Nikki Louiselle

@justshakeitoff | contributor
Hi there…I’m Nikki. I’m forty-eight years old and I’ve been married to my husband, Mike, for twenty-six years. I’m a mom to the Lou-Crew; Mason (22), Ellie (20), Mabel (16) and Bram (16). Nope…not a typo. Yep…twins. Most days I’m just trying to figure it all out as best I can. Oh yeah…and I also have Parkinson’s Disease. Grab a cup of coffee or cocoa or a glass of wine…no judgement here…and join me on this journey. Buckle up. It’s bound to get bumpy.
Community Voices

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What I Felt in the Immediate Aftermath of My Suicide Attempt

Fear, anger, shame, sadness. These are just some of the emotions I experienced in the immediate aftermath of my suicide attempt. The days, weeks, months and even years following an attempt can look so very different for everyone. This is just a small window into one survivor’s — into my — personal experience. Fear. Part of me wanted nothing more than to go home and part of me was terribly afraid of going home. This would have been a fear-filled next step for me regardless of where home was. But, home was teeny, tiny little Ellsworth. If you know… you know. There were certainly many, many people right there willing to love on me and hold me up. But, there were just as many people ready to ignore and condemn. To some, I was no longer someone they would or could associate themselves with, so they avoided me. To others, I was someone they sought out, someone they wanted to talk to, because they could then go talk about me. I know. That may sound a bit harsh. But it was real. And it was scary. The fear of who was next to leave. I lost friends. I lost relationships. People left me. Some slipped away silently with no explanation or goodbye. Others left with a thunderous rebuke of what I had done. All made me fearful of just how many there were who would follow them. It’s been 30 years since my attempt. Some of these friendships have thankfully been restored over the years, but only after some really hard conversations. Some of them have not recovered. All of them, I have to believe, are just as they should be. Anger. So much anger about so much. I had to see a therapist and that made me angry. They took the telephone out of my hospital room so I had no contact with my friends — angry. They did not allow me to have a pen or a pencil. They took my shoelaces away and wouldn’t let me use real silverware. I was in terrible physical pain, but my orders called for no pain medications as my body was still working to rid itself of toxic levels. I was angry. But, the first and most striking thing I was angry about? I was angry I had survived. I know. Harsh… again. But true. I was angry I was there and I was angry because it meant I had “failed”… again. It was suicide I “failed” at, but I still felt like I failed. I can only imagine what some of you are thinking right now. “That’s really messed up.” “She’s mad because she lived?” “She’s thinking ‘crazy.'” “She needs help.” And my response to every one of those thoughts? Yes! Yes, because that is the reality of what depression and hopelessness and self-doubt can look like and sound like. It is nothing more than a bunch of lies, disguised as truths, attacking your vulnerable mind and heart. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Shame. Shame on you. Shame on you for skipping class. For letting it get so out of control. For lying to everyone around you. For squandering your scholarships. Shame on you. For everything you put your mom and dad, your sister, the rest of your family and your friends through. For doing something so reckless and selfish. For trying to take your own life. Shame. On. You. Yeah. There was plenty of the shame to slog through. Sadness. And then the sadness. Where it was dark and lonely, and yet, at times, the only place I felt safe. I was sad for my parents and my sister, that their lives had become focused on my attempt, my recovery, my mental health. I was sad for my best friend when I remembered she was the one who found me, she was the one who had to see what she saw and quickly figure out, “What now?” I was sad about everything I had given up, about the future I felt I had lost. 1.800.273.8255 Mental Health Awareness Month ended in May. But that is not the last of the work that needs to be done. I’m sharing this today in the hopes it reaches the person or people who need to hear it most. Whether that is a lost soul contemplating a way out. A healing soul walking their own path through the journey of healing. Or a family full of questions and uncertainty. To each one of you: You are heard, you are seen and you are worthy. There is a healthy way through this and suicide is not it. Suicide, whether attempted or completed, whether recent or long in your past, is not the way through. Please read that and hear that as many times as you need to. And, please, reach out. My story is not over; There is so much more I want to share. These emotions never completely go away and healing is a process that is never completely over. As I have said before, I will continue sharing more of this part of my story with anyone who wants to learn more. If you have questions, please don’t be afraid to ask them. We don’t know what we don’t know. If it’s something I’m not comfortable answering, I’ll respectfully let you know. But if answering the hard questions, if sharing the raw details, helps just one person feel less alone and less desperate, then it will be worth it.

Why I'm Sharing My Suicide Attempt Story 30 Years Later

May was Mental Health Awareness Month, a nationally recognized time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and to help reduce the stigma so many of us experience. So… let’s talk about it. For those of you who know some of my pre-“Just Shake It Off” story, you know I’ve struggled with my own mental health issues. I’ve fought, and still do fight, my own battle with depression. I first was required to seek the counsel of a mental health professional 30 years ago. Knowing the stigma mental health issues tend to carry today, in 2021, just imagine what that was like 30 years ago, in 1991. You see, I  have a story to share and I don’t know quite how to go about it. I’m hoping to swiftly work my way through this writer’s block … which should actually more correctly be referred to as a bravery block. In sharing this story, I’m asking myself to be more raw and more authentic than ever before, and the truth is, I’m scared. Deep down, I think I always knew it was inevitable I would share this story, I just didn’t know when. I came so close to sharing it a couple of months ago on a significant date in March, but I lost my courage. And I regret that. I regret that because I will always wonder if I had worked through that fear and found the courage to share this story three months ago on that day in March … could I have changed another story two months ago on a day in April? Project Semicolon ; Have you ever heard of Project Semicolon? It is an American nonprofit organization founded in 2013 and known for its advocacy of mental health wellness and its focus as an anti-suicide initiative. But why did the organization choose such a seemingly random name and symbol for their identity? I’m glad you asked, because the word-nerd writer in me loves this creative connection. And it is not random at all. An author uses a semicolon when they could’ve used a period and chosen to end their sentence, but instead … chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life. The semicolon symbolizes you, deciding your life, your sentence, your story, is not over yet. And I think that’s a pretty cool connection. So, now when you see a semicolon used outside of a traditional piece of writing, you’ll understand the significance of that semicolon. Inked. That photo up there? That’s me. That’s my arm and my tattoo. My semicolon tattoo. I got my semicolon tattoo in 2015 after finding my way through a dark time. I got it as a reminder that, as the author of my story, I chose to continue my story. I got it as a reminder. Because on March 19, 1991 … I made a different choice. As the author of my story, I chose, on that day, to end my story. Cont;nue I am a survivor of a suicide attempt. Wow. That is the first time in 30 years I’ve said those words “out loud” to more than one person at a time. And it terrifies me. Very, very few people who did not know me in 1991 know this about me. Well, they didn’t. I was 18 years old. I was in my freshman year of college at Northern Michigan University in Marquette on scholarship. It was a Tuesday. It was Wednesday before doctors could say with any confidence I would survive. This is so hard. I can close my eyes, 30 years later, and be back to that day in an instant. Everything is right there … the sights, the smells, the sounds — everything. But, I don’t know how much to share. I don’t want my story to be a trigger for anyone. But, I also don’t want to disguise the reality of what this is, what this looks like, and what this feels like. Bob Goff, a well-known author and public speaker I admire says, “We can’t fix what we don’t take the time to understand.” So, I guess I’ll just start trying to help us all understand and I’ll see where the words lead. Where it started. I absolutely loved high school! I know, I can hear so many of your groans from here. I recognize I’m in the minority, but I really did love high school and would do it again in a heartbeat. I had a summer job. I had a car. I had friends. I had sports. I had excellent grades. And I had a plan. I knew where I was going after high school and what I was going to study. I know how to work hard. My parents instilled that in me and they led by example. That summer job — I started when I was 12 and worked there until I was nearly 19. That car — I made biweekly payments to my parents. The sports — as a softball pitcher, I challenged myself to throw 100 pitches a day. I wanted to be faster and stronger and that wasn’t going to happen without hard work. As a basketball player — I played for Ike, no further explanation about hard work needed. But the excellent grades. I loved academics and the grades came easily. I still worked hard to stay on top of things and I still had to study, but none of this was a struggle. I never really needed to ask for help. Except trigonometry. We’re not going to talk about trigonometry. What happened? In August of 1990, our moms helped me and my best friend since kindergarten move into our dorm. It was all there, right in front of me. My plan. My dream. In real life. I was starting college with my best friend and I loved everything about it. Campus was easy to navigate and there was always something fun to do. We got along quickly and easily with our suitemates. I liked my flexible schedule, my professors and (almost) all of my classes. There was that one class, a math class, that had me redeclaring my major only one month in, but, other than that, things really were just how I had pictured them. Until they weren’t. I thought being academically strong and moving smoothly through high school meant I was well-prepared for college-level academics. I had the tools I needed. I was a diligent note-taker. I would study and restudy exam content. I always loved turning in a well marked-up and crossed-out rough draft. And I had survived multiple peer reviews. It wasn’t until I started struggling in one of my college classes that I realized there was one tool I was lacking. One very important tool. In high school, I had never had to ask for help. And now that I needed it, I had no idea how to ask for it. And things got out of control. Quickly. I was stuck on an assignment and needed to ask for help. But, I didn’t know how to do that. So, I didn’t finish my assignment. And, in my mind, I couldn’t go to class with an incomplete assignment. So, I skipped class. Just this once. But, when I looked at the syllabus and saw the topic of the next lecture, I knew I would have trouble comprehending it because it piggybacked off the assignment I didn’t complete. And, again, in my mind, I couldn’t go to class unprepared. So, I skipped class… again. I promised myself that was the last time. But it wasn’t the last time, far from it. My lack of participation snowballed to another class, then another class, and another… until I was barely going to class at all. What was the point? There was no way I would catch up now. I went home for Christmas break and pretended everything was OK. No — more than OK. I pretended everything was great! I feigned pride over my (in)completed fall classes. I falsely proclaimed an equal level of excitement over my class schedule for the upcoming spring semester. And I intercepted the mail when fall semester grades were sent home. There was absolutely no way my parents could see those grades. No way I could face my parents and tell them I was on academic probation. I couldn’t face myself. Salutatorian, there on scholarship, turned failing student, there on academic probation. Awesome. Back to school. I returned to campus in January and was actually a teeny bit excited about a fresh start. Christmas break had given me the time to reset and reprioritize… or so I thought. Upon my return to campus, I swiftly found out I had officially lost my scholarships. No more NMU Presidential Scholarship and no more Medusa Corporation Outstanding Scholar Award. In my rational, healthy mind, I knew this was going to happen. But in my irrational, unhealthy mind, I felt like I had been sucker-punched. And to top it off, I had also ruined my sister’s opportunity to apply for and actually make deserved use of the Medusa Scholarship. It wasn’t just because of the grades and the scholarships. Sure, that was the catalyst for the downward spiral. But, there were plenty of other challenges that felt unbearable, insurmountable. I’m choosing not to share all of those details. Although not everyone who was a part of my life back then is currently an active part of my life, I greatly respect all of them and their privacy is important to me. I didn’t tell my parents, or my best friend, or my suitemates, or any of my friends how deeply I was hurting. And I never asked for help. I gave up. I no longer went to any of my classes. I didn’t go to any sporting events or movie nights or dorm parties. I began losing all of the friends I had made. And still, I never, not once, asked for help. And now, things had gone on for too long. There was no way I could admit to my parents how terribly I had messed up. There was no way I could return to my little hometown for the summer and face the friends and family and community I knew I had let down. Hell, I could barely face myself in the mirror. There was nothing I could do. Except… there was one thing I could do. So, on that Tuesday afternoon in March, I did what I saw as the only way out. I waited until all three of my roommates had left for class. Then, I waited a little while longer to make sure none of them came back for anything forgotten. I started writing a letter I couldn’t find the words to finish. And then, I tried to take my own life. I attempted suicide. And I survived. Afterword. While this may seem like the appropriate spot to say “the end” and sign off of this part of the story, it’s really only the beginning. As hard as this has been to write, and as exposed as I feel right now, there is so much more I need to tell you. Suicide — completed, attempted, interrupted — suicide on any level leaves in its wake so much collateral damage, so much heartbreak. And we need to talk about it. If we’re ever going to fix this, we need to take the time to understand this. I’m adding a new category to my blog focusing on mental health awareness and suicide prevention. In that space, I will continue sharing more of this part of my story with anyone who wants to learn more. If you have questions, please don’t be afraid to ask them. We don’t know what we don’t know. If it’s something I’m not comfortable answering, I’ll respectfully let you know. But if answering the hard questions, if sharing the raw details, helps just one person feel less alone and less desperate, then it will be worth it. I wish this didn’t feel so urgent and necessary. I wish I didn’t feel like I needed to do this. But, it does and I do. I feel this pull, this responsibility to do more. As I said at the beginning of this, I lost the courage to write and share this part of my story back in March. And I will always wonder if I had just been brave enough… could I have reached Tanner… I need to do more. I need to do better. For myself, for Tanner and for all those I love. I don’t know with any measure of certainty exactly what more or better looks like right now, but I’m going to be brave enough to try to figure it out. Opportunity to help. As a way to bring attention to the importance of suicide awareness and to honor all those affected by suicide, I’ve designed a new semicolon t-shirt and added it to the Just Shake It Off Store. Profits from the sales of this shirt will be gifted to the Michigan Association For Suicide Prevention (MASP) in Tanner’s name.

Community Voices

More About How It’s Going With My Post-COVID battle

how it’s going…

saturday, february 20, 2021…

COVID, or more correctly…Post-COVID Syndrome… is proving to be quite the formidable opponent. I’d like to tell you that I’m just as formidable…but there’s that whole “be real with your readers” thing I’ve committed to. Truth is…I’m feeling anything BUT formidable these days.

And yet… other than NOT formidable…I can’t succinctly explain how I AM feeling.

My breathing is weak and wheezy. My energy is zapped. My concentration is laughable. I’m full-out exhausted. But none of that really captures it. I don’t know how to accurately capture it. Even now…trying to write this out…frustrated tears are falling because none of the words I string together will be sufficient.

I need to figure it out, though. I have a long-awaited appointment with a new primary in early March. But, I can’t exactly expect her to be able to help if I can’t tell her what’s wrong. Right…?!?

can’t find the words…

I’ve been here before. I’ve done this already. Trying to convince people…family, friends, physicians, myself even…that something really is wrong when nothing looks wrong. I look okay…but I’m not okay.

In one of my therapy sessions, my counselor and I talked about the challenges of invisible illnesses. At the moment, I don’t look like I have Parkinson’s Disease. I don’t look like I’m fighting post-COVID. And that’s great! It really is. But…might this all be easier if I did “look the part”? Would there be more understanding and grace from others if they could SEE what was wrong? Would I feel more worthy and deserving of their understanding and grace if I looked sick/injured/unwell…?

As you can tell from the title, I began writing this several days ago. And it’s still not right. It still doesn’t say what I’m trying to say. I considered deleting all of this drivel and simply sharing a link and saying “read this”. But…”be real with your readers”. So, here it is. The unedited, unorganized, messy cluster that is my heart and mind right now.

Thankfully, someone else figured out a way to put all of this into words in a much more cohesive manner than I appear capable of.

Please do me…and yourself…a favor. Click on amp.cnn.com/cnn/2021/02/19/health/post-covid-syndrome-long-h.... It explains what I can’t.

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Community Voices

More About How It’s Going With My Post-COVID battle

how it’s going…

saturday, february 20, 2021…

COVID, or more correctly…Post-COVID Syndrome… is proving to be quite the formidable opponent. I’d like to tell you that I’m just as formidable…but there’s that whole “be real with your readers” thing I’ve committed to. Truth is…I’m feeling anything BUT formidable these days.

And yet… other than NOT formidable…I can’t succinctly explain how I AM feeling.

My breathing is weak and wheezy. My energy is zapped. My concentration is laughable. I’m full-out exhausted. But none of that really captures it. I don’t know how to accurately capture it. Even now…trying to write this out…frustrated tears are falling because none of the words I string together will be sufficient.

I need to figure it out, though. I have a long-awaited appointment with a new primary in early March. But, I can’t exactly expect her to be able to help if I can’t tell her what’s wrong. Right…?!?

can’t find the words…

I’ve been here before. I’ve done this already. Trying to convince people…family, friends, physicians, myself even…that something really is wrong when nothing looks wrong. I look okay…but I’m not okay.

In one of my therapy sessions, my counselor and I talked about the challenges of invisible illnesses. At the moment, I don’t look like I have Parkinson’s Disease. I don’t look like I’m fighting post-COVID. And that’s great! It really is. But…might this all be easier if I did “look the part”? Would there be more understanding and grace from others if they could SEE what was wrong? Would I feel more worthy and deserving of their understanding and grace if I looked sick/injured/unwell…?

As you can tell from the title, I began writing this several days ago. And it’s still not right. It still doesn’t say what I’m trying to say. I considered deleting all of this drivel and simply sharing a link and saying “read this”. But…”be real with your readers”. So, here it is. The unedited, unorganized, messy cluster that is my heart and mind right now.

Thankfully, someone else figured out a way to put all of this into words in a much more cohesive manner than I appear capable of.

Please do me…and yourself…a favor. Click on amp.cnn.com/cnn/2021/02/19/health/post-covid-syndrome-long-h.... It explains what I can’t.

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Sharing Personal Journals From Our Family's Ongoing COVID Battle

It has been three months (plus one week) since I received my positive COVID-19 test. One-hundred-seven days since I first showed symptoms. It’s clear that the complications and setbacks I’m experiencing following COVID are not going anywhere soon. The posts I’ve shared on Facebook and Instagram, I realize now, were not quick status updates, but rather, long-term health status updates. It’s also clear, if you read, listen to or watch the news on any given day that I am not alone in these complications and setbacks. So many people think that once a person is sick with COVID, there are two end-results. You either sadly succumb to the virus or you recover. This is what I thought. Until now. You guys, there is this big, huge gray area. This elephant in the room that needs to be talked about. We don’t know what we don’t know. This is why I will bother. This is why I will take the time to do all this. We don’t know what we don’t know. So, let’s learn. Let’s pool our knowledge and our resources. Let’s share our stories and our experiences. Let’s learn together. How it started Friday, November 13, 2020 We could really use your positive thoughts and prayers of protection. Mason is quarantined in Mt. Pleasant after positive COVID exposure but thankfully a negative test. He has four more days of quarantine and finals immediately following. Ellie came home from school yesterday and is in isolation after testing positive. Thankfully, her symptoms have been manageable and we’re praying that continues. She is home for the semester and will complete finals remotely. I have several COVID symptoms. I’m quarantined at our house with Ellie, but safely separated. I’m awaiting test results. Mike and the twins have temporarily “re-located” for their quarantine period as they are all symptom-free at the moment. This is challenging. This is scary. This is in His capable hands. But we sure wouldn’t mind those extra prayers on our behalf. Saturday, November 14, 2020 Thank you so much for all of the thoughts and prayers for me and my crew. Mike and the twins are still away from the house and symptom-free. Ellie is very achy and extremely tired. But…her breathing is mostly normal and she’s been fever-free for 48 hours. My results came back this evening and I’ve tested positive. We will get through this. Monday, November 16, 2020 Thank you for all of the kind messages checking in on us. Here’s our latest update: Ellie had a tough day yesterday. But she said today is better. She’s still achy and tired, but that’s slowly improving. But her best news is she’s been fever-free for over three days! The twins are both still completely symptom-free and yet, both tested COVID positive. We are still waiting for Mike’s results. I’m about to get real. If you want sugar-coated, “it’s just a bad cold,” you may want to move on. It’s not here. I also just realized in proofreading this that it is the most discombobulated, all-over, mixed-up thing I’ve ever written and shared. My mind, like everything else, is just so weary right now. It’s been a really bad couple of days. My oxygen level is still acceptable, but is to a point where I need to be very diligent and attentive to what’s happening. I can’t do anything without tiring and feeling short-winded immediately. You know how when you step outside on a really cold day and the cold and wind just hit so hard and make breathing a challenge? That’s how every breath feels for me. Coughing is worse too, especially when I try to talk. If I lay or sit perfectly still and don’t talk, I might not end up in a coughing fit. I’m nauseous, but did get a little bit of soup down tonight. Thank you, Julie. And, the pain and the fatigue. Everything hurts: my nails, my teeth, even my hair. And I could sleep 16-18 hours every day and still be exhausted. There have been lots of tears the last couple of days. It is so hard to be this sick and know that there is no one that can come in and help you… you’re on your own. I’ve never in my life been this sick. We continue to covet and treasure all of your prayers, your messages and your texts. Thank you, Kris, Danya, Michelle and mom for your helpful porch drops. We will keep fighting. We will do the hard things. We will get through this. Wednesday, November 18, 2020 Hope. Thursday, November 19, 2020 As of yesterday afternoon, we’re all under the same roof again. Well, with the exception of Mason who is in Mt. Pleasant still where we’re wanting him to stay and stay healthy. Mike being able to come back home does mean he tested COVID positive, as well, but thankfully remains symptom-free. The twins did each lose their sense of taste and smell, but briefly, as they both say it’s starting to return. Other than that, they also remain symptom-free. Ellie continues to recover and is healthier and stronger every day. I remain about the same. I have not noticed a measurable difference with the steroid or antibiotic. But the inhaler does help and I’m so grateful for that! Last night, my oxygen level was one number away from the threshold my doctor laid out for going to the ER. But I didn’t drop any lower.  The coughing is calm as long as I remain still. I’m still nauseous at times but did get a little bit of dinner down last night. Thanks, mom. Today, I’m too exhausted to even chew. Thank goodness for protein drinks. Please, please, please do your best to do what is being asked of us collectively, as a community, to stop this when and where we can. We are experiencing firsthand how cruel and cunning this virus is. From barely any symptoms for some, to severe and frightening symptoms for others. Respect the virus, respect the science and respect all those around you. Thank you for the sweet notes and messages. Thank you for helping feed and spoil my family with your porch drops and Venmo gifts. Thank you to everyone that continues to include us in your thoughts and prayers. We feel them sustaining us through this challenging time. What a gift it is to be loved and cared for by all of you. Friday, November 20, 2020 The mental and emotional weight of all of this is feeling very heavy today. Nothing bad has happened and I’m stable, but for whatever reason…today is hard. Monday, November 23, 2020 Ellie is getting stronger every day. She has a bit of a cough that comes and goes, but is on her way back to full health. The twins are good and still symptom-free. Mike has a cough, but he thinks it’s from working on our roof in the cold air. I’m hoping that if any of them were going to develop more severe symptoms, it would have happened by now. I’m about the same, with a couple of small improvements. And today, day 15, I will take any small victories I can! My temp is staying just below 100 instead of just above 100, so that’s good! My oxygen levels are still acceptable in the low to mid-90s. They drop to 90-91 when I try to do anything. The inhaler is helpful during these times when I do struggle to breathe well. I feel like I’ve hit a plateau. I’m not getting worse, which I’m so grateful for. But I seem to be “stuck” where I am, not getting better, either. I’ve completed both my course of steroids and antibiotics. I have a call into my primary to see if there is anything else I can/should be doing. This has been so hard and so scary. Tonight, I’m no longer afraid I won’t get better. I’m just working to accept I have a very long road ahead of me. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to be a writer without the right words. But my words would never do justice to all of the prayers, love and support you have covered us in. Thank you for loving on us. Thursday, November 26, 2020 Happy Thanksgiving! Mike, Ellie, Mabel and Bram have all finished their isolation period as of today without further complications or symptoms. We are so very grateful for this. I’m doing OK. My temperature is staying just under 100 and my oxygen is in the low to mid-90s. It does drop lower with any activity, but then eventually rebounds again. I talked with my primary on Tuesday. She said that we’re doing everything we can right now and went over the thresholds that would warrant going to the ER. She also said I have a very long road ahead of me. Thank you so much for the surprise porch drops from everyone over the last few days. Thank you for your messages and your prayers. Thank you for your time, for taking a moment out of your busy days to check in on us. It is so generous, so thoughtful and so appreciated. With so much turmoil, divisiveness and uncertainty everywhere, we are beyond blessed to be on the receiving end of so much goodness. In what has been one of the hardest and scariest times for us, we have been completely covered in love by this community. Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part of that and for loving on us. Friday, November 27, 2020 What a weird day. Ups and downs have me feeling a little like. For the first time in 19 days, my temperature is not within fever-range. I still can’t do very much at all, but…I did, in fact, heat up my own lunch today. That’s progress! But then, after waking up early this morning in terrible pain, Ellie spent four hours in the ER today. After some IV fluids, IV pain meds and a CT scan, they determined she has a kidney stone. The doctor feels she can pass it on her own without further intervention and that it should be within the next 12ish hours. So yay for progress, boo for kidney stones and go figure for 2020 keeping us all on our toes. Tuesday, December 1, 2020 Mike, Ellie and the twins are back to healthy and back to normal routines. I am so grateful that, with the exception of two or three ugly days for Ellie, they all dealt with very few symptoms or issues from COVID. I’m doing OK. I slept for 12 hours Sunday night and only woke up once. That felt great! My temp was below fever-range all day yesterday, not even rising in the evening as it has been. And I did a couple of very small tasks in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon. Those little glimpses of normal were much needed. Because my reality is, today is COVID day 23 and there are no clear answers to any of the questions I have. No one knows if some of the lingering symptoms will ever go away or if they’re part of my new normal. And that’s hard, mentally and physically. I can’t take a really good deep breath without pain. I can’t do much of anything without my oxygen level dropping into the 80s. I have daily headaches. I still cough. A lot. I’m easily confused and I constantly feel like I’m one beat slow or one step behind everyone else. Ev.e.ry.thing. hurts and I’m so, so tired. But those little victories?! They are the best. They keep me fighting. And, I’ll take every one of those I can get! Thank you. Thank you for the thoughtful notes and messages you’ve sent. Thank you for continuing to check in on us. Thank you for your offer of help. And thank you for your prayers, love and support that sustains us every day. We continue, even amidst our struggles, to be blessed! Tuesday, December 8, 2020 Today is day 31 since my symptoms began and day 28 since my COVID-positive test, and I think I’ve finally turned a corner! My temperature has stayed out of fever-range, even at night, for several days now. My oxygen level still goes down with any activity, but when I stop, my level is rebounding a little bit quicker every day. I can interact in conversations a little bit longer each day before I begin coughing and having trouble breathing. I’ve been able to, slowly, do a few small tasks around the house each day. Win. Win. Win. I’m still so very tired all day, every day. My focus and concentration are scattered, but I don’t know where the line for COVID ends and Parkinson’s begins on that. My entire body doesn’t ache as much as it did, but my chest is very, very sore, especially when I cough, yawn or try to sneak in just one good, deep breath. It will be a while before we know how much of the damage to my lungs is reversible and how much is permanent. But I am finally taking steps in the right direction. And that is not insignificant or small! Every thought and every prayer that continues to be sent my way is so treasured. COVID is scary. It is a very isolating and lonely illness. Each e-mail, each message, each porch drop is a lifeline. Thank you all for being my lifeline. Wednesday, January 6, 2021 You all sure know how to make a girl feel loved and cared for. I’ve gotten so many kind and thoughtful messages checking in during and following the holidays. Thank you so much to everyone that has reached out. I’m recovered from the initial COVID infection itself, but I have what they consider Long-COVID. Today is day 60 since my first symptoms began. 60 days. I’m, right now, in the midst of my second “relapse” since I was “officially” considered COVID-free. Many of my COVID symptoms are still present each day, but during a relapse, everything worsens. My cough amps back up again. The fatigue that has never really gone away escalates. My fever returns. My oxygen levels go back down and I struggle to breathe. At times, I feel such a state of fogginess and confusion. This could be Long-COVID. This could be Parkinson’s. It’s likely both. With each relapse, I’m basically back to where I was, just not contagious. My doctor said that my immune system was so very compromised to begin with. COVID compromised it even further. Combining that with only being able to sleep about three hours a night, it’s the perfect set-up for triggering these relapses. She also feels this is probably going to continue to happen quite often over the next several months, most likely even longer. It will be a long time before anyone can know the full extent of the permanent damage COVID has caused. We don’t know what we don’t know. Continue to seek factual information. Please, please, please continue to listen to the scientists and the doctors. Continue to do everything you can to protect yourself and others. And most of all, continue to be kind…to yourself and to one another. What’s Next… So, there. Now it’s all in one spot. The words and the content belong to me. And so does the fight. I don’t want the fight. I don’t feel like fighting. I’m tired. But…fight, I will. Follow this journey on Just Shake It Off

Community Voices

Happy New Year!

<p>Happy New Year!</p>
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Community Voices

decision day...

1992 was the first time I was able to vote in a Presidential election. 2020 will be the eighth opportunity I will have to vote in a Presidential election. And I have taken none of these voting opportunities for granted. I wouldn’t dare.

I grew up with my dad reminding me that if I didn’t take the time to vote…I better not waste other people’s time with complaints. Every semester of high school began with Mrs. Horton’s democracy speech and a “gentle” reminder of what a privilege we had been given. And Mrs. Strange made sure that every student that entered her Government classroom, graduated her classroom understanding the importance of the duty we have as citizens of a free country. I’m pretty sure my fellow Lancer alum know just what I’m talking about.

On the day this piece posts, we will be seventeen days away from what is, undeniably, one of the most talked-about elections of our time. I am not here to convince or persuade you to vote one way or the other. I am simply here to encourage you to vote. Right, left. Red, blue, Yes, no. Just vote. Please.VOTE. VOTE. VOTE.

there’s help for that…
If you’re not sure where to vote, or how to vote, or if you’re even registered to vote…no worries. I’ve got links to help you out.

The website iwillvote.com can answer just about any question you may have about voting in 2020.

Visit mvic.sos.state.mi.us for Michigan specific questions and answers

.And if you’ve already voted, check out this link to mvic.sos.state.mi.us/Voter/Index

the boxes are checked…

Voting will…actually already did…look a bit different for me this election. You see, #ParkinsonsDisease doesn’t really care about election day. Doesn’t really care if I am steady enough to make it to the polls that day or not. If I am able to, #ParkinsonsDisease doesn’t care if I am unable to manage the long lines once I do get there. #ParkinsonsDisease doesn’t care if I miss the opportunity to exercise my voting rights on November 3rd. But I do. I care. My disease has been a little more unpredictable than normal these last couple of weeks. I’m never really sure what each day, or hour, is going to put in front of me. But, I am sure of what it is not going to take away from me. My voice and my vote. Well, actually…#ParkinsonsDisease will probably take my voice at some point…but that’s a whole other post for a whole other time. Moving on…for the first time in any election, I voted by absentee/mail-in ballot. The boxes are checked, the envelope is signed, the ballot is turned in. Now, tag…you’re it.

GO VOTE!

Vote because my dad, and Mrs. Horton, and Mrs. Strange…? They’re right. It is our duty. It is a right we are afforded through the sacrifice of others. And, it is a privilege. Don’t throw any of that away.

Oh…and can someone please grab me a sticker. You don’t get one when you vote at home.

*DISCLAIMER* It is with great intention that this post did not take a side or lean one way or the other politically. It is simply my PSA urging you to exercise your exceptional right to vote. I respectfully ask that any discussion in the comments be held with that same intention.

Now, go. VOTE.

Community Voices

same, but different...

This isn’t going to be a very long post. I really just wanted to get these thoughts down and have them saved for us to read and remember “someday”.

We moved Ellie back into her dorm on Sunday for her sophomore year at Olivet. I was doing some reading, writing, and editing on the ride home (before we broke down and added five hours to our trip…but that’s a post for another day) and queued up this post I wrote on the day after move-in last year. www.justshakeitoff.com/time-for-her-to-fly. The emotions were all the same, but the mood…the mood was so very different.

If you’ve already moved your son or daughter in for their return to campus…you probably know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t moved your son or daughter in for a return year…you’ll soon find out what I mean.

Same, but different.

She had to sign up first for a wave and then for a particular time slot within that wave. She then had to be cleared and approved by Student Services. She checked in at a central location…not her residence hall…and could only enter the building once the student in front of her had exited. She was only allowed to have two family members with her to help. She could not move in at the same time as her roommate. And she, nor we, were allowed to leave her room without a mask. None of this really surprised me, given our global situation, and I’m grateful for the careful thought and diligent execution put into student check-in this year.

Then things started to look very different.

At check-in, along with her room inspection check-in list and her room key, she was also given an OC provided #COVID19 care package. But this care package was packed not with OC car decals and pencils and lanyards, but with OC face masks, social distancing rules and guidelines, and hand sanitizer. And the residence hall. She was on the second floor, not the first, this year, and Mike and I didn’t realize there was not an elevator until the day before. But despite all of these changes to the check-in routine, the biggest difference was not anything we could see or touch or do anything about. The biggest difference was the silence. It was move-in day on a college campus. And it was strangely, deafeningly quiet. So very quiet. Her suitemate was the only other person we saw and we heard one…ONE…other voice further down the hall. That’s it.

It took us about the same three hours to get her settled in that it did last year. I’m pretty sure I spoke the same words of advice I did last year. I hugged her goodbye just as tightly (maybe a little more) as I did last year. And my tears fell for about the same number of miles toward home as they did last year.

Two and one-half days later, she is once again loving it and we are once again missing her.

Everything so much the same…but everything so very, very different.

Community Voices

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