October 15, 2013

Yo Heave Ho!

The one thing constant in life is change. It’s the old cliché we hear all our lives. For sure, it’s true. Even things unseen to the naked eye are moving and changing every minute, every second of the day. I once read somewhere that in a matter of seven years, we've shed all our old skin (like snakes, just much more slowly) and are completely different people. Of course, we look the same, but we’re not. We’re different than we used to be. Our experiences have changed us. Our thoughts have changed us. The natural cycle of things has changed us. Day turns into night and then day again, but it’s not the same day that it was yesterday, is it?

I’ve been on hiatus for quite some time. I had to step away from the blog to find my inner voice again, to go through the passages and experiences and growth spurts I needed to go through to crawl out of the other side of the cocoon. I’m generally one of those people that doesn’t like to talk about what she’s going through when she’s going through it. I tend to take things as a private journey, especially my struggles.

I once had a friend tell me after I got out of a near two year long abusive relationship (this was many years ago) that he had no idea what I’d been going through and thought I’d been really happy. I wasn’t. It was just that at the time, I didn’t want to talk about my personal problems. It was easier to pretend everything was hunky dory than drag out my relationship issues and admit to someone that I was allowing someone to treat me like shit. In a sense, I felt like I had to be the tough cookie everyone thought I was. But mostly, I didn’t want anyone telling me I was being stupid. I’m pretty self-aware and always have been. I knew that. I generally know when I’m making a totally flawed decision. But I also know this: life presents us with a multitude of opportunities to become a stronger and better person than we were before. Some experiences we have to ride out, for our own soul-growth (even if it’s just to figure out you can’t save someone from themselves and to discern the kind of crap you absolutely won’t put up with in a relationship).

There’s always an opportunity to gain wisdom from your experiences. How you allow your experiences to shape you is your choice. You can either allow them to corrupt you or enhance you. In other words, as they say, you can allow them to make you better, or bitter. And for your own sake, choose wisely.

I’ve been through some shit for the past year and a half. I won’t say, “Oh, I’ve been through a lot,” or, “I’ve been through hell and back,” because in the grand scheme of things, some of my shit’s like comparing a mosquito bite to a spider bite – that and, some people are weird and get really uppity and competitive when it comes to, “who’s been through worse,” or, “what hurts worse.” Honestly, it annoys the fuck out of me when I see people do that. Pain is pain, plain and simple. Yes, pain is subjective. Just because you stubbed your toe doesn’t mean another person smashing their finger in a door doesn’t hurt any less. Same goes for emotional crap. Get the fuck over yourselves and start respecting another’s pain instead of being childish and whipping it out like a penis in the boys’ locker room to see whose is bigger.

I will straight up tell you to shove it. Don’t be a selfish prick and expect to win anyone’s sympathy, (or empathy, for that matter), if you can’t show a little respect to your fellow human. I’ve seen this crap way more often than I’d like, and every time I do, I’m like:

Anyhow, off my soapbox.

So where have I been and what I have been doing for the past year? Well, I went through a divorce. I overcame a two year stint with severe agoraphobia and panic and anxiety disorder (don’t ask me how it got so bad – it’s a long story, but suffice it to say that some part of my brain just went, “Nope! No more. We’re done. We don’t like the world anymore. Hide in house. Write. Write like madwoman!”). I’m still going through chronic pain from neck/back issues that are apparently the result of an old injury. It sucks. On my really bad days, I end up in bed for three to four days in a row. Essentially, my spine is trying to impale my brain. Right, that’s a complete and total exaggeration. But again, it’s a pretty shit deal. I’ll be twenty seven in November, and my body is already at that point where it’s like, “Haha! Up yours!” There was one day I was sitting in my friend’s car, JUST SITTING THERE, and one of my ribs popped out of place. In the words of my chiropractor, “You don’t forget what it feels like when a rib comes out of place.” No, no you don’t. I gave one of those mini-girly, “Ah! Ah!” screams, the scream that says, “This really hurts, I’m trying to emote my pain, but I suck at it ‘cause I’m not a screamer.”

“What? What’s wrong?” my friend asked.

Of course, all I could tell him was, “I think my rib has decided it doesn’t like me anymore. It jumped out OVER NOTHING!”

And this happens more often than I’d like. Most of the time, I just grit my teeth and roll my eyes and then I go to my chiropractor and I pout and let him work his magic to put my runaway ribs back into place.

But it’s not just the ribs. It’s the C1 subluxation that’s hell on my body (and it’s pressing on the nerves and tissue surrounding my brain stem). The pain radiates through my skull, my neck, my shoulders, and well, pretty much my entire body. It throws everything out of whack. I asked my chiropractor what was going on – how is it that my entire body will start aching like I have the flu? The culprit, of course, is my neck. Hello, anti-inflammatory drugs! This was actually something I discussed with him when I went in yesterday. Now, my chiropractor is also a licensed acupuncturist. Except, he doesn’t use needles. He uses a little device that sends a small electronic pulse or shock through the acupressure point. When I told him about my entire body aching, he decided to try something different in conjunction with my adjustment. As soon as he picked it up I gave him a, “What the hell are you about to do?” look.

“You have all those piercings and you’re going to tell me you’re scared of this?”

“No, I was just trying to figure out what you were doing.”

Oh yeah, that’s another thing… After overcoming the agoraphobia, I came so far out of my shell, more than I ever had in my entire life. Panic and anxiety disorders don’t just spring up out of the blue and it was something that I’d struggled with forever, but like I said, at some point, my head just gave up the fight. I was tired of being uncomfortable ALL the time. I was sick of every day feeling like a constant struggle to be a normal functioning adult in a world that scared the piss out of me, in a world that empathetically overwhelmed the shit out of me. So, I sought a refuge where I felt comfortable. Only, that doesn’t help. It’s like going in the dark room and feeding the beast. It only made it even more difficult for me to reemerge from the hole I dug myself. I started having anxiety attacks in the comfort of my own home. I didn’t have a sudden epiphany to get better. I knew I would when I was ready, but for so long, I wasn’t ready. I knew what I was going to have to do to get better and it scared the shit out of me (I mean, I didn’t know off that bat, but I figured it out eventually when nothing else was working). For so long, I’d been against the use of medications. It was my absolute last resort. For so long, I’d been strong on my own. But for some reason, this was worse, so much worse than any of the anxiety I’d dealt with. It literally felt as though a switch had been flipped in my head. You know those stray cats you see and that moment when their pupils dilate and they bolt? I felt like that every single day for two years. I wanted to bolt out of my skin. And for some reason, where I used to be strong and able to fix myself – it got to a point where I couldn’t. My mind was so stuck in the pattern that I couldn’t break it. I tried CBT, but it was like my body had lost all the tools it’d spent years acquiring. I couldn’t control the fact that walking down to the mailbox in front of my house sent my malfunctioning body into a fight or flight adrenaline response. All my life, my father had told me, “Mind over matter.” But when your mind isn’t working like it should… good luck getting it over the matter. I couldn’t sit in a room with a stranger without my hands trembling slightly, without my chest feeling tight and uncomfortable. Even when I gradually exposed myself as a part of my own exposure therapy, I could not control my body’s reaction. I found it ridiculous, stupid, even, but belittling the condition didn’t make it go away. No amount of intellectualizing or being smart enough to “know this,” helped me.

That was the point that I realized I was banging my head on the wall with the same approach, hoping over and over that it would work. And that I realized, I had to try something different. I looked at my life. I weighed the pros and the cons, and ultimately, I contacted a psychiatrist. I wasn’t living. I wasn’t experiencing life. I was wasting away and the only thing that kept my head above the water-line was my writing. Seriously, if it wasn’t for my work, I probably would’ve totally lost my shit. Maybe not in a, “That bitch needs a padded room,” sort of way, but definitely in the way that I would’ve lost all sense of purpose. Writing was my anchor.

‘Course, come the day of meeting my psychiatrist I was spiraling around in my ever-perpetual state of worry. What if, what if, what if… The phrase had become the bane of my existence. Throughout the whole ordeal, only a select few friends knew what I was even going through. One of my dearest friends gave me the best and most encouraging advice. It was simple, really. “You need to do what you need to do to be happy.” During the course of the agoraphobia, I’d had people try to push me out, try to fight me out, try to force me out. A lot of people didn’t understand it. Some did, but a lot didn’t. They reached in and tried to change me. But they couldn’t. I couldn’t even change me at that point. Where were the keys? Who the fuck knew.

I was lucky to find a psychiatrist that was willing to allow me to decide what I was comfortable with. She started me on baby doses. 10mg of Prozac, 50mg of Trazodone for sleep, and Diazepam for panic attacks. Of course, I stumbled. There was one point where I tried Buspar and ended up tweaking some serious shit off of it. It’s all about finding the right balance. Medication shouldn’t stifle you or mess you up, when the combination is right, it just helps you to be more of your authentic self. Buspar and I don’t mix. I ended up crying and laughing at the same time on it. Yes, funny, but ah, not my idea of a good time! So, no go on the Buspar. Eventually, she upped me to 20mg of Prozac. It wasn’t an immediate savior. As many of you know, medications don’t work like that. But slowly, day by day, I started feeling better. I started feeling a little brighter, a little more optimistic and not as petrified and overwhelmed. I’m a firm-believer in the fact that so much is bloody chemical now and it’s amazing what those chemicals can do to you when they’re out of balance. Medication didn’t save my life. It helped give me back the tools to save myself. It helped me to get out there and LIVE again. Oh, those evil pharmaceutical companies… Yeah, I no longer feel that way. Especially given the fact that as I said earlier in this post, I began to come more out of my shell than I ever had in my life. We were lucky, really lucky to get the right combination of meds on the first go (with the exception of the Buspar hiccup).

All my life, I’ve been absolutely petrified of needles. Yes, even when I worked in a vet clinic. And yeah, I was that girl that had a tattoo and yet, hated needles. I’d never had the balls to get any of the piercings I wanted. The first piercing I decided to get was my lip. My sister-from-another-mother took me to get it done. While I was lying down, awaiting to be pierced, she said, “You know, you’re not going to stop here, right? You’re going to want more, after this.”

It was a very spiritual experience for me. Did it hurt? My lip did, but only for a moment. And yes, I went back and got more (I’m proudly sporting twenty and baby, no regrets!). Someone asked me, “Okay, what’s with getting the piercings?” I joked about a mid-twenties crisis, but aside from the fact that I was really facing my fear of needles by having them shoved in my body – I realized, it was very spiritually symbolic for me. “It hurts,” I’d explain, “for a moment. And then for the next few days it’s a little tender and sore, but if you take care of it, if you tend to it, it heals, and it doesn’t hurt anymore and you have something beautiful left behind. That’s what they’re about. They remind me that, yes, things in life hurt, but pain is temporary. If you take care of yourself and your wounds, time does heal them. And even if it leaves behind a scar, as generic as it may sound, it’s a part of what makes you who you are.”

Yep. I’ve changed. I’ve grown. I’ve blossomed. And I’m happy (most of the time, obviously life doesn’t work on ‘happy mode’ all the time – to think so is unrealistic). I’m single and have been for about a year and I’m enjoying its perks. After being a serial monogamist, I’m enjoying being an independent cat. I don’t feel like I need a relationship to complete me. I’m pretty damn complete on my own right now, focusing on my friendships and my family and my work.

So, there you have it. I’m still around and landing on my feet. :)

Brightest Blessings,