Category Archives: Health

Heaven Help Us: Mental Health and Faith

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

—1 Peter 5:6-7 

Many of us struggle with mental health. Yesterday, I checked out for a mental health day. I did not talk to anyone all day, nor did I want to. I had some things on my mind and a terrible migraine. The Bible does not specifically refer to mental health; however, it speaks a lot about a person’s emotions, mind, soul, and heart. Mental health is an extremely important topic that all people need to be familiar with today. In the past, primitive beliefs often taught that mental problems were directly related to Satan and were the result of demonic possession. Many people struggle with mental health problems today, but this does not mean we are possessed or are not good Christians.

Anybody can struggle with their mental health, whether the individual is young or old, a believer or an unbeliever. If you struggle with mental health, you are not alone. My mental health issues are always associated with anxiety and depression. There is a myriad of mental health issues out there, including eating disorders, personality disorders, psychotic disorders, and PTSD. Each of these illnesses can happen to a person for a variety of reasons. Thus, it is crucial that as Christians, we do not judge, belittle, or condemn those struggling with mental illnesses. Rather than condemning those with mental illness, Christians are to help, show kindness, and love them. John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The individual’s body and mind are both factors of a person’s mental health. If a person’s mind and body are having difficulties, a person’s mental state will suffer as well. Elijah was a prophet who struggled with suicidal thoughts during a difficult time in his life. In 1 Kings 19:4, we learn about Elijah’s struggle, “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, ‘It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!’” God did not take Elijah’s life but rather gave him the strength to keep going. We can see that God helped  in 1 Kings 19:5-8:

Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.

After Elijah had slept and eaten, he was ready to continue with the work of the Lord. Sleeping and eating are certainly not a cure for suicidal thoughts or any mental illness, but a good night’s sleep and a good meal can help to relax us, mind, body, and soul. If a Christian is struggling with suicidal thoughts, they need to seek out medical help, therapy, and most importantly, pray to God about their feelings. There is nothing wrong with seeking help from doctors, therapists, or counselors. God has placed professional doctors, therapists, and counselors in their positions for a reason.

Anxiety is a common thing people struggle with. The Bible does specifically talk about anxiety as 1 Peter 5:6-7 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” God wants us to give Him all our worries, cares, and concerns. Philippians 4:6-7 also talks about anxiety, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Whenever you are struggling with anxiety or fear, pray to God. He can help you let go of anxiety and will give you strength. God is always faithful, and you can always depend on Him. Only Jesus gives the true peace that surpasses all understanding.

Depression is very common and can be caused by genetics, internal conflicts, or a person’s environment. God walks alongside us as we struggle with depression. David writes in Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” God is always with us — no matter where we find ourselves today or any day in the future.  In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:3-4)

No matter our issues, God can help us. He may send us the people we need to help us or direct us in a way that we can help ourselves. There is an old saying, though not a Bible verse like many think, that says, “God helps those who help themselves.” Yes, he does help those who help themselves, but depression, anxiety, and any number of mental illnesses can paralyze us. We may not be able to help ourselves, and that’s when God comes in. He will provide us with the help we need, but we need to be receptive to it. When things seem bleak, try to remember that God loves us and wants the best for us. All we have to do is believe.


Not Long Enough

Since I had to work on Saturday, I had an abbreviated weekend. It’s back to work today. It wasn’t a particularly relaxing weekend, since I have had a migraine since Saturday. I blame it on the rain that started Saturday evening and lasted until this morning. Usually, my headaches get better once it starts raining. This one did not, and I still have a headache this morning. I went to bed last night around 8 pm, before I wrote a post for today, so it’s one of those rare times when I wrote my post in the morning instead of the night before. I’d love to stay home sick today, but I have an important meeting this morning. If this migraine doesn’t improve, I may have to call in sick and join the meeting virtually.


Fall Is Here

I had a migraine yesterday, so I went home from work at noon. I wouldn’t have gone in at all, but I’d been off on Monday and Tuesday and I had some work I needed to do. I’m teaching a class this morning and I need to prepare for it. I won’t go into work today until 9 am because I’m working this evening until 6 pm for an after hours event. I hope my headache will be gone when I wake up this morning. Otherwise, it’s going to be a really long day.

Today is also the autumn equinox, which begins my favorite season, autumn. I love seeing the leaves change here in Vermont. The views are breathtaking this time of year. It also means cooler weather, but not cold weather, at least not yet.


Doctor, Doctor

Yesterday, I had a doctor’s appointment, and if I’ve never mentioned it before, my doctor is really hot. I love my doctor. I can talk to him about anything, and there is never any judgment. He’s also a really nice guy. I usually have to wait 30 minutes or so after my actual appointment time before I see him, but I really don’t mind. I know he’s the type of doctor who spends as much time with a patient as they need him to, and I know he’ll do the same for me. I have had doctors in the past who were in a race to see how fast they could get patients out of their office. I always felt they were not actually listening to their patients. I know my doctor listens to everything I say to him.

One of the things I always enjoy about seeing my doctor is reading his appointment notes and the visit summary. If your doctor uses MyChart, you might know what I’m talking about. I think electronic medical records are a great addition to healthcare. I remember when my mother was still working as a nurse, one of her major duties was making sure the EMR system got off the ground and was working correctly. She was the “quality assurance nurse,” so she made sure that all of the doctors and nurses were filling out their charts correctly.

Anyway, I enjoy reading my doctor’s notes on my visit. It always tickles me at some of the stuff he puts in there. Some of it is personal life stuff, like that I am happy after my recent move or that I’m exceptionally busy at work. I had to laugh when I was reading them last night because one of the things he wrote was, “He has a pond nearby.” I had mentioned that I like my new apartment and the peace and quiet out where I am now living. In addition, I mentioned there was a pond next to my building that I could see from my bedroom window. Thankfully, he didn’t also mention how much I said Isabella likes watching the birds.I was talking to Susan last night about this and I read her one of the things that he wrote under my psych evaluation, “Thought content without hallucinations or suicidal/homicidal ideations.” He also said I was: “Well-groomed. Good eye contact.” Two things about this: 1) I used to work in medical transcription, so I know there are standard phrases and shortcuts doctors use to fill in all the necessary information, and 2) He pays attention to the psych evaluation because I have a history of depression and anxiety. While I know it is probably standard for him, it always makes me feel nice that I’m “well-groomed.”
While I know that some of the “notes” are just standard medical jargon, there is a lot more personal stuff in there as well. It makes me feel like I am being listened to. Even when he has given me bad news, I always leave his office feeling hopeful. Most of the time lately, I leave feeling happy and good about myself. My A1C is under control, and if it stays with the current levels (under 6.0), he’ll take me off my diabetes medication and declare me a “diet-controlled diabetic.” While my weight has been up a few pounds, I’m still doing good. My cholesterol and blood pressure are great. My headaches have been improving with the new treatment, and my trigeminal neuralgia seems to be getting better. All in all, I’m in pretty decent health. He is happy with the progress that I’ve made, and so am I.


Better

Thankfully, for the most part, I am feeling better than I was over the weekend. I no longer have a fever, and after nearly three hours at an express care clinic, I found out that I tested negative for COVID, Flu, and RSV. I was not able to see my doctor because they won’t see patients if there is the possibility of them having COVID. They required that I have two negative COVID tests before they could see me. I had taken one on Sunday and took another at the express clinic on Monday, but by the time I got the results, my fever was basically gone, and I was feeling much better. The doctor I did get to see said I had some minor viral infection. All that remains now is a headache.


Sick

I’ve spent most of the weekend in bed or laying on my couch. Sadly, it wasn’t with the guy in the picture above. Instead, I was in bed because I’ve had a terrible migraine and have been running a fever. My fever has gone down a few times, and my headache has abated for short periods. However, both always seem to come back worse. Mostly though, I have been miserable. If I’m not miraculously better when I wake up this morning, I’m going to try to get an appointment to see my doctor. I hate being sick, and I hate even more having a fever.


Rough Day

While my new migraine medicine seems to be helping a lot (migraines are less frequent and usually less intense), the exception to this is when it rains. For usually twenty-four hours or so before rain begins, I have a bad migraine. I’ve become a pretty accurate predictor of rain. It doesn’t matter how much or how little rain we actually get, the day leading up to it is pretty rough.

It rained off and on all day yesterday. Sometimes, my migraines stops when the rain begins, but not yesterday. My guess is that because it would rain a little then the sun would come out before it would rain a little more. This happened over and over all day yesterday. Finally my headache started getting better but then my mother called. I won’t even get into that little conversation, but talking to her always makes me feel like shit.

Anyway, as my migraine began to improve late yesterday afternoon, I began having severe sciatic nerve pain. My left side from just above my hip all the way down to my toes was in agony. I’ve had sciatica off an on for years and usually taking naproxen helps, and it did for a few minutes, but I went to bed with it still hurting.

I really hope today is a better, less painful day. I suspect this is the same with most people with chronic pain, but sometimes it gets so depressing to hurt all the time. You just want some kind of release.


The Migraine

The Migraine: An Original Poem About Migraine
by Kathleen Dempsey

Vertiginous,
Equilibrium off,
Exhausted.
Comparable to a drug-induced haze,
I have fifteen minutes to prepare for HELL.
Nauseated, I retreat to bed,
In the fetal position, I hold my head.
It pounds, like a sledgehammer against steel,
As waves of fireless burning flow through my being.
I’m hot, I’m cold, I’m a broken thermometer.
I can’t eat, I can’t drink.
It won’t stay down.
Waves of sickness clutch my stomach,
It will not settle without a pharmaceutical.
An invisible knife punctures my head,
Entering the base of my skull with perfect precision.
I cry ——
But only on the inside. Begging, pleading to an unseen force,
I whimper, as my head is in an ephemeral vice,
MAKE IT STOP!
I wonder —is this punishment?
for some mortal sin in a past life…
Or is it a trial, of how much I can endure.
I take another pill.
It subsides a little.
Enough to function,
But not for long.
Not long enough for commitment,
Not long enough to make money.
I have survived the first pang of days.
But like a long-lost bad memory,
It will return with a vengeance.
Each time trying to break my spirit.
But it will not because I persevere.
Savouring the in-between times,
When I can create,
I can travel, I can live.
And forget the shadow of my agony,
If for just a time.

Yesterday, I had a terrible migraine. It started Sunday night, and I slept fitfully through the night, waking up to the pain several times. Yesterday, I had to call in sick. There was no way I could handle going to work: the bright lights, the noise, the heat (it was 92 here yesterday). I have mostly been doing good since the new treatment, but a major storm front came through Vermont. It’s the pressure changes before the storm hits that begin the migraine attack. Sometimes, they subside when the rain actually begins, but that did not happen yesterday. I went to bed in pain last night.

The poem above was written by Kathleen Dempsey of Toronto on January 4, 2018. She has suffered from migraines since she was 24 and has suffered from chronic migraines for the last three decades. I have suffered with them for more than four decades. (I’ve had them all my life, and I will turn 45 this November.)

I knew I suffered from migraines, but until I began going to the Headache Clinic at Dartmouth, no doctor ever really took them seriously. During my first visit, they diagnosed me with chronic migraines and began trying to find the correct treatment for me. For Dempsey, it took a few visits to the hospital before she was officially diagnosed. Like me, she has tried just about everything to manage her migraines. Some of her attempts to relieve her migraines included opioids, preventative medications, holistic treatments, a decade of triptan use, and even the silly suggestions on social media, like sitting in the bathtub with frozen peas on my head! I have tried many of the same things.

Sadly, like me, she has not been able to get more than temporary relief and has had to give her migraines more control over her adult life than she would like to. I learned a long time ago to persevere. I push and push until I can’t any longer. The pain becomes all-encompassing. Like many with chronic migraines, Dempsey was unable to work for many years. Despite this, she says she’s a fairly happy person with a life full of hobbies, family, and friends. As her poem shows, living with migraines can sometimes be depressing.

She comforts herself by knowing that when the attack is happening, it will only be short-lived, and then she will feel okay. She hopes that one day her migraine attacks will stop. I never know how long my migraines will last. Sometimes, it’s hours; other times, it’s days. Eventually, I get some relief.

Dempsey copes with her pain through creativity. She creates through poetry, photography, painting, drawing, and jewelry design. She has said that writing poetry about her migraines helps her show others the impact they have on her life and that they are not just another headache. Like Dempsey, I have learned we should never wait to do the things we enjoy, and we should spend as much time with the people that we love as we are able to. Like Dempsey, I try to incorporate this philosophy into my life, spending as much energy as I can creating through writing this blog, having fun, doing a job I love, and traveling when I can. I try to do as much as I can when I can. I make a point to learn something new every day and to know my limitations. For Dempsey, the purpose of life is to have fun and help others, making memories as she goes along — and that is exactly what she does when she is migraine-free. I try to do the same.


The Infusion

On Monday, I had my first infusion of VYEPTI for my migraines. It was actually not too bad. My nurse put in the IV, and I sat there listening to an audiobook for thirty minutes while the medicine dripped into my vein. Following the advice I’d been given, I’d drunk plenty of water the day before and that morning, so he had no trouble finding a good vein to use.

The best part of the experience was my nurse. (The picture above is not him, though he was kind of cute.) He was about my age, maybe a little older, and he made my gaydar go off. So, I’m pretty sure he was gay, and he was a bit flirtatious. He talked me through the procedure and once he found a vein to use, he held a warm compress to my arm before he stuck the needle in me. Just before he inserted the needle, he told me to “Go to my happy place.” Then after a pause, he said, “You don’t have to tell me what it is,” and then sotto voce, he said, “But I’m dying to know.” I am not very quick witted with replies, or I would have said, “it would be very inappropriate for me to say.” I was thinking that my “happy place” was laying with a naked man’s arms wrapped around me. Basically, the picture below:

Hopefully, he’ll be my nurse when I go back for my second infusion, but I doubt I will be so lucky. He made the experience a pleasant one. The needle going in did hurt for a second, but then the pain was over. Once the medicine started entering my bloodstream, I could feel it for just a moment, then I could barely tell anything was happening. When he took out the IV, it didn’t even bleed, and there is no bruise, which I usually have with something like this. There is the faintest little dot where the IV was, and that’s it.

As for VYEPTI’s effectiveness, time will tell. I went to bed Monday night with a major migraine, but it was lessened by morning and was mostly gone by lunchtime. My nurse told me that this medicine had been a real game changer for some people. I received 100 mg/mL of the drug, and he said that at that dosage, it lessens the intensity of the migraines for most people. He said it seems to be most effective at 300 mg/mL, but insurances won’t authorize that much in the beginning. He said the second treatment will be another 100 mg/mL and if it’s not deemed effective enough, then they can usually convince insurance companies to pay for the 300 mg/mL for the third and subsequent treatments. The treatments will be every three months, and my next one is scheduled for October 24.

Rant of the day:I find it incredibly frustrating that doctors know 300 mg/mL works best, but insurance companies require me to continue to suffer for six months before they will allow the treatment that I need. I cannot fathom why the United States allows someone without a medical degree at an insurance company to determine what’s best for my health. Every treatment I have been prescribed by the Headache Clinic has been denied by my insurance, and my neurologist has had to file an appeal to get the treatment approved. The same thing happened with. YEPTI, but the insurance company is still requiring the lower dosage for six months before they will consider the higher, more effective dose. Rant over…for now.


VYEPTI

Monday, I’ll be given my first dose of a new headache drug that my neurologist thinks shows great promise. The medicine is called VYEPTI and it’s a 30-minute IV treatment every 3 months. She thinks this might be a good option for several reasons. First, there are very few side effects. Second, for people who had limited success on Emgality, like I did, VYEPTI has proven much more effective. Finally, even though all of these new drugs are part of the anti-CGRP class of drugs, this one is not similar to Aimovig, which I could not tolerate, but is similar to Emgality which was partially successful.

I have to be at Dartmouth Health at 8:15 am Monday morning. I’ll be there early (if God’s willing) because they told me that if I was late in the least they’d have to reschedule because they keep a really tight schedule for this treatment. The appointment is scheduled for two hours, though the infusion is supposed to only take 30-minutes. The treatment won’t be cheap, so I signed up for VYEPTI’s copay assistance program. For signing up, they sent me a welcome pack to make the IV treatment easier. It included: a backpack, journal and pen, eye mask, ear plugs, and hot and cold packs for the IV entry point to relieve any discomfort that it might cause.

I’m running out of migraine treatment options, so I am praying that this will provide some relief.