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Featured Story – National Mental Illness Awareness Week!

What It’s Like to Have ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety

By Sarah Schuster for TheMighty.com

High-functioning anxiety looks like…

Achievement. Busyness. Perfectionism.

When it sneaks out, it transforms into nervous habits. Nail biting. Foot tapping. Running my fingers through my hair.

If you look close enough, you can see it in unanswered text messages. Flakiness. Nervous laughter. The panic that flashes through my eyes when a plan changes. When anything changes.

High-functioning anxiety feels like…

A snake slithering up my back, clamping its jaws shut where my shoulders meet my neck. Punch-in-the-gut stomach aches, like my body is confusing answering an email with being attacked by a lion.

High-functioning anxiety sounds like…

You’re not good enough. You’re a bad friend. You’re not good at your job. You’re wasting time. You’re a waste of time. Your boyfriend doesn’t love you. You’re so needy. What are you doing with yourself? Why would you say that? What if they hate it? Why can’t you have your shit together? You’re going to get anxious and because you’re going to get anxious, you’re going to mess everything up. You’re a fraud. Just good at faking it. You’re letting everybody down. No one here likes you.

All the while, it appears perfectly calm.

It’s always looking for the next outlet, something to channel the never-ending energy. Writing. Running. List-making. Mindless tasks (whatever keeps you busy). Doing jumping jacks in the kitchen. Dancing in the living room, pretending it’s for fun, when really it’s a choreographed routine of desperation, trying to tire out the thoughts stuck in your head.

It’s silent anxiety attacks, hidden by smiles.

It’s always being busy but also always avoiding, so important things don’t get done. It’s letting things pile up rather than admitting you’re overwhelmed or in need of help.

It’s that sharp pang of saying the wrong thing, the one that starts the cycles of thoughts. Because you said too much, and nobody cares, and it makes you never want to speak up again.

It’s going back and forth between everyone else has it together but you, and so many people have it tougher than you.

Get your act together.

Suck it up.

You’re not OK, you’re messing everything up.

You’re totally OK, stop being such a baby.

It’s waking up in the middle of the night sobbing because the worst-case-scenario that just went through your head at high speed seems so real, so vivid, that even when it’s proven to be untrue, it takes hours for your heart to slow down, to feel calm again.

Because how “OK” are you when a day without a plan is enough to make you crumble? When empty spaces make you spiral at the very anticipation of being alone with your thoughts? When you need to make a list to get through a Sunday: watch a show, clean your kitchen, exercise, answer five emails, read 10 pages, watch a show… ?

It’s feeling unqualified to write this piece because I’m getting by. It’s when you’re social enough to get invited to things, but so often find yourself standing in a room where it feels like no one knows you. It’s being good at conversation and bad at making close friends because you only show up when you feel “well” enough. Only text back when you feel ready. Because you’re afraid they’d hate you if they really knew you. That the energy would overwhelm them, and you’d lose them.

So you learn to rein it in. Channel it. Even though sometimes you do everything right (exercise, sleep, one TV show, five emails, 10 pages…) and you’re still left with racing thoughts, the panic. The not good enoughs.

When will it be enough?

Having anxiety means constantly managing motion that can be productive or self-destructive, depending on how much sleep you got. Depending on the day. Depending on the Earth’s alignment with Mars. Depending on…

It’s when “living with it” means learning how to sit with it. Practicing staying in bed a little longer. Challenging the mean, unrelenting voices that say you’re only worth what you produced that day.

It means learning how to say, “I need help.” Trying to take care of yourself without the guilt. It means every once in a while, confiding in a friend. It means sometimes showing up even when you’re scared.

It’s when answering a text impulsively and thoughtlessly is an act of bravery.

It’s fighting against your own need to constantly prove your right to exist in this world.

It’s learning how to validate your own feelings. That even though you don’t feel like you’re enough, and you’ll never be enough, it’s knowing you’re at least anxious enough to benefit from help. That admitting you need it doesn’t confirm voices’ lies. That taking a break doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

It’s finding your own humanity in the anxiety, in your weaknesses. It’s trying to let the energy inspire you, instead of bring you down. It’s forgiving yourself when it wins.

It’s a way to live, with this constant companion. Your bullying twin. Collapsible luggage you can bury away at a moment’s notice. Shove it under the bed. Pretend it’s not there until you can’t fit anymore. Until you can no longer ignore it. Until you have to face it.

A first good step is staring at it straight on and calling it by its name.

High anxiety can be a natural consequence of a busy lifestyle, but its existence is akin to the chicken and the egg. Which came first, the anxiety or the busyness? Am I always moving because I’m anxious or am I anxious because I’m always moving?

Either way, it’s not a noble way to suffer. It’s not a “better” way to be anxious. Just because you’re “functioning” doesn’t always mean you’re happy. And just because you’re functioning doesn’t mean you shouldn’t slow down, breathe and take one damn second to be happy the way things are.

In this very moment.

This quiet, short moment.

To remember the peace you found in that second of silence, until the electricity starts again, and you’re forced to move.

If you or anyone you know are experiencing symptoms of depression and need to talk to someone, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Featured Story – National Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

3 Breast Cancer Survivors: Stories on Faith, Hope and Purpose

by Vanessa Cunningham for HuffingtonPost.com

 

In life you may come across a strong, bold, beautiful and courageous woman. One who inspires, motivates and has a zeal for life. These three extraordinary women are inspiring to me, women in general and to breast cancer patients/survivors. In the midst of their darkest hours, these women decided to opt for a fighter mentality instead of a defeated one. To them, life was worth fighting for, as it’s a precious gift from God. Each survivor will share their story, key survival mechanisms, what they are up to in the world today, and will end with some words of encouragement. Meet Bershan Shaw, Robin Devonish Scott and Taneeka Brown.

Bershan Shaw

Her Story:

In 2007 at just 33 years old, Bershan’s dreams were abruptly eclipsed by the cold, hard reality of 1.2 cm tumors, endless visits to oncologists and having to face her own mortality at a young age. Bershan decided to face her illness head on, with a positive spirit, and with support from her family and her husband. To protect herself from infertility, she opted for radiation treatment instead of chemotherapy. All was well for a short while, but two years the cancer returned. Two weeks before her wedding, her doctors gave the bleak diagnosis: stage four breast cancer with six to nine months left to live. It appeared her fight was over.

The warrior in Bershan had been tested many times in her 33 years. But when she was told her cancer was unbeatable, and it was time to set her affairs in order, the warrior inside her rose up to meet the impossible with a spirit of hopeful defiance. Bershan leveled a steady gaze at her team of grieving oncologists and replied, “This is not my life. I will not die, because I was meant for more.” True to her word, Bershan has done much more. Rather than living in the shadow of a stage four cancer diagnoses, Bershan chose to work tirelessly on her mental, physical and spiritual health. Seven years later, she is cancer-free (no evidence of disease).

3 Survival Mechanisms:

Prayer. “God is my all in all. I got on my knees and prayed if God keeps me alive then he could use me as a vessel to help millions.”

Positive affirmations. “I say positive affirmations everyday nine times a day because it sticks in your head. Endless good comes to me in endless ways.”

Eating healthy and exercising. “You have to eat healthy and take control of your mind and body. I changed my thoughts and attitude, which changed my life. Change your diet and make changes for the better because your body is your temple.”

Her life today:

Bershan is a life coach, author and motivational speaker. Determined to be a blessing to others, she started a unique social network support site, URAWarrior.com. The site offers those struggling with life altering issues a safe, supportive place where they can find connection, comfort, inspiration, and above all, hope for a brighter tomorrow.Bershan is also the author of URAWARRIOR 365 Ways to Challenge You to a Better Life.

Words of encouragement:

Embrace your warrior spirit and “step into your greatness” and turn your pain into your purpose. Live life with no regrets because when you’re done, you’re done.

Robin Devonish Scott

Her Story:

One day Robin felt a lump in her breast and arm pit, but she just associated with her menstrual cycle. After a series of examinations, Robin was diagnosed with stage IIB cancer in 2009. After hearing these three words from her doctor “you have cancer,” Robin immediately started to cry uncontrollably as her husband Rory comforted her. Robin went through chemotherapy for six months, and radiation for seven weeks. During the times she experienced physical weakness, and the loss of her hair, she realized her circumstance changed her views and thoughts on life (for the better of course). She began to experience life through a different lens, becoming more empathetic and more spiritually in tune. The support of her friends, husband and church family kept her going during this difficult time.

Most importantly, she learned the importance of being humble. She stated, “Cancer has a funny way of stripping and humbling you in ways not otherwise imagined.” She has been breast cancer free since her initial diagnosis in 2009.

3 Survival Mechanisms:

Focus on what’s important. A lot of what we think and do is really not as important as living a life of purpose that is designed by God.

Learn to let things and people go. Learn to release the hurt and the people that have hurt you. Most people don’t know they have hurt you so just let go, heal from it and move on.

Prayer. Prayer is talking; prayer is purging; prayer is cleansing; prayer allows you to forgive; prayer allows you to obtain mercy; prayer is surrender; prayer is rejoicing; prayer is crying; but most of all, prayer is so necessary.

Her life today:

Robin is a coach and the Self Publishing Maven who helps her clients share and publish their stories. She also has a book “The Gift of Cancer“ scheduled to be released on December 8, 2004. She hopes to leave a legacy of books and information for people to glean from, for decades to come.

Words of encouragement:

There is nothing like the possibility of death to make you know what you want to do in life. Don’t wait until death is knocking to choose life. Choose it now and make the decision to live, in passion, on purpose and with a sense of urgency.

Taneeka Brown

Her Story:

In April 2007 she felt a lump in her right breast. At the time she was in between jobs, experienced an insurance lapse, and didn’t know when the next one would begin. This was a terrifying time for her. Soon after she landed a temp job, and within 3-4 weeks her employer offered her a permanent position with insurance. Although she was afraid to get a mammogram, she kept a positive mindset and went anyway. After her examination, her doctor told her that she had stage 2 breast cancer. All she could ask her doctor at that point was, “Am I going to live?” and “What do I tell my kids?” After her appointment she remembers driving to her kid’s school to pick them up and thinking she couldn’t look at them, because she knew what they were about to face.

Long story short, the cancer over seven years advanced to stage 4 and has metastasized to her brain, lungs, kidney, liver, back, neck, and chest wall. She’s had multiple surgeries bi-lateral mastectomy, 10-hour breast reconstruction, hysterectomy, and a brain tumor removal. She endured three bouts of radiation, one to the brain, breast, and chest wall. To her friends and family Taneeka is considered a true survivor, although her cancer isn’t completely gone. She has been an inspiration to many as she has fought tenaciously for her life. There were times when the results looked grimed, but she fought to stay alive to raise her three children. To this day, doctors are shocked she is still alive.

3 Survival Mechanisms:

Prayer. Taneeka attributes her presence on earth today by the doing of God. She prays, reads the bible and attends church.

Speaking. She speaks at various breast cancer events sharing her story and testimony with breast cancer patients, which is therapeutic for her.

Creative outlets. Taneeka has always been a creative. She decided to start her own jewelry and shoes line.

Her life today:

Taneeka, along with her son John Cunningham Jr., started a non-profit called All So Pink, where breast cancer patients can craft and sell their creations. She is also a great mom and role model to her three children. They live in Orlando, Florida.

Words of encouragement:

Put your faith in God! He made a miracle out of my circumstance and can do the same for you.

I was moved to showcase these women in hopes that women would draw strength, courage, and hope from these stories. And to keep in mind that when your circumstance looks grim, keep a positive mindset, embrace the love and support from friends and family, and allow your faith to carry you through.

Please show your love and support for these women by commenting below.

Vanessa Cunningham is a Huffington Post contributor, nutrition & wellness expert of Unhealthy No More, Inc., best selling author, writer and speaker. She helps busy professionals reduce stress, banish unhealthy cravings, lose weight and increase their energy levels. She has also been featured on CNN iReport, Black Enterprise, Essence, MommyNoire, Everything Girls Love and MindBodyGreen. Head on over to her website to get your FREE gift “10 Ways to Live a Happy and Healthy Life.”

September Featured Story – National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month!

7 tips for a healthy prostate

Everything you need to know to stay ahead of the game.

by John Casey for MensFitness.com

More than 190,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, according to the American Cancer Society. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to keep your prostate healthy as you age—and stay ahead of the game. Here’s what Christopher Saigal, MD, an assistant professor of urology at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center, says to do:

  1. Keep a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, guava and papaya contain lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy and kale also are good choices.
  3. Let your doctor know if you have a family history of prostate cancer. Having a father or brother with prostate cancer more than doubles a man’s risk of developing this disease.
  4. Include more soy in your diet from sources such as tofu, soy nuts or soy flour or powders.
  5. Don’t smoke.
  6. Eat more selenium-rich foods such as wheat germ, tuna, herring and other seafood and shellfish, beef liver, kidney, eggs, sunflower and sesame seeds, cashews, mushrooms, garlic and onions. Selenium reduces risk of prostate cancer.
  7. Get a PSA blood test and digital rectal exam annually, beginning at age 50. Men at high risk, such as African American men or men with a strong family history of prostate cancer should begin testing at age 45.

September Featured Story – National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month!

‘I Was 35 and Healthy—Until I Was Diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer’

What Sherry Pollex wants you to know about the disease that almost took her life.

BY CASSIE SHORTSLEEVE for Women’s Health Magazine September 22, 2016

Two years ago, Sherry Pollex was feeling off: She was super bloated (“I looked like I was three months pregnant,” she remembers) and had extreme abdominal pain.

“You know when something doesn’t feel right,” she says. “And I just knew something was really wrong.”

Like any health-conscious woman, she went to her primary care physician and was referred to an ob-gyn. The conclusion of an ultrasound: benign ovarian cysts. Nothing more.

Unfortunately, the doctors were wrong. Sherry’s pain worsened to debilitating pelvic woes. So just before jetting off on vacation, she called a family friend, a gastro-surgeon, and asked for a CT scan.

When the results came in, the doctor told Sherry to come in immediately—and to bring her family: The scan revealed tumors all over her pelvic area and abdomen.

Sherry was diagnosed with ovarian cancer—specifically stage III primary peritoneal carcinoma.

“When someone tells you something scary like that, that moment is forever ingrained in your head,” she says. “I was in shock. I was 35 and perfectly healthy with no family history of ovarian cancer.”

Sherry’s boyfriend, NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr., and her mother broke down in tears. Her response? “I said to the doctor, ‘What do I need to do to beat this?’” she says. “In that moment, I was in survival mode.”

Sherry’s doctor urged her to get to a major medical center—fast. If she didn’t, she could be dead by Christmas. It was August 7.

A Road to Recovery

Five days post-diagnosis, Sherry underwent a grueling seven-hour debulking surgery, where a gynecologic oncology surgeon removes as much of the malignant tumors as possible, enhancing the effectiveness of chemotherapy—of which Sherry would need 17 months of.

Starting chemo a month after that kind of a procedure was tough, especially considering it was pumped through her belly.

“I felt like my body was just recovering from the surgery and then they wanted to hit me with eight hours of toxic chemicals once a week,” says Sherry. “I was emotionally and physically exhausted.” Sherry lost her tastebuds, her appetite, 27 pounds of healthy weight, her eyebrows, eyelashes, and hair.

But as she puts it: “You don’t get a reprieve when you’re fighting a deadly disease,” she says. “You just dig in and do it. You want to live so bad.”

A long-time advocate of pediatric cancer through the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation, she also felt the need to fight for the children. “What a hypocrite I would be if I had spent all these years teaching my cancer kids to fight and then didn’t try to beat it myself,” she says.

So she fought.

The Aftermath

After major surgery and almost a year-and-a-half of chemo, today—two years later—Sherry says she’s lucky: She’s cancer-free—for now. “I never take one day of being healthy for granted,” she says. “I know that any day, cancer can rear its ugly head again.”

She’s right: Statistics from Texas Oncology suggest the recurrence rate for advanced stage ovarian cancer is between 60 and 80 percent.

Though she suffers from fibrosis—when scar tissue builds up causing pain—Sherry’s doing relatively well. “I had to change some of the things I was doing physically,” she says. Because of the scar tissue, once normal runs are now too painful, so she’s taken up yoga and pilates and walks three miles a day. These are small changes in the scheme of things. “Altering your lifestyle isn’t a huge sacrifice when you’re just happy to be alive,” says Sherry.

Of course, emotionally, it’s been hard. It “was tough to know that I couldn’t have kids,” she says. (Sherry’s surgery included a complete hysterectomy.)

But out of struggle comes a bright side. “You notice the sky is bluer and the grass is greener,” she says. “You wake up each day grateful to be there to make memories with family and friends. And you have a newfound purpose to educate other women about your experience so they don’t have to go through what you’ve been through.”

A New Mission

Since her diagnosis and treatment, Sherry started the site sherrystrong.org—a resource to empower women to know their bodies and recognize symptoms of ovarian cancer. “You have to be your own advocate for your health,” she says. “Had I not called our family friend and told him how much pain I was in that day, I wouldn’t be here today.” Only you know your body best. And sometimes you need to be the one to demand a test or ask questions.

Sherry is passionate about educating people on the options you have if, one day, you’re faced with a cancer scare. She’s a huge supporter of the Vermillion OVA1 blood test—the first FDA-approved blood test to evaluate cancer risk in a pelvic mass. “You can ask for it in the doctor’s office if you’re diagnosed with a pelvic mass,” says Sherry, noting she wishes she knew about it when she was told she had “benign” ovarian cysts.

OVA1 results help ID cancer risk and guide next steps—namely toward a gynecologic oncology surgeon if you’re at high risk for cancer. (If you have a pelvic mass, you can also take a quiz at knowpelvicmass.com to learn about your risk.)

Family history plays a huge role in knowing disease risk, too. While Sherry wasn’t “at risk” due to family history, if you are, testing for the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation can help you know where you stand.

“Knowledge is power,” says Sherry. “And we can’t change the survival statistics until we teach women what to look for and what to ask for.”

While ovarian cancer may be rare—the number is still significant. More than 22,000 women are diagnosed every year, and more than 14,000 women die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society.

And as Sherry says, “What is the definition of ‘rare’ when it’s your sister, daughter, or mother?”

August Featured Story – National Immunization Awareness Month!

Vaccinating on Time is Important for Disease Protection

National Immunization Awareness Month is a reminder that children need vaccines right from the start.

Parents agree that feeding and sleep schedules are important to help keep their children healthy. The same goes for childhood immunizations. Vaccinating children on time is the best way to protect them from 14 serious and potentially deadly diseases before their second birthday.

“The recommended immunization schedule is designed to offer protection early in life,” said Dr. Candice Robinson, a pediatrician at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “when babies are vulnerable and before it’s likely they will be exposed to diseases.”

Public health and medical experts base their vaccine recommendations on many factors. They study information about diseases and vaccines very carefully to decide which vaccines kids should get and when they should get them for best protection.

Although the number of vaccines a child needs in the first two years of life may seem like a lot, doctors know a great deal about the human immune system, and they know that a healthy baby’s immune system can handle getting all vaccines when they are recommended.

Dr. Robinson cautions against parents delaying vaccination. “There is no known benefit to delaying vaccination. In fact, it puts babies at risk of getting sick because they are left vulnerable to catch serious diseases during the time they are not protected by vaccines.”

When parents choose not to vaccinate or to follow a delayed schedule, children are left unprotected against diseases that still circulate in this country, like measles and whooping cough.

The United States experienced a record number of measles cases during 2014, with 667 cases from 27 states reported to CDC’s NCIRD. This was the greatest number of cases in the U.S. since measles was eliminated in 2000.  Staying on track with the immunization schedule ensures that children have the best protection against diseases like these by age 2.

Parents who are concerned about the number of shots given at one time can reduce the number given at a visit by using the flexibility built into the recommended immunization schedule. For example, the third dose of hepatitis B vaccine can be given at 6 through 18 months of age. Parents can work with their child’s health care professional to have their child get this dose at any time during that age range.

“I make sure my kids are vaccinated on time,” said Dr. Amanda Cohn, a pediatrician at CDC. “Getting children all the vaccines they need by age 2 is one of the best things parents can do to help keep their children safe and healthy.”

If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, talk with your child’s doctor or nurse. For more information about vaccines, go to www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents.

This story was written and provided by the CDC. Metro does not claim ownership of this article, the opinions and views expressed, or the content in any way.

July Featured Story – National UV Safety Month!

As summer ramps up in Pittsburgh, Metro wants to honor National UV Safety Month by reminding our patients that sun safety is important during this time of the year in order to avoid sun-related skin cancers. Nothing is better than kicking back on the weekends with a cold fruity drink and soaking up the sun rays that are seemingly few and far between this summer here in Pittsburgh! We have compiled a list of sun safety tips and facts for our patients to reference this summer to help ensure that the sunshine can be enjoyed safely!

First, let’s talk about skin cancer…

There are two main types of skin cancers; melanoma and carcinoma. Melanoma develops in the cells that produce melanin (which gives our skin color), and is the deadliest of all the skin cancers. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are the most common types of skin cancers, accounting for over 5.4 million cases per year in the U.S. according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It is reported that 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Skin cancer claims the lives of almost 10,000 Americans every year. The easiest way to avoid the risk is to limit your time under direct sunlight. Follow the tips below to have a fun and healthy summer!

Stay in the shade! The CDC reports that the sun is at its most dangerous between the hours of 10:00am-4:00pm. If you are out and about during these hours, do your best to stay in the shade. Whether you be out shopping around or kicking back at one of your kids’ sporting events, if there is shade available, use it!

Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, and re-apply when necessary! The CDC reports that the minimum SPF that your sunscreen should carry is 15, and you should be sure that it will protect you from both UV-A and UV-B rays. By using broad-spectrum sunscreen you are protecting your skin from two different types of harmful ultraviolet rays that the sun produces. Keep in mind that applying once is not enough, especially if you are swimming or participating in activities that cause heavy perspiration. Most sunscreens recommend that users reapply every 2 hours, so keep that in mind the next time you are kicking back at the beach!

Don’t count on clouds to protect you! You may feel that a partially cloudy day at the beach means that you don’t need to take precautions against sun damage. In reality, UV rays can penetrate clouds and wreak havoc on your skin just as easy as on a clear day. Cloudy skies may cool the temperature around you, making it less likely for you to feel your skin burning. Take the same precautions on a cloudy day as you would on a clear day, including re-applying your sunscreen every two hours, in order to assure that you aren’t causing damage to your skin.

Protect your eyes, too! Did you know that UV rays can also cause damage to the cells in your eyes? Cataracts and macular degeneration can be exacerbated by sun exposure, so make sure to pop on a pair of sunglasses that block glare and protect against UV rays (many brands advertise that they protect against 99%-100% of UV rays), or wear a wide-brimmed hat if you are going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time.

For a complete list of sun safety tips, check out the Federal Occupational Health’s website here and take their Sun Safety Quiz!

June Featured Story – Men’s Health Week!

Metro is celebrating Men’s Health Week by hosting 5 health information days at the health center from Monday, 6/12/17 through Friday, 6/16/17.  Monday features information on Cardiovascular Disease, Tuesday on Diabetes, Wednesday on mental health and suicide, Thursday on Prostate Cancer, and Friday on HIV/AIDS and general sexual health. Stop by the health center and grab an informational flyer on 5 of the deadliest health conditions affecting American men!

Monday, 6/12/17 – Cardiovascular Disease:

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Tuesday, 6/13/17 – Diabetes

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Wednesday, 6/14/17 – Prostate Cancer:

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Thursday, 6/15/17 – Depression & Suicide:

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