Self care for the chronically sick

In the past, I’ve always related self care to “selfish” things. Just doing things that you want to do but never have time for. Taking bubble baths, doing your nails, going out for a haircut or manicure. When I made self care a priority for the new year I was still thinking along these lines. And while I enjoyed the Epsom salt baths I treated myself to those two times, I’m starting to learn that there is way more to this than a half hour of sitting in hot water.

When you suffer through chronic illness, disability, mental illness, whatever, taking care of yourself is more needed than ever, but it is hard. I’m not going to pretend that any of this is easy, but the things we live with aren’t easy either. And taking the time for you might be hard at first, but it’s so worth it in the long run. You are worth the effort. So if you’re like me and can’t seem to look past manicures and bubble baths, don’t worry, I’ve got some ideas.


  1. Ask for help. Life can get overwhelming fast and no matter what it is holding you back, it’s tough to move past a bad spot when you don’t have the energy to do it. But over the years I’ve learned to ask when I need something. It helps me regroup to see something get done, and when I can check something off my mental to do list, my OCD chills out a bit. In turn my anxiety calms down just a bit and when all of that is chill, the depression doesn’t have as much fuel.

  2. Meal prep. I know. This doesn’t sound fun at all! But we all know that diet can play a huge part in how we feel. If you aren’t feeling well, you’ll be more likely to reach for food that doesn’t take long to make, or worse, something that’s prepackaged and not very good for you in the long run. Instead, try to get ahead of the game. Personally, I’ve found a diet that not only helps my PMDD, but it also combats my arthritis and helps me stay at a good weight so my back pain stays manageable. (Read about the keto diet and it’s role in mental health here.) It’s important for me to stick to this way of eating, so whenever I am having a good day, I plan ahead. Chop veggies to prep for the week or cook a huge dinner and put a bunch of leftovers in the freezer for a rainy day. Even if all you do is make a healthy dessert to lift your spirits when you’re down. On bad days, it’s nice to reach in the freezer for a good meal or a pick me up in the form of chocolate that won’t break your scale.
  3. Taking care of business. I know first hand how hard it is to make a phone call when anxiety levels are at an all time high. Or realize that your home is a mess when you are in too much pain to do much about it. Believe me, making a dreaded phone call on the wrong day has ended in panic attacks more than a few times. It’s not pretty. But the trick, which I’m admittedly still working on, is to take care of things when you can. When I’m having a good mental health day, I try to tackle one thing that I know will be too much to handle on a bad day. Likewise with pain. When I’m having a day where I feel good, I try to pick a job that I can’t handle when I’m hurting. This way, when the bad days strike, the stress may still be there, but at least that one thing isn’t lingering in the back of your mind. At least your living room is clean, so lounging on the couch doesn’t feel so horrible.
  4. Find yourself a hobby. Ok, this one sounds like the self care that I talked about in the beginning. But having something all to yourself, that can benefit you and your own mental health, can help in all areas of your life. I freely admit that I am terrible with this. This blog is a hobby, along with Twitter, but I’m on the hunt for something away from the computer.
  5. Keep up with your therapies. Whether you take meds, do yoga, pet all the dogs or go to actual therapy, make sure you keep at it. Go out with friends if it helps, volunteer, talk with strangers on the internet, hit the gym, do anything that helps you feel good.
  6. Reach out. Talking to someone who understands your struggles is so important and can really help. There are so many great places to look for support. I recommend browsing The Mighty for articles from real people with real conditions, writing about their personal experiences. Also, check out Facebook groups and search hash tags on Twitter to find likeminded new friends.
  7. Space out. Sometimes life can be too stressful all around and I totally get that. Diving into a good book or putting on a movie can help you get out of your head for a little while and calm your mind. You could do meditation, yoga, browse social media or get lost in a YouTube rabbit trail of videos. Even just going for a drive on some back roads with no destination or time constraints. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something positive that won’t bring your stress back to the forefront of your mind.


No matter what it is you’re going through, you need the self care. You deserve it. Now go on, get off my page and go do something. Or stay and hang out, whatever works. I’m here.

Signs your PMS might be something more

We all know what PMS is. It’s the butt of jokes and the bane of many women’s’ existence. But sometimes PMS isn’t really PMS at all.

It’s those typical symptoms that women can sometimes get before their period. We all know, the mood swings, the cravings, the bloating! For some women it can be on the mild side, with slight cramps and an indulgence or two in ice cream, or nothing at all(lucky!) For some, it’s on the other end and they may experience debilitating stomach pains, bloating, breast tenderness, nausea, bowel changes, a whole list of very not fun stuff. I think most women who do experience PMS probably fall in the middle. I know I did. I’d be moody for a few days, like any typical teenager, bloat a bit, crave some ice cream and my breasts would ache a bit. Despite the hope though, it never meant they were growing. Dang it. 

But as I got older, things changed. I’m not sure when it started but there were such severe symptoms that I kept thinking I was pregnant over and over again. After months of torture of am I or am I not, my husband and I agreed that there was something wrong. The poor guy looked braced for an explosion at all times and he could barely look me in the face anymore. I started looking into it and one day I found a video about PMDD(Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder). It listed off 11 major symptoms that can accompany PMDD, and if you’ve got 5 or more, you’ve got it. I checked off all 11 easily.

But… how? How could I be suffering from a disorder this debilitating when I didn’t even know it existed? I felt betrayed, like this was something that should have been mentioned in health class along with PMS. “Sorry girls, PMS is a thing, but it can be worse!” A heads up would have been nice. But when I started talking about it, I discovered that most of the people around me hadn’t ever heard of it either, and that’s including a few doctors.

Woman Suffering From Depression Sitting On Bed And Crying

So, how do you know when your PMS isn’t just PMS anymore? The best thing would be to start tracking your symptoms, and pay attention to these things:

  • Increase in appetite
  • Food cravings
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating
  • Joint/muscle pain
  • Mood swings
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty concentrating(brain fog)
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Random bouts of crying
  • Feeling out of control
  • Rage/Extreme Irritability
  • Feeling disconnected with your life
  • Anxiety
  • Hopelessness
  • Less interest in relationships/hobbies
  • Depression
  • Feeling numb
  • Suicidal thoughts/tendencies
  • Symptoms severe enough to interfere with life/work

If you need a good monthly tracker, I highly recommend the new one from ME vs PMDD. It’s free and created specifically for us who struggle with PMDD. You can also check out the C-PASS scoring system to check off whatever applies to you. I included a few more things here than are mentioned in the 5-DSM, but things that those suffering may also struggle with.

If you think that you may have PMDD, check out Gia Allemand Foundation to learn more and find resources for help. My recommendation would be to find a gynecological specialist who specializes in PMDD, a psychiatrist who specializes in women’s health, or a psychologist specializing in women’s health. Ask if the doctor is experienced in treating PMDD before booking an appointment. And be warned, they aren’t that easy to find.

Read about my bad experience with a “specialist” here.

But most importantly, if you think you might be struggling with this, know that you are not alone. What you’re feeling is real and valid and not your fault, and there is help out there. There are diets and herbs and medications that can help, even surgeries to try if you exhaust all other options. But better, there are some amazing women around to talk to. They can be found on Facebook and Twitter, ready and willing to answer any questions or commiserate with you. We may be suffering from something horrible but we are worth the effort and we will thrive.

Click here for more resources and to connect to women fighting this together.

Seeing a psychiatrist for the first time

I finally did it. The thing I’ve been telling myself and my family that I needed to do for years. I finally saw a psychiatrist, and I’ve been diagnosed with the alphabet.

I’m not sure how I imagined that visit would go, but it was easier and a lot less terrifying than I thought it would be. He asked a million questions, and patiently listened to the answers. He showed compassion in how he spoke, but not so much that I felt like he was pitying me. When more and more things piled on, he didn’t act surprised or overwhelmed or whatever I might have expected. He just did his job. He listened to me without doubting anything I was saying and it felt so good for a professional to do that.

The visit flew by quicker than I thought it would and he calmly explained what he thinks I’ve got going on. I already knew a few of these, but I wasn’t exactly prepared to hear it out loud.

MDD (Major Depressive Disorder)
PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder)
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
Panic Disorder
Social Anxiety
Agoraphobia(totally forgot about that one at first.)
and possible OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)


While it was a bit of a punch to the gut to hear it all out loud, it was also a huge relief. My worst fear going in was that I was going to pour my heart out only to be told that it was all in my head and there was nothing wrong with me. I think logically I knew that there was no way that was going to happen, but I was terrified. Hearing a professional say out loud that I was right in every single thing I suspected not only made me feel heard, but it validated how I’ve been feeling my whole life.

It’s like every time someone doubted me, my feelings, my panic attacks or my depressive episodes, my mind washed over all of those memories. They used to all be filled with doubt, because what if they’re right? What if I’m just overreacting? What if it’s just all in my head and I’m fine and this is how life is supposed to be? Now each doubt feels weaker. Each wave of despair at not being taken seriously, lifted just a bit because someone finally listened. And believed me.

So now I’ve finally got what I need to move forward. He explained that finding the right treatments would take time, that it would be a long process but he was confident that we’d figure it out together. He did recommend that I start seeing a therapist, and we will talk about that soon. When it came time to talk about medication, he asked what I’ve tried so far, what worked and what didn’t. When I told him what I’m currently on, he agreed that if it was working, then we’d keep it. He explained that even though it didn’t help enough with the depression, it was a great choice for me because it can also greatly help with the ADD. He then gave me a script for an anti-anxiety medication for me to use only when I feel like I need it, and so far it has been okay. He recommended another antidepressant to add because of how well it can work with the one I’m already on. And proving again that he was listening, he told me that it wouldn’t cause weight gain like the first ones I tried did, and that he was going to start me off slowly since I had such bad reactions before.

So I left his office with samples, a script and a renewed sense of hope that maybe this could work. I do hope one day that I can handle all this without medication, or at least at a minimal level. But right now, that’s not the point. Right now, I just need to be okay. I need to be the wife that my husband needs, the mother that my kids need and I need the person that I’ve always thought I could be but could never reach. I’m done with the pride, I’m done with the stigma, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m only hanging on with the help of prescriptions. Because this is what I need right now, and I’m glad that I’ve finally taken that step.

And good timing too, because 2018 is right around the corner and I am going to make it as good as I possibly can.