monique.p.author@gmail.com

Archive for the ‘Courage’ Category

Winter, Pain, and Depression. Oh My!

As a person who deals with pain and depression on the best of days, the dreary and cold days of winter can be a real challenge. The challenges don’t just affect me. They also take a toll on my relationships, the state of my house, and the quality of my work.

When you’re used to pain on a daily basis it’s very annoying when people who know you ask, “How are you?” If I say, “I’m fine,” they assume I’m pain free and should be happy-go-lucky. In reality, “I’m fine,” means I’m no worse than usual and I am muddling through. If I say “I’m having a bad day,” suddenly I’m being treated like an invalid who can’t do anything for herself or like I’m going to be a drag to be around.

The truth is I consider it a good day if pain doesn’t stop me in my tracks, if I can walk down the steps of my front porch without holding on for dear life, if I can bend over to scoop my cat’s box without holding onto the wall so I don’t fall over. It’s a pretty good day when my fingers aren’t so stiff I can’t type or my knee isn’t in so much pain I can’t bend it without making noise. If I can shave my legs or stand in the kitchen to fix a meal without breaking out in a sweat because of the additional pain, that’s a fabulous day.

I also suffer from extreme anxiety which has worsened as I age. This mostly appears when I’m aware I’m about to face a large crowd of people or it comes out in my sleep as nightmares of the great “what if” that many of us constantly run through in our heads.

Pain, depression, and anxiety are just a part of my life and I don’t dwell on it. I take medication to help dull the affects and I go on about my day. What I don’t do is talk about it unless necessary to protect myself from making it worse. If I need to rest I say so. If I need a break from people I’ll say so. BUT, people who ask every time they see me, “How are you?” make me want to pull my hair out.

The responses in my life range from, “How am I to know you’re in pain if you don’t tell me?” to “All I hear is how you don’t feel well and it’s unhealthy for me to be around you.” So you learn to say “I’m fine.” because that’s what people want to hear and you try not to limp, and you help carry things even if it hurts, and you join the group activities because it’s “healthy,” and you find a way to sleep and hope you don’t cry too much in your sleep or be loud when you deal with it all in your nightmares. Because, for some reason, if I share with someone my pain or sadness or anxiety I’m an unhealthy person in their life and they need to not be around me.

Why do we do this? Why do we punish people for sharing feelings, for showing weakness, for being uncomfortable, or having a genetic health issue?

I’ve been dealing with arthritis and pain in my knees since I was 17 and had my first car accident, followed by injuries twice in college that affected my knees two more times. Add 30 years and you get that my knees are not super happy. YET, I walk 5K’s for charity when I can get to them. I carry in my own groceries and laundry. I never ask for help carrying in two 35 lb buckets of kitty litter. And I make love as often as I can.

I started recognizing the affects of depression in my teens also. It’s emotional and chemical. I didn’t want to be depressed. I did crazy things trying to chase happiness. (I do need to put in here that I never did drugs, but I did drink.) I played the flirty, social girl who was all in no matter what was going on. I went to all the parties. I had too much sex. I had too much alcohol. I hang out with all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. And then I’d go home and lie in my bed and imagine everyone in my life leaving or dying until I’d cry myself to sleep. Had I lost someone early in life? Nope. No reason for it that I can pinpoint. That was just where my mind drifted to when I’d close my eyes.

Later in life I had some actual bad things to stress about. Bad relationships, a daughter to worry about, a toxic relationship with my mother, the realization that I was losing my hearing, loss of a job I loved when the market crashed, broken bones, increased pains in new places, moving to a new state, and then a fall that left me with a torn hip. I found out I had two torn rotator cuffs, 2 slipped disks in my back, degenerative arthritis, and yes I was going deaf and needed hearing aids. The day I’d found out I’d torn the labrum in my hip during a fall in the snow I fell again and broke 3 bones in my foot. The day I went to get the MRI before surgery to fix one of the rotator cuffs I got a 3rd degree burn that took almost 6 months of doctor visits to close up enough so I could have the surgery.

You can’t make this shit up.

Put all of those things in cold wet weather and “VOILA!” Increased pain, which leads to increased depression, which leads to decreased sleep, which leads to increased pain, which leads to increased anxiety, etc., etc., etc.

I’ve learned to smile and fake it because no one wants to hear all that. I’ve learned that people who aren’t in my skin will never grasp what a day in my life is life. I’ve learned what is getting through a day for me is lazy and unhealthy to others. I rarely drink anymore and I’ve still never done drugs, but if I were to do so and get a jolt of energy to clean and run around the block, no matter the affects it would take on my body, and lose weight because I’d be too high to eat I’d actually get less crap from the people in my life. What kind of bullshit is that?

Because I don’t push my body into more pain I’m “not trying” or I “like feeling bad.” (That second one makes me want to slap someone.) I’ve been told, “It’s easier to feel sorry for yourself than to do something about it.” That’s always a favorite. Because, of course, who wouldn’t want to live in this body and mind. I need to just “be positive” or meditate or walk more.

Am I overweight? Absolutely. Do I want to be smaller so there’s less pressure on my body? Damn right! Do I want to fight tears for 3 days recovering from a walk around the block? Not particularly, but I would if I thought it would make it hurt less the next time. Unfortunately you can’t “walk off” a torn labrum and you can’t exercise away a torn rotator cuff or slipped vertebrae so one at a time I will have the surgeries I need to correct these pains in me and hope to hell I can find that blissful feeling of no more pain than usual after a nice brisk walk again.

Just thinking of the things I want to do, but knowing the pain I would face afterwards causes another burst of depression. The cycle is nonstop.

People who don’t live with pain, or depression, or anxiety will never understand how much we truly want it to be just about being more positive or more active or more whatever else we are told we should do or be. If it were a case of mind over matter no one would choose to live like this. Absolutely no one.

So don’t tell me you can’t be in my life because I’m “unhealthy” to be around, because if you knew what it felt like everyday to get done a fraction of what others do you’d think I was a damn superhero. You’d have mad respect for the fact that I get out of bed, that I want to cook a meal, that I want to walk my dog, that I sometimes take the stairs instead of the elevator, that I participate in any physical or emotional activities, or that I allow your ass to say things to me like I’m “unhealthy.” You SHOULD see me as a survivor, because that’s what I am.

What’s unhealthy is being around people who have no empathy and expect perfection or standards they themselves don’t measure up to.

It’s winter. It’s cold. I’m still making it through one day at a time, but I’m making it through. I’ll be damned if I keep letting anyone who can’t see past their own crap to blame me for their own failings.

Zen or Defeat

There’s an expression I’ve hated for a long time; “It is what it is.” It always felt like someone saying, “Just accept what is happening in your life and deal with the fact that you can’t change it.”

By nature I’m a fighter; or at least I used to be. I believed life is what you make of it, we’re the creators of our own destinies, if you want something bad enough you make it happen, and all those other trite sayings people such as Les Brown and Tony Robbins and the like spent decades putting into our heads. “Envision it and it will happen!” Hook, line, and sinker….I bought in.

Maybe I’m selfish? Maybe I’ve become jaded? Maybe I’ve accepted that those in power stay in power and those that aren’t in power get what they are given and make the best of it? Maybe I’ve just given up? Maybe, just maybe, I realized it truly IS what it is, and you can spend your energy pushing against the brick wall or you can enjoy the little bits of happiness you find creeping in through the cracks.

It’s funny how my other half has come to this conclusion of “it is what it is” and giving up the fight to change things has helped her find a little bit of Zen in her world that is usually full of worry and stress when, for me, giving into that notion feels like defeat. Realizing it is what it is, for me, means setting down my gloves and just bracing myself for the blow that comes next at my head.

Weirdly I use my feeling of defeat to find some happiness. I look harder for it. It used to be easy to find. Cuddles from my furbabies, a four-leaf clover in my path, a wild daisy growing among the weeds, a flock of birds rising across a pink and orange sky at dusk, a thoughtful gesture from a friend, a text message that my honey is thinking of me; these things used to be fuel to my “go grab life by the balls and make it your bitch!” attitude; now they are reasons to get up and keep going through a life that is nothing I had hoped it would be.

For awhile I just kind of folded in. I dragged one day to another and hoped it would go by quickly. In realizing that I likely have decades of this life left ahead of me I had to shake myself up a little, remind myself that there are things to look forward to even if they aren’t the big things I’d hoped for.

I love my partner and while, on one hand, I am so glad to see her find some reasons to smile finally and something to motivate her towards a more fulfilling life, on the other hand, it hurts that her vision of what that means doesn’t include me. I’m apparently that thing that she can not accept as “Is what it is.” Her Zen, her place of acceptance, feels like another defeat for me. (Even though rationally I know it has NOTHING to do with me.)

I am a whole imperfect package with lots of good intentions. I am what I am. It’s interesting to me that I was proud to say that until the last 12 years of my life. It used to be, “I am ME!” Now it’s more of a whisper, “This is just who I am.” I no longer want to fight for the right to be myself, but just be myself a little more quietly so I don’t have to defend it.

I want to feel Zen in acceptance of it is what it is. I say it more now. I’ve noticed that for a few years. Sometimes I catch myself backtracking after I say it, then I think, “What’s the point? It’s true.”

My goal for this year is to just be me more of the time. I need to be “I am ME!” again eventually and stopping whispering and hoping no one notices that I’m different or think outside of the proverbial box. I want to stop feeling defeated by what is. I want to teach myself to stand out again. I want to live for more than 3 furbabies that realistically will be gone within this decade. I want to punch my g/f and make her realize that her life is better shared with someone who pushes her out of her comfort zone, but A. I’m not abusive and B. That’s not the reality she subscribes to. I do hope her Zen starts rubbing off on me however.

My decades of brain-washing that taught me to “MAKE IT HAPPEN” led to a lot of disappointment when it didn’t happen. Now, this decade, I’m retraining myself. I’m going to find a way to live with less expectation and more anticipation. Let’s see what happens next and with some luck, whatever it is, I can say “It is what it is” without feeling like I lost the big game. *Fingers crossed*

Here I come 2020s!

 

 

To Write Love On Her Arms

I just finished a movie called To Write Love on Her Arms and I have to tell you it touched me more than almost any movie I can remember.

Let me start by saying I do not struggle with drug or alcohol addiction. I am not bi-polar. I am not a cutter. I am not suicidal.

I am also not religious and for me this was not a story about any god or religion.

What I am is a person who battles depression and anxiety. I am a person who has struggled in life, at times, to find a reason for waking up another day. I am a person who has felt lost within herself. I am a person who believes in hope. I am a person who KNOWS beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I NEED other people in my life for me to be okay. No matter what anyone believes about themselves, we all do.

to_write_love_on_her_arms_by_oweeo-d32qpfx

To Write Love On Her Arms is the true story of a young lady named Renee Yohe. It all started with a blog post by her friend Jamie who, after meeting her and helping her detox, found her story to be encouraging. He wasn’t encouraged because she had already triumphed, but because she was damaged yet still not broken. She was beyond help in the eyes of most of the world but surrounded by a small group of people who loved her enough to help her put her life back together; even if they had to keep gluing the shards of her hope over and over again.

Sometimes that’s all you need in life; that person or those persons who stick. The ones who see your scars, visible or not, self-inflicted or not, and don’t flinch. The ones who love you when you feel unlovable. The ones who hope for you when you feel hopeless. The ones who see you plain as day when you feel completely lost. Everyone needs those people. EVERYONE.

There have been days when the war being waged in me felt like it could rip me to shreds. I can only thank my own fear of being controlled, by persons or substances, that I didn’t use drugs and alcohol to escape to some place away from myself.

Renee’s story reminded me just how much I depend on my people. My best friend, my internet friends, and my chosen family are all intricate stitches in the fabric of my being. When my edges are frayed I just turn to any one of them and their kindness and love and acceptance weaves the hope back in until I’m whole again. For me; that love and that hope are my religion, my higher power. I turn to these things like a flower turns it’s face to the sun.

Renee-Yohe

Some might look upon this young woman’s face and wonder how could a young life be so bad or so difficult that addiction and pain feel better than merely existing. But I get it. Sometimes just waking up to exist another day is the monster beneath the bed, the unknown thing you fear the most. Perhaps it’s true that “it’s never as bad as you imagine it will be,” but then again maybe that’s the lie we tell ourselves to get out of the bed and step foot in front of the beast waiting to devour us. Until it’s your bed, your feet, your monster, you don’t know for sure.

For many of us the thing that gets us past the monster, the fear, is the person or persons waiting outside the door for us. Our children, our spouses, our families, and our true friends give us the courage to hope that our exposed limb won’t be snatched. Not today at least. Trying to find that courage when there’s no one waiting on the other side of your fear, whose mere existence in your life is the reward for getting there, is damn near impossible.

https://twloha.com was founded by Jamie after the overwhelming response to Renee’s story showed him just how many people were in desperate need of someone in their corner. Because honestly the only thing worse than hating yourself, hurting yourself, being afraid, and suffering from mental illness of any kind is doing it all alone. There’s enough people on this big ball we all live on that no one should have to do it all alone.

My hope is that even just one of you will read or watch Renee’s story, now that I’ve told you about it, and you will think of someone who needs to know they aren’t alone in life, and you will SHOW them you are there for them; you will find time in your busy life to help someone hold their pieces together.

And if you are a person who needs to connect to someone who sees you through your own fog; who needs someone to hand you the hope and love you can’t quite grasp on your own; who needs someone to hold the pieces in place as you glue them back together for maybe the hundredth time; who needs a reason to face the monsters that lurk around the corners and behind your eyes…I beg of you…reach out.

I promise you that someone doesn’t have to have walked in your shoes to be exactly who you need. They only need to be let inside your walls. No one can be your person if you don’t allow them to be. Surround yourself with people who want to be there for you and then let them.

Have hope. Be brave. As Renee said, “The stars are always there but we miss them in the dirt and clouds. We miss them in the storms. Tell them to remember hope. We have hope.”

See the blog post that started the To Write Love On Her Arms movement here: https://twloha.com/learn/story/

tumblr_o1w56hg1t91qzghgbo1_1280

Tag Cloud