What's The Matter With Me? Podcast

I have multiple sclerosis, trigeminal neuralgia and I made this podcast to share what I’m going through.

It’s My 40th Birthday

Welcome to the What’s The Matter With Me? Podcast, Season 3, Episode 7: It’s My 40th Birthday

Coming up in this episode: pain and anxiety, brain damage, the beauty of nature. Hanging out in the backyard, it’s my 40th birthday. I’m thankful to be here processing my emotions and symptoms. Come hang out with me.

My name is John, I’m 39 years old, husband, and father of two, small-business owner, radio DJ, podcaster, and I have multiple sclerosis. So I made the What’s The Matter With Me? Podcast to share what I’m going through.

What’s The Matter With Me? is an MS podcast, and it’s also about other things. Past episodes can be downloaded on Apple Podcasts or from WhatsTheMatterWithMe.org, or wherever you get it. I’m not a medical professional. Don’t take this for medical advice. If you need medical advice, ask your healthcare provider.

In the backyard

Hi. This is John and you’re listening to the What’s The Matter With Me podcast. I know I sound chilled out, but it’s like 6:15 in the morning. I’m outside my house in the back yard. I woke up around 5:45. I was having kind of some anxiety. My body wasn’t feeling very comfortable, and I wanted to be asleep, right? It’s 5:45 in the morning. I’m like, “No I don’t want to be awake.” But you know I need to go to the gym and get some energy out. I haven’t been there since Monday. It’s been John John’s spring break this week so I’ve been busy watching him.

It’s my birthday

Now it’s my 40th birthday, okay. I’ll drop it on you like that. Today it’s Friday. It’s my 40th birthday. And I’m awake this morning, like I said, feeling anxiety, feeling pain. I’m having trigeminal neuralgia pain in my mouth when I swallow. So I’ll wake up, yawn. There’ll be spit in my mouth and I’ll swallow it and it will hurt real bad. So things complicated this morning, but it is my birthday, my 40th birthday, and I wanted to reflect on that a little bit.


You know having MS, having trigeminal neuralgia, getting old. I mean the thing is like everything is hard. All life is suffering. We’ve always got to remember that. To be honest, it’s my 40th birthday and I’m really very thankful … for my family, for my house. Right now I’m in my back yard and it’s spring. There are so many flowers all over the place. It’s beautiful. There are some flowers in the back, they look like sunny-side-up fried eggs. I call them the fried egg flowers.

Yesterday I barbecued chicken out here. We had chicken and grilled asparagus and Nami made potato salad. So we had this meal together, the kids and our family. We ate outside yesterday because it was a little warm. It was probably about 85. So it was nice. We had a good meal, and springtime is here in the garden.

My family, they’re beautiful people. John John went to an aerospace museum yesterday and loved it. He couldn’t fly the fancy flight simulator but he could fly the biplane. I’m thankful for the family. I picked Coco up from school yesterday because Nami was off work. She was here. I picked Coco up and she goes to me, “Papa, it’s your birthday.” And you know, it’s my birthday today, not yesterday, but just that she has some concepts or cares about my birthday. It really made me happy. It touched me.

Feels like an ax chopping my soul in half

And to be out here. To be with the family. Life is beautiful. Nature is beautiful. Even though I feel this horrible pain from trigeminal neuralgia … I described it recently. It’s like an ax. Someone’s chopping my soul in half with an ax. It really hurts. And my arm is really spastic and really clawed up, and my muscle is sore, my arm is sore. It really upsets me to have one usable arm and the other one, it’s kind of not usable unless I can use it as a door stop or something. I can push on things with it, kind of.

Problems compound easily

So, you know, I’m having all this anxiety. That pain, trigeminal neuralgia pain I was talking about, that gives anxiety. You know something my therapist once told me is that when you’re feeling that kind of anxiety, it makes pain worse. You feel more upset when you’re in pain. You know it seems simple idea, right? If something is upsetting you it makes other things that are upsetting you seem more upsetting. If one thing is upsetting you and it alone, that would be that. But if one thing is upsetting you and then something else is, both things feed back off each other. So it’s important to remember that because I am going through a lot physically and it wears me down.

You know I feel really upset talking about it, but I have to bear in mind that a lot is going on and happening. So I have to stay cool really. That’s kind of what I think to myself. I’m like, “Stay cool, Hoppin, stay cool.” So I’m going to turn the page on all these upset feelings. I’m going to stay cool and remember, bear in mind, all this stuff … Being upset makes other things worse. You know if I’m upset it’s going to make my MS worse.

So I’m just going to take a deep breath for a second, and pause.

I’m going to get back to talking about the garden and my family, things that make me really thankful to have reached 40 years old. I’m really proud and I have a lot to look forward to. My kids are going to go through a lot. They’re going to grow. They’re going to have a family. That’s a whole, that’s like …, I’m too emotional. They’re going to grow and have a family. And that’s a great thing.

Animal brain damaged

Something that my neurologist told me, I have a lot of brain damage in the brain stem area. That’s like your under brain, your animal brain. So near that area damage, it can cause you to have a hard time regulating your emotions. I think anyone would have a hard time, maybe. I’m probably being a little bit hard on myself to be like, “That’s why I’m upset.” I’m upset because I’m having pain and I’m awake. Insomnia, anxiety, trigeminal neuralgia, multiple sclerosis … you know, whatever … blah, blah, blah.

I don’t need to list it out, but I’m upset for real reasons. But also I have brain damage in my brain stem and it causes me to have difficulty regulating my emotions. So if I get too angry or if I get in a confrontation, I’ll flip out. People that know me are like, “Oh, that’s why he acts like a total lunatic.” Hey, you guys, this is the secret. I have brain damage in my brain stem. I mean that sounds like a cop out, right? I mean I’ve always thought it must be because I’m a lunatic that I act this way. But it’s because I get whiffed up in the moment and I lose it. That’s with anger. They say the anger is a sword that you wield that also as you use it against your perceived enemy you also are using it against yourself. That’s a big difficulty for me.

Anyway, now I’m hanging out here in the garden and I’m starting to see, “Oh, that plant needs water,” or whatever. Stuff like that. There’s a cat on the fence. Life is good. I’m 40. And nothing like being a gardener in your garden to get your mind off everything except being a gardener. I’m looking at this plant that I planted a few months ago. It hasn’t rained for about a week. And I’m starting to be like, “Does that plant need water?”

One of the complaining episodes

But I need to focus here on the What’s the Matter With Me podcast, and my 40th birthday, and thank you for listening. It’s kind of short episode. A lot of complaining. One of the complaining episodes, processing insomnia, trigeminal neuralgia, multiple sclerosis, pain, discomfort, and anxiety.

Let’s talk about the garden a little bit. I water it all by hand, and that’s a difficulty. But it’s a challenge. There’s no sprinkler. There’s just a hose. So I drag the hose around, and, obviously that’s hard because I walk with a cane. How am I going to carry a hose through the garden? Well, I get it done, but it’s complicated.

Falling in the garden

And last summer I fell a lot during the summer. Like basically every day. I had six tomato plants and four pepper plants. Something like that. And I fell a lot. They didn’t yield very much and I spent a lot of time in the really hot sun dragging the hose around. They yielded a lot. But when I was a kid my grandfather grew tomatoes. He was raised on a farm in Tennessee. So he was a farmer. He would grow tomatoes, and when it was time to harvest tomatoes … I remember it. You know I remember it through a kid’s eyes. Also that’s distorted in a way. I remember the tomatoes covering the entire countertop. He grew Roma tomatoes. He covered the entire countertop with them.

I did pretty good last year. I covered the countertop. I bet my kids got that in their eyes. But this year I haven’t planted tomatoes or peppers, and it’s kind of late to do so. And I think I’m not going to. I’m kind of sad about that because just like anyone I like a homegrown tomato. And also I have this memory of my grandfather and I feel sad that I’m not growing them. But I also feel happy that I’m not going to fall.

I fell so much. It was so hard. Because with tomatoes if you’re watering them by hand, you’ve got to get the hose around the tomatoes. You’ve got to make sure the hose doesn’t hurt the plants and you’ve got to get … It’s just too much for me. My garden is flat, thankfully, but it’s not even terrain. It’s dirt, and mulch, and piles of stuff. So it’s difficult to walk in, which is a good thing. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. And I fell a lot last year, so I don’t have tomatoes this year. I’m kind of sad about it but I’m going to be okay with that.

Everything in life is a trade-off. I just hope that I transmitted that tomato lust to my children and that they’ll grow tomatoes. Because it’s a good thing to grow things. We have a lot of fruit, a lot of apricots. Last night at dinner they were looking at the apricots and the figs on the fig tree. I was like, “Don’t touch them or you won’t eat them.” That’s a concept they’re trying to get, is like if you touch the tomatoes … Sorry, not tomatoes. If you mess with the apricots or the figs or any other fruit before it’s ready to be picked it won’t be good when it’s time to pick it. These are common, good sense lessons for a person to learn and to really internalize. My grandfather taught them to me so I’m trying to get the kids to know them.

Birthday indulging

Tonight I’m going to have dinner for my 40th birthday at parents’ house. They asked me what I want. I said, “Let’s barbecue.” I’m a Californian … I’m a barbecuer. People who know me know I love to barbecue. So we’ll barbecue and celebrate my 40th birthday. We already went out a couple of nights ago. Nami and I went to a nice restaurant here in San Jose, and we ate so much, and we drank so much. So I still basically feel hungover from that. It was night before last. I still feel chilled out.

Maybe that’s adding to my anxiety. Remember that saying about how when you feel bad that you can compound upon other challenges you have. So I have a lot of compounding. But the real problem is I’m hungover. I’m going to blame everything on that.

I am here

Thanks for listening to the What’s the Matter with Me? Podcast. You can find it on Apple podcasts, find it on iTunes. Wait, that’s the same thing. I have to learn that. Apple podcasts and iTunes are the same thing. Find it on WhatsTheMatterWithMe.org. You could just Google it, What’s the Matter with Me? Podcast. It won’t be that hard to find I don’t think. And if it is, you can contact me at whatsthematterwithme.org. Send me an email and be like, “I can’t find it. Are you gone?” And I’ll be like, “No. I am here.” I am here. Thank you for listening to the What’s the Matter with Me? Podcast.

Thanks for listening

Thank you for listening to the What’s The Matter With Me? Podcast. You know you can find all the past episodes, there’s like over 50 of them, on WhatsTheMatterWithMe.org and Apple Podcasts, and whatever app you use, just use it. Find the What’s The Matter With Me? Podcast.

Hoppin Hot Sauce is the best sauce in the world

Got to give a shout out always to the worldwide universal sponsor of the What’s The Matter With Me? Podcast, Hoppin Hot Sauce.

Got to give a shout out always to the worldwide universal sponsor of the What’s The Matter With Me? Podcast, Hoppin Hot Sauce.


It’s a movement, Hoppin Hot Sauce is a movement, check it out HoppinHotSauce.com

Thanks you for listening to the What;s the Matter With Me? Podcast S3 E7: It’s my birthday.


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