Three Days Grace + One Song = Instant Catharsis?

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Three Days Grace

Can someone explain to me how one song can undo a good decade of indifference to the rock scene?? Yes, I’m really going to talk about music in this post.  Sort of.

First, let me be quite clear: I’ve been listening to this one song on repeat for a good 24 hours. Yes, I’ve got it bad for a song, bad enough to write this post, and equally bad enough that I’ve even been revisiting my adolescent self with new eyes, seeing her with more compassion, and relating to her distress and internalized rage.

It’s music therapy…rock-style.

To say that these past 14 months have been a roller coaster ride would be an understatement:  I’ve moved approximately 6 times, graduated from university, resigned from a job, had family emergencies on an international level, gained twenty pounds, watched my health deteriorate further, and entered into a pretty severe depression (that I’m only coming to fully acknowledge now).

It’s been a long and ridiculously heavy period.

My life’s been the kind of heaviness that is embodied in the driving guitar riffs and heavy drumbeats of the song “I Am Machine” by Canadian rock band Three Days Grace, from their fifth album Human that was apparently released in March 2015 (the song was released in late 2014).  I had heard the song play on the radio station WJRR a few times over the past month and had abstractly connected with the sound of it.  Yesterday, however, was the first time I really listened to the lyrics.

And, oh boy, the lyrics…

In the first verse, lead singer Matt Walst (who also fronts the Canadian rock band My Darkest Days) sings:

Here’s to being human
All the pain and suffering
There’s beauty in the bleeding
At least you feel something

I wish I knew what it was like
To care enough to carry on
I wish I knew what it was like
To find a place where I belong, but…

Listening to and reading these lyrics hit me hard, but I didn’t quite understand why until I listened to the chorus, in which he sings:

I am machine
I never sleep
I keep my eyes wide open
I am machine
A part of me
Wishes I could just feel something

I am machine
I never sleep
Until I fix what’s broken
I am machine
A part of me
Wishes I could just feel something

I shan’t post the remaining lyrics. You can find them on Google Play. I think the first verse and chorus are satisfactory for illustrating what opened my eyes to a truth that I’ve been ignoring for some time:

I am machine…

I hadn’t realized that I had stuffed down and shutdown whatever emotions I felt threatened the little stability I was managing to maintain.  Of course, the emotions have become somaticized: weighing down my body, and taking away even what little precious sleep I used to manage to get.  I think the lyrics “I never sleep, I keep my eyes wide open” and “I never sleep until I fix what’s broken” sum up the situation quite clearly.

Yes, some part of me broke last year to the point where it has become quite numb, cold to the outside world, empty and devoid of life. It’s the part of me that is telling me quite clearly that it “wishes I could just feel something.”

You see, at some point, the things I had been experiencing were filled with too much “pain and suffering”–truly much more than I could handle–and as a result I shutdown through repression and intellectualization.  They are two self-defense mechanisms (among others) I know well and have employed since childhood. One would think given my education and profession that I would have found better methods of coping–and I do have better methods, and I did employ those first. However, it’s when we run of the best tricks in our bag that we engage our last resort: our oldest tricks, the maladaptive ones, that ensured self-preservation in the face of our gravest moments in childhood while sabotaging our adult selves.

Back to the song.

The second half of the first verse expresses the thoughts (however dark) that have gone through my mind throughout this period: “I wish I knew what it was like to care enough to carry on” and “I wish I knew what it was like to find a place where I belong.” Quite dark stuff, right?

I felt myself entering into a void, trapped between nothingness and more nothingness, emptied of all feelings, thoughts, and sense of purpose.  Yes, it was that harsh. It still is.

Of course, now that I realize where I have been and am, I can do something about it. I can mourn my losses: friends, home and purpose I found living in Rome. It’s the place where I learned to smile, learned to hug, learned that I had people who would be there to support me whenever I felt broken and in tears. I guess, you could say that I had found and felt my most “human” self there.

It’s a sad revelation, but a necessary one. Still, enough words for one post .:)

If you like rock, then watch the official video for “I Am Machine” below.

Until Next Time,

D.

Support the band, buy the album! 

It’s Time for Lent…Now, What Won’t I Give Up?

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It’s that time of the year.  You know, the one where people revel in debauchery all day on Tuesday and on Wednesday morning cross themselves with ash and promise to give up all manner of depraved behaviour…or, at the very least, chocolate.  Yes, it’s Lent, the designated time for fasting and prayer for Catholics and other Christians as well.

During this period (the next 44 days), observers are expected to abstain from meat and alcohol, eat one meal (and two snacks) per day and, perhaps the most well-known aspect, give up some form of sinful behaviour. So, being Roman Catholic, I’ve decided to observe it this year.

It should be easy. After all, I’m vegetarian, don’t drink, need to lose a few pounds, have already completed the seven deadly sins, and recently returned my black debauchery card.

I’m ready to go…but I still need to give something up, right? Of course, I do.

So, I’ve decided to give up giving up my dreams. 

It won’t be easy pursuing them whole-heartedly for the next 44 days, but that’s why there is prayer.

Wish me luck!

For those who don’t know Lent is, you can read more about it here.

Valentine’s Day–What Is It Again?

DSC_0030I’m lucky–I’ve always dated people whose birthdays were close to Valentine’s Day.  Even better, I married someone whose birthday was on Valentine’s Day itself.

Of course, I didn’t always realize my luck.

But first, let’s have a Sophia Petrillo moment, and “picture it”:

Valentine’s Day, 2014, a not-so-little Indian restaurant in the heart of Rome’s Monti district, a solitary woman dressed in bright colours walks in and asks for a table–alone.  Already the front room is crowded with couples, but there is one table tucked away in a corner where the woman can sit…completely observed.  It’s perhaps not the strangest sight that the diners will see for the night, but it’s definitely contrary to what’s expected.  Where’s her date? or Is she waiting for someone? or Has she been stood up? they might wonder.  Nope. She’s there on her own, taking herself out for Valentine’s Day.

—-

Of course, I’m not the only one who does this. I’m sure many people do, regardless of gender/sex.  It’s just not what others apparently expect.  What they seem to expect is that you ought to be at home, complaining to fellow single friends about your single status, drinking your sad singleness away, pining after an old lover or unrequited love, shoving a ton of chocolate down your throat, and then chasing it with a tub of your favourite Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream (or gelato if you’re in Italy).  What they don’t seem to expect is that you can celebrate Valentine’s Day all on your own and love doing it.  If you’re single, then help me to disspell that misguided notion.

After all, let’s consider what Valentine’s Day really is: a day dedicated to Saint Valentine of Rome, who was executed just outside the Flaminian Gate on February 14, 269 for refusing to renounce his belief in Christianity.  His feast day is February 14th, hence we celebrate Valentine’s Day.

Moreover, he’s not just about candies and hearts. Saint Valentine is the patron saint of “affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, and young people.” (Catholic.org)

meaningofbeesindreams

So, this brings me back to being lucky.  I’ve been lucky because I’ve never really had the thought that Valentine’s Day was something do with my receiving anything (be it candy or flowers).  It was always a day about my remembering someone special to me and showing them my gratitude for their existence.  Being single doesn’t change that.  Valentine’s Day continues to be a day that I remember someone special and that I show gratitude for their existence…it just happens to be me. 😉

This Valentine’s Day, try to remember that it’s a day to:

  1. honour your faith (if you are Christian)
  2. remember a saint (if you are Catholic),
  3. thank the universe for the existence of bees (if you are bee keeper),
  4. ask for relief from suffering (if you have epilepsy or fainting spells or the plague),
  5. pray for a safe journey (if you are a traveller),
  6. embrace your youth (if you consider yourself young),
  7. say hello to people around you (if you are not alone, and if you are, then go find someone to say hi to),
  8. remember that someone has decided to put up with your crap (if you are engaged),
  9. remember that someone has been putting up with your crap for some time now (if you are married),
  10. work on having great sex (if you have a lover),
  11. and love yourself and those around you (if you aren’t already doing it).

So, what will you do this Valentine’s Day?  I know I’m looking forward to going to church (since it falls on a Sunday–lucky!) and thanking the universe for all that I have.  To top it off, I’ll likely have a piece of chocolate, give my mom a hug, make plans to travel in the near future, and wonder about the beauty of bees.

-D.

In the meanwhile, check out this video 🙂

 

Fibromyalgia & Maintaining Hope

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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…

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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

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“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.