Friday, May 27, 2016

A Thank You Goes A Long Way (I hope)

I do a lot of heavy thinking and talking on this blog. It is, after all, a serious topic that needs more serious attention, so that's intentional. But I also know how quickly that can lead to spiraling into a place where you can't even enjoy the better side of things when they happen. I've been there lately. A lot. The brain keeps dragging you back, unable to shift until it says "ok, time to change gears", under no control of our own. So while I'm having a "good" morning, I wanted to give a note of thanks to those who make my days as bright as they can be, even if it's sometimes a light so dim it barely seems to be there. These are in no particular order other than coming into my brain, except the last two. They are the ones I truly could not live without, and so I have saved them for the very end. 

  •  Thank you, to my nearby friends who are there in person when I need them most. When I'm feeling like nobody wants to see me, ever again, you are there to say "let's do... anything." Doesn't matter what. You're there. 
  • Thank you, to these above friends, for understanding when I say, "I can't do the group thing, can we change plans/sit in and watch bad TV and drink wine/do brunch instead of a night out because I am too exhausted" and change plans just for me. 
  • Thank you to my dog Gracie for being there to snuggle and let me cry with you when I need it. Cinn was a tough act to follow, and though you are the complete opposite, you make me smile with your intelligence and cute ways and cuddly-ness, and how excited you are to see me every single time I walk in the room. 

  • Thank you to my coworkers, for making my office an enjoyable place, and for bringing me coffee. Definitely for bringing me coffee. 
  • Thank you to my far away friends, for keeping in touch even when we haven't seen each other in ages. You're some of my dearest even when not logistically my nearest, and the effort you make means so much. 
  • Thank you to those friends I haven't met in person, but have gotten to know through social media. Whether we share a common career path (ahem Women Business Owners), we're passionate about mental health advocacy, or we just plain old clicked for whatever reason, thank you. Just because we haven't met doesn't mean you mean any less to me. In fact, sometimes you the first people I reach out to - I know you often understand what I'm going through, and will listen and talk as I need. And I know you'd do the same to me, and being able to be there for you means the world to me. 
  • Thank you to all those who have been part of my past.  Regardless of the role you play/ed in my life, you have, in some way, shaped me into who I am today. I wouldn't be that person without you having been a part of my life, no matter how big or small a part you were. Perhaps we've gone our separate ways for some reason, or perhaps we still know each other. If the latter, thank you for hanging in there! I know it's been a rocky road. If not, thank you for being a part of my life, at some point, in some capacity. 
  • Thank you to everyone who has donated to or otherwise supported my Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk for Suicide Prevention. I made my goal and then some. Some of you I've known for ages. Some of you I've just met. Some of you I've never met. And yet you supported me, and my cause, which so many people still opt not to support. It means the world to me that you do. 
  • Thank you to my family. Without you (literally in the case of my parents), I would not be here. You are incredible. You love me unconditionally, in the toughest times, and have for 36+ years or however long you've been on this earth, and I know that no matter what else happens in this topsy turvy life of mine, I can always count on you - for support, for listening, for just being there, to laugh furiously at things that nobody outside of our would even find funny, when I need it the most. 

  • Thank you, to my boyfriend, my partner, my love, my rock. You are everything. You keep me sane on a daily basis. Just being in your presence makes the whole world more live-able. You make my future seem brighter, my dreams seem less-far fetched, my goals seem attainable. You put up with my mood cycles, my anxiety, my panic, my numerous chronic illness issues, and you do so with love and gentleness and understanding. With you at my side I know I can truly get through anything. 

Thank you, to each and every one of you. I probably do not say it enough. In fact, I'm sure I do not. But I hope you know that, even when I don't have the chance to voice it, I appreciate you and all you have done. 

However you spend this Memorial Weekend, whether in celebration or remembrance or some combination, I hope you have as good of one as possible - you deserve it. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What Is The Worst Feeling In The World?

What's the worst feeling in the world? There's no set answer, of course. Just like if I asked what the best feeling in the world is. Mine would be love. I wish everyone's was. But some people's might be entirely different - things that aren't that important to me. To some people, the worst feeling in the world might be anger. But for me, while I don't like anger, it's not the worst. It's fiery, it's passionate. It lets me know I'm living, breathing, feeling. For others, it might be regret. I don't believe in (major) regret. I might wish I'd done or said something different, but everything I've done has gotten me to where I am today, and to wish it hadn't happened is to wish I wasn't this person, in some way. To me, the worst feeling is loneliness.

Loneliness doesn't always mean being alone. I'm an introvert. I need a decent amount of alone time. I meditate, I read, I write, I color in my coloring books, I watch bad Hallmark movies and House Hunters episodes, like I did last weekend when all I needed to do was nothing. But those are the moments I choose to be alone. I want to be spending time with me, myself, and I because I need to recharge from people-ing. I need to talk to nobody but my dog, and only when I feel like it, because she can't initiate. Loneliness happens when you don't choose to be alone, desperately wish you were not, but are anyways. Loneliness happens when all you want is another human being to share things with, to do things with, or even to just sit there and talk and listen, and yet everyone has something else they need to do and somewhere else they have to be. Sure, you could do things on your own, but that only accentuates the loneliness when you already feel this way. Have you ever desperately wanted to spend time with someone (either a specific someone or in general) and you decide to suck it up and go out and explore alone? There's a chance it might lift your spirits. You may bump into someone you know doing the same thing and pair up. But you're also surrounded by couples and groups of friends, by families with little kids that you don't have but wish you did. Everyone looks ten times happier and you feel ten times more miserable. Is it worth the risk?

When you battle depression, and you feel so isolated from the world, so different, so misunderstood or completely not understood at all, being lonely is torturous. It only emphasizes the feeling of isolation. Your depressed brain tells you that you're not enough. Nobody wants you. And no matter how much people tell you that's not true, when you find the courage to say "Ok, well, then could you spend time with me because I desperately need human contact" they reply, "Oh I'd love to but...." And you realize you're not more important than they're "but". Or whatever it is, they can't change it for you, at least not this time. And then someone says something like "You should learn to do things alone" like you don't already enjoy doing things on your own. Like you haven't explored cities and countries on your own form days or weeks at a time. And then someone else says something ridiculous like, "Isn't your Great Aunt Hilda having that party at the retirement home." And you say "well... yes". And they reply with something stupid like "See you could have plans, you just don't want to go, you're just being picky." And you say "Well that's only because Aunt Hilda and her 95 year old friends can't physically get away from me quickly enough to not let me join." Because nothing is more pathetic than having to hang out with Great Aunt Hilda and her 95 year old friends because they're the only people who can't physically avoid you. (For the record I don't have a Great Aunt Hilda or any Great Aunts in the area). Or a friend says on Facebook, "If I were there I would hang out with you" and this doesn't help at all and just annoys the heck out of you because they live half way across the country or the world. And you're still alone, and lonely, and whether or not they wish they could be there isn't the issue. It's that they aren't. Nobody is. Except maybe Great Aunt Hilda but not if she could help it.

Depression is awful. Loneliness is terrible and terrifying. Both can warp your mind. They can whisper things to you that people tell you are lies, but feel so true. They tell you that nobody wants to be around you, or not enough to make sure you're not alone. They tell you that you aren't enough. They tell you that if you were, you wouldn't be alone when you're begging people not to leave you alone.  You feel like you can't get through them. Like you can't physically, mentally, or emotionally manage to. Nor should you have to. Not again. But you do. Because this is life with depression.  I don't have an answer. But I do have an offer. If you live near by, and you ever feel the awful grip of loneliness and depression that you can't bear, and nobody else is around, reach out to me. Because I know how it feels. I will not give you platitudes or cliches or "helpful" suggestions that aren't at all helpful. But I will truly do everything in my power to make sure you don't have to bear it a moment longer. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

When Doing Nothing Is Really Doing Something

I've been dealing with some incredible anxiety and cycling lately. Not incredible like "Incredible Hulk" incredible. More like, "I'm incredulous that I could have this much anxiety and cycling in such a short period of time", incredible. There have been numerous factors. Little things, like the week when Grace decided she did not, in fact, have to go to the bathroom on her morning walks because it was easier to just go in the hallway any time she pleased while I was at work. Or the pain in the ass that is Pennsylvania's car registration and inspection procedure. Or the hit to the wallet that is Pennsylvania's car registration and inspection procedure. Then there was the fact that I learned my air conditioner was blowing hot air, despite the fact that it worked fine in the inspection two months ago. Or the fact that I am indeed going to need my deck replaced for safety reasons, when I previously thought it could be corrected without being completely torn down and reconstructed. These things add up.

Add to this a more active than usual cycling disorder. And trying to figure out what I want to do with my life - an ongoing struggle that I've not quite come to grips with or anywhere near that. Or trying to plan for my future, despite a lot of important unknowns (hey, clichers and platituders - I know life is full of unknowns, I'm talking about big uknowns that there are no point in discussing here). I'm a planner and an organizer. My brain does whatever the hell it wants whenever the hell it wants, and so, I need the rest of my life to be nicely organized. I need things to hang on to, to steady myself when my brain makes me feel like I'm drowning. I need solid footing, routine. I don't like big surprises. I can't fathom any more unknowns in my life because my entire brain is an unknown every waking minute. And yet it feels like unknowns have been fired at me like cannonballs lately. Things I thought were set that now need to be more flexible. And they aren't life-altering in the literal sense. There are a lot worse things, I know. But saying that someone can't be upset because others have it worse is like saying that you can't be happy because others have it better (I totally stole that from some FB meme). Suffice it to say, I've been pretty freaken' stressed out. And everyone telling me not to stress out, to relax, to go with the flow? Well, I .... you know how I do with that. Not well. Not well at all.

So this weekend, I needed to start turning things around.  I had a gala on Friday, which was a surprising amount of fun considering that I dislike crowds and groups and being social in general. I was SUPER anxious going, but it turned out pretty well. Also there was dancing, so that helped. But by Saturday morning, I was completely physically, emotionally, and mentally spent. Literally, I felt I was both too drained to move or think. It had all taken its toll, and I felt completely defeated.  I needed to take some action. And so, I decided to do something I rarely ever do - nothing. Absolutely nothing. All weekend.

To be fair, I did required things like take Grace out - luckily for me it was raining and she hates being out in the rain so some quick runs into the courtyard were sufficient. From about Saturday at noon on, I sat my ass on the couch and watched cheesy Hallmark movies until I went to bed. You know what's great about hallmark movies (certainly not the plot, acting, or cinematography)? They're predictable., They all have the same plot. Everyone one of them. Someone is down on their luck, bad breakup, bad job, whatever it is. They go back to their roots, find themselves, fall in/rekindle love, discover their true calling, and live happily ever after. There are literally zero surprises in Hallmark movies. Which was exactly what I needed. No frustrating plot twists. I've had that enough lately. No anxiety about what's going to happen to your favorite (can that be used for a Hallmark movie) character. Just good old predictability and happiness. How refreshing for a brain like mine during times like these.

By Sunday, I decided to watch something a little more "real". Que House Hunters marathon. (Hint: they always go with the house they pretend to like least - still no shocking plot twists). I felt a bit better and even managed the energy for an at-home workout. I folded the laundry - ok I lied, I did put laundry in the washer and switch it to the dyer and then the laundry basket on Saturday, so I guess that's something. I did some brief client work that took all of 10 minutes, and I organized a few things in the house that needed organizing. But I did nothing mentally or emotionally strenuous. I couldn't have if I tried. I wrote my usual morning pages. I read a little. I did a guided meditation. At night I did some coloring in my coloring books. All introverted, creative minded, relaxing things that I love.

I am not feeling 100 percent better. I think that will take quite a while. I don't think I'll ever be able to "just go with the flow". That's not me. I can get a little better at it. Hopefully. It might not make me shake with anxiety and frustration. But I'm not a chill, laid back person who can just sway with the breeze. I need to anchor myself to the few things I can, because my brain certainly isn't one of them. At least, though, giving myself a break from almost everything allowed my brain time to rest. I didn't try to control anything. I didn't try to fix anything. The most intense thing I needed to figure out was which socks matched which in the laundry basket.  All in all, a very successful weekend.

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Often-Disguised Stages Of Anxiety

Anxiety is a terribly complex disorder. It doesn't sound it, of course. People are "anxious" all the time. They're stressed about daily life, work, deadlines, family, and everything else. But that's not anxiety (they could also have anxiety, but it's not a synonym for having daily life stress). Anxiety can be fueled, triggered even, by external events - i.e. social anxiety - but when it comes to General Anxiety Disorder, the cause is something internal, something physical and medical. Furthermore, anxiety can take different forms. It may look and feel a number of ways, and as with many other emotions, it goes through stages.

"Traditional" Anxiety:  By traditional, I mean the GAD symptoms most described by DSM V, and what most people generally recognize as anxiety. It involves intensive worry even when there is no apparent reason, and seems to underline most things that you do. It can be difficult to shake the worry, even though you realize it isn't necessarily warranted.  It makes every day challenges more difficulty, because it feels impossible for your brain not to jump to the worst possible outcome and become overwhelmed. It becomes difficult to prioritize, because everything seems urgent which, of course, increases anxiety further.

Fear: Fear is different than worry. It is almost a gut reaction, while anxiety is based in thought.  For instance, say you're invited to a party. Anxiety tells you, "They don't really want you there. You'll go and be all alone, standing in the corner because nobody wants to talk to you, and you'll be embarrassed and never be invited again."  Fear tells you, "I absolutely dread going to this party, but I'm not sure why." Imagine your dog (or other pet) as they see the door of the vet's office - or other place they dislike strongly - and put on the breaks, pulling back with all their might so that you practically have to drag them in. That's what fear feels like. Your dog isn't thinking "last time they put me on the scale and I was overweight and then I got that crappy diet of vegetables and half of my normal kibble and oh that blood work was awful." They're simply afraid.

Anger:  This is the one people don't talk about (politics aside these day, which I refuse to get into here).  People don't like to be angry. Not when it's not warranted or advantageous. They might flip off the driver that cut them off, but they don't want to be angry at the world, and especially at people they know and like, for no reason. They think it shows a lack of self control. They should just be cool and calm and relax. But they're wrong. Anger can serve a purpose. It can motivate. It's a guttural reaction that wells up from within ('I'm mad as hell and I'm not going take this anymore!") and can push people to discover abilities where they thought they were incapable. But often when tied in with anxiety, anger can fester. It may start slowly, as an annoyance and frustration that slowly intensifies, or, as mine sometimes does, suddenly appear out of nowhere like I'm a bull and someone's waving a red cloth in front of my face. And then it sits there. And sits there. And sits there. I'm angry at everyone and everything and most especially at myself for being angry without what I consider good reason. I'm angry at things that should maybe be small annoyances, at people for no good reason, at situations that previously were causing me some worry but now I'm downright angry. Much of my anger is a combination of hurt, fear, and feelings of "injustice". I deserved this and didn't get that. You aren't doing something I've begged you to and you know how important it is to me and that hurts. I'm afraid of this happening and I want someone to do something about it and they're not, so I'm angry. Some of it is frustration turned anger - often with where I hoped to be in several aspects of my life. I feel helpless, even though I'm not, because I don't know how to get from A to B- or C or D or Z -  or I know, but other people/situations aren't allowing it. I feel anger out of a loss of control (I know, I know, "let go of the things you can't control" and all that... the creators of that saying didn't suffer from anxiety, clearly).

Less anxious: Eventually, it becomes less rocky again. There's often still an undercurrent of anxiety but it's not flowing through my body intensely as it was before. I have my cycling disorder to thank for that - really, I cycle, so eventually, my body moves through each stage and I circle back to feeling better. Because anxiety mixed with hypomania and depression is even more terrible, and there's such a relief at not feeling these, that I finally take a deep breath and say "OK, I can do this." But it's important to note the "less" here. Anxiety, like mood cycling, can ebb and flow. If triggered, it can increase again. You just hope it doesn't flare up as badly as before. And it doesn't go away. It just lessens. It becomes more manageable, until the next bad bought, so you feel that you can function better. Perhaps it's that your sleep improves, or you're eating healthier or allowing yourself more decompression time, or even asking others for help with things (gasp! I'm terrible at this). But for whatever reason, it becomes more manageable again, and you take advantage of this as much as you possibly can, because you know it won't last forever, or probably even for long.

These are my experiences with anxiety, combined with my mood cycling disorder. Yours may differ, and not everyone may experience each of these, or with as much frequency. But it took me a long time to realize that each of these stages, if you will, was actually the same thing. I didn't have issues with excessive worry and fear and anger. I have anxiety. It morphs, it's fluid. It's tough to recognize when it does so, but knowing this helps. If nothing else, it helps me to know that if I just force myself to get through it, I will eventually get a reprieve, even if it's short-lived. And I just hope that sometimes, it's not. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Battling the Fear of Everyday Life

Most people wouldn't call me a fearful person. Sure, I have fears like anyone else - for instance heights, closed in spaces, public speaking - but I am rather adventurous in certain arenas. I've traveled to six continents and over 40 countries. My junior year of college, I set off for a semester in Australia, knowing nobody else in the program. (Keep in mind this was before the days of texting and social media where it was simple to keep in touch with loved ones from thousands of miles away). I spent countless hours and days traveling on my own, meeting new people, several of whom have become some of my best friends. I started my own business at 26. I jump headfirst into business opportunities, and on the surface, I'm outgoing and friendly, if a bit awkward and quirky. 

But those things are easy for me. It's easy to go to a city where nobody knows me, to explore, to immerse myself, to become anonymous.  Sure, things will come up that I have to deal with. But I can deal with those. I'll get the next flight, find a new hotel, catch the next train. It doesn't mean I don't like to have a plan for these things, to try to not have to deal with mishaps, but I can do it.  For many of us who suffer from anxiety and depression, fear isn't in the big things. It's in the every day little minute details of life. 

The trouble with fear is that it's tough to identify. It's easy, from the outside, to see it as laziness or procrastination. I didn't get to the store, again. I didn't go renew this membership (insert thing needed to be renewed or purchased here). I didn't get around to making that phone call. And at first, I saw this in myself as well. I chastised myself for not doing these things. Why couldn't I make myself operate in this world like everyone else. It took? 10 minutes to make that call. It took a half hour after work to stop by and renew/purchase that.... whatever. I went straight home instead of stopping to get groceries and now I have to order takeout.  But finally, recently, I realized these things are not avoided/postponed out of laziness or procrastination. It is done out of fear. 

This may sound silly to you. How could I travel by myself half way around the world at the age of 19 but be afraid to stop by and renew a membership or make a 10-minute phone call. Well, first, I haven't been the age of 19 for 17 years and things change. But moreso, my condition has grown in strength and consistency, and with it, anxiety and fear have developed. It's tough to explain, for those that haven't experienced it. It's not a fear of a specific thing, as my fear of public speaking is (I hate attention on me and I'm afraid I'll make an idiot out of myself).  It's more a fear of.... life. Not of living, but of life. Picture yourself in a world that's akin to a sci-fi movie. Imagine you've been living in a certain environment for years, and suddenly you open your door one day and see a new environment outside. You don't recognize most of the people, you don't know how to approach them or how to interact with them. You don't know how to react to them or how they'll react to you. The landscape is completely unfamiliar. You can't tell if the ground is hard or soft, if the air is hot or cold. You don't know which direction anything is in because everything's been shifted, and you don't have time to explore because you have to get all of your tasks done. And every day when you open the door, it's a somewhat different environment from the day before. And as you move from task to task, each one could bring you to some place completely unique,where you have to orientate yourself all over again. On top of that, everyone else seems to think this constantly shifting environment is normal - they don't notice the difference, and they can't understand that you do. They literally seem to see and feel it differently than you. It makes you feel worse. Why can't you accomplish this simple task? Why is it excruciating for you when nobody else seems to feel that pain at all? Why is it scary to you, yet nobody else is frightened? And why was it warm and sunny and enjoyable this morning, and suddenly it's cold and dark and you don't recognize anything and barely anyone? Even most of the people you do recognize seem different to you today.

This is what the world is like for many of those of us who deal with fear and anxiety as part of depression or mood cycling.  So why, might you ask, is traveling to unknown destinations ok? Because, using this scenario again, there are no tasks, and very little timeline. And for the few tasks, you've somehow mysteriously been given an accurate map. Get here (i.e. the airport, the train station) at this time. Here's the instructions for once you get there. And because there are no tasks that you're supposed to be able to do, and nobody knows you and expects you to be able to do them because that's what "normal" people do, there's no standard. You're free from what society expects. Don't want to make that phone call? Don't. Don't want to go to xyz? Don't. Want to do this instead of that? You're not lazy, you're living the way you can with your fears. 

And you might be thinking that this is some sort of excuse. That we all have busy lives and you all manage to get these things done, so we should to. But the thing is, I'm not avoiding tasks because I don't want to do them, not specifically. I'm staying away from them because I'm afraid. Of what? I couldn't say. If I could, then perhaps I could tackle my fear. Not knowing makes it worse. I feel helpless.  Feeling like I shouldn't be afraid makes it worse (I try to stay away from "should" and "shouldn't" but sometimes I succumb). I know you may not be able to tell the difference between and laziness, procrastination. For a while, I couldn't either, and I was so tough on myself. But finally, I could. I said out loud, "I am afraid to do this, especially alone". And that was a first big step. It allowed me to stop being so hard on myself, to stop expecting myself to act and react like everyone else. It helped me realize that I may need to find my own way of doing things. There are things I may not be able to put off or avoid, but if I can find a way to do them, perhaps with someone else's help to make it less scary, then that may make them more manageable. When you deal with fear and anxiety, sometimes "more manageable" is the best you can do. And that is completely OK.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

8 Things That Having A Mental Health Condition Has Helped Me Stop Giving A Sh*t About

Having a mental health condition sucks. It absolutely, completely does. I've been the worst depression in a long time lately, topped with pretty severe anxiety. Thank goodness my boyfriend is the most patient and understanding and supportive man in the world. I don't know that I'd get through all of this without him, though he promises me I would. But having a mental health condition, and dealing with all of the turmoil, pain (physical, emotional, mental), struggle, stigma, and everything else it brings on, has helped me stop caring so much about a few things that I realize, when compared to... say... my ability to positively function in the world... aren't that important.

  • That you think I'm "crazy". Now, let me clarify. This is NOT saying that this term is ok. It's not. It's ignorant, stigmatizing and downright wrong. But the fact that you personally think I personally am "crazy"? Unless you're using it as a grounds to discriminate against me somehow, I could give a rats ass. Because we're all our own kind of "crazy". Meaning we all have things that make us unique, quirky, different. Maybe I'm a little more different than the average person. So what? Do I really care what someone who is clearly ignorant and judgmental and stigmatizing thinks just because I'm not like everyone else? No. But if I hear you using the term to refer to someone, or mental health in general ... well let's just say I've been doing a lot of boxing training lately. 
  • Being trendy or cool. I've never been trendy or cool. Ever. And honestly, I've kind of always marched to my own drummer and not cared. But having a chronic illness puts things in perspective even further. It makes me realize that I have no choice but to be my own person, because I can't possibly be like everyone else even if I wanted to. And, it's given me a group of spoonie friends who get this, and realize that staying alive and functioning in day to day life is way more important than if you have the latest hairstyle. Also, I spend a crapload of money on therapy appointments, medications, health insurance, etc. If I'm buying the latest brand names, I'm buying it 75% off on the TJ Maxx sales rack. 
  • Getting drunk. I kind of outgrew this naturally because I'm a 36 year old adult, and therefore should have. It doesn't mean I don't enjoy a good beer or glass of wine or bourbon (or two). But I already lack enough control over my brain sometimes. Why the hell would I want to lack even more? Plus, alcohol is a known depressant and I suffer from depression naturally so that doesn't make for a good combination. Plus again, priorities. "Hey, I'm finally having a good day! Let me do something so I won't remember it!..". No. Let me relish actually feeling ok and enjoying a day with my loved ones.... that I'll remember in full detail and not be feeling massive effects of later. 
  • Staying out/up late.  Similar to the above. Lack of sleep makes me cycle. When I'm finally not cycling, why do I want to stay up late and chance lacking sleep, and therefore cycling (I am unable to sleep in past 7:30 or 8 AM unless I'm severely ill or jet-lagged)? I'd rather actually continue to catch up on sleep that I've missed from waking up due to cycling or anxiety the rest of the week/month. 
  • Material things. I never really cared about these, but now, I really, really don't. Yes, I have a Mac. Yes, I have an iphone 6. These products help me work, and more importantly, keep me in touch with friends and loved ones. But similar to being cool or trendy, I have priorities, and having the biggest tv on the block or the newest coach bag are not among them, even remotely. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with you wanting these, but quite frankly, I have bigger fish to fry. Like staying alive and feeling sane some days.
  • Being the same size as I was at 21. I will be 37 in September. I take pride in being active and eating healthy and generally keeping in as good health and shape as I can (minus the obvious chronic illnesses, in which I have no choice).  But things change from 21 to 31 to 36, and I am probably never going to be as thin or my body as firm as my younger self unless I'm ill and unnaturally losing weight.  My childbearing curves will surely come in handy when it's time to bear a child, and when I'm taking the best care of myself, I have done pretty well for my age, I think. I have battled body image issues in the past, and I do not want to go back there. I have to eat a certain amount before I take my meds each time, which often means a larger breakfast or extra snack.  So if that means I'm a little curvier and more muscular than thin, well, at least I'm as healthy as possible. 
  • Being popular/having a large group of "friends".  I have an amazing family, a boyfriend who is my best friend and partner in everything, and some very close friends who would do anything for me, and vice versa. I don't need a huge group of people. In fact, as an INFJ introvert, I don't want a huge group of people around me. I want a few close friends that I can count on, and I'm happy to have others who want to do things occassionally, but who I realize aren't my best friends. As I mentioned above, I've never been cool, and I see no reason to start being cool or overly popular now. 
  • Having a big savings account. I never much had the opportunity to care about this before, because let's just say I haven't chosen careers that scream six figures. But the longer I live with chronic illness, the longer I am all about experiencing every positive moment, every "healthy" day (i.e. a-symptomatic/less symptomatic). I want to explore, learn, experience. I have spent the last 15 years exploring the world, and I've been even more gung-ho to do so since being diagnosed.  It's equally true of things closer to home - taking impromptu day trips, visiting a new attraction or museum in my home city, going to the local farmers market to pick out food for the week, family game night (with actual family or close friends). I value lazy Saturday mornings making breakfast and sipping coffee with my boyfriend, because those mornings are precious - we're rarely "lazy", and they give us a chance to spend time relaxing, just the two of us, with nothing on the agenda but enjoying each others' company. This doesn't mean I want to be poor (it's tough to be poor and travel like I want to), but I don't care about having a massive savings account just to have it. I need money to live a comfortable-enough life of experiencing and truly living. Not to just to watch the total increase, and not to buy expensive things that I clearly don't need. 
I'm not saying that caring about these things is wrong. But for me, it's just not that important. It doesn't mean I don't have moments of "I wish I had more money", or "why is nobody around, don't I have any friends?". But they are not my focuses in life.  Quite frankly, I don't have the time or energy. I have too many other things to focus on, like staying healthy, spending quality time with loved ones, and enjoying each good day as much as I can, because I know it won't last very long - that's just the nature of rapid cycling. So while I hate my illness, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, I have learned and grown from it. And there's a lot that to be said for that. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Let Me Be A "Dog Mom" If I Want To Be

Mother's Day is coming up. Which means a rush on flowers and chocolates and jewelry and every other cliched gift in the book which costs five times as much as it will next week. It's full of mothers posting 200 pictures of their children every two minutes on every social media, and expectant mothers posting pictures of the inside of their uterus in the form of ultrasounds. And I understand. You are all very grateful to have mothers and be a mother. I am incredibly grateful for my own mother, so I know this feeling well.

But for some of us, mother's day is painful.  We do not have children. And sure, that could be a choice, but for many, it's not. For whatever reason, we've not been able to become parents (and the reason, for the record, is none of your business). These people, like me, may post pictures of their pets and tout the fact that they're a "dog mom" or whatever the pet of choice is. It let's us be part of the celebration. Yes, we know our dog is not a child - or most of us do anyway, there's an exception to any rule.  I watch my friends and siblings with their kids. I see the dark circles under their eyes (no offense) when their kids have been up all night sick or crying or whatever the reason, and they've gotten a total of four hours of sleep in the last three days. I see busy moms running from work to picking up kids from school to home making dinner or helping with homework or whatever the task. I hear how they haven't gotten to pee or shower by themselves once in the last two years. I do not truly think, "well, you know, Grace has to go out to go to the bathroom four times a day, so I know EXACTLY how you feel." I love my dog, and I might, at times, treat her like a kid, but I don't actually think she is one.

And yet lately, I've seen this backlash of angry moms saying how infuriated they get when people post on mother's day about being a dog or cat or mini-horse mom and how these people have no idea how tough it is and how dare they compare it to actually being a parent and it's so annoying and on and on. Let me tell you something. We don't compare it. We know it's not the same thing, or even close. We're posting pictures of our dogs because it's all we've got in the way of a "kid." It's mothers day, and we have nobody else (smaller and dependent on us) to post oodles of pictures of and say how much we love them. We're joining in the only way we can. And maybe, just maybe, this helps just the tiniest bit in heeling the giant hole in our heart from not having a human child. So please, cut us some slack and let us be "dog moms". I never wanted to see pictures of your uterus, and you don't want to see how I'm a dog mom. Let's call it even and let each other be.