Melissa Updates

Hello Internets!

I’m not sure where to begin. I’m mostly doing this post because I hate that I stop updating this blog.  Let’s break the updates up by sections of my life.

In terms of health, we’ve covered the MS thing. It still sucks but not every day. I take my vitamins. I try to stretch and walk. I give myself a break on super hot days. I use a cane to get around. I can go short distances without a cane but for the most part…cane. I’m also doing this thing where I buy and then eat produce. I know. I was shocked too.

Professionally, I am doing well. I am pretty much in my dream job. I am working at the agency that I’ve loved since 2009. The struggle is to continue to grow after you get what you want. It’s easy for me to start acting as if I’m where I need to be for the rest of my life at 31. I could just sit still and wait for an appropriate age to bounce into retirement. I know that it’s in me and that’s what I fight on a weekly basis. That kind of complacency will be the end of me if I allow it. So I won’t. Luckily, in order to keep this LMSW I have to earn a certain number of “Continuing Education. Units.” Being mandated to grow helps. Nevertheless, I need to challenge to myself. It’s best for myself and my clients that I do so.

My personal life is better than it’s been a while for a number of reasons. Was that vague enough?

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So that about covers it. I should end with a promise to update more. Hey, I’ll update more.  In case you totally miss me though I have two other blogs I update on the semi regular. This one is where I blog about my personal journey with MS. And this one is a flash fiction/poetry blog. 

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Melissa Updates

MS Melissa-The Follow Up

So, I guess I’m blogging about ‘my MS’. My prep work for the specialist appointment was pretty much outlined in the previous post. I didn’t allow myself much sleep before because I wanted to be a little dull. I had begun a journal of my symptoms and my freak outs. I stopped googling MS but did join online support forums. I decided to go by myself instead of taking my two very supportive parents because I didn’t want to cry in front of them again so soon. I also wanted to just be myself with whatever happened during this appointment for that whole day.

The specialist was nice and professional. I was told he was going to be nice but I never let go of my doubts. He encouraged me to give him a detailed history. I told him things in a calm voice that sent me into crying fit two weeks earlier. He showed me my MRI and discussed the results with me in a calm voice. I barely heard his talk of lesions and didn’t have it in me to tell him that someone already broke this news to me. He was patient and repeated himself until he was sure I understood what was happening.

After what I’m assuming is the appropriate amount of time, he handed me off to a coordinator who was very cheerful about going over medication. She sat very close to me and we gabbed like girlfriends about not taking the one that could put me at risk for an incurable brain disease. She gave me an introduction packet, encouraged me to petition my insurance company for better coverage. She also assured me that I could not get out of jury duty due to MS. We talked about not telling people about my condition and stigma. She was detailed, sunny, and efficient.

The prognosis was fairly good. The word “early” was used which was a relief to me. Nevertheless, my routine changes now. I’ll have to take a pill in the morning for my thyroid and inject myself with medication at some other point during the day. The injections will help to slow the disease. I will have to do this for the foreseeable future. I’ll have to carry my needles in a cooler when I go on trips. Plus side, I am now going through the fast line at the airport. Apparently, I’m going to travel more than before this diagnosis. That’s not even sarcasm, I need to get out more.

I am doing a balancing act it in my head. I try to counter my more depressive and irrational thoughts when they happen. This is not something that is happening to someone else. This is not something God did to me because I complained about being bored. I am not going to die alone because of MS. This is not an excuse to say ‘fuck it’ and self destruct. Rational thinking and exercise will be my best tools when it comes to MS. Ultimately, I’m going to adjust to this new normal, as my mother calls it, and be better than okay.

MS Melissa-The Follow Up

MS Melissa

 

“What are you going to do for the next 20 days?” Her voice was kind as she repeated her question. My initial answer was bullshit, something a social worker could pull out of her ass even after a couple of tallboys. She had no way of knowing I was currently gulping down Honey Brown and my apartment smelled of Newports, but she knew I was being superficial.  She had also spent time professionally hearing answers that few people meant.

Hours earlier, another kind but not as understanding voice told me I had MS. Specifically, she told me I had an upcoming  first appointment (in 20 days) with a specialist about “your MS”. Just like that. As though MS was a cold and not something that was currently fucking my life. She wasn’t even the doctor I had been pestering for the past month. The doctor who said he would call and go over my lab results. The doctor who didn’t even seem like he was going to give me a MRI until I said “I’m trying to make sure my balance problems aren’t MS.” They were fine blaming my fluctuating thyroid.  I wanted to blame my thyroid too because the devil you know and all that.

To be fair, I think I’ve known about “my MS” for quite some time. I’ve at least acknowledged the possibility of it since last May when I couldn’t do a long or even a moderate walk without holding onto sides of buildings. It was then that my friend told me that it wasn’t just because I’m fat. Fat people walk straight lines every day. I used to be a fat person walking a straight line. I haven’t consistently walked a straight line in almost a year.  So, I’ve known I could possibly have MS for a while. I knew for sure I had MS after reading my MRI results. I just didn’t have a medical professional confirm it for me.

“What are you going to do for the next 20 days?”

My friend’s mother was my second talk that night. She shared her journey with me and what keeps her attitude positive. She offered me support, guidance and permission to freak out. She reassured me. We even laughed at some point.  If I was given a choice of how I would’ve liked to find out about my second chronic disease, I would have chosen her voice.

“What are you going to do for the next 20 days?”

I would hear that question repeated in my head for days after our conversation. I would hear it when I engaged in some old fashion self-destructive behavior.  I would hear it when I cut conversations short with people who care about me. I would hear it when crying in bathroom stalls. What the fuck was I going to do?

It is difficult to freak out for 20 days in a row. You have to let it come in waves because freaking out is exhausting, especially if it includes fried food, Newports, wine and beer. It is also difficult to spend 20 days freaking out when you have to work. I had to work. I had already taken four days for the last test and, as the product of two hardworking middle aged Black parents, the thought of being let go never really left my mind. Even if I crawled into work, spent half the time under my desk weeping, I was going to go into work.

So, work. For the next 20 days, I’m going to work. I’m going to clean. I’m going to attempt to clean. I’m going to enjoy my family and laugh with my friends. I’m going to send dirty text messages while trying not to stare at his picture too much. I’m going to talk to myself naked in front of the mirror. I’m going to read books.  I’m going to attend church. Apparently, for the next 20 days I’m going to live my life. There will be some adjustments. I’m going to work on balance exercises. I’m going to record my symptoms. I’m going allow to myself to cry and freak out in spurts.

MS Melissa

Having Friends

When I was in the fourth grade, I was the kid who was paired with the teacher. I didn’t mind it. I felt a great distance between me and my classmates. I was bigger than most kids and my natural state was quiet. My peers took my silence for snobbery instead of shyness. I was awkward socially and would often embarrass myself in large crowds. I figured out at an early age that it was easier to isolate than try to make friends. I was an avid bookworm and ‘tv addict’ so I pretty much had my choice of fictional worlds. Teachers liked me and so they made fine field trip buddies. It didn’t occur to me until years later that I was also very angry during this time and for a while after.

I wasn’t very aware of my unhappiness until her. She was a quiet girl with an accent. She was small and nice. She wanted to be my friend. She would follow me around the playground. She would try to talk to me and I could tell she admired me. I did not care for her. I never embodied the Groucho Marx  quote”I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member” more than I did during my childhood. One day, very publicly, I shunned her. I was a fat angry girl who had already been through two best friends. We didn’t end on bad notes, they both relocated. In any case, I was not auditioning for a third one. I yelled my rejection at her in a way I’ve never been able to since.

I still think about her. I don’t remember her name. I don’t remember her reaction to my dramatics. She sort of just faded into background after that. I wish I could apologize to her. I want to tell her that I was sullen and I hated myself. Her only mistake was trying to befriend me. It took me a quite a few lonely stretches in the following  years to learn my lesson from that exchange.

I’m not saying I got this friendship thing even mostly down. There are days when I am still that angry fourth grader who doesn’t understand why someone would befriend her. I have periods of time during which I isolate and I frequently flake on people. There are times when I’m self centered and annoying. I almost dare them to cut me off and prove me right. For the most part, I’ve been lucky. It also helps that most of my friends understand and can relate to my behavior.

I can say that I try harder at friendship now. I try to believe friends when they say they like my company. I’m definitely more of a delight now than I was 20 years ago. I try not to push them away and I apologize when I’ve offended. I make the effort not to consistently flake and am rewarded for it with their company. I have cultivated a pretty decent group of support both locally and in other states (thanks Internet!). I don’t know that I’ve ever believed I would have so many friends but I’m grateful for them.

Having Friends

My Thyroid and me!

Thyroid: a large ductless gland in the neck that secretes hormones regulating growth and development through the rate of metabolism.

For the past six years or so, I have been responsible for making sure I have a thyroid. Every morning, while my stomach is empty, I am supposed to take a small pill with a great amount of water. This pill makes sure I’m not cold, depressed, and tired for most of the day. For the past six years or so, I have sucked at making sure I have a thyroid.

I had two main reasons why I refused to take the small pill every morning: 1. I didn’t feel like it. 2. How was I supposed to know when I wanted to eat? Like how? I’d fall back on some version of these answers when family and friends would notice I stopped taking medication and ask questions. My follow up  would be a sigh and to laugh it off. I can now admit that I was knowingly on some bullshit.

I might have been content to stay on the physically exhausting roller coaster except for the fact that I turned 30. I got tired of being tired. Also, interesting things happen to the body as it ages and I didn’t want to add to it by being neglectful. So after a stern talking to, I decided on a plan.

First: No matter what happened to me that morning, I made a decision to always take my medication. If I was going to a friend’s house, the bottle fits easily in my purse.

Second, at home I keep a bottle of water and my pills beside my bed. There is no more blind stumble to the kitchen or excuse of being too tired to blindly stumble to the kitchen. I roll over and the bottle is right there.

Third, every morning at 6:40 my alarm goes off to take my medication. Maybe I take it then, maybe I take a little after. At 7:30 another alarm goes off so there really is less of chance that I’ll forget.

Fourth: Every night, before I even touch the bed, I refill my water. I know myself and I know how it easy for me it would be to say “Welp, yesterday Mel didn’t put the water out so this missed dose is her fault.”

Fifth: I remind myself of those weeks I was awful about taking my medication and how long it took to bounce back.

And yes, I wait the required four hours before my first antacid of the day.
And yes, I wait the required four hours before my first antacid of the day.

I generally feel better when I take my synthroid. I’m not suddenly bursting with energy but that was never me . I am, however, waking up at a decent time more often than not. In addition, I feel more responsible because I’m taking charge of an important part of my health.

So for approximately six years, I sucked at medication but for the past month, I have been great. I’m going to focus on the latter and acknowledge my progress because that is important.

My Thyroid and me!

Reading James Baldwin

I have been trying to push myself towards non-fiction for years. I’ll admit the effort has not been great or with my full heart. I had forgotten all but forgotten about the goal until my cousin posted a status looking for “The Uses of Blues” by James Baldwin last night. A sign! Right?

I fell in love with Baldwin’s fiction years ago but I’ve been dancing around his essays for a while. I’ll pick up the slim white paperbacks at used bookstores, store them in my bags, move them to my bookshelf and then neglect them. I’ll find quotes by him and feel inspired but then move on without further thought. To be honest, it’s starting to feel like a half assed love affair.

And so that brings me to another goal. I own at least two books of his essays. I can’t say I will finish them this year. I can’t say I will love them. But I will stop just looking at them. I will challenge myself and hopefully take this relationship to another level.

Front Cover: The Fire Next Time Back Cover: The Devil Finds Work
Front Cover: The Fire Next Time
Back Cover: The Devil Finds Work
Reading James Baldwin

Melissa goes to a concert

Last night, I ventured out from my comfortable couch and my Gossip Girl marathon to go to a concert with a friend. I knew that I had to go because it was D’Angelo and because I really wanted to stay home. So, I pushed myself up, slipped on my favorite maxi and applied my best purple gloss. I was ready.

But in real life, I wasn’t ready. At first, I was annoyed because it was a standing concert and I never wear the right shoes nor do I stretch. Ever. I never stretch. Also, there were people, so many people, just close enough to me that it became a thing. Lastly, the wait between sets was painfully long. I was ready to give it up and turn it loose.

But in real life, I paid money to see D’Angelo and he is an amazing performer. D’Angelo is an amazing performer. After about an hour of bitching, I felt lighter when he came on stage. He smirked, he touched hands and one point he wore what could only be described as someone’s mama’s Sunday cape. The band was on point (there was a horn section!). He really showed up and showed out.

This concert gave me a new perspective of his newest album, Black Messiah. I will admit that I had become disenchanted with the album and really only wanted to hear one song from it. After the live experience however, I am now going to give it another shot.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience and totally worth me coming up for air.

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(The aforementioned cape. He wore it well)

Melissa goes to a concert