Beating Back the Worry Over New Norms

Beating Back the Worry Over New Norms

My left leg has been numb from the knee down for months.

It started with a couple of toes and climbed its way up. Every once in a while, the numbness and tingling will get ambitious and trek all the way up my left side, dulling everything along the way: leg, hand, arm, and face. The sensation stays put for hours or days before seemingly growing tired and dropping back down to my knee. Each time it retreats to my lower leg and foot, my concern drops as well, because lower numbness became my new normal months ago. 

Another day, another symptom

I used to be an alarmist about such things. I used to worry any new ailment or symptom was a sign that my sarcoidosis was marching onward to claim more territory.

The first time numbness and tingling invaded one side of my body from head to foot, I pecked away on my computer keyboard searching for answers on the internet while believing the worst. A stroke? A heart attack? I wasn’t sure what was happening and was on the phone to make an appointment with my doctor as soon as possible.

Now, the random numbness that invades parts of my body doesn’t even warrant a phone call unless it stubbornly persists — for months. That’s how long it took before I contacted my neurologist about my lower leg and foot, which feel perpetually stuck in a state of sleep. 

The new normal

I’ve always been a worrier by nature. I still am to a degree. However, dealing with sarcoidosis over the years has taught me to accept new normals to keep from burning myself out with worry. Sarcoidosis can result in many symptoms.

Now I only reach for the phone when something happens outside of my new normal that persists or impacts my daily life. Because as a friend pointed out to me years ago in a conversation that still resonates — worrying is a waste of time and energy. No good comes from worrying about something that may or may not happen. I can’t control the path of my sarcoidosis, but I can control how I react to changes in my health. 

Living in the moment

With the unpredictability of sarcoidosis, there’s always a lingering fear in me that worse could be around the corner. With my analytical Virgo nature, it’s all too easy to latch onto every change in my health — a cough that lingers, an increase in fatigue, pain or numbness — as a sign I may be headed there. When I find my thoughts veering down that path, I’ll read a book, watch television, or write — anything that distracts my mind from worrying. 

My sister has given me numerous journals over the years to record my thoughts in, including “Wear Sunscreen: A Journal For Real Life,” by Chicago Tribune journalist Mary Schmich. The journal contains a reprint along the bottom of its pages of a column Schmich wrote in 1997 to advise graduates. Every now and then, I’ll pick it up and read it as a reminder to live in the moment, or as Schmich says, “Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.”

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Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.

Athena Merritt was a journalist for 20 years until her prolonged battle with sarcoidosis forced her out of work. As she rebuilds her life, she hopes to bring humor, inspiration and knowledge to others in the process.
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Athena Merritt was a journalist for 20 years until her prolonged battle with sarcoidosis forced her out of work. As she rebuilds her life, she hopes to bring humor, inspiration and knowledge to others in the process.

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