TK Sellman, RPSGT CCSH is a career journalist (Columbia Chicago, ’90). She was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia in 2010, which inspired her to go back to school to become a sleep technologist in 2012 and a professional sleep educator in 2014.
Her IH diagnosis was later abandoned when her neurologist in Seattle confirmed RRMS was to blame for her continual fatigue, as well as other symptoms of relapse (tremor, migraine, and tinnitus). She’s been taking Tecfidera since her diagnosis in 2013 and remains in remission.
At first, her re-diagnosis made her angry, as it came within a couple weeks of graduating from an intensive polysomnography program, when she faced the dread that comes with taking national board exams.
“At age 47, if you go back to school, your age is a big enough hurdle. Having the MS diagnosis was like taking the ultimate test. Do I really want to start this new career? Is it worth it?” She passed her board exams with flying colors and decided the answer was “Yes.”
Sellman worked in the sleep lab for nearly two years before deciding she needed to give it up for day work. Now she writes news copy and educational materials for the sleep technology field and serves as a freelance sleep health journalist and blogger, all which allow her to work from home, on her own time, while combining these skill sets.
When people ask her how long she has had MS, she says “I don’t know. I experienced MS hugs in 1975 at the age of 9. By age 20, I’d contracted two cases of mono. Fatigue and immune system problems have shaped my entire adult life. Then paresthesia started in 2001. It’s anybody’s guess.”
Sellman is also a creative writer who has written and published short prose and poetry about her experiences as a PWMS, which she has collected into a book she hopes to publish. Sellman currently co-admins the large MS group, MS Unplugged, with Stuart Schlossman, Deanna Kirkpatrick, and Amy Gurowitz. She has actively participated in local MS walks (Seattle and Bainbridge Island) since 2000, when one of her close friends was diagnosed.
Her symptoms are mostly invisible. “People know me as a high energy person, but what they don’t see is the me who doesn’t leave the house on the days when everything feels like a walk through quicksand.” She relies on mindful self-care, solid friendships (live and online), an arch sense of humor, and the stubbornness to keep going.
“I’m still the same person I was before diagnosis,” she says. “As long as I get my brain rest, it’s all good.” Fortunately, living on a heavily wooded island in the Puget Sound allows her many opportunities for fresh air and quietude.
She writes for MultipleSclerosis.net as well as other communities under the Health Union umbrella, as sleep problems figure prominently in all categories of chronic illness.