Healing

So, we have a situation. My body is out of whack, and I don’t know why. I’ve been piecing together fragments to make sense of this all, but I’m not a practicing licensed medical professional. There is only so much I can determine with the amount of undergraduate education I’ve recieved.

[P​lease note that this post was originally written three weeks ago.]

C​alifornia is up in smoke. This is nothing new. She has been up in smoke since 45 took office. It’s been a year and a half. My body is reacting to all the ash that we cannot escape. I’m having trouble breathing, my throat is constantly irritated, I am always congested, and when I blow my nose, there’s always blood. The thing is, there was blood even before the fires. The wave of ash we got in the Bay Area has just amplified the amount of blood that is coming out.

I​ have delicate tubes connecting my ears, nose, and throat. I always have. As a child, I was prone to murder scene nose bleeds, ear infections, and snot that looked like brain matter (to quote my family). When I was a child, I hated blowing my nose, and it was a battle that almost always ended in tears. There were times my parents had to use tweezers to dislodge dried mucus. Having someone you love come at you with tweezers for something other than hair or splinter removal is traumatic, especially as a four year old.

T​o this day, I still dislike blowing my nose. Honestly, it’s not the act of forcing snot and foreign objects out. I don’t like the sensation of having anything blocking my nasal passages, nor do I like the sensation of itchy nostrils. I mean, who gets joy from having a congested nose? I highly doubt anyone finds that pleasurable.

M​y ear, nose, and throat issues are not the point, though.

T​hrough the years of my life, I’ve learned that I live with polycystic ovary syndrome, major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. I would like to make it clear that I have a problem with the word disorder, especially when it comes to my diagnoses. I am in no way incapable of being a well functioning part of society. At first glance, none of these are apparent.

W​hile not apparent to the naked eye of a stranger, those diagnoses are there. They are a part of me. And, they were triggered by some biochemical reaction in my body. Science. She is a beautiful thing.

I​ wouldn’t have polycystic ovaries if I wasnt a biological woman who went through the natural process of puberty. I have ovaries that function, even if they aren’t very efficient. Puberty and PCOS triggered a hormonal imbalance which caused my brain to process my moods “abnormally”. With the hormonal imbalance came the depression. With the depression came the anxiety and OCD.

H​aving all of these formally diagnosed by licensed medical professionals and licenced psychologists has helped me understand my body and mind. I’ve gained a wealth of information from them, including self-care and holistic treatments, such as proper nutrition, sleep, and exercise.

L​ately, I’ve been experiencing joint pain that seems abnormal for my life. For two months, the mornings have been dreadful. The knuckles in my right hand feel like they have been smashed, and my left wrist feels like it did when I fractured it 25 years ago. Both of my shoulders feel extremely tender. My hips have been in immeasurable pain, and my ankles swell, even if they’ve been elevated. I get fatigued quicker than usual, and my mood has a harder time to shake.

O​f course, I went to the internet. That’s what we do in 2018. The first thing that popped up was lupus. Immediately, I convinced myself that I had lupus. That rash across the nose and cheeks? It seems similar to the redness that is constantly present. The pain that is its worst in the morning upon waking? Yes, that’s me. Am I constantly tired and do I feel emotionally low? Of course. Am I sensitive to light? Yes, I hate bright light.

T​he internet has made us all hypochondriacs. After a few sessions with my therapist, she helped me down from my lupus ledge I had found myself on. She asked me if anything else came up during my search. I said, “yes, there was one thing that actually makes a lot more sense: rheumatoid arthritis.” As I described my findings, we combined our knowledge (and she has a lot more than me), and agreed that RA is far more plausible than lupus.

T​his was in September. It’s now November. I have yet to see a doctor, and that was because I didn’t have health insurance. I’m insured now, so it’d be wise to get my body checked out, right?

The fatigue is getting worse. While the joint pain might not be as severe as it was a couple weeks ago, it is still there. There is something happening with my body aside from the ash inhilation and wacky, mood altering hormones. My body is unhappy with itself, and I’d like to be just a bit more comfortable every day. I’d like to be able to have a 13 hour day and have the energy to clean the kitchen when I come home. I would rather not slowly hobble up the short flight of stairs to my apartment and fall right into bed in the clothes I’ve worn all day. I’d like to, at the very least, drink a glass of water and eat an apple or a cucumber before falling into bed, but I don’t have the energy or painless range of movement to pour a glass of water or simple chopping of a cucumber. The feat of doing both seems too mighty. Neither of those are difficult, and an able bodied 36 year old should not have trouble doing either.

S​o, to a doctor it is. Blood needs to be drawn and looked at. All the normal things they check should be checked, and they should look at other things not normally ordered. I’d like an explanation as to why my body seems to hate me right now. Our bodies are intuative. They tell us when there is something not quite right. Scientists have come up with ways of looking at what is inside us for answers. The sooner I get answers, the sooner I can heal myself.

W​hen we take care of ourselves, we can take care of the world around us.

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Fall. Fallen.

Today was the first day that it really felt like autumn. The morning greeted us with a thick blanket of clouds. There was a crispness to the air. I even had to put on a fleece before sundown.

Here’s the thing: leading up to this day, my body has been responding to the seasonal atmospheric change.

Earthlings, flora and fauna alike, respond to light and temperature. Both are necessary parts of our lifecycles. My body, like a good chunk of humans, seems to be a bit more sensitive to changes in both.

Y’all. Seasonal Affective Disorder is legitimate. There is a moment when one notices the days getting shorter and the temperature is just a couple degrees below comfortable. As much as we try to keep some pep in our steps, life seems just a little bit more unbearable.

In the last twelve months, I have learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself, as well as mental health as a whole. The past year has given me insight about my values, work ethic, desires, and a deeper understanding about why I feel all the emotions that I do. It has been an interesting and amazing journey.

So, I’ve known for awhile that my moods are very much affected by the weather and the seasons. I am a cranky bitch if I’m in an non-breezy atmosphere hotter than 80 Fahrenheit. My body runs hot, always; being in a hot environment without any solace is painful. That has nothing to do with SAD, though. That’s just a physical response to heat. I’ll take the risk of being physically uncomfortable if it means the sun will be out until 9:00pm.

As soon as October hits, my body starts to slow down. I feel the upbeat mood still lingering from summer waning. It’s harder for me to get motivated in the morning, and I feel like I’m dragging most of the day. The Major Depression my body hosts is heightened from mid-October to the beginning of March.

The SAD started to kick in a week or two ago. For a moment, I just thought it was menstrual hormones. It might still be, but I know my body well enough. The sluggishness and apathy stem from a lot more than just a change in my hormones. It’s the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. We are creeping into winter in the Northern Hemisphere.

I’ve started to ensure I have tools in place to help ward off the deep navy winter blues. The apartment complex I live in has a “gym” (two rooms with a few pieces of equipment). I need to make sure I get down there and get on the treadmill at least three times a week. I’m starting to stock my bedroom with some dumbbells. They get used everyday, especially when they are in plain sight. All of my lightbulbs are warm to give my brain a boost of happy lighting. I use uplifting aromatherapy, citrus blends being my favorite. I make sure I take a B-Complex pill every day, as well Vitamin D3 and Magnesium. Being a vegetarian, I get a lot of nutrients from all the veggies, fruit, lentils, and nuts I eat. And, about a year ago, I invested in a light therapy box. I’ve used it only three times, but it’s living right next to my bed, so I can use it more often. Apparently these light boxes are great for people with SAD (and people who live in places far away from the equator), as they help regulate circadian rhythms, ensure melatonin is being produced, and the body’s ability to create Vitamin D is not a lost cause. Or, something like that. Don’t quote me. In fact, please correct me. I’m not a licensed medical/mental health professional. I’ll have to go look at the legitimate studies again. 

This will be my first winter without my family nearby. My parents are enjoying their retired life thousands of miles away in Ireland. I am definitely in for a huge learning experience, as I don’t get the treat of my mother’s delicious wintery Irish soul food. (Irish people really do do the best comfort food during winter months.)

Who else experiences Seasonal Affective Disorder? What are some of your coping mechanisms? Share! We are not alone and should lift each other up.

Take care of yourselves. Remember: YOU ARE LOVED.

So Far…

I wish getting a job was a lot easier than it is. I also wish that I had an advanced degree that would make getting a job easier. And, I really wish getting a higher education didn’t make people bleed money. It’s such a shame that education is so expensive. I’d have gotten a Masters a decade ago if higher education wasn’t so expensive.

And, if I had taken care of my mental health.

May is mental health awareness month. It’s no secret that I live with major depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Life is no picnic for me, and part of living with these is the constant, nagging thought “there are actually large communities of people out there in the world who actually have serious issues, so get out of bed and be happy.”

Yes, I think this very regularly. It is a common thought that many people with lifelong depression (may) think. The people I have spoken to with similar mental health concerns can empathize with this train of thought. It has the potential to be detrimental to our healing and self-care, as it minimizes our health.

One thing that I have learned over the course of self-care is that I “can’t heal the world.” Really, I can’t. I am one person in an aquarium full of 6+ billion people. And, the best thing that I can do to help people who I feel have it worse than me is take care of myself to the best of my ability.

When I take care of myself, I feel like a productive part of the community. I believe that my efforts have an effect on the immediate world around me. When I make other people happy and/or create or fix something, other peoples’ lives are easier. When their lives are easier, they can pass that flame on.

Something that I rarely talk about is that I have borderline personality disorder traits. We have a tendency to over-overthink things and see the world in only black and white. Mix this with obsessive compulsive disorder, and life gets real tricky. I am constantly having to remind myself to calm down, take a step back, and think in the grey.

This is why I get fixated on people who have it worse than me. The guilt is something that has been ingrained in my psyche. It’s what I have known for twenty years. My mind can go in a guilty loop for days, until I do something good and I’m shocked that I’m an okay person. It’s an extremely annoying cycle.

So, after 36 years, I’ve had enough. That’s why I started seeing a therapist and got on an anti-depressant. I’ve chosen to stick with both, because both are tools for success. It is important that I take care of myself, so I feel comfortable in my skin. A byproduct of this is that I’m more pleasant to be around and people will enjoy my company more. When I am a pleasure to be around, I feel better about myself. This is a cycle that I can get used to. But, I need to not think of it as a cycle. I just need to go with the flow.

Because not everything is black or white. Most things are grey and grey is a pretty color.

Change is Inevitable

Here I am, still unemployed. I am also very hormonal, or so it seems.

My weight seems to drastically fluctuate daily, and even something low calorie, like cucumber or spinach makes me extremely bloated and uncomfortable. This is always a sign that my flow is about to start. But, I’m 36 and have never had a naturally regular cycle. So, this could just be my body rejecting change.

Whatever the case, I had two phone interviews yesterday, both of which seemed promising. One lead to an actual onsite interview (and was told I needed to ensure I had two free hours to do so). This morning, I let someone know that I would like to rent the room she has available. It’s the most expensive room I looked at, but it’s a nice room with a large private bathroom.

Here’s a secret: I am a bathroom fanatic. I love large bathrooms that are light and welcoming. The larger, the better. And, a bathtub is essential.

When I was a teenager, my parents let me have the master bedroom. This meant I had a private entrance to the house, as well as my own private bathroom. High school was great, because I got to sneak out whenever I wanted. I could take a shower when I crept back in at 4:30am to wash the night’s fun off. But, there wasn’t a bathtub.

I am absolutely excited for the bathroom that will be all mine. The bathtub is perfect! As soon as I am all moved in and settled, I’m going to light a few candles and toss some essential oils and salts in, and luxuriate in this new journey I am embarking on.

The next couple weeks are going to be jam packed with packing, storing, interviewing, exercise, mindfulness, eating well, and moving.

I do still have my GoFundMe active, as well as an active Patreon page! Please visit both. Any donations are greatly appreciated. Please know that I will keep all donors updated on my progress with moving and job hunting, as well as any exciting events in my life!

Letting Go

Yesterday, something happened to me for the first time in my life. It is something that I was slightly expecting, but didn’t want to happen. The law of attraction was working its magic, as much as I hate to admit that.

The last year and a half has been strange. I have learned a lot about myself, and I know that the last 18 months have presented a whole slew of facts and truths that I am only now starting to fully grasp.

In the 20 years of my employment history, I was let go. I was let go from a job that served my life in many ways, both positively and negatively.

Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. I’ll bounce back.

But, this is a huge shock to my system, and I don’t quite know how to move forward. Fortunately, I have an incredibly part time job at a yoga studio lined up, so I am not completely at a loss. I also have been sending my resume and Linkedin profile out like mad. I am doing what I can to move forward.

To be completely frank, I’m freaking out. The panic is all internal, which isn’t the most healthy. I need to talk this out with someone. I need to process. A lot of the panic stems from the fact I am seeing a therapist, and that service was covered by the company I worked for. I also had health insurance, which kept my anti-depressant cost at $5 a month. The temporary lack of income is a cause of panic, but the lack health insurance coverage is the aspect that is really freaking me out. This is a vicious cycle. I suffer from constant anxiety, which is lessened by regular talk therapy and anti-depressant therapy. Not being able to afford the two things that help my mental health is detrimental to my mental health. And, here I am, feeling myself getting caught up in the panic fog.

I have ways of getting myself out of this. I know exactly what I need to do. One of them is reminding myself that I am actually employable. I need to use this knowledge and spend some quality time today (well every day) looking at jobs and being ruthless.

Another thing I need to do is get outside and move. This is a free way to ensure that I’m taking care of my body and mind. I can fill my ears with podcasts, whether they are comedy based or news based. This will be a time for me to clear my mind, and either laugh or learn (both, maybe). One of the perks of getting the job at the yoga studio is unlimited yoga is accessible for employees. Another way to take care of myself! As I spend time practicing yoga, I can work towards my goal of doing Yoga Teacher Training, a skill I want to have in my wheelhouse.

Last, I need to ensure I am doing creative things. This could be writing, drawing, coloring, knitting, or taking photographs. I want to knit a whole slew of headbands/ear warmers and set up an Etsy store. This is a way to bring in a few extra dollars.

Today, right now, the best I can do is keep my head up. As soon as I hit publish, I am going to hop over to some job sites and send my resume out.

You, dear readers, can do me a solid. I have a Patreon page that is active. I have a few reward levels, but I don’t expect anyone to splurge on me. I would, however, really appreciate it if anyone can spare a few dollars a month to help me put gas in my car and set up an Etsy storefront. If you can spare $5 a month for two or three months, that would be amazing and I will be eternally grateful!

Today is a new day and the beginning of a new journey. I’m scared. I’m nervous. And, the fire is lit under my ass.

It Takes Time

There has been a quietness to my voice. I haven’t been able to say what I need to say. More than a year has passed; while there have been things I’ve wanted to release, I’ve felt lost and not known where to start.

So, six months ago, I started seeing a therapist again. I started taking an anti-depressant again. Both of these have been incredibly essential tools in helping me find my voice and story again. But, it’s been six months and, only now, I have been able to feel comfortable sharing stories.

The questions I have been asking myself for a long time are so cliche. Where do I start? How do I begin? Is this appropriate? These are cliche, but they are honest. They help me understand who I am, why I am where I am, and how my life has unfolded the way it has. These are questions that are touched on during my weekly therapy sessions. This is how my mind wanders when I go for my long walks. I am constantly evaluating my life and how I feel, which is part of the human condition.

Going forward, I will be writing one post a week. I will be touching on my spiritual and emotional healing process, and how this process correlates with my physical health. I’ll be sharing my story, because we all have stories to tell, and mine might resonate with someone out there in the world.

This is a way for me to be honest with myself, as well as being of service to others. I am not a licensed therapist or medical professional, nor am I person in a spiritual authority role. But, I am a human, and we are all connected somehow.

Be kind to yourselves, and remember that love is good.

 

The Stories We Tell

Each line tells a different story, their histories equally unique and identical. Without them, who would I be? I could tell you who or why or what was the root for every line.

It started soon after I hit my teenage years. I felt I had no ability to voice what I was feeling. Life was scary and confusing (it still is, at times). At that time, I believed I had no way of speaking up. Many of you understand that feeling, and lived that in a deeper way than I.

The first time I did it, there was a momentary internal sigh of relief. The tension in my neck loosened. My forehead no longer wrinkled in confusion. While the weightlessness was fleeting, it was real and exciting.

Over the space of a decade, these moments started off few and far between. In times of internalized crisis, I found solace in this secret time with myself. That momentary rush of endorphins got me through the night. Just like an addict, that chemical reaction in my brain was a quick fix to a deeper problem.

Over the years, the time between each moment grew shorter. Finally, I found myself focusing on seeking relief most of the time. While I was in the throes of it, I was acutely aware of how damaging my behavior was. But, I was addicted. During that time, the only coping mechanism I knew and had was my behavior. At one point, I was able to count 37 fresh marks on my body. That number scared me and the palpable guilt was hard to shake.

It took removing me from the environment I was in and being physically near people who I felt I could give permission to monitor me. Another decade passed. During that time, the desire to seek out temporary moments of bliss melted away. It is rare for me to have that desire, and if I do, I have learned how to cope in healthy ways.

Twenty years of learning how to love myself and finding my voice has left me with scars. Each one happened for different reasons; ultimately, they are all rooted in the same place. At 34, I embrace my scars. They are a part of who I am, and the shame I attached to them no longer exists. With that lack of shame, I’ve found that people no longer ask about them. I used to tell some people I was a highly adventurous child and teenager. I would tell others I couldn’t remember how I got them. And, there were some days I’d simply say “I get that you’re curious, but we’ve never met before and asking me about the scar on my wrist isn’t very polite,” because, really, it isn’t polite to ask a stranger about scars that are clearly self-induced.

So, I am happy to talk about my scars. But, I have to be in control of the conversation. It has to be on my own time and in an environment that lacks judgement and full of compassion.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing any kind of self-harm and/or addiction, there is a multitude of resources available. A couple posts back, I listed some sources for mental health help. There are so many more options, including (but definitely not limited to) the following:

National Alliance on Mental Illness: Self-Harm
HelpGuide: Self-Harm
Self-Injury Outreach
S.A.F.E Alternatives
Selfharm.co.uk
Harmless
The Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury & Recovery

This only skims the plethora of online resources. But, this short list is a great starting point. Remember, we all deserve care and compassion. We deserve to find our voices and speak our truths. Be kind to yourself and share love with others.

Scars