Partially rewritten from an old instagram account – the one that used to bear this username, I wanted to take a moment to catch up with you and tell you, in short, I’m doing a 5k in two weeks. 

I know, I know. What!?? My husband has been helping me prepare and is doing it with me, along with our little pup. It’s been a definite lesson in learning to listen to my body. Yesterday I made my best time, averaging just at 15 minutes per mile, which is basically shit for a runner but a miracle for someone pushing through with chronic pain. 

I suffered last night. Today I can hardly move. But this evening, weather permitting, we’ll be out again, pushing that time. Why? Because I WANT to. Neighbors and acquaintances alike are openly calling me crazy and expressing concern for my sanity more than my safety but using my safety as the key words, and I want to combine two things (this older writing rewritten for the now and a piece I wrote last night) and share it with you. Why? Because it helps me to share. 

Walk A Mile in My Shoes

I wrote this a while ago but was afraid to share it because I didn’t want to be seen as a complainer or as weak. This is what the stigma of invisible disease does to people. My friend sent me a challenge to share my truth as I used to – it’s called the #vulnerabilitychallenge. So, I AM going to post this & not be insecure, & know I am not complaining. 

If you have loved ones with CI or chronic pain, be patient with them. They can’t control their bodies & battle with them every day & some days every second. It’s hard to live with pain, especially invisible pain. Try to give them a break. 

Literally hours ago I felt like this black cloud over my head was lifting. I felt…happy. I got excited because the depression was leaving. But what I forgot is that it never leaves. It just rises & falls like the temperature…or the ventilator that kept my dad alive during his coma.

I realized I keep waiting – waiting to get better when I know I never will. I may not necessarily get worse, but never better. That’s what CI means. So I do the best I can…but forgive me when I suddenly crash, or snap at you, or act out of sorts or distant. It’s not just a mood. It’s not just pettiness or whining. Its not selfishness or taking you for granted. It’s fibrolife or a celiac flare. Don’t be angry with me & fuss at me or cuss at me or take it personally. Worse yet, don’t compare me to yourself or others – especially others with CI or depression. 

Instead, just take a moment to try to imagine your skin feeling like it’s on fire. Feeling like your legs are wrapped in barbed wire, and let down because it’s backpain again tonight, first headache in a while, leg cramps, stomach cramps, everything hurts, and it’s stress. My body reacts very bitchily to stress – especially extreme stress, like my preparations for this 5K. 

The day has settled down & now it all catches up with me. Don’t hold it against me if I don’t cope well with stress. But rest assured – I WILL walk on, I WILL keep pushing through, and I DO love you. But I am also upset with certain aspects of how I’ve been approached recently. 

It’s comparison that gets to me. Tonight I was reminded by a film I watched during this painsomnia marathon how my mother has always doubted me and how sensitive I am to rejection, being doubted, being abandoned as the weak or the crazy one…and how that has been feeding my insecurity lately from several different directions. This all in turn reminded me that I am plenty “enough,” and never “not enough” or “too much,” at least not for MYSELF, which is what matters, and I started thinking about how even though I know it will never happen, anyone who doubts me needs to stop judging and assuming and just sit back and watch me succeed despite the challenges I face or my ups and downs. 

Then I wrote this note (blog) that was amazingly well thought out and put together and accidentally deleted it because it posted twice but it was a glitch so when I deleted one it deleted the actual note (and yes I’m pissed). Sigh…

The whole idea was that I no longer believe that our thoughts alone create our experiences, or that life has “terms.” I believe that there is a reaction for every action and that regardless of our thoughts or best intentions sometimes bad shit happens. I don’t believe we can control our lives with our minds alone, and that our hearts and our spirits have just as much to do with it. I believe that our actions and reactions, good and bad, feed on themselves to create our lives, and I also believe (know) that our lives can be effected by the actions and reactions of others but that we ALWAYS have a choice in how we live and face our challenges. 

I don’t believe in living life on life’s terms, I believe in creating my own regardless of what life has to say about it, even if that’s the harder way of dealing with things sometimes, and I’m sick of hearing people tell me lately that I need to accept life’s terms, I need to be careful with my body or I’ll make it worse, I need to just accept that I’m older or that I’m sick and so I can’t do the things I used to. Pffft. I know that they THINK that they have my best interest in mind, but they’re not ME. How can they know what is best for me – especially when they’re only a neighbor or an acquaintance I ran into in the dollar store? They can’t – not even just because they had an experience and found out what was best for them. 

Look… Listen to me hard right now. How many people who get a cancer disganosis say, “ok, I’m terminal. I’ll just die now and not try to fight back?” Some may, I’m sure…but all the people I’ve ever known to get that diagnosis, in real life or friends/acquaintances online? They may already know they’re terminal and they’ll die but they still fight – 99.9% of people I know who have had that diagnosis have not just accepted it as “life on life’s terms.” I even asked Dorie one time, because I used to judge that choice and think, “if I end up like that I’d never choose chemo,” why she made that choice and continued to struggle with it even though it was that that was killing her and not the cancer… Her response? “It’s the only way I know how to fight this.” 

My experience with Dorie and cancer and caregiving and watching her fight…that was the moment that I stopped believing in life’s terms and started believing in the human spirit and in the human heart rather than some stupid idea about how life works the same for all of us. IT DOESN’T. In a general sense, we all live and die. Everything in between? Not exactly the same for any two people. That was a huge lesson and realization for me. I’ve always known we are all different and we all do things differently and for different reasons. But that was my first slap in the face of how stupid it is to compare people or hold them to a standard we might think we have for ourselves but that can change in an instant based on any number of scenarios we may face. 

Fighting my body but learning to listen to it at the same time has reminded me of that. Especially today, after reaching that milestone in my mile time. My hip and my knee – my whole right side from the ribs down, really, is screaming at me. But it’ll pass – and it would have screamed anyway, probably louder, if I hadn’t reached this point. It would all come in waves regardless of any choice I did or didn’t make – because hello…that’s how it works.

Anyway, all of this reminded me about comparison. That was the whole premise of this whole bit of word vomit to begin with. Don’t compare – don’t compare ANYONE but especially not people with mental or chronic or physical illnesses in general. It’s not fair, because we ALL do things and face things and accept things differently and at different times and in different ways and even on differently on different days.  

I get that people may think I’m super crazy or annoying because I deal with life at both ends of the spectrum to an extreme and refuse to just exist or live somewhere in the middle but that’s because I don’t WANT to be or live a mediocre life. And, it’s also because I’ve always been a passionate and very free spirited person and I’ve always had to fight – it’s a learned behavior. I’ve always had to fight – those are hard words for me to “say” out loud, but it’s true and a realization that deeper discussion in therapy has helped me to accept.

I’ve ALWAYS HAD TO FIGHT and it is a LEARNED BEHAVIOR – my mother, my health (yes even as a child – mostly because of allergies and reactions which we now know was related to celiac but especially the time I had chicken pox and then scarlet fever and almost died when I was 7, which is what led to my heart issues as an adult), my depression, and a whole hell of a lot of people in my life as a young person (family, not people just randomly existing in my life, but yes, some of those…) who never accepted me because I was adopted and who always judged and hated me and belittled me because I was different…I was bullied a lot in school when people found out I was adopted – and I still have no idea exactly how that happened; because of how my “family” treated me I NEVER talked about being adopted to anyone. I guess there’s always that “one friend” in middle school… LOL I digress…

Rest assured – I may appear weak at times, especially when depression has me down – depression is the hardest and cruelest battle I face and yes, I face it head on daily and “fail” miserably sometimes in the eyes of others and even myself when I forget that surviving another day is a huge achievement some days, but weak is the farthest thing from reality that I am or that ANYONE with depression is. It’s the farthest thing ANYONE with ANY disease is, physical or mental. So just because someone doesn’t complain or express thoughts about their illness to you and you think, “ohhhh they’ve got their shit together, why don’t I or why doesn’t she or why doesn’t he?” Just don’t. Because they DON’T have their shit together. They’re just dealing with it in a way that makes it look like they do – and if they’re not talking to you about their struggles it’s easy to think they’re not struggling. 

News flash – not everyone talks about their struggles. Some people are very private. Some only express their physical and emotional exhaustion when they’re alone in the shower or in bed at night crying themselves to sleep. Some express it with a scream into a pillow that no one ever hears. Some express it by not expressing it. Silence is a sound, too… I’m not one of those people that is very private, and that doesn’t make me a bad person or a weak person or an ungrateful person or a “not coping well” person… And tonight I’ve been reminded by art imitating life imitating art of how much I HATE to be compared to anyone else and how much I strive not to compare anyone else to myself or to others. 

I don’t want to hear about what you approve of or disapprove of how I have a goal to make it through this 5k coming up with a “broken body,” or about what I should do or what I can’t do or what precautions I should take and so on and so forth. I CAN READ and I have been researching my physical conditions a lot longer than you’ve been thinking about all the ways my legs might not work during a 3.3 mile trail run. Speaking of which, it’s ONLY 3.3 MILES. It’s not the fucking Iron Man. 

What I want is for you, if you’re one of those people, to just sit back and watch what I CAN do, despite my insecurity and fear and pain and my body that screams, “fuck you!” to me every time I begin and end a walk or a jog. I want you to sit back and choke on those words of doubt and judgments, even if you’re only thinking them. Because I will NEVER say them to myself and I don’t want to hear them from anyone else, and I don’t want to be compared to anyone else – especially not anyone else’s imaginary standards for me (which are generally double standards, anyway). Nobody does. 

Tonight I’m laying here with heat on one spot and ice on another, and you know what? I’m relishing in it – I feel strong. I think I’m stronger than the doubters and judges in my life because guess what? I’m doing something besides worrying about what everyone else’s is doing. I’m focused on MY goal and MY current “dream.” And I’m gonna get a T-shirt for this particular experience, whether I come in first or 80th or dead ass last. But what I’m really gaining is a window back into myself. And that is priceless to me, even if it costs me more than I have to pay in the end. 

I was challenged on Facebook to share “just me” in images and not just words. I suppose that’s a REAL challenge for me because I really despise sharing photos of myself, as most of you know. I’d much rather share the intimate details in words than to let you see my physical self. Who knows why – that’s so backward, right? I mean…that’s true nakedness.

Anyway, I didn’t copy and paste what the full challenge is but I did write my own thing because that’s kind of the space I’m in right now. The point of this challenge is to share just you, and lift yourself up, and by doing so encourage others to do the same. So…

This is just me. No filters, no makeup, sweating from hiking, in my element in nature. 

This is just me. No pretentions or expectations, a bit of a grimace coming through my attempt to smile because of the pain I was feeling in my body. 

This is just me. Christy. Leigh. Whoever I am by name, wherever I came from. 

This is just me. The nearly 39 year old mom of one who is struggling through grief, and who has so many diagnosed mental and physical illnesses I won’t even bore you by listing them again. 

This is just me. A woman you may not know anymore because I’ve changed so much or may have never really and truly known but who has been through hell just like so many others and is still here, somehow. Still has goals. Still has dreams. Still has a self inside. Still has a light somewhere inside all this inner darkness of depression and still fights on and walks through a lot more than what can be seen or expressed in words. 

This is just me. Yep, the fighter, the pusher-through. The trying-to-remain-an-optimist. The hoper. The lover. The never-giver-upper. The warrior. The mama bear mama-ing and trying to be the best example of surviving and thriving she can possibly be for her son, despite what she shares with the grown ups in her weakest moments. 

Here are the photos I chose – no makeup, no filters, just as I am about 99.9% of the time. This is JUST ME. I am beautiful as I am, I am strong despite my weaknesses, and I am enough.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” -John Muir

Good morning, friends. I have spent the last couple of days really sitting with and holding my feelings and thoughts – some very deep ones stemmed from my last post and the response I’ve had to it from you at Instagram and via e-mail here. I’m so grateful for your expressions and to be on this journey of recovery, and life, with you. 

I am a lot of things. But one thing I am not is a quitter. In fact, that is often one of my flaws – I don’t know WHEN to quit sometimes. I’ve been in situations where I’ve just refused to give up or to give in or to let go, even when the situation or person has clearly given up on me. That’s a flaw and a strong point, all at once. I’m not a quitter, even when I should be, and sometimes that causes extraordinary pain in my life. But more often than that, it keeps me alive. 

What it really is, at its core, is hope. Even in the throes of depression, deep within me there is this hope. I have not yet defined it for myself, and perhaps it doesn’t need a definition. All I know right now is that it’s what drives me on, and I want to share some quick thoughts with you this morning on that. This has been the core element of my thoughts and feelings since my last post. 

I try so hard to encourage people not to give up because it helps me to remain accountable in doing the same thing. Sometimes, that becomes a slippery slope – but in the end, hope – false or not – is never any worse than wanting to die. 

I hear often, and used to believe, that false hope was as unhealthy as doubt. When it comes to depression, I don’t believe that at all.

My morning thought for today is this:   if you are struggling with depression and you have even an ounce of hope left in you, hold onto it with everything you have. 

Hold onto it even if no one else understands it, even if your hands begin to bleed and the hope itself becomes stained with the blood of your pain.

Whether it’s a dream, a person, a desire for your life or for someone else’s, whatever it is is, HOLD ONTO THAT HOPE. It’s so much harder without it, and to see the stains on it when you eventually walk (or crawl) through your depression and back into your joy will remind you, no matter what your hope is, how valuable that hope always was and will be. 

I believe that, and I believe in you.

Much love,

C. 

I’ve continued to search my soul for an answer to my doubt and my unhappiness with sharing on social media, and this morning I posted another expression – this time of the place I find myself in as that original doubt and question evolves more into an answer. After I posted that train of thought, I received several messages from like minds and souls sharing their personal experiences and thoughts about it. 

One of the conversations (with a lady that has become a soul sister and close friend to me recently) led to someone asking me, “what do YOU want?” In the last year and a half, not a single soul has asked me that – and I was almost shocked to read it. I mean, I know a lot that this person is struggling with (including grief and chronic illness, similar to myself) and to be so aware of that and have them genuinely ask me, “what do YOU want?” both blew me away and grounded me a bit all at once. It’s been a long time since I felt that connected with anyone – at least with someone who had experiences of their own to truly grasp where I was. My truthful answer was, “I don’t know.”

Regarding life in general, that could be true for a very long time. But as far as here? At this blog AND on the actual Instablogs on Instagram I don’t know specifically what I want to do but I DO know that I want to continue to create and share – art/photography obviously, and my own thoughts, mostly – or, at the very least the much better expressed ideas of others about things that are affecting (or plaguing, as the case may be) my life.

Whether pretty and pleasing or dark and uncomfortable to take in, no matter the contradictions (because depression is good at those), I want to share it all – because that’s who I am, always have been, and always will be. I am best when I am open. I am best when I allow vulnerability and truth – no matter how it looks to anyone else. That’s how I cope, even though sometimes the pressure (self and otherwise) gets to be too much. I appreciate your support in that. I do, from the very bottom of my heart. 

That said, I don’t know what direction my posts (or my life, for that matter) are going to go in at this point. I don’t know where my heart is, especially in creating. It’s there, but I don’t know where. That’s why I started playing with some found footage from the farm tonight (which I can’t share here because my subscription doesn’t include video storage directly to the site and I don’t want to use YouTube). 

Anyway, I played around with editing and went with the flow…for a brief moment I found myself truly immersed and connected with my own being, and as I experienced that I asked myself why I had chosen that footage and felt so calm and creative about it. The answer? It felt safe. Safe is good right now. I play it VERY safe with EVERYTHING right now. And while it’s a necessity right now, I hate that. I HATE IT. Playing it safe destroys creativity and it erases the experience of adventures because adventures simply don’t exist. In this place, my wild woman is hidden away – and she’s the part of me I love the most. That’s another blog for another day…

I’m literally fumbling around and along in my life right now. Depression has taken hold, even as hard and as long as I have fought it off. But we all know, those of us who are touched by it, that it’s GOING to finally get to us. Maybe it varies each time it comes, depending on circumstance and current physiology and level of consciousness to it. Maybe it sneaks up behind you and gently, silently drapes its black cloak over your shoulders while you aren’t looking, taking you completely by surprise. Maybe it jumps on your back like a dog in heat as soon as it smells the scent of sadness or doubt. 

Or maybe, like me in this last year, you see it coming. You watch it closely and calculate all your moves as you observe and take notes of it’s strategy this go around. You try to bravely stare it down with all your might, daring yourself to stand firm and face it, truly believing that this time is going to be the time that you rise above it before it grabs hold. Yes. This time you’re going to make it – or dodge it, at least. But then, you don’t. You don’t make it or dodge it in time…because depression? Depression always wins that face off. 

So, now you just hold on with all your might as it slings you around and beats you into the floor, making a mess of every physical and emotional piece of you. Or maybe it’s very intimate and gentle with you, and it taunts you with promises of how much better things will be if you just give in to it and let it rape you, heart and soul. Or maybe it’s a silent and unpredictable demon for you, and you walk in fear of what it will do next. Me? All three, and a few more I can’t quite sort out with words yet. The point, though, is that you struggle. 

That’s where I am… 

Depression. Yes. That’s where I am…and you’re going to see it. I’m going to write it, and speak it, and create from it – whether that looks pretty and light or scary and dark. 

I’m not going to operate under the theory that not speaking it makes it not true. Depression doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t buy the affirmations; in reality it just hears lies and uses them against me. It may be different for you, and that’s ok. But that’s what happens for me. So I’m not going to pretend I’m ok, because it’s OK not to be OK. And I want YOU to remember that if you’re in a similar place. 

You’re not alone. I promise you. And pretending you’re OK when you’re not in order to leave an image of love and hope untarnished DOES NOT HELP HEAL DEPRESSION. In fact, that’s the only consistent “rule” I’ve encountered across the board of myself and others I meet who are counseling others, living with, or struggling with depression. People who do not understand actuality of or have never experienced depression in it’s deepest, rawest, soul-eating form will never be able to grasp this. But for those of you who have messaged me and said, “why do you always apologize when you don’t post positive stuff or don’t know what to post?” You do get it, and YOU ARE RIGHT. We must be true to ourselves. I thank you for that reminder. 

Depression is simply not pretty and it’s far too romanticized in our society today. It’s scary, and it’s messy, and it’s downright uncomfortable (and ugly some days). Some days, you could smear all the love and hope in the world over yourself and wrap yourself in all the most beautiful and positive quotes, and you’ll still be scared, messy, dark and ugly inside and to the core of yourself. And that’s OK – because that’s depression, and it’s a process; for some, a life long one. 

In discussing this with other depressed people, I heard a lot of them say, “but why DO you try to stay on the more positive side of things?” Well, in a general sense and even in lacking religious faith, I want (choose) to try to look on the bright side – even if it’s with sarcasm and dark humor. For me, I know that if I lose hope altogether, I will die. My depression WILL KILL ME. Of course I have my (regular, lately) moments of existential anxiety and darkness and cynicism and anger. But mostly, in my heart? I hope. I love. I want to see and to do good. 

So yes, I’m guilty of believing and sharing a lot of fru-fru stuff. I like the fact that I have found a sort of balance between gentleness and toughness in my self and self-expression, and that I can be honest enough with myself to embrace both sides of who I am.  But if that doesn’t work for you? That’s OK! Forget all the self help, new age, love and light mumbo jumbo if it doesn’t work for you! It doesn’t work for me every second of every day or even every day or week or month at this point in my life (although I know I’ll still be sharing from that place within me on the days when that side is winning). 

We are complex emotional creatures, even at our best. Adding depression into the mix of who we are complicates things greatly for most of us who are affected. It’s not a RULE that you need self-help or spirituality to cope, or else you’re a bad person. In fact, there is no set-in-stone list of rules that we can all follow that will work 100% of the time for all of us in the same way to help us to cope with and/or overcome depression. NONE. Not coping that way, or without religious beliefs, or even without a smile on your face, doesn’t mean that you aren’t still filled with love, hope, purpose and spirit. Just because you forget it doesn’t mean it’s not there – kind of like those dirty dishes from two days ago or the laundry you meant to fold last week. It’ll keep. 

It doesn’t make you a negative or unworthy person, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t making or going to make progress, to deal with depression in a way that others most often criticize and judge. It just means that you struggle with depression, and that’s a beast that only those who have battled it can understand. We must embrace ourselves and whatever we are feeling at least long enough to try to grasp WHY we might be feeling that way and whether it is helping us. At least, for me, that is the only way I can get through most days. 

The other part of that for me is absolutely the ability and the means to express myself, regardless of what that expression is on any given day or in any given moment. I encourage you to express yourself, too, if you can in some way do that, and I promise you that I will try my best to practice what I preach, post from my heart, always, and walk this often contradictory cliff’s edge with you. 

I love you. 

C. 

…a very raw, and real one – one of the ones I almost always keep private…

April 5, 2017. 10:55AM

First of all, how is it that my writing today coincides exactly with the timing of my writing about volatility on March 28th, the last time I day-journaled? That’s weird…or not…but mostly, yes.

Today I feel ESPECIALLY volatile. In fact, I just texted that to a friend. The reasons are many. I haven’t had sleep in many hours (one hour, about, in the last 36 or so hours). Anxiety is the fault AND the cause of that, and of many things in and of itself. And all of those things are the cause of many other things. I mean, it’s like I told the fairy god-therapist recently:  we can sit around analyzing that until we’re blue in the face and we’ve managed to work our way all the way back to our time in the womb, maybe even before that based on some belief systems, but it’s going to solve NOTHING about now. I hate that sort of cognitive psychology. Mind stripping bullshit… I hate it, but yet I love it and it’s a huge part of my personality – especially personality and understanding of self – to do just that.

Today, due to lack of sleep, due to anxiety, due to the chaos of thoughts that NEED to escape my mind and can’t escape fast enough, and then annoyingly get lost and ruin my train of thought all together and then I almost obsessively try to start all over (with that cognitive bullshit that I have a love/hate relationship with)…I just feel volatile. This flood of expressive thoughts that I can’t express fast enough, and all the noise around me – even the little noises like the birds chirping – make my head feel like it will explode.

They are like fingernails on a chalkboard, even the positive, happy sounds that we often invite into our environments. Everything makes my brain feel like it’s going to explode and all I want is perfect stillness and perfect quiet – kind of like the “perfect darkness” you achieve deep in caves, which is the only place on the planet you can ever achieve that. I don’t know where to go to achieve a literal perfect stillness and quiet in this physical world, and I certainly can’t escape to a cognitive version of it, even with meditation, with this “dis-ease” that seems to be swallowing my mind and consciousness.

I have been getting to know a new, light-warrior friend via Instagram through chat, and I was just expressing a similar (but not nearly as immediate frustration) in a conversation last night, during the peak of that episode of insomnia. I relayed how I have found myself simultaneously nodding my head and saying, “yes,” out loud as I’d read each thought they shared, whether in their posts or conversation on my posts or the human transactions that were being shared via DM, and how I was so grateful for that but it was also overwhelming.

Isn’t that so odd! To connect with someone who also wishes to spread love and positivity and happiness… Light…. And to be so blinded by that because of my condition. It both took me by surprise and made me sad. I was so happy – ecstatic, almost – to have felt such a deeper level connection with someone again and to have these conversations, but also sad and annoyed at my brain and chemicals and processes being as they are so that I also felt such an immediate and almost panicky need to express all of this I was feeling because I’d forgotten it all once before and I didn’t want to lose it again before I understood it, but mostly before I LEARNED from it.

A conversation ensued about the issue of “dis-ease” and I shared about how I will have down days, sad days, mad days, doubtful days, as part of my “dis-ease” as they call it (doctors and therapists and so on – the “helpers”). Even as a part of my grief. But the reality is that there can be kindness and love shared from THEIR realities (“normal, functioning” realities that they exist in, within themselves) versus MINE (the disturbed, lost, seeking, hurting, grieving, sick version of myself that I have become). They’re just so judgmental, in their perfect little boxes, conforming to a broad spectrum of socially acceptable norms that I don’t fit.

They don’t tell me or teach me positive things. They constantly teach me or relay to me, whether they mean to or not, that I am broken or in some way not good enough. I know I need HELP with my issues and conditions but I do not need to be FIXED. There’s a difference and that’s very frustrating and counter-productive for me.  This new friend said to me, “what if you just looked at it as down days or feeling anxious, instead of labeling it a disease? Don’t listen to mainstream media, doctors or anyone that has no concepts of living outside of that box. You can help ease some of the anxiety and depression simply by not ever calling it a disease anymore. You just have more ups and downs and anxieties a little more often than others. Yet all the same – we are all sharing these same emotions. You’re not alone – just let them come and go. The words we say to ourselves mean everything – shaping reality thought by thought and word by word.”

It was really fascinating because it was like reading back my own expressions not so long ago – mostly, before heartbreak and death… I LOVE it. I totally get where they were coming from because I used to 100% be and live as that person with that mindset. And then, the “dis-ease” of it became a reality that suddenly touched, and then began to swallow me. It was almost like a suitor, wooing me – that’s how it always happens. It woos me and taunts me with certain aspects of it that are appealing to me (the melancholy, the muse of it, the creative expression that comes from it) and then once it begins it sucks me into this “toxic relationship” whereby I end up swallowed in darkness with NONE of those appealing qualities actually being a part of it. It’s a sneaky little bastard, that one.

And it IS disease. It IS illness. There is no escaping from or denying that, or there is no getting better at all. It’s a variance back and forth, for me personally, with the things I face mentally, between believing that our words can shape and even literally heal us and accepting that sometimes that’s just not the case. It’s like cancer – some people are healed and they claim that their believing was part of the recipe. But that doesn’t work for everyone.

When Dorie died I came to accept that even if everyone else believes along with you, with all they have, with all their being, sometimes it’s just not enough to overcome death. It’s similar with my mental health – it’s a hard balance to find when a) it’s hard to find meaning and purpose and believe in positivity and self-worth (depression, ptsd) and b) I’m working with therapists/doctors to try to get help for the medical aspect of it (replacing/balancing hormones and chemicals in the body, along with healing my physical body from the damages of chronic physical illness and rebalancing and at least stopping further damage, even though I can never really repair what’s already wrong – celiac disease).

Those people, as I just mentioned, may be trying to help you in a gentle way (as human beings doing the best they can) but the system is flawed because it’s always spoken about in such a negativistic way. What COULD you do? What SHOULD you do? How COULD you or SHOULD you change and what COULD you or SHOULD you change? All of this, when from the other side of their mouths (and the spiritualist parts of society and our selves), it’s all about how we’re all good enough, worthy, loved, made of love, perfectly designed, etc. Really? Because that’s not how it feels when you struggle with mental illness.

It’s because it IS a disease, down to a physical level. I can’t pretend it’s not or I end up missing out (due to escapism and avoidance) some of the good and even best ways I can be helped. But, at the same time, what that person shared does apply. The disbelieving and the labels and the basic bullshit of American medicine are not helpful factors and it IS important to try to steer clear of those things from a subjective place within ourselves. I love that suggestion and somewhere inside me I DO still believe and need to live more from that place. But mental illness is part of a two-sided coin of very real medical condition for me and it’s all so very hard to cope and to live with.

I try to remain in that positive space regardless and to not give up on myself or doubt when I step outside the positivity zone – I try to avoid definitions and labels of failure or success from that perspective, and I tried to address that in some writing I did about how just continuing to try is, in itself, success for ALL of us. That’s what I encourage others to do, and I know that I have to walk the talk as much as possible, mistakes though I might (WILL) make, and just continue to walk and grow. I feel like if I owe anything to anyone I owe THAT to my SELF, to my loved ones, and to the world. We all do. Just our best, and our love. You know?

He understood all this, even in all it’s chaotic and insomnia-influenced version of expression. He said, “Definitely – always breathe and be grateful for NOW…and YOUR continued journey. It’s not selfish to live and dance for the ones that no longer can… We are all here by ourselves, really, anyway. Love yourself, talk to yourself. Be your own best friend (again). It could a long one, friend!” And he is so right – that, what he described in those statements, that’s who I’ve always been. Even in my darkest times and struggles with depression and mental illness in my past, I was always able to hold on to that somewhere and  now, with her death, it FEELS like that is gone. And I’m so terrified at every level because I literally feel as though I have lost myself.

I love his perspective and his confidence in life and in love – and so many of my other kindred spirits in that community. I can’t even wait to write more posts from the food for though he/they have gifted me. I can’t wait to continue these conversations together and with the world at large. But it’s also daunting, because I have very little faith in myself that I CAN do that. The darkness says, “there’s no light, tunnel or not, you are deluding yourself.” The me that desperately seeks to not become wholly lost forever strives to believe and convince myself that that itself is the delusion. How ridiculous this carousel is, and seems to remain…

In closing, for now, I thank you for reading, and for existing as a very important part of the tool set for me to at least attempt to express myself. I am so grateful for you.  I wish you all the love and light that I want to believe is out there and within you and me – all the light, everywhere. May we all continue to seek it and to find it, and even if in the most unexpected of places and ways may we always allow it in.

C.

It’s been a weird several days. Aside from life being life, I am basically at a loss for what I want to share as far as subject matter of images, or how I want to share them – especially on my photography blog and on my social media platform of choice (Instagram). I mean, I don’t like the random. It feels too chaotic. I like things to sort of “match” and to blend and flow. I’m into themes (you can probably decipher that if you look at my Instagram profile as a whole for the past several weeks of posts). It’s got something to do with symbolically maintaining a bit of control of myself and my life.

I feel a lot of panic lately. I feel a lot of panic in general but my death panic is the worst part of it. My death panic is BAD lately. Not just my death panic for myself (I’m not afraid of death, but of leaving my son without a mother), but also my death panic about my mom (who, even though we are…not the best of friends, is my only living relative left), death panic about friends, death panic about my son’s family and him facing grief. It’s like all the loss has caught up with my mind and the CPTSD stuff is not helping.

I’m oversharing again, as I do. This is why I have a blog. Sigh.

I’m trying to think and exist in a positive space. I’m focused a lot on my illness and restoring my physical health (new probiotics in the mail!!). I’m also spending a lot of time planning the food I’ll grow this season and preparing my raised beds and backyard for all those grand ideas. That helps. It’s good to hang out in the outdoors in shorts and tshirt and get dirty and sweat already. I like that a lot. I didn’t think I was ready for winter to end this year. I WAS WRONG. Nope, still not a winter person.

I digress (as usual). Here’s where I was going to begin with:  Sometimes my thoughts feel like they are (almost) literally flying around in my head. It’s like this very demanding, exhausting experience of what feels like mental gymnastics to try to flip and bend, leap and stretch, desperately trying to both understand what all these thoughts mean and how they entertwine, and to somehow make something graceful out of it because otherwise it’s just going to be an extremely tangled and not very asthetically pleasing mess. Nobody likes a tangled, un-asthetically pleasing mess, especially if it is one inside their mind that they have to carry around all day, every day.

Sometimes there are so many thoughts, encompassing such a vast expanse of ideas and issues, that they seem to crash into each other and meld into a fleeting fusion of momentary wonder and I really have no full idea what they have actually become before they disintegrate into the mental exhaustion that envelopes me from trying to sort and understand them. It’s a bit depressing, really. When that happens I feel so…unintelligent, incapable, and silently swallowed. If I can’t express my thoughts – my words – then I am silent, and when I am silent I feel like I can’t breathe.

It’s not a need to express myself and be read or heard, necessarily. It’s just expressing in general, whether it is in a private journal I keep or the notepad on my phone that nobody ever sees, or a blip of an Instablog on Instagram or a full blog post here. It doesn’t matter if anyone sees it (much less understands it). It’s just getting it out. What matters is that I am understanding myself. That’s what this entire blogging/instablogging/online conversation is about for me – that, which is where my writing comes from: the depths of my being; and, it is about hoping someone else finds inspiration or support of some kind as I make my way through my now.

So, when I find myself left in silence, it’s because I am not understanding myself and I can not find or even create the words necessary to do so. In a general sense, that has never bothered me; recently, it has become unacceptable for me. In the last few years this experience has come to create a choas and a discomfort within me. I hate it. But what I have found in the last few years is that in those times the words are not what are important. It’s the feelings – and sometimes there just aren’t any words that are appropriate. Feelings are a language all their own, and I am reconnecting with that, within myself.

It’s especially complicated on the days after nights when I haven’t been able to sleep. It’s a consistent – perhaps chronic – theme for me lately, this not being able to sleep. Not being able to sleep means that a) I have this plethora of constantly running ideas and thoughts and feelings overwhelming me and b) I’m forever exhausted and being exhausted does NOT help me to cope with the mind noise that is always there. I always try to write it away, and for years and years (most of my life) that has worked. It works better than music, better than meditation, better than escaping into a book…writing is what works best for me. So why can’t I write now, when I so desperately need my writing and to break my silence? I don’t know.

What’s changed? What’s happening? Most of my followers/people I actually have gotten to know and have followed ANYWHERE online have long since wandered away from the different sites and forums. So have I. I’m no longer on Facebook, post on deviantART about once every six years, blog about once a month (except for this blog, which I started this year for the precise reason of thinking that a fresh, new slate would open new possibilities for my inspirations and my creative drive), and I am even getting really sparse with my posts on Instagram, which is a complete shock to even me.

I don’t know what changed, really. It’s been a very slow decline for YEARS – after having my son in 2009 I just kind of…fell away from the world in general. I was too busy for anything else. Then, I got myself involved in a whole bunch of exquisitely beautiful crazy that brought me back to my creativity and desire to be expressive (gotta be grateful for having a muse cross your path), but then my dad died in July 2015. At that point, I was foundering… When my best friend Dorie died of cancer in March of last year (March 22, 2016), I just kind of died along with her in a lot of ways.

There’s been SO MUCH DEATH and loss and destruction of me over the years – especially throughout Dorie’s cancer, because of the cancer and because of the things that were going on my life during that time. I am STILL trying to comprehend that period of my life. My creative side has always remained, and always continued to be my sanity, but lately I find myself in a desperate struggle to express it. It’s not even that I fail because I try to force it. I don’t even have the oompf  to do that.

I tried to start over on dA and created a new account and everything, but I never use it. No one really connected to it – no one was really left there that I knew anyway… I have taken up with the Instagram community, and that’s mostly where I share my photos at this point, and has been my hub for about two years now. It’s really easy to share my photos with my mobile devices there, and I rarely touch my computer anymore except to blog. Instagram is convenient. There are also a lot of friends there who help me through the ups and downs of grief, cptsd, anxiety, panic, and my celiac diagnosis… I appreciate them, but I haven’t even been active there for the last week and my activity for the last few months there has been sparse, to say the least. I don’t know what’s going on, really.

I’m not in a creative slump. I just feel like there’s too much whirling around in my head. I can’t sort it. I can’t see any of it clearly enough to do anything useful with it. Dorie used to say,  “You’ve got to step outside the tornado.” It was kind of our little process, together. Step outside of the tornado, and start identifying and picking up the pieces, even as they still fell. That always worked amazingly, because we would help each other through that process. We both understood the process and how it worked so we didn’t even really have to talk to do it. It just happened. Now, she’s not here and I can’t seem to do it on my own. Not effectively or efficiently, anyway. My last post, where I shared about deleting my past, was the most effective way that I could step outside the tornado. I managed that part. But even though the mind noise has become quieter, I don’t know what to do with what I’m observing about myself.

I feel like I’m stuck in this weird, empty limbo. I don’t even know why I’m choosing to share this because I know that the likelihood is that it makes little to no sense. I suppose the point is that I’m grasping for straws and just hoping for something useful and solid to grab onto. I think it’s safe to say that in a very general sense the year 2016 sucked for EVERYONE. I feel like that’s carried over into 2017 with my newest life situation – my mother has begun the fall into dementia and that’s very hard to deal with. Caring for her is the hardest thing I’ve ever done because we don’t even like each other. That cptsd thing I mentioned before is rooted in my childhood with my mother.

It’s all very stressful and emotional and I think the truth is that I’m just exhausted. I’m exhausted from figuring out and dealing with life without my Dad or Dorie here to be my guides. But, we all eventually face that time where “we’re it.” You know what I mean? It’s hard. It’s doable though – we’ve been doing this for thousands and thousands of years, right? The cycles, the whole “life” thing. Life on life’s terms – I cringe to say that phrase but it’s the truth…

Alas, I hope YOU are all doing much better than I feel like I am doing with my life in 2017. I hope 2017 is treating you kindly. I hope you are still feeling inspired and driven and still making art, whether with words or paints or cameras or your hands…whatever medium you’re into. I’m not feeling very present today, so I admittedly have no idea who is doing what, where, or how – especially not those I have lost touch with online or in real life… But I do think of everyone I “know” every so often, and I find myself thinking, “I miss the ‘old days…'”

I will end my “catchup post” here, as my cat’s snoring is taunting me to rest (and my tired muscles, after having worked in the gardens all morning and early afternoon – I’m so unfit since winter, but working on it!). Hope you’re all doing well and having a lovely start to your week! Much love and happy arting…

C.

It’s February. I can hardly make myself believe that we are already one full month into 2017. Since before the beginning of this year I have tried to make a conscious effort to be very positive in what I allow myself to focus on – whether it be thoughts, activities, even the things I read. I am falling off of that wagon this morning, only 32 days into the year, because there is this topic boiling inside of me that I wish to plead with you to consider and to change about yourself if you’re one of the people this shoe fits. The topic of the day today is “toxic people and toxic relationships.”

I am inclined to share my thoughts about this  because it’s a topic that has really begun to irritate me. It’s not just the toxicity topic – it spans a broader spectrum, really. I see it frequently “discussed” on social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube (and no doubt on Facebook and Twitter, which I have happily been distanced from for some time now). People throw around this terminology and are turning it into this new rage with new meaning and my problem with that is this: mental illness, nor emotional/physical abuse, are fads or hot topics or momentarily interesting adjectives. They are serious, and they are long term, and they are important, and people who are truly dealing with them suffer and struggle beyond what those who do not deal with them in a real sense could ever imagine or understand.

Here are my thoughts, in short:

Just because a person disagrees with you doesn’t make them a narcissist. Just because a person shares a different perspective on life or lives in a different world than you do doesn’t make them “bad for you” or “mentally ill” or wrong. Just because you have an argument, or a person makes a mistake, or a person does or says or feels things that do not make sense to you or things that make you uncomfortable does not mean that they are a toxic person. Just because a person doesn’t understand YOU doesn’t make them daft or stubborn. What all of those things MIGHT mean are that perhaps you are using blame or judgement or being unkind to others in order to validate yourself.

I wish that people would stop throwing around terms related to mental illness and psychological problems like they are just every day adjectives, and blowing every day situations, perfectly normal behaviors, personality types, and differences out of proportion. Terms and phrases like:

Toxic

Trigger

Delusions of grandeur

Going mental

Suicidal

And, even using the actual names of mental illnesses as adjectives or modifiers or verbs:

PTSD

Panic

Anxiety

Depressed

Bipolar

Narcissistic

Really? Because chances are, you have NO IDEA what it’s like to deal with ANY of those issues in a real way. The one that really aggravates me is the current trend of talking about people and relationships that are just not great or maybe a little bit unhealthy but far from abusive or utterly horrible as “toxic,” and to accuse the other person of being “unstable,” or “bipolar,” or “narcissistic.” Until you have actually been involved with a person who carries within them the ACTUAL traits of any of those illnesses or states of being, you have no clue how detrimental, how painful, and how truly disabling those types of relationships/people can be.

It’s not cute – not even a little bit – to have a painful or bad breakup that is really pretty average or normal (breakups hurt, OK?) and to then lash out with some descriptors like the ones I’ve mentioned above in order to validate yourself or to make yourself feel better. It is one thing to refer to someone as selfish, or as wrong for you. It’s something completely different to use descriptors like the ones above when referring to them or to your opinion of them.

Society in general needs to get over itself. It needs to change it’s perception back to the reality that NONE OF US are the same, none of us have the same experiences as a whole, or beliefs or ideas about the world or about life or about anything – even science disagrees with itself some of the time. And what does it do? It accepts that and it works to make things “right,” because it has to. That’s why the majority of ideas in the world of science are still called THEORIES, and theories are acceptable until proven to be fact or proven to be bullshit.

Speaking of bullshit, I’m calling bullshit on all the hype about toxic relationships, and toxic people, and narcissists that seem to be out to get a few of you…because you know what? You’re lying to yourself and you’re making mountains out of molehills, and most likely you are simply trying to avoid personal responsibility and owning what YOU HAVE ALLOWED in your life that you are now sick of. You can’t blame other people for what you have allowed to continue, or for not understanding you when you do not express yourself well, or for not treating you in a way that you deem as “fair” when everyone is entitled to believe and express themselves as THEY ARE, just as much as you are.

I’m not on a rant today, I promise! I just had one too many blips of the term “this person is so toxic” appear on my screen this morning, and I wanted to address the utter unreality of truth to this, in a general sense, and the overwhelming lack of compassion involved in using terms like that to describe the most mediocre of issues that people see in each other. I’m not even going to pretend that I haven’t at some point been guilty of this myself. I’m sure that I have. But, perhaps if we could spend as much time diagnosing ourselves the way we do others, and then HELPING OURSELVES to become better in the areas where we see a need for improvement, and work together to gain an understanding of these terms I’ve described, instead of running off at the mouth and spouting DSM terminology as though we understand it and are qualified to do so, the world would be a much kinder and better place. As a person who does feel qualified to intelligently discuss mental health terminology and issues (a trained and well schooled psychologist, as well as a diagnosed sufferer of CPTSD, anxiety and panic disorder, and the classification of depression that falls under the umbrella of those issues), I can’t help but feel some sort of obligation to say, “PLEASE STOP!”

Thank you for reading, and for attempting to understand where I am coming from, friends. I only wish to protect the people I love – namely, ANYONE who suffers from any sort of mental illness and/or is dealing with/has dealt with abusive people/relationships, including myself – who are hurt by the offhand and very casual usage of these terms and phrases that are so readily pulled out and used these days, and to say that if you’d like to have an actual discussion about the reality of these issues, I’m game to share in that conversation with you. The world can be a better place. Can we work together to make that better place a reality? Please?

I do hope you’ll have a beautiful day, and a very blessed one…

Much love, friends.

C.