Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire!

I was sitting outside (okay, so I admit I was having a cigarette) when I saw one of my neighbours walking up the back path towards me.

I said: “Hi”
He said: “How are you?”
I said: “Good”

And that was it. I had lied through my teeth, but it was okay because he just kept on walking and then walked in his door, leaving me to contemplate what I had just done. The conversations (if you can call them that) I have with this neighbour never amount to much more. I have similar conversations with another neighbour. I lie to him too. But that’s how we talk to most neighbours, isn’t it?

This time I was struck with how easily the “good” rolled off my tongue when actually I was feeling anything but good. Would it matter if I said, “good” in answer to any such questions, for the rest of my days? Does anyone actually want anything beyond this lie?

It’s easy to say, and it’s easy to hear. I’m not requiring anything of you when I answer your question this way. You can just keep going about your day. Even for friends and family, it’s easier that way. No need for you to do or say anything. I’ve given you a ‘free pass’.

But I could get side-tracked by that as I write. It’s easier for me if I don’t tell you how I really am here, on my blog, either. Maybe it’s easier reading for you too. But I’m going to push myself to not opt for the easy. You see, I’m not good. Actually, I’m struggling.

I know you want to read positive stuff on a blog that refers so often to hope, but right now I’m struggling to find my hope.

My mood is dropping and I am fairly sure it has to do with the stress in my life right now. The more stress, and the more I struggle. My stress comes mostly from caring for my mother. She needs more from me now, but has less to give me in return. She mostly knows who I am. She certainly always still recognises me, but clearly has trouble connecting that recognition to the right person. Me. Sometimes she thinks I’m her sister and she used to mistake me for my father. That doesn’t happen so much now. She struggles to remember him at all (he died nearly six years ago). Nearly 54 years of marriage seemingly wiped from memory! This illness is so cruel.

It’s hard. I don’t have expectations of her, but it’s not easy day after day, teaching her the same things. Telling her stories of her life. It would be heartbreaking no matter who she was, but this is my mother. All the things she taught me as I child, I now teach her. And I feel very alone in this.

There’s more, though.

My eating is considerably off track, and to even admit that much takes an enormous amount of courage. Much more will require more than simply an empty screen before me. You’re just not going to get the details, this time anyway.

In the last year, I have lost 17 kilograms with no conscious effort. I know, lots of people would love that to happen, and true I love that I have lost it. I needed to, I was overweight (yes, people who have had Anorexia twice can be overweight!) but I hadn’t done anything to lose it. It has really gone through firstly ill health back at the middle of 2016, and the rest I guess, has been through stress.

The reason I’m telling you this though is that unless you have been where I’ve been you have no idea how tantalisingly dangerous it is. Seventeen unconscious kilos are tempting me to consciously step back onto the eating disorder ‘merry-go-round’ (don’t think for one moment though, that such a move would be the fun of the fair!).

I don’t make it a habit to weigh myself, mostly because of this reason. It’s too easy to get taken in by one kilo lost and before you know it I’ve been sucked into losing 20 or 50. I was weighed when I was admitted to hospital briefly back in July. I saw then that I had lost seven kilos. Then I was admitted to hospital briefly a few weeks ago for an minor procedure. The deadly mistake was looking down at the scales. And I choose to use the word ‘deadly’ because that’s exactly what it can be when you have an eating disorder.

So I admit it. I am back to considering every mouthful. And part of me hates being back there, but I admit, part of me loves it. That’s the ‘deadly’ part.

But then, there is more…

  • My black and white thinking is very definitely more black and less white.
  • There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Whoever said there was, was fooling me.
  • Everyone is against me. I struggle to think anything different. I can’t believe that anyone would be on my side.
  • I said a few weeks back that I would write about anxiety. Meanwhile,it’s just getting bigger and bigger. And yes, more consuming
  • Is the sun going to rise tomorrow? Right now, I just don’t know.
  • I’ve come to a new appreciation of people who choose to keep their curtains pulled shut through the day. Sometimes it’s a way to cut the world out. They can’t get me! I fool myself so easily!

I’m sorry if you came here for a post full of recovery and hope. I guess what I need to say to you is that recovery and hope is not a linear journey. Sometimes the dark overwhelms us. Sometimes people are throwing so many lemons at us, that it is almost impossible to make the damned lemonade. Sometimes all we can do is throw the lemons back. Let someone else make the lemonade, I’d rather have a coke.

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

Watched**Stalked**Traumatised

He was watching, from across the road, as I stepped off the bus.

He was (also) watching from across the road, as I came out of church with my friends.

He watched as I walked down the hill from the school gates.

He drove past, three times in half an hour, as I was sitting in my friend’s car chatting.

He was sitting on his motorbike watching as I came out of work.

It took about one to two weeks for him to track me down after I had shifted house. And there he would watch as I arrived home.

He sent flowers. My skin crawled. The flowers were ugly and I gave them away.

My flatmates were interrogated, either on the phone or at the gate. What was their relationship to me?

I was visiting my friends and he saw my car parked outside. They were his friends too. As he knocked on the front door, I snuck out the back door. I never visited my friends at home again.

I came out of a church from my friend’s funeral. She had died in a car crash. He was across the road, on his motorbike, watching waiting for me. He “just wanted to talk”.

He was watching, waiting, always. But he never touched me.

♦♦♦

I was stalked by two men at the same time. They weren’t aware of each other. They never touched me while stalking me, and in those days that meant the NZ Police couldn’t do anything. The Police gave me advice, but I knew all that by now.

Constantly trying to avoid, trying to hide where I was, confidential phone numbers. The only friends I spent time with were those who would support my demand for privacy. The stalking went on for around 14 years in total. It started when I was 14, and I finally brought a stop to it when I left the city permanently at 28. It was a long time to convince myself that leaving town wasn’t giving in. It was taking control.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was diagnosed some years later, when I finally sought help (when I knew that help was actually available). You see, it wasn’t until after the stalking that I let out a breath and could finally feel my fear. I crashed. But relief didn’t come until I had the help. Meanwhile, I was still hiding, mistrustful of all.

♦♦♦

The triggers started to play on me… they included, but weren’t confined to…

Every man, who wasn’t a blood relative, was potentially unsafe to me.

Anyone who expressed a romantic interest in me, especially if they were ‘too keen’.

A gap in the curtains still meant someone could be watching me.

Motorbikes, especially the sight of them.

Going back to the city where it happened brought on terror in some suburbs and hypervigilance in all places.

Church

Dreams, nightmares.

The gift of flowers.

Later on, ‘friend requests’ on social media.

And many, many more.

After years of therapy for these and other issues, I really thought I’d finally beat the PTSD. The triggers controlling my life had lasted much long than the stalking, even though that had been long enough. It had been a long time since I had felt that all too familiar fears.

Then a few weeks ago, a man shifted into the house next door. Because of where I am living (temporary housing for earthquake recovery) our houses are very close. His kitchen looks into my bedroom. Our lounges look in on each other.

When I first shifted here there was a woman living in the house, and it was her practice to keep all her curtains pulled shut all of the time. Now I could start to understand why. I didn’t want anyone looking in on my bedroom and I have taken to keeping the curtains permanently shut for the windows facing his kitchen. Regardless of who he is, and what he does, I see him as a threat.

I hadn’t met him at this stage… but when I eventually did, I felt that familiar feeling. Elements of his personality ring warning bells for me. The fear instantly builds, and I admit that I don’t have much rational thought. I’d describe the type of man, but I can’t. And it wouldn’t be fair. Rationally I know he has done nothing to make me afraid, but this is exactly what PTSD does to me.

I just don’t want to be anywhere near that sort of man.  I’m simply afraid. It’s difficult to know that this is about memories, and feelings, from a long time ago.

I’m afraid, and while I thought I had completely dealt with PTSD, I realise I haven’t. It’s not over for me yet.

Since meeting the man I have simply done my best to stay away, but I irrationally want to move out. I’m terrified that this man is going to do what I refer to as “turn into another stalker”. I know he has done nothing to stir up this fear. I know it is completely irrational. And actually, I irrationally think that every man will eventually “turn into another stalker”.

And do you know what? It really pisses me off that those stalkers of years ago can continue to have such a hold on me. I thought I was truly over it, but this man has shown me (by doing nothing) that I’m not. And that is so disappointing.

Thanks for reading

 

Cate

Both images contained in this post remain the property of  Healing From Trauma: Welcome To My World. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to visit this great Facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Usually Do Poetry But…

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…

Vicious Circle

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:

Image credit: www.orthop.washington.edu
Image credit: http://www.orthop.washington.edu

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.

 

What I Did And Didn’t Want

Do I exaggerate? That’s a rhetorical question for most of you.  My family (who might or might not be reading) are welcome to try to answer that question but you must be kind.  Very kind.  Your purpose in attempting to answer must be purely to educate me and not to, in any way, attack me or get back at me for some random, unrelated misdemeanor.  The question is really one for myself if I am completely truthful.  It won’t be the first time I try to answer, and it certainly won’t be the last.

I just have got the impression over the years that those people close to me have the impression that yes, I do exaggerate.  Personally I don’t think I do.  I think that I feel things strongly and that I notice a lot of what is happening around me.  Perhaps more than others.  But when I express it, it’s not exaggeration but simply what I am seeing and/or experiencing.

This past week I have been through a lot, and for some of the people around me, they have been through even more.  It has been really hard.  Emotional, soul-searching and stressful.  And no, that’s not an exaggeration.  It has been hard on us, and it’s not over yet.  Actually in some ways I suspect it is only just beginning.  For some of us, it has been something that we always knew might happen, going even as far back as childhood.

It comes down to what I did, and didn’t want.  Clear as mud, I know!

It’s always important to me that just because I am a blogger, that doesn’t mean those around me must have their lives printed here too.  As such, there are no details.  If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will know that is how I sometimes write in order to protect the privacy of those people.

For what seems like a long time, I have been very concerned about something that others around me seemed to not see.  Of course, we see not only what is apparent but also what we are open and willing to see.  In addition, we can only see what is there.  If it comes and goes, if at times it gets hidden, it is pretty hard for others to see.

No one has said it out loud but I got the impression that they thought I was exaggerating.  Maybe they thought that was because of my mental illness.  I don’t know.  No one has ever said.  Maybe they thought I was simply too emotional and reacting too strongly to what I could see.  Again, I don’t know.  No one has ever said.

This week finally, some other people told me that they could see what I could see.  Wow!  That was such a relief (in some ways!).  As I watched them, watch what was going on, I was quietly terrified that they would say they couldn’t see it.  They didn’t.  They could see it clear as day.

It’s hard because I wanted them to see, but at the same time I wanted to be wrong.  I know that will make little sense, but I guess it’s just human nature.  I wanted to be right, but I also didn’t want to be right.

I was right, and actually those other people assessing what was happening, were even more concerned than I was.  I didn’t know how to feel then.  I wasn’t quite ready for the depth of their concern, even though I was glad they could see and were concerned.

What had been sometimes unspoken, and sometimes barely whispered, had now come amongst us.  I had really hoped it never would.  Others around me had hoped it never would.  Even those who had passed on hoped it never would.  But now, here it was, and there was no denying it… for any of us.  I got what I wanted.  I wanted others to see.  But now I really didn’t want what I had got.

I can’t wind back the clock, and that is painful.  I want the clock set on today when everyone concerned can see what I see, but I so don’t want it.  It’s totally thrown me off-balance, even though I wanted this, I also knew that what I wanted was the last thing I would ever want.

If you’re confused, then I apologise, but just imagine how I might be feeling with all this in my head.

I think I need a rest.

“Because that’s life, you know? Good and bad. You can’t have one without the other. The bad brings out the good in us, and the good can be corrupted by the bad. It’s always a struggle—to fight for the good, so it tips the scale. – Jet Phoenix”

― Rachael Wade, Repossession

 

Trauma Takes Me Back Again

It doesn’t take much, and more often than not, it’s something quite innocent.  There is no intent to harm or frighten me, but yet something takes me back to live trauma all over again.  In spite of the time gone past, the hours in therapy, the healing and forgiveness… it can be the most innocent thing and it feels like I’m right back there again.

For  me, there are such triggers as:

A smile from the ‘wrong” shape of lips.

A chance comment (which probably had nothing to do with me).

A television/movie segment that springs from nowhere.

Watching something happen in the street.

A physical resemblance

A part (or even just an observer) of a conversation.

A touch.

A lie.

And many more, usually random events

There’s so many more things that can trigger that emotional response in me that take straight back to the scene of the trauma.  It happened to me yesterday.  Little warning but bang, and I was scared and I was frightened.  I was ‘back there‘ with the person who had perpetrated my trauma.  I was re-living it all over again, although I am clear that this was never the intention of the person that triggered me.  Actually they had no idea.

Thankfully I was at home (on my computer actually) and could retreat to my safe place (in my bed with heavy covers over me and my teddy bear by my side).  Safe, where I know there is nothing of which to be frightened. I can feel it physically and emotionally.  I know this routine well.  Thankfully a few words from a very dear friend also encouraged both that sense of safety but also affirmed that what I was feeling was valid.  Perhaps the most important aspect for me in that particular situation.

Eventually my safe place worked and I could feel okay about coming out from there.  But I was shattered for the rest of the day.  If you’ll excuse another earthquake metaphor, it was like the remainder of a day after a large quake.  Shaken, bruised and wondering what the hell would come next.  Wandering around the house, starring at damage, not quite sure what to do now.

I know this well, and you will too if you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  I’ve learnt the routine that works for me (eventually) and I know I simply have to get away from the trigger, and get to a safe place (for me).  But you know, what gets me everytime (after many years of this) is how the trauma keeps coming back.  How frightening it is… everytime.  That’s apparently the burden of PTSD.  While I know the triggers don’t affect me quite so often, it seems to come back full force, every time they do.  Not to mention how for some of us we seem to collect more trauma as we go.  That is so not fair.

When trauma takes me back I feel anything but ‘normal‘ (for want of a better word) yet I know only too well that it is ‘normal‘ for so many trauma victims.  This morning, by chance my friend Michelle  of Crow’s Feet (who knew nothing of yesterday) shared in my email an article about transforming trauma into creative energy and action.  It couldn’t have been better timed, thanks Michelle.  It wasn’t just the idea of transforming the trauma but the accompanying story of the therapist who came through the Holocaust and used her trauma to help others as a therapist.  It inspired me.  I’m not sure yet, how to make this happen for me but I like the idea and am sharing it with you.  The link to the article is:

On a good day she would kiss me back: transforming trauma into creative energy and action
by TED COMET

http://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ted-comet/on-good-day-she-would-kiss-me-back-transforming-trauma-into-creative-energy

I’m okay today.  Just being cautious of screens I look at and people I see.  I know it’s a random thing.  No one meant be any harm.  It was just my brain travelling back, and ouch, sometimes that hurts.

“He asks, in a softer voice, “Does your arm still hurt?”
You touch it with your hand. The big ache is gone, leaving only the little, underneath ache that will gather and swell against the bone. The blood leaks out of the vein where he grabbed you. But you say, “It’s better now.” 

— Jim Grimsley (Winter Birds: A Novel)

Knowing What Is Right For Me

The last few months have been pretty difficult for me, for a number of unrelated reasons.  My mental health has taken a dive, as I’ve told you on a number of occasions.

A big difficulty for me right now, as I explained in my last post (Back To Music (Therapy)) is that I don’t know who to trust.  I don’t know who is really on my side and who will divulge my confidences to places I’d rather they didn’t go.  That’s come about for a specific reason, and the big issue for me now is just re-learning about trusting my friends.  I have good friends, who I can trust.  It’s just that when someone has abused that trust it takes time to rebuild.

I’ve come to the conclusion that while I do that, I need to take a break from blogging.  It really isn’t wise for me to be writing about a lot of the things going on in my life right now, and trying to write about anything else is hampered by the stress I am living with.  I simply can’t focus to write.  I know that I have already cut back how much I have blogged recently and I feel frustrated by that (and in turn the stress level goes up further).

Last time I took a break from blogging it actually turned out to be for just a short while, and maybe that will happen this time too.  For now, I just need to give myself a break.

I will still be writing for A Canvas Of The Minds, and will reblog here, the posts I make.

Sometimes it’s really difficult to know what is the right thing for me.  There is a voice inside of me that gets expressed through blogging, and no doubt that voice will want it’s say.  I simply need to identify for myself what is safe for me to write about, and what is better left unsaid.  That kind of goes against the grain, but I’m going to give it a go for now.

Take care everyone.

“Do the other kids make fun of you? For how you talk?’
‘Sometimes.’
‘So why don’t you do something about it? You could learn
to talk differently, you know.’

But this is my voice. How would you be able to tell when I was talking?” 

― Lauren Oliver, Before I Fall

Sliding Scales (Actually Quite Good Considering)

Sometimes bad is relative.  Good is too, when I stop and think about it.  But lately it has been hard to focus on anything beyond the bad.  Not just one issue, but several, all combined to create bad.

For a moment there I considered packing my bag and moving out to my brother’s farm.  There’s ‘no room at the inn’, other than the cow shed (which is small and breezy… this is after all, a mushroom farm and not a cattle farm!).  I was still seriously tempted.  The reason of course, being my darling niece L, who kindly gave me a few hours stress relief the other afternoon.  The only problem was that I needed more.  That said, I recognise for all parents out there that I might be being slightly unrealistic in thinking that living with a two-year old could be stress relief.

Still, a few hours of feeding L’s doll (it is still beyond me how one can feed a doll and it poops out the other end!) and chatting to her Dad was a very good remedy for what had been mounting symptoms of stress.  After a few days of that tight feeling across the chest, and breathlessness, I realised I needed to do something fast.  And so the trip to visit L.

L is, of course, a very healthy stress relief but I admit that this week not all relief has been healthy.  No, I’m not sharing the details.  Surely though, some things are less bad than others (I know that is terrible English but it’s warranted).

Put bluntly there are two things I am trying to avoid happening, in terms of where my brain goes.  The first is suicidal thoughts and the second is the ‘need’ to self harm.  If I can avoid those two, then I am relatively happy with whatever it takes.  And you’ll be happy to know I have avoided both.  Actually, in spite of being what I consider as addicted to self harm in the past, it has been the furthest thing from my mind.  I simply have no desire to go there.  Wow!  Even when I stop to think of what I need to avoid, I still find I have no desire to go there.  Everything else aside, I am so happy to have got to a point in my life where I can say this.

As for suicidal thoughts, I haven’t gone there this past week either and again, that is a major victory.  This past week I have (almost) been able to accept (or at least acknowledge) my despair, my anger, my hurt and my loneliness (and I’m not talking about needing a partner, I’m talking about feeling apart from people when I don’t want to be).  I could ‘be‘ with those feelings, and not think that I needed to destroy myself.  Don’t get me wrong, none of this has felt very nice but I haven’t slipped straight into destruction mode as I usually do.

So why the difference?  Well, to be totally honest with myself I’m talking about the last week, and I have no idea of what the next week will entail.  That said, I realise that I am a good person.  I realise that just because others do me wrong (and yes, they have done me wrong!), it does not make me any less of a person.  And perhaps most of all, I realise that at some stage (who knows when?) I will get through this.  I will heal.

There’s so much truth to those three words I will heal.

When all those bad feelings dominate my life it is almost impossible to tell myself the truth, that I will come out the other side.  When I’m depressed, I don’t even care about ‘the other side’ because I simply can’t see that far.  Maybe right now I’m not so much depressed as very badly hurt several times over.  Maybe that’s why I can see that I will heal, in time.

Meanwhile I keep up my stress relief.  So some of it may not be as healthy as it could be, but it’s kept me alive and physically unharmed.  That has to be a good thing.  I’ll worry about the rest when I get to a point beyond the hurt.  It is going to happen, and while I wish I never was hurt in the first place, I know that I will heal and grow.  If I could just keep telling myself that, then I’d be fine.  But I might need a few more visits with L because after all, I’m only human.

I just wish that humans could treat each other better.  It would avoid all this need for healing.

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” 

― Martin Luther King Jr.

Don’t You Hate It When…?

It’s bad enough when you miss the birthday of someone close to you, but worse? When you miss your own birthday.

Yes, 7 March was my 1st blog birthday… and I missed it. I’m going to forgive myself though. It’s been one of those weeks. Actually it’s been worse than just one of those weeks, and when I look back it really doesn’t surprise me that I missed it.

So Happy Birthday, me… or at least Infinite Sadness… or hope?

If you want to know what I’ve been doing over the past year, there are 211 posts to choose from. More recent?  Read on.

I guess I’ve learnt lots in the past 10 days.  I wish there had been an easier, less painful (in more ways than one) ways to learn, but so often it seems I have to put myself through hell before I get the message.  Have I got the message yet?  Well, I’ve got some messages but I’m sure there is still more to gain from it all.

When I wrote The Black Mark Against Mental Illness a while ago, I wrote about the stigma of mental illness that people with fibromyalgia seem to both experience, and perhaps contribute to.  At that time I found that there was a big voice from fibro sufferers who were not willing to accept that there is an emotional and psychological aspect to fibro.  In my reading I found they were adamant that fibro is a solely physical illness and that the psychological realm just doesn’t come into it.  “This is not all in my head” was something I read over and over.

I disagree.  Should I say that I disagree as far as my own fibro is concerned.

I know full well that my emotional and psychological well-being has a direct impact on my physical health, particularly in terms of my fibro symptoms.  Disagree if you like, but the issue of whether fibro is ‘all in my head’ has direct relevance.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say all, but what goes on in my head definitely affects my fibro symptoms.  If your fibro doesn’t work that way, then I say lucky you.

This doesn’t at all mean that my fibro is not important.  It doesn’t mean that my suffering is not real.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t need doctors to take me seriously. Those symptoms still exist, but now I have some understanding of perhaps why I suffer more on some days than others.  For that fact, I am happy to accept that fibro, for me, is connected to my mental well-being.  I hasten to add thought, that isn’t the whole story.  I’m sure there are physiological issues going on too.  It is after all, a complex illness.

This past week has seen some big stressors in my life, most of which I am unable to go into the detail of out of respect for others.  Put it like this though, when I stood up for something I strongly believed in and got some serious opposition from people who matter a great deal to me?  Within hours, my body started to react with pain.  That night I could actually feel the pain growing up my body, and at that point was helpless to do much about it, other than prepare for the worst.  It was bad enough that I was emotionally upset by an argument, but now my body was reacting too.

The stress of the week continued with me trying to support and help someone else close to me, who really didn’t want to accept the help.  An independent person, it was too hard for her to accept help that she probably needed.  The crazy thing was that by now I was getting out of my bed to go support her, only returning home to climb back into bed.  Yeah, that is crazy isn’t it?

And even crazier?  In looking back actually, I suspect I was sicker than the person I was trying to help.  But as I ran around after her, I was frustrated that she couldn’t see I was sick.  What was I expecting?  Was she meant to be a mind reader?  I was setting myself up to be further stressed.

Ten days of this has done nothing for my fibro symptoms.  It also hasn’t helped my auto-immune symptoms which seem to be springing to life the more I go on.   My specialist told me this week that all of my symptoms are too many to indicate exactly to her what is going on in my body, and that I would just have to live with it.  At least until I return from England, anyway.

I didn’t really appreciate her “just live with it” approach but I am inclined to wonder whether the psychological stress I have been under is not also playing a part in my Graves’ symptoms.  I think it’s time to go back to bed.

As I wrote yesterday, in Invisibility, I was feeling invisible to so many people in my life, perhaps mostly because it seemed like no one had any comprehension of how sick I was feeling.  That’s not entirely accurate because I know there were friends who had some idea, but it is the reality of what I felt.  Apart from hanging a sign around my neck pronouncing me ‘sick and stressed’, what exactly was I expecting?

That’s why I realised that I needed to stop being invisible to me.  I need to listen to my body, and my mind.  It actually doesn’t matter that it was my blog birthday this week, and I missed it.  And if someone really wants to refuse the support I have offered, why do I fight it?  Just go back to bed.  Or better still, don’t get out of bed… until I’m ready (and my body is ready).

As for standing up for things I believe in, that hurts, but I’m not going to stop doing it.  It’s part of who I am.  Just as part of who I am is accepting that it’s not just my mind that reacts to external stressors.  My body does too.  Right now I’m stuck with that, so the sooner I accept it and adapt my life to allow for it, the better.  There is so much more important than a blog birthday.  Maybe I’ll do that one next year.

“Our minds are susceptible to the influence of external voices telling us what we require to be satisfied, voices that may drown out the faint sounds emitted by our souls and distract us from the careful, arduous task of accurately naming our priorities.” 

―    Alain de Botton,    Status Anxiety

The Tale Of Plonker The Pig

A ‘relative’ of Plonker’s                Image Credit: thornypup / Flickr.com

I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that people (and animals) come to us at exactly the right time.  I have long struggled with the phrase that there is a reason for everything.  I knew in my head that it was probably true but there were some things that really stumped me.  How could there possibly be a reason for some of the terrible things that happen?

Last year I developed a rather good friendship with Plonker, one of two pigs then living on my brother’s farm.  Plonker was named by  my nephews.  I’m not exactly sure how he earned this name and I can’t remember what his friend’s name was.  No doubt something apt to their then, thirteen and eleven year old’s minds.

I admit that I have been known to talk to inanimate objects (selectively) and so to talk to animals is not strange for me.  My cat Penny and I used to have long conversations, each taking turns to speak.  We didn’t necessarily know what the other was saying but we at least had our timing worked out.  And I always felt she understood.  So when I met Plonker and his mate it was quite natural for me to strike up conversation with them.  One can get a lot of sense from talking to animals.  Often much more than humans.  For some reason Plonker has a special character and he became very special to me.

The time was the days immediately after our deadly earthquake in February, 2011.  I had my parents staying with me, after they had lost their home and belongings  in the quake.  I had temporarily lost my car (for a few weeks) because it was parked trapped between two damaged buildings in a cordoned off part of town, and so I was reliant on my parents for transport.  We were asked not to move around the damaged city if we could help it but because I had no water, no sewage, and for a while no power we opted to go out to my brother’s farm during the days.  For some reason my parents wouldn’t go and stay out there.  I think they wanted to be near their home, in the hope that they might gain access.  That didn’t happen of course, and so for the sake of everyone’s mental health, we went to the farm (where water, sewage and power were operational) during the day and returned back to my home to sleep.

It was very stressful, and that is a big understatement.  Actually it was probably the most stressful time of my life.  Aftershocks continued, as we listened to news reports of bodies being dug out of collapsed buildings.  The personality of both my elderly parents changed markedly at that time (my father died six weeks later as a result of the stress).  The change in their personalities wasn’t really any surprise, considering what they were going through, but it was difficult for all of us, grandchildren included, to adapt.  It was almost like suddenly having completely different parents to those we had known before.  The only one who didn’t struggle seemed to be 10 week old L.  She slept on regardless.

I quickly took up walking around the farm to get some space from everyone.  It was also a chance to have a smoke (a habit I had taken up again when the quakes started several months earlier) which I attempted to do away from the kids.  I regularly went down to the pig’s hangout to visit Plonker and his mate.

Finally someone talked sense.  Plonker was interested to know if I had food for him.  He would start to get excited about company when he saw me walking his way.  I hadn’t completely forgotten that he was a pig but I felt appreciated, especially when I brought food.

I don’t know much about pigs but I understand they are social animals, and so when Plonker’s mate headed for the ‘dinner table’ (my vegetarian tendencies start to struggle at this point), Plonker seemed  to be lonely.   I used that as an excuse to hang out with Plonker more often.  The thing about Plonker was that he had no expectations of me, and what’s more he didn’t seem rattled by the constant quakes.  He was in my mind, the perfect company at the time.

Plonker has since made his own way to the ‘dinner table’ sadly.  Thankfully I wasn’t told who dinner was until after I had eaten.  The thought still leaves me feeling a little unwell, and I admit I haven’t formed such a close attachment to subsequent farm animals.  Saying good-bye was not easy and while my nephews laughed at me giving Plonker a leaving present (a bag of fruit purchased just for him), he will always have a special place in my heart.

Plonker saved my bacon (pun intended).  Spending time on the farm with him soothed the trauma of everything else happening, and the stress of suddenly finding myself living with my parents again (after nearly 30 years).  Plonker was there at the right moment for me.

In the same way there have been special people along my way who have appeared in my life at just the right time.  One was my friend A who I came to flat with just months before first getting sick.  At the time she was recovering from a two year battle with depression and actually that was significant in helping me accept my own depression that would follow.  We were only in each other’s lives for a couple of years and since have gone our separate ways, but I firmly believe that she was there for a reason.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is more than just coincidence that particular people (and pigs) come into my life.  There is a reason for these things, and actually I don’t need to know what that reason is, I simply have to accept them.  I’m slowly realising that I don’t have to understand, all I have to do is accept the gift I am offered.

“A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself-and especially to feel, or not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at any moment is fine with them. That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.” 

―    Jim Morrison