Thursday, April 9, 2015
Maya and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Month
Let's face it. As chronic illness sufferers, we face daunting challenges probably on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. Sometimes, the daunting challenge is getting out of bed. I can think of a lot of examples of cyclothymia-based challenges. When I was diagnosed, for instance. Or when I decided to tell everyone I'd been diagnosed. When I had to start my meds and it made me ill as crap for weeks. Daunting. Very daunting. But I thought I'd reach a ways back and discuss a time before I was diagnosed, though I was most certainly living with my condition, and it's when I first really notice it in full force.
January 26, 2007. I called my mom and told her my then-husband and I were separating. We'd been married for a mere two and a half years. I gathered those things that I could fit in a suitcase or two and moved back home with my parents, who luckily lived about a mile and a half away. You can read more about my divorce in previous posts (if you search "divorce" in the search box on my blog it should pull up a few), but suffice it to say that, while the decision was mutual and in actuality probably more my assertion than his, it wasn't easy. No divorce is. If it is, you shouldn't have been married in the first place. I liked my ex-husband. I liked him a lot as a friend and companion. Perhaps I loved him as such. But I didn't love him as I should a husband, a partner for life. I knew it, and with time, he did as well. We cried together and held each other a lot in those first few days. We didn't want to be apart per se, we just didn't want to be married. And in total honesty, I didn't want to spend the rest of my life with a companionable roommate, no matter how much I liked him. We had a five-year plan that included children. I couldn't commit to that, given my feelings. It wasn't fair - to the future children, to him, to myself.
Rewind to the previous March. I'd given up my full time corporate fitness job and started my own travel planning company, which I still own and operate. While I had a "family loan" for the business, our plan was to dig into that as little as possible, and to put what money I made into savings, while living on his salary. It was a trade-off for my having helped pay down numerous school loans of his when I'd had none. As I previously had made a whopping salary of about $28,000 before taxes, much of which we'd put into savings, this didn't seem like a huge change to our lifestyle in terms of daily living income. We'd already more or less been living on his salary. I was also on his health insurance, which was a huge relief. Things were falling into place. My marriage was, surely, falling out of place at the time, but I just figured we'd get through it. We had had our challenges before - once calling off the wedding for a couple of days - and we'd found our way back to each other and our life together. We were still rather newly wed and we were having some growing pains. All in all, we got along and were doing pretty well at playing house, so all would be fine, right? Partly, I realize now, I don't think I thought I'd have the balls... I mean guts... to leave. But I was wrong, on all accounts.
Fast forward ten months. As I settled into my parents, I started looking for apartments, finding one that I could move into within two months. That set, I put the rest of my energy into my business. I could focus on it full time, and indeed I had to - there was nothing else to focus on anymore. My marriage was done. I had left my corporate job. All of my friends in the area had been "couple friends" and, save one, had removed themselves from my life as to not be in the middle. But that was ok, I had my business. It was new and shiny and I was excited. It was my dream, after all. Externally, things were progressing. Internally, I was still crying in the shower so that my parents didn't hear me. (Note: this wasn't a very fool-proof plan; they live in a 150 year old house and the walls are thin).
But then, more shit hit the fan. The landlord of the building that I rented for my business decided to sell. The day he put it on the market, a buyer offered him full asking price, cash. He wanted to buy the building and put his wife's business on the first floor... my first floor, where my business was. He could close within two weeks. Our landlord, being the nice guy he is, gave us right of first refusal, but he needed to sell - he was moving out of the area - and he couldn't refuse the full price cash offer. He told us if we could meet it before closing, it was ours. I saw finally, how badly my life falling apart. My marriage had crumbled, my friends had vanished into thin air, and now my business, my brand new business, was about to be displaced. It wasn't quite the digital age it is now, where a brand new business can thrive online. With so few clients, and being so new, I needed the storefront. I was inconsolable. I doubted and questioned myself and my decisions. I didn't know what to do. Long story short, my parents are absolutely amazing and managed to come up with the money. My business was saved, or at least, it's specific location in the building was.
The reprieve wasn't long. It slowly occurred to me that the "business plan" had been to live on my husband's income, not mine. Because I didn't have an income. It also occurred to me that I now had to find health insurance. Andextra $250 plus per month, as it turned out. My new apartment was great, but it was only about $250 less than my mortgage had been - the mortgage I'd split with my ex-husband - and again, I had no income. Did I mention the lack of friends?
Once the "I did it! I had the courage to leave my unhappy marriage" blush was off the rose, I realized how alone I truly was. I worked by myself. I lived by myself. I had one friend. My business kept me... not so busy as I'd hoped. I thought (foolishly I suppose) that I'd open the door and people would just walk in, asking me to help them book a trip. Or, asking me anything. Or at least just walking in to see what the new place in town was about. I'd seemed so busy when I was doing it part time on the side. But that didn't happened. Many days, I sat, and sat, and sat, waiting for clients. Alone. Making very little, paying a lot for bills and rent and health insurance.
My condition, though I didn't know what it was a the time, was also no longer taking a back seat. My moods were cycling rapid fire, I now know. I'd go from proud, independent, and energetic to feeling low and so very alone. My mind wandered back to the times when I'd had so much pent up energy that my soon-to-be-ex-husband held my core lovingly to let me punch and kick in the air until the energy was expended and I collapsed. It occurred to me, then, that this wasn't normal behavior (and that perhaps I hadn't given him the credit he deserved - he never once mentioned to me that this wasn't normal behavior). I was concerned, but I pushed it aside. I was broke and going through a divorce, of course I felt depressed and alone. I had started my own business and was gaining independence, of course I had excess energy to the point of agitation and anxiety at times. It made sense that I was in the mix of a ton of emotions and didn't know which way to turn. I'd always been an emotional person, and I figured this was just part of my life adjustment. It would be two more years before I would be diagnosed.
I made it through, thanks to my parents, my one friend in the area, and several far away who were long distance moral support. It wasn't easy. Looking back, I'm not sure exactly what got me through. Guts, perseverance, stubbornness? I think I just knew I had to. Perhaps it was a glimpse of my future self, this me that deals with the challenges of chronic illness as just simply part of daily life. Perhaps it was a training ground for things to come. I know it made me stronger, because in my mind, I had no choice.
When I think back on challenging times like this, two of my favorite sayings from my Grandma Ventura come to mind:
"Just put one foot in front of the other." It was her reply when someone asked her how they'd get through something. Just literally, physically, focusing on the next step is sometimes all you can do, but it will, eventually, move you toward where you want to be.
"If it ain't your ass, it's your elbow." Something's always going to be wrong. There will always be challenges. You just have to get through it. However you can. Often, by putting one foot in front of the other.