Fibromyalgia & Maintaining Hope

open24hours

Maintaining hope is a matter of discipline.  Hope isn’t not magically bestowed upon you. It’s not something packaged in the form of the latest prescription your doctor wants you to try.  You can’t purchase it from your neighbourhood 24-7 pharmacy. You learned it from someone somewhere at some point in your life, oftentimes in childhood.  Hope is a skill.  As such, the old adage of  use it or lose it applies to it as well.  This is especially true if you have a chronic illness.

Having a chronic illness isn’t the end of the world, although it may feel like it.  To be blunt, it sucks to have a chronic illness.  However, in the difficulties that having any illness can bring, there is wisdom and compassion to be gained.  Still, being constantly ill or never knowing when next illness will strike can create feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, which can lead to or may signal depression.    In fact, despite being a mental health counselor and expressive therapist, I have felt hopeless and helpless at various points in my illness–a good portion of it being related to having to redefine my self-concept, rather than the illness itself.

I found that the more I refused to let go of what/who I was, the more frustrated and sad I became.  However, each time I conceded to a limitation and took steps to adjust to it, I felt freer and more hopeful.  As I have written many times, chronic illnesses take away many things from you, but they also give something to you.  Whether or not you choose to understand that there is a gift (or gifts) is up to you.

Chronic illnesses, as much as they can create havoc in your life, they also can make things really simple, especially decisions. Still, you have to see through the chaos of your symptoms (physical and mental) to the clarity of your will.  To help myself see beyond the difficulty of the any moment related to my fibromyalgia, I ask myself the following question:

Will I allow my illness to devour me?  

The answer is always no. I refuse to be held hostage to my illness.  Like all other things about myself that I cannot change, I have accepted that my illness is a part of me.  I don’t need to focus on changing it.  I need to focus on living with it, learning from it, and moving beyond it.  This is how I maintain a hopeful attitude about my life and my illness.

I no longer see my illness as something I need to or can fix.  If the experts come up with something definitive in the future that will alleviate me of my illness, then great.  Otherwise, I choose to focus on making peace with having fibromyalgia, rather than fighting it.  In those moments when I am feeling my worst, I choose to focus on how my illness is helping me, rather than how it may be hindering me. 

My hope is grounded in the belief that I can live successfully with fibromyalgia, regardless of what it takes away…because I believe it always gives me something in return.  Because of this belief, I also know that I can and will always find a way to help myself, even if the way is not immediately shown to me. I suppose what I’ve learned is that

Hope is about riding the waves of uncertainty…with a keen sense of direction. 😉

  D.

Check out this post by a fellow  Wordpress blogger: When Chronic Illness Causes Depression

5 Positive Negatives of Fibromyalgia…

0fff43a6e2770c54643f5215876434051

Yeah, I said it. There are some good things about having fibromyalgia…It’s just took me a while to figure out what they were.

  1. I can now predict bad weather.  That’s right. You no longer need to watch the news or visit weather.com, just call me (maybe I’ll answer) and I’ll tell you, because from the moment there is a shift in the weather my body knows it.
  2. I can relate to older people. You’ve got a pain in your back, side, arm, elbow, neck? Feeling weak and creaky? Can’t remember where you left…wait, what was it again? Wonder why everybody is moving so fast?…Well, I do, too. Let’s commiserate and wonder how we got here.
  3. I’ve hit a personal low. So, I can only keep going up from here on out.  There’s nothing quite like losing utter sense of self, having your livelihood stripped from you, and becoming reclusive. It put so many things in perspective, which leads me to…
  4. I’ve learnt to keep things real simple. Drama? No, thank you. I’m interested in the direct line from point A to B. Fix the problem or remove it.
  5. I’m mentally stronger.  Oh, I used to get bogged down in so many emotional situations that I really had no business being in…just because I thought these four little words: I can handle this.  I applied those four words to all sorts of situations: work, relationships, life changes, etc. What I’ve come to learn is that even if I am capable of “handling” a situation, it doesn’t mean I should.  In the end, the stress of unwarranted drama (i.e. drama for the sake of drama) only leaves me feeling emotionally and physically ill.  And no, I do not think you are mentally strong if you subject yourself to situations that will only increase your stress levels. Mental strength, to me, means being able to make the tough decision of not getting involved when there isn’t a need.

What about you?

What is it about having fibromyalgia that you have come to appreciate?

 

CW | Saying “Whatever” to Fibromyalgia’s Grey Days

maxresdefault

“It must suck to have fibromyalgia,” says [Insert Name Here].

The sky is grey today.  I knew that before I properly woke up.  I could feel the grey grinding my bones, shaping my body into something that it wasn’t just a few hours before. Like the darkening clouds, the grey attempts to conceal my memories, blot out what I meant to today.

The grey binds itself to my feet, my arms, my head, my stomach.  I smell the grey, taste it, and touch it as I rub my limbs, my temples, my chest.  I hear it blend in with persistent beats of the hot water that pours down my back.  I see it etching whatever into the lines on my face, or perhaps that could just be an issue of age.

I cannot help but laugh–It’s a never ending competition between us, grey and me.  Grey tries its best, and so I must try even harder.

I’ll wear black today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Motivation…Oh, Where Did It Go?

Image found on GIS

Image found on GIS

I’m stuck…sort of. It’s the end of August in Rome and I’ve been living through Attack of the Mosquitoes and Sweat World.  The fan I had for two days died. It’s not its fault. It was pretty old.  Still, I need a new one.

My manuscript remains unfinished and I toy with a few stories in my mind. At the same time, I think about getting older and failing to meet external expectations.  I wonder about my internal expectations.  What do I expect of myself?  How do I define that?

It’s hard remaining in that in-between state, that cocoon, like waiting to be born again, except it has nothing to do with Jesus. I’m there, I’ve been there for some time now, and I know I’m getting close to the end of that stage…but it’s terrifying.  It’s terrifying knowing that it’s impossible to go back, or stay where you are, or do anything else other than move forward.

Still, terror can maintain stasis, paralyzing the motivation to either fail or succeed–yes, you can be motivated to fail.  The more we try to push terror away, the more intense it seems to become.

So, I’ve decided to embrace my terror. All aspects of it. The terror of success and of failure that is embodied within.

I’ll have a talk with the twin parts of myself: talent and self-sabotage. I’ll let them know that it’s okay to be terrified.

I’ll let them know…

It’s okay to fail as long as I (we) continue aiming to succeed. 

Until Wednesday,

D.

 

Sep-Dec 2015 | Submit to The Restless Books Prize in Immigrant Writing (No Fee)

Sep-Dec 2015 | Submit to The Restless Books Prize in Immigrant Writing (No Fee).

What’s the Point of Being a Writer?

Suffering.  In Buddhism, one of the teachings is that of “life is suffering.”  No, it doesn’t mean that all life aspects of life leads to suffering.  Instead, the suffering we experience is due to the impermanence of life itself, i.e. all things change with time.   It is the same with writing.  As you grow as a writer, your writing changes, morphs in ways that you may least expect.

Perhaps your favourite authors are among those acknowledged as prize worthy.  You spend hours pouring over every sentence in every book they have ever written, hoping to emulate them…but then realising that you fall severely short of the mark.  Your writing simply will not conform to your expectation.  Equally disturbing is understanding that your destiny is not to be the next Toni Morrison or Charles Dickens.

Still, you continue to write because you cannot help yourself but to write.  Your writing reflects your suffering.  It changes as you encounter life, find success, make mistakes, discover love, and regret loss.  Like death, writing looms over your life, defining it.  Regardless of whether you choose to embrace yourself as a writer or hide from it, writing is an inevitable part of you.

What’s the point of being a writer? You might as well ask What’s the point of living?  There is no point.  Writing is an end in itself.  Writers write.  Like breathing, there is no choice about it.

———-

I write because / I suffer because / I write because I suffer/ I suffer because I write

 

 

 

Reblog Friday | 3 Books on Writing for Aspiring Writers

Active vs Passive Voice

Reblog Friday | 3 Books on Writing for Aspiring Writers.

Fibromyalgia, Travel & Creative Nonfiction | Sometimes You Have to Be Poked & Prodded (Boston Update)

It’s been a long day. Actually. it’s been a long weekend. I arrived in Boston on Saturday night but didn’t arrive at my hotel until early Sunday morning. Slept for 3 hours, contemplated why the universe placed a homemade ice-cream place next to where I’m staying. Bought myself some grapenut ice-cream, slept 3 more hours, woke again, and contemplated some more. Slept 3 more hours. Rushed to catch a bus, and then another. Went to the dentist. Endured 3 novocaine shots. Replaced two fillings. Walked way more than I should have. Felt accomplished. Went to the dermatologist. I don’t have anything cancerous. But my hair is thinning due to PCOS…probably.

Took my time to catch a bus, to catch a subway, to wait for another bus, to take that to my final appointment. Saw my doctor. She made me laugh. Actually, we make each other laugh. I’ve gained too much weight. That may have affected my mood. I need to be on more medications.  That may help my mood. It may help my thinning hair. It may help my weight. I smile and laugh. I get sent down to the lab to pee, to give 4 vials of blood, to get hit on by a random hospital worker.

I remind myself that I still need to pack things, to bring my life into some kind of order. I’m asked what I am doing in Rome. I say I am living. I ask myself that, too. I respond the same way. I poke and I prod myself. I take deep breaths like I’m told to, like I tell myself. My blood pressure isn’t so high. Still I need to get back on my medications. I need to control myself. I need to prod myself. To poke myself into some kind of action.

I speak about overcoming depression, fibromyalgia, being in my late thirties…because 37 is late, it’s not mid anymore. My body is changing. It needs different things than what I’m used to giving it.

It’s 18:11. I need to get home…but where is it?

Courage to Stand Still: Why Doing Nothing Might Just Be the Best Plan

Found via Google image search.

Found via Google image search.

As a recent graduate (and even in the months before, there was one question that many people wanted me to answer:  So, what are your plans?  Or the other variation: So, what are you going to do now? Or there is also this one: So, what’s next?

I don’t know about anyone else, but for me those questions act like an unintentional stranglehold. It’s as though having completed full-time studies for the past 3+ years while trying to work and dealing with my chronic illness wasn’t enough.  It’s as though stopping to take in life for moment is unacceptable.  We must know what were going to do next, achieve next, be next.

Well, heck, what about just being able to be where we are right now? How about just being who we are right now? Celebrating that and nothing else. I know it’s not the fault of those who have asked the question.  Many of us are trained to think in this manner, i.e. we are only as good as our next potential achievement.

In my opinion, these types of questions can cause anyone in transition to take on that deer caught in headlights look. Seriously.

Surely enough, there are many who already have answer, who are ready for the question because they’ve had enough training to know that they “should” have a plan for the next step.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Actually, kudos to them for having a plan.

For me, what I’ve learned over the past several years is that planning (and over-planning) about the future is sometimes not the answer.  Yes, have plans, have goals, have ideas about the future. However, stand still for a moment and be with the present.

Living in the now, without focusing on what is come next, can be very useful. It can help you to appreciate where you have been, who you have become, why you are, how you came to be.  No, I’m not trying to get existential on you.  It’s just the reality that we really ought to take a time out just for ourselves.

Have the courage to say “I don’t know.” when asked about the future, even if you do have plans; or use my personal favourite: I’m not there yet, but once I am, I’ll let you know.

Happy Wednesday!

Until tomorrow,

D.

Travel | Night of the Killer Moth and Other Thoughts at 1:40am

Image from Flickr

I’m sure moths can be beautiful.  When, however, you wake up to one trying wage war against you, they seem more like a nightmare.

Now, I aim to live peacefully with all creatures. I even apologize to the ones I know that I am squashing as I make my way through the day. If I could stand still and hurt not even one, I would be a happy person.  And perhaps it is silly of me, but I expect the freaking same from these creatures, too.  Live and let live.  Sleep and let sleep.  All right?

Well, that hasn’t been the case for the past two nights with Mr. I-have-nothing-better-to-do-than-terrorize-you Moth.  Seriously, I’ve resorted to hiding under the covers and leaving the light on…which seems to be a good deterrent.  Any suggestions?

While strategizing to find the best way to live harmoniously with Mr. Moth, it dawned on me that I had learned another important lesson while living in Rome: insects have a right to exist, too.  I always knew that, but in the US it seems like we spend a lot of time trying to keep our surroundings bug-free (which, of course, can be a very good thing).

If you are travelling to Rome and you do not have a good relationship with creepy and flying things, prepare yourself psychologically beforehand.  Here, it’s not uncommon to see flies in bakeries (pitching on your soon-to-be-eaten pizza slice) or in restaurants. Seriously, it happens, especially in the warmer weather.  And the attitude is….well., live and let live. 🙂

Strangely enough, I’ve never seen a cockroach (knock on virtual wood).  Now, I’m off to negotiate with a moth.

Buona giornata!

Until tomorrow,

D.