podcasts, youtube series feature ‘uncomfortably numb’

I rang out the wretched 2020 and rang in 2021 with interviews about Uncomfortably Numb: a memoir with podcasters and the host of a YouTube series.

We talked about adjusting one’s life to an unexpected turn of events (like having the world shut down because of COVID, as well as, obviously, getting diagnosed with multiple sclerosis), the impulsive decisions we can make when we’re under stress (like “panic adopting” a puppy just months after getting diagnosed with MS, as many folks have done amid coronavirus shut-downs), and the impact of about writing about very personal topics.

Spoonie Author Podcast

Dianna Gunn, of the Spoonie Author Network — a network “devoted to sharing the stories of disabled, d/Deaf, neurodiverse authors (and/or authors who manage mental illness and/or chronic conditions) and educating abled people about what life is like for us as ‘Spoonie’ creatives” — conducted an interview with me where we discussed how a multiple sclerosis diagnosis upended my life and forced a stubborn me to pace myself when it came to my day’s activities (something with which I’ve had mixed results).

The Situation and the Story Podcast

Weeks later, Chris Moore, of The Situation and the Story Podcast — which interviews authors about “the ways our various identities and intersectionalities inform our stories and make us who we are” — chatted with me about writing this intensely intimate memoir which covers rough emotional terrain, from my own illness and questions about who I’d be as a writer if some of my symptoms worsened, to the death of my mother with whom I had a challenging relationship.

Dr. Brandon Beaber’s YouTube Multiple Sclerosis Channel

Then I heard from a California-based neurologist who specializes in multiple sclerosis, Dr. Brandon Beaber, who asked if I’d speak with him about Uncomfortably Numb and my experiences as an MS patient.

Dr. Beaber, the author of Resilience in the Face of Multiple Sclerosis, has a YouTube channel packed with informational videos about all things multiple sclerosis.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Dianna Gunn, to Chris Moore and to Dr. Brandon Beaber for the time you spent discussing Uncomfortably Numb.

spoonie author network podcast talks ‘uncomfortably numb’

Dianna Gunn recently interviewed me for her podcast, called the Spoonie Authors Podcast, a group which spotlights writers with disabilities.

For those who are unfamiliar with the phrase “spoonie,” the podcast offers this definition:

A Spoonie is a person who suffers from a chronic illness, condition, or disability that regularly drains them of their energy and/or causes acute pain, resulting in impaired function of ordinary activities. The nickname came from an article called The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino, which you can read on butyoudontlooksick.com. In my opinion, it’s still the best way to describe to non-Spoonies what life for us really feels like.

In The Spoon Theory, spoons are used as symbols for every-day activities, such as showering, making lunch, collecting the mail, and so on. Many of us don’t have enough ‘spoons’ to handle the simplest of routines.

writer andrea buchanan calls memoir ‘heartening’ & ‘frank’

Beginning of EverythingNew York Times bestselling author and memoirist Andrea J. Buchanan was kind enough to read an advance copy of my book, Uncomfortably Numb, and to share her thoughts about it.

Given that Buchanan struggled for over a year with the devastating impact of a tear in the membrane protecting her brain and spinal cord — as detailed in her memoir, The Beginning of Everything: The Year I Lost My Mind and Found Myself her words about my MS-centric book mean a great deal:

Meredith O’Brien writes deftly and gracefully about the shock of becoming an unreliable narrator as she navigates both disbelieving doctors and the challenges of her own changing brain in the process of searching for answers to the concerning symptoms she experiences. A journalist by training and a writer by nature, she fearlessly investigates, contemplates, and confronts her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis as she learns to adapt to her body’s new way of being in the world. Her frank look at what this process is like for both herself and her family will be heartening to anyone who has lived with the uncertainty of chronic illness.

Uncomfortably Numb: a memoir, goes on sale March 3.

Image credit: Amazon.

‘dietland’ author lauds ‘uncomfortably numb: a memoir’ for its ‘clear-eyed and courageous voice’

UNCOMFORTABLY_NUMB_COVER reduced sizeIt’s coming.

In less than a month.

My memoir will be available for sale.

At the beginning of Multiple Sclerosis awareness month.

This is more than slightly terrifying. My memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, is the most personal work I’ve written to date. Hopefully folks will embrace its vulnerability and dark humor. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed. Tightly.

Dietland coverMeanwhile, it gives me a shot of confidence that Sarai Walker, the author of the much-praised Dietland (yes, the book that was made into a TV show), has kind words for Uncomfortably Numb. In fact, my publisher put an excerpt of Walker’s blurb on the cover.

Here’s Walker’s full blurb:

In Uncomfortably Numb, Meredith O’Brien writes unflinchingly about her life before and after her MS diagnosis. Detailing her treatment, her struggles to be taken seriously by doctors, and the effects of it all on her family, career and sense of self, she writes in a clear-eyed and courageous voice, bringing the reader along with her as she navigates this profound, life-altering experience.

Thank you Sarai!

Image credits: Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing and Amazon.

 

 

 

an issue of chronic illness & transparency

A new post I’ve written for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s blog, MS Connection, explores the issue of how open someone should be when they have an invisible illness.

Do you tell everybody about your illness, immediately? Do you incrementally parcel out the info about what’s happening to you on an as-needed basis? Or do you only tell people when your symptoms force you to become public?

These are questions with which I still wrestle.

An excerpt:

Do I walk over and explain to the dude in the garage—the one who’s been giving me the stink eye ever since I pulled into a disabled parking spot—that, while I appear to be healthy, I actually have MS?
 
Do I tell my students what’s going on when I’m pressing my icy drink against my neck to cool me off while I’m teaching inside an overheated classroom, fretting about whether my MS heat sensitivity will flare up?

I face these situations quite frequently, wondering whether I should explain my MS to people so they will understand my actions and reactions, or if I should just keep quiet.
 
Four years into my MS odyssey, I haven’t yet found the sweet spot.

Read the rest of the post here.

Image credit from MS Connection.

after you’re diagnosed with an illness: you suddenly notice it everywhere

iStock-961375112Way back in the late 1990s, when my husband and I were in fertility treatments, it seemed as though pregnant women were everywhere. In stores. On city streets. On TV and in movies. In my friend groups. At family gatherings.

When I was so craving a child — and failing to conceive one — seeing so many gestating women felt like grains of salt in an open wound. I distinctly remember trying to escape all things maternal on Mother’s Day 1997 when the angst of my infertility felt especially potent. I opted to watch NBA games. Certainly I could seek refuge from babies and all things maternal there. Wrong. Pre-recorded segments of athletes thanking their moms for all their support over the years were featured during breaks. Until I eventually became pregnant with twins, reminders of my infertility seemed painfully omnipresent.

I was reminded of those days after I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014 and suddenly started paying close attention to every reference to the disease, whereas in the past, they’d whisk past me like the wind. The MS references I saw in pop culture in those early months after my diagnosis, were almost always dire and sent urgent pangs of fear about my future through my heart.

The National MS Society recently published my piece, “Fever Fatale” about this subject on its MS Connection. Here’s an excerpt:

“A fever could be life threatening.”
 
That single line from an old episode of “The West Wing” prompted me to immediately Google whether, in fact, a fever is fatal to someone with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, something with which I was diagnosed in the summer of 2014. Fresh from learning I had MS, this mere suggestion plunged me into a panic. A search of “fever and multiple sclerosis” yielded over 590,000 results.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Image credit: MS Connection.

what’s it like to have an mri when you’re claustrophobic?

My new piece at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s MS Connection blog tackles the topic of what it’s like for a someone (that would be me) to have an MRI when you’re claustrophobic, particularly when your head has to be enclosed by this lovely little thing called a “face cage.”

An excerpt of the piece:

“… [A] technician beckons me into the large room where the behemoth machine resides.

This is when the fun starts. And when I say ‘fun,’ I mean the opposite of fun. I really mean ‘terror.’ I mean a trapped-inside-something-and-can’t-get-out terror. It’s at this point when, after placing my head between two hard pieces of plastic, the technician clicks a hard plastic cage over my face and into those twin pillars. There is a relatively narrow rectangular opening above my face, but there’s no avoiding the fact that I am confined. The face cage is about two inches away from the tip of my nose. Its mere presence makes me feel like I can’t breathe. Like I’m being punished. Locked up.

Did I mention that I’m claustrophobic?”

Read the full post here.

new piece: #IAmAPreExistingCondition

ms_connection_blog_0823_finalMy first post for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website, MS Connection — about when the politics of the national healthcare debate becomes personal — has been published.

It’s about when you, or someone close to you, has an illness that, should the Affordable Care Act’s protections for pre-existing conditions be repealed, could render you uninsurable, potentially putting your health and your family’s finances at risk.

The piece begins this way:

Since last summer’s failed congressional efforts to repeal many provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA), the hashtag #IAmAPreExistingCondition has peppered countless social media updates.

Current and former cancer patients use it on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Asthma sufferers post it, too. Ditto for people with diabetes, mental health issues and heart ailments.

Read the rest of the piece here.

Image credit: MS Connection.

essay: ms keeps some patients under summertime house arrest

the-mighty-300x300The website The Mighty has published a piece of mine about the brutal impact of summertime heat and humidity on multiple sclerosis patients.

“I am locked in a personal war with heat and humidity,” I wrote in the piece, my first at The Mighty where I am now a contributing writer. “To me, they are more than mere summertime annoyances, inconveniences that cause one’s hair to frizz, make-up to melt off one’s face in a colorful oil slick, and perspiration to soak one’s clothing with unsightly blotches. To me, heat and humidity are my jailers.”

Read the whole essay here.

Image credit: The Mighty website.