Lies I Tell Myself: VII

Featured

wp-15496077613165443406107846285098.png

Lies I tell myself. “This is all a bad dream…”

There are days in my life where everything is so absurd that I am positive that I am stuck in a bad dream and I desperately want to wake up.  This past week has been full of them.  I was supposed to get a upper endoscopy and a colonoscopy and the day before I get a phone call that I now need a release from my neurologist because of my seizures and tachycardia.  From the patient point of view all I know is that when I eat my stomach reacts painfully, at times regurgitating food I ate hours prior.  Then when it empties it is like having a baby pass from my stomach to my small intestine.  From there it can sit for days…until it eventually moves into my large intestine.  It just grows until my abdomen is tight and painful.  I will spare the details of the end of the journey, but know that I would rather not eat than experience this everyday, all day long.  I have dealt with this for six weeks.  I had a seizure and I haven’t been quite right every since.

I have lost close to 20lbs, but have managed to add some weight on.  I don’t want to be sick-thin.  I am having trouble taking my vitamins and it my energy levels.  I have calmed down my level of activity at PT and Dance because I have been having issues and falling.

All of this seems unreal to me as I look back at what I just wrote.  It feels like last week I was living a normal life and now all of that is gone.  In reality, it has been almost three and a half years and I simply have recollections of feelings and notions of events that have no grounding in time.  Of the physical horrors my body commits all too often, it is the existential horror of not having a firm grasp on the passing of time is beyond my greatest fears.  I always wonder if I will recognize my daughter in ten years.  Will she stay twelve in my head forever?  Seems like I saw her yesterday but she has been gone for almost a week.  I literally have to go through social media and my memory logs and question people who I may have been around to figure out what is happening in my life.  I rely on my phone to tell me everything I have to do, when it needs to be done, where to go to do it, and all the people who are involved.

Still, every morning right before I open my eyes, I feel the stiffness of my joints, I assess the level of pain in my head and neck and shut off my CPAP and realize THIS IS MY REALITY and my dreams are only a temporary respite from my daily issues.  Every night when I go to bed, I pray that I wake up to something different…just not worse.

This is my reality that I have to accept again every morning.

Advertisements

Rock Steady!

wp-15432944759528042865655113256704.png

Rockin’ it!

The last few months I have been trying to build a habit of being habitual.  Each month it is about a different thing, but it seems like my mind has done fairly well at remembering it needs to do SOMETHING each day, even if it isn’t sure what it will accomplish.  I can say that in November I spent every day (except on when my daughter got stitches) writing and I wrote over sixty thousand words!  Who would have ever thought that I would do something like write a novel?  It is a collection of my days and events and memories.  I just started reading it from the beginning and it is already weird.

What I learned is that I am able to apply myself for a small period of time each day and slowly finish a project.  December is going to be a little tough because I will be making and uploading at least one video per day!  If I can do this, then I think I will have more than proven to myself that I am able to be productive.   I don’t feel productive, but I am doing things.

Still, in the end, I am very proud of myself and I feel like I have exceeded my own expectations and I haven’t had those feelings in a long time.  I know I put myself into a box because I don’t want to fail but at this point in life, I personally have nothing left to lose.  At this point it is solely about ego and how I would feel about myself as a person if I went out there and failed again.

At this point I finally understand that it really is about the journey.  I could still be so angry inside and depressed.  I have not tackled all of my issues, but I am glad to be able to smile again and I am stating to enjoy things again.  Like, I took my daughter shopping for her Christmas gifts.  I don’t have the stamina like I used to, but just being able to hang out with her and talk with her was fun.  I miss it.  I try not to think about it because I am content to hang out at home, but she enjoys going out (like teenagers do) and walking around and looking at things.

I am going to physical and occupational therapy now and doing it at home.  I was supposed to start speech therapy but the lady was sick.  That will start soon.  I am in dance and being active as much as possible.  I am like a professional superstar patient.  I have embraced that I am part of the solution and I must do my part.  In my head, I am on a mountaintop playing air guitar because I am awesome!  We are all awesome in our own ways.  We each have difficult obstacles to overcome in life.  My hope is that everyone finds their mountaintop and feels the rush!

I Am No Hero!!

Featured

wp-15398446578304833432988836489688.png

I am no Hero!

Going through the medical dog and pony show has been quite the eyeopener for me.  I now understand things about people in pain that I never even considered.  I also now feel the inconsiderate thoughts and words of others and it can be very alienating.  Some people are mean because they think it is funny, some because they don’t know better.  Some treat me with kid gloves or like I have become a fragile relic, some artifact that reminds people of who I used to be.

Then there are the people who feel like I have overcome some supernatural enemy and I stand in bloody victory waving my banner.  They weave a narrative about how horrible everything became then how it was miraculously transformed and I have earned some type of sainthood for enduring life.  And while I imagine is is great to bask in that feeling, I do not wish to be stuck in my own puffed up head as if I had much to do with surviving my ordeal.

I am no hero.  When they told me that I had to have brain surgery, I sat in the parking lot and wailed as if someone had died.  I called my mom and was in such a worked up state that she had to calm me down before I shouted that I had to have brain surgery.  I hear my daughter gasp.  Mom’s phone was on speaker because she was driving.  My daughter, who was on her way to a performance, had heard me lose my marbles on the phone.  I went to my sister’s house and cried for three days.  Sometimes she sat and cried with me.  Other times, she let me cry in solitude.

Hard to imagine Batman ignoring everything (even my own child) because he was told his brain slipped out of his head and was drooping into his neck.  He has his own source of pain though.  I suppose this is where we differ.  He has turned his pain into a mission and proactively fights crime.  I am good to be making it to my doctor appointments.  While I do some volunteer and advocacy work, I am not fighting for anyone else right now, I am fighting for me.  So that I can have the ability to speak out for other people who don’t have a voice.

Just imagine how awkward it is for someone to tell you that you are brave for living or a hero for living or an amazing person for living.  I feel like that takes away from people who are actually heros.  A firefighter puts his or her life on the line daily to save others from dangerous situations.  THAT is a hero.  Police deal with all sorts of insanity, knowing every day that they leave their house might be their last.  THAT is a hero.  Our service men and women willingly go out onto battlefields and too often come home changed physically, mentally, or emotionally.  THAT IS A HERO.

My neurosurgeon spent 6-8 hours operating on my brain with the full understanding that my entire life was in the care of his highly skilled hands.  HE IS MY HERO!  He got me out of there alive.

Still, I am no hero.  I feel that we shouldn’t use that word so lightly.  If put in my situation, most people would do pretty close to what I have done.  Deal with it day by day.  Try to enjoy the good times. Complain about the bad times.  Really, it is a dull existence that pushes me to want to become a hero of sorts.  I spend a lot of time with doctors, on the phone with insurance and doctors, and scheduling future appointments with doctors.  Not nearly as heroic as it sounds.

Don’t let that fool you though.

I plan to be a hero one day and use my abilities to assist my community.  Then I can accept being called a hero.  Living in pain is a life that many people have and they make it through.  They go through the same things I do, at times more and they aren’t being called heros.  They are often forgotten about.  Some are considered a burden and are made to feel ashamed about their condition.  I just happen to look “normal” and seem “normal” to many people and so I must have overcome some giant hurdle and I am now an inspiration.  I wonder if I am as inspiring when I haven’t taken a shower for two days and my hair looks like a rat’s nest and all I want is coffee and cartoons because my head is killing me.  Am I an inspiration when my attitude is like a fiery cyclone leaving only destruction in my wake?

No.  No I am not.

I do not wish to be.  I want to be Michelle.  A mom.  A minister.  A witty woman.  All of this other stuff that is going on is just me doing the things that I have to do to keep going.  I am not sure how to just give up and that is NOT heroism, it is simple perseverance.  I have to keep going so my daughter has me here to help guide her through life as well as I can.  That is the SAME THING that every mother does no matter her situation.  Sometimes I don’t do as well or go as fast as other parents, but many parents are perfectly healthy and slow.

Life would be easier if we recognized that it is not brave or heroic for going through a medical procedure, it is simply a part of some of our lives.  I would like to feel welcome and loved instead of having to live up to the standard of a hero.  That is too much burden to bear.  I am human and I fail.  I have moments where my faith is wearing thin.  The best are the moments when I can’t control what is coming out of my mouth and I would be considered ANYTHING but a hero.

So, before we celebrate victories we can’t comprehend, let us just treat each other well and be there in the victories and the losses.  Be there when the test results come back and aren’t good or be there in the middle of the night when there a tears of pain overflowing.  You will find a fragile human with issues that is not wearing a cape, but is wrapped in a blanket to help feel comfy.  There will be no soaring through the air, only splayed out on the sofa or bad, trying to stay in a position that feels OK!

While the sentiment is lovely, save it for the people who deserve and earn that title.  I am a fighter who is training to be a hero someday.

Summer Melting

Featured

wp-15307429016513109521212917225265.png

Las Vegas Summer!  I am melting

 

Living in the desert has some very distinct disadvantages for me right now.  I have lived out here (for the most part) since 1996 and coming from New Jersey, I love the winters here.  The summer was always awesome too, until I had the brain surgery.  I had the surgery in December and I remember going outside in the mornings and being warm while my sister was bundled up.  After a short walk around the courtyard pushing the walker, I would come back inside and have to take off all excess clothing.  She told me I kept it freezing in the room.

I don’t remember much of any of the previous summers, but TODAY was hot enough to melt my thoughts (around 115).  I rapidly lose energy and focus in the heat so I tend to plan my events so the I am not outside for a long time.  I have to have air conditioning in a vehicle or a building.  I can overheat from doing my hair.  Or getting dressed.  It feels like such a horrible weakness to have in the desert.

I try to remember that I am blessed to have refuge that not only has AC but also cable, food, and a pool.  It is easy to focus on what I have lost: I have the lost the ability to endure extreme heat.  As I learn my life lessons, the positive things that have remained or increased have begun to outweigh the negative things.  In reality not much has changed except my perspective.  Turns out that was the most important change that could be made.

Still, at times I find myself in the broiler that is outside and I am amazed that the human body can withstand such brutal temperatures.  People have lived in the desert for many years in all kinds of deserts.  I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to endure the heat and work in it, and hike in it, and all other manner or activities I did.  I enjoyed those times so much and I had an awesome tan!  Now, I am thankful that my life affords me so much air conditioning, cold water, and frozen treats.  I have what I need and in this world that is a miracle.

If you find yourself in a situation that is not awesome, take the time to consider the good things.  Now, this is not what you should do if the situation is dangerous or abusive, but if you are just in a funk about life or a thing, take time to consider the things that you have that seem inconsequential but make life so much more convenient and comfortable.  If this exercise doesn’t even come close to touching your issue, I recommend talking to someone (from a trusted friend to a therapist) who can help you get the assistance you need to live a happier life.

Should you see or talk to someone who is in a terrible funk about something, let them vent and blow off steam.  Many times people just need to direct their excess energy outward and then once they let everything out they can think a little more rationally.  Never undervalue someone’s feelings or their current reality.  Each of us has a unique life experience and each person has something that they struggle with.  Some people have multiple things.  Lending a caring ear and validating that the person has a complaint (even if you don’t agree) allows a person to feel heard.  I often spot my own flaws in thinking when I vent.  Hearing my thoughts out loud helps me to make sense of my feelings.

I wish more people could understand that my body does not tolerate heat well.  I don’t want to be the only person sitting inside at gatherings.  I don’t want to be the one who avoids get-togethers because they are outdoors and I can’t do over 75 degrees.  I hate that temperature is something that influences everything from household comfort to vacation destinations.  I am not trying to be the center of attention or bail out on my friends.  I know I LOOK fine, but I am not OK.  I have symptoms that control most of my life, from walking to the going to the restroom.  Life for me is a little crazy.  So, if I am going to take the time to get ready to go out with friends, it is because I have been guaranteed a nice cool place to rest.

Splitting Headache

Featured

wp-15288100445824231140645069375868.png

It can be hard to accurately describe one of my headaches to someone who has never endured an injury that resulted in severe nerve pain.  In the spirit of spreading awareness, I would like to share some of the descriptors that I use when dealing with brain pain:

  • feels like my brain is being pulled out of the back of my head
  • feels like someone is shoving my brain into my skull
  • feels like a slow-motion explosion is happening (for hours) in my head
  • feels like a ball of magma at the base of my skull dripping electric magma onto my spine
  • feels like someone shoved rebar up my spine and impaled my head and is pouring concrete in my shoulders
  • feels like someone is blowing a balloon up in my head
  • feels like being hit by a baseball bat/2×4/pickaxe/sledgehammer/grenade/lead pipe at random intervals
  • feels like the hand of God pushing my head onto my shoulders
  • feels like my brain is leaking into my neck

I could go on and on.  There is not a pain that I can’t accurately describe using colorful language.  At times I use more color than at others.  I could never use just one set of words to describe the pain that graces my grey matter as it continually is morphing from one misery to another, afflicting different body systems as it crushes my faith in endorphins.

If you can’t imagine describing your pain in this kind of detail, count yourself among the blessed.  Hopefully that means you have never had to experience this pain.  If you have a list similar to mine, I offer my condolences.  There is no one who should have to deal with pain all or most of the time.  Unfortunately this is not how the world works and some people live with their pain as a constant companion.

So, if you run into someone or you know someone who has chronic pain, don’t even pretend to understand the level of hurt they endure.  As much pain as I endure, I don’t act like I understand the pain of others, I only know my own pain.  Just offer your support and comfort.  Chances are, any advice you have to offer is terrible or they have tried it and don’t go on a quest to fix them.  Just support and love.  Trust that you probably don’t know more than their doctors, so no medical advice!  Just support and love.  You would be amazed how encouraging friendship can be.

Plans

Featured

wp-1528269317804..jpg

Most people make plans for the summer and I suppose I do too.  Turns out, my plans are not always fun but they are quite necessary.  Like jobs, medical appointments don’t take the summer off so I am trying to enjoy the time I have around these visits.  The downside is that seeing specialists means that I scheduled most of these appointments in the Spring and they take precedence over every other event that crops up during the summer months.

Birthday party?  Not on a Friday, I have Music Therapy every Friday and it is tiring.  Anything on a Tuesday is forbidden since I have my regular therapy and I also use it as a doctor appointment day.  Sunday is church, family, and volunteer day.  We are now down to 4 days that aren’t even in a row.

Now, because I finally received my accident settlement, I was able to put together a week where I had a staycation on The Strip and I managed to live that good vacation life for 8 days.  It was wonderful to be able to take that break because although I will spend the summer being tested and evaluated, I won’t have any answers for a while.  I will still be in a state of limbo for a bit and that is just stressful.

Luckily, we have a pool and cable and air conditioning here at the house.  So, I think that while I can’t make it out of town or to all of the events, I still come out on top.  I don’t actually have to leave to enjoy a smoothie while floating on the water.  I am learning that every situation has a better viewpoint than I give it credit for.  I am a little jealous of people with the means and ability to do all of the things, but I am surrounded at home by the things people go out to find!  Fancy coffee?  Got it!  Hot tub?  Got it!  High-speed internet?  Got it!  Plus an awesome family is included!

I may be at home, but home is like a home away from home but still at home.

Stage 7: Acceptance

Featured

grief8

WE MADE IT!  At least in blog form (right??)!

This is the last step in all kinds of grief (to the best of my knowledge at the time of writing this) and in my *PERSONAL* opinion it can be the most difficult.  See, I am not really at this step yet with what I am going through.  Maybe some things I have come to accept, but as a whole, nope.

So how do I know how hard it can be?  My brother was murdered when I was 18, I was stuck in my grief for about 15 years.  I got through all of the rest of it, but I had to be able to accept a few facts before I could move forward emotionally:

  • My brother was murdered 2 days before my birthday in an extremely violent manner.
  • There was nothing I could have done to prevent it or save him.
  • I can not bring him back.
  • I can not turn back time.
  • The future we planned will NEVER come to pass.
  • I did not die that day, it just felt that way.

That is only six things.  I lost myself for a long time trying to wrap my head around those six things.  That is a long time for six things.

With medical issues, I expect it to take time to come to acceptance of all that has gone on and may never end.  It isn’t as final as death.  It can be a lifetime of being in multiple stages of mourning my losses, however, the goal is to spend just as much time celebrating the wins.  The positive attitude is what is going to keep me getting through each day until I can accept all that my body has to offer, good or bad.

If you have been blessed to make it to this stage you deserve a standing ovation.  I can’t imagine what you have gone through to get here, but I do hope that you spread encouragement to those who are in earlier stages of grief and can’t seem to move forward.  We look to you as a beacon of hope to us all; that we can learn to accept everything that has happened to us and live a quality life without dragging the weight of loss around.

 

I just want to thank everyone who read all of these posts, or even just this one.  My goal is to spread awareness about Chiari Malformation and whatever else I can help be noticed for the community of people who aren’t “normal” in the brain, body, or both.  We may look nice and act proper, but we often suffer behind closed doors or even in public when someone must make a comment about “how” we are.  We are people with feelings, family, friends, bills, pain, love, humor, thoughts, ideas, opinions, style, and so much more.  Some of us have to figure out all of that all over again, but we appreciate the people out there cheering us on and encouraging us to do more than we ever thought possible.

Again, the article I got this from is here and I used it as a basis for my drawings and for this idea in general.  Let’s talk about out mental health so we can be healthy.  Grief is healthy when completed and not stalled.  If you are having trouble with loss, talk to your PCP or therapist, or someone in your support system.  There are a lot of ways that help can be accessed and we need to use the avenues that have been opened to us so we can help ourselves and the future generations.  No Shame!