Wednesday, January 11, 2017

When A Giver Has Given All They Can

I'm a giver. I think that's true of a lot of us with mental health conditions. We seem to be a particularly empathetic, sympathetic, and understanding bunch. We know what it's like to not be understood, to be identified as a label instead of a person, and we don't want others to feel so un-cared for as we have. We want to put ourselves in other people's shoes often, because we wish more people would put themselves in ours before judging. We don't want to ask for what we're not willing to give, and so we give. And we give, and we give, and we give.

But there's a problem with being a giver. And that problem is that eventually, unless you're one of those people who will be elevated to sainthood soon after your life has ended, you run out. One day, the giving well is just gone. And it might be someone asking you for something big, or even something tiny. But it doesn't matter. It isn't about what they're asking, not really. It's that you physically, mentally, emotionally have nothing left to give. For me at least, this is especially true if it's one or a few people that have been bleeding your giving supply. Because the problem with being a giver is that those who take so often don't tend to replenish you equally. They promise they will one day, but they can't just now. Or maybe they don't even realize how much they're asking you to give. I'll at least hand them that. Maybe people don't understand that just because you're willing to give, just because it comes naturally to you, just because you're always so prepared to put others first (often because of your lack of self-esteem or self-worth) doesn't mean that it takes no toll. They may not understand how much it still drains you. They may not see that you need to secret yourself away somewhere after a particularly rough bout of giving to replenish for a while. They may not see that if you have to give again and again in a short period of time, you don't get that time to replenish, and that at some point, you're stealing from yourself to give to them.  You're using up your mental, emotional, physical energy so that you can offer it to them, and that when it comes to yourself, you have nothing left. And when illness already has you living with limited energy, this is no small task.

What people don't understand, when they ask you to give and you finally can't, is that it's not about that one issue. It's simply that one request that puts you over the edge. Think about it this way: Say a friend asks to run a 5K with them. You think, "Yeah that's no problem, I can run a three miles or so." But part way through the run, they tell you it's a 10K. You think, "Wow that's rough, but I think I can manage the energy."  Then, as you're nearing the 10K point, thinking, "Thank god. This was way more than I bargained for," they say tell you it's a half marathon. Your friend really wants you to finish the run with them so you grit your teeth, fight through the pain, and keep going. And as you're nearing mile 13, exhausted and hurting, thinking "Holy crap I did it!" they say, "Actually, it's a marathon."  So you run and run this race that you didn't expect on energy you really don't have. And at mile 25.2, you just run out of steam. Flat. Done. Completely. You feel like if you take another step you will physically, mentally, and emotionally collapse. And your friend looks at you and says, "I thought you were a runner? You can't even run a mile?  That's all you have to do."  But clearly, they haven't asked you to run a mile. They've asked you to run a marathon, when what you thought you were agreeing to was a 5K. You can run a mile. You just can't run another mile. You've made it 25.2 and have given it all you have but you have no more. Now, sure, you could maybe walk it, limping in hoping you don't collapse on the finish line. Hell, you could probably get on your hands and knees and crawl it. But how much damage might you do? What if you don't make it? What if because you've pushed yourself way past the limit your illnesses will allow, it takes you months to recover. That's right, months. And besides, the point isn't that you may be able to crawl and gasp your way into the finish line possibly. The point is, your friend thinks this is about running a mile and that you're not willing to run a mile for them. And no matter how much you say, "I can run a mile! Just not after 25.2 of them!", they don't understand.  Because they really, really want you to finish this marathon with them. And they can not understand why you can't run one mile. After all, you said you would run this race with them! Why are you going back on your word now?

That's how it feels to be a giver, especially a giver with a mental health condition and a chronic illness. You give and you give and you give. You give until you finally drop. Like a stone. At least mentally and emotionally, and sometimes physically. And when you do, nobody understands. Because being a giver is just who you are. You always give. And because in a vacuum, they've just asked you to give this one thing that they think shouldn't be that hard for you. But first of all, we don't live in a vacuum. We live in the reality of all the other things you gave first before this one thing came along. Secondly, it's unfair to judge what "should" be easy or hard for someone else to give. My brain (and sometimes body, because of ME/CFS) don't work the way others' do all the time. So maybe, for whatever reason, what seems like a small deal to you is a big deal to me and I just do not have the mental or physical or emotional energy to do this one more thing, to give this one more time.

So next time you ask someone to give something they just can't - even if it's something you didn't think would be a point of contention, that would cause them any difficulty - ask why. Then listen. Carefully. Without judgement and without trying to get your point across.  Then try to understand. Try really hard. Just like we do every time we push ourselves past what is healthy for us because of something that's important for you. But maybe giving this one last bit will dry them out. Maybe they can do it technically, but it requires them to pull from their few remaining stores, again, and give them to you.  And is that really worth it to you? Maybe. Only you can make that decision. Just try not to do it in a vacuum.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Illness Fatigue In Our Busy-Centered World

When you battle chronic illness, you most likely battle exhaustion and fatigue. Often. When you battle chronic fatigue syndrome (now known as ME/CFS) it's guaranteed that you do. Because, you know, it has fatigue in the name. And when you pile on depression, anxiety, and mood cycling (the ups and downs exhaust like you wouldn't believe) it basically feels like the energy has physically been syphoned out of your body - which I'm sure my fellow spoonies experience with their own illnesses.  Of course, this in and of itself is an issue, since it can make every day tasks like working, walking the dog, cooking dinner, and cleaning the house feel like you're going through them with a body full of lead.  But wait, there's more.

Our society loves to be busy. We don't say that of course - in fact, we mask it under complaints of how busy we are - but we do. It's become an automatic response for so many. "How are you doing?" And the answer is always  "Busy!" Often, I don't think they know what they're busy with. It's replaced "Good, how are you" as the human auto-reply. People wear their hectic schedules, lack of sleep, lack of meals like a badge of honor. "I haven't slept more than two hours, I missed breakfast and lunch every day this week, and I haven't had time to pee all day!" Like giving yourself a bladder infection is something to be proud of. But for some reason, this makes everyone "ooo" and "ahhh" time and again.

So when you have an illness that makes you feel like you have skipped two meals each day and haven't slept more than two hours a night, even when you have, it is tough to "keep up". Here's everyone being too busy to pee, and here's me trying to muster up the energy to get off the couch and walk the 15 feet to the bathroom to pee. And it makes me feel like shit (pun totally intended). Because there's that tiny part of me that for some ridiculous reason wants to be too busy to pee. Because I want to have the energy to be that busy. I want to feel like I have the strength to make my mark on the world. I want to not be so fatigued that even when I'm most inspired I can't will myself to have the energy.  I want to stop giving up when I hit even a tiny bump because I feel physically and mentally too drained to push through it.

Instead, I get home from my part time job at 1:30, 2:00, 2:30PM, and I sit on the couch or at the desk trying earnestly to find the energy to do more. I want so badly to have a burst of mental and physical awake-ness. I feel like, "If I could just do this enough, push myself through it, I could get the ball rolling on this project, and maybe over time, I could grow it and it would become successful. If I could just force myself, push myself harder, I could fulfill my dreams." But I sit there with my body and brain feeling like they're turning to jello and finally say, "I can't.". Despite the fact that I know it's illness, I still hate it. I think back to my early 20s, when I worked full time and got my Master's at night and did a correspondence program in my "free time".  I want so badly to have that version of me back, or at least the energy that this version of me had (I rather like the wisdom and decision making of the 30-something me better). And I wonder how I managed it - I wasn't diagnosed then, but I still battled my illnesses, I just didn't realize all of them. It makes me question myself. Why can't I do it now?  Even though I know the answer, sometimes I often don't want to accept it. Especially when I look at others who are also ill (often more ill than myself), but who have managed to make an impact, to grow their projects and their advocacy efforts, to get to where I want to be. And I start blaming myself - if they can do it, why can't I? There must be something wrong with me. I must not be trying hard enough, or maybe just not capable enough. But especially during a time of depression, it's easy to blame myself, and to allow that to drag me down even further.

And when you add this into a society that shames people who aren't running around like a chicken with their head cut off, calling them lazy and complaining how they aren't pulling their weight, so to speak, it makes it even worse. Because now society is trying to make me feel guilty for being ill, for wanting so badly to do the things I used to but no longer am able. And all of this combined is so frustrating I want to scream. But often I don't even have the energy for that. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Starting the New Year Off Right

Happy New Year! As we ring in the new year, I have had a lot to think about. 2017 looks to offer exciting changes and growth for me. More on that later. I promise. Seriously.  Soon. But back to my "thinking'.  I'm a part of numerous organizations, and each year, whether it's the transitioning of the calendar year, or passing the baton from one leader to the next, a theme is chosen.  That theme is designed to inspire and motivate the decisions and actions of the leader, as well as the rest of the organization, throughout the year.

As you probably know by now, I don't believe in resolutions. I have made a few goals to help me focus on my mental health more this year, which I'm posting on my Instagram each day this week. But I also wanted to have a focus for my life as a whole - which of course, mental health is a huge part of, admittedly.  Still, while it's an important focus, I don't want it to be the sole focus. So I wondered, "What if I created a theme for my year, as organizations do?" I thought about my goals for mental health, my potential career goals, my love of helping others, and the kind of person that I want to be, and how I could incorporate all of this, and I came up with a theme.

Make everyone feel as loved and as special as possible this year. 

And there's a key component here. Everyone means everyone.  Including myself. Because of everyone I might slack on making feel special from time to time, I do so the most with myself. And by making sure I credit myself with my own worth, I am better able to serve others. Because it's a self fulfilling prophecy - if you think of yourself as unimportant and un-special, you often don't feel you can influence others, and you give up. But I'm not self-serving and I can't focus only on me (it's just not who I am), so this is just a part - just a piece that I have to make sure not to overlook.

So how do I plan to follow this theme? There are plenty of ways.  Often, it's the littlest things that are really the biggest things.  Some examples:

  • Sending (or giving if nearby and I see them often) actual birthday/special occasion cards. Not the kind that involve a Facebook post or a link to click on. The kind with an envelope that require paper and pencil to fill out.  Because that takes time and effort. And showing someone that they're worth your time and effort makes them feel special. 
  • Tell people what they mean to me.  One of my closest friends, who sadly passed away all too young in 2015, used to send me texts that said, "Just wanted to to let you know how much I value our friendship." She did this for seemingly no reason at all. Although of course there was a reason - she valued our friendship.  These days, most people seem to need an acute reason to say things like this. Someone helped us get through a bad time, or helped us with a big project, or listened to us vent. And of course, you shouldn't let these go unappreciated.  But how nice would it be to just hear out of the blue and for no specific reason that you mean a lot to someone and they value you? How much could that brighten your day when you're particularly down and feeling bad about yourself?  And so, as a tribute to my friend who I lost so sadly and so suddenly, who always made me feel so special, I vow to do this more in 2017. 
  • Helping friends with their projects, charity events, and more. I have a couple of friends who, no matter what project or charity or whatever it is, go above and beyond. They retweet, repost, volunteer to help out, donate, participate in fundraising events, help me brainstorm, all of the above - every single time. And these aren't friends rolling in dough, with tons of free time on their hands.  They have to squeeze in the time to do these things. They are often strapped for cash themselves, but still manage to donate to my causes. And I need to do more of this. Whether it's a toy drive or a charity walk or a project you're starting that you need me to share on social media. (Caveat: Guys, I love you dearly but if I attended every LulaRoe and makeup and jewelry party I was invited to I'd literally never be at work and couldn't pay my bills, plus I'd have an anxiety attack being in a group of people I don't know, so unless it's for charity I may well decline).  But if you have a cause that you're raising money for or are starting a new business or are gathering toys/books for a toy/book drive or need me to volunteer at a charity event, please, let me know.  I'll do everything I can to help out, even if it's just sharing it on social media or posting about it or helping brainstorm ideas or whatever. 
  • Spread Hope Project. I'll be posting more about this on my blog later, but the idea is that, to start with, I'm going to be taking photos in as many places with as many different people as I can with my Hope shirts (or accessories or signs or whatever I can), to literally Spread Hope, particularly to those battling mental health conditions or chronic illness, but also just in general. There's more to come down the road, but that's the start. In the mean time, you can see some photos on Instagram. And by all means, if you have a destination suggestion or want to be in a pic, let me know!
As I start 2017, I hope to keep this theme of making people feel loved and special in mind when considering my actions and decisions and words.  As I mentioned, I also need to take care of myself, and my health to make sure I can continue to do this. So there may be times I need to decline do to being ill, and I hope those that I love will understand. But I will do my best, even if all I can muster with the few spoons I have for a day is a text or a card or to share your tweet or post in hopes of helping you to promote your efforts. And if there is a way I can make you feel special that I've not mentioned, please, let me know, and I'll do my best. Because after all, it's the people who will be holding your hand at the end, it's how people will remember you as a person, that matters most. Love (familial, platonic, romantic) is everything - the rest is just frosting. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Thin Line Between Excitement and Anxiety

I'm back! Been a couple of weeks. December has been a busy and eventful month.  I'm sure I'll have more on that in the new year.  For now, though, I want to write about a more immediate issue I've been having:  sleep.  Or the lack thereof.  Lately, I've been waking up at 4AM or earlier on my days off.  They key part of that being that I'm not falling back to sleep. I usually lie there for an hour, hour and a half, two hours. Finally, usually some time by 6 or 6:30AM I give in and get up.

Some mornings, other than the fact that I know I'll be exhausted and that it's bad for my mood cycles, it's not unpleasant. I'll lie there in that half-wake-have-sleep state, and my brain fuzzily focuses on some sort of story that it's creating without my intending to. These mornings I'm sleepy enough, yet not feeling sleep deprived, and simply knowing I'm warm and cozy in bed and don't have to get up to go to work is all I need. Other mornings, though, that is far from the case. These mornings I'm jittery, can't sleep, mind racing. These mornings my brain is in full gear, making lists, coming up with ideas, creating tasks and asking questions. It's not because I'm wide awake per se, but simply because my brain is awake enough to do this. Many times this is stress. I'm upset or worried or hurt or even angry about something, and my brain won't let me forget it. Lately, though, it's been the opposite. I've had a lot of positive going on, and my brain just can't let go of those vibes. I wake up excited with ideas and plans, wanting to write and research and create. But still, I'm jittery, unable to fall asleep, not even feeling tired enough to, yet knowing that I am. These are the days I give in and get up extra early (note, this doesn't mean 6 or 6:30, it means 5 or 5:30).

It seems there's a thin line between anxiety and excitement. Often, this line blurs completely. I'll be so excited about something that I get anxious about not working on it or getting it done.  So my mind starts racing and I start getting restless, unable to fall back asleep. When this happens with numerous trains of thoughts all at once, I end up completely anxious. Sometimes in a full blown anxiety attack. And the thing is, at no time in either case am I actually trying to think about any of this. It's just coming up in my brain. I can literally feel it seeping through my body, slowly spreading like some sort of electric current through my arms and legs, hands and feet. And when this happens, I know there's no hope of getting any more rest. The only thing I can do is get it out of my system, and that means getting up and taking action in the form of getting things done.

For those who don't battle anxiety and the resulting insomnia, it may be easy to think, "Well just stop thinking about it so hard and let yourself fall back to sleep. What can you get done at 4AM on Saturday anyways?  But to the anxious brain, there's always something that you can do. And if not, by default that "something" is worrying.

The only technique I have found that works for me is simply to just go with it. Let my body and brain guide me. If I try to fight it, I end up worrying about getting anxious. I lie there thinking, "I'm not going to get back to sleep and then I'm going to be exhausted later and then I'm going to cycle more, and then and then....". I literally will get anxious about being anxious, or excited as the case may be. So if my brain and body say, "no ma'am, you're done sleeping for the night," I decide what time I'll lie in bed until, and when that time hits, I get up.  That way, I am not lying there thinking how I'll be doing so for hours when it's a more "appropriate time to get up", or when my partner wakes up. I've gotten used to being up when it's dark out, to putting on a pot of coffee, sitting down at my desk with my notebook, and getting my day started by writing. And if I am in one of those more pleasant half-sleep-half-awake states, when the excitement is just kind of there in the background but not overpowering, then I just let myself be content with that. I'm content that I can just lie there, without the electric current feeling that I experience so often. These days, I can allow myself to lie there longer. And if I feel the feeling start to shift from content to jittery, I know it's almost time to get up. I don't let it get to full blown anxiety if I can help it.

I should note here that I do take melatonin, and my evening medications usually knock me out. It's the staying asleep past 4AM on non-work days that's the issue. (Oddly on work days, my brain is happy to sleep).  I'm very open to any tips that you may have discovered! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Mental Health Pet Peeves

In the mental health community, we face a lot of stigma. Some of it is overt. People calling us crazy or mental or insane. People saying we're dangerous, violent. These people, while they frustrate the hell out of me, are sometimes easier for me to deal with. I pull out statistics about how those with mental health conditions are ten times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than perpetrators. I tell people how I run a business and work a part time job, have recently written a novel in my "spare time", and have served on numerous boards of directors, to name a few accomplishments. This tends to make people realize perhaps I'm not as "crazy" as they would like to think. Or they do, and I tell them where to shove and move along because they've decided to be closed minded and nothing I can say will change that, so they aren't worth my time. But the people that don't get what they're doing are the ones who really get to me. Because that is how stigma and ignorance disguises itself in a pretty little helpful bow, and continues to be perpetuated. Here are a few of my top mental health pet peeves.
  •  "Just pray about it." Ok, first off, I've been black listed by the Catholic church for living in sin for the last umteen years (divorced, not annulled,etc etc) and quite frankly it pisses me off that I'm counted as much of a sinner as a murderer or a rapist simply because I left an unhealthy relationship. But all of this is besides the point BECAUSE MY ILLNESS IS NOT A SIN OR A PENANCE! I jokingly call it the gremlin in my head, but that's a joke. Because it's so ridiculous that a separate being would be actually possessing my brain that I can joke about it. Praying, if I were religious, might calm me. It might give me some sort of comfort. If I were religious. Which I am not. Now, to be clear, if you are religious and want to pray that I'm feeling better, by all means, go ahead. It's how you feel you can help, and I truly appreciate that you want to help in some way. I'm not telling you not to pray or believe, and I appreciate you doing what you can to help. Who knows, maybe it'll work and I'll become a believer again.  But please, don't tell me the only thing that I can do to help is pray. I respect that it's your thing, but it's not my thing. And I'm not looking for a miracle. 
  • You're a pawn of the pharmaceutical/doctor industry. They're making you sicker so you buy the drugs and they get rich.  Ok first of all, did you witness the first 30 years of my life? Did you watch me at 2 years old in hypomanic episodes begging my parents "make it stop, make it stop." But I'm just fine off my meds?  How exactly do you, who is not in my head or my body, know that?  Let me set you straight: my meds, and the meds of so many others, are life-saving. When you have a potentially fatal cancer and choose not to take medication, please, come to me and show me how you've magically healed on your own. Then we can talk. 
  • Oh I don't need medication, I've cured myself with these herbal supplements and exercise. Well hoody hoo for you. You are not me. You're not inside my brain. I have a bachelors in kineseology, worked in corporate fitness for five years, and am a certified personal trainer and fitness instructor. If exercise could cure me, I think I'd be fine and dandy by now. I'm honestly glad that works for you. You're lucky. Me, not so much. It does help me at times, but it doesn't cure me. Nothing does. I have a chronic illness that currently has no cure. 
  • Just relax/chill out/calm down (during anxiety/hypomania). *%&$&*$%&#$%*$% You. If I could, I would. And here's a tip: never, in the history of telling people to calm down, has telling someone to calm down actually made them do so. In fact, it does the reverse. 
  • Just focus on the positive more. Be more grateful.  I'm not ungrateful. I know I have "no reason" (as you put it) to feel so awful, worthless, terrible, hopeless. I know there are starving children in Africa and that so many people are more sick, or have it worse. But I do, actually, have a reason. It's called a medical illness that screws with my brain. And now, thanks to you, I simply feel guilty about having this illness, and more like a giant piece of shit than I already felt. 
  • Why are you depressed? You have a good life. If I asked you why you couldn't just stop having cancer because you have a good life and *should* be healthy, I'd look like the biggest asshat on the planet. When you ask this, so do you. 
  • I  avoid people who are emotional/dramatic. Every time I see this in anyone's status/profile/etc I run like the wind. Because this makes me feel like I can't be myself if I'm having an overly emotional day, and like it's my fault if I am. Like it's not an illness that makes me this emotional but a choice. It makes me feel like a burden. And I don't want to be a burden to anyone. I'd rather be alone. 
  • Happiness is a choice. Ah, well, no shit?! If only I'd known! All this time, I've been suffering from a lifelong illness when I could have just decided not to be depressed! I hope you can sense the sarcasm. If happiness was a choice, approximately 16 million Americans would not be living with Major Depressive Disorder (source here). Trust me, we don't want to be depressed, and we certainly never chose this on purpose. 
  • You can't control what happens to you but you can control your reactions to it. Clarification: in a perfect world, I agree. But in a perfect world, 16 million Americans would battle major depression either. By nature of my disorder, my brain makes it increasingly difficult to control my reactions, and sometimes nearly impossible. If it helps make this a bit more clear, my meds are actually used primarily for seizures. Basically, I'm having a seizure- like reaction in my brain that manifests itself emotionally/mentally instead of physically. And if you've ever witnessed someone having a seizure, you understand the lack of control. If I could not have an anxiety attack or panic attack in public, I would.  Because nobody likes being stared at and steered clear of in public. Nobody likes collapsing in a pile of tears in the middle of a crowd. And if I could not sink into a depression, I would. Trust me, even through a depression, I'm trying to keep to react as best as possible. I'm trying not to let it drag me under into an abyss of nothingness. I don't always win. Please believe me, if I can't control it, I really can't.
Fellow mental health battlers, have more? I'm sure there are plenty. I try to laugh at them, to brush these things off. It helps keep me from isolating myself, feeling like nobody understands me. So I joke and use colorful language to make them lighter. But honestly, these things aren't funny. They're annoying at best, and ignorant and stigmatizing at worst. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Today, I Realized I Was Living in the Past

Today, an interesting thing happened. I realized I've been living in the recent past. To clarify, I don't mean specifically that I can't let go of my past or anything like that. Those actively in my past have moved forward, as have I. I'm happy for them. I don't burn bridges nor do I hold grudges.

What I mean, however, is that I have been looking at people and situations that I still consider part of my life, in some cases a big part of my life, as they used to be instead of as they currently are.  For instance, I have a friends that I used to see all the time.  I'm talking like at least once a week, for months or years.  But now, I haven't seen them in months or years.  I often don't even talk to them for months, not counting a Facebook comment here or there.  And yet, I'm still sitting here saying, "I can't believe s/he didn't donate to my Overnight Walk! I can't believe they didn't even acknowledge the email! We're such good friends, I've tried to help her/him so much over the years, donated to their causes, been there to do stuff with them... etc".   But then I sit back and realize I can't remember the last time that person reached out first, other than maybe a happy birthday a few months ago and the aforementioned Facebook or Instagram comment here or there (which I don't really count as reaching out unless it's really personalized).  I realize the last few times we talked (texted), we said "We *have* to get together soon! I miss you!" I realize that I said, "OK I'm free this day and that day and xyz.  Do you want to do this? Or how about that? Let me know." And they never did. They never reached back out, took the initiative, made the plans. And this has happened numerous times over the course or months or even years. It has been all me for a while now. And that's when it hit me:  we were good friends.  Maybe for quite some time. And maybe one day we will be again. But right now, we aren't. Yet I'm holding them to the standard of someone who is. Of someone they used to be, or maybe even who I thought they were. Of the relationship we used to have, not the one we have now. Not who they are to me, or more important, who I am to them, now. And that's not fair, to them or to myself, and I need to let it go.

This happens all the time. I've experienced in reverse. Because of my illness, my health has to take precedent. Which often means I can't be out late, or at all. It means I need my down time, my quiet time, my recoup time, and even when I'm out, I'd often rather do weekend brunch than a night out on the town (read: would always rather). So friends that I spent time with when I made an exception and went out for a couple of people's birthdays don't understand why I'm suddenly so boring, why I never want to go out. And I have to say, "listen, it was fun going out a few times" but I really can't do this constantly.  It's not really me. Or friends who always want to do things in big groups, who think the more the merrier, and I have to say, "listen, big groups give me an anxiety attack, I need one on one time, so I don't think I'll make it."  I'm may feel like rejection to them. To them, our dynamics have to change. They may feel I have changed.

So I sat back and thought further, and I realized that there are a good number situations in my life right now - in my business, in friendships, in personal situations - where I've been holding onto the past. I've been looking at my business as I did as a 26 year old just starting out (12 years ago). I've been looking at friendships I had when each of wanted different things or our life situations were different. I've been looking at personal situations that I thought of one way, based on impressions formed months or longer ago, and have never adjusted. Maybe I changed, maybe the situation changed, maybe someone else involved changed. Maybe my impression was wrong all together, just as the above friends though I liked nights out and big groups based on their initial impressions.  But the bottom line is, it's not the same anymore. And I need to let go of those former beliefs. I can't live in the past. In fact, I get frustrated (SO frustrated) at people who do - people who make the past more of a priority than the future, more of a priority than working with the present to create that future.  But I've been doing that, just in a different form. I've been holding on to who people were when I first met them, or when one or both of our situations were different, who I thought they were. I've been holding onto things that have morphed and changed over the months or years, and am still trying to hold those people or situations to the same standards, expect everything to be the same. And in doing so, I've been hurt. Badly at times.

So I can't do that any longer. I have to stop, take stock of the people and situations in my life, and decide how I'm going to move my life forward from here, with people and situations as they are now - not as they were then, whenever then was. That doesn't mean ditching friends, un-friending them, or whatever. It means realizing they don't play the role they once did, and not expecting them to. It means not holding them to the standards that I do for my current closest friends. I can't get mad at them for not donating or supporting something. I can be slightly disappointed and maybe even a little discouraged and hurt at times, but I can't be mad.  It's not fair to them and it just hurts me over and over. I need to move forward, controlling those things in my life that I can, focusing on those in the here and now - as they actually are, not as they used to be - and creating my future based on these. It sadly may mean that some people or situations I formerly focused on, held in certain positions of esteem in my life, are not looked at the same. But life is constantly changing, and maybe they'll get there again. Or maybe they've played their key role in my life and I in theirs when we both needed it, and now that fades a bit. And while this is sad, because it feels like a bit of a silent goodbye to what once was, it also is a bit freeing. For so long, I was holding in priority people and situations that were based on the past.  And now, I have been freed of that. Now, I can look to the future, basing it on the present and the opportunities it holds now. To those of you who played such an important role when I needed it, thank you. We may not be the same anymore, our dynamic may have shifted, but I wouldn't be the same without you having been a part of my life. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

It's The End of The Month As We Know It

It’s the last day of HAWMC! Congratulations, you completed 30 days of writing! Take this last post to reflect on your health advocacy journey and set a goal for the next year. Perhaps you want to try a new platform for your activism, attend a patient summit, or start a podcast. Remember, “Set your goals high, and don't stop till you get there.”

Guys, I did it! I completed HAWMC! I did skip 3 days, but those were intentional, as they felt like things I'd just recently written about, or that didn't particularly apply to me at the moment. Or, in the case of yesterday's, I've just not had a ton of chance to read others' post enough to pick one (sorry, that makes me a bad HA I know). But considering that this month held more work hours than normal, the Thanksgiving holiday, and stomach-virus-ageddon, I'm pretty proud of myself. 

My goals for next year? Well, I do want to attend a patient summit and/or conference for HAs. That's pretty high on my list. I also want to make sure to raise the necessary funds and complete my fourth Overnight Walk next June.  

My biggest goal, however, is a project that I've just recently begun promoting called the Spread Hope Project (link to initial Instagram post here). The project idea bloomed from a shirt I own that says the word "Hope" across the front, which I bought at an  event but have seen nowhere else on the organization's website or elsewhere. I loved the message of hope and thought, "How great would it be to get a picture with a shirt that says 'HOPE' in as many different locations and with as many different people as possible." Literally, spreading Hope to as many places and people as I can. I broadcasted this on social media, and people started volunteering themselves or their locations/cities/etc for pictures. A friend then suggested making my own "hope" type shirts (not the same, but with the same message) and donating the money to mental health and suicide prevention charities. This idea merged with a similar one that had already been brewing in my head, and the Spread Hope Project was born. I have more ideas, longer range goals down the road, but for now, I'm focusing on getting out there and getting pictures with people and places, and eventually developing Spread Hope shirts (not the same as the original, but with my own logo) so that others can Spread Hope as well.  (CYA: I know there are trademark/etc processes involved in creating my own design here and I'm on it). 

And so, my call to action is this: If you are interested in being in a Spread Hope picture, or think that your location would make a great backdrop, let me know! Additionally, if you are a business or organization, especially in the Philly/South Jersey area, and would like a picture in your location and a tag on social media, reach out! As the rest of the plan becomes more concrete, I'll undoubtedly be posting more on this. But for now, you can follow along on my personal Instagram and twitter, as well as with the hashtags #spreadhope #spreadhopeproject #spreadhopestopstigma and #spreadhopesavelives. Let's get those pictures rolling!