Terri Craft couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was squeezing her neck. It was March 2020. Craft, a kindergarten teacher at Lacure Elementary in Clio, Michigan, said she was looking forward to spending time at home with her three children and husband as the pandemic restrictions and closures began. Instead, something was happening with her body. The tight feeling in her neck – like she was being strangled – would not stop, day or night. Craft couldn’t sleep.
Terri Craft and her family. “I was sleeping when I could; I could hardly interact with the children,” Craft said. “I was at the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life.” She was anxious for answers about her health, especially after overcoming thyroid cancer 10 years ago. The stress and anxiety of her medical mystery was interfering with her ability to function in daily activities. Craft, who is a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan member, knew she couldn’t do this by herself anymore.
‘I need help’
After working with her doctor and visiting multiple specialists, Craft still did not have answers or solutions. Again and again, she described her problem; feeling crazy as she said her symptoms out loud during each visit. Exhausted, Craft, had lost 30 pounds in three months. She reached out to her primary care provider. “I said, ‘I need help. No one can figure out what is going on.’ I said, ‘I need anxiety medication,’” Craft recalled of the conversation with her doctor. “That was hard for me. Prior to that experience, I felt great; I was happy, life was good, things were great – my health was great. I didn’t need anything else to help me. I knew at that moment; I cannot do this on my own anymore.” Her doctor prescribed her Lexapro, an antidepressant. It worked for Craft: the overwhelming internal clash of her anxiety and stress faded to a dull roar.
Solving the mystery
Terri Craft Armed with medication to better manage her mental health, Craft continued to seek answers for the nonstop feeling of pressure on her neck. She sought out a different specialist, who did a scope of her throat. One of her vocal folds had a mild paresis – a partial paralysis due to a damaged nerve in the muscle. The damage stemmed from a surgery Craft had 10 years ago to remove her thyroid, which had not been functioning well and had a cancerous nodule. Craft also believes a cold she had in March 2020 contributed to the paresis. With the help of a speech pathologist, Craft learned how to exercise and stretch her neck muscles. As a result, the feeling of someone pushing on her neck has gone away. “It took a few months but now I do have those tools, I and know now that there’s not something terribly wrong with my body,” Craft said.
Being an advocate
Since that experience, Craft said she finds ways to connect with others when she sees them in distress. “When I hear someone might be struggling with their health or with life in general, I share that experience and how I had gone from absolutely thinking I would never need mental health help, or any sort of antidepressants or any sort of anti-anxiety medication – and getting to the point where every day was such a struggle,” Craft said. There’s no shame in asking for help, Craft said. She wants everyone to know how important it is to be your own advocate with health care providers, and to keep pushing until you find the help and answers that you need and deserve. “Asking for help is a strong thing to do, especially when you’re used to just handling it on your own,” Craft said.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below: PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382
- A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7.
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982
- Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider.
- Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth. More from MIBluesPerspectives:
Photo credits: Courtesy of Terri Craft