I’m really stressed as this new week starts. I can’t imagine how I can successfully deal with all the things I need to deal with.
It feels too much. I have to find somewhere to live, I have to sort out a whole heap of my late father’s stuff, and I have to address some issues regarding my mum. She’s going downhill and she needs me more. More than she ever would admit. More than I would ever previously thought myself equipped for.
Then I came across this poem, and it’s exactly what I needed to read. Maybe it is for you too.
She Let Go
by Rev. Safire Rose
She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of the fear.
She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.
She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.
She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go.
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.
She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.
She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.
She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.
She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.
No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.
There was no effort.
There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.
In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…
It goes round and round. Each time the circle escalates and the effects grow more.
Stress causes Pain cause Stress
Oh, and add in depression.
It looks like this:
I have one month to find somewhere else to live. At that time, the repairs to earthquake damage to my home will finally begin. Don’t get me wrong. Because I’ve been waiting nearly five years, I am happy that they are finally about to start. Very happy. The repairs will take approximately six months.
The biggest stress right now is that I hope my insurance company are going to help with the costs of shifting and somewhere to live. But they won’t tell me how they will help (I mean specifics beyond what the policy document says) until the insurance company doing the repairs provide a specific completion date. I’m waiting. And I understand because they can’t finalise exactly how long the work will take until they lift up the floor and see just how bad things are down there. Meantime though, what my insurance company want is a best estimate.
The reason that’s the biggest stress for me right now is because I can’t find somewhere to live until I know what assistance I’m getting. You see I expect to have to pay three to four times what I am currently paying in rent. Yes, three to four times! And that is more than I get in income each week. I REALLY need my insurance.
My current rent is low, thanks to my family who own the property. But equally rents in Christchurch have skyrocketed since the quakes because of demand for housing, and a little bit (that’s generous!) because many landlords have been mean and taken advantage of the situation. The Government keeps reporting that rents are coming down again, but not when you look at what is advertised. Rent is still really steep. The demand for rentals is not as great as it was maybe two to three years ago. Repairs are getting completed and homeowners are moving home. But it’s still not going to be easy.
So there is plenty of stress in my life, and the vicious circle kicks in because, for me, stress is the biggest trigger to fibromyalgia symptoms. Stress equals pain. And pain equals stress because pain means I can get less done. And when pain goes on, increasing stress, then I start to get depressed. Or more accurately, more depressed. Oh, and add in fatigue… and an unhealthy amount of brain function. In other words I can hardly function at all and I’m hardly likely to come over as a great budding tenant to an agent or landlord.
This week I have been in a lot of pain all week (it’s Thursday here). I have rated my pain as “being able to leave the house several times a week. Moderate to severe symptoms much of the time. Able to do about 2 hours a day of work at home or activity like housework, shopping and using the computer“.
I have limited activity to visiting my mother (she has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t really understand why I can’t visit her). I don’t know for sure but I suspect an Alzheimer’s patient works on the way many people choose to view Invisible illness. S/he can’t see it so it doesn’t exist. Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but I think it’s something like that. Certainly there is little understanding. From Mum’s perspective, I get it. Some others, I’m not so charitable.
Of course, Mum’s illness simply adds to my stress. Today I decided to say “no” and not visit her. I wondered whether by keeping up the daily visits, whether I was exacerbating my own illness.
There are actually more and more facets to my vicious circle. What I really need is that completion date and then the details of how my insurance company will help me. Right now insurance companies are not my favourite people…
Instead of focusing on the negative, the positive is that by mapping out that vicious circle I actually remind myself what is going on. Better yet, maybe I can stop it all winding up just through awareness. I know for myself that if I can limit the flow of stress then I can limit the onset of pain and depression. And that will make for a happier Cate. Anything for that!
PS. By the way, do you remember Lucy? Lucy is my music hallucinations, and she continues. This week she is louder and more invasive than ever. I’m starting to think that Lucy is also affected by stress.
This is my latest post for A Canvas Of The Minds. It was posted yesterday. I apologise for my lateness in sharing.
“Am I alone with this? Have you been on the receiving end of stigma from health professionals, be it general health or mental health? How have you handled it and what effect has it had on the overall treatment of your health issue? If it isn’t something you have experienced, how would you handle it if you came across such stigma?”
I know I will be ‘preaching to the converted’ in this post, but humour me and read this anyway. I want to write about the distinction that many people make between ‘In-Real-Life Friends’ and ‘Internet Friends’. As bloggers, it is very likely that there is a melting of the two terms because we know through experience that ‘Internet Friends’ quickly become ‘Real Life’ friends even though we might never have met them. For this reason, I don’t like these distinctions and prefer ‘Friends-I-Have-Met’ and ‘Friends-I-Have-Never-Met’. For me, it is much more accurate.
Some years ago I had a discussion with family members about this. They could not comprehend the idea of having friends they had never met. To them, such friends could not be friends. At the time, I was in a relationship with someone who I had never met. We eventually met, but even before that meeting the relationship was very real. Our friendship was very met. I maintained then and now, that friendships with that I have never met can be as real, satisfying and fulfilling as those friends I have known since school days. In many cases I maintain that because of the sheer nature of communication between those we have never met, it is possible that such friendships are even more intense and real than anyone I have known ‘all my life’.
This morning I woke to shocking news that a friend of some years, who some would consider an ‘internet friend’, had suddenly died. I had never met my friend, and I suspect we might never have met even if she had lived, but I felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my chest as I read the Facebook posts which were accumulating in the hours since her death. I was struggling for air.
We had never laid eyes on each other, but we shared many things in common. She had been unwell for many months, but her death was completely unexpected. As her friends, we had followed her months of sickness, wishing that she would be returned to health soon. There was no reason to expect otherwise. Perhaps the greatest day in my mind was when someone took my friend’s much-loved dog into hospital to see her.
I had met my friend through an on-line support group some years back. We had both since moved on from the group but maintained our friendship. She was one of the most caring and ‘real’ people I am sure I will have had the pleasure to know. To her, there was nothing complicated about ‘In-Real-Life’ or ‘Internet’ friendships. It was simply that we had a connection and it actually didn’t matter that we had never, nor were likely to ever meet.
Whether we met or not, the friendship we had was real. Read ‘The Velveteen Rabbit‘ if you don’t believe me about what is real.
My friend has passed today and I am quite devastated. The world is truly a sadder place because of her passing. I loved her in spite of our never meeting. My life is better for her having been in it. Rest In Peace, Jill.
I normally post online about Muppets, coffee, musicals and cats, (not Cats the musical, the furry-animal-kind) but recently all I’ve been posting about is the Kenneth Cole billboard that links mental illness and gun violence. Why? #1 Because it perpetuates mental illness stigma. #2 The effects of that stigma are devastating.
Yes, I am now on a tireless quest to get people to understand why the billboard basically ate my soul when I saw it. CRUNCH! Don’t worry- I recovered my soul, undamaged. Souls are really durable.
I posted a blog critiquing the billboard on Facebook which was mostly ignored.. (got maybe 2 likes) I’ve had friends say, “What’s wrong with the billboard again?” I got 318 likes on another post.. but that one was about my hair. :/
Believe me, I miss my tweets about Kermit and the keyboard cat, too, but for now I need to focus…
Look at it that way, and it seems impressive. 50 years ago today at 1.30am my mother gave birth to me. My father had been sent home to sleep, as was the practice in those days. Much as I know he loved me when he eventually met me, I know he wouldn’t have needed any encouragement to go home.
I can honestly say that 50 is not a big deal for me. What is a big and slightly frightening deal is that 60 is only 10 years away. For some reason, that has hit me in recent days and won’t go away. Am I really that close to 60? Where has my life gone? I’m sure I was 25 last time I looked, but now look at me.
I’ve had a struggle with birthdays, really since I started battling for my mental health. It’s really hard to celebrate anything when you’re depressed, let alone the idea of celebrating your own life. And with experience, I can tell you that it is worst if you’re living with suicidal thoughts. Worst too, if you have an eating disorder and everything seems to focus on food.
The irony is not lost on me that World Suicide Prevention Day 2015 is the day before my birthday (that I don’t want to celebrate). What’s more, perhaps most of my friends are in a different hemisphere and so while they are acknowledging World Suicide Prevention Day, I am trying to avoid even acknowledging my birthday. They will want to celebrate my birthday tomorrow, taking it to two days. Add to this that my birthday is 9/11. A day on which even outside of America, it is difficult to find the will to celebrate anything.
Yet there are people who want to celebrate my life, and my birthday. In spite of my struggles, I know that I am lucky to have these people who love and care for me. I know that when I see my four-year-old niece (and her family) tonight that she will be very much committed to celebrating my day. Her family are apparently also committed to this task.
Because of those people, I chose to celebrate my birthday this year. I struggle to see the worth of my life for myself sometimes, but strangely (to me) I know they do. So I will go with what they wish for the day, hoping that next year I might just see it differently.
Today I finish my post with a great kiwi song. My words for today. The lyrics are below.
You call me up, I’ll say a few words
But I’ll try not to speak too long
Please to be kind and I’ll try to explain
I’ll probably get it all wrong
What does it mean when you promise someone?
That no matter how hard or whatever may come
It means that I won’t give in
Won’t give in, won’t give in
‘Cause everyone I love is here
Play it once, disappear
Once in a while I return to the fold
With people I call my own
Even if time is just a flicker of light
And we all have to die alone
What does it mean when you belong to someone?
When you’re born with a name, when you carry it on
It means that I won’t give in
Won’t give in, won’t give in
‘Cause everyone I love is here
All at once, and I’ll show you how to get me there
Come on now, come on now, can you feel it, I can see it in ya
Come on now, come on now, reveal it, turn around won’t ya
The right time, the right place, right now, turn around
A chance is made, a chance is lost
I carry myself to the edge of the earth
It means that I won’t give in
Won’t give in, won’t give in
‘Cause everyone I love is here
Say it once, just say it and disappear
Let me tell you a secret. Why? Because as my favourite giraffe (Motivating Giraffe) tells us, “If we knew each other’s secrets, what comforts we shall find”. It’s true, isn’t it? Generally if we share our secrets with another, more often than not, we find that we are not alone in that secret.
Sharing secrets (although maybe we word it differently) is one of the things that blogging can be about. Well, for me anyway. You might look at it another way, but for today I am going to share a secret with you.
My secret is that I don’t love myself.
I’d like to. Well in some ways, but I have no idea how to love myself and frankly, there is nothing I can see that is worth loving. After all the years of what I will loosely call recovery, I haven’t got this one sorted.
I don’t mean to get anyone down, or even myself, but it’s just the way it is. Books, websites, speakers, recovery programmes, even Facebook memes tell me to love myself but it’s just not that easy.
I have never loved myself. Actually I grew up in an environment that told me to love other people, not myself. As, say a three-year-old, I had little chance of understanding what that was really about but by the time I was 28, and leaving that environment, I was quite certain that if I had learnt one thing well, then it was this: I loved other people but I hated myself.
I was an expert at putting myself last. Actually I had loved other people and not myself so well that it eventually led to my depression and attempting to take my life.
Life has moved on since then. Many hours of very good therapy, hospital and other therapeutic programmes have saved my life. But I still haven’t got it. I still read and hear that I must love myself, but actually… I still don’t.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say I hate myself now, except for the days when BPD and depression really kick in. But I still don’t like myself, let alone love myself. No one has actually sat me down and told me how to let go of the stuff I don’t like and find the stuff I do like. I assume that if I did that then I would have some chance of learning to love myself.
What I learnt as a three-year-old, or four, or five, or six, and so on is pretty well fixed in my mind. While they might have been teaching me about Christianity, what I was learning was how to live my life. Actually nothing to do with Christianity, and I’m not convinced that it was what I was supposed to learn. They might not have meant to teach me to hate myself, but that is exactly what I learnt. It’s just amazing that I got so far (to 28) before I crashed.
So what do I do here? Is this about repeating positive affirmations? Maybe reading the right book (it would be good if I could concentrate)? I just don’t know how to do this because whenever I try ‘loving myself’ I just feel like I am fooling myself.
What I know is that if this was about learning to love someone else, it wouldn’t be so hard. Just being with them would be a good start. But what if I had to learn to love a person I didn’t like? Would that work? You know there are times when I simply can’t bear to be with me. Let alone like or love myself.
I’m not so much looking for advice because I suspect I have to work this out for myself. I’m simply sharing my secret because I suspect I’m not alone in this.
There are a lot of mostly rhetorical questions here, so while I love comments, please don’t feel like I’m wanting you to share anything you’re not comfortable with.
It is five years today since my city, of Christchurch, was shaken so badly that I seriously thought the end of the world had come and was happening right on my doorstep. A shallow, 7.1 Richter scale earthquake began a rollercoaster of quakes which would last more than two years. What followed was four earthquakes over 6 Richter scale and a staggering 16,000 plus quakes to today.
Not to mention the physical and emotional damage, it is without exaggeration that I say my life totally changed that day. How I live, how I think, how I feel and perhaps most importantly (in my eyes anyway), what matters to me. I am more compassionate. More mindful.
Christchurch wasn’t a city that got earthquakes. That was Wellington (head north). I had grown up knowing how to deal with earthquakes (run for the nearest doorway and hold on!), yet that 40 second quake was beyond anything I knew or had ever thought would happen to me.
It was 4.35am, so it was dark and I was asleep when I hit. When I woke to the bed rocking and rolling, I immediately knew I had to get to the doorway (some maybe two metres away). You have no idea how hard is to get to a doorway in the midst of such a quake.
As I left my bed I instinctively grabbed one of my most precious possessions which was sitting by my bed. But when I (finally) made the doorway I realised I had left another very precious item still beside the bed. I immediately wanted it with me but wasn’t sure I could get back to the bed to get it… and perhaps most importantly still be alive. I chose not to go back. I didn’t think I could get back and then back to the doorway alive. I still find it incredible that all that was in 40 seconds, it seemed so much longer.
No one died that day but more quakes happened, and people did die, I admit I moved my focus of what mattered.
When people died in the quake of 22 February it really hit me that lives were at stake. As I stood in an office car park with hundreds of others, having been evacuated from the building I was in, I saw injured people. While I probably had no doubt by then of the risks we faced, I heard on the grapevine that other buildings had collapsed. I knew that lives would be lost today. That said, my parents were by my side so I knew they were safe. It was only a few hours before I could speak to my sister-in-law and knew they were all safe. This was bad, but the worst (death) was happening to other people. I know that sounds a little callous, but it is what I was thinking at the time.
185 people died that day, one was known to me.
Six weeks later, my thinking changed again in a very abrupt way. The quakes continued and as a result of extreme stress, my father suffered heart failure. I was down on the floor in my lounge (my parents were by now living with me as their home had been declared unlivable and would later be demolished) doing CPR on Dad. I had never expected to be here, but thankfully had learnt CPR some 20 years ago. It took 20 minutes before paramedics arrived and took over (many roads were still blocked and impassable), another 20 minutes before they declared Dad dead.
Now this ‘worst thing possible’ had happened to me. Earthquakes now meant death, what’s more, death of my father and best friend. I now had to look after my mother, and this time when the phone calls were made to the family, I could no longer say that everyone was safe.
Some seven months earlier, my focus was on my possessions. Of my most valuable, I had one with me but had left the other just a few metres away. The death of anyone hadn’t really occurred to me. While the quake was bad, I never thought someone close to me might die. Now the unthinkable had happened.
Draw your own conclusions, that’s really what we have to do in such situations. But I’ll tell you my conclusions. I’m reminded of them each time I feel yet another shake (last night).
I’ve concluded that taking one day at a time is not an option. It’s essential. It’s what I have to do because I simply don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to say “I love you” tomorrow and I don’t know if I’m going to be able to say “I’m sorry“. I don’t know if my precious possessions will be gone, and whether my house will still be standing. Think that’s going too far, and in my opinion (now) you’re fooling yourself. My aim now is to take each day as it comes, because I really don’t know if tomorrow will actually come.
Five years on and I’m still waiting for my house to be repaired. It is expected to start in November and will take six months. I’ll be looking for somewhere else to live shortly. My brother’s business was all but destroyed five years ago. He’s still working hard to try to rebuild it. We are not finished with the aftermath. Not by a long shot. It will be a long time yet before we can breathe easily again. But meantime, kiwis (and especially kids) are now taught to “Drop, Cover, Hold” rather than trying to run for far away doorways.
At that time I was sure that this blog had done its time. I had my reasons, and they were enough for me to sign off something that I had loved for three years. But I missed it. I missed you, and in time a certainty grew inside me, that just maybe this blog hadn’t done its time. Now I know I want to be here again, and so I’m back.
You’ll see that there are a few cosmetic changes. It was time for a facelift. What remains are the daisies, and that’s because daisies have always been a symbol of what I want to be writing about.
It’s not just hope. It’s about what daisies stand for. Look at the image above and think about daisies for a moment. The daisies grow almost anywhere. In the grass, they get trodden on, and perhaps worse still get decapitated in a lawnmower. Yet they keep growing back. They are completely resilient and keep growing almost no matter what.
What better symbol for a blog about getting through some really difficult times (both mental and physical illness) with a sometimes underrated thing called hope?
Hope is explained in many different ways. I don’t think it is possible to put just a few words into one definition. Rather I believe that we each need to find our own definition. Something that means something to me (or to you).
Perhaps most commonly used as a definition is the phrase ‘Hold On Pain Ends‘. If that describes your situation and works for you, then that is something you can use. But it doesn’t work for me for one reason: the pain doesn’t necessarily end. I have come to a point where I have realised that I have to find hope in spite of pain. I’m working on that.
A little over three years ago, I wrote this about my understanding of hope:
“It’s a specific belief that the future looks better and I can make a difference in my own recovery.”
Maybe it doesn’t work for you. Certainly other writers will have penned it better. That doesn’t matter though, because what matters is that it works for me.
“Better than this”
It’s simplistic, but it’s manageable regardless what type of pain I’m in, and what degree of pain is my current reality. I know that ‘better than this‘ can be and so with that in mind hopefully I keep on going.
So how do you define hope? What works for you?
After six months of very little writing and almost no reading, it’s going to take me a while to get going again. My reading is completely affected by my concentration levels. Brain fog, courtesy of fibromyalgia, is to blame for that. As I am able, I look forward to getting back to your blogs. Please bear with me.
PS:You may notice that I’ve changed my gravatar (see to the right of the screen). My old one didn’t work for me after three years. This new one is formed from a photograph of street art built around construction sites in Christchurch, where I live. I love it, and I believe that ballerinas must from hope in pain as much as anyone.
Sometimes you know that your time is up, and this is that time. It’s time to hang up my blogging ‘shoes’. I have been blogging on this site for just over three years. It’s been a great ride. Well most of it, anyway.
In the few years before I reached my 40th birthday (a ‘few’ years ago) I was somewhat addicted to long distance running. This was very definitely a stint of over-exercising for me. Tell me that I was a “jogger” as some people liked to call themselves, and I was offended. I was a serious runner, in it for the long haul… literally.
I wasn’t much into events. Running with masses of people destroyed the peace of running for me. I did a few races but it just wasn’t for me. However my great aim was to run in the Christchurch Marathon in 2005.
I did it, but only just. Within the first kilometre I pulled my right hamstring. Stubbornness (and addiction) kicked in, and although I was in an extreme amount of pain, I decided to keep running. Actually I was used to running in pain. My knees never coped with long-distance running.
I was doing the half marathon so only had around 20 kilometres to go. Of course, the further I ran the worse the pain got. I never got to that “break through the wall” stage, but I simply kept running.
At the beginning of the last lap, the bell was sounding, just in case I didn’t know I was on my last lap. Oh, I knew. By then I was counting every metre, but the sound of the bell told me I just had to run through this park and down the road to the finish line.
I did it. I couldn’t walk for the next three days. But I did it.
I admit that this past year of blogging has been a little like that for me, sadly. I was somewhat addicted. I have loved blogging but I had hit some issues that were creating pain.
You see, as you will realise I have been blogging under my own name. That has been very important to me, for a number of reasons but perhaps mostly because I have always believed that until we can speak out in our own names, we won’t crush the stigma of mental illness.
Ok, so I admit defeat (for now).
It’s not so much outright stigma that hit me, but the very real difficulty of protecting the privacy of those I care about. That wasn’t just my family, but those who were having an impact on my life, and that I wanted to include in my writing here. Mostly I just couldn’t, unless (as you would have witnessed on a number of occasions) I wrote a very vague, cryptic post. Sometimes that worked. Sometimes it didn’t.
Stigma came in as a second issue, in ways that I hadn’t expected. Stigma is so much more than a public issue. It is also very personal,painful and sometimes used against us in ways that anyone even realises. That’s no excuse, but it is a very real explanation of some things that have gone on for me, particularly in the past year.
Calling it quits to blogging on this site is really difficult. My site is me. Do you know that feeling? It’s me in so many ways, but now I leave it. It is something that I have considered long and hard. Unfortunately it is my only sensible choice. I have been silenced (for want of a better word).
To my readers, and perhaps particularly those who have followed this blog for a considerable amount of time, I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading, and thank you for your comments. Thank you too, for the ‘likes’. Whatever way you have opted to interact with me, thank you. You are the people who made blogging worthwhile. Thank you for making blogging an amazing experience for me.
So what of the future? I don’t know where the future will take me. I simply have to admit that this race is finished. My feet (and my hamstring) are sore, but there is a future (somewhere) ahead. Time will tell where that future will lead.
“Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World