Self-Care| Letting Go of Promises & Finding Peace of Mind

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Untitled. D. Blake, 2017

It’s a grey day, I’m at Starbucks, eating a strawberry cheesecake scone and drinking iced tea, and I feel a little tired. I started my morning by taking a long walk, looking at flowers, and listening to The Tao of Fully Feeling by Pete Walker. Yesterday, I finished Walker’s Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving. On a daily basis, I consume books, articles and videos on childhood and adult trauma, self-care, fibromyalgia, personality disorders, and how to keep it together when you’re broken and involved. It’s a healthy diet of I’m ready to change.

This year marks a decade since I received my diagnosis of fibromyalgia. However, it’s been a life marked by a host of diagnoses: depression, SAD, OCD, PCOS, IBS, Raynaud’s syndrome, overweight, underweight, high blood pressure, etc.; and I was a walking pharmacy–there always seemed to be some new and improved medication to fix whatever was broken inside me.

All the while, I was doing the arduous work of unpacking my childhood, being therapized and therapizing myself, while codependently trying to fix everyone else’s problems, whether they wanted me to or not. I was without clear boundaries in my personal life, struggling with a compulsion to solve sadness, my own and others.

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Places to go. D. Blake, 2017.

Letting Go of Promises

You see, I made two promises a long time ago–not to myself, but to my family. I can’t recall my exact age, but I remember the moment with clarity. An incredible argument took place between one of my older siblings and my parents. Without going into the details, that moment represented the totality of my family’s dynamics: unbounded dysfunction.

Nothing was ever a discussion, always a war zone…and the children were used as  landmines against each other and seen as acceptable collateral damage. I made a promise aloud to my mother on that day. I told her that I would 1) become a therapist and 2) fix my family.

I had forgotten about those promises for two decades. Unearthing them again in a therapy session, back in December 2014, shook my world. I had to face the fact that I had been unconsciously living a life based on these promises…

In 2006, I became an art therapist and mental health counselor. I spent years, prior to and thereafter, confronting my parents on their unacceptable behaviors towards my siblings and me. I tried to create dialogue. I tried to be a bridge. I tried…until I realized, in 2016, that I couldn’t do that anymore.

I can’t keep these promises that my younger self made. I can’t undo what was done to my siblings and me. I can’t fix my parents, nor do I wish to anymore.

Still, I was raised to cater to others. I was raised to take the blame for others. I was raised to disregard myself and defer to others. It’s no simple task living within and for myself.

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Self-portrait, D. Blake, 2017

Peace of Mind

So, I’ve been reading, watching, confronting and comforting myself. I take daily walks, I remind myself that change is a moment by moment act of meeting yourself wherever you are. I can’t walk back my childhood nor the harrowing moments of my adulthood. However, I can walk toward the type of future I would like to have and the future self I would like to be.

In the past, fixating on the emotions of others and even myself, and trying to control the outcome of everything was what brought me a sense of fragile peace–as long as I knew what someone was going to do or what was going to happen next, then everything was okay.

Now, it’s the simple things that give me peace of mind: flowers, stones, water, changes in the weather, the sound of laughter, singing, and dancing–flowing with what is rather than what I would like to be.

Change seems to happen with the smallest and simplest of actions…at least, this is what trying to live within myself has been showing me lately.  If you’re on a similar journey, then I hope it’s the same for you.

Until Next Time,
D

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

May 12 is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day, But I’m 10 Years In.

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This Thursday, May 12th, will be a quiet day for me. It’s Fibromyalgia Awareness Day.  I’ll do what I usually do: strive to thrive, make it through another day, try to find ways to make a living, find balance, take better care of myself, wonder what the rest of the world is doing beyond my computer screen, etc.  Still, this year’s theme is “Your Voice Matters”, so I am writing today because I will likely not remember to do so on Thursday, whether by natural absent-mindedness or fibrofog.

However, there isn’t really much that I have to write about fibromyalgia today beyond the fact that it annoys me that WordPress’ word processor does not recognize the words fibromyalgia and fibrofog. Then again, it doesn’t even recognize the name WordPress, so perhaps I ought not to complain.

Well, I am ten years (by my symptoms) or eight years (by diagnosis) into this illness. Because of fibromyalgia, each day presents unique opportunities for me to learn more about myself, particularly my level of tolerance for the world around me and my position in it.  Even though I have had to make unexpected changes in my life and goals for my life, I am a far better human being because of it.

I cannot stress it enough: my illness has made me more human.

When you are usually on top, it is easy to spend your time looking down on others without ever realizing that you are doing it.  When you always have, you don’t understand the perspectives of those who do not.  When you only know yourself as competent, you cannot fathom the handicaps of others. When overachieving is all you ever do, you can never understand the satisfaction of mediocrity.

Fibromyalgia has taught me about my blind arrogance. It has shoved me off a very high platform and asked me to find my way back up.

I have accepted that challenge.

The challenge is neither to become blind once more nor to fight against fibromyalgia.  The challenge is to love, learn and live, embracing who you are, who others are, and especially who you decide to be.

On may 12th, if you have fibromyalgia or know someone who does, take a moment in your day to pause and appreciate what you have, who you are, and what you can do to make a difference in the lives around you.

Until Next Time,

D.

 

Can Black Women Have Negative Body Image?

“Black women don’t have the same body image problems as white women. They are proud of their bodies. Black men love big butts” – Tyra Banks

From article “Black women and weight: Relocating to the South helped one woman change her self-image and accept her body” on TheGrio.com. Click to read.

I came across the above quote while searching for “negative body image Black women” on Google. My first reaction: “What a load of crap!”  My second reaction: “Really, what utter nonsense.”

Certainly, women of different races/ethnicities/cultures may have different body image issues.  To go so far, however, as to imply that all Black women “are proud of their bodies” is to deny the reality of Black women and girls who struggle on a daily basis with body image issues that may ultimately lead to eating disorders as well as an utterly tanked self-esteem.

I get the point that Banks is trying to make, however.  She is reinforcing a stereotype that Black women are happy with their curves–it’s not a bad stereotype really.  Also, I’m a big fan of being happy with your body no matter its current state–simply work on where you need to go, whether that is up or down some notches on the scale.

On the other hand, this stereotype is one that can work to keep Black women from moving their bodies more and becoming healthier. After all, if we love our curves so much and our “big butts”, then what’s a few extra pounds or 30?

Actually, let’s back that up. Is Banks actually saying that black women “love big butts”?  Not really.  What she is saying is that “Black men love big butts.”  So, in essence, the comfort level that a Black woman feels with her own body is apparently in direct relation to the acceptance of Black men of her body proportions–WHAT?

Well, what if you’re a lesbian, or a feminist, or just a free thinker, or all three rolled up into one ball of fierce loveliness?  Also, why should Black women value their bodies based upon the desires of Black men?  In fact, why should any woman value her body based upon the desires of any man?

Perhaps my lesbian (homoflexible), feminist, free thinking self has just gotten this quote all wrong.  Still, it bothered me.  It bothered me because I was searching for information that would useful to Black women who are struggling with negative body image.

The reality is that It’s easy to find resources for non-Black women.  Absolutely. I know from experience that the majority of young women and girls who are in treatment for eating disorders are non-Black.

It’s not that negative body image does not exist for Black women.  It’s not that eating disorders have no place in a Black woman’s mindset.  It’s simply that it’s not openly discussed.  Anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating disorder do not discriminate against Black women.

There is a stereotype that Black women are happy with their bodies in an unhealthy state.  There is a stereotype that Black women don’t care about what they put in their mouths.  There is a stereotype that Black women don’t suffer from eating disorders.

It’s time to clear up this mess. First, let’s do so by balancing the good of the stereotypes with the harsh reality that some Black women face. It’s no joke that the CDC lists heart disease as the number one killer of Black women. Let’s start speaking more mindfully and seeing each other as humans first, capable of both joy and suffering at our own hands.
Until Tomorrow (seriously)

D.

Vlog | What? Fibromyalgia, Living in Italy (Plus Being Black, Queer & Vegan)

I’ve decided to begin a YouTube channel. 😉  It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for some time, and now I’ve finally taken this first step.

I hope to share with you the lessons I’ve learned living with fibromyalgia, and also living abroad as a woman of color.  I look forward to your feedback and to answering questions that you may have.

Now, you have a voice to with the face! 😀

October Was “Talk About Your Medicines” Month! It’s The Final Day, So I’m Talking

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About a week ago, I was contacted by the Community Awareness Coordinator of The American Recall Center. From this contact, I learned something about the month of October that I had I never imagined existed: Talk About Your Medicines Month.

Medication Awareness Spolight: Xarelto (Click to Learn More)

Image Found: Black Press USA, http://www.blackpressusa.com. Click for article on migraine.

Discussing medications is one of those topics that, unfortunately, may be deemed taboo.  Although a whopping 70% of Americans take prescribed medications, making this fact known may leave one feeling stigmatized and may even repercussions, particularly there is a bias for those who take medication due to mental health issues.  A recent study in the UK “revealed that 94 per cent of UK leaders admit prejudice against sufferers remains an issue in their organization.”  The research also indicated that “a third of business leaders think that employees with mental health illness will fail to return to full productivity…they labeled these staff members as unpredictable, weak and erratic.”

From my own limited observations, I have seen people engage in a dichotomous categorization of illness:  “good illnesses” (e.g. cancer) that are worthy of sympathy, and “bad illnesses” (e.g. bipolar disorder) that are unworthy of sympathy.  Anyway, I could go on about this forever.

The point of this piece is for me to talk about my medications.

Image From NJ Family: Article “Help the Medicine Go Down.” Click to read.

 

To the tell truth, I have hated taking any form of medication since childhood.  I hate it now.  Still, I have to do it, i.e., if I want to live my life more fully. That’s the simple fact.  The medications I take are two: bupoprion and aldactone.  The buproprion is for symptoms related to my fibromyalgia, while the aldactone is for high blood pressure.  Other than that I take a multivitamin and call it a day.  In the interest of length, I discuss only buproprion, especially as it is more relevant to the main theme of my blog, i.e. fibromyalgia care.

 

Buproprion

Just so we are clear, buproprion is the generic name for the well-known medication Wellbutrin; and it is a commonly prescribed medication in the treatment of fibromyalgia–perhaps not as common as Cymbalta (duloxetine hydrochloride).

Buproprion, an atypical antidepressant, was prescribed for me because I am sensitive to more typical antidepressant medications like Cymbalta. Buproprion works to alleviate issues with fibro-fog and fatigue, also it helps me with seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.).

Although taking buproprion has been an overall positive experience, it is important to consider the side effects that a medication can have.  In the case of buproprion, it can cause “agitation, dry mouth, insomnia, headache, nausea, constipation, and tremor…Seizures also occur, especially at higher doses.”

Do experience some or all or none of the side effects?  Well, I would say that I experience some, in particular dry mouth and insomnia.  The insomnia can be highly problematic, and it is still something I am working to fully resolve.  The dry mouth is less problematic, so that I am okay with letting it be.

In essence, for me, the benefits associated with taking buproprion far outweigh the drawbacks experienced as side effects.

Image From Essence Magazine: Article “Why Talking to Your Doctor is the Best Medicine.” Click to read.

What You May Need to Consider:

With any medication, its interaction with your body is unique.  Thus, what I have stated in this post is particular to me, and may not be right for you.

It is important to create an ongoing dialogue with your healthcare provider.  While living in Italy, I have been fortunate to have access to medical support and have a weekly check-in that helps me to keep on track.

For the most part, I see my illness as stable and with a somewhat recognizable pattern.  Still, I make certain that I keep track of how both my body and mind are functioning.   

It is important to remember to take your medication.  I take all my medications at the same time.  That was something I considered and always consider when agreeing to take a medication–taking all of my medications at the same time allows me to create an easy and maintainable pattern. Do whatever you know has helped you in the past to create a routine.

 

Most importantly, remember that you are in charge of your body–no one else.  How your body is cared for is in your hands, and so you must take all precautions necessary to ensure that whatever you do to it is in its best interest.  Don’t leave the decisions solely up to your doctors.  Research the recommended medications, consider your lifestyle, and outline a health goal that indicates how the recommended medications will enable you to achieve it.

The path to health is not always linear.  With enough planning, however, the journey can be a smooth one.

Happy Halloween!  Until Next Time,

D. 

ATR Challenge Days 15 & 16

Once we open our eyes to a new day, let us not forget that, from that moment forward, we have choice.

We have choice in how we experience ourselves and our world. We have choice to hold on or to let go of that which burdens us.

Recognising that free will exists is what is right every day. Free will means the choice to walk our paths as we desire, to experience life as we wish, to love ourselves and others openly and unconditionally.

Today, I have woken up to the wonders of the mind, to how quickly a single thought can change an entire outlook, to how a single action can be a blessing for the day, to how consistent gratitude can reshape the heart and free the mind.

What about you?  How have you woken to see the world today? What have acknowledge to be right in your life? And for what are you grateful?   

Many, Many Thanks to My New Followers!

It’s one of those hazy Roman September mornings: the kind that isn’t so hot that you feel like your only option is to remain indoors, fixed permanently in your bed or under your shower.  Still, it is the kind that makes you a bit lazy about getting up or even bothering with finding mental clarity.

Rome, on these kinds of days, becomes a centrifugal blend of noises: the distinct songs of cicadas, the cobblestone scraping of straw brooms, the random knock of a hammer, the friendly greetings of neighbours, the midday ring of the church bells and the frustrated blares of traffic.  It’s that kind of morning.

Leaves stand still, birds have gone incognito, laundry dries on clotheslines, and there isn’t a soul in sight–even if voices can be heard in between the sadness of moving sirens.

I’ve woken–sort of–to this kind of day: depleted of energy and bogged down in thoughts.

Go through the routine: meditate, stretch (on bed, too tired to stand), effectively putz around room and find: necessary papers, missing perfume bottle, a collection of hairpins, and worn out fortunes from the local Japanese/Chinese restaurant that has yet to reopen since the start of summer and is “Chiuso per Ferie,” feel pleased that the room has been swept, books have been stacked, and mind has woken just a bit more.

I take a look at my computer: glance at Facebook, post something personal and then professional; think about email and decide to avoid it for now; visit school/work blog and then personal, and find myself at this moment of…

Gratitude.

Thank you to my new followers for taking a chance on supporting my blog.  Thank you to my old followers for your continued support.  Thank you to my visitors for acknowledging my presence.

All of you have made this hazy day much less hazy–

You let me know that I continue to take the right steps on my path.

Until Next Time,

D.

P.S.

Interested in the Gratitude Journal in the image above?

Visit Rosetta Thurman’s Happy Black Woman for more details.

P.P.S.

ATR Challenge Day 10: Getting up & Getting Grateful! Thanks! 😀

 

ATR Challenge: Day 7 & Rilke’s “Live the Questions”

Where Has The Time Gone

My face today. 🙂

Just a brief note to check-in about the Challenge. All is well.  The things for which I am grateful and consider right are the new relationships that I am developing and the new habits that I am forming.

For the most part, what is right is my simple state of being: in myself, in the moment, in connection with others.

Some Words of Encouragement

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

Until Next Time,

D.

FMS | ATR Challenge: Day 5 (Back to School/Back to Illness)

I was expecting it.  After all, it was bound to happen.  Three days into the first week of classes, it hits me hard: a cold.

Okay, for the average person, a cold is not such a big deal. If you live with fibromyalgia, however, a cold can turn your world upside down…at least, it can mine.

Already you have to deal with the usual symptoms (pain/nausea/fibro-fog/fatigue/etc.), now imagine adding on the stress of having a cold, which only exacerbates the symptoms you normally have while adding a couple more???! Seriously, it’s no fun.

The point is that yesterday I found myself feverish, anxious because I was feverish, nauseous because I am often nauseous but also because of being ill, alert because I was anxious because I was feverish and nauseous.  It’s brutal.

So, what did I do to counter this situation?

I headed over to the Mayo Clinic’s website to look up information on the common cold and how to treat it.  Of course, most of what was there was common sense:

  • Pain Relievers (have it, but don’t want to use it–I try to keep it natural)
  • Decongestant Nasal Sprays (have it, but don’t want to use it–I try to keep it natural)
  • Cough Syrups (don’t have it and probably wouldn’t use it–I try to keep it natural)
  • Drink lots of fluids (I drink about 2 litres of water every day)
  • Try chicken soup (I am vegetarian/vegan almost)
  • Get some rest (I suffer from insomnia a lot, so who knows)
  • Adjust your room’s temperature and humidity (Rome in September–I turned off the fan)
  • Soothe your throat (I’ve got water and salt for gargling)
  • Use saline nasal drops (don’t have it and probably wouldn’t use it–I try to keep it natural)

So, this what I did: made some lemon/honey tea, drank water, had something hot to eat (rice with vegetables), ate some fruit, tried to rest, turned off my fan and gargled with salt water.

Did it work?  

Well, I am feeling a heck of a lot better this morning, except for the migraine concentrating itself over my right eye.

Either way, I feel good enough to head out to my class in the afternoon–and that’s the most important thing for today.

So, what was right yesterday?

Many things: 🙂

  • I woke up and did my daily meditation/stretches
  • I worked, read, wrote, and knitted som
  • I went to class and participated fully
  • I recognised and fully acknowledged that I was getting a cold
  • I did my best to prevent the cold from persisting
  • I took it easy and reminded myself that I was trying my best.

Remember: Do You!

A while back, I posted about the following article on going to school and managing fibromyalgia symptoms as well as asking for accommodation by Kristen Stewart on EverydayHealth.com: Succeeding at School with Fibromyalgia.  It’s worth taking a look at again, if you have already, and if you haven’t, then take a look now.

——-

Each day I try to remind myself that my path is unique and cannot be walked by anyone else and cannot be compared to anyone else’s.  

Walking it may not always be easy, but it is always worthwhile.

 Until Next Time,

D.