Here’s Looking At You, Kit

© a rainbow at night

This will not be a lighthearted post, but it has been a long time coming, as many of you have probably already suspected. The ole “I’m leaving this blog behind” announcement that’s been a couple years in the making, but of which I’ve only been certain I needed to make within the past six months or so.

For years, everyone has watched me say things like, I’ll post in this way, or that new way, or I’ll try this… But even though I have dozens of half-finished blurbs in my personal writing app (31 to be exact), most of what I’ve scribbled will never make it to the public eye. And I’m okay with that.

I imagined when I got back to a place where I wasn’t trapped in an isolated hell of cognitive confusion and anxiety, I would naturally gravitate back here, to the writing outlet and the people and the support groups that used to keep me going. Then I thought, maybe if I just quelled the desire to explain so much of my thought process, things might flow more easily to the page, while also being more digestible for my readers. Turns out, no, and furthermore, I love explaining my thought processes, and trying to make the breadth of my worldview smaller for some perceived idea of what my “audience” might be able to tolerate, is just another example of how I chronically shrink all that I am and all that I feel so as not to disturb the state of others.

When it comes down to it, as far as I can tell, I really have said everything I needed to say here. It is simply time to close this chapter.

Besides, the ultimate goal of any supportive community is that the members are supported so earnestly and wholly that they cease to require that facet of the community at all. It leaves room for those who still do, and makes room for those who will soon join.

Surely my own aging has a lot to do with things, too. The generation of people with myalgic encephalomyelitis who came before me are now slowly dying out, if not mostly already gone. And my own generation of people with M.E. are becoming less and less well-known; soon we’ll be entering into the years of early deaths, ourselves. Maybe no one will remember that we existed. Maybe no one will have learned from our plight or remember how hard we fought to help each other and society at large stay aware of the truth, believing wholeheartedly that to cure a disease you have to know which damned disease you’re actually studying. Maybe we will never get the help that we have always deserved from those with the most ability to give it, especially as the waters encompassing the ever-changing categorization of “chronic fatigue syndrome” become murkier year-by-year; especially as the knowledge of which disease M.E. actually is fades into history along with us. Because let’s face it:

There’s a reason people with myalgic encephalomyelitis die 25-30 years earlier than the rest of society, even if medicine doesn’t (or claims not to) understand why that is. People labeled with CFS probably do, too, because they cease to ever get diagnosed with whichever disease they actually had. And don’t even get me started on all the terminal diseases untreated Lyme bacteria will morph into! But my point is: For people like me, even if they cured this tomorrow, it would not undo decades of living with systemic disease. And a cure certainly would not save those who are already on their deathbeds.

But aging affects us all, and even as I aim to become more whole in spirit and healed in soul, it is the natural course of things for bodies to gradually lose functioning, and for bodies with diseases to lose it faster. It becomes more and more obvious each and every year that I am blessed to have, with each new diagnosis I acquire, that is not my job nor is it natural for me to keep going at the same pace I did when I first fell ill. Especially, especially at the expense of living this life that I fought like hell to still have. Most of you have no idea just how much, but read on to find out.

Combined with this realization is the trust I now have that the generations following us will make use of the information we’ve painstakingly provided for them, just as we made use of what our M.E. veterans left for us. I have more trust that the invention of social media has done something I could’ve never imagined when I first got sick, which is bring together all the people that the CDC and similar government agencies worldwide tried to silence, and give them a connected voice with which to Act Up during the years they are able. You can muddy the waters and call it whatever you want, but the fact remains that many people are going to get M.E. in the future, and many more are going to be put in the category of CFS or “ME/CFS.” And those people are going to talk, and demand to be studied.

To me, it’s simply a statistical improbability that the invention of the internet, the relative success of social media, and the tenacity of today’s youth should prevent the truth of things from ever becoming known, or prevent that cure. It might be too late for us but it will not be too late for those who follow, as long as those who are called to fight, answer that call. I answered that call when it was my time, and I need to look back at that and feel proud of what I’ve done and how much I contributed, instead of feeling I haven’t done enough.

I used to think there was something wrong with me for wanting to let this go. I used to look at those still holding on to the hopelessness and the anger and the dissatisfaction, and wonder why I wasn’t joining them, if I purported to care as much as I professed. It sounds ridiculous now, when I type it. And I used to respond to the guilt, when others claimed that because my writing was “so good” (even when it harmed me to produce it), or because I still had some cognitive ability intact (even when it wasn’t), or because my knowledge of our history was so extensive (because it was so much easier for people to expect me to do the learning and regurgitation of our info so others, usually others far more able-minded than myself, wouldn’t have to put forth the effort), that it was my main responsibility–in my own life!–to be their soldier. Of course this only refers to the extremists, which are present in all activism communities, but they were telling me and others like me, in so many words: We want what you’ve got, so do our bidding; Don’t deviate from the herd; You’re good at this, so you should be good at it for our sake; Continue on this way at any expense, because think of those who can’t continue at all; Tell our story, not yours.

Now I realize I may have gotten it backwards. They may still be caught in that place because they haven’t found a way to move forward, and I may be leaving because, I finally have.

I suppose there’s really nothing you can do or say in any situation like this, when anyone places their expectations on you to do something that isn’t actually your job, whether it’s an abusive family scapegoating you into taking responsibility for everyone’s problems so they don’t have to face their own shortcomings, or the social justice warriors bullying citizens into feeling personally responsible for the fate of millions while ignoring the larger role top-tier executives and businesses play, or the minorities of society being made to feel like their every action needs to speak for the whole, while society forgets they are just human beings like everyone else, with the same limits and the same needs.

Yes, as it happens more often than I’d wish to recall, I start out thinking I’m the oddball only to realize years later that I was actually responding in a very healthy and reasonable manner. Of course in the past, I’ve made those same mistakes from the other side of the fence, as a younger, more immature advocate. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not any better than anyone else. I just know different things now, and I have different strengths (and weaknesses), and my actual job, is to put that knowledge to use in my everyday life.

Here’s my question for you: What things are you doing, what are you still participating in that you might have actually outgrown?

Are there things you’re doing just because a lot of others in your community do them, but that don’t really resonate with you?

Are there people you tolerate because “the group” likes them, even when you see right through them AND the harm they cause?

Have you outgrown your community, but stay, remaining stifled because you don’t know what’s next for you, because at least where you are right now, you know the rules?

What are you doing in a particular way just because it’s always been done that way by others?

What are you doing just because it’s expected of you, when it goes against everything you think your life should be?

Stop participating in activities that stifle you. Don’t follow the herd when they jump off a cliff. Stop tolerating those people. Leave the places you’ve outgrown. Don’t stay in a situation that harms you just because someone expects you to play the supporting role to their center stage. Stop letting domineering personalities make you believe your most significant worth is how well your actions maintain their happiness. Know that it’s okay to move on, and know that you’re the one who gets to decide when.

It is my wish that every pair of eyes reading this right now will discover the full extent of their personal power to make any and all of those things happen.

In what I guess is my “send off” message, I encourage the same theme I’ve had going here for the past five or so years: If something in this post has prompted you to consider your life, let yourself consider it. More than anything, I want to help people see there are ways to do and to be what they want, and that maybe by witnessing someone do or become whatever those things are, that they find their own courage to do or be it, too. I feel very blessed that I’ve been able to do that with this particular blog over the past decade, and I plan on continuing to use my writing to empower.

Because I’m going to continue being who I am. I’m always going to be the advocate, I am always going to be the one who fights for those who can’t speak up and I am always going to be the one who speaks the truth, no matter which sphere I’m a part of at any given time, no matter which illness or injustice or imbalance I have to stand against. I will always be a little “too much” for some people and “not enough” of something for others. And I will always fight so ferociously for myself and others because of the depth of my love for us all.


Brace yourself for this next part if you’ve known me for a while, as it may come as a shock, and may also be triggering to those with PTSD, particularly Complex PTSD.

To state the bare facts: I have been traumatized and abused extensively in my lifetime, both in childhood and well into adulthood by sociopathic narcissists in my “family” of origin. I moved from here long ago, but was forced to move back to physically survive after I contracted several infections at once and became so ill that I was just barely evading organ failure at the worst of it. (Your organs start shutting down after your oxygen concentration dips below 80%, and mine was, well, exactly eighty percent.) But the only sane, truly loving, authentically compassionate person in my family died while I was still undergoing treatments. After that, my day-to-day existence became dependent upon “help” from these extremely abusive people.

Accepting help from a “narcopath” is the same as signing a contract with them ensuring they get full rights to abuse you in any way they want, with the hidden clause that you are not allowed to protest or they’ll systemically and immediately take all of that assistance away, usually in the order of most-critical-first so as to have the most impact.

I vividly remember the first time I fought back against being abused after my last loving family member had passed away. What followed became a clear message of what lengths they’d go to show me just who had the power now, and that it was no longer me. I wanted to call the police, but I knew that drawing that much outside attention to what I was experiencing would only guarantee even worse verbal, emotional, financial, psychological, and indirect physical abuse in the short-term AND long-term, as punishment. As it turns out, I experienced more and more of all those things, anyway, as the years went on. Abuse doesn’t get better, only worse. If you can identify with any of this, start planning your leave.

Indirect physical abuse is a type of physical abuse where the abuser intends to cause you physical harm, while stopping short of actually hitting you because that would leave proof which could get them arrested. For example, stranding a wheelchair-bound person somewhere without their wheelchair, or purposefully triggering someone’s PTSD (or any other illness) with the intention of causing them visible anguish. There are those in my extended family who have even been thrown into comas when their psychopathic partners intentionally triggered them into violent asthma attacks in order to watch them suffer. These incidents are usually followed by short-lived “honeymoon” periods to prevent the victim from catching on and trying to leave, but the cycle of abuse wheel will always keep turning.

There is a massive element of psychological abuse inherent in indirect physical abuse, because the perpetrator can usually gaslight the victim and even witnesses, including legal authorities, into believing that the victim “did it all to themselves,” since there is no physical mark left behind to help prove the origin of the harm was the abuser. Even though they can spend years learning the victim’s triggers and weaknesses so as to use them as weapons later on, it is much more difficult to prove malicious intent, and the abuser is usually very careful to only show this side of themselves to their victim. It is the reason “house of horrors” regularly show up on the news with neighbors claiming the perpetrators appeared good as gold to the outside world. Because these types know what is right and what is wrong, and which facade they have to apply, and when, and in front of whom, in order to continue hiding in plain sight.

There are innumerable reasons why I was forced to stay in that situation for so many years, and I’ll just have to trust that my readers will take into consideration my intelligence and my ability to make sane decisions, even when choosing the lesser of two evils. They treated me this way, for as long as they did, because they knew they could get away with it given the circumstances. When the circumstances changed and I became stronger, both physically and mentally, the abuse worsened in an attempt to keep me subdued. They should all be in jail for the things they’ve done to me and others, and in fact some of them actually are, for different abuses. But I have finally escaped from them, all of them, and I have a new roof over my head in a much safer location (unfortunately I don’t own this one, but). I have money with which to eat and survive, and no one knows where I now live.

© a rainbow at night

I haven’t escaped unscathed, but in general, I am much more sound of mind than I probably should be, given my experiences. I wish I knew definitively why that is, but from my perspective, I think I owe this in part to:

  • Looking at things for what they are, even when those things are horrible, something not everyone can do;
  • Spiritual practices, including prayer, meditation, an unshakable belief in some sort of Universal Higher Power, mindfulness, and my understanding of the bigger picture (i.e. I am not my body but the divine spirit within this body);
  • Learning everything I can about narcissistic abuse and toxic family dynamics to remind myself it’s not “just me,” especially when I begin to falter and make excuses for them; and even
  • My near-death experiences, which helped remind me of the beauty and preciousness of life, and that abusers are only a small part of this world who can never override all the wonder and joy to be had here for those who are looking. Try as they might to control the reality of others, inflict purposeful harm, and prevent their victims from experiencing or showing happiness, they cannot override the dominant, divine forces of this planet.

And who knows what else. Of course this has come with a ridiculous amount of survivor’s guilt about being able to see through the madness and escape while others still believe in and suffer from the abusers’ alternate versions of reality… Which is probably why the survivor’s guilt related to other things–surviving hurricanes, floods, and the same diseases that have killed so many friends–has affected me so severely: it’s cumulative.

If I’ve gained anything from this situation, it’s that I have found and intimately know the real inner me, that still, small voice that is my Highest Self, and I know this part of me is always, always, always okay, no matter what. I’ve talked to people who don’t even know that place inside them exists, and yet it is the only reason I have been able to survive my life. I have, however, exhausted the limits of what I can handle on my own, and now it’s time to get help. I need treatment, and because I don’t have to be around the very people who are the reason I need that treatment in the first place, I can finally go get it.

I get to build a new life that fosters even more healing from all I’ve had to endure, including the life-altering disease that is PTSD. And I know I can do that, because I’m not afraid of facing harsh truths, and throughout my life I have always taken whatever anyone intended for my harm and transmuted it into knowledge that helped me become more loving, more joyful, more compassionate, and more resilient. I see my beauty for their ashes, and I want to use this next phase of my life to help others find theirs.

“But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. …I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. … Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Casablanca (1942)

 

Well, guys… I’ll see you around.

— Kit

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“Of Course It’s Easy For YOU” Syndrome

© a rainbow at night

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” (Oscar Wilde)

So how do you respond when someone looks at something you’ve worked your ass off for and thinks you only got it because the odds just fell into your favor? How do you process this inherent invalidation of all your struggles, and what does it mean about the person who said it?

When I look back at all that I’ve done over the past year, it really blows my mind. And I did it all because I first made the choice to live and enjoy within the confines of my circumstances, just like I did last year. I set in my mind what I wanted, made whatever arrangements I could on my own to help them manifest, and let the Universe work out the rest based on what I needed to experience.

If I wasn’t supposed to have something yet (or at all), well it wouldn’t have been from my lack of trying.

None of it would have happened if I just blindly accepted the identity of “sick person” that most family members and even doctors wanted to give me; that for too many years I gave to myself, as well. With this identity comes the belief that you must wait until you’re better before you can enjoy your life, whereas nothing could be further from the truth, especially when it comes to long-term or chronic illness.

But in general people don’t want to hear that. Some don’t even want to hear about all that I was able to experience (although I’ve already written about my past endeavors-while-sick), and that’s okay. I know the things I lived, I don’t need further documentation. And because it involved a lot of travel, I don’t imagine they’d be all that interesting to anyone else, anyway, in the same way slide shows of your vacations need to be ambushed upon unsuspecting house guests if you plan to share them.

I might be a little biased on this next part, due to people continuously asking my advice on how to get something I have (emotional freedom and the like, usually), yet being very unwilling to actually do anything that’s even mildly uncomfortable in order to get it. Then they turn around and play this card:

They wish something in their life was as “easy” as I “seem to have it.”

More than a few people have said that to me within a week’s time, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

Because nothing–absolutely nothing–has come easy for me. No one comes to acquire the traits that make life’s difficulties seem “easy,” because life actually WAS easy. No, they arise from having had so much hardship that you eventually learned coping mechanisms to deal with them. Even still, what one might perceive as my ease of living is actually my choice to experience it as such, and I’ve crossed over mountains to get to this place from where I was, because I was not raised to be peaceful. (Please read that. Okay?)

But people only hear what they want to hear, and until they’re ready to change, they resort to, Of course YOU did it, you [insert excuse for why it’s easier for everyone else besides them]. Or else they want to be spoon-fed the exact steps they need to take, as to (1) only do and invest as much work as is necessary and (2) eliminate the natural consequence of following less-strictly-defined steps: fear and anxiety.

This “Of Course It’s Easy For You” Syndrome is also troubling because it’s an unconscious confession of (more fear) self-sabotage. This is inventing excuses for why you can’t have what someone else has, to convince yourself not to even try. It’s giving yourself an “out” based on an external factor out of your control, or something internal you perceive yourself not to have but which someone else does, helping substantiate your belief that the situation is out of your hands.

But if you want things to be easier, it doesn’t start with changing your circumstances, because you can only manipulate your circumstances to the extent that you realize what is really yours to control.

And that all starts with manipulating you.

Society tells us from the day we step outside that your life is supposed to be about getting from point A to point B, and to pass your days filling in the rest with your to-do list of how to accomplish that. But that’s incorrect. Our lives aren’t defined by only the big decisions, goals, and occurrences. However much impact they have on the rest of our days, those major game-changers are few and far between.

Life is mostly made up of all the little moments you encounter between those perceived checkpoints. It’s all the smaller things you do day in, and day out, that make up the most of your life and help determine your happiness. You can have a radically different life without changing a single external circumstance, because the only common denominator in your entire existence, is You. In other words:

When it comes to enjoying your life and finding peace, it has nothing to do with someone else having something you don’t.

And I guess that’s why it doesn’t matter too much to me anymore to explain all that I’ve been able to do, even while sick. Although reaching those goals was inexplicably amazing, it’s the process of living and thinking that helped me manifest them at all, which holds the most value in the long run. And that’s the part I really want to share with this blog.

a rainbow at night

Reflections on a Year Lived with Illness

Welcome to 2014. May all beings be peaceful.∞May all beings be happy.∞May all beings be well.∞May all beings be safe.∞May all beings be free from suffering.

I had all sorts of things planned following the end of my treatment. It delivered me a burst of energy, alongside my new-found awareness that if there was anything I wanted to do, I needed to do it now. And I had so much on my heart to do, experience, and visit. And I did them all! But I think it led me to believe there might be something wrong with me, now, for not wanting to do so much. The truth–which I just realized after starting a documentary called Raw Faith–is there simply isn’t anything calling to me right now. In perfect honesty, I feel I’m being called to let go of so much, now. And maybe that is okay! If every season is beautiful, and nature is perfect, then maybe I’m right where I’m supposed to be, and what I’m supposed to be doing right now, is just this. I’ve spent a lot of brain cells wondering if I had unintentionally turned off my intuition in the wake of so much loss from the past few months. Until today, it never occurred to me I could still be right “on track,” even in my assumed inactivity.

Last year was a whirlwind, but mindfully so. I wanted to visit close friends, revisit old friends, make new friends and visit with them, too; visit with family I’d never seen, or rarely saw; I did all of this. And I wanted to get out more because I was so tired of only ever getting out for doctors… And did I!

I spent three weekends in a row in the French Quarter, and for my birthday I stayed there for a week. I went to orchestras, ballets, aquariums, zoos, beaches, coffee houses, new restaurants, tea rooms, historic landmarks, stayed in the ritzy hotels with ocean views and two-room suites, swam in water fountain pools, saw the Dalai Lama, learned more French, took up Tai Chi, redecorated my room, sold my car for a newer one, “read” a new audiobook every month, dressed up for every holiday, spent my birthday with my best friend, fell in love, bought tons of flowers, ate tons of amazing food, took tons of amazing pictures, listened to tons of amazing music, and saw tons of amazing films, in theatre instead of at home.

I also slowly but surely upgraded my technology (even my bed) to better suit my ever-changing needs, from a bluetooth speaker that negates the need to get up and change CDs, to a television that’s now mounted on my bedroom wall with a resolution I can actually see and the colors of which I feel are a spiritual experience. These things made being in bed in between all of those excursions–with however much pain and relapse–much more easy to bear. I only went to the ER twice.

There was also heartache. When you begin to change, either your circle of friends changes along with you, or the Universe asks that you let them go. Not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever; most aren’t, actually. One friend and I parted ways early in the year, but it was safe to find closure, so we did. Another had patterns of making it unsafe to share my feelings, so it didn’t end with the closure I’d hoped, but I ultimately had to let them go, too; at least I learned self-care from it. Another simply didn’t wish to find closure, and left. Two did that, actually. I had a girlfriend for several months, but due to dishonesty it ended badly, even though I am thankful for the lessons it brought, including a profound awareness of my own commitment to authenticity, something I am entirely unwilling to sacrifice for anyone or anything. Little did I know, I had already met the woman I would fall deeply for, afterward… ;) She and my best friend for the past thirteen years, join me in 2014.

© a rainbow at night

I don’t expect this year to be like the former. I guess for a while I expected to have a similar desire for activity, but I don’t, and I’m okay with that now. My fatigue is so much more prominent, though my pain levels have stabilized for now. In March, a good friend and I shall attempt to drive to California to see the Redwood Forest and San Francisco. That’s my big plan for this year, but even if we only end up driving aimlessly, instead, it will be wonderful to adventure with someone who shares my appreciation of nature.

You may have heard the quote, it doesn’t matter what you do as much as who you’re being while you do it. 

Who do you want to be for the next 334 days?

a rainbow at night

What all could you do if you just changed your expectations of how to do it?

My art supplies have been in the largest cabinet of my six-foot-tall dresser since I moved into this house, and even in the old house, they were put away because I was too sick to do anything except extremely sporadic artwork. And I don’t believe in putting a bunch of “supposed to finish” projects out and about; I think it leads to stress. I didn’t need to stare at things that were impossible at the time, reminding me of what I couldn’t do because of the effects of being in treatment, and the limitations imposed by disease. I think the things you need to put in your immediate vision, around your workspace, are the things you’re actually going to work on.

And now it’s time to bring them out.

I am going to paint. I am going to convert my desk–which up until now has been used for normal desk activities–into a place for my art supplies. My white writing desk is going in the living room, and I’m bringing in my larger, flatter one to better serve my purposes. And a lamp. And a printer. But I digress…

Most won’t understand the significance of me, someone with OCD, converting their perfectly markless desk into an art station, where it will most certainly become covered in…everything.

Luna got me more watercolours.
Melissa got me more charcoal.
I just re-found my ink.

Things are not going to stay clean.

I can’t do art like I used to do. (Or perhaps I could, just once, but having my arms take two months to recover from such an unwise activity is just..dumb.) And you know what? That’s okay. Now I can do different things, perhaps better things. I’ve only recently begun to see the thrill of painting, and I can learn more. I just can no longer expect myself to sit down and complete a project all in one go, like I used to…

And it wasn’t bad that I did things like that. It was what I was capable of at the time. If I had a random hour of being able to sit up then I had to use it wisely and do whatever I could in that hour, because it could be months before I got that chance again. My usual daily limit of being upright was less than 30 minutes per day, which I usually needed to eat and bathe.

Long before that, I would draw for hours at a time, relax with music and my pencils and everything else faded away…

But some days I still may be able to paint for hours, like the day I made this poster for my niece, combining some ideas I saw online:

For my niece, so she will have something to remind her that someone thought she was amazing and wonderful.

Other days–probably most days–I can go back and forth between desk and bed, whether it’s a physical desk or my overbed desk, sitting up and painting for short stretches of time and lying back down while I wait for the paper to dry between layers. That works out, doesn’t it? And I’m okay with having to do that.

I’m not going to stop doing things just because I can’t do them the way I used to, or the way I want. The end result is still possible, I just have to achieve it in a different way.

 

What do you think you could still do if you just changed your expectations of how it “needed” to be done?

a rainbow at night

Let’s talk about my New Year’s resolutions.

There are lots of things I’ve wanted to do, but chose not to in the interest of preserving spoons for a perceived “better time,” which I imagined occurring after treatment when I would feel better/not need to devote my energy solely to physical healing. Buuuuuuuut with the failure of all those treatments and my subsequent new-found sense of Now… Let’s talk about my New Year’s resolutions.


I’m going to listen to one audiobook per month since I can finally afford an Audible subscription.

Truly, “serendipity” doesn’t even begin to describe what the Universe has effortlessly brought into my life since The Big Relapse began. Everything I’ve needed to get through each stage has practically been placed into my hands with a loving, “Here you are, my dear.”

So it shouldn’t have come as too much an additional surprise when my friend Barbara posted about this book, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year as If It Were Your Last, by Stephen Levine.

Click to read more on Amazon.com

Even before I saw it, I had the mindset that I was going to take 2013 by the horns and embrace all of it as if this could be “it,” even if it wasn’t. Turns out, there’s an entire book dedicated to this very thing! And Barbara is reading it! And now I am, too, as my first audiobook. (Downloading the Audible app onto my smartphone made this especially accessible, and the Philips SHE3580 series earbuds make it very comfortable for someone sensitive to pain to listen whilst lying down.)

Another thing that I just found–or that just found me, perhaps I should say–is The Big C, one of those shows you’re interested in but it just doesn’t feel like the right time to watch it. Until you finally do, and realize it could have never impacted you more than it was right then. ♥ I’m excited for the finale this Spring! (I’m excited at the prospect of being alive in Spring, aha!)

Speaking of which, on to my next resolution.

 

Many may have seen what I’m calling “the Joy Jar.” The idea is to write good things that happen to you during the year on pieces of paper, and put them into a jar. At the end of the year, you will have a fine opportunity to get a papercut a collection of events that made you happy to reflect upon, and it can help people focus on the positive side of life when it’s so much easier to focus on what you lack, or what you perceive to be wrong. But I thought I’d augment the idea into something I can actually see myself doing.

journal
Several years ago a friend gave me this journal that I didn’t get to write in very much before illness worsened.
Every day, I am going to write one good thing/something for which I am thankful. And I’m going to continue my goal to attain fluency, so I will be writing it all in French.

 

One of the most unexpected things I realized at the end of last year, was that I am so very tired of only leaving my house for doctors. It usually takes at least two days of carefully organizing spoons, one day of rest, and several stabilizing medications, to get me out of the house in a semi-functional capacity…and arrive at an appointment. Why? Because it’s critical for my physical health. So what made me think that my emotional health was any less important? I’m such an advocate for taking care of your mind, and yet I completely surpassed the notion of that care applying to something like this, too.

So I’m getting out more, to do things that don’t involve anything medical.

I fought for years to be able to breathe again and walk again and I’d like to do things–important things, fun things, memorable things!–while I’m still able. I shall go to the theatre more–performing arts and movies, visit more with friends, and dine at one new restaurant per month with my family.

English: The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso in...
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso in Antwerpen, Belgium 2006
And I have plans to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama this year!

Such an event is also on a friend’s bucket list, so we’ve decided to go together. I’ve already gone to the park this month, and in a few weeks I am going to the zoo. (I love the zoo; I used to go every year.) Other things I have planned for the near future are going to see a local chamber orchestra, going to a dance performance (with seats in the front row balcony), and taking my niece to see Jurassic Park in 3D… I may think of more, who knows!

 

Finally, I’ve vowed to follow through with my artistic urges, wherever they lead.

I’m going to express myself through whatever creative means are natural to me. I’m going to write uninhibitedly, because

“Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” (Bernard Baruch)

I’m going to use those watercolours, the GOOD paints and the NEW brushes and the SPECIAL paper I’d been saving for “important” projects. And I’m going to take those pictures, I’m going to record more memories with my gorgeous new Samsung WB100 digital camera with HD video, 16.2 MP resolution, and 26X optical zoom.

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” (as attributed to Jesus in The Gospel of Thomas)
I’m going to live my life this year, and no longer put things on hold.

Did you make any resolutions this year? Do you believe in making them, or are you the type to make a decision whenever you feel ready for it, New Year or not?

a rainbow at night

What do you really want your good health for, anyway? (Don’t wait.)

It probably shows in my recent posts that I’ve gone through a lot of changes in the past few months, physically and mentally.

When you’re in treatment for an illness like chronic Lyme disease, ideally you have to put off certain goals or extra activities because letting your body heal is the priority. And when you have something like myalgic encephalomyelitis, you shouldn’t push yourself too much because abstaining from chronic over-exertion will give you the best long-term prognosis; repeated self-induced “crashes” will harm you.

But faced with two relapses, the possibility of another gradual decline, and the complete mental and emotional exhaustion that arises after four consecutive years of fighting for your life, I came to some big conclusions in early December:

This is the only life I have, it’s okay to make whatever decisions I think are necessary to live it, and I cannot put anything on hold anymore.

There is no longer a “things I’ll do when I get better” category in my brain. And it’s not that I don’t believe I can get better–I believe anything is a possibility.  (And how I love that word. “Possibility.” Almost as much as I love the word “indefinitely.” Indefinite possibility means, at once, what is uncertain is also limitless.) But like I said a few posts ago, even looking forward positively is still not living in the moment. You can’t get caught up in all the things you’re looking forward to having or being or doing, because you’ll miss the opportunities of the only life you actually have–the life you’re currently living.

Besides, what do you really want your good health for, anyway? I realized that many of the things I wanted to do were still possible if I just went about them a different way and stopped waiting for that imagined “better time” in the future… A future I’m not even guaranteed to get.

Would you live your dreams? Well, find some that are still achievable, and get started. If there aren’t any, create new ones.

Would you spend more time with your family? You can still prioritize that, you just have to do it differently than when you were “healthy.”

Would you be a better spouse/parent/friend? Don’t wait to unveil that version of yourself you’ve always imagined. They’re in there, and you can get closer to being that person moment-by-moment.

Another thing I learned is that I can’t expect people to understand where I am with this, if they haven’t been here.

My blog is (for my expression, but) less for people who are just now starting their fight than it is for people who have went a few rounds with their disease until they had to just Let It Be. I’ve had people think me delusional for their lack of understanding, just as I probably would have thought of someone like The Current Me, back when I was just starting out. And that’s okay. I hope they find this place gracefully if they also end up navigating it.

So with that in mind, I made some resolutions for this year. To be continued…

a rainbow at night

“All is well, and has been, and will be.”

[ estimated reading time: 6 minutes 26 seconds ]
This year I learned that looking forward is still looking away from the present.

Even looking forward positively, is still not living in the moment, not looking at Now. You can’t get caught up in all the things you’re looking forward to having or being, because you’ll miss the opportunities of the only life you have: The one you’re already living. It’s good to have goals! But, for some things, it is not the end result that is most important.

I’ve been noticing that now it no longer serves me to see this “attack on Lyme” as a battle to be won, where anything other than eliminating the bugs is a failure. That cannot be my focus anymore. It’s not my focus in dealing with M.E., and it cannot be my focus for dealing with neuroborreliosis, either.

I used to be okay with waking up every morning knowing I had a war to fight. Because for a while, it really was a war–beat the bartonella, do whatever I had to in order to get it under control, or it would very quickly be the end of me. And like a patient recovering from chemo and radiation, my body paid the price of all the medications needed to do that. But at least I’m still alive. I did it! I just can’t “win the war” against the Lyme that way…

I’ve had to stare reality in the face for the past several months and recognize that I may not “win the war” at all, at least not in normal standards. I have to redefine what “winning” means to me.

 

This is not a disease I can conquer forever with a few rounds of treatment. With my immunodeficiencies, very neurologically-oriented six-years untreated strain of infection, ten-year history of M.E., and twelve-year history of just trying to stay stable every single day, my body has been through a lot. So, to be perfectly honest, I may never get rid of Lyme disease. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to just let it take over.

I just can’t look at it like my goal is to “win,” where winning means nothing short of slowly eradicating the infection, because truly, why would I do that to myself? Why would I invest all my energy and focus into something that, for all intents and purposes, probably isn’t even possible anymore? Why would I do that, when there is another way, a way that brings me peace and also allows me to treat my disease?

Because that’s what I have left–I have a treatment, not a cure.

I used to think it could be a cure, because for most everyone, it is. Even if they find it late in the game, many will just have a longer battle to fight, but they can “win.” They can get IV antibiotics if their case is in their CNS, or they can at least take loads of oral antibiotics to make sure it dies and stays dead. That is possible, even for many with coinfections. But me?

Even if I could get IV antibiotics, they would probably kill me in the process; even oral antibiotics are almost impossible. (Almost.)

Maybe if Life had shown me the infection earlier, we could have cured it, even with all my additional factors. But that didn’t happen. I’m only thankful It brought information my way when It did. I am glad bartonella and mycoplasma happened, to alert me that I had something else going on that was about to irreversibly damage my body. I’m glad I am someone who pays attentions to those things, or I wouldn’t be here right now. But that’s the thing: I am still here, and I still have a life to live…even if it’s not the one I imagined!

 

I naively thought that when you go through something like this once (getting diagnosed with M.E.), twice (getting diagnosed with Lyme disease), it might be over, the whole “massive illnesses that alter the course of the rest of your life” thing…

But that wasn’t true, either. It took me almost a year to come to terms with the Lyme disease diagnosis, because inside I knew if someone like me had it, it’d probably be with me for life. I didn’t want to accept that. Then once I started getting better for a while I thought, okay, it’s not too late for me, there is still hope! And back then there was hope because it’d only gone untreated three years! And even now, I haven’t given up… But like I said, looking forward is still not looking at what you already have.

Someone shared with me a Žižek quote that pretty much sums up everything:

“Our desires are artificial, we have to be taught to desire.”

I was taught to desire an eradication and to accept nothing less. I was taught that if I did certain things, then things would work out, go the way I wanted. I fixed my focus on “I can get better again if…” and put in my head a bunch of things that could happen, should happen, that would allow me to have the life I wanted. And I went after them, like anyone would…

  • “If I eradicate the bartonella…” I did, and my reward is Life.
  • “Then I can get the Lyme disease under control…” But I cannot handle the treatments anymore.
  • “Because a lot of people with M.E. experience another remission after about ten years.” But I relapsed, instead. Twice.

 

Things didn’t go how I planned, how my doctor planned, how my friends and family planned. But my life is not over. I just have to come to terms with my new reality–a life with Myalgic encephalomyelitis, and a life with chronic relapse-remitting Lyme disease. I may eventually get a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis at this rate, but at the very least, that disease does not face the same mockery by the medical establishments (or insurance companies).

I have fought well and hard for the health I do have, and I will continue to fight to keep it, but I will not, cannot, see this as a “daily battle to win the war,” anymore. It is not. Now, it is better for me to wake up and think about my other goals, and have “treating Lyme” as just another part of my daily regimen, a part of my life that will never change just like having M.E. will never change. I cannot give away all of my spoons to treating a disease that will still be around after the fact.

“You are here, in this moment, able to do so much that’s worthwhile and fulfilling.

“Your life has real purpose, and when you let go of the superficial concerns, you can feel and know and follow that purpose. Life is beautiful, and by taking the time to look closely, you can see the beauty everywhere.

“All is well, and has been, and will be. The genuine goodness within you refuses to be compromised by any of the world’s ups and downs.”

“Go ahead, step forward, and live with total, solid confidence. Let every thought and action be filled with positive purpose and the knowledge that ultimately, you cannot fail.” (Ralph Marston)

My disclaimer: If you’re a fellow patient of Lyme, I beg of you not to take my own need for expression and use it to convince yourself that there’s no hope for you. You and your doctor can only figure out what’s best for you after a careful analysis of your individual situation. I’m not even saying there isn’t hope for me, but I’m fully aware of how some people think and thus how everything here might come across… It actually stops me from writing sometimes, but I don’t want that anymore.

Expect to see more of my uncensored thoughts in 2013, and stay strong, no matter what decisions you get to make. :)

a rainbow at night

“‘Just try harder’: The Health Bootstraps” (via this ain’t livin’)

People who don’t complain and try harder are rewarded, says the messaging, while other people deserve their situations because they don’t appreciate what they have or aren’t willing to cooperate with the people who are just trying to help them.

“Health is a highly variable thing. … Two people with asthma, for instance, can have radically different experiences. One of them might respond extremely well to medications, could experience some benefits with dietary changes, and might find that the asthma is very controllable. … This is the good asthma patient, the one who tried harder and succeeded and is doing well and is a model for other patients.

“The other asthma patient tries a series of inhalers that don’t work very well. … The patient tries complementary medicine to see if it will be effective, but it’s not, really. This patient is constantly relying on a rescue inhaler, wheezes on short walks up the stairs, has poorly controlled asthma. …

“Yet, this patient is trying, and is following all the directives. This patient is taking medications and considering other options and meeting regularly with a care provider. The patient’s asthma just isn’t very responsive to treatment, which means there’s going to be a lifetime of struggle with hospitalizations, endless switches between medications, and other problems. Not because the patient is a bad person unwilling to bootstrap out of chronic illness, but because the patient’s particular manifestation of illness is refractory.

“Illness is not uniform. …

Anyone who does’t [sic] ‘try harder’ is thrown away like so much garbage and deemed unworthy of assistance, and the mectric [sic] used to determine if someone is trying hard enough is always based on the views of an outsider. (Emphasis added.) Read more

via this ain’t livin’

Having Determination Does Not Always Equal Curing a Disease

© a rainbow at night
© a rainbow at night

I don’t think some people are prepared to hear that determination alone is not enough to beat a disease. You can do everything right and still get worse, and it’s not your fault.

You can’t say being motivated and refusing your circumstances–“I got better because I wouldn’t settle for anything less!”–is going to get everyone well, because it gives those who aren’t so lucky the delusion that they’re somehow responsible.

This post is for you.

The people who stay sick still matter. The people who die from their disease still matter. It is not your fault.

No one talks about these things out of fear of being attacked for it… I guess it’s a lesson to be learned by those who have that journey. As Oscar Wilde said, “Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

a rainbow at night

Letting Go of Society’s Expectations (…and Bartonella)

Despite the fact that my brain has been functioning a lot better recently, I haven’t much felt like updating; completely the opposite of several weeks back, when I couldn’t think to save my soul but desperately had things to say! I’m learning a new language, so most of my spare brain energy has been going into that. This minor study will also help me decide if I may be able to attempt finishing my degree come next August. If I cannot, however, I think I’d be okay with just letting it go. After all, I do have at least one degree–even if it’s not what I set out for–and my health is too precious to waste on going to university to finish a degree I may never be able to use, and which may worsen me irreversibly trying to obtain.

I have fought too hard to get to this point, and I don’t want what society says I should be doing to dictate what would actually be best for me. I reject the idea that my only purpose in getting well should be to immediately resume the life I once had, or try to get it as close as possible. If I do reach the point where I am finally stable, I would love to try and finish and become a researcher. Or at the very least, a counselor. But that would take a lot of trust in the fact that I’d still be stable and healthy enough to actually do those things after completing my degree. One of the main reasons I’m disabled is that my symptoms vary so dramatically: I cannot reliably plan even a week in advance, much less years. So if I never again become well enough and well long enough for that, wouldn’t it be better to attempt some type of small job with the degree I already have, than to use up every bit of health I’ve finally gained, in pursuit of something that won’t do me any good? And even doing that would require much more health than just enough to make sure I don’t starve on my own, which at this point is all I can realistically expect, if anything. If I only ever improve enough to take care of my basic needs, I will be thankful.

Illness has taught me my worth is not defined by what I can do, how much money I make, what level of degree I have, or what job I have, if any, if ever. I am worthy because I am here, because I exist.


Okay, let’s see. From the 16th-23rd I was having a typical Lyme flare… How is it possible that this pattern hasn’t changed, practically since the time I got it? Is it really THAT predictable? But yes, severe headache and neuropathy issues, and I also recall being more cognitively impaired during then, as well as thirsty–again, all typical.

I felt it’d be okay to restart my stretching routine a couple weeks ago, so every other day I get some “exercise”! No relapse, yet. I’ve been able to cook a lot lately, also, which is encouraging. It’s still difficult and frustrating because my muscles fail the day after using them, but hopefully that will improve more, soon. If the muscle weakness got worse when I got these infections, surely it will improve as I continue to treat them.

Dare I say that the bartonella eradication is going as planned? The Bactrim is amazing, and I think the bartonella is.. well, it might be gone, or at least, finally beat into submission?! The protocol is to continue treatment two months past the cessation of symptoms. I talk to my Lyme specialist next month, so we’ll see what he says! Then I can start Tindamax to finally treat the Lyme disease! The antibiotics I’m on now do treat it, but only minimally: just enough to keep it from taking over. I’ll be stopping the Rifampin since I can’t take it with Tindamax, but I may stay on a maintenance dose of the Bactrim since bartonella has a crazy-high rate of relapse, and I do not want to go through this again. I feel I’m probably being unrealistic that I should never face it again, with the way my immune system is, but… For now I’d really like to enjoy my improvement.

 

Til next time,

a rainbow at night