Monday, November 26, 2012

Talk About the Process

MS and anxiety is something that has interested me for a long time. When we talk of anxiety, we think of all the mood disturbances, psychiatric issues and such. As always different people have different things that they consider as being anxiety. Medical professionals tend to lump a lot of people into the "generalized anxiety disorder" category, or GAD. Along with this comes a host of medications to treat this, anti-depressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). I have taken SSRI's for what we thought was a form of depression, anxiety or something like that. Sometimes I don't think even the professionals know what is always going on. I have explored this topic extensively and keep finding that the popular rhetoric seems to be that MS is a baffling condition that often  progresses so no wonder people get depressed and anxious. But we all express this sentiment in so many different ways. Let me talk about me for a moment.

I was diagnosed at age 20, in college. I was an active 20 year old, very athletic and out to find my place in this world. Then you tell me I have something I cannot even pronounce. I continued on, little broke my stride until many years later when not only my stride but my spirit was broken.

I picked up the pieces and continued on but things were not as they should have been. So I started to get anxious. But all this time, my brain was being "zapped" in certain areas that was in fact affecting my emotions. Now I think back to how I single handedly tried to bear this brunt. Almost 27 years later, I am finally devising a plan to handle the way my runaway emotions are expressed. Because of my anxiety and where the brain lesions are, I have a case of uncontrollable laughing and sometimes crying. Something inside me starts and cannot stop. This can happen at any time, anywhere with anyone. The worst part is, I am not doing this, it is almost being done to me.

We were at some friends at Thanksgiving. Someone said something that began that ripple inside me. Then I said something that in all honesty was not that funny but the uncontrollable laughing began. Something in me decided that I had enough of this behavior that surfaces only to embarrass me. So I stood up and said needed to use the bathroom and everyone assumed that is why I was laughing! I took a break in order to stop the cycle that had been started. It worked. I came back out and had no more feeling to laugh. We all started talking normally again.

The other morning we were having breakfast with friends and I practiced my mindful meditation and paid very close attention to what people were saying. By doing this, I got involved in conversation, very involved so my mind did not wander to places other than the table. If I would have felt vulnerable in any way, I would have voiced that I was getting a little anxious or just taken a walk to the bathroom or anything to break the pattern.

I have found by suppressing feelings, they come out with greater force. By either breaking the pattern or talking about the process or what was happening was an honest way of dealing with it. I don't seem to be able to get rid of this so these techniques are the next best thing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

The prayers to my ongoing respiratory condition have finally come to light. GERD is the term for acid reflux also known as heartburn. People have different symptoms within this diagnosis. Some people will pop a Tums or do some antacid and can move along, others may have accompanying asthma that can worsen GERD or the other way around. How did I make this connection? Actually, this connection was made by a doctor years ago but we just started treating the asthma symptoms. When someone is diagnosed with asthma at a later age, in my case in my forties, GERD is often looked at as an accompanying factor.

Always at night the symptoms start. That is another telltale sign. When I lie down to sleep, everything becomes worse. I start going into bronchiospasms, have trouble breathing and will start making gurgling sounds and a very loose cough. Let me explain what GERD is, how it is treated and some of the symptoms.

Reflux is what it sounds like. The stomach acid is constantly "splashing" the lower part of the intestine. In this condition acid in the stomach rises up into the esophagus. This happens because the valve separating the contents of the stomach from the esophagus  doesn't close properly--the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) - a muscle between the esophagus and stomach - relaxes, allowing the acidic contents of the stomach to splash back (reflux). Certain foods are implicated, such as fats, tomatoes etc. This is a confusing situation for me because my diet is pretty low fat, no junk food including soda (rarely). I do love tomatoes and look forward to when they come out in the summer. When this acid causes problems with the breathing tubes, I feel asthmatic symptoms. I do question whether or not I have asthma but can safely assume all this is interrelated.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (

There are all kinds of over the counter remedies for GERD. Actually, the pharmaceuticals make a mint on some othem particularly since one is pushed into doing anything to feel better. Of course there is Tums, Prilosec, Nexium etc. and more prescription based drugs like Protonix.

So, what finally clued me in? I couldn't tolerate toothpaste! Searching led to answers and many others who couldn't tolerate toothpaste either. I finally put two and two together and realized that since I am alright in the daytime, I will make a few lifestyle changes. I switched to baking soda as my new toothpaste and introduced some fermented foods into my diet during the day, such as sauerkraut, pickled cabbage, pickled tomatoes etc.

The biggest discovery came last night. I kept reading about the "banana myth" which is introducing a banana after the evening meal. I thought "sure"!!! a banana?? Guess what? It worked like a charm. I had a little bit of wheezing but no breathing problems. So, I didn't have to use an asthma inhaler to sleep which by the way has been pushing up my blood pressure.  They say pineapples also help. I think they will be on my next shopping list. But the banana had me stumped particularly since it could deal with all the acid (tomato sauce and wine at dinner) and let me sleep.

No medication -- a banana a day, which is how I want to keep it

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Internal motivation and loss

Sandy came and went. Unfortunately there are other places like NYC, NJ and also CT that are still dealing with the aftermath. The skies are gray here and it will rain for the next couple of days. Some people have been so uprooted, lost homes and loved ones that dealing with a gray day is not that hard, as long as it is calm.

There is always another person on this earth who is experiencing terrible things, like the victims after Sandy and other natural disasters or starvation in Africa and here, wars and fighting around the world and so on. In my own life, I try and "maintain" myself as best as I can given my own circumstances. After all, that is all I can do.

Things that help me to stay balanced involve staying in control of things as best as I can. You know, I amaze myself. I can stay in my house for days and not get bored. My mind is always learning things and sometimes too much. For example I just took a walk to the mailbox and had an interesting thought. My WalkAide is programed to lift my left foot every time I go to take a step. So, I thought I would pretend by telling my brain to "lift" every time I took a step, just like I was doing it naturally. The brain knows you are doing this but maybe, just maybe it might learn to redo this activity that it once did. So now every time I walk, I tell my brain to lift my foot as if I was doing this and not the WalkAide. point is that I am internally motivated to do so many things. I don't have to go somewhere else to get stimulated to live my life. Is there something wrong with me? I don't think so. I must be motivated differently than some others.

I am just grateful for what I have in life even though I have lost a lot. So, people can experience loss in many different ways. The way we handle this loss is also different. NPR just had a piece on about stroke patients and constraint induced movement or CIM. Talk about being internally motivated. People who have had a stroke go through long rehab sessions with therapists who will constrain the able limb and ask patients to try and move the challenged limb. Talk about feeling helpless. I know what that internal dialogue feels like. No matter how much I try, the damaged highway is not allowing signals to go to the limb, in this case my foot, to tell it to lift. You can tell it until you are fed up, think of stroke survivors. Their loss is great, just like mine but there is no CIM in MS. I wonder why? It is so similar. Sometimes I feel like my body on the left side is weak and heavy, not like the other side.

Is all loss the same? Of course not but there are elements that are similar. Now MS and stroke, these are self-losses, or for example  my young friend Kate who is blind. All loss has some sort of tragedy attached to it. Whether Sandy or death of a loved one or one's own health.

Loss is loss but internal motivation -- when the going gets tough may be my magic bullet.