anxiety, Multiple Sclerosis, Not Today MS, pandemic, panic attacks, Uncategorized

Stopping the sprint

One of my favorite things to do when running is to sprint at the end… As I approach my distance or speed goal, I turn on the jets. On a treadmill, I tend to jog between 4.8 and 5.4, but when I sprint, I crank up that dial well into the 7s and even sometimes the 8s. At first my body screams, there is NO way you can sustain this for a minute… but I focus. I keep my head up. I count backwards in my head from 60. I focus on my breathing. I focus on the placement of my feet. And I smile from ear-to-ear as I cross that imaginary finish line and turn the machine back down to a walk.

But what if the treadmill didn’t slow down when I pressed the button? What if I started that sprint and didn’t know when I could stop? What if some evil trainer stood over me saying, “Just one more minute…” every time I thought I was done? Metaphorically speaking, that’s what the last two years have felt like.

  • February 21, 2020 – I am told there is a pituitary tumor showing on my MRI. I am told it is close to my optic nerves and I should use caution while driving until I can get a follow-up MRI of just my pituitary and see a neurosurgeon. MRI and Consultation scheduled for late March.
  • March 11, 2020 – The world shuts down due to COVID-19. Our daughter transitions to NTI, with the hopes of going back in just a couple of weeks. All of her dance classes are cancelled until further notice.
  • March 12, 2020 – I receive a call from my neurologists telling me that since they don’t know how this virus will effect me and my compromised immune system, I am not allowed to go to church or shopping or anywhere outside of the house except for work and I must say 6 feet away from all co-workers. As an extravert who loves to care for others and hug people, this is devastating news.
  • March 20, 2020 – My MRI and Consultation are postponed until further notice. My tumor is not deemed life-threatening, and therefore they cancel my appointments and say they will call me when it’s safe to reschedule. I reach out to my neurologist’s office and all they can offer is for me to report if I have any new symptoms and then they could try to get the appointments rescheduled.
  • April 2020 – Our college senior is sent home. Graduation is postponed. He moves home without getting a chance to say good-bye to all of his friends. His career is put on hold and he waits in limbo for his life to start.
  • Brian begins furlough with his company. He works one week and is off two. The whole situation is unnerving, but we are thankful to still get a paycheck and have jobs.
  • We do our best to parent two children who are extremely anxious and depressed as they spend most their time at home and not doing the activities they had enjoyed before the pandemic.
  • I don’t see my mom or other family members for months.
  • Several of my family members contract COVID, resulting in one horrible death. His teenage daughters are forced to say goodbye to him on an iPad.
  • In October, I discover a lump in my breast. A biopsy was performed and came back inconclusive. A consult was set up with a surgeon.
  • On October 29, 2020, I tested positive for COVID-19. Very little is known at the time about how my body will respond. I am forced to isolate from my family and spend my 40th birthday in a mask, in my bedroom.
  • The surgery consult is pushed back to allow the correct number of weeks to pass before I set foot in her office so as to prevent spreading of the virus.
  • On December 21, 2020, I go in for surgery to remove the lump and it is sent off for biopsy. (After Christmas, we get the call that it is benign).
  • In February 2021, I go in for what I am told will be a two-hour MRI to scan both my brain and my pituitary. I am not allowed to have music and it’s in an unfamiliar facility. I have a full-blown panic attack and nearly damage the machine. I complete the scan.
  • At my virtual Neurologist and Neurosurgeon appointments in March 2021 and I am told that no tumor was seen on the scan of my pituitary. That was must have been seen was a shadow because after inspection by the Radiologist, Neurologist and Neurosurgeon, they were all in agreement nothing was there.
  • In March 2021, Brian and I head out of town to celebrate the good news. We’re rear-ended by a USPS Truck before we ever get on the Interstate.
  • In April 2021 my son moves across the state into his first apartment. This is stressful and heart-breaking and also joyful.
  • In May 2021, our daughter completes her Sophomore year of high school with all A’s and 1 B, while being 100% virtual.
  • We all get vaccinated and are hopeful the pandemic is nearing the end and then Delta emerged and it felt like everything shut down again.
  • In November 2021, I crashed. I was having monthly panic attacks. I needed help. I got help. And I realized I had been running way too fast for way too long.

It’s no wonder I was having panic attacks, right? It’s no wonder I’ve gained over 30 pounds. It’s no wonder I’m tired. It’s no wonder my already compromised immune system is dangerously low. It’s no wonder I’ve had difficulty processing any “normal” stress at work or in relationships over the past two years. My body has been in SPRINT mode for so long it didn’t know how to slow down. But, I’m working on it.

In November, I began two new medications. An anti-depressant called Effexor and an anti-anxiety medicine called Buspar. I’m on the lowest dose of each and just closely monitoring my symptoms along with my care team.

These days I’m doing a lot less running and a lot more walking. We like to head out to the lake near our house and take a brisk two-mile walk. I smile at people passing by. I say hi to every single dog and child. And I feel the joy coming back into my soul. I think I’ll always battle anxiety and depression, but at least right now I’m winning.

Remember that analogy I was describing earlier? Of me being stuck on the treadmill, sprinting at 7.0, but never crossing that imaginary finish line and being able to turn down the speed? After beginning medication, it felt like someone graciously reached over and turned that dial back to a comfortable 3.0. I can breathe. I can process what’s happening. I can enjoy the journey. And I’m so grateful.

***DISCLAIMER*** This is where I’m going to remind you that I’m not a doctor. I can barely take care of my own health needs, so just take this as my own personal experience. Please, please find a doctor you trust and talk to them if you are experiencing anything similar to what I’ve been going through. You matter. Your life matters. The people in your life love you and need you. Take care of yourself.

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