A Fresh Start

A lot has happened since I started this blog.

Most obviously, the global pandemic that continues to wreak all the havoc that I feared in my last blog post. As predicted, the virus spread like wildfire after Thanksgiving. I’ve known several people who have contacted COVID-19, and it is scary and awful! I’m continuing to wash and sanitize my hands, wear a mask whenever I’m outside of my home, and keep 6-feet distance whenever possible. The vaccines bring much promise for an end to the pandemic, but we have a ways to go before it’s truly “over.” I hope everyone reading this is staying safe and healthy!

The pandemic made the recent holidays look much different than we were used to, which was a little depressing. I truly tried to stave off the sadness. I tried hours of Christmas music, many cups of hot cocoa, many more Christmas cookies and treats, and countless utopian Hallmark Christmas movies. I bought way too many presents for my husband, and even bought a few cozy Christmas sweaters and sparkly snowflake earrings for myself. Nothing really helped because it couldn’t replace what I was really missing: the togetherness that comes along with the holidays. I missed the crowded parties with my coworkers and friends! I missed going to church, seeing all the beautiful decorations, and singing along with the hundreds of others in the pews around me. Most of all, I missed seeing family members, gathering together for a meal, and giving hugs!

Last night, New Year’s Eve, was a quiet night in. As a final “Quarantine Activity” of 2020, I attempted to turn my apartment into a nightclub so that my husband and I could really “party.” I blew up balloons, created a special VIP lounge, cooked up some yummy tapas, and chilled some bubbly wine. My husband thought it was very exciting, and it was fun… for about two hours. Then, like most people we know, we were ready to go to bed and have 2020 be over, once and for all!

And now, here we are. New Year’s Day. January 1, 2021. A fresh start.

I started this blog in 2019, when my new year’s resolution (two years ago!) was to share my voice after “a tough year.” If only January 2019 Me could see January 2021 Me! She’d never believe all that we’ve been through.

I started writing this blog in October 2019. I was in the middle of my third uveitis flare, and it was only a few months after my father died. In November 2019, my husband and I were surprised and overjoyed with a pregnancy. Then 8 weeks later, we were devastated by a miscarriage. Grief overtook my entire world, and the combination of losses left me reeling into January 2020, when we started hearing some unnerving details of a novel coronavirus. Less than six weeks later, the world shutdown.

In April, amidst the lockdown, I began losing my vision again and started treatment for a fourth uveitis flare (which I can now attribute, with almost 100% certainty, to stress). We acknowledged the one year anniversary of my father’s passing in July, closing out a year of painful “firsts” without him. Throughout all that, my husband and I have wrestled with the concept of “trying to conceive” after loss (and during a pandemic!), and all along, I have been mentally acknowledging another year of painful “firsts” … All the occasions that I was experiencing for the first time without a baby in my arms: the first Mother’s Day since the miscarriage, the baby’s due date had he/she survived, and worst of all, the anniversary of the loss itself, which literally brought me to my knees.

My head hasn’t stopped spinning. But maybe it’s starting to slow down.

It’s time for a renewed resolution.

We have many more months of distancing, staying home, and slowing the spread of the continued pandemic, so there is plenty of time to focus on betterment:
– More frequent and well-practiced writing (which is truly a passion and beloved hobby I’ve neglected for so long!)
– Focused efforts on physical health (for myself and any little ones that God might bless us with)
– Reflection, meditation, and careful attention to self-care and mental health (as, unsurprisingly, my old friend Anxiety has started creeping around lately)

The times we are living in are truly wild, remarkable, and unprecedented. I got a good laugh out of this meme:

Courtesy @simoncholland

I hope you are finding some memes that make you laugh, and I hope you are taking time for self-care as the difficult days drag on. Have you made any resolutions for 2021? Or is it enough that we just try to make it through?

xo
MK

Making it through the rest of 2020

Wow. It has felt like a lifetime since I last wrote.

A lot has happened… Mainly, a pandemic descended upon the entire world. Many other things have happened, too, including the Black Lives Matter movement and a complete deterioration of the political landscape in the United States. For most people, life as we know it has completely changed. It’s been a lot for people to handle.

I am particularly worried about the upcoming months. The pandemic rages on, and it is worsening by the day with flu season upon us. The tumultuous presidential election is just days away. Daylight Savings Time ends in just a few weeks, and here in New England, we will lose precious daylight to long, cold, dark winter nights. The holidays (which can be stressful times of year in the best of circumstances) will feel so different with precautions like social distancing and no indoor gatherings. Many people are already feeling shaken, unsettled, isolated, anxious, and depressed, and in the next few weeks, fear, stress, and all sorts of negativity could climax for our country and the world.

I am a big believer in brainstorming solutions when you acknowledge a problem. I’ve said this before in my career: “Don’t just tell me what’s broken; tell me how we’re going to fix it.” I’ve been thinking about “solutions” when it comes to the state of our world. Obviously, individuals might feel helpless right now. Problems are so global, it’s overwhelming. However, I do think that we can each take steps to improve our own day-to-day experiences. If we can make our days a little brighter, our moods a little more optimistic, then we can be kinder to one another, more tolerant, and more willing to listen and learn. If we are calm, we can think more clearly. Maybe we can’t change it all, but we can change a little… and “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Lao Tzu)

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some of the steps I am taking to improve the world around me, even if it just means buying a new houseplant to lift my spirits. There are loads of ways that we can take care of ourselves, to build our energy to take care of one another, to stay motivated… and I hope we can inspire one another.

Stress

When I was first diagnosed with uveitis in 2017, it seemed like doctors tested me for everything under the sun. I had tests done on my blood, urine, and spinal fluid, as well as x-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, and images of blood vessels in my eyes. Specialists were looking for infectious blood diseases, systemic disorders, and autoimmune diseases; they were so determined to find a cause for my vision loss. But all the tests were fruitless, and my uveitis was considered idiopathic.

Like my doctors, I was eager to find a cause for my uveitis. If a true cause for the vision loss could be found, then maybe there would be a better chance to treat it or cure it, and a good chance of preventing it from happening again in the future. In thinking about life circumstances that preceded my uveitis flare, I talked with my doctors and questioned whether stress could have played a part in my illness. My doctors answered “Absolutely.”

Now, it is important to note that I have a flappable personality. I freak out easily. I am nervous and anxious and paranoid. I am a worrier, not a warrior. I am Type A. Stress is not a stranger to me. Prior to my first uveitis flare, I had traveled across the country, and I am not a good traveler. I had also had an incredibly busy work event, with a hectic schedule. I did not manage my emotions well during this time; I was not sleeping well, I was not eating healthfully, and my mental health was not a priority for me.

In 2018, when I had a second flare of uveitis that corresponded with international travel, another hectic work occasion, and the final stages of wedding planning, I again made a connection between illness and stress. As I struggled with the side effects of prednisone, I vowed that I would be healthier. I would exercise regularly; take proper vitamins and supplements; meditate, stay calm, and “manage my stress” once and for all. I talked with my doctor about anti-inflammatory foods, and dabbled with paleo and keto diets. I saw some successes, and my body did feel happier with every healthy choice I made. However, I still struggle with keeping my life, and my body, stress-free.

This year, I was struck with a third bout of uveitis. The flare came on less than a month after my father suddenly passed away. The death of such a close and beloved family member is without question the most stressful experience I’ve ever endured. It doesn’t surprise me that my body reacted with illness. Grief is a powerful and intense emotion with so many physical effects on the body. It really amazed me how thoroughly I felt the pain of losing my Dad, and how death permeates every aspect of life. It has been extraordinarily difficult.

Yet as tough as it has been, I nevertheless feel motivated to push through, to keep going, and to not let the grief take over. It’s a balancing act, I have learned. Grief needs a place in your life, because grief is, in some ways, a demonstration of love. You grieve so heavily because you loved so much. You must feel every bit of the sadness and the loss. The emotions have to come out, have to be felt. Allowing yourself to grieve, to cry, and to feel is self-care, and in the end it reduces stress, too. I had a hard time reconciling that, because my deepest moments of grief and crying and mourning felt tremendously stressful. Yet holding in the emotion or avoiding it had much worst consequences, like panic attacks and depths of depression.

In the toughest moments of grief, I had to work harder than ever to be healthy, to practice self-care, and to reduce stress. Some habits that I found important to maintain were:

  • Talking with my doctors and a therapist. Mental health is just as important as physical health. In moments of high stress and grief, your doctors and counselors are allies. There are so many resources and options for taking care of yourself, and it’s not just medication. I don’t like to use medication, so my doctors and therapist help me find natural ways, like talk therapy and meditation, to feel better.
  • Maintaining a healthy diet. Listen to your body. I have learned that gluten, dairy, sugar, and alcohol usually make my body feel bad. There can be a tendency to rely on food, treats, or alcohol during times of stress, which isn’t helpful. (I am so guilty of this!) If you really listen to your body and consume food and beverages healthfully, it can make a noticeably positive difference.
  • Consider vitamins and supplements, but talk to your doctor first. My doctor told me that I sometimes get a Vitamin D deficiency, which can worsen seasonal depression and weaken the immune system. I also have talked to my doctor about the benefits of fish oil and turmeric supplements for inflammation. When I take all of my vitamins on a regular basis, I noticed that I feel a lot better!
  • Hydrate! I struggle with this, and I know a lot of other people do, too. Dehydration makes your body feel crummy, and it can affect your mental health too! I carry a 32-ounce water bottle with me every day and I aim to drink between 100-120 ounces of water every day. I limit coffee, and I avoid soda and sugary drinks. Water is life!
  • Exercise. I struggle with this, too, but I’ve been told that even 30 minutes of exercise each day can make an enormous difference. It’s important to find an exercise that you like. I recently fell back in love with Zumba because it makes me laugh. All the dancing feels more like fun than exercise, so I try to do that a few times during the week, and I also try to hit 10,000 steps everyday.
  • Meditation and/or Yoga. I learned about Kripalu yoga during a mindfulness-based stress reduction class. It’s easy and gentle, and made me feel so relaxed. I also learned about the benefits of meditation. There are so many apps out there that offer guided meditations. I use Insight Timer, but I know others who love Breathe and Calm. Five to ten minutes of meditation every day can bring down your blood pressure, calm anxiety, and reduce stress.
  • Practice self-care. Listen to yourself and do what makes your soul happy! Some examples include: increasing positive self-talk, laughing with a friend, establishing healthy boundaries, saying no to stressful plans, staying home and watching your favorite show, taking a bubble bath, getting a massage, or going for a long walk in a beautiful nature setting. As long as it’s healthy and it makes you happy, you should make time for it!
  • Sleep. Your body needs rest more than ever during stressful times, but unfortunately, stress can cause insomnia. I try to combat nighttime restlessness with a cup of herbal tea, limited time on my phone in the evenings, and a consistent bedtime routine.

It’s so important to take care of our bodies. We only get one! And mental health affects overall health, so don’t ignore or shrug off feelings of anxiety, stress, or depression. We have to be our own best advocates for health if we are going to make it through this crazy life! ❤️

Really OK!

This weekend, my husband and I went on a roadtrip from Boston to Baltimore to see our very good friends. We had the trip planned for a while, and we were SO looking forward to it, so we decided to go despite the health troubles I’m having. I was VERY nervous about it, but my husband is my rock, my calm, and my warrior. He confidently reassured me that everything would be OK… To be honest, I didn’t 100% believe him, but he is the logical, rational, pragmatic one in our relationship. So I challenged my anxiety, I stepped out of my comfort zone, and off we went to Baltimore.

Some things that I was nervous about:

  1. What if I had a complication with my vision?
  2. What if I got really sick from my medication?
  3. What if the car broke down?

To me, these were very real concerns, and the consequences felt almost catastrophic:

  1. Being vision-limited far away from home and from my doctors felt so scary!
  2. Getting sick at home is uncomfortable; getting sick while traveling feels like a nightmare.
  3. The car breaking down on the highway could be dangerous AND expensive!

So, with these anxieties and potential outcomes, I had two options:

  1. Stay home
  2. Push through!

Like I said, we decided to go. I pushed through my anxieties (of course, with my sweet husband’s support), and you know what happened?

EVERYTHING WAS REALLY OK!

  1. My vision was stable.
  2. I did get a little sick from my medicine, but I managed it.
  3. The car didn’t breakdown.

In fact, there were some additional outcomes that I hadn’t obsessed about:

  1. It was so wonderful to spend time with our friends, and my heart filled up with happiness.
  2. I slept in *the* most comfortable hotel bed ever!
  3. We explored a new city and made amazing memories.

If we had stayed home, we would’ve missed out on all that!

Now, for a couple of disclaimers:

  • I have had generalized anxiety disorder my entire life, and it has been a CHALLENGE. Somedays, anxiety just takes over, and it is in my best interest to NOT push myself. Anxiety doesn’t mean you’re weak; sometimes it’s a sign that you’ve been strong for too long! It’s important to balance, learn yourself, and love yourself no matter what. Somedays you are kind and gentle, and somedays you find the strength to push yourself. Optimism that things can be really OK can help you muscle-up that strength!
  • I am beyond blessed to have my husband. I know how fortunate I am to have him as a partner and enormous source of support. I remember the days before dating him when I had to struggle on my own, and there were some really dark times. For anyone who is feeling alone, I encourage you to reach out and make connections: friends, family members, doctors, counselors, support groups, church communities, and hotlines are all out there as resources. It can be hard to reach out for help, but you don’t have to go it alone!

The next time that I’m feeling really nervous and anxious about a situation, I hope I look back on Baltimore for perspective. Instead of thinking, “what if something goes wrong?” maybe I can think “what if everything goes right?”

Weekend in Baltimore? I made it!

Being OK

I’m currently struggling with some health issues. I plan to talk about it in more detail in next Friday’s video, but to share just a little bit now, I have an eye condition called uveitis. It’s rare; it’s complicated; and it’s a major bummer. Uveitis is one of the leading causes of blindness in developed countries, and it’s absolutely petrifying to think that I could lose my vision completely someday. I was diagnosed in 2017, and my thoughts on having this condition have evolved a lot over the past 2+ years. Fear certainly remains, but a more steadfast feeling that I choose to hold onto (when I can) is hope. I hope that my uveitis doesn’t flare up. If it does, I hope my flares respond to treatment. I hope that my vision won’t get worse, and that I’m always able to see all that’s beautiful in this world. I don’t really know what will happen in the future, so hope is one of the few things I can do. And for now… Well, I’m not blind today, so today’s a good day!
As if the concept of potential blindness wasn’t bad enough, the treatment for my uveitis flare is high-dosage steroid treatment with an unpleasant medication called prednisone. It’s a commonly prescribed medication for inflammation, asthma, arthritis, and lots of other things. Many people go on low to moderate doses of it for a few weeks. I, however, have to take higher doses for months because of the severity of my eye condition. Prednisone is infamous for its nasty side effects, such as mood swings, agitation, irritability, mania, anxiety, extreme hunger, weight gain, swelling in the face and abdomen, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, and more. Some people tolerate the medicine just fine and actually enjoy the boost of energy and pep that it gives them. Unfortunately, I do not tolerate the side effects very well. I don’t know if my body is super-sensitive, or if the prolonged, high-dosage of the medicine affects me more than others, but I feel absolutely crummy on this treatment. 
Last night, I slept only two hours. The rest of the night, I laid in bed, sweating profusely, with a pounding, racing heartbeat and anxious thoughts swirling around my head. To boot, I was starving, but I knew my blood sugar was out of whack and that the hunger was not actual hunger — just prednisone hunger. I sipped water and did my best to relax, which was really hard. The discomfort that I felt in so many different parts of my body was so unbearable at times that I let myself cry a little bit. It’s awful to feel so badly, and to know that without sleep, I would be set up for an even more difficult tomorrow. 
When I take the medicine in the morning, I have to take it with just the right amount of food to prevent severe acid reflux and stomach ulcers. Also, usually, within a couple hours of taking the medicine, I get a booming panic attack. If I don’t get a panic attack, I can get a deep bout of depression that leaves me feeling listless, weak, and completely unmotivated to do anything. By the afternoon, the daily “Pred Head” headache has settled in, but I typically start to feel a little better… unless I haven’t hydrated properly or consumed enough potassium. To try to counteract the prednisone’s effects of water retention and swelling, I try to drink copious amounts of water, but ANOTHER side effect of prednisone is frequent urination. I literally pee every 45 minutes. If I haven’t consumed enough water, and accurately balanced sodium, potassium, and other nutrients/electrolytes, my body gets very, very angry. It’s a challenge to endure all this, especially when experiencing eye pain and vision changes that can make you feel disoriented.
There’s more to this whole experience, and as I said above, I will share some more details later. Yet I think I’ve painted enough of the scene for you to understand that right now, I’m not really OK.
But you know what I learned? That it’s OK.

It’s OK to not be OK.

Is it scary? Sure.
Daunting? Yes.
Uncomfortable? Heck yeah.
But this too shall pass. Some days I wake up with lots of energy to tackle tasks. Other days, I wake up feeling horrible, but I end up having a really good afternoon or evening. Once in a while, the whole day is shot, so I call it a loss, try to sleep, and hope for a better day the next day. I’ve been through three serious and severe uveitis flares and three separate treatments of prednisone in the last 26 months. The first one was the worst because I had no frame of reference. Now, I know what to expect. I know that I have endured. I know how dark it can get, but I remember that it eventually gave way to light. 
So while I may not be OK right now, I will be OK. There are good moments in the bad. The darkness will recede, and the light of the morning will bring a new day. I will make it. 
No matter what you’re struggling with, I believe that you will make it, too. Please feel free to share your struggles with me, either through a comment or email to makingitwithmk@gmail.com. You’re not alone, and you’re going to be OK! 

Introduction


I thought about starting this blog as a New Year’s Resolution in January. (It’s now October, so that resolution is going pretty well, huh?) It has been a tough year. To be honest, life has been tough. I’ve been through some stuff.

But I think everyone can say that, right?

Everybody has a story.
And there’s something to be learned
from every experience.

Oprah Winfrey

My New Year’s Resolution was to share my voice with the world. Like I said, I’ve been through some stuff. We’ve all been through some stuff. And I think we are all just trying to make it.

Maybe you’re trying to make it through the day. Maybe, like me some days, you try to just make it through each hour. Maybe you’re the parent of a newborn and you’re trying to make it through the night. Maybe you’re going through a health crisis, and you’re trying to make it through alive. Maybe you’re going through a career crisis. Maybe you’re going through a mid-life crisis. Maybe I’m going through a mid-life crisis, and that’s why I started this blog.

Maybe you’re going through another kind of difficult life circumstance. Maybe you’re newly married. Maybe you’re newly divorced. Maybe you’re trying to make it on your own. We’ve all got our stuff. We’re all trying to make it.

Through this blog, I will share a bit about what I’m trying to make it through, and I will share what I have made it through, as a sort of motiviation to myself and to others. We’ve all been through stuff, and we’re all trying to make it. Maybe, just maybe, this little corner of the universe, this little corner of the internet, can be a space for shared motivation, for connection, for healing, and for growth.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. On anything. I hope to share experiences, maybe a few tips, and probably a few laughs, to a bunch of other human beings who can commiserate on making it through this crazy, beautiful thing called life.

Please share feedback via comments, email, or social media. I really don’t entirely know what I’m doing. I have about 12 weeks left of the year to come to some kind of resolution to my resolution.

I think I can make it. 🙂