Health, mental health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

I am not strong

I am not strong.

I am not this tough, battling warrior that some may see me as. I am scared. I am depressed. I am angry. The cards I have been dealt leave me no choice but to try to roll with the punches. I may do so gracefully on the outside, but on the inside I often find myself questioning, “why?” as I carry around the grief of living with a chronic illness.

Every day I wake up in pain and discomfort. Some days it is just my normal everyday life and I accept and move on. I get up and start my day, tucking the pain away. I ignore my reality of a failing heart and the dozens of risks that hang over my head. I sweep under the rug all of my nervousness and worries and I focus on what is good in my life. People think that may be admirable but really, it isn’t healthy. Also, what other option do I have?

We are always told to focus on the positive, while ignoring the dark and negative aspects of life that exist for all. For me, the only way out is through. Acknowledging and dealing with the darkness is healing. Society teaches us to suppress ourselves and our feelings, which leaves us depressed, hiding behind a smile. We are pressured to be put together and strong no matter the circumstances.

Other days, when I wake up, I can’t tuck away the pain. I can’t pretend that I don’t have this horrible genetic condition that eats away at me, that I forever have to live with. I look in the mirror, before my exhaustion is covered up with makeup, and I see how how hurt and tired I really am. I see how sick I look. I begin to hide it, first with my morning meds and then with makeup. I cover it all up.

You wonder how I am so busy? I have to be. I have to keep myself so distracted because the moment I sit down and stop moving, I feel it all: mentally and physically. When my mind has no distractions, I cannot help but feel the storm come. I think about, “what if I die?” and “I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired.” It’s not fair. My mind will go into dark places. And I just have to tuck it away. I have to “be strong” because that is what everyone wants to see, right? No one wants to see someone complain or pity themselves.

I don’t give up because I fight for my kids. I fight for my husband and my family. I fight for others that may one day be in my shoes. I fight for advocacy and healthcare equality.

I still have someone in my life who haunts me, tells me how much of a burden I am. “You always have something wrong with you. I can’t keep up with all your surgeries. What, am I supposed to carry around a calendar?,” he screams over the phone just 5 minutes before surgery, due to a delay and miscommunication in last minute changes (with the schedule with our child). Sometimes I let the past (and ongoing) emotional abuse of this ex get to me. I find myself questioning how much of a burden I am to others. This is often a question the chronically ill deal with. There is always someone without empathy that has a heartless opinion about you and your health.

Then, you have those “healers” who have the cure for you. “Try this holistic approach if you want to cure yourself and be free of illness and magically live healthy forever.” Apparently these people don’t know that I already eat a strict, clean diet without preservatives, dyes, additives, artificial ingredients. I am a certified herbalist. I don’t drink alcohol or caffeine. I take herbs and supplements. I am very knowledgeable on natural remedies, which I use for most ailments. What people don’t understand is that their basic education does not cover a vast amount of information on the human body. Sure, you can change your lifestyle, diet, and start supplements to reverse or mend many issues. But at the end of the day, it is not going to fix my heart and it isn’t a one size fits all answer. My heart is anatomically unable to be altered by herbs. This isn’t a lifestyle thing, stress or cholesterol induced issue. PLEASE FUCKING STOP sending your unsolicited “cures” to me and others. It is absolutely horrifically disrespectful and insulting.

——

It’s currently noon. My neck is stiff and I have yet to brush my hair or teeth. I glare at my heart meds on the dresser that I still need to take. My back is in pain, spasming and out of place. I am dizzy and know that my heart rate will shoot up and my blood pressure will drop as soon as I get up. Nausea and headache to follow, as I hold onto something to keep from falling. But, I will put myself together. I will suck up the pain, anger, frustration, sadness and make myself look strong with a pretty dress and red lipstick.

But I am not strong.

This is just my life.

Health

Open Heart Surgery

Yesterday I met with my heart surgeon from 2011, as I have followed up with him every year, then every 6 months. Yesterday he told me it was almost time. I will need surgery before symptoms worsen and I become short of breath with an enlarged heart.

In 6 months, I will have another open-heart surgery. This time it will be the replacement of my aortic valve with a tissue valve and to shave away the muscle that is over my coronary artery (myocardial bridge). At the end of the month I will be having a heart catheterization, where they thread a catheter through my vein to my heart. They will measure the pressure of the artery and get a good look at my aortic valve.

During open heart surgery, the sternum is cracked open and the the beating of the heart is temporarily stopped while maintaining life through a cardiopulmonary bypass (the heart-lung machine). I will stay in the hospital approximately 5 days and it will be about 6 weeks until I feel better, and 6 months until I recover fully. Though I knew this day would come, I am grateful I have until April/May to wrap my head around it.

I will never understand why I have had to go through so much in my lifetime, but I can only hope that it’s to help others.

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Sweet Dreams with an Invisible Illness

When your bed is your sanctuary, a safe place but some moments steal that from you.

After a long day, collapsing into bed is pure bliss. Your head rests on the pillow and the soft comforter melts over you. As your eyes become heavy, suddenly your heart flutters with each breath. Your chest gets tight, as if someone is crushing you or you swam to the bottom of the deep-end pool. Your left hand and mouth feel like needles and pins while your chest begins to ache. The pain in your left arm makes it impossible not to worry.

You sit up and take slow deep breaths, taking your blood pressure and discovering that it is high. Some moments your blood feels cold as it runs through your body, so you turn on your bedside heater and grab your robe; this isn’t the first time you have felt this way so you know what to do by now. After a few starling palpitations you decide it’s time for emergency medication. You are still trying to prevent going to the ER, where they will simply question your mental health and ask, “are you having an anxiety attack?”

“You’re too young for…”

“No, that’s not common for your age…”

———-

As I sit up, I can’t help but wish my body didn’t betray me so often.

Let me rest.

Let this pass.

Why?

My muscles twitch and spasm throughout and inside my body, like a symphony of fireworks. The ringing [in my ears] is so loud that even as I distract myself with the TV, it still rings louder. Occasionally the chest pain strengthens and waves of vasospasms in my chest put the fear in me of what could happen next. I try lying down again until I shoot up after another intense heart rhythm.

I’m so tired.

Please.

As the meds kick in, I wait to lie back down in fear that another episode will come. One by one, I turn off my heater, remove my robe as my blood circulates better, take a deep breath to see if the tightness has released, slowly inching back into my pillow, and then I drift into sleep only to hope that I wake up to start my day tomorrow.


*From 2017-2019 I went to the ER 54 times. I still continue to end up in an ER once every month. I decided to document/blog (after) an episode that sometimes sends me to the ER; fortunately I was able to manage through it tonight and avoided an ER trip. This is another reason I am grateful that Mayo Clinic found the myocardial bridge, which often causes coronary artery vasospasms at night.

Thanks for listening and learning with me to spread awareness and hope for others that may one day be in my shoes. Never take your health for granted.

Health, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Why I Am Going Out of State for a Doctors Appointment

After seeing a neurologist for about nine months, we came upon the solution for me to see a different neurologist, in the same office, since my doctor felt she couldn’t help me. Her specialty was migraines and seizures and she was not familiar with the dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. I felt it might be easier to stay in the same office since maybe the two doctors could communicate or have access to more information than leaving the practice altogether.

It has now been a little over a year with my newer neurologist. In this year, I have seen him every month at times. One appointment was to order an MRI without contrast to rule out certain diagnoses. Then, the next appointment was to follow up on that test and to order something else. It felt like it dragged on and on, leaving me to wonder why everything wasn’t just all tested at once. I could sense the uncertainty, and while he admitted that he isn’t familiar with dysautonomia, he sympathizes and ensures that he will help somehow.

The first neurologist ordered an EEG and she said everything was delayed but showed no signs of seizures. This was two years ago, before my pacemaker. After leaving that test, my heart rate dropped and I passed out in the hallway. Fortunately, I had a heart monitor on at the time and called my electrophysiologist and explained what happened. They looked at the episode and determined my heart rate plummeted.

Now, two years later, my new doctor decides to do another EEG. I find myself nervous, wondering if the testing triggered my episode last time. But I also find myself frustrated and here’s why: two appointments ago, my neurologist said that my (dysautonomia) episodes sound like seizures. He offered me seizure meds and I quickly declined. I avoid medication unless absolutely necessary or given a proven diagnosis. I stated that I would never take meds for a guessed diagnosis and that I was sure these episodes were a result of autonomic dysfunction, or dysautonomia, which had also been diagnosed by my electrophysiologist. Dysautonomia is common with Ehlers-Danlos patients. He admits again he is not knowledgeable in EDS or dysautonomia. “Let’s just try another EEG.”

Keep in mind that there are 12 million misdiagnosis per year. Having a complex illness makes it tough to get proper treatment and management due to the lack of knowledge in rare diagnoses. As a patient, it can be hard to walk away because we feel almost desperate to get care but also hopeful that we will make progress over time; maybe the doctor will come around, research, or learn more. Starting over is time consuming and you already put in so much…just like a relationship. Sometimes hope keeps us there longer than we should stay.

Finding a specialist (there are only three clinics in the country) that specializes in Autonomic Dysfunction for me is a must. Looking back, the last two years was a waste of time. The last two years, my diagnosis was never understood by my doctor, nor will it ever be. I was nearly fitted into his specialty of seizures, only to be added to the 12 million misdiagnosed, because that was his specialty. That was what he was comfortable with. Any many patients would have trusted his judgment, taken the pills and felt they were being cared for. Not me.

As I leave from my EEG test, I know that it may be the last time I come to that office. I chose to humor my doctor and myself with the test because it never hurts to rule out a diagnosis (again). I know that months from now, I will travel outside of the state to see a doctor that truly understands what is going on with my nervous system. After spending my entire life having notes in my medical records of “unusual symptoms” that no one could piece together, for the first time ever I will have a doctor that has that missing piece of the puzzle.

mental health, Podcast

How To Work Through a Problem – Listen Now!

Podcast Link

Hello! This topic is important to me because so many of us go through life struggling and stressed, never learning the proper tools to work through an issue.

The original post How To Work Through a Problem has inspired the topic for episode 5 on my podcast, The Misti Blu Days of Our Lives.

Please be sure to subscribe and leave 5 stars so that others can stumble upon my podcast and blog! It is available on Spotify, iTunes, and iHeartRadio, or you can listen on the RSS feed link.

Health, Healthy Food

Morning Routine Smoothie

The kids are back in school, and so am I. I love the break in the summertime but I really thrive on routine. I gained a little extra fluff in the last few months from sleeping in, overeating, and going out to eat too much.

With everyone back in school, I am forced to plan ahead for meals. Having a smoothie in the morning is perfect for me since I am not really hungry yet. This smoothie recipe is full of nutrients and has vegan protein, which will get me through my first class. The mushroom blend helps with focus, energy and stress. Lion’s Mane is my favorite mushroom because it repairs nerve damage.

Oat milk is loaded with calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin A and D. It is known for improving immunity and gut health as well as lowering cholesterol.

Healing Sprinkles is an anti-inflammatory healing blend with minerals and vitamins. I need all of that! Having this smoothie in the morning is the best way to start out my day. Having gastrointestinal issues due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome has caused me to have deficiencies. My tank is always on empty so this is a great addition of my routine that gives me a little boost.

What’s in it?

  • Ice
  • Banana
Tips and Tricks

Building or Repairing Your Credit Score

When you have a bad credit score, it can be disheartening and frustrating. Having chronic illnesses my entire life has made it a struggle to have a decent score. I let accounts go when recovering from health issues and being out of work from surgeries. However, I also never tried to fix them until recently. Part of me thought, “What’s the use?” I was wrong; it was not impossible and you can still make an effort. Plus, we want to buy a house and you cannot do that with shitty credit.

First, you want to monitor your score. I downloaded the Credit Karma app, a free app that allows you to monitor your credit for free. You don’t want to have to pay for your report and you also don’t want a hard inquiry, which can affect your score. So, keeping an eye out with Credit Karma is ideal. Also, try to avoid bills from making it into collections. If there is a bill you can’t pay, call and explain your situation. I call the hospital once a month and pay $5 towards a bill to keep it from going to collections. They don’t like it but they can’t say no.

When I started my journey last year, my score was under 500. I had several collections and truth be told, I never really paid attention or cared to keep an eye on my credit. I truly believe that this should be a lesson in high school, but that is another topic for another day. First, I started with setting up a payment plan for my school loan. I had paid off a loan entirely and didn’t realize I had another school loan in default. Oops! After 9 months, I was out of default with consecutive payments proving my responsibility. This did not necessarily increase my score but it removed a collection from the derogatory marks. It is not always about the score, which is important, but also about how many items are in collections.

I had several derogatory marks. One was an $850 collection I had; I called and set up a payment plan to pay it off in about 8 months. It feels good to settle debts and see your collections disappear. Again, this did not increase my score much but it helps the other areas that are looked at when your report is pulled.

My absolute favorite way that I increased my credit score was with an app called Self Lender. This app has increased my score more than anything else I have tried and it is also a great way to save money. I downloaded the app and chose the second plan. The first plan is $25 per month for two years but I chose the $48 per month for one year. This plan increases your score a little more that the $25 one, in comparison to my husband who chose that plan. Basically, you (self) lend to yourself and it reports and builds credit! At the end of the year, I will get the money back that I paid into the account while I successfully increased my credit. I went from 500 to 600 within 6 months!

Another option is opening a secured credit line at your bank. Many banks offer $200-$500 limits. My husband set his up at my bank for $300 (their minimum). You treat it just like a credit card, only it is your money. You don’t want to max it out. Just use it for small things, like gas or lunch. Aim to keep your balance low and pay it on time, otherwise you are defeating the purpose and it could lower your score. I opened a secured credit line with First Progress. It is linked to my bill pay on my online banking app.

Making a list of what you need to improve is also a productive plan for fixing your credit. Occasionally people have had derogatory marks or collections that were not accurate. My husband had a collection that was a duplicate. Combing through everything is a way to ensure that everything is accurate. Disputing anything that is wrong is simple and also easy to do through the Credit Karma app.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act promotes the accuracy, fairness and privacy of consumers. Basically, the credit bureaus have 30-45 days to resolve a dispute. It never hurts to try. Another thing you can do, is call the actual creditors and set up a payment plan or negotiate price to pay off the debt. If an account status is closed or a charge-off then paying it off is basically useless, so focus on the open collections. Keep in mind that collection agencies buy debts for cheap so you can negotiate. If you hassle them back and say that you only can pay $70 for your $150 debt, chances are they will accept that or something close. I had a friend recently tell me that she haggled a $10,000 debt down to $800 pay off! Keep in mind that they will want that in one payment. Make sure you ask when it will be reported and for a letter as well so you can follow up on your credit report.

I had a 2014 lease broken in Missouri and they were going after me for $8,758. That was excruciating. After months of phone tag, negotiations and frustrations, we finally agreed on a full payment of $3,000. I asked for a debt settlement letter and fortunately they were scheduled to do their monthly reporting to the credit bureau the following day. This was the very last thing holding me back from buying a house, because it was an open collection and at that price. If I had the time, I could have set up a payment plan and after 6-9 consecutive payments, it would have shown I was working towards paying it off. That works too, but we are trying to buy now and didn’t want to renew our lease another year.

Another cool way to give yourself a boost is through Experian. They have something called Credit Boost that links your utility payments. It added my phone bill and electric bill and I got an 8 point boost!

Now that you have a better understanding of some tips and tricks, you can continue to improve your score and create responsible habits that will keep your score up. Though I still have work to do, I know each month my score improves and that it doesn’t happen overnight or all at once. Be patient and vigilant.

Recommendations:

Our mortgage guy, Roy

Our Realtor

Health

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Hearing Loss

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome can cause a defect in the sound conducting mechanism of the middle ear, and which may result in hearing loss. My “good” ear has been crackling and feeling less good. I see an ENT regularly and have shown a steady pattern of loss in both ears, predominantly my right ear.

What seemed like a normal follow up to see why the tinnitus and crackling has worsened in my better ear, ended up in receiving some surprising news.

My last hearing test was just 6 months ago and it is evident that there has been progressive loss. My doctor said she would not usually advise hearing aids at this level yet but considering EDS and the obvious progression, her opinion is to start now before it gets worse.

Today is one of those days where I feel just completely defeated by my body. The idea of hearing aids at my age…. but I will rock them. My purpose here is to help others like me to feel beautiful, strong and supported. So, I am taking another hit for the team.

Anyone else out there have hearing aids?

mental health

What Anxiety and Depression Feels Like

Anxiety is not being nervous over a big presentation at work. It’s not the butterflies in your stomach while you stress over what to wear. It’s not the feeling of having a hard time because you have too much on your plate.

Anxiety is a wave that towers over you, consuming your entire body. You tremble and shiver, your throat closes up and your palms sweat. Your heart races like a hummingbird. Many times it can be for no reason at all. It is out of your control. Your body is temporarily not yours. A state of panic sets in and you feel like you might die. Anxiety is neurotransmitters out of balance. It is the feeling of melting into quicksand. It’s feeling as if something terrible is about to happen. It feels as if you are about to implode.

Depression is not feeling bummed because you had a rough day. It’s not feeling sad because things didn’t go your right today. Depression is not being sad about that mean comment someone made towards you. It is not something that you can just suck up and get over. It is not cured by a simple attitude adjustment. It is a thick heavy blanket that drowns you. Sometimes it is devastatingly painful. Sometimes it is pure numbness, and other times it is the feeling of doom buried deep within you. It is like you are grieving the biggest loss you have ever felt. Even when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, this feeling can sink you. Oftentimes there is not even a reason. It’s like you’re missing a limb. Something is missing but you can’t place what it is.

Anxiety and depression does not make you weak, nor does it mean that you are weak. Mental health disorders are greatly misunderstood by a majority of society. The stigma must end and something needs to change. Generations are losing many to this epidemic. Addiction grows from mental health disorders and the need to self-medicate to escape from suffering.

My Amazon Recommendations

Little ways to make a small difference:

  • Listen when someone needs to talk
  • Don’t tell them it will “get better” or to “suck it up,” as these are dismissive comments that are not helpful
  • If you don’t understand, then try to empathize
  • Toxic positivity can be harmful. Pretending to be okay is not productive or healing.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Call 1-800-273-8255

Available 24 hours everyday