Owning my Bullshit

Learning To Accept Compliments

Yesterday, I wrote about how some friends had called me “an inspiration” and I took it to mean that they felt intensely sorry for me. Fortunately, my mom disagreed with my assessment and called me to tell me as much. She made me really think about it, and the truth of the matter is that I was projecting my own self-pity onto their statements.

It’s very hard, when I’m feeling bad about myself and am physically unwell, to accept compliments. Because I’m trapped in a mindset of low self-esteem and am feeling sad, I can’t believe any compliment would be sincere. Why? Because I’m feeling bad. And if I’m feeling bad, I must be bad, right? Wrong!

Confusing how you feel with how you actually are is one of the automatic negative thoughts that I learned to challenge while in therapy last year. It’s called Emotional Reasoning. Emotional reasoning is what occurs when we assume that because we feel a certain way, what we think/feel must be true. For example: I feel embarrassed so I must be an embarrassment.

Putting the “reason” back in Emotional Reasoning.

The only way to fight emotional reasoning is with rationality. You have to look at facts vs. feelings…

And the truth of the matter is that I have no good reason to feel like I’m anything less than awesome.

I have plenty of bad reasons — like the magical thinking that enables me to believe that I could have somehow avoided having MS and a seizure disorder if I had only done something differently in life. And that because I didn’t know to do that “thing” differently, I’ve brought the sadness and difficulty of MS and seizure disorder down on myself, and worse yet, I’ve forced my family and friends to deal with it with me. (Oh, look another ANT! Personalization. Blaming myself for something I can’t control. Moreover, I can’t force anyone to be supportive.)

Ooh, or the undeniable shame that I feel for being over-educated and unemployed. (ANT: Disqualifying the Positive.) Having a job isn’t what makes someone awesome, and even if it were, I have a job! I’m a homemaker. It just doesn’t pay cash.

If I’m going to allow myself to think like someone who can’t self-validate, I don’t have far to look for positive reinforcement. My friends and family are incredibly supportive. My husband is happy with me, and he doesn’t base his love for me on the things that I do or the money that I earn. I’m his chosen life companion, and I know that he deeply appreciates my efforts when it comes to keeping the house clean and making food happen when I’m feeling well enough.

What’s actually happening is that I’m putting too much stock into what I think. I’m a terrible bully to myself. I am pressuring myself to do more because I want to do more, and I believe that I can do more. And both of those are positive things. They’re not excuses for self-berating.

Being Mindful

What this experience has taught me is that recently, I’m not spending enough time policing my thoughts. I’m letting the Automatic Negative Thoughts take the wheel, and I’m not meditating enough. I’m not questioning my inner voice for truth. I need to spend some time on Calm.com. It’s been way too long.

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Thoughts…

About being an inspiration…

It’s been a weird and difficult few days. I’ve just been acting normally, but for some unknown reason, I’ve been told by 4 separate friends in separate conversations in the last 2 days that I’m “an inspiration” to them. They usually follow that up by saying that most people are so fake on Facebook, and that it’s refreshing that I’m so real, showing people what it’s really like to deal with MS…

On the one hand, if reading about my struggles makes them feel empowered to do more with their lives and to be appreciative of their health, I think that’s a good thing.

On the other hand, when you’ve been having an MS relapse complete with complex seizures that you’re handling alone while your husband is working 13-14 hour days, the words, “You’re an inspiration,” sound a lot like “I feel so intensely sorry for you that I can’t contain it, but I don’t want to make you feel worse.”

I remember, as a kid, actively wanting to be an inspiration to others. I always thought that it would occur because I’d done something noteworthy or genuinely helpful to humanity. I made sure to do all my homework. I practiced my instruments. I spent hours of my life writing up business plans for enterprises that never saw the light of day.

I never considered the possibility that simply maintaining a constructive attitude while continuing to exist with a disease that is often painful, lonely, and depressing would be how I made a positive difference in the world.

When I think about people thinking about me with that level of pity, it hurts… and yet, I remember the “hero” paper that I wrote about my grandma Gilda when I was in 12th grade. I didn’t pity her. I thought she was incredibly strong.

Grandma died the summer before my senior year. It was probably 3 months before I wrote that paper for AP English, but I thought about her every day. She had leukemia for 12 years, despite the fact that when she was diagnosed, they gave her 6 months. To put it in a way that will help you understand my point of view of her life, Grandma had been living with leukemia since I was 4. For all intents and purposes, I didn’t know her without it.

I didn’t find out about her illness until I was 8 or 9, and I found out accidentally. My mom was talking with her on the phone, and I overheard. She was not happy that I knew. Grandma didn’t tell anyone about her disease because she didn’t want anyone to treat her any differently. But anyone who has lived with an autoimmune disease can tell you — you need people to treat you differently for your own good. They don’t need to be coming over while they’re sick to visit you. They need to have more patience with you. They need to understand that sometimes hugs can hurt, and that it doesn’t mean you love them any less.

There are times when I wonder what Grandma would think about my blog or my raw, honest Facebook updates. I think she would be glad that I was reaching out for the support that I need, but I don’t think she’d want me to feel like I was only an inspiration because I am doing my best in spite of bad health.

The only thing I know for sure is that she always wanted me to feel safe and loved and happy. That’s what I wrote about in my paper… how even though she struggled with autoimmune disease, she still tried to do everything as if she were fine. She danced with Grandpa in the kitchen. She made good food. She was constantly making craft projects. She played with me, my brother, and our cousins, even after chemo. She didn’t let leukemia make her any less of a person. And I worry that I’ve let the seizure disorder rob me of some of my dignity and some of my self.

About being boring.

One of the things that’s very difficult for me to cope with is feeling boring. I can’t drive anywhere, so if I’m going somewhere, I have to take public transportation… but that costs money, and if I’ve had seizures within a week of the time I’m thinking about going somewhere, I get afraid that I’m going to get lost. The combination of my frugality and fear means that I usually don’t go anywhere if I don’t already have a purpose in mind.

To put things in context for you, since I was diagnosed with seizure disorder in 2008, I’ve left the house by myself and taken a bus somewhere exactly 3 times. Once, when we were living in Romeoville, I took a special shuttle to the mall for 3 of the longest, loneliest hours of my life. Since moving to Chicago proper, I’ve gone to an ophthalmologist appointment that Adam couldn’t get off work to take me to, and to the mall that’s 20 minutes from my apartment. I enjoyed the time at the coffee shop that came with that trip.

When I was younger, I did so much different stuff that my parents actually sat me down and made me drop several extra-curricular activities because they were worried I was going to have a nervous breakdown. Band, choir, BBYO, teaching Sunday school, Memphis Youth Symphony, confirmation classes, and that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head. I also was almost constantly online… but back then it was before the WWW. I would chat online with teenagers in my town for hours at a time. I didn’t care that it blocked the phone line.

In college, I started and ran a chapter of Phi Beta Fraternity. When I was in law school, I was part of the student bar association. I did community service projects. I spent endless hours reading case law and writing papers. And in my spare time, I went hiking with amazing people and tried my hand with performance art.

But since I’ve become disabled, I don’t feel like I do much at all. I foster kittens. I try to keep up with all of my FB friends and be supportive. I grocery shop and cook. I do laundry. But I’m not satisfied.

I know there’s more to life than this. I just feel like it’s just outside of my grasp.

Practicing guitar, piano, percussion, or voice seems agonizingly pointless, since there’s no one to play with… but I consistently want to do it until my inner monologue talks me out of it. I’m giving myself points for wanting to want to practice. It means I care enough to be uncomfortable with my lack of motion.

The thing that’s tough about it is that music has always been something that was both challenging and joyful. It meant sharing the experience with other people. It mattered that I practice because my individual performance affected the group’s performance as a whole. Now, it just feels like a way to remind myself about how isolated I am and how much my chops have slipped. I’ve done the Craigslist thing and have abandoned the idea of being the singer of a band. I mean, who wants to watch an overweight unknown 30-something woman trying to belt out rock n roll? I wouldn’t go to that show. I missed my opportunity there.

The only thing I can think that’s positive is in regard to learning guitar, because I’m hoping that eventually, I’ll songwrite for my kids. Having already mastered technique necessary to self-accompany will bring joy to my kids, in theory.

But what makes people interesting? It’s the things they do. And I’m not doing much besides housework, FB, and pinning things to the Paleo Compendium.

I think I need to find a good volunteer opportunity other than just fostering kittens. I need to get out of the house. I need to meet kind people. I want to help, and I know that one of the best ways to show gratitude for the good things in your life is to help folks who are in need. I guess I’ll hit up Volunteer Match.

About being realistic.

Of course, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to take a step back and figure out why I’m such an emotional monster today.

First, I still have steroids in my bloodstream. A medrol dose pack stays active in your system for about a week after you’re done with it. Corticosteroids make you crazy. They just do. Add to that the chemical changes that come from stopping Gilenya and cutting my nortriptyline in half, and you’ve got my current craziness.

Don’t worry, I wasn’t having a bad reaction to Gilenya. I actually stopped this month so that Adam and I can start a family. Gilenya takes 2 months to completely wash out of your system, so there’s no thoughts of even trying until May at least. Adam wants me to keep everything regarding the impending pregnancy hush-hush until we’re actually 12 weeks pregnant. I think that’s totally reasonable. We don’t need an audience to our family planning. I just also think it’s important that I acknowledge that I’m not on any disease modifying drugs right now.

I think that I can reasonably say that I’m handling things mostly well. Rather than crawl into bed and mope, I’ve been cleaning, writing, and actively not self-harming. I thought about day drinking for a half a second today and decided that it would be the equivalent of feeding the beast. Instead, I dyed my hair and am slowly tackling the ginormous mountain of clean clothes that need folding.

Oh, and taking care of the dog, who needs to be taken out right now. I’ll never need to question whether I make a positive difference in Brisco’s life. 🙂 He’s a good dog.

Hey.

Medrol Dose Pack = Finished

This morning, I took the last pill in the medrol dose pack that I have been taking to try and put my MS back in remission. Last night was pretty rough, in terms of seizures, but today, I’ve been good. I actually decided to be brave and walk to the grocery store despite the bitter cold today. I think the most alienating part of having seizures is the fear that you will have another seizure at any given moment, and so you don’t want to leave somewhere that’s “safe.” It was a very tough decision to go out into the world, even though Adam is at work for an additional 4 hours tonight and tomorrow night.

Too much time alone.

I’ve decided that I need to try to put together some sort of social life, regardless of the seizures. I have to be willing to spend money for public transportation. For whatever reason, I feel bad about doing that… but what’s my choice? Staying home alone all the time and never going out and doing things. And I’ve done the hell out of that. I’m over it. So over it. Talking to my dog like he’s a person over it.

Right now, I’m blogging instead of cleaning and vacuuming the living room. I figure, I’ve already done the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, done 2 loads of laundry, and refilled the humidifier… I can couch for a little bit. I mean, if I do everything in one day, what fun will be left for tomorrow. */snark*

Really, I’m trying to decide whether or not to dye my hair tonight. If I start now, I’ll still be done before Adam gets home…but it also means taking a shower when I’m alone, which I’ve agreed I won’t do. The terrible pull between wanting to cure boredom/pander to my vanity and wanting to be safe. I think Adam would be pissed if he came home, and dinner was ready in the crockpot, but I’d fallen in the shower and needed to go to the hospital. So, I guess I’ll wait on the hair til later tonight.

Work, work, work.

Remember how I was working on that silly vampire novel? Well, I’ve chucked it. I can write something better… and probably less trite. I kind of hate my main character, a vampire who only feeds on people who want to die… and I’m not really in love with any of my other characters, so why would a reader be? Well, that’s not *entirely* true. There is one character I like. She’s an ex-vampire who only fed on abusive parents, who, for hundreds of years, ran an orphanage filled with the children of her victims, and died by sunlight when one of her children asked her to pray with her, and it lasted past sun-up, sending her back to hell, where she works intake with the newly damned. But what are you gonna do? Tell her story? I’ll think about it.

Speaking of work… today, I also learned that you can make money by creating those annoying top 10 lists.

I also learned of TaskRabbit. I might try doing some odd jobs here and there as I feel stable.

As for right now, I’m giving in to the to-do list. Adam will be coming home to a totally clean house. I don’t want to get used to this.

SSDD. (Same shit, different day.)

Time Traveler’s Log

Yesterday, I had another time travel seizure. Fortunately, nowadays, they’re much more rare. Unfortunately, because they’re so rare, they really shake me when they happen. If we’re friends on FB, you’ve already read most of this section, but I wanted to blog it so I don’t lose it and because there are a lot of folks who are not on FB who I think will appreciate it.

Sometime around 2 p.m. yesterday, I had a complex seizure. I woke up very confused. I had no idea where I was. The last thing I could remember was going to sleep next to Chris in my apartment in Boston in 2000. This laptop was open on my lap, though, open to Facebook, and according to the computer, it was 2014. I didn’t recognize my apartment, my pets, or the name next to my picture.

I clicked my picture. The page it surfed to (my timeline) had a name on it that I recognized (Rachael Shapiro) and it said that I was married to someone named Adam, so I messaged him but he didn’t type back. It also said I had a webpage, so I visited it and got very confused about why I would be writing about MS, seizure disorder, or the paleo diet. I read several entries and felt bad for whoever wrote them. (guh.) I saw on the FB page that it said I had gone to law school. That’s when I decided I was clearly having a bad dream.

I looked all over the apartment and couldn’t find a telephone, and Adam’s timeline page didn’t have his phone number anyway. The TV was playing the same 3 songs over and over again. (I now know I had been having several seizures and in an attempt to stop time travel from occurring, had set up Spotify to play my post-ictal playlist. There were 3 songs there that were supposed to make me remember when I am. It failed. Last night, we added several more songs.)

The next thing I knew, this thing that looks like a TV but that’s the same size as a deck of cards started playing the same music over and over again. I couldn’t make it stop. I kept pushing the green button on the screen that looked like a telephone, but nothing happened. I kept shouting, “Hello?” “Pick up.” “Answer.” and nothing happened. I pushed on the green button again and slid my finger in the direction of the arrows (towards the red button), and that worked. Surprise! It’s a phone. (?!?)

Nearly 24 hours later, I still feel stupid for not recognizing it as a phone.

Adam assured me that this was not a bad dream and walked me through using a program that looks a lot like WinAmp (apparently Spotify) to find a song that helped some of my memories come back. “Call Me Maybe” was the song that worked. I immediately remembered being on I-55 on the way back to Nick’s house after a neurology appointment.

Eventually, my memories came back to bring me up to date. I hate that sort of confusion.

Making Time Travel Easier

In an effort to curb some of the absolute terror that I feel when I go through this stuff, I wrote myself an email. I’m going to post it here too, just in case I end up on this site before I end up on email. Here it is!

Hey, me!

This is Past Rachael, with an important message for Future (present) Rachael.

First of all, everything is okay. I know you’re feeling sick and panicked, but everything will be alright if you read through this email and react calmly.

I’ve been through this situation so many times before that I wanted to find an easier/better way to handle things. I decided to write this to let you know what’s going on and how to get through it! These are things that I know you will want to know if you just woke up, and you’re really confused about where you are, how you got there, and/or how you look.

1.) This is not a dream. You had a seizure! You were not in a car accident, and nobody beat you up. Do you feel like someone hit you upside the back of your head with a 2×4? Are you either super sick at your stomach and think you’re going to puke or super hungry and panicky about it? Those things are completely normal when you’ve just had a complex seizure. Take a few deep breaths and keep reading.

2.) Call your husband, Adam.

You will not find a regular old-school telephone anywhere in your apartment. You do have a cell phone.

It looks like this:
Samsung_Exhibit_II_4G_sidebyside_610x581
It has a purple rubber cover on it, and is about the size of a deck of cards. It’s usually on the arm of the couch, charging. Sometimes, you accidentally leave it in your jacket pocket.

Press the button on the right hand side of the phone, and the screen will light up. Press your finger on the screen and move it to the side, and you should see a home screen. If that’s not what you see, press the little house icon on the bottom of the phone. A screen that looks like a desktop should appear.

Click on the “Phone” icon. It will bring up a dialer program. You can either type in Adam’s number and then press the green phone icon to dial, or you can press and hold down the number 2 and speed dial will dial him for you.

Don’t trust me that your husband’s name is Adam? Think you’re either too young to get married or that you’re still married to Chris? That’s post-ictal (after-seizure) confusion messing with your mind.

You’ve been with Adam since 2006. (That would be 7 years as of the writing of this email.) He was in the room, holding your hand, both times when you were diagnosed — first with multiple sclerosis, and second with seizure disorder. He knows your illnesses better than you do, and he loves you deeply. No one on the face of the planet will be able to offer you more comfort, support, or direction than he will.

Adam and I’ve been through this kind of confusion together a ton of times. You can trust me about who you’re married to and who is safe because I’m you!

Not convinced? Doubting that this is real? Still feeling like calling a “stranger” is a bad idea? Call Mom! She is always speed dial #5 on your phone. Follow the instructions that are above and press and hold down 5 to get Mom. She will probably be a bit upset by the news, and she might get flustered when it happens, but she knows what’s going on. Odds are, she will call Adam immediately if you haven’t already.

Can’t get in touch with Adam or Mom over the phone? EMAIL THEM. You’ve been using webmail since Shadowscape, so I’m hoping you don’t need directions.

To make life even easier on you right now, I added them to the email you will find in your Inbox (It’s the same as what you’re reading!) as recipients so that you just have to “reply to all” on that email, and you’ll get in touch with both of them. It doesn’t get a lot easier than that.

3.) Listen to some music that might jog your memory. I’d say “Turn on Spotify and pull up the post-ictal playlist” but that’s a lot of work for someone who doesn’t know what’s going on. Our TV setup is not simple.

Here are some links to songs that ought to make everything easier.

Click here to listen to “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jespen.  This song has a strong association in your mind. It usually brings you back up to 2012. If you’ve got that knowledge, it’s a lot easier to do more to help yourself because you understand what’s going on with your body and why you’re in Chicago. (Yes, you’re in Chicago.)

Click here to listen to “Timber” by Pitbull & Ke$ha. This admittedly annoying song usually brings you back to November 2013. Your brain’s not messing with you. You *do* have a cardiologist now. You’re following a diet and exercising regularly to treat hypertension.

Click here to listen to “Happy” by Pharell Williams. If we’re lucky, this will bring you back to February of 2014. That’s where I am right now.

4.) Treat your pain. Look around at the coffee table and the boxes under it. Do you have any marijuana? If so, it will probably be in one of those orange prescription pill containers to keep it airtight. If you can, pack yourself a bowl and smoke it. It will help your headache, your stomach ache, and your anxiety. Seriously.

I know it probably sounds crazy, considering how anti-drug you were raised, but it really is a good idea to smoke some weed. Multiple doctors (reputable psychiatrists and neurologists!) have actually prescribed this for you. You’re not doing anything wrong by smoking it. You’ve got MS and a seizure disorder, and it’s good medicine for both.

5.) Relax. Just find a couch and chill. There’s honestly nothing you can do right now, other than what I’ve listed above, that will be helpful in any capacity, so it’s not worth fretting about. Nothing bad will happen if you don’t clean.

Other important things:
This is not a punishment of any kind. God does not hate you. You didn’t do anything to deserve this. Don’t take a bath. It might feel like a good idea, but getting overheated is dangerous for you.

I hope this helps!

Thoughts about Food.

The Paleo Diet’s doing good things for me.

For a while there, I was not sure whether or not the paleo diet was making any real difference in my life. As of Valentine’s Day, I am sure that it’s doing good things. What significance does Valentine’s Day have? I broke diet for half the weekend. Chocolate. Sushi. Cheeseburger. Pad Thai. I was loving the break… until Saturday night (1 full day into the sugar and wheat binge), when I had so many time-travel seizures that even Adam lost count.

I am now trying to figure out if I have a problem with wheat (since gliadin antibodies are higher in folks with MS, suggesting a sensitivity to wheat), dairy (which would make sense since MS has been linked to consumption of cow’s milk), a combination of the two, or something completely different. I’m not too worried about legumes, since the only legumes I had were crushed peanuts in the pad thai, and that was during Saturday night’s seizure funfest.

I got back to sticking to the diet on Sunday, and had a total of 1 seizure that day, which was a simple partial. (No time travel!)

Splenda – not so sweet.

In the last several days, I’ve also been doing some research on Splenda. There have been a lot of hoaxes and half-true infographics circulating around FB recently, and I’m genuinely worried for my folks, who drink it in beverages regularly. I found a bunch of studies that claim that sucralose is totally safe for you as long as you don’t have too much. I was more concerned with finding peer-reviewed studies that were not funded by the makers of Splenda or a sugar corporation.

Here’s what I found:

Splenda is not an inert compound.
“Sucralose and one of its hydrolysis products were found to be mutagenic at elevated concentrations in several testing methods. Cooking with sucralose at high temperatures was reported to generate chloropropanols, a potentially toxic class of compounds. Both human and rodent studies demonstrated that sucralose may alter glucose, insulin, and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1) levels. Taken together, these findings indicate that sucralose is not a biologically inert compound.” http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10937404.2013.842523#.UwFpL_ldUkZ

Splenda is immunosupressive.
“The cumulative suppression of Interleukin-6 and Interleukin-10 levels induced by sucralose may contribute to the inability in mounting an effective humoral response when posed with an exogenous threat.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24063614

“[E]xposure to sucralose induces a reduced humoral response that may be associated with adverse effects on the immune system.” http://etd.uwc.ac.za/usrfiles/modules/etd/docs/etd_gen8Srv25Nme4_5780_1319022717.pdf

Splenda can reduce glucose absorption and can increase the presence of cholesterol in your blood.
“It could be concluded that consumption of sucralose didn’t induce oxidative stress, has no effect on insulin, reduce glucose absorption and intensify hypercholesterolemia in STZ-induced diabetic rats. Accordingly it is advised that diabetic people consuming high amount of sucralose must check their lipid profile to avoid diabetic complications.” http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=34006#.UwFqI_ldUkY

The more Splenda you consume, the higher your likelihood of developing leukemia.
“Dr. Morando Soffritti, director of the Ramazzini Institute in Bologna, Italy, and team fed 843 laboratory mice varying doses of sucralose from when they were fetuses until they died. Post-mortems showed an association between leukemia risk and lifetime sucralose consumption – the more sucralose they consumed, the higher their risk of leukemia.” http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262475.php

Splenda is a known migraine trigger.
“This observation of a potential causal relationship between sucralose and migraines may be important for physicians to remember this can be a possible trigger during dietary history taking.” http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1526-4610.2006.00543_1.x/abstract?deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=&userIsAuthenticated=false

Splenda can negatively affect your insulin response, if you’re obese and haven’t been regularly using it.
“[S]ucralose affects the glycemic and insulin responses to an oral glucose load in obese people who do not normally consume NNS.” http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/36/9/2530.short

I don’t think there’s such a thing as a safe artificial sweetener right now. Thankfully, liquid stevia, raw honey, and maple syrup are ok.

Battling codependent behavior is good self care.

I’ll admit it. I’m a recovering codependent.

Codependence is a bitch. For an enabler, like me, it means that you’re letting someone else step on your feelings of self worth. A good functional definition of the codependent cycle is “Underdeveloped self esteem (dysfuncational boundaries) combined with an inappropriate caring for others (invading a boundary), and an inappropriate reliance on another’s response (having poor boundaries), in a negatively reinforcing loop”. Codependence is very common in folks who have endured abuse. It’s what enables the cycle of abuse to exist and continue.

When I was in my first marriage, I had no idea that our relationship was codependent. All I thought about was how to keep my husband happy, regardless of the situation. He was very rarely actually happy. Fortunately, he left me. That action gave me the push I needed to see a psychologist. I went to therapy during the divorce and after, and I worked with a support group for a long time. I learned that I wasn’t alone in the wrong thinking of “my partner comes first” in a marriage, rather than the healthier thinking of “We’re a team. We matter equally.” It’s all too common for folks to lose their perspective when they’re in love.

I can say, without question, that learning how to see the red flags that indicate codependent behavior (such as recognizing when action by another will negatively affect me) and being empowered to change my behavior based on that recognition changed my life profoundly for the better. It made me responsible for my well being and happiness. It ended a lot of needless upset. It ended a lot of unnecessary hurt.

If a friend is doing things that hurt you, they’re not your friend.

“Codependency, by definition, means making the relationship more important to you than you are to yourself,” marriage and family therapist Tina Tessina says. “It’s kind of a weird phrase, and it doesn’t sound like it means a one-sided relationship. But that’s what it is. It means you’re trying to make the relationship work with someone else who’s not.”

In the last couple of weeks, two people who I care for very deeply, who don’t know each other and are completely unrelated, have been causing me an unnecessary amount of stress, anxiety, and upset. And extra stress and anxiety for me only makes my MS worse. Effectively, by dumping their emotional baggage on me, they were actually physically hurting me.

Caring for your health is your first responsibility.

For weeks, I’ve worried and fretted about these people. I’ve done my best to be a good, caring friend and help them out of their difficult situations. I’ve told both of them what I think about the situations they’ve gotten themselves into. (Which is to say, I advised both of them that their behaviors were dangerous and that they were causing themselves harm.) Neither one of them were willing to acknowledge that they were hurting themselves. Neither one of them cared how their drama affected my life, or how their behavior affected others… so I realized, as I found myself cussing out the married boyfriend of one of them, that I desperately needed to draw boundaries for my own emotional and physical safety.

So, today, I unfriended both of them. One was a good friend for nearly 20 years. One was friends with my parents for years before I was born, and I was initially afraid of how it would affect my parents. Ending those relationships was hard. It took guts, but I knew I had to put my well being first. I had to practice self-compassion.

Self compassion is not selfishness.

Self-compassion is comprised of self-kindness (which requires that you actually show yourself kindness and understanding about how you feel and don’t judge yourself for it), mindfulness (being aware of pain and not exaggerating it), and recognition of our common humanity. It means putting yourself first, but not being an asshole about it. Caring for yourself is an obligation. If you don’t do it, you’re asking for things to get worse.

Selfishness is when you take care of yourself while lacking consideration, compassion and empathy for others. I know that I’m not being selfish because I genuinely wish both of these people the best. I want good things for them. But I also acknowledge that I have no control over their choices or actions, and that they, in fact, had some control over my emotions. That inequality is not healthy, so I had to take action to care for myself.

At the end of the day, you have to live with you.

I hope that by sharing this, I’ve helped anyone at all. Having the backbone necessary to eliminate toxic relationships is important. The best way I’ve heard it said is by an adorable little girl.

Stand Up For Your Rights

You may notice a new black bar at the bottom of the screen when you view my blog. I’ve joined the fight against the NSA’s unconstitutional collection of American citizens’ phone and internet records.

I’m extremely bothered by the systematic gutting of our 4th amendment rights, and honestly, there’s nothing I can say about it that hasn’t already been said elsewhere. It’s just really not cool that the government is treating all of its citizens like suspected criminals.

If you have a blog, please add the bar. If you tweet, please help raise awareness by using #StopTheNSA. Call a politician. Write an email. Don’t let our government think that we’re tacitly complacent.