Category Archives: health

My Valentine’s Day Present


rose-bannerThis year – actually just a matter of coincidence – but our V-day is focusing on therapy and improving our behaviors for the health of our family. We have our first family counseling session on Saturday. I’m both excited and anxious at how things will go. I’m not completely convinced that my spouse is as committed to the process as I am, which is disheartening. Maybe I’m wrong, and he’ll surprise me.

I’ll update more on the process later. Today, focusing on the good of life, even something as simple as a smile from a good friend.

Blessed be!

Where’s the Love?


hearts-bannerFebruary is not only the month of Valentine’s Day, but it is also my anniversary month. This year my husband and I have been married 12 years.

I can say this, marriage is not for the faint of heart. It’s not always a bed of roses. In our case, we’ve been experiencing more thorns as of late. One thing we do agree on is that we’ve got to make changes for the betterment of our daughter. We argue a lot, and that’s taking a toll on her. We’ve somewhat come to an agreement that we need to speak with a family therapist. This will be beneficial for everyone as my husband does not have the understanding or coping skills to deal with living with someone with mental illness. Even more so, he has some of his own issues that he needs to work through. Mix both of those things, and the environment our daughter is living in is not as healthy as it could be. And that’s the goal – improving the environment for her.

This February I will be meditating a lot on what makes a healthy family. I wouldn’t consider my upbringing to be a model example. I consider myself somewhat of an expert of knowing what is not healthy, but I’m not an expert at not making the same mistakes. That’s the goal – knowing what a healthy family is and striving toward that. It’s in all of our best interests, for love, for family, for life.

Wellness and Giving Thanks


smash-patriarchyI’m taking part in my employer’s wellness program. It’s part of my journey toward a healthier lifestyle. The current goal in the wellness program is to take the next seven days and each day, write about something for which I’m thankful. The first thing that came to mind was being thankful for my mental illness.

That statement seems odd now that I look at it typed out on the page. But, it’s a sincere statement. Is having a mental illness challenging? Yes. Is it considered a disability? Yes. However, I’ve come to a point in my life where I want to view my mental illness through a different lens, with a different perspective. What has my mental illness allowed me to do? Well, it’s definitely allowed me to have somewhat unique experiences. I say somewhat because although not experiences that the “average” person has, I’m not the only one to ever struggle with bipolar disorder or anxiety. There are similar experiences in every story of mental illness. I’m using unique here to qualify my experiences as being different than the experiences of someone who doesn’t live daily with mental illness.

These experiences have taught me. They have helped mold me into the person that I am at this moment. One thing they have most definitely done is helped me to a more empathetic person. Because of my relationship with my illness, I genuinely care for and feel for people who are in pain, those dealing with mental and emotional anguish, those who are existing in a state of despair. I seek to connect with those people, many of whom have had people turn away from them because of their challenges. I feel that in doing this, I have grown a little bit as a person, that it has helped me to develop as an individual.

I would not wish mental illness on anyone. Yet, I’m thankful that it’s me and not you – at least not right now. And if the time ever comes where it is you, I’m here. Reach out to me. I may not completely understand, but I can listen using my unique filter. We are all worth this, and so much more. For this, I’m thankful.

MLK and Mental Illness


mlk-dream-bannerI went to church yesterday. As is usual with most Unitarian Universalist churches, the day was spent in reflection of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Those of us who are caucasian pinned pink ribbons to our tops, a reminder for the day that people are treated differently because of their skin tone and that as caucasians, we have a duty to acknowledge our ancestors’ history and challenge injustice whenever we witness it. I had planned to pen an elaborate post regarding my thoughts on the service.

Then I had a mental health episode. It was a rough night, and I struggled with old coping mechanisms such as self-injury and alcohol. This is not the life that I want to lead, and I recommit myself to my overall health – including my spiritual and mental health.

Today I began to wonder, what would Dr. King say about how we treat the mentally ill in this country. I found this blog and wasn’t surprised to learn that Dr. King himself often battled with depression. People who are challenged with mental illness tend to be some of the most self-reflective and empathetic people you will ever meet. It’s not lost on me that someone like MLK who spent his life thinking deeply about injustice would struggle with the psychological impact of such a dreary reality.

There is still a stigma against the mentally ill. I could never compare this to the experience that African Americans have had in this society. Yet I’m compelled to call out injustice wherever I see it, for mental illness is something that does not discriminate based on the color of your skin. If we know that mental illness is stigmatize, and that racial minorities are discriminated against, one would shudder at the injustice of mental illness within those communities. Unfortunately, culturally speaking, some groups balk even more at the thought of mental health treatment. My husband is from India and there’s a long history of denying the need for therapy and that one should fix things on their own, which is a damaging and dangerous perspective. Damaging because it belittles those of us who seek help. Dangerous because it suggests a path that almost always fails.

We need to speak out in all of our communities that mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, rather it’s something that many of us will experience at some point in our lives, just like MLK did. There is no weakness in asking for help as it is true strength and courage that allows you to recognize that you can’t do it alone. Growing up, we’re not taught to deal with these issues, so we need to learn from those who can help us. Regardless of our backgrounds, there is a counselor that can meet our needs.

If you need any support in exploring these issues, please reach out to me. I’m listening.

This Is Me


me-before-after

Greetings, friends! Sorry it has been so long since I have posted, but as you can see, I’ve been busy focusing on myself and my health over the past year. But, with my previous post, I’m taking the opportunity to start writing more, both on this site and in novel form – all of course while still focusing on improving my health.

I would like to add a little bit about myself that I haven’t revealed before. My pen name is J.B. Stilwell, but my real name is Jimel Razdan. I was born in Huntington, WV, which is a fact that I’m quite proud of even in the face of getting extremely saddened when I visit my home. The economic conditions, not to mention the crime and drug issues, make me weep for my birth community.

I hope to post more about my life in the Huntington area, my life as Jimel writing as J.B., and what it’s like being an Appalachian transplant in a Midwestern metropolitan area.

I hope that you all had festive holidays and will have a healthy and prosperous new year!

Losing My Choice


bloody background with a knife

I hadn’t planned to have surgery when we moved to the Chicago area. Unfortunately, my body decided NOW was the time to resolve an issue that I didn’t even know that I had.

A couple of weeks after arriving at my sister-in-law’s, I began having unbearable pain on the left side of my abdomen. At first the pain was just annoying, so I didn’t think much of it. Slowly it became bad enough that I spent most of my time on the couch with a heating pad wrapped around my belly. I began feeling like so much pressure was building up that my body would explode like a macabre pressure cooker. I finally gave in and told my husband that I needed to go to the emergency room (I grew up “learning” that you only seek medical attention if it’s absolutely necessary because healthcare is expensive, yo!).

After almost four hours of blood tests and a CT scan, I returned home with the cryptic knowledge that I had a mass around my left ovary that was three inches in diameter – according to the doctor, “about the size of a clementine orange.” Part of the mass was cystic, with which is unfortunately something I am familiar. The other part of the mass was solid – no telling exactly what it was with only a CT scan. Cue panic. My family has a long history of female cancers, so not knowing what was growing inside of me caused me a great deal of mental discomfort. However, I kept reminding myself of something important – the women in my family are unbelievably strong and always beat cancer. I took a great deal of comfort in thinking of my 11-year-old niece Megan who has beat AML leukemia twice. Yes, we come from strong stuff – if it’s cancer, I’ll beat it!

I had many follow-up appointments, two ultrasounds, and an appointment with an OB-GYN surgeon. All during this time, the pain was so intense that I stayed medicated on pain pills most of the time. Even when I was “numb,” I would lie in bed, roll over onto my left side and feel a hard ball pressing against my insides. To add to this discomfort, the ultrasounds showed that the mass was pushing against my uterus in such a way that my uterus was in an “S” shape, to which I spastically thought, “Hey, maybe I’m turning into Super Girl.” Yeah, not so much.

Thankfully my blood tests showed no markers for cancer which was a shining beacon of relief in my fog of pain and hydrocodone. Still the surgeon laid it out straight – the mass was solid, meaning my body wouldn’t absorb it. I needed to have it surgically removed. Originally my surgery was scheduled three weeks out, but after hearing my pleas about the pain – and having to have an increase in pain medicine – my surgeon arranged his schedule so I could have the surgery as soon as possible.

I was eerily calm about the surgery, much more so than my husband. I’ve had abdominal surgery before, and aside from general anesthesia nauseating me, I had no fears about the procedure itself. As life would have it, what we learned after the surgery was the scary part.

In my surgeon’s words, internally the surgery was “very traumatic.” Before the surgery all we knew was that I had a mass. We didn’t really know what the mass was until he got in there poking around in my guts. Internally very traumatic meant that the surgeon had a lot of work to do. The mass was endometrial tissue  that had been growing outside of my uterus, along with scar tissue that my body had developed in an attempt to protect the surrounding organs. The tissue had amassed so much that it fused with my colon. With the intent of removing all of the bad tissue and preserving my colon, my left ovary and fallopian tube were destroyed. I was interestingly okay with this. In my head I was thinking, “I still have my right ovary and uterus, so all is well.” Maybe not so much.

A week after the surgery I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon to discuss in depth what it all means. The good news, no cancer. The bad news, I have Stage IV endometriosis. Given that my husband and I had been talking about the possibility of having another child, the prognosis is horrible. The surgeon gave me options, none of which are ideal. For temporary relief I can either get pregnant or begin medication that will throw me into menopause. The pregnancy part is risky because given the extent of the endometriosis, I need to get pregnant within six months, and I have only a 10% chance of doing so without medical assistance (such as IVF). The medication that would put me into menopause comes with all of the delightful side effects that “the change” has to offer – hot flashes, mood swings, depression (hello! I’m already mentally ill, don’t need more, m’kay?). These options are considered temporary treatments because after the theoretical baby is born or if I would stop the medication, the endometrial tissue would start growing again every month when Aunt Flo visits.

The last option is permanent and irreversible in that I would no longer suffer from endometriosis pain again, but I would also never have kids – a full hysterectomy. When he told me this, I cried uncontrollably. So many different thoughts crashed through me, all revolving around one main theme – if I have a hysterectomy, I no longer have a choice about getting pregnant. Something about not having a choice in the matter made me feel like I was being psychologically and physically violated by my own body. Unlike other instances, I can’t get away from my abuser because my abuser is ME…well, at least a part of me.

The surgeon wrapped things up by telling me that if I did nothing and just managed the pain, I would likely require surgery again within five years. Not exactly something to look forward to for the future.

Dealing with this has been beyond challenging. I went to the ER on July 21 and had my surgery on August 31 – over a month in pain before I got some relief. I’m still recovering, but the post-op discomfort is a randy party compared to the pre-op anguish. I’m still processing all of it. I foresee more blog posts focused on issues such as this that affect women, and how we deal with them socially and psychologically (because hey, that’s how I psychologically deal with it…I write about it).

For readers of my work, I have been slowing working on projects during all of this, but obviously not as much. I’m also editing and proofreading novels for Booktrope Publishing – an exciting addition to my artistic inclinations. I will post more about those as novels get published. Until then, check out Booktrope’s website for more info on lots of great books.

Blessings and healing to all.