Welcome Back- Tales from the Dark

welcome-back-kotter-10

I am baaaack. Where have I been? No where spectacular and not in rehab. I am going to be honest and spill some raw truth– I was in a psychologically-dark place. A place where I looked forward to my next pill-induced coma so that I can be numb to EVERYTHING.

From November to December, I have been feeling the what I can only describe as the “lupus funk“, and as time went on, the funk got funkier. I was depressed. Overall, I just felt shitty with myself and my situation.  Every since I was diagnosed with lupus, it has been a battle- not only was my health failing but it had affected every aspect of my life. Because of lupus: 1) I had to move-in with my parents, 2) every move I make has to be supervised, 3) I am in bed by 7pm only to wake up in the middle of the night with pain, 4) I am always exhausted, 5) I can no longer drive, 6) all my money goes to medical bills, and 7) I am socially dead to the world, and etc. etc. etc. And to top it off, I still had to try to keep myself out of a hospital. I am sorry to have to admit this, fans, but I wanted to give up. I was tired of fighting and tired of smiling with hope so that others around can be assured that “everything will be OK”.

And that is why I have been absent for a good chunk of time. The reason I started this blog was to provide support and encouragement to my fellow warriors. I was certainly NOT in the state of mind for dishing out sunshine and rainbows (I couldn’t even queen out properly!), and therefore, refrained from writing. If I had written during my months of depression, it would have looked very similar to the chapters of a Judy Blume novel, a la Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. (*If you do not understand that reference, look it up, or you can trust I made a reference that was simultaneously brilliant and hilarious!*) My head was one hot-mess; not only was I blue, I was in a constant fog of confusion. I did the blog-community a service by sitting out for awhile.

So, why am I writing now? Easy- I feel psychologically more stable and do not have urges to swallow a cocktail of yummy drugs for reasons other than pain-control. I have been seeing a therapist on a weekly basis so that I can cry and have realizations. Plus, I hear fabulous people have therapists. 😉  (Diva approved)  I realized at the beginning of this year that:

1) I lost 2 months of precious time. We all know that lupus does not come with the gift of time. As lupus patients we are constantly told of the many “chances of this happening” or a “risk of that happening”. I was a baby who focused on the negative and spent all her time in bed feeling sorry for herself. Not the way to go.

2) I am still lucky– even with lupus. I have the best support system in my family, true friends, and my fellow lupus warriors. AND even after the crap year of 2012, I am still able to take a breath and stand on my own feet (with a little help from a member of my support system or cane).

The point-of-the-story is not to have pity-party in my honor because there are people who have it so much worse than I do. I am fortunate enough to be able to write this down. I write this awful truth in hopes that if you are in a “dark funky place”, you are not alone and have every reason to be depressed. Up to 60% of lupus patients will experience clinical depression, which is most likely the result of the continuous series of emotional and psychological stressors associated with living with a chronic disease. Helplessness and hopelessness are two common feelings associated with depression. Also, keep in mind that lupus flares can trigger depression. Just remember, that there are many resources out there to help you and that you are not alone.

Stay Fabulous!

I am not my hair- inspiration

Here are some helpful links regarding lupus-related hair loss:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/lupus/AN01876: A quick Q&A overview

Coping with lupus-related hair loss from the  Lupus Foundation of America

Lean more about alopecia (aka hair loss) (click here for pdf)

Also, here is one of my favorite songs: “I am not my hair” India.Aire. I hope it gives you a smile and some inspiration.  I cried when I heard this song for the first time as a bald woman. Now, I hear it and feel like I can do anything.

Do you know any helpful sites regarding lupus-related hair loss? Please feel free to post!

I am not my hair- introduction

“Hair loss occurs in 45% of people with lupus at some time during the course of their disease.”

Most frequently the hair loss occurs at the onset of the illness, and may be one of the first symptoms of the disease recognized by the person. Most often, the hair loss is from all over the head, but sometimes the hair falls out in patches. When the disease is brought under control, the hair should grow back. Sometimes there is a rash in the scalp—usually subacute or chronic discoid—that interferes with the hair follicle. In this situation, the individual is left with a permanent area of alopecia. Drugs used to treat lupus, such as prednisone and immunosuppressive therapies, also may be the cause of reversible hair loss.

Good-bye long hair!

I use to spend so much $$$ and time/effort on my hair. My hair use to be my identity and my creative outlet. OK- so maybe the masses were not jealous of my hair and maaaaybe they weren’t saying “Geez, that Diva has great hair!”  As much as I fought with my hair every morning, I still loved it and ROCKED it.  I noticed my first bald spot in May 2010 and didn’t think much of it. “No worries- I can hide this.” Before I knew it, my bald spot spread like wild-fire! I was leaving traces of hair everywhere. Showers were torture as I could see strands going down the drain. I was loosing hair in massive amounts. The strong strands that survived the massacre were those in the front of my head. At the time, I was with my ex, Mr. Aguinaga. We were together for 9 months at the time of my first strand departure. By the time the last strands were hanging on for dear life, Mr. Aguinaga disappeared into the arms of another woman who was healthy (more details to come.. it’s juicy). I knew Mr. Aguinaga was never going to be good enough nor strong enough to be with me- more on that to come.

There came a point when the inevitable had to happen- I had to shave my head. I remember the day my favorite stylist picked up the razor. I cried as soon as the razor hit my scalp (luckily- I had my one of my best friends with me- thank you Mr. Carmona). Through my tears I thought: I will never be the same. I knew that lupus was going to bring out the best in me by pushing me outside of my comfort zone and revealing my strengths.

I have an arsenal of wigs and scarves. Wig shops became a bi-monthly visit. I was not worried about the shopping expense as this was now a medical-expense. I bought hair and submitted receipts to my insurance company and for those not covered will be on my tax return. (Perks of a chronic disease, eh?) Over time I gained knowledge on the world of wigs and became an expert (“Wig knows wig“). I learned new terms (I had a “wig-face”- meaning all the wigs looked great on me), and learned to stay away from all natural elements (water, fire, and air).  Each wig had a name and a personality: Streak, Kikki, Lolita, ‘Nita, Bambi (my blonde one). My wigs were my new accessories and together we were fooling everyone. Joke is on you world!

Even with all the fun I was having with the girls,  there was one thing that bothered me: THIS ISN’T MY HAIR! It was exhausting just to make sure the damn thing stayed on my head and straight I would spit my drink out when men would come up to me at a bar and say “I really like your hair”. I almost want to respond with: “Well, if you like it so much, here ya go!” (As I whip it off my head- That would not be too classy of me). In upcoming posts, I will talk about how men react to my hair-situation.

Will I be bald forever?

Thanks to daily pills of prednisone, 15 steroid shots to my scalp once a month, and  calming of the lupus symptoms, my hair has started to grow back in- BUT not all at once. Of course, I have some lazy follicles that are taking their time to grow back in and, unfortunately, I do have some scarring which will result in permanent bald spots (i.e., scarring alopecia). As I had mentioned before, I am currently taking a form of chemotherapy, methotrexate, as an injection once a week. Like other chemotherapy, a side-effect is hair loss. I started chemo at the beginning of this year as a last-chance treatment option. When Dr. Lupus explained the side-effects, I laughed when he said, “oh, you may loose your hair.” I responded with “Doc, I have already crossed that bridge!” My experience with methotrexate in regards to hair loss has not been too bad. Actually, I haven’t really noticed- because I am keeping my hair short these days. Every once in awhile, when I rub my hand on my scalp I see little hairs breaking free- but I know they will come back. 😉 For the majority of patients experiencing hair loss, the hair does grow back once you start to feel better. Rarely, does the flare-up cause scarring, which prevents regrowth.

Wanna hear the perks of being bald? Stay tuned for a fantastic list in a future post.

I am not my hair- Going on the “cover-up” strike

A couple of months ago, I went on strike. Part of it was because of the Houston-heat– it was just too hot to be wearing hair. I was already having hot flashes from the steroids and chemotherapy! The main reason was because wearing the hair wasn’t suiting me style. My style is to be true to myself– to be a fabulous diva no matter what. Wearing hair felt like I was ashamed of myself and denying my true fabulousness. Don’t get me wrong- wigs are great and you will see me wearing one from time to time (especially on cool nights out). I am glad that I lost my hair- because I learned a great lesson- I learned that I am not my hair. Physical features do not define who I am. I am me and beautiful bald. I recommend you, my fellow patient, to put down that wig/scarf and let loose by walking proud with your bald head.

Coming out (with a lupus blog)

THE LUPUS BLOG

This is my coming out; my chance to tell everyone (well…realistically…anyone who wants to hear it) how it REALLY is to live with lupus as a single, young (30-year-old- no comments please) woman. I have been thinking for many months on starting a blog in hopes to help anyone who may be in my shoes. I am lucky to have not only a great support system of family and friends (not to mention a great team of doctors); but in my circle of support I have a dear friend (I will call Veero) who is a “veteran” to lupus.  During my “What the hell is happening?!  and the “Is this normal?!?” freak-outs,  I am able to send her messages and pick up the phone when it hurts to type.  But as you may know, lupus is not an equal-opportunity disease, as it affects every person differently.  Although we are similar in age (30 and fabulous), single and both trying to live our life, Veero and I have very different lupus-characteristics.

There are many books out there related to lupus. But from my research, they are from a doctor’s point-of-view who is giving you facts and “what-to-expect”. However, these “what-to-expect” seem to be repeats of what you learned from your own physician and from your own web-searching (let’s face it- your Google search history is most likely comprised with Lupus AND fill in the blank).  For example, “limit your exposure to the sun. When out in the sun, wear sunscreen” (No SHIT).

The other books come from the patient point-of-view, expressing their journey of lupus-symptoms and frustrations (I will be doing this as well) BUT these patients are different from me. They have their career established, married (some with children), and it seems like the majority of their goals have been met prior to lupus. I am that young-professional who had so much to bring to the table and assumed that I had all the time to do so. YIKES.

During a lupus-hate session over brunch, Veero and I expressed how we do not have voice (me more loudly- I am argentine/jewish/spanish/italian). Finally, after exhaustion from bitching, we decided to become the voice. Because our experiences and perceptions are different, we both have our own blogs. I recommend you visit Veero’s blog (plug!).

So here is my chance to be that voice. Stay tuned as I will be talking (and most likely queening out) over the daily aspects of my life with lupus.  This will include social (i.e., dating, keeping a social life), professional (i.e., trying to keep succeeding in work), and personal (i.e., everything else) aspects of life. Although, it may seem like I am bitching, I am not an angry women. I am just saying what everyone else is thinking and saying it with a smile. We can get through this, because of that fabulous attitude we carry.

More to come…

“If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain”  – Maya Angelou