are.

Birthplace: Homestead, FL (Does that really matter?)

Where I’m From: Kingston, NH

Where I Live Now: Los Angeles, CA

Grow Up With Both Parents?: Yes. I’m blessed to have done so. However, growing up with Single Parents wouldn’t make me less than.

How Old Are They?: None of your business.

Siblings?: Yes. An older sister.

How Old is Your Sibling?: Isn’t that Private? I already said she was older.

Employed?: No. What’s your point? Thanks for reminding me.

Insurance?: Yes. What if I said no?

Are you the Insured? The Primary Card Holder?: HUH?

Primary Insurance?: Ummm…

Secondary Insurance?: WHAT THE?! Leave me alone!

Insurance Information (and everything you didn’t even know you needed to know…): OK. Let me just dig through my purse and wallet and FIND that all for you. Didn’t I just give you my Insurance card? Isn’t it all on there?

Driver License Number: Geez. Nosy! And didn’t I just give you my ID? Isn’t that what this is?

Social Security Number: None of your business. Stop snooping around. I think I need to report you.

Disability?: Meaning what? Yes I have Disability Coverage but don’t get me started about all of that. Am I Disabled? YES! OK?! I think that’s in the mind of the beholder.

Married? Single? Divorced? Domestic Partner?: What does that matter?

If Yes to Married, what’s your Spouse’s Name?: What if I’m not married? I feel like crap now.

If Yes to Married, Spouse’s Social Security Number: Well now that everyone else has been left out…now why on EARTH would you EVER need their Social Security Number?

Allergic to Anything?: What exactly do you mean by allergic? I hope not! Great now you have me paranoid.

Eyesight: Yes I have it but I’m pretty blind. Do you mean do I wear glasses? Yes.

Illnesses?: Must you remind me? (Sigh.)–Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, High Blood Pressure, Asthmatic Tendencies, Hay Fever, IBS, Prone to Infection, Probably Depression–and now I’ve crawled under the chair in the corner…

Is This a Work Related Accident?: I knew it was an accident I had all these illnesses! Yes! I’ve wanted to blame my work for something! Perfect!

When Did It Happen?: Ummmm…which dates are you looking for? What are we talking about now?

Medications: Hmmmmm. Do you have a whole book I can fill out? This little box here ain’t gonna cut it. And do I include vitamins in this or not? None of you ever know if you care about these or not.

Other Doctors?: Too many to count. Again, looking for a book to fill out. I might have room to write down one doctor.

Can We Contact Your Doctors?: Meaning what? Yes aaannndddd No. How’s that? And will you really contact them?

Any New Doctors?: Chiropractor (not that you pay attention to that because they are NOT in Western Medicine…OH but he’s a doctor too? OK…). Psychologist/Psychiatrist: Yes she’s both.

Symptoms?: Ok great. Thanks for reminding me. Yep. (Tense up).–Fatigue, pain, stiffness, weakness, tingling, heat fatigue, eye light/dark sensitivity (new–and I’m annoyed), dry eyes, dry mouth, cognitive symptoms, emotional symptoms, overall malaise, hair loss, nausea, bloating (hmmm there’s not enough room on here. In fact, there’s not enough room in any of these boxes on here. What the heck? Do you really have any patients who can fit their life/health histories in such a small space?)

WHAT KIND OF A FORM IS THIS?

*THESE ARE JUST EXAMPLES OF WHAT I’VE BEEN ASKED OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!*

Seriously, doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, medical assistants, nurses, office staff, lab technicians, etc.: How often do you really look at these? Are you even looking at these? And do I even want ALL OF YOU to see EVERYTHING I just answered? That is a flat out NO! And why isn’t there an overall database that all medical professionals have access to? Why do I have to KEEP filling out all the same questions? Why is each form different? Why can’t they be uniform? I’m tired. I’m tired of writing all of this down. I’m soooooo over rehashing all of this.

I AM NAHLEEN.

What does that mean? That means I’m a Person. I mean something. I’m not my penmanship (which used to be really good btw until I kept having to write these answers over and over again). I’m not just my name. I am 3D. I have Depth. I giggle a lot. I’m struggling all the time with my diseases. I’m not working and that was one of the hardest decisions to make. I’m afraid to say I’m feeling better because I don’t want you to think that I’m all better and shut off when I tell you that. And who knows who will be looking at these files/records and will assume I’m magically all better and then what? I don’t fit in a box. I don’t come in black and white. I come in many colors. Perhaps that’s why I express the purple that’s within me. Yes, my hair is purple. That doesn’t mean I’m happy. That also doesn’t mean I’m crying out for attention. Purple is a part of who I am. Purple has been a part of my soul since I was at least 10. That’s a long time. Can we get passed my purple hair? Thanks. Yes, I have a husband. We’ve been together 15 years. Married 6. Why does the part where I’m married mean more than the commitment of the relationship of 15 years? Yes, I have a weight problem. I’d think I myself would be the most aware of this at all times since I have to live with me. I have ALL MY LIFE. Sure I don’t get to exercise as much but how much do I need to do necessarily? I’ve been walking every day now for 401 days! I know it’s cool. You better think it’s cool! I stretch every day too. Cardio? I try. Coming here to all of my doctor appointment should count as cardio. I’m serious. Oh and did you ever ask me how I am? How I’m feeling? How I’m really doing with all these illnesses? You want me to come in next week too? Did you ask if I’d feel up to it? Did you take into account my life? You are not the only doctor in my life. You are not the only part of my life. You want me to try a new medication? Oh it only has THAT many side effects? Will you be able to pay for it? I’m currently low on funds. Did I mention to you that I’m going on a trip soon? That I want to do more than go to doctors? That I want to have a fulfilling life not focused constantly on medical crap? That I want to try to live my life not ALWAYS talking about my illnesses? Not being defined by these life disrupters? Did you know I have a Cleo Kitty? That I love to write. That I have a Honda Fit that I love? That I miss my family and loved ones back east like crazy? That I’d love to be a Producer of TV, feature films, short films, videos of any sort and to be that creative and not worry about how much time that would entail and how much that would wear me out? That because I’m always seeing you I get really tired and don’t have a lot of time to be social? That I love to be social? I almost forget this myself because I’m so caught up in stuff with you. Don’t get me wrong. Thank you for helping me or trying to. Thank you for helping me feel better (well at least a lot of you–I won’t talk about the others). Thank you for being proactive and part of my time.

BUT PLEASE TAKE ME INTO CONSIDERATION.

I am a person. I have a life. You take up a lot of me. I don’t see you for fun. I see you to get healthy. Perhaps we need to take a look at the best way to keep me healthy. Is it by seeing you all the time? Filling out these forms? Getting my arm constantly squeezed by the blood pressure cuff only for it to spike when I’m there? Is it by constantly talking about my weight? Is it by constantly stabbing my arm to check my blood work levels over and over again because you haven’t been in communication with my other doctors about my blood count levels that were taken just last week? OR is it by spacing out these appointments a bit more? By letting me expand and grow my life to see what I can do and not do? By taking the time to see that I am a human being who needs to breathe and to LIVE and experience the world as this newer more enhanced version of Nahleen???

I’m not the same Nahleen who was working 3 years ago and pushing to do my best no matter what cost it put on my body and my life because I didn’t know or understand anything different. I am a Nahleen who is feeling out my boundaries. Who is not willing to be horribly sick again if I can help it. Sure my body might have its own plans but I will not push it too far. But see I don’t have much chance to see how far I can push. If am pushing, it’s to see my therapist and chiropractor while I’m seeing my other doctors. And these 2 new medical professionals in my life are helping me to figure out how to be a Nahleen with purple hair who still has a chance to smell the roses and look up at the sky (3 of her favorite things were just mentioned here), wants to figure out where her place now is in the world, wants to be social and not live within a medical professional tunnel of health, wants to try new things, wants to do more than rehash her health stuff over and over and who needs to BREATHE!

So if I tell you I can’t see you next week and there is room to BREATHE without putting my entire health at stake (I understand sometimes there are exceptions), please give me that room. You have your life schedule. I have mine. Please respect that. And if I don’t have time to see you, please COMPROMISE. With all due respect, it’s not all about you. You are not my only doctor. You are not the only thing going on in my life. Let’s talk about this. And PLEASE, don’t give me less care because I didn’t put my life aside to come in and see you and pay you more money. There is a phone. There is email. There is always another way.

THANK YOU.

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Today Is World Lupus Awareness Day!

“I can’t diagnose you with Lupus now but I can tell you that you have enough of the list of Clinical items we look at to diagnose you with it eventually that it may come up for you in the future. I’m so so sorry I can’t diagnose you now. But please PLEASE make sure to keep it somewhere in the back of your mind for the future when things are at your hardest because this will likely come up in the FUTURE. I know you don’t want to hear that but it will be important to remember.”–That’s what my first Rheumatologist drilled into my head 11 years ago in 20012, as I was on the journey to find out what was wrong with me in the first place. I have no doubt she was an Angel sent to help me find out the VERY HARD way that I had Multiple Sclerosis.

8 years later I can tell you that I believe she was also sent to help me FINALLY be diagnosed with Lupus. That was in June 2010.

8 YEARS LATER.

They still didn’t know enough about Lupus even 11 years ago for her to diagnose me. I can remember her apologizing profusely that she wouldn’t be able to give me any answers about my very uncomfortable symptoms that were in her Specialty–such as me having Lupus and me thinking at the time that that was quite alright. I was 26 years old at the time. I didn’t really need to hear about having Lupus. Really. MS was enough.

I didn’t really need to hear about having MS either but I did. That December of 2002 I was diagnosed with MS because I had FINALLY had an MRI and there were lesions on my brain to show that I had MS. There’s a lot more to this story but these days looking back on the traumatic Hell I went through back then, I’m pretty darn sure I had both MS and lupus and that they were flaring up at the same time but MS was the disease that had physical evidence to show people. You could SEE it. There was SOMETHING to prove. MS is also a VERY confusing disease to diagnose BUT at least there are lesions on the brain.

Lupus doesn’t have that. Lupus is even more invisible. It’s the Great Imitator. It’s the Great Mimmicker. There’s pain, there’s fatigue, there’s a brain fog and they all show up in MS–and now I’m learning they are different BUT wow they overlap like crazy. Lupus also affects organs. It affects the body tissue. It affects the mouth and can make it crazy dry along with eyes. It can cause rashes. It is very sensitive in the sun. HOWEVER, it seems like if the body doesn’t CRASH in some way than it’s hard to figure out. All of my symptoms were blamed on the MS. Even more interesting is that I think I’ve had something like Lupus since I was a kid. Imagine treating that as a kid. Yeah I wouldn’t have liked it but it would’ve explained A LOT and I have a feeling I’d be feeling lots better right now.

For me the signs that “something else” was going on in 2010 were that my thyroid acted up, then my eyes got really weird, THEN my liver nearly failed on me and the levels were toxic. That caused me to basically vomit up my ENTIRE BODY. That is the only way to explain it. I don’t vomit. This may be TMI for you but it’s the truth and I’m here to tell you the truth. I don’t vomit. I get extremely nauseous. Vomiting is strange for me. Sooooo, that really should’ve been the big indicator something was off. But no, I thought it was an awful stomach bug. How did I know the difference? Looking back, I was so out of it there’s NO WAY I would’ve known left from right at that point.

So what happened?

MY BODY HIT A WALL and my liver was nearly in failure. Thank goodness I’m so sensitive and my body gave me enough warnings. Thank goodness I listened. Thank goodness I am pushy and stubborn.

In June of 2010 I was severely ill and doing that “vomiting” I talked about earlier. It took 2 MORE MONTHS to be diagnosed with Lupus.

2 MORE MONTHS.

I WAS DIAGNOSED WITH LUPUS IN AUGUST 2010.

THAT IS TOO LONG. What if something else had gone wrong? What if I wasn’t being seen by any medical doctors at the time and tried to tough it out? What if my body shut down on me? These are the kinds of things that run through my brain. I can’t help it.

The most prominent question is this:

WHAT IF THAT ANGEL OF A RHEUMATOLOGIST IN 2002 HAD NOT DRILLED IT SO MUCH INTO MY BRAIN THAT ONE DAY I COULD HAVE LUPUS?! THAT ONE DAY THINGS MIGHT GET AWFUL AND I MIGHT BE FEELING SO TERRIBLE AND NO ONE, AND I MEAN NO ONE, COULD DIAGNOSE ME WITH ANYTHING TO HELP ME FEEL BETTER? WHAT IF I HAD CONTINUED ALONG THINKING I ONLY HAD MS? WHAT IF I HAD NOT SENT MYSELF TO A RHEUMATOLOGIST BECAUSE I WAS AT THE END OF MY ROPE?!

IT SHOULDN’T BE THIS WAY. LUPUS IS A VERY SERIOUS AND DISRUPTIVE DISEASE AND I’M STILL RECOVERING. It was a very special Doctor who helped me 11 years ago when I needed it the most. Without her I wouldn’t have EVEN THOUGHT to bring up Lupus. It’s not a black and white disease. It is all in the greys. And let me tell you, it gets REALLY COMPLICATED when Multiple Sclerosis comes into play.

REALLY COMPLICATED.

And this is why I spread awareness and tell my truth about what I have been through. This is why I believe so much in spreading the word about what I’ve gone through and am so grateful that there are organizations who have established Days like World Lupus Awareness Day. PLEASE. If you aren’t feeling well and you don’t know what’s wrong, keep asking. You know your body. You deserve answers and there is going to be someone out there who can help you. They may not have all the answers or tell you what you want to hear (boy is that the TRUTH) but they can help lead you in the right direction.

AND ONE LAST THING: THANK YOU TO THAT SPECIAL DOCTOR WHO WALKED ME THROUGH THE HARDEST TIME OF MY LIFE 11 YEARS AGO. I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL FOR YOU. YOU GOT ME ANSWERS ABOUT MS AND YOU GOT ME ANSWERS ABOUT LUPUS EVEN THOUGH I HAVEN’T SEEN YOU FOR 11 YEARS.

So please if you are so inclined, spread the word about Lupus. Spread the word about all of these crazy autoimmune diseases. They are all so similar and there is so much more to learn. And please, take care of yourself and listen to your body. You deserve it.

If you have any questions or comments let me know. Let’s talk about this. Let’s spread awareness. No more hiding. The more we know the better off we’ll all be.

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Love Will Help Me Know My Name

First of all thank you to Seal for this absolutely amazing and beautiful song.  You and this song have carried me through many many hard times.  Too many to count.

I haven’t posted much lately because I’m really working on me.  And what’s been happening is that my body and mind are trying to keep up.  They are trying to keep up with the past and the present while keeping an eye on the future without trying to FIGURE IT OUT.  That’s a lot of hard work.  A lot of introspection.  A lot of NOT CARRYING it all anymore.  A lot of Change.  AND–a lot of rest.  A lot of quiet time.  A lot of landing as I float and spin around in all of this.  I feel as if I’m in a snowglobe where it’s all so pretty and all the snow is spinning and swirling around so beautifully and at some point I know it will settle.  I feel it inside.  I have the faith.

For the first time ever I feel the most UNSAFE bringing it all up to come out–you know, that emotional crapola we all stuff in way too deep and it is very poisonous.  I feel raw, vulnerable, exposed and oh so strange…Yet at the same time, I feel the most SAFE I’ve ever felt too.  I know I’m in good hands.  I feel the most supported, the most loved, the most taken care of I ever have in my almost 36 years.  And I’m not going to think too hard about that number of 36 because it is ONLY a number.  And how cool.  I am headed to another year by the end of this month of May.  Some people don’t get that chance.

What has been the most potent in my Healing has been all of the LOVE surrounding me and all of the LOVE I’m able to give.  LOVE is truly powerful.  I used to feel like talking all about LOVE was hokey, or that I’d be judged for being some light fairy silly chick with flowers in my hair.  Well, first of all, I now want more flowers in my hair.  There is nothing wrong with LOVING LOVE.  The world needs more of it.  We all need more of it.  We also need to give it.  Heck LOVE even needs LOVE.

And what I am finding is that I LOVE LOVE.  Without LOVE I don’t believe I’d survive right now.  There is TOO MUCH.  Life can be TOO MUCH.  But with LOVE I feel a sigh of relief.  I don’t have to have any expectations with LOVE.  It is all around me.  It is all around us.  I just gotta let myself feel it and feel it even more.  You know earlier I said without LOVE I don’t believe I’d survive right now.  I also want to say that without multiple sclerosis, lupus and IBS I don’t know that I’d understand LOVE the way I do now.  I had to slow down. To smell a flower.  To watch a flower. To look up.  To see the tall trees.  To see the clouds.  To see the sun.  To see the birds fly and float in the wind.  I have had to talk to more people in general.  To connect in ways I have never had to do before.  I have had to survive.  Right now I have so much LOVE surrounding me and given to me that I’m really trying to let it all in.  I’ve learned I don’t let it in enough.  Breathing it in helps the most.  One of these days I’m hoping to feel settled enough with this Nahleen I’m getting to know so that I can give out all this LOVE I feel to others who are in need of it without depleting myself too much.

And with LOVE–LOVE has helped me know my name.  That is one of the lines of this wonderful and passionate song Seal sings.  I wanted to share it with you all.  The more I hear this song the more it changes me inside and outside.  It has changed my life.  Thank you Seal.  Thank you all.  I hope it touches you as much as it has touched me.

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The Crud of Healing

I’ve been sort of MIA lately because I’ve been doing a lot of healing. And man is it hard.

It always seems to me like healing should be something soothing and soft and gentle. Sure that happens sometimes in the process of healing. Then again, there are those skinned knees that scab over again and again and no, that’s not comfy at all is it? Lately it’s been some of the hardest crud I’ve gone through. And I mean crud. Yet deep down I feel like it’s time. This is it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m now seeing a Chiropractor at least once a week. He wants to see me twice a week but so much crud (he uses that word and I’m starting to use it again) has been coming up that it takes me a week to heal from it. Yet, it’s all a good healing. I’m beginning to feel like I can become a whole person. I feel better even though my body gets twisted and contorted in weird ways. And/or he has me working on some emotional healing within the therapy.

Right now his new technique for me is something called NET or Neuro-Emotional Technique and it is fascinating. I can’t really explain it except that he was able to tell just by pushing down on my uplifted arm and putting his finger in the middle of my forehead that I had emotional blockage somewhere in my body and that that was playing a huge part in my physical symptoms and my messed up mind these days. It was crazy. When he didn’t put his finger in the middle of my forehead and pushed down on my arm I was able to push back up. When his finger was on my forehead and he pushed on my arm it went straight down and I had no strength to push back. He had basically disabled my arm. CRAZY AND FREAKY. Apparently it’s sooooo many emotions that are just flying all over the place and I’m not sure what to do with all of them so my body stores them for me and well, let’s think, that’s probably not good huh? So not only am I dragging up feelings and emotions but now they’re all just apparently free to come on up even when I didn’t invite them.

CRUD CRUD CRUD.

I’m also going to a Therapist now who I believe was sent to work directly with me. She loves the color purple, she’s bright and peppy, her office is close to where I live, and she’s also very compassionate and knows how to reach me in ways no one else seems to be able to–even ME! She’s revealing a part of me I didn’t know existed or just wasn’t ready to know or something. Talk about uncomfortable YET it really is helping. I feel like I’m getting detoxed of yucky poisonous feelings. She’s cracking my shell and the feelings are just flooding out.

Apparently it was time for all of this to come up. Wish I had gotten the memo from me that it was time to really work on all this stuff.

It’s kinda crazy how it happened that I found these 2 very important Specialists on my path right around the same time.

Next thing I know I’m in the Chiropractor’s office at the first appointment and I’m wondering how I got there and how is it that it all happened so fast. I mean my friend had just been raving about him and there I was. Then I end up having 2 doctors arguing (and not even knowing it) over a medication I’m on and telling me I should see a Psychiatrist to see what the actual Specialist says about it all and the next thing I know I’m in a Psychologist/Psychiatrist’s office and again, kinda wondering how I got there.

I’ll repeat, it would’ve been nice had someone informed me this was all gonna happen. Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t black out and become another person or my alter ego…at least I think I didn’t…no really. I remember asking about these 2 Specialists but I don’t remember deciding to take the action. Hmmm, could it be that I’m not taking FOREVER to think it all out as much as I used to and perhaps I’m going more with my gut? That I’m following the Path I’m supposed to be on and just doing it?

Still…WOULD’VE BEEN NICE TO GET THE MEMO.

Just sayin’.

So for now I’m going to try to take the advice of these 2 incredibly valuable Specialists who have already changed my life in less than 6 weeks and try to be patient. They both tell me that crud is going to come up, that things are going to be messy and that it’s okay that things are messy. Really. It’s okay if things aren’t all done my way.

Weird. I mean it’s all supposed to be done and planned in an orderly fashion or at least “Nahleen’s orderly fashion”. Well that’s not happening.

I’m feeling incredibly uncomfortable, exposed, vulnerable and raw and yet I’m feeling the safest I’ve ever felt…whatever that means.

Guess there’s more to find out. I get to find out about who this shiny new Nahleen is I’m becoming. My Therapist encourages the purple hair. She says it’s only the beginning. Now it’s time for more piercings and tattoos according to her…She’s convinced there’s a much more wild and open Spirit in me just desperate to come out and she’s trying to gently tell all of me that it’s okay to come out.

So for now I just keep on trudging through the crud. I feel like a clam who just lost its shell and now waits to be eaten by the predator who broke that shell. Poor clam. I feel so bad for it. Must be awful. I’m such a softie. Hey that can be my new Activist project. SAVE THE CLAMS!

Perhaps another time…Continuing on this side note, I’m so relieved I don’t like to eat clams or I may have just ruined any chance of ever eating them again.

What’s cool is I’m pretty sure I won’t be eaten and that I’m going to be OK. Crud and all.

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DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!! I HAVE TAKEN A WALK 365 DAYS IN A ROW!

YES THAT’S RIGHT FOLKS! TIME TO CELEBRATE! I HAVE TAKEN A WALK EVERY DAY FOR A FULL YEAR!

YES, A FULL YEAR!

I AM WRITING IN ALL CAPS BECAUSE IT’S WORTH IT! I’M SO EXCITED!

I JUST COULDN’T HIDE IT!

And no I will not break out into a Pointer Sisters song even though I’m tempted to.

I HAD TO SHARE THIS WITH YOU ALL!

TIME TO CELEBRATE!

AND USE EXCLAMATION POINTS!

YAY!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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