Posts Tagged With: Production Assistant

11 Years Ago…

I still grieve.

Or maybe I’m finally grieving.

I don’t know.

I thought I didn’t remember the exact day my life changed forever.

AND THIS MORNING IT HIT ME.

Sounds so hokey to say that. But those are the judges in my head saying that it’s hokey. I don’t think it’s hokey and so what if it is.

It was November 22, 2002. I was 25. I was moving full speed ahead. Sure I had gone through 6 months of extensive testing to try to figure out why the bottom of my feet were constantly tingling. Sure I had gone through many phases of FEAR about what could be wrong with me. Yet, EVERY test I had taken till then had come back inconclusive or all looked good.

So why would my first MRI be any different?

BUT IT WAS. IT WAS DIFFERENT.

I entered that hospital to get the MRI on the evening of November 22, 2002 and left a piece of me behind back there. I never did go back to that same area where I had it done to retrieve that part of myself. Not only was the MRI more terrifying than I expected but the LOOK that Technician gave me when I was FINALLY taken out of that God-awful tube made a part of me vanish in horror. In her eyes, all I could see was DEATH. It’s taken me all these years to find the right words to describe her look. That’s what it was.

DEATH.

I was 25. I wasn’t thinking about the END. I was thinking about the BEGINNING. This was it. I had just been a Production Assistant for a couple of short films, I was going to be an Associate Producer of another film, I was working 2 jobs to make some extra money, my full time job was in Television and I was gonna make it big no matter what it took. I had an awesome kitty and a wonderful boyfriend (who is now my awesome husband) and life was VERY UP. That was the reason I left my life in NH to go to LA right? I was gonna do this.

BRING IT ON.

Hmmm. I didn’t say BRING ON MS. Nope. That’s not what I meant.

That next morning after the MRI I was admitted into the hospital for 3 LONG DAYS of HELL. They thought maybe I had a brain tumor. No, maybe it was some kind of infection in my brain. No maybe perhaps, but probably not, but maybe, I had MS. I felt like I was living in a nightmare. My sister who was here visiting (poor thing–this was her visit. But the timing is not a mistake.)

After that it was a Thanksgiving family reunion that I don’t remember much of at all and RIGHT after that I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS.

Something REALLY was wrong with me.

4 Days after that I had my first FULL BLOWN EXACERBATION. No surprise.

All symptoms I could ever have ever, you name it, happened in my body.

AND…

AN ANXIETY ATTACK.

AND…

A HORRIBLE, MEAN, ABUSIVE NEUROLOGIST WHO SAID IT WAS ALL IN MY HEAD.

AND TOO MANY STEROIDS…

Still don’t know how I survived what I found out later was a major overdose of steroids.

AND MY LIFE AS I KNEW IT WAS OVER.

And yes, my life is getting better. BUT it is not how I pictured it would be. In a lot of ways my life is better than I ever thought it would be. I’m forced to live more in the Present. And the Present can be a wonderful place.

And I still grieve…

I grieve over that life I thought I would have BEFORE that terror-filled MRI night. I grieve more now over it because I guess I’m ready to.

And that’s where I am today. I couldn’t figure out what exactly that dark cloud was that had been following me all week and was almost suffocating me this morning. Every year I seem to block out just what day it was that this all happened over a decade ago.

AND IT HIT TODAY.

GRIEF.

and

GRATITUDE.

Both can exist at the same time.

I never thought I could make it past that night but I have. One day at a time. That’s all I can do. Sometimes it’s one moment at a time. And that’s what I’ll take today. One moment at a time is enough.

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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 4: “9 Times Out of 10”

In October of 2002 I’m guessing I was out of my mind.  I must’ve been.  What was I thinking?  I was working a full time job, I had just finished working as a Production Assistant on a “B” movie that I never heard about again, I was still working out and eating really healthy and then I decided that I needed to get a second job because I just wasn’t making enough money.  Hey, I was 25 and I was invincible right?

Wrong.

It was October in Los Angeles, CA so I’m guessing it was quite hot.  It usually is at that time of year.  I wouldn’t have known because I was too busy running around.  I worked full time at my day job in television which had its own stress.  I walked every day during lunch and worked out at least three times a week.  I ate well and I had lost almost 50 pounds.  My second job consisted of working in a linen store and running around lugging big bed spreads and other bed linens up tall ladders and dealing with customers.  Things were going well…I thought.  Yeah sure it was a bit hard on me but it would be on anybody.  I could do it.

Somewhere along the way as my feet continued to tingle on the bottom, I started feeling that dreaded tingling symptom travel up my left leg.  Then it traveled to my left arm.  Then my left hand.  I denied it.  I ignored it.  It couldn’t be happening.  An echo of a memory of my Primary Care Doctor’s voice rang in my head from months before, “Is the tingling going anywhere else up your leg or in your arm?” and I told him no and asked him why to which he replied, “Oh no reason.  It could just be more serious if it ever happens”…”ever happens”…”ever happens”.  Those two words rang in my head but I pushed them away.

Did you know it’s really hard to push that tingling symptom away when it doesn’t go away?  I waited two weeks until the tingling sensation then jumped from my left hand to my right hand and then I admitted it to me and somehow told Corey about it.  I wanted to be in denial.  I wanted to believe it wasn’t happening.  If I didn’t talk about it it would go away.

So somehow I got over myself and called my Rheumatologist to make an appointment.  I sat in that exam room and I told her about these new symptoms.  She looked at me long and hard and kept her facial expressions very still.  Then she said she wanted to order an MRI for me.  I freaked out.  An MRI?!  BUT it’s just tingling.  That’s all.  MRIs are to check for serious things.  I only had tingling.  That was all I had been told by how many doctors till then?  Somehow I got out the words and I asked her, “Why an MRI?” and she beat around the bush a bit and said, “Well your symptoms could be indicative of many things.  9 times out of 10 it’s not MS but it’s always good to check just in case.”  And she also made some comments about the lack of attention from my previous Neurologists and how she couldn’t believe I hadn’t had an MRI before then but that she’d get it taken care of.

MS????  What did it even stand for?  I didn’t know it stood for multiple sclerosis.  Why would I know that?  It’s not like we learn about all of the diseases out there during our normal lives.  What was that?  It sounded awfully serious.  All I could picture was those poor celebrities we had seen in the limelight who were in wheelchairs, if anything.  Then again, why would it be MS?  I hadn’t been diagnosed with anything else so there was no need to jump to any conclusions now.

So how did she calm me down?  Well she talked to me about her health problems and how she had just had to have an MRI herself and she told me the tricks of where to put my hands and how not to feel too claustrophobic and what to do when I was in the tube, etc.  She tried to show me how she could relate and some of what she said still sticks with me now when I have to have follow-up MRIs as part of my multiple sclerosis healthcare plan.

You know I somehow knew I had MS.  I don’t know how or why but something about it clicked for me.  I spent a lot of time contemplating it and talking about it with Corey while I waited for my HMO to go through the horrible rigamarole that was “necessary” to get me approved to have an MRI.  I had to wait at least a few weeks to be able to schedule my MRI let alone have one.

And you know all of this didn’t stop me from keeping up with my crazy full schedule.  To me I had no reason to slow down and stop.  Not yet anyway…

 

The next Blog will be about my 1st MRI experience.  It was a truly traumatizing and life changing experience for me that deserves it’s own Blog entry.

 

Thank you for reading my story.  It is so very hard to write but so necessary to express and share.

Categories: Diagnosis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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