Why I Don’t Live in Constant Fear

This month marks six years since I checked myself into the psychiatric ward at First Hospital Wyoming Valley. Coming this spring, it will be five years ago that I was diagnosed with Anti-NMDA Receptor Autoimmune Encephalitis – and four years since my relapse with the same disease.

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I am far beyond acceptance of what has happened to me, from the multiple misdiagnoses to the blood clot caused by treatment to the plain unfairness of having an autoimmune disorder. I’m no longer on any medication. I don’t need to have regularly scheduled scans. I’m not angry anymore. I’ve moved on. I am healed. However, one question that I’m asked fairly frequently, and a topic that I see so many others grappling with is but aren’t you afraid of a relapse?

My answer is simple. No. I don’t think about relapse for two reasons. The first is because I already have a plan in place with my doctor if I should ever relapse again. I am fortunate enough to have a neurologist who is experienced in and comfortable with treating ANMDARE. We have agreed that at the first symptom, whether it is something hugely physical or a miniscule psychiatric change, I will call her and go in for a rituximab treatment. We won’t wait around for scans and bloodwork; we will go straight to the treatment that has worked so well for me in the past. So I don’t have to worry about what will happen because this plan is on the back burner in case I ever need it.

The second reason I don’t bother worrying about a relapse is because I’m twenty-five years old and I need to live my life. A year and a half of my short time on earth was wasted while I was zombified on lithium and depakote during that awful psych misdiagnosis. I refuse to miss out on another second. Sure, I took my time getting back into normal daily life to make sure I was ready for it. Then I jumped back in.

When I was sick, I was single-mindedly focused on one goal: getting better. It took a lot out of me to fight for my life, but it was worth every second. Now that I’m healed, though, I need to focus on the bigger picture. That would not be possible if I was looking cautiously around every corner, afraid that I might end up back at square one. Constant worry is a waste of energy that for me could be better channeled into schoolwork, yoga, drinks with friends, enduring a 40-minute train commute, or reading a really good book. I stay positive as much as I can, but it’s difficult to be that cliche of “I almost died, so now I value every day of my life much more.” That’s because every day is different; every day presents new challenges. I will not let fear of something I have conquered twice now be one of those challenges. I have more goals to accomplish, like finishing graduate school, landing a career, writing my memoir, and growing relationships with friends, family, and Chris.

I intend to have the time of my life doing so.

So This Is the New Year…

Last year, I wrote a post about my five New Year’s resolutions. A year later, as I am reflecting upon this post and these resolutions from my boyfriend’s house on top of a snowy mountain while listening to Louis CK, I am pretty pleased with myself.

Resolution #1: Read 100 books in 2014. While I have made it more than halfway to this mark (you can see the list, which still needs to be updated, in my pages), I am nowhere near my very ambitious goal of 100. However, I am proud of myself for all the books I did read, all the stories I experienced, and all of the books I have yet to read.

Resolution #2: Go to yoga at least 3x a week. I kept this resolution for 3/4 of 2014, sometimes going to 4 or 5 classes per week. When I started my internship, though, I had significantly less time to make it to the studio, so I began to practice more at home. This is one resolution that I consider myself to have kept.

Resolution #3: Practice forgiveness. More celebration, less punishment in 2014. That was my goal, to forgive others and myself. I applauded myself for my smallest accomplishments while not being too hard on my mistakes, and instead learning from them. There were many mistakes to learn from, and there were many accomplishments to celebrate.

Resolution #4: Write more. I had a lot of big plans for my writing in 2014; working on my book and proposal, working on this blog, working with others. I did not keep up this blog regularly, but I plan to start again, but my writing in other areas continued to grow.

Resolution #5: Try new foods (and re-try foods I disliked in the past). I did! And I found out that I love roasted tomatoes and buffalo chicken pizza and salad. So that’s a solid win.

Over the course of this year, I attended my first 5k for autoimmune encephalitis, completed two more semesters of grad school, went to an amazing yoga festival, and started an internship. I have been given so many opportunities and there are only more on the horizon in 2015. My only resolution for this year is to go with the flow.