From Being a Social Worker to Needing One

Gentle greetings, I’m Lina T. These are a couple of layers of my health journey.

I was already a widow in my late 20’s and I had the courage to graduate college for the second time while I was grieving the loss of my newlywed husband which I adored. This info is relevant because before he departed, he told me: “if I ever die, you have to have high standards for whomever you marry again”. I got mad at him for saying that. I remembered.

We had a car accident some weeks later he made that comment, and he didn’t survive. I was broken in my heart and physically, but I focused on finishing my last internship that semester and graduated from Florida Atlantic University for the second time around as a Social Worker. The first time I was in another country in South America where I was raised.

My life's passions

10 years passed and I was following the steps of my dad as an entrepreneur, building a makeup line from scratch. Makeup was my second line of work and it was my outlet for being creative and talk about positive and pretty things, which is the opposite when you become a Social Worker.

Combining your skills and interest

Then one day I started thinking, how can I combine social work and makeup in a way that one meets the other?

I had a revelation to do makeup to women that were very ill and their treatments affected their self-esteem and self-image. So, I opened my first non-profit where I did most of my serving work in hospitals while women were having their chemotherapy treatments. We gave them makeup and I taught them how to draw their eyebrows and eyelashes. I had a team, family members, professionals, and friends which I will be grateful for the rest of my life. I also served kids and anyone that had self-esteem issues or chronic illness including my mom and my niece that suffered from a stroke. I felt so happy doing this job but I was missing having my own family, dreaming about raising kids and teaching them everything I know about “Compassion”.

A growing family

I finally, had my dream family. An amazing husband and a baby boy. We lived in California and by 2015 when my boy was one year old, we decided to buy a home in the Midwest and raise him there. I wanted a peaceful life and a less stressful one.

The same winter we moved to Minnesota I started losing my hair in patches and I started having the most horrific pain all over my body. My first diagnosis was fibromyalgia and basically, I was forced to learned how to live in pain for the rest of my life, my doctors will say.

Building resilience

I did not accept this as my death sentence, I would talk to people that had this and they will say that my case seemed very extreme for a fibromyalgia fighter. A year later, my ANA (antinuclear antibody)test finally came back positive, and I had some relief because as you may know, they can be positive and negative results if you are not having a flare at the moment the test is done. I finally had some relief after I started treatment for systemic Lupus. I started noticing that my behavior was changing, the pain was making me lose faith so I decided I was going to become the best social worker I have ever known. I restlessly started reading as if I was going to publish a book. I became obsessed with medicine. The more weird painful feelings I had the more I would read. Then the unthinkable happened. I became completely bedridden. I was completely exhausted from suffering and at this point, all my friends were showing signs of pity towards me so I isolate myself even more.

I was constantly in the ER, and the medical bills started to pile up. My husband was forced to quit his 13-year-old job because we had to move back to LA and I was too sick to do it so he had to quit.

We lost it all, but we were able to keep the house. The house that eventually we discovered was the cause of my actual 27 diagnoses as of today in 2020. We have mold in the house and “that is what ruined my immune system”.

The stories I will share with you are stories of encouragement, how I became the best social worker to myself, my own attorney, my own doctor, my own advocate. These are figurative ways of saying that I have the power to my own self and there are always angels out there wanting to help you too.

Expressing life through art!

I have been making art for 2 years. I had to reinvent myself. I design patterns that can be used on any surface. My style is “eclectic joyful boho-chic”. And my purpose is to, and from a patient's point of view, send art care packages to my fellow Lupus warriors and any chronic illness in general and to motivate them to create and occupy their minds into making something beautiful that can bring them joy despite what their body is experiencing. "Think better than how you feel".

I created Magical Patterns as my second non-profit project that eventually will become an organized institution. I’m working from bed a lot of time, but this will not stop me from becoming the best patient advocate I was born to be. I teach compassion at all levels. I take any opportunity I have to share my story and help medical workers and caregivers to be more gentle with the chronically ill community.

Spiritual hugs,

Lina Tobey, BSW, BA

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