Health

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled – Major Depressive Disorder

This year I have decided to speak up and share my story in hopes that I can break stigmas, knock down walls, inspire others to take their health into their hands by advocacy and research, to help others realize that they are not alone and to grow from all of this.
I finally started seeing a therapist for the first time and was officially diagnosed with severe Major Depressive Disorder. Not mild but SEVERE! I was shocked. However, it is time to acknowledge this and do something about it. It is real and it exists and ignoring it will not make it go away.
Throughout my health journey, I had decided to look into my genes. One of the genes I carry is SLC6A4, a type of monoamine transporter protein that transports seratonin. This provides a lower rate of response to SSRIs (antidepressants). Genetically speaking, this affects individuals when experiencing stressful events in their lives and their cortisol response. Cortisol is a hormone that your body produces to respond to stress. This particular gene is a risk marker for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, PTSD,  Alzheimers and even Autism.  For those who have alcoholism that “runs in their family” actually have association with this gene variant. These are all reason why I feel that EVERYONE should be tested genetically to know what you are predisposed to for preventative measure as well as proper treatments due to certain genes causing resistance to treatments.
Here I am at 33 and finally dealing with something that I saw signs of in my early childhood. Mental health has always been wrapped in shame and stigmas which make it hard for anyone to accept and even wrap their head around. When I felt down and depressed, I did not ever think of it as a chemical imbalance or a disorder. I thought of its as insecurities and a lack of self worth because I truly believed that I was worthless. Now, I have the ability to check myself and remind myself that I am not worthless and that I am having a depressive moment that will pass. I know that this is a never ending effort on my end to continuously work on. I am so sad for the young girl, teenager and young woman that I was. She did not realize that it was a dark cloud blurring her view of the world and that she could take a deep breath and wait for it to pass. Instead, the stigmas and closed doors made her feel alone as she spent her entire life suffering.
Opening up about mental health is incredibly difficult to do. People judge, form their opinions, label you, make assumptions or just completely shut down. For example, I opened up today to a friend about my recent diagnosis and how it was never real to me and what I was feeling with this new acknowledgement and the subject was changed as if I never even spoke of it. When you open up to someone about your health and it gets dismissed you feel like you cannot trust or open up to anyone. However, I knew I could let that go and move on and find the right friend who would understand and listen. Maybe not everyone is cut out for it but I hope to make others aware of this epidemic of depression which takes so many lives. If you are a friend or a person that someone chose to confide in but don’t know how to handle the situation, direct them to someone who can. Dismissing them or ignoring the issues may cause them to feel more isolated.
Mental health disorders are another form of invisible illnesses. When people meet me, I smile and am generally friendly and most people would never guess I battled depression my entire life.
I can’t even fathom to explain how much I can’t stand when a complete stranger says, “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” I like to suggest that if you are that type of person, say something else like, “I hope you have a great day” instead. Those are the little things that make our head sink less.
My advice to anyone in a relationship with someone who struggles with depression is that you have to be patient and when they isolate themselves or push you away, keep a close distance instead so they get their space but don’t feel more alone. We never want to push you away, we self sabotage because in that moment we truly feel like you are better off. My husband always reminds me that it will pass and we even came up with a code word. Communication is so valuable. Always discuss these moments and how you can work through them better next time.
If you are the depressed one in the relationship, you need to be patient as well. They do not understand but they are loving enough to try, so bear with them and listen to them, no matter how stubborn as you can be. You have to do the work. You have to read the self help books and go to therapy and try or their help and support is going to be useless for you. No one can save you besides yourself. This is your battle to fight even if you have people on your side. If you feel like you cannot manage or handle your depression then do not be afraid to seek help. Some people do not know what to do or how to handle a situation, so finding local resources is recommended for more professional help.
There are people who are prisoners to their own mind. I am fortunate to have found a way to cope and get through my depression, but for those who have not can fall into a colossal traumatic, dark hole that may lead them to hurt themselves or others. There is a spectrum for everything, from mild to severe and everyone copes differently but as a community we need to open our eyes whether it is to seek help for yourself or know where to point someone to if they turn to you for help.
Body and Beauty, Unveiling Invisible Illnesses

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled – Plantar Fasciitis

Yvonne is a ray of sunshine and you wouldn’t dare look at her and think that she was suffering. She is struggling for answers and remedies while trying to piece together her life around a disability. Meet Yvonne!

Where are you from originality?

I am from Jacksonville, Florida and I was adopted at 3 months old.

What is your dream for you and your career?

The ability to get back up and fight through battles is what inspires me. Women who empower women and encourage one another and lift another up also inspires me.  My dream is to continue to help others feel wonderful about themselves and to offer the best quality organic products and airbrush tanning at it’s finest!

What is your favorite music?

My favorite music is county believe it or not lol…. I love “feel.good soul music ”
What inspires you?

What are three things you can’t live without?

I can not live without my daughter! She is the reason why for all that I do. I can not live without putting a smile on someone’s face on a daily basis. It feeds my soul to do good deeds!  I can not live without lipstick… I LOVVEEEE LIPSTICK and coffee!

Favorite quote:

There is only one happiness in this life. To love and be loved.

Tell me a little about your injury and daily battles:

My injury occurred several months ago.  I have a severe case of Plantar Fasciitis. I have been a dancer since I was three years old and that has become a passion of mine as it’s in my heart and in my veins! I have been teaching dance aerobics since I was out of high school. To be a dancer and to loose your feet and feel prisoner to them is the last thing I thought I would ever have to go through. I do not want to get out of bed and take the 1st steps as I know how painful they are. Throughout the day as I walk, it’s a struggle just to to stand. The only relief I get is if I sit, so I almost want to be in a wheelchair as hard as that is to say. Excruciating pain does something to you… I feel as if it has stripped my soul in my passion.  I get depressed very easily and cry a couple times a day. As much as I want to cut them off of my body,  I tell my feet I love them with every step I take no matter how much they hurt me and also how badly I want to remove them from my body. I pray that the feet I once knew come back to me soon as each day feels like an eternity when you are struggling to walk.

What is some advice you can give to anyone suffering?

My advice for anyone suffering is to breathe deep breaths and lean on your loved ones as much as possible. If they love you, they got you! Cry it out, and get back up again. I pray… A LOT! I try focus on the positive things that God has given me instead of dwelling in the darkness of this pain, even though at times it does get to me and I do break.

What helps with your issue?

My family helps me with my issue even though they don’t understand it. No one will understand if they’ve never experienced it, but it helps when you know you have people that truly care about you, that love you and want what’s best for you and your healing. There is truly nothing like support when you’re suffering. Pain this intense messes with you mentally as well.  Family is always there to hold you and help you get through it!!!! Also, the beach or sitting outdoor helps me clear my stresses.

Support Yvonne’s local business here:

Yvonne’s Organic Bronze

Health, Healthy Food

Invisible Illnesses Unveiled – Celiac Disease

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder in which gluten ingestion can cause damage to the small intestine and other long-term health issues. 

Theresa Lanno is a hairstylist and my business partner at Bombshells Barbershop & Glam Lounge in Rockledge, Florida. We busted our asses to open our salon. Stress can do a lot of things to our bodies. Theresa was rapidly losing weight without trying. She was coughing up blood and having stomach issues. The first doctor she saw gave her ulcer medication and chalked it up to stress. Can you imagine if she just took those pills and did not push for further tests? She would be damaging her body for many years to come and suffer from more health issues. Many autoimmune diseases are a dominos effect on your health. 

 Long Term Health Effects

Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems. These include the development of other autoimmune disorders like Type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis (MS), dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers. 
*Read more here.

 

Theresa also had a vitamin D deficiency, which can cause brain fog, bone pain, fatigue, depression and muscle weakness. Deficiencies are common with celiac disease. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and 1 in 100 people overreact to this particular protein, which damages the villi in their small intestines and causes poor absorption of food. Malnourishment can eventually lead to infertility, miscarriage, bone density loss, neurological diseases and certain types of cancer. 

Fortunately, the cure for celiac disease is to completely cut gluten out of your diet. My goal in unveiling invisible illnesses is to push others to be their own advocate and to get answers and not just accept the first guess a doctor quickly throws at you before their next patient. We want answers and and test as well asnproper treatments and not bandages or pills to mask our symptoms. 

Even if you are not Celiac, gluten sensitivities can cause similar issues minus the intestinal damage. Gluten has been know as an inflammatory food. You can read more here about research and references. 


*Photos by Misti Blu





At what age did you discover symptoms and how long did it take to get an official diagnosis?

Theresa: I found out I have Celiac disease in April. I’ve always had stomach aches and low energy.  I never thought anything of it until the past two years when my life got miserable. I couldn’t eat or drink with out feeling sick. I would get migraines, nausea, dizziness,  heartburn, brain fog and joint pain, which ruled my life. 

How do you feel about the healthcare system? 

Theresa: The healthcare system is very flawed. I went through tests for 2 years before getting a diagnosis. Every doctor said I was young and healthy with low vitamin levels & stress. I lost 20 pounds in 2 months. I knew it was something else and not just stress. Thankfully, after many different doctors, I went to a walk in clinic begging for answers. They finally sent me to a gastroenterologist. Even after going through all my tests it took over a month to get a diagnosis. Celiac disease isn’t very common and many doctors still don’t have knowledge about this disease, which is so frustrating. 

Do people have a hard time understanding your illness?

Theresa: Yes!  The worst thing about this disease is that the only way to feel better is by sticking to a strict gluten free diet. Cross contamination is a nightmare, which makes eating out almost impossible. Also, people use gluten free as a fad diet which makes restaurants not take it seriously. I get asked if my body’s intolerance to gluten is “a choice or an allergy.” Why anyone would make this choice for no reason is beyond me. Gluten free is not a fad, actually gluten free breads and sweets usually have more sugar and calories than “regular” things do! 

Do you have a message for people in your shoes who are struggling with this illness?

Theresa: It gets easier! The cravings are part of the disease. Be strong and don’t give into cravings. Celiac disease is strongly linked to cancer, MS, neuropathy, and diabetes. It’s no joke and there are so many people out there who feel the same!

What do you miss the most from before your diagnosis?

Theresa: I miss having a normal dinner with my friends and family.  I was such a foodie! I still am but it’s just harder now.  I don’t want to be the person who asks the waitress a million questions or has to fear getting sick from a chef’s negligence or server error.  But, most of all I miss real New Haven style PIZZA! 
What is your new favorite (gluten free) dish?

Theresa:  I have learned to make almost everything I loved before in a gluten free way. My favorite thing has been chicken parmesan! Barrilla makes the best GF pasta! I love Boars Heads deli meats for lunch and Goodie Girl Cookies are the shit for snacks! Sweets are my weak spot, and the Melting Pot has the best GF spread you will ever see! 

How have you changed or felt since your diet change? 

Theresa: All in all, the sucky diet is so worth the change. I feel so much better. I am down 20 lbs all together.  I still have days where my energy sucks and everything hurts but that is part of the autoimmune thing. No more crippling migraines or joint pain. It sucks sometimes but it could always be worse!

Health

Day 5 Postoperative Pacemaker Update 

The past couple of days have been rough.  I have had sugar the last two days when I felt worse so I am hoping eliminating sugar again will help. I usually don’t have sugar in my diet but caved and had some dairy free Ben & Jerry’s almond ice cream. Basically, I have been having PACs, which feel like extra heart beats and bouts of Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia. I have had these issues prior to the pacemaker that I just got on June 8th (2017) but was unable to take medication due to chronic Bradycardia, a slow heart rate. Now that I have the pacemaker as a safety net, I am able to take medication to help with the other issues. At this point, I have to wait 6 weeks to let the pacemaker fully heal and the meds to kick in and then we can re-evaluate the situation and discuss a possible Cardiac Ablation, which would be my 5th. I would then be 100% paced. I am trying to be positive and hope that avoiding sugar will help calm things down and that my heart is just angry and still needs to heal and adjust. In these last two days I have had PACs every single minute, sometimes more, sometimes less and about 5-10 episodes of Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (IST) each day. The IST will kick in randomly, often when I lie down from sitting up. My heart rate goes from 60s to 140s in seconds and my chest feels tight and constricted while my lips get cold and tingle or go numb. It is VERY uncomfortable and annoying, to say the least. The PACs sometimes will feel so strong that they jolt me out of bed. 

 I saw the doctor today and am still paced in the 80 percentile and they were surprised to see how often it kicked in. When my heart rate was higher from walking or with activity, it would have dropped and I could have passed out had the pace maker not been there. That is called Neurocardiogenic Syncope, which was confirmed in a Tilt Table Test I had a few weeks back. I am suffering from Dysautonomia but have not found the right doctor to determine why. I am currently trying to find a good rheumatologist to look into a proper diagnosis. Most signs point to Lupus (SLE) but nothing is set in stone. I definitely can tell how beneficial this pacemaker is and a life changer at that, I just really need to get the the bottom of what is causing my body to suffer. 

I guess I just get worried because I also have had open heart surgery in 2011 for severe Aortic Insufficiency. I had my valve repaired and currently all 4 valves have mild insufficiency. I also have thickening on my aortic valve and a thickened heart muscle with slight left ventricular enlargement. With all of this and an undiagnosed auto immune disease, I sometimes have a hard time keeping my chin up. I also have recently discovered that I have multiple complex cysts on my thyroid, which will need to be biopsied for cancer. 

Never take your health for granted. It is really tough being patient and waiting AND WAITING for answers. In the mean time, I am home in bed and away from my salon. I would love to be back to work and travel and run around and feel free again. I am currently trying to get disability so that I can ensure medical coverage (since there will likely be billions of dollars in cuts for Medicaid) and qualify to go to the Mayo Clinic so that I can get the proper care and treatment that I have needed for a decade or so.

I think that is all for now. Rubix cube still being solved. To be continued….

Health

America Hates Me

Soon, the president of the Divided States of America will be cutting almost a trillion dollars for Medicaid cuts. As I often hear about the complaint for our tax dollars being spent on helping people like me, I never hear any disgruntled comments about the rest of our federal tax spending. We are just shuffling money from one area to another, from healthcare to Military and Defense. And state taxes? How dare we pay for those roads that we never drive on or the schools that our children don’t go to? America is not free, is it? 


Guys, only 28% of our taxes go towards healthcare. No one bitches about where the other 62% goes. Why is that? Do we need to educate ourselves more?


We are very privileged and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to bitch about getting the wrong Starbucks order, don’t get me wrong. I know it could be worse. However, I know it could be better. 


Almost 60 countries Have Universal Healthcare and some have mandated this since the early 1900s. Virtually all of Europe, included. The United States refuses to get on board. We can’t get it right in 4-8 years. It takes time… flipping from red to blue, hot to cold every decade is a disaster when we can look at several dozens other countries that have been doing it for decades. And no, don’t tell me I need to leave my country. My point is that there are answers out there but we have no humility and are drowning in pride and so divided that we would rather turn one half of our own country into a third world status than to pay a couple bucks a week in taxes for healthcare. 

Oh, but we will gladly pay it for military. Just not for the environment though. Seriously, all this is, is taking a budget and moving it somewhere else and that is screwing over your neighbor. New York was known as the melting pot. Now we just want corn dogs and apple pie.


Here in America, we feel that we work hard and must earn our right to be medically treated, granted we have a trust fund and come from wealth or were gifted with healthy DNA. Well, guess what? I work my ass off. I have never only had just one job. I do not come from a wealthy family and I was born with a rare disease. I have even gone to work in severe debilitating pain or irregular heart rhythms and just smiled and pulled through because I have a family to feed and a roof to keep over our heads. I have gone to work instead of the ER because I needed the money. I sometimes would spend days recovering from this… Shutting down my phone and crawling into bed, ordering pizza for the kids and hoping that I wake up the next day. Everytime I would get ahead I would get knocked back down and have to start over, scraping by. 

If I had my health, I would be rich from how damn hard I work and my infinite ambition. I don’t qualify for health insurance and I usually don’t qualify for Medicaid. Seldomly I get access to Medicaid and get the luxury of medical coverage for about 6 months but it is never enough time. 

I am what America hates. Your tax dollars paid for my open heart surgery. I digust you. This year, you win. Your votes will take away my coverage. And when that happens, I hope that you think about my children and the mother that you will take away from them so that you can afford a sweet new car with heated leather seats and Bluetooth and more military whatever. 


I have had some very close calls earlier this year and was often dismissed because I looked healthy. I have spent 32 years of my life looking for answers on my own while being medically neglected, year after year. Even recently, I had my Tilt Table Test and wore my usual light makeup and rosy blush. It is my daily routine. If I don’t cover my fatigued eyes and pale skin then I will be asked if I am sick or tired all day long. The nurse said I looked great and that likely this test would be a breeze for me. “She still has color,” he said seconds before my blood pressure bottomed out and my heart rate plummeted and I felt nauseous and horrible, to say the least. Maybe it’s Maybelline, because suddenly I was head down and being pumped with fluids. Shorty after, I went into hypoperfusion. I was stabilized quickly but despite how horrible I felt, I was relieved to have it all on paper and proof! Each and every ER visit, ambulance ride and hospital stay, dozens in The beginning of the year, my symptoms were dismissed as anxiety and I was prescribed Xanax and Valium and sent home to die because our healthcare is capitalism at it’s finest. It is corupt and unfair because we built it this way and refuse to do anything about it. We are blind. Wake up! For most, they are not poor enough for assisted coverage but not comfortable enough to swing the extra bill for insurance on their own. It is a lose-lose situation. Maybe heart attack statistics would go down if we weren’t stressing about how to afford a doctors visit! 

Despite my 2011 open heart surgery scar and four cardiac ablations, I still was not taken seriously. Hypoperfusion, or Circulatory Shock,  was diagnosed by my neurologist after my clear brain MRI and EEG of my brain waves rules out seizures and any neurological disorders, as well as my recent positive Tilt Table Test, pointing back to cardiac. I went through so many years of tests and no answers but refused to believe that this was anxiety. I was the happiest I had ever been. Finally some progress but time is running out until coverage will end. Life feels like quicksand. 




At one point, I was diagnosed with Acid Reflux, which I do not have and was given medication for that. I was diagnosed with Anxiety and Panic Disorder and given drugs for that. I do not have anxiety. I refuse to take those drugs. Before ruling out seizures, I had debilitating migraines with auras and was given seizure medication. Turns out that all I had to do was cut out preservatives and dairy and my migraines went away. I can’t help but wonder how many people are sent home drugged up to die with a misdiagnosis. How many “young and healthy” looking women were sent home with a new drug dependency while they really just had a deficiency that could have been managed? 



I have children, a business or two, a fiancé and I work very hard every chance I get, when my body allows it. Just because I look fine, does not mean that I don’t feel like shit and have chronic debilitating symptoms. I would be devastated to give up this fight and be home in bed all day, every day. Sometimes I feel like I should be but I have some much to live for and want to see as much of the world as possible,  even if each step hurts and I have to stop often. I will get back up and keep trekking. I am not giving up. 


Fortunately, my patience fizzled and I became an advocate for myself and finally made progress in a diagnosis to get proper management and treatment. My next step is a pacemaker on June 8th but there still needs to be an answer as to what the underlying issue could be. Currently, I am waiting on results for Elhers Danlos Syndrome and Marfan. I recently requested ANA blood work and tested positive, meaning I have one of 120 autoimmune diseases. 


My goal is to help raise awareness to doctors and medical staff about rare diseases and that when you hear hooves, sometimes it could be a zebra. I want to inspire others to get healthy and educate themselves on nutrition and what our bodies need to thrive and learn how to not walk away from doctors without answers. 


I hope that I can still fight this battle or open someone’s eyes to how wrong this government is. I just want to live. I am not ready to go. Please consider people like me before you strip what is left of our medical coverage. Please think abouty soon to be husband and my three children before you ban me from healthcare equality. I am never going to give up but I may die trying. 

If you still feel like reading, I urge you to read Marie Claire’s publication on women’s healthcare.