50th Anniversary -Actually 51st Anniversary

As I was starting to write this, my dear dad reminded me of my math issues and said it’s actually their 51st anniversary as they were married January 5, 1969…at least I am decent at writing and being a therapist.

So today would have been the 50th (51st) Anniversary of my parents. It technically still is even though my mom is not here in this realm with us in physical form.

Since I can’t give them a traditional anniversary card, I was pondering over how I can honor them and what this day means for them.

So I am choosing to write them individual letters.

Dear Dad,

Happy Anniversary- it seems unimaginable that this day 50 (51) years ago you and mom decided to choose each other. Although I was not there, I have been fortunate enough to hear all the fun stories from y’all and our family and friends. You were so very handsome and hopeful and happy and every picture shows it clearly. The honeymoon story in Gatlinburg is one of the funniest and I can hear Mom’s laugh ( who couldn’t?!) when telling the story about the chimney flue.

Your relationship with her and your ability to express your love for her was a gift, not only for her, but for your children as well. You embodied the act of wholehearted love. And it benefited all of us. So Thank You.

When the first cancer diagnosis came, there you were- ready to fight alongside her- and helping to take care of me and O during that whole bed resting month when J was trying to come out too soon and M was traveling far away for work. What a scary time and yet I remember the laughter,too.

And then just a few years later, when the second cancer came to rock our world completely, there you were, doing every single thing you could to support and help and advocate for her. It’s so hard to even write about it- but know that I was a front seat witness to your remarkable relationship with her.

So on this day of reflection- please know that your generosity of heart and time and spirit and resources- not only within your marriage, but within your whole family- will continue to be seen and celebrated and respected. As my mother’s daughter, I know she felt your loving kindness and that she is still feeling it and smiling. And loving you right back.

I love you,

Melissa

Dear Mom,

Can you believe it’s your 51st Wedding Anniversary?! That is a lot of years. Thank you for showing me and talking to me about what marriage really is – not some bullshit Disney princess fantasy- but that it means choosing each day to be patient and loving and frustrated and understanding and giving up the notion that it’s better to be right. Your calm and peaceful energy was such a complement to dad’s and I saw how it played out in the energy of your relationship.

I know you have been with us in a different way for these past( almost ) 9 years. A day does not go by that you are not missed. We love to go to your house and look at all the old pictures. I see you in myself and in my children- and in Dad.

How proud of him are you that he is FINALLY learning to put all of his things ( keys, wallet, phone) in THE SAME PLACE?! I know you are.

The legacy you left ( and are still creating) is profoundly and deeply felt by us all. The love you poured into all of us continues to benefit us and is a powerful resource from which to pull from on the days we need it the most. And Dad does a beautiful job of expressing this during his annual toast at Thanksgiving at your house. Your effusive warmth and laughter is with us in that house and in the homes of each of our hearts. I carry it with me always. So thank you.

And even though anniversary celebrations change when one person dies, know that I celebrate you and dad and the many gifts your relationship created.

I love you,

Melissa

The Fuckening

I don’t know who created this or I would certainly give credit to this brilliant word- My dear, devoted, and darling Dad sent it to me. Aren’t I a lucky daughter?

Around the first of every month, for the past 16 months, I find myself reliving THAT day- the beginning of my MS story. The story that I am still creating and that already has so many chapters. The story that I still sometimes wake up and my first thought is, “But I thought it was just a pinched nerve from that kettlebell workout.”

September 1, 2018

Woke up in a Nashville hotel to later celebrate the marriage nuptials of my cousin. Thought it was weird that I couldn’t get my left arm to “wake up” – Was it a pinched nerve from working out? Was it the terrible traffic-y 6 hour car ride to Nashville the night before? Did I sleep on it wrong in the hotel bed? Meanwhile, I’m waiting for my kids (teens) to wake up to meet my dad downstairs for breakfast- my husband was also out of town at his cousin’s wedding( Labor Day Weekend is a popular time to get married!)..

I got on my yoga mat( I bring it EVERYWHERE) to practice some yoga to see if that will help. First sun salutation, I fall flat down on my face because my arm will not support me. Try it again. Same thing.

I finally rest on my mat and really pay attention to what is happening. I notice it’s like pins and needles all up and down my left arm. And that I can’t really make a fist with my left hand. And I am left handed. Must be a pinched nerve.

Take a hot shower- become extremely weak- like nothing I have ever felt before weak. I look back now and laugh because, as most MSers know, hot showers/baths exacerbate MS symptoms. Never a good idea in the middle of an attack.

Finally get dressed after resting from just taking a shower- Y’all- anyone who knows me knows I am high energy. What is happening? I’m pissed at this point because we are ready to explore Nashville before the Wedding.

I have to get my kids to open stuff for me- I really didn’t even say much other than that I might have a pinched nerve or something, no big deal.

Every chance I could get that day, I sat down. I rested AGAIN before getting ready for the wedding.

Attended the wedding and enjoyed spending time with our family- however, this was also a very emotional time for our family because one of my cousins was not there with us. She had just been diagnosed with a very SCARY medical issue and was recovering from a craniotomy. Yeah. So lots of tears. And fear.

I went to bed ( finally) and just hoped all would be well the next morning. The joke was on me.

It took all I could do to get out of bed, dress myself and get in the car. My daughter drove us the whole way home. All I wanted to do was take a relaxing hot (haha) bath in my lovely bathtub at home. Which I finally did later that evening once we made it home sweet home. I was so confused as I lie there in that bathtub. Why was only one side of the water working?! What was wrong with the water faucet that was making only the left side come out hot?! Why was my entire right side wet but not heating up? I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me quite some time to realize that it was not the water that was not working correctly- it was ME. I tested the dripping water with my left foot-HOT, then I tested it with my right foot- wet but… nothing- zero temperature sensation AT ALL. I sat in that water and really paid attention. My entire right side of my body could not feel any temperature sensation. My left arm and hand were so weak and tingly. I guess a pinched nerve can do this?

I somehow manage to crawl out of the bath and into pajamas. Go to sleep. You may wonder- is she scared? Is she thinking of calling a Dr or going to one at this point. Nope not really- insert my typical under- reaction to my own health issues here. All I was focused on at this point was sleeping in my own bed- the next day was Labor Day AND my son’s 15th birthday- he wanted me to make buffalo chicken dip. And my daughter and I were meeting a kind old friend who was in town at Starbucks around 9 am so that she could use her college professor-y skills and guidance to help with O’s 10,000 college essays and resume. Meanwhile, my husband had driven straight through the night to find me sitting up in bed early that Labor Day morning. He took one look at me and said, “Something’s not right with you” ( I had not even mentioned to him what was going on yet). I told him everything that my body was doing and he suggested we go to MD 360.

Did we go right away? Nope. I told him O was driving us to Starbucks and then we were going to the grocery store to get the ingredients for J’s birthday request- plus all the other food we needed. We meet for coffee and catch up – O has to deal with paying and carrying everything for me. Sweet and Smart friend was like, “ You might want to go see a Doctor.” Yep- after the grocery store maybe. While we were at Publix, my legs start becoming numb and weak. It FINALLY hits me that maybe something could be wrong. O tells me she thinks we should stop shopping and just go home. She pays and loads the car with the few groceries we bought ( it really bothered me to leave without getting all the stuff ON THE LIST!).

Get home around lunch time and Smart Hubby insists it’s time to go to MD 360 ( local emergency care). Still haven’t even seen the birthday boy that day because he was still asleep- teens….

The doctor pretty much immediately says, “ Are we calling an ambulance or is your husband taking you straight to the ER?” She thought I’d had a stroke or damaged discs in my neck so she put the cervical collar around me – I still have nightmares about that damn thing- I’m so angry because I think this is overkill and ridiculous. We get to the ER and the neurologist starts doing all of these tests and asking me over and over every 10 minutes to move my arm in different ways. I am crying with frustration at this point because I absolutely cannot make my arm work. I kept apologizing like I was doing something wrong. Like I wasn’t passing the tests! I am an achiever- I DO things- I am in control- how could I not make my arm move or squeeze anything? And I was still wearing that fucking cervical collar. So much blood was drawn- so much blood.

I just keep saying- isn’t this just a pinched nerve? The hospital neurologist says he thinks I have had a stroke and I am arguing with him that I would know if I had a stroke. He gently smiled and said something like he was glad that I thought I was a stroke specialist- but in a nice way. So off we go to have a brain and cervical spine MRI and I had a tantrum about having to leave the stupid collar on so they let me take it off for the 1 hour MRIs. When I was done, the tech said I didn’t have to wear the collar anymore- I kind of realized then that maybe it’s not a pinched nerve- but I was also starving and delirious and couldn’t think straight at all. Dear hubby meets me outside of MRI room as they are wheeling me straight to have a Head CT. At least my collar was off- YAY!

Meanwhile- in between all the waiting, the kids are calling asking when are we going to be home to make the Buffalo Chicken Dip and O is working on college essays and we are discussing them and she needs the credit card info for application fees. I do not have time to be in this ER!

Around 11:00 pm, a different- very young- looking (maybe about 14) neurologist comes in and she sits real close to me and holds my hand and says that they have discovered why I can’t move my arm. She said the MRI showed lesions on my spinal cord – right at the brain stem- and that where they are located are inoperable and cannot be biopsied. A million things are going through my mind at the same time:

I was right! I did not have a stroke!

It’s J’s Birthday….

I haven’t made all the lunches for the week yet and the kids have school tomorrow.

So what is wrong then?! What can be done to fix this? Can I go home now??

I’m verbalizing all of this but it’s not coming out right – my left arm is going crazy ( learned it was “clonus”) because I was having panicked breathing. The teenage Dr tells me to slow my breathing ( YAY for my yoga practice) and my arm finally stops slapping me in the face. My husband and I are in shock. AND that youngster Dr said I needed to understand the seriousness of taking care of myself and not worrying about the kids ( she is not a mom yet) and that I was being admitted into the hospital for further tests. So insert the Absolute Fuckening.

I stayed awake all night in the ER waiting for a bed- still not allowed to eat or drink water – just ice. Blood drawn every couple of hours- they were doing an MS work up but the original neurologist said I did not present as a “typical “ case of MS because of my advanced age and lack of brain lesions. Got into my room on the neuro floor about 6:30 am. Awesome and Amazing nurse comes in at 7:00 am- she says the Dr will be in soon to do a lumbar puncture to see what’s in my cerebrospinal fluid- I just keep asking her when can I go home and am talking a mile a minute and am dying of thirst- she says: I can tell you are a Mama- I am too- this is going to be a long road- this is very serious and I cannot tell you when you are going home but I can tell you that I know you have grit and you are going to need it- and I’m putting Ativan in your IV. Lumber puncture ( spinal tap) is so pleasurable and fun- NOT. But I have had 2 epidurals so I know the deal. They start me on tons and tons of IV Steroids- still without an official diagnosis because LP results had to be sent to the Mayo Clinic. I FINALLY get to go home on 9/5 with home health coming and having IV steroids at home. This is where it all becomes blurry and my memory isn’t totally there- can we say PTSD symptoms?

I do know that during the in between time, the not knowing time, the imagination running wild time, the time of in home OTs and PTs and nurses time( which lasted until the end of October), our family was inundated with more love and support and help and food and kindness upon kindness for which my gratitude has no bounds. And which still makes the tears flow just thinking about all of that love consistently pouring into our home.

The official call from the outpatient neurologist’s office came on 9/12/18. I was not allowed to drive ( obviously) – I had no use of my left arm and had to use a cane to walk-so my dad ( my official Uber driver) came to get me while my husband drove to the Dr’s office from work. More on the steadfast strength of my husband as that is a chapter in and of itself.

“So you have Multiple Sclerosis- it is very clear and all tests confirm. You will need to start very aggressive infusion disease modifying treatment as soon as possible because of where your lesions are- no room for them to grow- you could have been a paraplegic with this attack.” His bedside manner was severely lacking. And he is no longer my neurologist. For many different reasons.

I have no further memory of that day.

And this is the very first time I have written about it. I have told the story more times than can be counted. Writing it feels very different.

I choose to refer to my MS as Multiple Surprises – hence the name of this blog. And that is a story for another time- because I am practicing excellent self-care and know when it’s time to get ready for bed and to allow all of the emotions flooding me right now to be felt and processed and respected.

So may we all give ourselves permission to tell our own stories in our own way and on our own time.

And may we send all the compassion and understanding to all the humans struggling with whatever it is that their stories will contain.

Intentions

Words are powerful. Words we automatically think inside of our heads and words we say out loud.

Words we read and words we hear coming out of other people’s mouths.

A long time ago, as a younger therapist, I began to realize that the word “goals” could have some unintended negative consequences- especially for those who struggle with cognitive distortions ( basically most humans). In grad school, which was a VERY long time ago for me, we were taught that treatment plans must have all of these GOALS- especially when working with insurance companies-I could easily get sidetracked into a rant about this so I am breathing through it and moving on…Asking a client, “So what are your goals for working with me,” sometimes created such a panicky and paralyzing effect on the dear human who was brave enough to come in to my office, I just knew there had to be a different way to ask this question so that it would seem less overwhelming and actually empowering.

When I started using the word “intentions” instead ( both personally and professionally), I noticed a difference. A lightening. A feeling of decreased pressure ( from my own self and from my clients).

We can set our intentions for ourselves each and every day- we can verbalize them and we can write them down and we can focus energy on them and it can be a satisfying and empowering way to come back to yourself without the whole- Oh I must meet this Big Goal issue that can seem so overwhelming and, well, big.

Daily intentions- such as today I will focus on 3 things for which I am grateful or I will check in with my body today to see what it needs or I will do the laundry today or I will write a to-do list for the week, or I will eat vegetables today—- I could go on and on here. The point is that allowing ourselves to say, “It is my intention to walk outside today” creates a different sense of perspective and energy. We can have multiple intentions and keep coming back to them throughout the day and we can change them according to the unpredictability of life. And we are in charge of them. It’s a way to practice engaging with yourself in a gentler, small step by small step way that can create a sense of mastery and purpose. And Believe Me- when you lose the ability to use your left arm and left hand and you are left handed- you learn very fast from your PT and OT that it’s all about the very tiniest steps. You learn how to use your brain to tell your limbs to do the things that they have naturally been doing for 46 years on their own. And you practice doing the same tiny steps, such as squeezing putty, over and over and over again until you are ready for the next thing. And it is absolutely ok if you cuss and cry and laugh at yourself while you are baby stepping it out- whatever your thing is.

So one of my newer intentions, because as we have established- WORDS are POWERFUL- is to stop referring to my left arm as “ my bad arm.” It is my intention to make peace with this part of myself and to celebrate how much I can now use it- even though it’s still the bane of my existence and is a source of chronic discomfort ( once again, words are powerful and I discovered it makes me feel better to use the word discomfort instead of PAIN).

So I am currently in the process of trying out different words to consider describing my left arm to myself and to others- being a “chronic illness patient” requires LOTS of opportunities to say to health care providers and MRI techs, “Please be careful of my bad arm- can’t draw blood or put the IV there or let me be in charge of the blood pressure cuff- you can’t just grab at my bad arm, etc, etc.”

So I will be playing around with various adjectives that leave me feeling less triggered and that can provide me with a stronger sense of compassion and acceptance for my own ….insert new word here… arm.

So may we all give ourselves permission to be kind enough to set daily – sometimes hourly- flexible intentions that serve us well, each and every day, and/or each and every hour. AND may we be kind to ourselves when our intentions do not happen in the way we would like AND may we just keep coming back to them again and again and again with love.

Just one of my MANY Soapboxes

Once again, trigger warning for those who may be offended by my honest talk about the ridiculousness of diet culture bullshit. Know that I love you AND it’s time for it to stop.

Just stop reading now if you want to. And know that I was caught up in this torturous way of believing at one time- it’s really hard not to be AND it is freeing to be in charge of your own mind. If you are interested in considering a different way to think and feel about yourself and your body, I invite you to sit with any discomfort you may be feeling and just let it be.

Most of us women ( and men) have grown up hearing messages that there is one right body type or that weight and BMI equals health ( do your own scientific research on this and/or follow Dr Joshua Wolrich and Dr Colleen Reichmann to name just a couple on FB and Instagram), that food has moral value and that we need to punish ourselves for eating “bad” by exercising or restricting or “dieting”- basically the underlying message is: You Are Not Good Enough.

It’s about that time for diet culture to strike even more obnoxiously because it’s January. Even that concept of “new year, new you” is a set up for failure. It’s black and white thinking – an all or nothing cognitive distortion – the reality is that you can choose to accept yourself as you are AND decide to make multiple daily decisions to make nutritional and physical movement choices that serve you well physically and mentally many times a day. And each day can be different depending on the complexities of humanity. And you don’t have to shame yourself for “cheating” or “making a bad choice.”

Y’all- For the love of all that is holy and good- this is all lies. If diets worked, why do most people have to continue to diet? And why can’t we be accepting of all humans with different types of bodies? Diet culture- INDUSTRY- wants your money. Our collective body shame keeps them in business. There is no one right pill or cleanse or ‘whatever bullshit next new thing’ to lose weight and actually maintain that weight loss effectively- either you will gain back even more AND/OR develop an eating disorder. Remember: I am a therapist who actually works with real humans -males and females-with these issues. Eating disorders are RAMPANT and are starting at earlier ages- this is TRAGIC. Research supports this. Unless you are someone like me who has an autoimmune disorder or cancer and/or food allergies/sensitivities, there is no one right way to eat. Research proves and most educated doctors will tell you BMI is meaningless. Thin does not equal healthy- OBVIOUSLY. I am a living example of this fact. Insert laughing and crying emoji here.

And you can exercise because it feels good to you physically and mentally and to celebrate what your body can do. It is empowering to move your body because you want to and not because you HAVE to because you nourished yourself with food and thus must punish yourself by burning it off. Humans need food. It is an actual necessity. This should not be a difficult concept to understand. Science supports the common sense reality of the restrict then binge cycle. Meaning the more you restrict, you will eventually binge, and then you will experience the shamestorm which will tell you to restrict and/or over- exercise and/or purge and thus the cycle of suffering will continue. Not to mention the obsessive thoughts of food when you are entrapped in this lifestyle.

I am weary and sad that so many people, young people and old people, struggle with eating disorders and disordered thinking about food and their bodies. Just recently, I have seen eating disordered thinking and messages on actual “therapeutic” Facebook pages- and yes, I called them out and commented something like, “ Let’s not promote diet culture, please.” And-No, I did not use cuss words even though I wanted to – so so much.

Do some of your own research on HAES and Intuitive Eating. Plenty of evidence-based studies and books and practitioners are out there.

Consider unfollowing the Fitspo inspirational crap that promotes eating disordered behavior. What might it feel like to give yourself permission to accept your body- just even a smidge at a time or one part of it? What if we all untethered ourselves from the false narratives we have been brainwashed into believing and that have been passed down generationally? What if we could have compassion for ourselves and our bodies instead of always trying to shame ourselves and by knowing our appearance is not all that determines our worth? What if we made conscious choices to change our language and perspectives about this serious issue so that we can give our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren ( not to mention our own damn selves) the gift of peace and self acceptance and the intrinsic knowledge that their ( and our) worth as humans is not solely related to what they ( or we) weigh or what they ( or we) look like?

May we all practice embracing ourselves as the multidimensional and unique souls that we actually already are as humans each and every day, as many times as we want to or need to each and every day, one day at a time.

The Gift of Having a Daughter

Before I emote all about the mother/daughter connection, let me be clear that having a son ( especially my sweet boy) is also a gift- just a different kind of gift that is a story for another day.

As a daughter who was always very close to her own beloved mom until the day she died ( and even now because we still talk all the time even though she is not within the earthly realm), I was overwhelmed with excitement when I found out that my first child would be a girl.

O and I have had a deep empathic connection from the moment she came sliding out of me after only a few hours of horrific labor without waiting for the doctor and without me even pushing her out. I knew then that she would be a human who does things on her own ( impatient) time and in her own unique way. Her sense of self was established with her first breath of life and she has been going strong in this manner for the last 18 plus years. She is certainly an original!

I remember my mom telling me, during one of O’s legendary temper tantrums, that raising a strong-willed child was hard but that it would ultimately serve her well as an adult- shout out to my Mom for being Right!

Her compassion for others, her drive for working her ass off ( we are working on her perfectionism disease), her activism, her ability to create nurturing friendships, her gift of a beautiful voice and love for music, her willingness to be herself – a leader and not a follower, her quirky authenticity and self-expression- these are all my favorite gifts and I am privileged to be her mom.

I learned ( because I am kind of a smart person and know how to trust my gut) that O was a kid who needed to have autonomy and agency and do things on her own terms. Her ability to clearly ask for what she needs from me began in middle school. She would preface conversations with: I just need to vent and I don’t want you to say anything right now – just let me get it all out OR I need your help and I want advice ( and sometimes even- Just Tell Me What to Do). And we all know that those hellacious middle and high school years (mean girls are REAL – do NOT get me started) provide multiple opportunities for reasons to vent…I was curious if any of this would change once she left the nest for college- I can honestly say it has definitely not changed ( thanks to FaceTime and cellphones) and sometimes I am amazed at how much she chooses to share with me- I consider it a gift, especially when we laugh about our boundaries- or lack of them with some things…

As hard as I grieved when O moved away, I’m incredibly thankful ( and sometimes still sad- living in a house with all boys and no other feminine energy…) that our relationship continues to transform in such beautiful ways. I know my mom is with us always – every time we go shopping, O will say something like, “ This would be even better if GeGe was with us.” I choose to use our shopping sprees as a way to carry on the grandmother/mother/daughter bond which is just another gift- even if we don’t buy a single thing.

Throughout the years, we have established a very grounded foundation of not only wholehearted love and acceptance but mutual respect for both our strong similarities AND our differences. Our mental telepathy is powerful and sometimes no words need to be exchanged for us to get what the other is thinking/feeling. Just like me and my mom which makes me feel my mom’s energy even more.

So on this 4th day of Hanukkah and Christmas, as I was thinking about all the fortune in my life, what struck me most today was my relationship with this dearest of humans I have had the pleasure ( AND sometimes the pain) to raise.

What is toxic positivity?

Trigger warning as this may offend some people- but that is ok because we can be triggered AND worthy of love and belonging.

Toxic positivity is kind of the opposite of affirming and holding space for your own and others’ actual realities and perspectives and experiences. Most humans just truly need and want to be seen and understood for who we/they ARE and where they are at any given moment of their journeys.

Trust me- I know this for many reasons: my career as a listener AND my own human experiences with all sorts of struggles, AND raising children, AND being married, AND having professional colleagues who are fabulous friends to name a few.

Toxic positivity is often used with beautiful intentions but it misses the mark of being helpful and establishing a foundation for authentic connections. It can sound like cheerleading. It often makes the person saying all the “positive” things feel better and less awkward- we therapists find it awkward to even engage with others in this way or to see it happening because we know how damaging and minimizing and frustrating and sad it can be for the person being “TP’d”….

As a human, a grieving daughter and a member recently initiated into the Multiple Sclerosis Club, I know firsthand what it feels like. Consistent messages from kind humans such as … Just Stay Strong,

You seem like you are doing Fantastic,

Just Keep Having Faith,

Everything happens for a reason,

God only gives you what you can handle….

Ummmm- most of us( not speaking for ALL as we are all different- but MOST humans ) really want to laugh and cry and are saying Fuck Off in our heads, as we politely say thank you or just kind of ignore this type of “help.”

Empathic responses or affirmations to those going through the shitty parts of life look like this:

This must really suck for you.

I am here if you just want to scream or cry or cuss.

I am sorry you are going through this.

I hope you have a good day and know you are loved.

I have no words for this ridiculousness you are going through but I love you.

Life can be so hard and such a mystery.

This must be really scary for you and your family.

Whatever you are feeling is valid. And I bet you probably have all kinds of different feelings- it may seem like being on a roller coaster.

Fuck Cancer

Fuck MS ( insert any and all chronic illnesses)

For those who aren’t cussers, you get the gist…

I hope these examples give you a new way to consider helping your fellow humans AND to look inside and explore what you may need to hear from your own self in your own efforts to provide internal compassion and self-acceptance.

May we all recognize our own individual needs and experiences while at the same time remembering that we are all unique with various perspectives. Differences are part of the human experience AND connecting with others is a gift that serves us all very well.

I’m too tired to edit for grammar so it is what it is. And if you really know me, you know I am an excellent editor but sometimes you just have to call it a day.

On the Mend

Writing this on pain meds after surgery yesterday. No real sleep since Wednesday-

How is a person supposed to recover when continually given shots through the night and getting blood drawn and vitals taken??And I may have spilled my water all over the bed around 1:00 am and instead of waiting for the nurse, I just remade the bed with dry blankets- then when the nurse came in to poke me for the 27th time he was like – Why didn’t you call for me…. I just told him I’m a mom and it’s just easier to do it myself….

So glad to be at home now! My sweet boy who is recovering from an emergency appendectomy on Sunday night made me tea… we have been comparing surgical notes and have the same yellow hospital socks- I’d rather bond with him in other ways, but I’ll take what I can get.

The angelic DR from MD 360 who sent him to the ER called me today to check on him and tell me she had his surgeon’s notes- she basically said that we are extremely lucky he is ok- can’t even write all the words and science-ey medical stuff because it makes me so emotional and angry at his “pediatrician” who is no longer his pediatrician- OBVIOUSLY.
This same Dr was the one who sent me to the ER on J’s 15th birthday last year when she thought I was having a stroke. She remembered how angry I was that she was making me go to the ER. When I told her it wasn’t a stroke and that it was MS, she stood up and hugged me and got a bit emotional herself. Then she had to tell me she was sending J to the ER immediately- this was not triggering AT ALL… Insert Eye Rolls.

And even though every part of my neck hurts and it’s hard to swallow- I am filled with joy that J is ok. Still not 100 % of course but so much better.

AND I got to walk outside with my dear friend today- very very slowly- but Hallelujah for fresh air and walking and friends who visit with goodies and dads who bring you coffee and smoothies and husbands who do all the things and daughters who go to the pharmacy and take silly videos of you.

So here’s to recovering and may all of you dear souls who are dealing with the reality of being human give yourselves a big hug of self compassion and acceptance.
And if not one word of this made any sense, it’s the Ultram.

Here We Go

When we can accept all parts of ourselves- especially the dark and not so lovable parts, we can be at peace with ourselves. Intrinsic kindness fosters external kindness to others which is what we all need as humans- authentic connections.

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I’m Melissa- This is a space to be real.

I have been told I am inspiring- which is sometimes kind of annoying. When you are attacked with a chronic illness such as MS and your whole world changes in an instant, what choice is there but to figure it out? Especially when you have a life to live and people to take care of and things to do.

I’m just a middled aged woman who has been encouraged to write a blog. Maybe it’s because I’m a psychotherapist who is also a human living with Multiple Sclerosis who understands the need for allowing people to be who they are, to hold space for the pain of being a human, for knowing how to empower people to accept ALL of themselves and to exist in this life that is both awe-inspiring and hard as hell.

I am not one to offer ridiculous sentiments of toxic positivity -more on the harm of that later.

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter who lost her own mom to cancer and who has an amazing father, a member of a lovely family, a friend, a patient and so much more. I am learning what it’s like to live with an unpredictable chronic illness – lots of cussing,  anger, and sadness-  basically grieving my old self AND making peace with my new one.

I am naturally introverted and quite friendly and warm. Meaningful and personal one-on-one conversations are one of my favorite things. And Hugs.

I am a seeker of knowledge and an avid reader of books. And also a binger of Netflix- Thanks MS for requiring me to rest so damn much.

I am a lover of physical movement of all kinds- depending on what my body needs each day. Again-  thanks MS for forcing me to listen to my body.  

I have the privilege of listening to people’s stories and holding space for their struggles. Even though I’m the “mental health expert”- I also know that I am not an expert on anyone else’s lived experience. Most humans have the capacity to be their own experts when given permission and skills to do so. I am a firm believer that not everything happens for a reason, that mystery exists and sometimes things just suck and we won’t experience true understanding AND that is ok AND deeply frustrating.  The human experience is quite challenging and sometimes full of emotional anguish and physical distress AND sometimes so beautiful and filled with moments of pure connection and joy and peacefulness- much  like parenting…

I believe in the power of using the word AND- most things are not black and white-  perspective is EVERYTHING and embracing the word AND is a gift that keeps on giving.