Managing My Health Depends on Keeping Stress and Anxiety in Check
Before I ever knew what myasthenia gravis (MG) is, I had a normal amount of stress in my life. I was used to dealing with different types of anxiety each day, from “What am I going to do with my life?” to “What if my favorite TV show gets canceled?”
We all deal with stress in our own way. My old strategy was to pretend everything was OK while I went about my business. But in my new life with MG, I can’t afford to ignore my stresses and anxieties anymore. Unlike the old days, stress can now trigger much more than a headache.
At the end of each appointment, my neurologist would tell me to watch my stress levels. I always thought this was something every doctor said, because stress is bad for everyone. I took it as a general warning, and I never really paid much attention to it. But what I learned later was that as someone with MG, I need to pay much closer attention to my anxiety levels than other people do.
During my second year of teaching high school English, I was having a great time! Just kidding — I was actually stressed beyond belief. Nothing terrible happened, it was just one of those years that seemed determined to be rough.
As a teacher, I was used to being stressed out all of the time, so I wasn’t really worried about the effect it might have on my health. But one day, while eating my 2,000-calorie daily dinner, I noticed that my left eye felt heavy. The old, pre-diagnosis me would have ignored this sign like I did when I first showed symptoms of MG. The new me? Instant freakout.
Inexplicably, I called my neurologist’s office at 8 p.m. to make an appointment. Like most offices, they were closed. I grew more panicked by the second. I knew how bad my symptoms could become, and I didn’t want to go down that road again.
Luckily, I was able to see my doctor before any other parts of my body became weak. After she cleared me of any unrelated illnesses like the flu, she questioned me about my stress levels. I explained how difficult the year was and how I couldn’t sleep because of an inability to turn off my brain.
She said stress was the culprit. “I told you to watch out for that, didn’t I?” she said.
After that experience, I learned the importance of managing stress and anxiety.
It’s normal to feel anxious and scared, but you can’t let it harm you physically or mentally. We have such a limited amount of time — don’t waste it on something that gives you nothing but angst in return.
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