My Migraine Journey

My Migraine Journey

mighty with migraine

{ #mightywithmigraine started on Instagram by @mindfulmigraine and @the_migraine_life }

June is Migraine Awareness Month. As someone whose life has been affected by chronic migraines in the worst way, migraine awareness is important to me year-round. But, I thought now would be a good time to share my own journey with migraines. Reading the stories of others who have experienced similar things often helps me, so I hope that maybe this can help you.

I had my first migraine when I was twelve. I had been sick with a bad viral illness, and my doctor thought that my migraine was perhaps caused by that. If only that had been the case. Instead, the migraines kept coming. I went to see a neurologist who diagnosed me and began treating me. That was the problem, though. I couldn’t really be treated. None of the medications he prescribed helped me. Or, in some cases, they caused such bad side effects that I was unable to continue taking them.

A few years after my initial migraine diagnosis, my neurologist noticed that my heart rate was a bit high. He decided to take orthostatic blood pressure readings, meaning I would have my blood pressure taken while lying down and then several times while standing up, with about ten minutes between each pressure. This showed that my heart rate increased upon standing, and even more the longer I stood up. He began talking to me about dysautonomia, and I later saw a cardiologist who diagnosed me with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a condition that affects circulation (blood flow). It involves the autonomic nervous system (which automatically controls and regulates vital bodily functions) and sympathetic nervous system (which activates the fight or flight response).”

POTS and migraines often go hand-in-hand. Many POTS patients report having migraines as well. As I’ve gotten older, my POTS symptoms have worsened. Simultaneously, my migraines have gotten worse as well.

Now, I have a constant headache. About two or three times a week, this headache intensifies to a full-blown migraine. Sometimes one of my migraines will last for a day or two, sometimes longer. I once had a continuous migraine that lasted for over a month. When a migraine goes on for more than seventy-two hours, my neurologist typically tries to treat it with steroids. If that doesn’t work, I go to the hospital for an IV infusion of multiple medications. This tends to provide some relief after a day or so.

I am not currently on effective treatment for my migraines. I am not exaggerating when I say I have tried every medication typically used for migraines. None of them have helped me. My abortive medicine that I take when I feel one coming on does not help. I have tried Botox, dry needling, and acupuncture to no avail. Recently, the FDA approved several new medications that all work in a similar way and are administered via injection once a month. They are the first true migraine medications (whereas other medicine used in migraine treatment is often anti-seizure, anti-depressant, etc.). I tried the first of the approved medications, Aimovig, for nine months. I only noticed minimal improvement during month two. Other than that, I experienced flu-like symptoms for a few days after the injection, among other side effects.

I think when people hear the word “migraine” they just think it’s a typical headache. They don’t think it’s a big deal. But chronic migraines have taken over my life. I spend most of my time in a dark room. A lot of time in bed. It can be hard to look at a screen or read sometimes, but I do it anyways, because if I stopped doing everything when I had a migraine, I would never do anything. If you talk to me on any given day, no matter how I look, I’m probably experiencing some kind of head pain.

I feel proud of myself for all that I do in spite of my migraines. I’ve gotten a college degree and I’m working on another. I’ve found things that I love to do that I can do when I’m not feeling great. I’ve found things that inspire me and help me keep going, even when it’s hard. I haven’t let migraines stop me, no matter how hard they try. I truly am mighty with migraine.

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Celebrities Speaking Out About Mental Health, Pt. 2

Celebrities Speaking Out About Mental Health, Pt. 2

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health awareness is a cause that’s close to my heart. I truly believe that speaking up about the reality of mental illness is one of the best way to break the stigma surrounding it. So, who better to speak up than those with some of the most influence in our society? Last year I wrote about seven celebrities who have spoken up about their struggles with their own mental health. This year I decided to do it again, with a specific focus on stars whose stories have helped and inspired me personally. Here are six celebrities who have chosen to be open about their own mental illnesses:

Chris Evans

chris evans

Chris Evans is not only one of my favorite actors, but someone who I have really come to admire as a person. His openness about his struggle with anxiety has definitely played a part in this. Evans, who is best known for playing Captain America, has shared that his high-profile job has contributed to his anxiety. He initially even turned down the role of Captain America, and began going to therapy after beginning the Marvel role. In a video for Motivation Madness, he gave simple yet profound advice about how to quiet “brain noise” – just tell your mind “shh.”

Bebe Rexha

bebe rexha

Singer Bebe Rexha has never been silent about her struggles with mental illness. It’s a topic she addressed in her hit single “I’m A Mess,” with lyrics like, “It’s gonna be a good, good life / That’s what my therapist say” and “I’m obsessed, I’m embarrassed / I don’t trust no one around us.” She also recently shared that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder on Twitter, writing, “I’m not ashamed anymore….I love you all very much. And I hope you accept me as I am.”

Carson Daly

carson daly

Carson Daly is the host of The Voice, one of the co-hosts of the Today Show, and recently finished hosting his own late-night talk show, Last Call with Carson Daly. One might assume that his busy schedule means everything is well in Daly’s life, but he has revealed he has generalized anxiety disorder. He says that it helps him to take time to focus on his breathing throughout the day. But his main focus? “I wake up, the alarm goes off, and I just thank God I’ve got another day to get it right and I just worry about today.”

Ariana Grande

ariana grande

Ariana Grande has cemented her status as a pop superstar, but she hasn’t been without her struggles. In 2017, there was a terrorist bombing at her concert in Manchester. The attack deeply affected Grande, who recently shared she has PTSD in a big way – she shared images of her brain scans in her Instagram Story in a side-by-side comparison with scans from a “healthy brain,” all to prove that PTSD is, as she put it, “not a joke.” Grande later said she didn’t want to concern her fans, but wanted to share something she felt was important. And it most certainly is.

Niall Horan

niall horan

Niall Horan was a member of the now permanently on-hiatus boyband One Direction. In the last few years, he has cultivated a relatively successful solo career. However, a lot has changed now that he’s no longer on stage with his four bandmates. Horan has said that he once didn’t even fully believe anxiety was real, but he now struggles with feeling anxious before performing or going on TV. He also has “mild” obsessive compulsive disorder, and “feel[s] like [he] has to do things in a certain way.”

Lady Gagalady gaga

Singer-turned-actress Lady Gaga has never been silent about her mental health. She has had a huge year following the success of her movie, A Star is Born, and she has used her increased fame to shine an even bigger light on bringing awareness to the plight of mental illness. During a speech at the Patron of the Artists Awards, Lady Gaga referenced her diagnoses of dissociation, PTSD, and panic attacks. “We need to share our stories so that global mental health no longer resides and festers in darkness,” she said, referencing the consequences of leaving a taboo surrounding the discussion of mental health. Lady Gaga is one celebrity who is truly leading the way in the fight for better mental health awareness.

{sources: The Mighty | Genius | Health | Today | CNN | Teen Vogue | Teen Vogue | USA Today }
{ image credits: Film Magic/Biography | Getty Images/Elle | Carson Daly on Facebook | One Love Benefit/E! | BBC | Getty Images/Vanity Fair }
My Migraine Madness

My Migraine Madness

“I remember when your head caught flame…”

– “Buzzcut Season” by Lorde

migraine pic edited

This is not a pretty picture – quite literally. But it is an honest one; perhaps the most honest one I have ever shared. It was taken after one of three infusions my neurologist ordered for me to have done, not at my regular infusion center, but at the hospital. It was every bit as fun as it looks.

This was after the first infusion, to be specific; after the second two even looking at my phone was out of the question.  I have no idea how long I went without looking at my phone. All of the days ran together. All I remember was pain. I experienced some of the most intense migraines I have ever had. I fell behind in my summer class (because it’s a bit difficult to work on your school work when you’re in this state, and even harder when the class is online). I only wore pajamas. Getting out of bed was an achievement, and being able to watch TV was exciting. A whole movie? I was living.

There is no way to truly explain what it is like to have a migraine every single day for at least a month (maybe more; like I said, I lost track of time). It’s happened to me before, but it hasn’t been this painful. I was begging for my neurologist to admit me to the hospital. But he is the best in the area for a reason. The treatment that I would be admitted to the hospital for was not exactly standard…it had some extreme potential side effects, side effects that would terrify me if I was in a normal mental state. Going to the emergency room was out of the question for me. Even when I was in tears from pain, even when I was asking my father for another priesthood blessing, I would not go sit in a lobby for three hours, only to be taken to a little curtained-off corner, given pain medicine that would no doubt make me ill, and be sent on my not-so-merry way.

The second and third infusions were my last option. It was the same infusion, administered over two days, and it was a medicine I had never been given before. It made me feel awful (apparently it could get worse). But it worked. Slowly. Maybe.

It still hurts some. Maybe it always will.

The only thing I can trace this horrific cycle to is a  new medicine I had just started. Its name began with the letter “p.” I will tell anyone who will listen that the “p” stands for poison.

This is where I’ve disappeared to. This is why I couldn’t celebrate the Fourth of July (and Captain America’s 100th birthday, of course), one of my favorite holidays. This is why when family came to visit I couldn’t see them. This is why I couldn’t even email my professor; my mom had to do it.

the birds

{ Image via Buzzfeed }

I’m a big fan of Alfred Hitchcock. The first movie of his that I ever watched (which remains my favorite to this day) was The Birds. No, it is not scary. The “special effects” are so basic that they are not even worthy of that term. But there is one scene towards the end when they are trying to escape – you guessed it – the birds after Tippi Hedren’s character has just been attacked by them. When she steps outside and sees them all around, she hysterically half-yells, “No, no, NO.” Perhaps I am Tippi Hedren now. Maybe whenever I feel a twinge in my forehead, I will see the birds. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe that’s just the way it is, and I have accepted it.

Who knows? Alfred isn’t here anymore, although he certainly could’ve written my horror story.

Celebrities Speaking Out About Mental Health

Celebrities Speaking Out About Mental Health

As some of you may know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Two years ago, I wrote about my own struggles with mental illness. Since receiving my own diagnoses, I have been increasingly inspired by others who are willing to open up about their own struggles, especially those in the public eye. There is such a stigma surrounding mental health, and the only way to change that is to talk about it; the louder your voice, the larger your impact. Mental illness does not discriminate. Wealth, status, and power can’t stop it; but compassion and a lack of judgment can certainly help. So, here are a few of Hollywood’s finest opening up about their own personal struggles with mental illness.

 

the rock

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

The Rock is probably the last person anyone expected to be affected by mental illness, but it does not discriminate. This literal giant has revealed that mental illness runs in his family (he once saved his mother from a suicide attempt), and that it has made its way to him. “I reached a point where I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere. I was crying constantly,” Johnson said, adding that injuries that ended his football career exacerbated his depression. But, Johnson picked himself back up. He has gone on to become a successful wrestler and actor, and is quite possibly one of the most beloved people in Hollywood. His hardships may have broken him, but they did not end him.

 

amanda-seyfried-nov16-cover

Amanda Seyfried

Star of one of the greatest and most underrated movies of all time, Letters to Juliet (and some other stuff, like Mamma Mia and Les Miserables), Seyfried is one of my favorite actresses. (Also, did you see her Met Gala look?!) But hit movies and pretty dresses don’t make you immune to mental illness. Seyfried, who acknowledges she has obsessive compulsive disorder, says, “I’m on Lexapro, and I’ll never get off of it. I’ve been on it since I was 19, so 11 years….I don’t see the point of getting off of it….I don’t want to risk it.” Seyfried is also well aware of the mental health stigma: “A mental illness is a thing that people cast in a different category, but I don’t think it is. It should be taken as seriously as anything else. You don’t see the mental illness: It’s not a mass; it’s not a cyst. But it’s there. Why do you need to prove it? If you can treat it, you treat it.” True words, indeed.

 

shawn

Shawn Mendes

This nineteen-year-old singer-songwriter from Canada has been compared to John Mayer and Ed Sheeran, but has a Justin Bieber-esque fan following. It’s no surprise that reaching this level of fame in just a few short years has been stressful. Mendes recently opened up about attending therapy sessions and how important he feels it is to talk to those close to him about how he’s feeling. All of this has followed the release of his new song “In My Blood,” which features lyrics like, “Laying on the bathroom floor / Feeling nothing / I’m overwhelmed and insecure” and “Sometimes I feel like giving up / But I just can’t / It isn’t in my blood.” With a fan base around his age, a demographic that is increasingly affected by mental illness, being open about these challenges is important. So, what is Shawn’s ultimate reminder regarding anxiety? “All pain is temporary.”

 

kristen

Kristen Bell

Kristen Bell seems like one of the bubbliest and most upbeat actresses ever, but even she has struggled with her mental health. Bell filmed a video for the #MyYoungerSelf campaign for the Child Mind Institute, opening up about her own challenges, saying, “I have suffered from anxiety and/or depression since I was eighteen.” Bell went on to bring up the role that comparison can play in our mental health by adding, “What I would say to [my] younger self is don’t be fooled by this game of perfection that humans play, because Instagram and magazines and TV shows, they strive for a certain aesthetic and everything looks so beautiful and people seem like they don’t have problems, but everyone’s human.” Kristen’s right – comparison is the thief of joy; so just do you – she definitely does.

 

ryan reynolds

Ryan Reynolds

I seriously love Ryan Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively. Until fairly recently, little did I know that Reynolds has been suffering from anxiety. In fact, he thinks it is something he’s dealt with since he was a child, but didn’t identify until he was working on his movie Deadpool. Reynolds said, “I literally had the shakes. I went to go see a doctor because I felt like I was suffering from a neurological problem or something. And every doctor I saw said, ‘You have anxiety.’” It can be hard to believe that Reynolds, living a seemingly perfect life with his wife and kids, constantly cracking jokes on social media, and showing up to red carpets looking perfectly polished could be feeling this way…but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

 

sel

Selena Gomez

We all know by now that I love Selena Gomez; her honesty and openness while living with a chronic illness has been a great example to me personally. Not too long ago she realized an unfortunate side effect of chronic illness: it messes with your mind. After having to cancel some tour dates and public appearances, Selena released a very real, raw statement: “As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have lupus, an illness that can affect people in different ways. I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of lupus, which can present their own challenges.” Since this time, Selena has released new songs sporadically while undergoing a kidney transplant, given her first performance on television in quite some time (which was highly criticized, despite reports that she had a panic attack before or during the performance), and faced cruel headlines and online comments over how anti-rejection drugs have affected to her body. While some may feel compelled to show disdain, I am grateful for what Selena has done, and how she has taken all of this in stride.

 

prince harry

Prince Harry

You would think if you’ve got “His Royal Highness” sitting in front of your name, life would be pretty peachy. We all know this hasn’t been true for Prince Harry, but until he opened up recently, we had no idea to what extent this went. The Prince says he went through twenty years of not properly handling his emotions following the death of his mother, which eventually led to a period of “total chaos” and “aggression.”“My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum, because why would that help?” Prince Harry is certainly one of the most well-connected people in the world, and he’s used this and his experiences for good. He, along with his brother and sister-in-law, have started the mental health organization Heads Together, and his personal challenges have made a way for him to further connect with veterans through the extensive work he does with them.

 

Sources:
Blackburn, Pete. “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson discusses his battle with depression, mental-health issues.” CBS Sports. 2 April 2018. Web. 17 May 2018.
Denicolo, David. “Amanda Seyfried on Her Mental Health, Her Dog, and Those Eyes.” Allure. 18 October 2016. Web. 17 May 2018.
Weiss, Suzannah. “Shawn Mendes Shares How He Copes With Anxiety.” Teen Vogue. 21 April 2018. Web. 17 May 2018.
Bode, Lucy. “Kristen Bell Shares Moving Video About Her Battle With Depression And Anxiety.” Women’s Health Australia. N.d. Web. 29 May 2018.
Harvey, Olivia. “Ryan Reynolds opens up about how he’s struggled with anxiety for years — and how Blake Lively helped him through it.” Hello Giggles. 4 January 2017. Web. 17 May 2018.
Chiu, Melody. “Selena Gomez Taking Time Off After Dealing with ‘Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Depression’ Due to Her Lupus Diagnosis.” People. 30 August 2016. Web. 17 May 2017.
Furness, Hannah. “Prince Harry: I sought counselling after 20 years of not thinking about the death of my mother, Diana, and two years of total chaos in my life.” The Telegraph. 19 April 2017. Web. 17 May 2018.
Images:
Pizzello, Chris. Photograph of Dwayne Johnson. Rolling Stone. Invision/AP/REX Shutterstock. 6 April 2018.
Trindale, Scott. Photograph of Amanda Seyfried. Allure. 18 October 2016.
Photograph of Shawn Mendes. Billboard. Twitter. 20 May 2018.
Photograph of Kristen Bell. Twitter. N.d.
Weiss, Angela. Photograph of Ryan Reynolds. Forbes. AFP/Getty Images. 7 December 2017.
Kempin, Jason. Photograph of Selena Gomez. Insider. Getty Images. 11 May 2018.
Jackson, Chris. Photograph of Prince Harry. Town & Country. Getty Images. 18 May 2018.
My Chronic Illness Story

My Chronic Illness Story

I did not write this for pity. I don’t want anyone’s pity. The purpose of this post is two-fold. First, it explains why I’ve been MIA recently. Second, it explains things that I often briefly reference in other posts in full detail. I have written and re-written and struggled with this post, but it is important to me to share this story, my story, with you.

Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” My journey began when I was three. And, because it began with a swollen ankle, I suppose it did begin with one step.

Yes, it was at the tender age of three that the first of my chronic illnesses was discovered. It took seeing multiple doctors and undergoing multiple tests, but I was finally diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Since my initial diagnosis, the name has been changed to juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), “idiopathic” meaning that the cause is unknown. I was a toddler living with an illness commonly associated with the elderly. My ankles and knees would swell to huge sizes, feel painful and stiff, and sometimes require drainages and steroid injections. At the time, there was no pediatric rheumatologist anywhere near me, so my family had to travel nearly three hours, and later four hours, to see my physician. I don’t remember much from this time, and I’m glad.

During my childhood, I also dealt with asthma, though not on a very extreme scale. I did have some wheezing issues, and used an inhaler and a nebulizer, but I did not ever have severe attacks, nor was I ever really in danger of having one. It was more of a nuisance. A nuisance that got worse when the winter came and I got sick, which was fairly frequent considering the medication I took for my arthritis was immune-suppressing.

This might sound bad. It might make you frown and say, “Aw, poor Mary-Faith.” But to me it was not all that terrible. I was proud to tell my classmates that I was not afraid of needles because I got weekly shots and frequent blood tests. I went to school just like every other kid, and I was at the age and stage in school when if you missed a lot of time, you just made up your work and everybody missed you and got excited when you were back. It was normal for me, and it did not bother me. I was happy. I did not see myself as disabled or disadvantaged.

Then things changed.

It was the beginning of the sixth grade, the start of middle school; I was already freaked out enough. But just a few weeks into the school year, I noticed that I had hives. I had had hives before when I had gotten sick, so it didn’t seem like an incredibly big deal at first, all things considered. But then the hives got worse. I was covered (literally covered) head-to-toe. (I actually had hives in my scalp. They were so bad that I had to put anti-itch cream in my hair.) Not long after the hives appeared, I noticed a startling new symptom: violent stomach pain. It soon became clear that this was no run-of-the-mill stomach virus. My diet was reduced to only the blandest food options, and even those would cause me pain. We stayed in touch with my pediatrician, and it became clear to all of us that something was wrong with me. We just didn’t know what, or how to treat it. So I suffered through my enigmatic stomach pain for a bit longer.

All that itching and gut-wrenching (literally) pain came to a head one day. I do not remember much. I just remember that I had gotten to the point that I could not stay home by myself. I was sitting in the recliner, my father next to me. I was nauseated and cramping and itching and basically falling apart. Through contorting my body to try to find some comfort and trying to ignore the pain, I remember my father giving me a priesthood blessing. That, and the fact that he was voluntarily watching Say Yes to the Dress with me, is how I knew he was very, very worried. Sometime after my mother got home from work that day, I tried to eat a piece of toast with nothing on it. That piece of toast caused some of the most brutal pain I have ever experienced in my life. That was when we knew I needed to be admitted to the hospital.

Thankfully, my pediatrician was on call and was able to set everything up so I wouldn’t have to go through the emergency room (which was full of H1N1-infected patients at the time). At first, the group of residents treating me didn’t believe me. In fact, the head resident thought I was trying to get attention and tried to bribe me with Chick-Fil-A. But after much testing, it was discovered that I had helicobacter pylori (h. pylori), a bacterial infection of the stomach. My allergist said that I was only the third case she had seen with both h. pylori and hives simultaneously.

During my h. pylori stint, I had to stop many of my medications, including what I took for JIA. This led to joint swelling like I had never seen. It took multiple joint drainages and injections to get things back to normal. But “normal” was a relative term for what I was about to experience.

On the heels of my hospital stay, I got a bad viral respiratory infection. During this infection, I got one of the worst headaches of my life (that I thankfully have no memory of). My doctor assured me that it was a result of the infection, and it would subside. But the headaches kept coming, over and over again, to the point that I had to see a neurologist. My dear pediatric neurologist (who I swear is one of the best in his field and I absolutely adore) treated me for my new migraines. But he noticed something else. My heart rate was abnormal. It would spike upon standing by over thirty beats per minute. This is when he introduced the idea of dysautonomia to me. This is when my life changed.

The autonomic nervous system is a pretty important part of your body, in the sense that it controls many of your organs and all of the functions that you don’t have to think about, like breathing. But sometimes it doesn’t work right. Sometimes it causes your blood to not flow quickly enough to your head when you stand. In other words, sometimes it causes you to pass out.

I took this whole dysautonomia thing in stride. It wasn’t really a problem for me, at least in my mind. I was more focused on my chronic migraines – that is, until I almost lost consciousness when I was a high school freshman. Thankfully, I was at home. My father was able to half-carry me to a chair. That was when things became real to me. I had a problem (well, another one).

My official form of dysautonomia is called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS. It’s not a common disease, and rarely diagnosed properly. It is characterized by a heart rate that jumps more than thirty beats per minute upon standing. It causes shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, and severe fatigue. It is treated in a multitude of ways, none of which are very effective. Today I am on two different medications for POTS. Without these two pills, I would probably be unable to remain upright for more than .02 seconds. I now also receive twice weekly IV infusions of sodium chloride, which I have found helpful. In addition to medical treatments, I also have to drink insane amounts of water to stay hydrated, as well as eat a high sodium diet to help with fluid retention. This is my life now. This is my normal. But it’s not normal. All of this keeps me from needing to go to the emergency room. But I still spend most of my time at home (or, more accurately, in bed), I still have low energy and high fatigue, I still have severe heat intolerance, and I still have chronic migraines.

Chronic illness has plagued my life since my early years, but nothing has compared to POTS. It is like a prison warden standing over me, watching my every move. It has taken away my life and given me a new one.

blooming

{ Image via Pinterest }

Recently, my rheumatologist confirmed something I had suspected for some time now: I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS is commonly seen in POTS patients. In my case, I have Type 3, which is the hypermobility type. This means that I am insanely flexible and can actually turn my arm three hundred sixty degrees. (Maybe I should go on America’s Got Talent with that.) My joints pop, and I feel strange twinges of pain that are different from what I feel from arthritis. I will be seeing a geneticist soon for further testing to ensure that my EDS is not more serious.

And in all of this I am grateful. I am grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord. I am grateful for the beautiful souls I have met on this journey. Above all, I am grateful that my Heavenly Father has allowed me to live with this long- (perhaps life-) lasting trial. I see Him teach me through it every day. I see Him lead me to greater compassion and understanding, for myself and for others. And I hear Him remind me of the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake:  for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

The Hope for Health Care

The Hope for Health Care

You may have heard about a little, low key health care bill that Republicans tried to pass in the Senate. And there’s a pretty good chance that if you have, you’ve heard some half-truths or blatant lies.

Right now you might be thinking, “Wow Mary-Faith, I thought you were a conservative! How could you be saying something like this about a Republican bill?”

To answer your shocked question, I consider myself to be a conservative-leaning independent. I am not tied down to any political party, and I do not particularly support one. But more than that, I have chronic illnesses. I am a walking, talking preexisting condition. Health care and insurance are big deals to me.

Politics. Isn’t. Everything. Yes, I of all people said that. Let it sink in. Our Founding Fathers didn’t really want politics (or pretty much anything) to happen this way, but that’s a story for another day.

I have emailed my senators. I received responses I was not satisfied with. To be honest, I’m not quite sure either of them even read what I had to say. My leaders that were elected to represent me did not listen to me. They chose their party. And that choice has weighed heavily on me ever since it came to light for me.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is messed up. But it is saving lives. It is providing Medicaid to those who desperately need health coverage. It is providing Medicare to the elderly. It is working for those with preexisting conditions. And this new bill will change that drastically, if not take it away completely.

That is not okay with me.

This is not about me. Yes, I am concerned about what could happen to my coverage. I am more concerned about people who have life-threatening diseases, who cannot work because of their illness, who could lose everything – including their lives.

So Republican senators, I am begging you to listen to us. I am begging you to consider your life on this new health care plan instead of on your over-the-top-with-protection government coverage plan. Picture yourself living like your constituents. Picture yourself living the lives of the “little people.” And if that doesn’t affect you, picture what could happen to your party at midterm elections. Think of the political repercussions passing a bad bill could have.

Think of people like me, who pay thousands of dollars in medical bills, even with insurance coverage. We are counting on you. We depend on you.

To Senators Rand Paul, Susan Collins, Mike Lee, and Jerry Moran, thank you for killing the Senate’s first attempt at this bill before there was even a vote. Thank you for taking step one. But now we need step two. We need the entire senate – not just Republicans – to come together and build and work and plan. We need bipartisan creation of a bill that will work for everyone. Because how can something work for everyone when half of the Senate is shut out? How can people’s actual lives be worth partisan wins and gloating? That should not even be a question that I have to ask.

So, senators, as you work to repeal and replace Obamacare, a plan that seemed to be failing completely until you actually introduced something just as bad if not worse, don’t think about your party or proving how much better you are than your colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Think about the people who put you in office – the same people whose support for you may be quickly waning.

Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental Health Awareness Month

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

– Ernest Hemingway

This is one of my favorite quotes. It is one that I try to live by. It is one that I believe can be therapeutic when followed. It is one that I now see I need to follow more closely.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health is something that is close to my heart. Contributing to ending the stigma in some way is one of the greatest goals of my life. And because of that, I think there are some things that I need to say.

I have been dealing with depression and anxiety for about three years now. When I was first diagnosed, I was considered to be affected by what is known as “adjustment disorder” – which is essentially what occurs when something happens in your life that leads to mental health challenges. My adjustment disorder is thought to have come from my chronic physical health problems.

This is something that I do not talk about. Some of my family members and close friends do not know about this. But I think it’s something I need to talk about now. I often feel that staying silent is doing nothing but contributing to the stigma surrounding mental health. So who am I to not speak up?

If you have never experienced any mental health issues, let me do my best to explain this to you. Depression is not sadness. It is a deep hole of despair. It causes you to cry for no reason, to not want to leave the house, and to basically feel like doing nothing but sitting there staring into space. Anxiety is, in my opinion, just as bad. At its worst, it can be a constant feeling of panic. It causes you to second guess everything you say and do. You find yourself worrying to an irrational level about everything from final exams to what you are going to have for dinner. It causes panic attacks that can come out of nowhere. Although everyone experiences panic attacks differently, some common symptoms include shortness of breath, a racing heart rate, shaking, and an inability to think clearly.

I am not exaggerating. And I am not checking Google for definitions and symptoms. I am speaking from personal experience. This is all real. This is not in my head, or your head, or anyone’s head.

Over the past three years, I have come to better understand and cope with my mental illness to a certain degree. But I have not been “cured.” Every day is a battle, and a giant question mark. But I have come to know the ebb and flow of my brain’s strange impulses and deficiencies.

Perhaps that is why I am sitting here writing this. To tell you that there is hope, but it does not come if you don’t seek help. Without help, there is not hope. “Help” looks different for everyone who needs it. Maybe you need medicine. Maybe you need counseling. Maybe you need holistic treatment. But whatever it may be, please, please seek it and get it. This is nothing to be ashamed of. There is no shame in going to the doctor when you break your arm or have the flu. This is no different.

“Broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed.”

– Jeffrey R. Holland

The brain is an organ, and a very complex one at that. Just as one may experience a problem with their heart, or lungs, or liver, so can one experience problems with their brain. One of the biggest problems with that is that the brain controls a lot. So if there is a problem with your brain, you may feel fatigued, and achy, and even have some problems with those other organs of yours. But this is a medical problem. You must understand that, whether you are going through this or not.

“Depression is a flaw in chemistry, not character.”

– Unknown

So, now that you know that having a problem with your brain is perfectly normal and that you should always seek help for it, please understand one more thing: A problem with your mental health has absolutely nothing to do with your spirituality. Even if what you are going through makes it hard to feel the Holy Ghost, or pray, or read the scriptures, or go to church. Some of the times that I have felt the pure love and understanding of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ the most occurred when I first began dealing with depression and anxiety. They know what you are going through. When you cry, so do They. When you have a bad day, They hurt with you. They don’t want you to feel this way. But because of their perfect knowledge, They know that for whatever reason, it is necessary. They do not feel that your testimony is diminished, or that your level of spirituality has decreased. Neither should you.

“He will not always take your afflictions from you, but He will comfort and lead you with love through whatever storm you face.”

– Thomas S. Monson

Now, I would like to address those of you who have never dealt with any sort of mental health challenge. There is a second part to the above quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland:

“While God is at work making those repairs, the rest of us can help by being merciful, nonjudgmental, and kind.”

I know it is hard to understand something that you have not experienced, but please try. Ending the stigma will not just come from the willingness of those suffering to be more open. There must be a twofold solution. You are the second part. If you know someone who is going through something difficult with their mental health, please be kind. Please love them. And if you think you don’t know anyone in this situation, I can almost promise you that you do. You just don’t know it because that is the way they want it. That is why it is essential that we choose compassion in every situation, no matter what.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

– Plato

To all my mental health warriors out there, you are slaying the game. Getting up and living every day is a big deal. And I wish I could give you all big hugs and medals for it. But since I can’t, here are some things that have helped me through my own personal struggle:

Songs:

“Magnify” by We Are Messengers

“Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle

“Steady My Heart” by Kari Jobe

“Red Sea Road” by Ellie Holcomb

“Fight Song” by Rachel Platten

“Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells

“Bloom” by Grayson Reed

“Prince of Peace” by Hillsong United

“He Knows” by Jeremy Camp

“Hope in Front of Me” by Danny Gokey

“Warrior” by Demi Lovato

“Storms” by V. Rose

“Thy Will” by Hillary Scott

“Storyteller” by Morgan Harper Nichols and Jamie Grace

“I Have this Hope” by Tenth Avenue North (and basically every TAN song ever…trust me)

Qoutes:

“Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can” – Unknown

“The Lord doesn’t put us through this test just to give us a grade; He does it because the process will change us.” – Henry B. Eyring

“Don’t believe everything you think.” – Unknown

“In order to love who you are, you cannot hate the experiences that shaped you.” – Andrea Dykstra

“Do not fear. Fear is not of God.” – Al Carraway

“We cannot truly grasp the depth of our light, until we are shown our darkness.” – Danielle Doby

 

Also, this talk by Elder Holland is seriously the greatest thing ever. This video produced by the LDS Church, also featuring Elder Holland, is great as well.

 

“And here you are living / despite it all.”

– Rupi Kaur