On silence, healing fibromyalgia, dealing with narcissism, and learning a whole heck of a lot about myself

First, thank you to my followers, both new and old, for continuing to bless me with your support.  I have not been around much, nor have I posted much of anything personal. Still, you continue to stick with me. Thank you!

 

“If you have nothing [nice] to say…”

Over the past year and a half, my life has changed dramatically. Some of those changes were good, others were not so good. Still, I try my best to take changes as they come, learn from them what I can and keep taking steps towards achieving my goals. In my opinion, that’s the most effective approach to living my life.

Part of the process of accepting change is observing change. And I truly believe that observation is a silent process. It’s hard to observe and act at the same time–at least it is to me.

So, I’ve been in observation mode, mostly observing myself and my reactions and actions in dealing with myself in my environment, as well as just the environment itself. I’ve spent a lot of time in my head and subsequently in my body, i.e. I’ve been sorting through my mental blocks (negative self-talk/thinking) and how they impact my health and prevent me from quickly reaching my most important goals.

On the subject of health: I’m glad to state that my health has been truly awesome, and that my fibromyalgia symptoms have diminished significantly. I’ve had fewer flares, fibrofog moments and have been getting enough normal/restful sleep (between 7-9 hours). Also, I’ve been walking for about 1 hour almost daily and have recently started the BeachBody On-Demand 30-Day Free Trial that has a great deal of exercise programs for people of all levels.  If you have fibromyalgia and are interested in starting or improving an exercise program, I would say check it out because it allows for you to select programs by type: cardio, muscle building, less than 30 minutes, slim and tone, dance, low impact, and yoga. Personally, I am sticking with less than 30 minutes, low impact, dance and yoga.

I think my greatest challenge is that I consume news and, as a person of colour, it stresses me out…then again, who isn’t stressed when watching the news. Still, it’s important to stay informed, and I try to do so without being inundated.

So, what have I learned during my silence? A whole heck of a lot. Here is a list:

So, that’s it. It’s good to be writing again.

Until Next Time,

D.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FIBROMYALGIA & BEING A SOCIAL PARIAH: REINVENTING YOURSELF AFTER LOSING EVERYTHING (PART 2)

typing on the computerWhat if you never had fibromyalgia? How would you have lived your life up until this moment? What dreams would you have already fulfilled? Better still, who would you have created yourself to be?

Here’s the deal, regardless of whatever your chronic illness is, there are likely many questions like the ones above that you have asked or are actively asking yourself right this very minute.  It’s human nature to wonder about the possibilities, especially when it comes to your own life (and if you aren’t wondering, please, ask yourself why).  Maintaining our curiosity, that element of wonder, about ourselves and our the world around is key to making any significant change in the way we live.  When we shut ourselves down and shut out the world, we are essentially denying ourselves access to the power that subjective and objective knowledge can bring to furthering our self-understanding.  And increasing self-understanding means increasing our ability to achieve self-mastery.

When we think of self-mastery, we may think of complete control of the self, i.e. control of thought which leads to control of actions, which means better ability to respond (not react) effectively to the world around us.  Simply put, self-mastery, self-understanding, and self-awareness go hand in hand, best summarized by this quote:

Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.

14533091400317-e1453308786450If you have fibromyalgia, then you know that one of the first thing you lose is control.  You lose control over your body and your mind.

The physical activities that you used to do with ease now prove difficult. The memory that you once prided yourself on now has sticky notes all over it marked fibro fog.  That’s just the way it is. There’s no shame in it. Having fibromyalgia means 1) losing control over the physical vehicle that transports who you are (body), and 2) losing control over the mental vehicle that relays your who you are to the world around you and to yourself (mind).  Of course, the severity of the loss depends of the severity of your fibromyalgia…and your engagement in self-care.

You’re Not Broken, Just Different

Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not believe in regret. Truly, I don’t. I believe in lessons learned.  I think regretting your life, in any shape or form, does not help you to move forward from wherever you are, especially when you have a chronic illness. The fact is the past is in the past. Yesterday is already the past. And today will be the past quite soon. So, here are the only questions that you need to ask yourself today:

What step(s) will I take to move my life forward today?

What step(s) have I taken to move my life forward today?

They are really simple questions with big implications. They imply choice.

You did not have a choice in having fibromyalgia. You do have a choice in whether or not you will allow it to control your life. Although you may feel broken, unwanted, used up, without purpose, or simply helpless, you are not.

You are not broken. You are different. 

The person you knew yourself to be is in the past, along with yesterday and all the days before that.  The high points and the low points of that person is gone. Keep her or him in your memory with fondness, but do not dwell.  Like how you may think fondly upon your teenage self or child self, think so upon who you were. But get excited about who you are and who you are crafting yourself to be.

Remember how when you were a teenager or a child, you couldn’t wait to see what type of adult you would be? Perhaps you became that adult, perhaps not. Either way, it’s time now to tap into the curiosity, to apply today that wonder that you had about the unknown you. It’s time to tell yourself that there is nothing to fear in being someone you don’t know or cannot yet imagine.

This is the first step in reinventing yourself: getting to know the new you. 

How do you do this? Ask yourself the first question I proposed above (What step(s) will I take to move my life forward today?), then take the quote above as inspiration: watch your thoughts. Listen for an answer. What does your new self want to do? Be curious about that self. Work to understand that self.  Be kind to that self.

Look out for Part 3: The Naysayers & Other Emotional Vampires

Read Part 1:  Reinventing Yourself After Losing Everything

Fibromyalgia & Being a Social Pariah: Reinventing Yourself After Losing Everything (Part 1)

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Image linked from WordPress.com gallery.

There is nothing more sobering than experiencing significant loss, especially when that loss hits very close to home.  At those times, knowing what to do can be challenging, and finding support may prove difficult.  These are the moments that can have the greatest impact on how you define yourself and your relationships with those around you and the world as a whole.  More importantly, significant loss forces you to realize that you may be, after all, alone in this world.

There are some who will disagree with the following statement: when you experience significant loss, the likelihood of becoming a social pariah increases dramatically.  You don’t have to look very far to see the truth of it. Just look at the rise and fall of celebrities.

The fact is that when you have everything or are seemingly rising to the top of the social strata, you will find yourself surrounded by more people, for good or ill. Conversely, when you lose everything or are seemingly hitting rock bottom, there will be fewer people remaining by your side. It’s a harsh reality, but a truth that each person going through or who has been through significant loss has to face: you might just be very much on your own.

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I decided to write about this because of my observations and personal experiences since becoming ill with fibromyalgia.  As I have written many times, having fibromyalgia means experiencing significant loss, especially of self. However, you gain a great deal alongside that loss. You find out, for example, who your true supports are and what really matters to you in life.

Fibromyalgia forces a mental housecleaning (if you allow it) and life cleaning. It forces you to question the reality that you have chosen to live and then asks you to prove the worth of that reality, i.e. is your reality one that is worth enough for you to fight for it?

While you attempt to answer that question, those around you will have to answer this one: is this person worthwhile to keep in my life? Of course, the question may not be so direct in nature, but that is what it comes down to: your worth = potential benefit in their lives. If you worth is diminished, so is the benefit that they experience.

Whether or not anyone wants to agree, the fact is that, for some people, relationships are based on benefits. There are relatively few relationships that I have observed that function solely on selflessness.  Some people care as long as there is something to benefit from giving that care.  However they define benefit doesn’t matter.  The key thing is whether or not they are still capable of receiving that benefit if they maintain a relationship with you.

I have found that having fibromyalgia or any chronic illness can make you become completely self-focused because you are having to, maybe for the first time, expend a lot of mental energy on understanding how to improve your health and how to survive on a daily basis. During that period, your ability to care for your relationships, work, and other commitments declines.  However long you spend during that period of uncertainty has a direct impact on your relationships, work and other commitments.  Given the recurrent and potentially severe nature of fibromyalgia symptoms, you may will find yourself repeatedly going through this experience.

After some time, you may find yourself friendless, jobless and uncertain of what to do next. Perhaps you are already at that point.

Keep faith and do not despair.

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There is a flip side to losing everything, to hitting rock bottom, and to being utterly uncertain. Beyond choosing to remain where you are, there is the other option: gaining everything, reaching for the sky, and becoming driven. 

All it takes is deciding to see yourself in a new person.

Too often we get bogged down in the identity that we have created or accepted for ourselves.  To truly move forward after losing everything means accepting that you are no longer who you used to be.  It means shedding your old identity.

It doesn’t matter what age you are when fibromyalgia entered your life, you can still reinvent yourself. In fact, I think the older you are, the more important it is to choose to reinvent yourself. No matter how difficult it may seem.

Reinventing yourself is what I call a process-decision. It’s an ongoing experience of deciding and allowing for various internal and external processes to occur to manifest change.  It begins with simply stating to yourself that you are have already changed and are constantly changing.

Of course, there are many practical steps that you can take to begin that process now.

Look out for Part 2

Until then,

D.

Check out my latest Vlog post on dealing with depression and anxiety. 

 

 

 

ART: Just put one foot in front of the other.

fdb6bf41ace6004aef23b7c67553d766A young friend of mine sent her passport renewal paperwork yesterday. While that, in itself, is interesting, what interested me most was she said afterwards: “I wish I could move that quickly about everything that I want to accomplish.”

And, indeed, she had moved quickly. In fact, it took her only a day, from the time we first spoke about renewing her passport, to complete the paperwork, acquire the $100 renewal fee, and to mail it all.

You see, she wants to travel. Her desire to travel to accomplish what can be seen as a rather tedious task.

Although travel is appealing in many ways, it was not the key factor in her choosing to act quickly.  The key factor was her desire. Her feeling of wanting something caused her to take the steps towards achieving it. It’s a no-brainer, right?

Well, maybe not.

Many of us live our lives doing what we believe is expected of us and never question why we are doing what we do. As we get older, we begin to cast aside dreams, disregard opportunities for change and play into the notion that whatever we are, that is what we were meant to be.  In essence, we lose our desire for living outside the confines of societal and familial expectations.  Whatever curiosity and passion we held in our childhood, adolescence and young adulthood become seemingly spent, used up by the rationality of being a grown-up.  Then we spend our time lecturing those who are younger on how  not to end up like us, but to make sure that they live within societal norms while giving up on fantasies (a.k.a dreams).

Of course, this is not applicable to everyone. However, a good number of us seem to operate in this manner.  We seem to work to cancel out possibilities of younger people living extraordinary lives.

“I wish I could move that quickly about everything that I want to accomplish.”  In this one statement, my friend revealed that

  • 1) there are things she wants to accomplish, but has little motivation so to do, and
  • 2) when there is something she really wants to do, she accomplishes it quickly.

Well, the answer to her problem becomes simple: she must figure out the things she really wants to do in her life, rather than trying to accomplish what she believes she should.

Knowing what you really want out of life, what you are truly passionate about (even if it is challenging or lacks impressive financial rewards), what moves you to positive action (not reaction), what moves you to constantly evolve can only lead you to live a life full of meaning.

So, what was my response to my young friend’s statement? “Well, just do as you did with your passport.”

  • Acknowledge what you want,
  • Research the steps you need to take to accomplish it, and
  • Take the first step, and then the second, and the third, etc., until you get to where you want to go.

Living a meaningful life is truly a work of ART.

So, start painting your dreams into reality.

Until Next Time,

D.

Happy Monday!…Are You Happy?

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“Happiness is letting go of what

you think your life is supposed to

look like and celebrating it for

everything that it is.” – Mandy Hale

– Mandy Hale

Being happy, walking that path, has been my primary goal in life.  For a long time, I thought that being happy meant being a part of something or living wholly for someone.  In essence, I thought that being happy meant being in a relationship.  What I did not realize was that, although happiness can be found interpersonally, it must first be found intrapersonally.  I needed to learn to be happy with me.  Moreover, consistent self-happiness can take incredible daily effort, especially if your environment is far from conducive to promoting a healthy mental state.

Still, I believe that experiencing happiness can be as simple as taking your next breath or becoming aware of your senses. Self-happiness does not have to start with an internal examination of self, where you check off all the ways that you are sound psychologically, intellectually, and spiritually.  No, it can begin with an external examination, i.e., physically.  That you physically exist, regardless of form, is something about which you can be happy.  Paying attention to and celebrating how your body

Paying attention to and celebrating how your body does work, instead of how it does not, is important to feeling happy, especially if, like me, you have a chronic illness.  For example, I find joy in wriggling my toes when I’m wearing socks.  The sensation of the cloth restricting my toes makes me aware that I have toes, and that is something for which I truly grateful.  When I experience gratitude, I also experience happiness.

Starting off this Monday, why not take a moment, in whatever way, to show yourself gratitude that you are, that you exist.  And by just existing, despite the opinions of others and your physical surroundings, you have the potential to create an even greater happiness for yourself.

I know that I will be doing that.  I hope you will, too. 🙂

Until Later,

D.

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! 

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.