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The noise

What do you do when the noise in your head is loud? How do you quiet all that negative noise and nonsense? How do you fight demons in your mind that find strength in your weakness? There is an escape for me that helps most days, I craft and create. When I get in the studio the music comes on and it is turned up loud. Am I drowning out the demon noise or am I enjoying the music? It is a bit of both most days, other days I am trying to kill the noise in my mind.

When I tell people I have PTSD, depression or anxiety some get that look on their face that I have seen too often. You know what it is…the ‘yeah right’ face. The look of disbelief because they think those are made up issues. My goal is to bring awareness and change the mindset of what mental health illness is.

Not everyone will be educated because they fail to believe in anything that they cannot see. If I was missing an arm, leg or maybe looked like I should be sick they would be more understanding. They cannot see the noise, they cannot hear it. They do not FEEL how it tears me apart inside.

I tell them how I combat those demons, the noise and how I want to give back to others. When I explain how the anxiety keeps me in my safe zone they are intrigued. How is it that I can feel okay in that radius of a few miles but not a bit further out? That is what I want y’all. For people to ask questions. To make people understand it is not just made up or fake, this is real and it takes lives each and every day.  Here is a bit of what I deal with each day, this is the battle.

When I wake up in the morning my day starts with physical pain, the aches that can be described as those that come with the flu. Then comes the mental pains. YAY I made it through the night and DAMN I made it though the night. Yes those thoughts come in because I know that today I will have to fight those demons in my head. Today something could trigger me and it could be a bad day.  Then I think about how I made it though yesterday and I can do it again, I got this. Today I will fight like a bad ass and kick PTSD’s ass.  That is how I start my day, each and every day.

As I get moving the memories and thoughts come rolling in. The anger, sadness, guilt all roll in fighting for attention. They start taking turns in my head being loud and obnoxious, let me just get my coffee so I can get myself out to the studio. Let me get to that point so I can go shut out those thoughts and quiet the noise.

Fighting all that in my mind sometimes makes me forget to shower, forget to brush my teeth or wash my face because I want to get to my space where I can try to get away from those feelings. That is part of the depression too. See what is happening here? My wanting to quiet the noise now puts my personal care off to the side. This happens a lot people! If you have someone who is battling their own demons and they mention something about not being able to do some self care, don’t make them feel worse by saying how stupid that is.  Chronically ill people can go days without a shower, weeks even. People with chronic pain can go weeks without washing their hair.  I know I have, only because I forget or didn’t feel like doing it.

Coffee in hand and morning chores are done so now I can get into my space, my studio, my escape and loud music. I can breathe! Once I am in my space I can take that deep breath that I need and I can ease the tension being held in my body. Get the music going, get my stuff set out so the demons can be forced back into their cage. That is what I do when I am in my zone. Fight those demons to put them behind the cage I built in my mind.

For hours I fight a battle no one can truly see, for hours each and every day I am on the verge of tears. Pain, both physical and mental is so intense it brings me to my knees. Anger that has no way of being released onto the person or persons who brought it on keeps me company. Anger that turns to rage in an instant and can lash out at the nearest body at any given moment. Guilt of being alive, guilt of being left behind, the guilt of not being enough. The guilt of not being wanted, abandoned and guilt of someone thinking so little of me they abused me.

When I have done enough, I close up my studio and open myself up to the demons again. Rushing into the comfort of my home, so I can be in another safe zone. Connected to my support system so I can make it though the rest of the day.

Did I shower today? That is one of the first questions I ask myself when I get in the house. Followed by did I eat? Did I brush my teeth? If I did not do any of these things then that is what I do. Shower, eat, brush the teeth and prepare myself for the evening. Prepare myself for the darkness.

Most times I do a bit of chores and help with dinner, some days I just sit on the couch. Maybe play a game on the cellphone or wonder on the interwebs looking for nothing and distracting my mind. Those demons are louder at night.

Pain is my constant companion. I sit on the couch, reclined with a pillow under my legs and one on my legs so my laptop doesn’t burn me up. There I sit while life goes on around me. Conversations with the hubby, we laugh at something on tv or catch up on things that we recorded. Part of me is fighting myself, part of me is dreading later in the evening. I am exhausted, tired of the demons and the noise. Time passes and the paranoia kicks in. All this is going on while part of me is glued to our security monitor as I watch cars drive by slowly, see something or someone pass by the driveway. Watch as flood lights go off because something is moving out there. Is this the night something happens? Is this the night the shadows take over and take me?

My mind and body are tired, the worst is yet to come and I know it but off I go to bed in hopes of getting some sleep. Seriously I could fall asleep right away because I am so tired, the demons in my mind have a different plan. They are stronger in the dark, stronger when I am exhausted from the daily battle. The cage door is broken and they are out for me. That is what it feels like. This is what I feel is going on inside of me. A battle no one can see but only few understand. It takes hours for me to finally go to bed, well after midnight. Dreams, flashbacks, memories, nightmares….take your pick.

EVERY SINGLE DAY. This is my life, this is everyday. This is reality. It varies in degree of good or bad but it is my everyday. My hope is that one day I can eliminate something and not feel so angry, sad or guilty. Maybe one day the pain isn’t so high. Maybe one day the demons stay quiet and the noise is a lull in the background.

Every day, for as long as I can remember this has been my life.

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Traveling with ME

We recently had a family emergency that required us to travel out of state. Within three hours of the decision to travel we were on the road. Now some background on traveling with me before I get too far is that we have not gone anywhere since late 2012. Mainly that was due to my mental health and medical issues. I had to go through withdrawal since I ended all of the pill routine that I was on, that lasted over six month. After that we had to learn my new way of living with the physical and mental pains.

My husband was and is my care giver. He had to be sure I was okay and not left alone for too long. Over the course of a few years we found our routine, I was out of my slump and thriving again. We still stayed close to home so that I was comfortable. We had not ventured out of state to visit family in a long time.

We were scrambling on Sunday morning when we received the call. Get home now was what we were trying to do. Home as in Virginia where my husband grew up. A friend agreed to watch our home and five cats, she needed the keys and I barely had enough time to give her all the information. Told her we would fill her in once we were settled in our hotel.

Having spent time in the military, I should have been more prepared but I never even thought of having to go for an emergency like this. I was lost, and yet had to hold it together because my husband was hurting. We just needed to go. Everyone packed, we were all checking things over and over. Then checking them again. Inside I was freaking out. How was I going to cope with being away from my safe zone? How was I going to deal with a flare up? How was I going to deal with it all? These and so many questions kept going through my mind and I was near a freak out stage.

Another challenge was driving. I had to drive, no questions about it as I am not a good passenger. The drive was going to be hard on my body and on my mind. The fact that I was not driving my own car was another challenge, we had to take my husband’s car since it is bigger than mine and the four of us could fit comfortably. I was able to drive 3/4 of the way before my body said enough. The pain was intense and my whole body was ready to give out, thankfully hubby was able to drive the rest of the way.

We arrived directly at the hospital and were on our way to ICU. Walking….walking and walking which presents it’s own challenges for me. I have a walking cane that I should be using, guess what was left in my car. Yes my cane sits in my car and I forgot to grab it before we left. The walk was the longest ever it seemed and felt like my legs were going to fall off. At this point the pain was overwhelming but I had to hang on for a bit longer before I could rest.

We were between ICU and waiting room for a few hours before I finally decided to find us a place to stay for the night. I had to drive in a city I am not familiar with to locate a hotel that could accommodate 4 of us without reservations. Finally nailed one down after 45 minutes of calling and driving. Unfortunately the only suites were on the 3rd floor, I was able to get the suite closer to the elevator so that I would not have to walk so far. A decision that worked for me not walking but I failed to think of the noises that presented during our stay.

By 11 pm, we were all settled in our hotel room. Twelve hours after making the decision to drive from North Carolina to Virginia we were finally able to rest. While my husband was at the ICU and I secured the hotel, the kids and I also went to find something to eat as we had not eaten all day. We unpacked, cleaned up, ate food and went to bed.

For the next four days we woke up, ate breakfast and cleaned up to go to the hospital. Sitting in very uncomfortable hospital chairs and walking a lot. Found food and slept only to start again the next day.

I could not use my usual escape or coping methods, nor could I use my resting techniques to keep pain to a minimum. The trip was hell on my mind and body, but was one that had to be done. We had to be there with the family during this difficult time.

Having mental health issues and chronic illness issues makes traveling hard for me. Not everyone is like me and that is okay. What I am saying is that for me, I was in the worst physical and mental pain than I had thought I would have been. Even with the emotional pain of our family member being in the hospital, which at any point would have had me breaking down at any point. I held on as best I could.

On day two my shoe had blown out, so I had to buy another pair. I realized I grabbed the wrong contact lens case and even had the wrong glasses on. So many things that were causing more paranoia, anxiety and even depression.

There were times I wanted to rush to the hotel, get in bed and cry. I had my emergency meds for migraines and costochondritis flare but nothing for pains. I have been working with my doctor to find ways of dealing with pains without the usual pills for pain management. My foot pain was the worst ever, and each night I was having very painful muscle spasms. I was able to buy a cane to help with walking which eased some of the issues. In those days I was in the worst pain I had been in a long time, but I made it through.

Many people with chronic illnesses are very good at hiding pains, we push through for the sake of others and at some point we crash. We have been home two days now, I am waiting for the crash. Trying to prevent it but I know it is coming.

What kept me from breaking was telling myself that my husband did not need me in the hospital while dealing with our family member in ICU. I told myself that everything I felt I was going to break down and tell my husband I was done. Kept telling myself he needed his focus where it was, not on me. Kept telling myself my kids needed to be sure they knew I could still do what needed to be done.

Traveling is something we had almost shelved. This week has changed it. My husband, Ash has sacrificed so much to be sure that I was taken care of. He has done so much to manage the Chronic/Severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. There is also the chronic pain issues that have that we have had to adjust to. We were set up to manage it all at home. Now we have to figure out how to manage it while traveling. It will not be a frequent thing, but it will be something we have to figure out.

The biggest thing I have to figure out is being so far out of my safe zone. Figuring out how to take some of my coping mechanisms with me without disrupting the purpose of the visit.

A salad

It is a bit odd that a conversation about eating establishments triggers a memory of my childhood. My first real salad was had after I joined the military. I was 18 years old when I had my first salad with all the pickings, not that small school salad deal they try to pass off as fresh and healthy. This was at the amazing chow hall at Sheppard AFB Texas when I was in training for my military job.

Childhood memories are mostly made up of bad or sad, hurtful or scary for me. Then there are those neutral memories that don’t necessarily spark any fear or joy, they are just there. We spend a lot of time thinking of food and hey why not because food is good and fuel for our bodies. Sometimes I over fuel and that is why I am chubby lol. Almost every evening Ash and I watch food shows or we talk while he cooks dinner. That is part of our routine, that is our now.

Growing up we didn’t have a lot and you can say we were poor. The bathroom we shared only had running water for the toilet and tub but not the sink, there was not any hot water either. We never had air conditioning from what I can remember and I can’t remember having a full pantry of food other than flour, lard and beans. Mexican staples I guess you can say. My exposure to different foods only came from meals provided at school and y’all know there isn’t a lot of variety there.

I remember going to different school for a variety of reasons, moved around from here and there. Sometimes I was with the mom or the dad, sometimes I wasn’t. There wasn’t much stability that I can remember. I think maybe going to school was my stability, not necessarily the people in my life. Exposure to different foods was not something that I was privy to.

Getting through school so I could leave was my end goal, at that point in my life I was just waiting to get out, finding a way to leave the personal hell I was living in. I made some friends in High School, a few I still keep in touch with through social media. All I wanted was to be finished with the place I was in and find a way to escape, to leave it all behind and start my life. Joining the military gave that escape to me. That provided some exposure to different foods and people.

Okay so back to food…hubby and I were talking about foods and I often ask him ‘have I ever had that food?’ because he will know. He has known me for most of my life and often feeds me lol.

So I got to thinking about how limited, even now, my exposure to foods and other things truly is. Sure I have traveled to various cities, states and even countries in my career. Tried so many of the foods in each country I visited. I remember when I was in Afghanistan being invited to a dinner at a French camp nearby, the foods were amazing. Even in the middle of a war zone, the food was beautiful and amazing. Who would have thought that? Being invited to a dinner with a French General on a small camp in Afghanistan.

This all brings me to the point of this post. Yes y’all there is a point to this rambling mess of words. In about a week I will be 45, have traveled the world while serving and visited almost every state in our great and amazing country. Yet, I am very limited in my exposure to some of the simplest of foods. That saddens me because even though I am living my life away from the place I wanted to leave, there is still a part of me that limited myself from trying new things. The fear, or the feeling of feeling inadequate with others. All of that because I was made to feel like nothing by the people who were suppose to love me.

I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer y’all. Have always felt a step behind everyone else. When I was serving I drowned myself in rules and regulations. All those Air Force Instructions and Department of Defense Regulations were my reading materials and I knew them all. Could have a question about anything work related and it would be easy to quote them word for word. My troops loved that about me, or so they have said lol but people who were trying to go around the system hated it.

Anyway….our conversation tonight about food made me think of the first ever real salad I had at a chain restaurant in Montgomery Alabama. It was then that I realized I was no longer that little broken child who had no idea what a real salad was. Sure there are times now that I have to ask Ash if I have ever had this kinda cheese or that kinda food, but I am learning that I may like something I have never tried before. That salad was moving, yeah it was good too but I had never had a REAL salad where I could choose any topping I wanted, even if I had never had it before. That right there people was HUGE for me.

I think about all the places we use to eat at, in all the cities and states we have visited as a family. Hoping that we have exposed our children to more than I was ever exposed to at their age.

Y’all I am going to be 45 soon and there is so much more I want to try, more I want to be able to expose myself to with my family. There is still part of me that is embarrassed by it, embarrassed that I still have no idea what certain things are. Sometimes I feel stupid because of it, I tell folks I am about as dumb as a box of rocks. Nothing is really holding me back from trying new things, nothing but that broken child inside who would rather stay in what we know.

Time for me and that child to find a way to break free of the mental chains around us. We are being held together in so many things. Today it is about food and how limited I feel.

Acknowledging these limitations or the fears both my inner child and I have will only help us, right? Kinda like bringing it into the light, so we can see it and work on it. Otherwise it will always be there holding us back. One day, we will both find a way to be better. Every time we bring forward a fear or something, it will begin the healing process. And it is a process y’all. It all takes time and work.

So a salad brought out these thoughts and feelings today, wonder what it will be next time.

The day I wanted to die

Suicide has become more and more of a topic that has hit many social media websites and pages. They inform you of the numbers and various resources available to everyone, yet each day we are losing so many of our military & veterans. Yes I do understand that our civilian community is losing just as many and no matter what one life lost to suicide is too many. I can only speak to you about the veteran & military community and the hardships we face.

The traumas that started early in my life also started my early battles with suicidal ideations. Maybe I had a form of PTSD early on and it only made itself known later in life. I know that in early 1996 I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder, in 1997 I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and on 28 August 1998 is the day I wanted to die.

This was my first suicide attempt while in the military, it was a day I just did not want to live anymore. Even then I was on a variety of pills for anxiety, depression, aches and pains. Earlier that year I injured my knees while doing my daily running and was put on heavy pain pills. It was also about the same time I was drinking more and more. At least a bottle of vodka a night.

At this point in my life I was divorced and a single mother to my four year old son. The divorce had left me and my son in such a horrible financial state, was at risk for losing my car and was barely making ends meet. Yet my career was at an all time high. A recent graduate of Airman Leadership School had garnered me a wonderful supervisory position in charge of my own section and troops. Was being recognized for all the great work we were doing and had been awarded some awesome certificates of appreciation and recognition.

Everyone at work was blind to the turmoil happening in my personal life. They were oblivious to the fact that I was going home after work and drinking my night away, sleeping only because the alcohol and pills knocked me out.

The evening of 28 August 1998, I was done. Done fighting a battle with myself, done trying to be a good mom and failing. Done with hoping to find my footing in my personal life knowing I could never have that confidence in myself like I did when I was in uniform. I was done. My son had been fed and put to sleep. I kissed him and told him I loved him so much, apologized for being such a bad mom and hoped that someone good would be able to give him more than I ever could.

I went to my room with a bottle of vodka and all of my pain & sleeping pills, and well took them all. That was it. I wanted it over, wanted it done, just wanted to be free of all the pain.

When I woke up, I was in the emergency room at Maxwell AFB, my commander was next to me holding my hand. My son had woken up from sleep later that night and found me. He went next door to tell them I wouldn’t wake up and they came right over. They found me, called 911 and were trying to wake me up. By 3 am I had my stomach pumped, had charcoal solution pumped in to remove the residual and had puked a lot of it up on myself. When I had finally woken up, I had to face the realization that I was still alive.

I am sure many of you are thinking of how selfish this was, how could I leave my son the way I did? How could I have done this thing to have him find me? You can think that and feel any way you want about me. You have no idea what I was dealing with and at that time I felt that this was my only way out.

I was released later that morning, called my friend Carolyn to let her know what I had done. She came right over. She was like a mother to me. I couldn’t face the shock and disappointment in her face when she came to my house, talked with me about what I had tried to do and tried to understand what drove me to it.

The next duty day I was at the Mental Health Clinic going through evaluation and mandated counseling for depression. Surely some of you are wondering why I was sent home that next day, why wasn’t I in the mental health ward of the hospital or kept under suicide watch. Mostly because my leadership wanted to think it was an accidental overdose, and my records reflected that. They were afraid to allow this misstep to ruin my career so it was easily taken care of.

The next few months were constant therapy appointments, learning to deal with what I was dealing with and thankfully I had a friend in my life that I was able to chat and talk with each and every day to help me deal with the fact that I wanted to die.

My son and I were healing, I was healing. Yes I know he had to see me go through this and any issues he had as a child were because of my lack of being a good mother to him. I look at him now and am glad to see him thriving, succeeding in so many ways despite the fact I could have broken him.

My rock back then, the person I spoke with every day to start the healing process is now the man who sits next to me. He saved me even before we fell in love.

The day I wanted to die changed a lot about me. Now I cannot say it changed me completely because I am still damaged and broken. It has made me realize that I need to speak out a bit more about the issues and about the demons.

Have there been other attempts you ask? Yes, they have been subtle and nothing like that of 1998. There have been a lot of self destructive behaviors that I have had and forced to deal with the consequences of those behaviors. Yet here I sit, with my husband by my side. With three wonderful and amazing children, a wonderful daughter in law and a cutie grandson, with another grand child on the way. My life is truly a blessed one.

Dealing with things does not mean DEALT with. I still battle the urges to hurt myself. Still fight the demons in my mind and the pain in my body. I am still here. Talking about suicide does not make someone go out and do it. Talking allows us to bring awareness to it. In all my life I have lost too many to suicide. Too many times I have had to sit in a hospital room grieving with my military family as life support was turned off. Too many times I stood at attention in my service dress as my military family member was laid to rest and too many times have I received that phone call to tell me someone I loved has lost their battle with the demons.

We have to be available to others, have to be compassionate as well as understanding. Quit telling people to just get over it, that will make us withdraw more. Listen to us when we speak of things, don’t interrupt with judgements. We just need to know you are there to listen. If you know someone is struggling, why not make contact if you haven’t heard or seen them in a while. Ask them if they need anything, even if it’s a cup of coffee or a donut lol. Maybe meeting somewhere to talk. Just reach out to let them know you care about how they are doing.

I hope to learn to live my life to the fullest, so that I can honor the lives lost to suicide, those who fought hard against the demons and couldn’t win that battle. By finding my way through the muck, by continuing to fight each and every day I hope to honor them all.

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The Battle Continues

In 1997 I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) also known as Clinical Depression. This was after a suicide attempt in August of that next year. I was already seeing a counselor for anxiety and depression, yet I still attempted suicide.

There is still a daily struggle to stay positive, to remember that I matter and am loved. For those who tell me to just get over it can kiss my butt because if it was that easy then I would have got over whatever it is that causes the depression.

Depression is like thunder you hear rumbling in the distance, it is making it’s presence known. Will it become a full blown storm? Or is it just a rumbling to get your attention? We don’t know but we prepare anyway. It allows us to be sure that if we get hit with a huge storm of emotions that we can handle it somehow, or just be able to hold on until it passes.

Over the past few months the depression has been pretty bad, it usually just comes and goes nothing too bad that gets me too down but every now and again it hits hard. The past few months it hit very hard. I am super emotional, especially when thinking about certain events or people.

The battle continues no matter how much time has passed. Having MDD it seems like any event or bad memory can easily toss me into a downward spiral, so much that it takes a lot of work to just get myself moving. My mind and body are battling my heart, seriously it is. My mind and body want to just sleep, hide in the dark and live in my own little bubble of despair. My heart on the other hand wants to get in the studio to create, craft and make something bright and beautiful because my thoughts are dark and ugly.

Slowly things are starting to even out, I don’t feel so lost and alone in my mind. No matter how many times I can look around and see my family, see what we have built over the years there is a dark thought or two in my mind. It takes work to battle those thoughts, to fight them with the greatness of my life. Anyone who doesn’t understand depression would never understand the battle, but I understand it as does my hubby who keeps me going.

We have to learn to be more understanding of what we battle, understand that there are people struggling and even if they ‘look fine’ that does not mean that they are. I hate it when people tell me that I don’t look sick or look depressed. That is because a photo is just a snapshot of life, not a whole representation of it.

Reach out, take care of each other and pay it forward any way you can. Contact your friends or family that you know are battling something, let them know you are thinking of them and that you care. That can make a huge difference in their life, maybe even save it.

I hate mirrors

There hasn’t been a time that I enjoyed looking at myself in a mirror. Looking at myself was just to be sure my hair was within regulation and uniform was squared away. There was nothing else I wanted to see in that reflection. The person looking back at me was a person I did not know or cared enough about to look at. When I did look, all that reflected back were the mistakes and flaws.

For as long as I could remember I was told that I was ugly, or looked like I was stupid. Hear that as a child for as long as I did tends to lock it in and make it truth no matter what. Do I still believe that even now as a 44 year old? Absolutely I do.

The reflection in the mirror is showing me a person I am not proud of. Yes I am proud of accomplishments in my life but as for what is in the mirror…I can almost hate her. What she has done to herself and others, the pains she inflicted on people she loves is something I see. What good is she when she made such horrible mistakes and her self destruction took others along?

I hate mirrors. Yet here I am today, putting one up in my studio. There was a reason I left any type of mirrors out, no reflective surfaces. The person looking back at me isn’t one I enjoy having with me in my space. As crazy as that sounds, it is the absolute truth.

Maybe it is hard for some to understand, you could be one of the lucky people who had some great parents in your life, had some amazing positive influences in your life and that built a strong personal view of yourself. That is something I lacked for the longest time, positive influences. They came too late in my life and by then all my negative thoughts of myself had rooted deep into my soul.

That doesn’t mean I do not enjoy giving back to people or being a positive support to another person, that is easy to do. I love people, love that they are so giving of themselves and so strong in their struggles. Love that people can smile despite what may be happening around them. Love that people can love freely no matter what. I see positive in others, see them thriving not just surviving.

So…why am I putting up a mirror? Well for a few reasons. One because my Mister said you want to be sure your face is ready for someone to come by. He is right, don’t want any boogers or something in my teeth making someone uncomfortable LOL. Another reason is recently in a Facebook post Ms Maureen said “Anna, look in that mirror and repeat after me: ‘I am enough! I am strong! I have handled things very few can and still remained a good person. I am enough!’ ” The thing is I had been told this many times over the past 10 or so years, it never meant a thing. When she posted that, it hit and it hurt. OH I know she did not want me to feel bad about myself, she wanted to help me understand that I am all those things even if I didn’t see it.

Today I put up a mirror in the studio. It is far not in my direct line of sight, have to make a point to stand up to it in order to see myself. It is where I can check my face, be sure I look presentable. Maybe I will put some inspiration around it to make me start to want to look at myself. Small steps…that will be what I am going to do. I got the mirror, next is actually wanting to look at myself.

Still hate mirrors, not happy with the reflection. It will take time and at the moment I got the time.


PAIN

Every so often I get these flare ups that take me out for days. It can be the migraine, fibro, anxiety, PTSD, costochondritis, or just exhaustion whatever it is they tear me apart.

Many can say pain will make you stronger or that you are not given more pain than you can handle. People say any number of things that are meant to support and encourage you while you suffer.

I know that pain can make you question why you fight. For almost a full week I have been feeling this building pain trying to turn into a full fledged Fibromyalgia flare up. It begins with the already slow burning intensifying into a rolling pain up and down my back. For me it starts at the hips and rolls all the way up to my neck, funny that it ends right at my hairline to my head. Don’t know why it’s funny but it is to me. Maybe my way of saying to myself at least it isn’t consuming my whole body. It extends to my shoulders all the way to the armpits and just rolls all around the back area. Hurts to sit, to lay back, to have my hair down touching my neck. It just hurts.

Exhaustion sets in because my whole body is bracing as the pain moves around, waiting for a bit of reprieve. It makes me sick, so between the pains I have to find a way to muster enough energy to stand, to slowly walk to the bathroom and just be sick.

Then it starts all over. Finding a comfortable spot to sit so the pain isn’t as intense, distract myself with tv or lose myself in the books I am reading. Slowly trying to relax as the ebbs and flows of pains torment my body and my mind.

It’s during those times that I hate that I want to keep fighting through the pains. Hate that I have to. Why don’t I just quit being an idiot and just let my doctor give me pain meds so I can just drug myself into a stupor and sleep while it all goes away. Even if it takes days.

Then I remember why I fight, why I don’t want the meds and why I want to do this. I realize that maybe pain for me isn’t what is making me stronger, pain is what is trying to make me give up. Pain wants to steal from me the joys of life, of my family and of my work. Pain is a thief. Plain and simple.

This thief wants to rob me of my faith. It is stealing my confidence and my hope. This thief is taking my hope and my desires. The pain doesn’t make me stronger, it is a deceiver. It is a liar and I have to remember that as I sit here for the second day in a row on the couch, lost in the pains while life continues on around me. It has started to steal me of the confidence I have in myself and in my strength to hold on.

Pain can be many things to people for a variety of reasons. To me, pain is a thief.

How I respond will determine how much more I will allow it to take from me. The choices are not easy to make. Do I say enough and go on with my ‘normal’ and risk the pain coming back harder and take more? Do I just continue to rest? Still allowing it to take from me? Just being aware of the possibility of how much I allow the pain to take?

Nothing of this is easy.  Falling into an endless pit of pain can be as easy as holding on for the pains to pass. I can hold on and fight, knowing the thief called pain will be waiting and watching for any opening of weakness to take over. Am I strong enough to keep my mind from crumbling? For those walls I put to crumble and let the demons of pain in to take me over. It is so easy to let go. So easy to just give in. Yet so much to lose in that. The strength to hold on is more than I have in me, or is the pain stealing my resolve?

Can’t you see how hard this is? Can you not see how it steals who I am so that I can no longer fight?

The fighter, the warrior is tired. The battle is long, hard and never ending. It takes more than I have to keep holding on.  Yet here I am…..still holding on.

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Being People Ready

I loved being around people. Enjoyed hearing about their life experiences and where they came from. Having served for 20 years, being people ready was something I never had to think about.

Depression and I have been friends for a long time, it never was a big deal or held me back. I just kept on going on knowing that the depression was right there with me. I would see the docs when required and take the medications as prescribed, life went on. When I had my first suicide attempt as an adult, depression was a contributing factor.  Big DUH right lol.

So what do I mean by ‘Being People Ready’? What that means is being ready to see anyone other than the person(s) that live with you. When I retired I cut myself off from people. Never visited my old job or people I worked with. At the point of retirement I was angry, the PTSD was at its worse and anxiety was debilitating.  So I was never really ‘people ready’ because well I didn’t have to. The depression had it’s hold on me too and for the longest time I never wanted to see me, did not care what I looked like or if anyone saw me in a not people ready get up.

Depression, PTSD, anxiety, paranoia and so many other things kept me from caring about my own appearance. Oh I sometimes would agree that I was gaining too much weight or was not taking care of myself like I should have. Yet part of me did not care because I didn’t need a good view of me to do my nonprofit work. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I started to get out of my house and start trying to care about my appearance that I began to put some effort into what I presented to the outside world.

Six years post retirement, I am about to open my doors to my nonprofit and now have to be People Ready. Care has to be given about my appearance every day that my gates are open. This will help me more than anything I have ever tried. It pushes me out of my comfort zone to a certain degree but I am in my safe place so it is easier for me to manage the anxiety and paranoia.

Last year I pushed myself out of comfort zones. Had a PTSD F*ck It List, much like a Bucket List and I hit each and every one of those goals. What that did for me was give me the confidence in myself, in my ability to adapt and overcome situations what were not comfortable for me.  This year I am pushing myself so far out of the comfy bubble that I know it will do more for me than I can ever imagine.

Every morning I have to be sure I am People Ready. I have to look in the mirror and see myself. Something I truly avoid each and every day. Now I have to see me and be sure I look presentable. I have to be sure I wear shoes, socks, my appearance is comfy casual so I can work in my studio and people can come by as they want.

Being People Ready is scary. I have to see me, have to look at myself and acknowledge me. It is very hard to do when ME was never a priority. While I do my nonprofit work and share myself with you all on the interwebs, I never really put myself first. Now don’t get all ‘YAY for you’ yet because I am not really putting myself first yet, lol. I am being sure that I am putting a good face for the nonprofit out there so that I can do more for people but I know that in time I will start to matter to me. This is going to help y’all. The more I look at myself, the  more I can say ‘hey I am okay’ and feel it too.

I am 44 years old, have an amazing husband who loves me. Three wonderful sons, an amazing DIL and grandson who are my everything. Somewhere during this wonderful new chapter of my life, I will see myself as worthy of it all. I love what I do y’all and love giving back to anyone I can. There is a part of me that is so broken I can’t see the good in myself, but I am working on it. Being People Ready is going to help, how can it not?

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Chaotic Cycle

This summer I had my first Costochondritis episode, I thought I was going to die because the pains were so bad. A few days after my ER visit, my doctor diagnosed me as she had suspected my pains we were chasing were due to costo. I learned to figure out a way to keep the pains down without medications. We thought we had it under control, then on Saturday 15 DEC I had another flare up that landed me in an ambulance and in the ER again.

My breathing was labored and it caused my muscles to seize up, it was one of the most single scariest moment of my family’s lives as they watched me fall to my knees as the pain intensified. The amazing staff at Womack Army Medical Center took care of me and because of some scary numbers ran CTs, Xrays and EKGs to be sure there was not another underlying issues that caused the costo to be so bad. Thankfully it was just costo.

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I rested for the week, in bed or on the couch and did nothing but read or rest. By Friday I was feeling well enough to fix my hair and actually get out of the house. It was so nice to feel independent again. Sadly, that day of freedom cost me another costo episode.

That evening as the family was winding down after cleaning up from dinner and snacks, the pains started. Off I went to lay down and get into comfy clothes so that I can control the pains before they ramped up. The episode intensified within minutes and the family was scrambling to get me settled enough so that I can get ready for another ER visit.

Describing the pain that just starts as a twinge then turns into a chest crushing pain is hard. In less than five minutes of the first pain I was unable to take full breaths and just panting for air. I have never had severe costo episodes within a week of each other than intensified so fast. My coping to extreme pain is nausea, once that hits I know the pains are more than I can take. Of course, the fact I can’t take full breaths also brings on panic attacks so I have to work twice as hard to keep all those issues in control.

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We got my to go bag ready, hubby was dressed and I was almost able to walk to get into the car for the trip to the ER. This was all within a 30 minute time frame, the first pain to ready for ER.

I really did not want to go to the ER, we know what this is. The ER staff has to go through the steps for chest pains to rule out other issues. It is at least a 6 hour visit because of it all. We (and by we I mean ME lol) decided to see if we could control the pains once we could get the breathing under control. It took another 30 minutes for me to get from panting breaths to a more half breath. I just wanted to lay in bed until I could take full breaths again.

This was an intense hour, we went from shutting down for the night to ready for ER. If we can find a way to manage the pains without medications, then that is what I will do. I can take the pains, but my family does not like to see me doubled over and puking because of it.  When I decided to take a no pain management route with my issues, I forced my family to tag along. They know there are pain meds that can be administered at home for things like this and sometimes do not understand why I would put myself through this type of situations. The hubby understands but he is left feeling helpless during episodes like this. No one likes to see their loved ones in such pain.

We were trying to figure out what brought on this lastest episode. Was it the driving? The walking? Doing house chores I wasn’t doing all week? I was frustrated if it was because that is called living.  If I wanted to get up and sweep or mop, why shouldn’t I? If a drive to get some gifts for visiting family is what I wanted to do then I should do it. These kinds of medical issues frustrate me to no end.

I will have to get some emergency pain meds, if not for myself then so my family does not feel helpless when episodes come on. I can take the pains, can close myself off and deal with it. Sometimes that is a bit selfish because I force my caregivers to watch me suffer through it and it isn’t fair to them.

What is the point of all this? I looked and felt better yesterday, was ready to enjoy family and have some time to do things I haven’t been able to for a week. My body was not ready for it. I have no idea how fast or slow I am suppose to take it after episodes. Sounds stupid right? It is the truth. I can have a small episode of fibro flare up or costo flare up and within an hour feel better. Larger flare ups like last Saturday take me out for a week. Today I feel tired but not as painful, feels like I slept wrong that’s it. I feel like I can do my normal morning chores and routines, with less energy that’s all. Do I want to rest on the couch or in bed? Will that help? I honestly have no idea. If I was on a pain management routine I would be zoned out by the pain medications and the decision would be made for me. This is all so frustrating to figure out. It is a damn if you do and damn if you don’t situation.

Often times people forget I have so many issues, only remember the PTSD but I tend to keep pushing past the auto immune issues that I battle daily. So many ask why, and the simple answer is I will not let it control my life. There are times like last week and last night it knocks me on my ass but I get back up and say screw you! My family now watches me more, asks more about how I am feeling but it’s because it rocks them to see me in pain. I  have to remember that they fight this with me too and my choices in treatment affect them just as much as it affects me.

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Em

There are people and experiences in your life that are more impactful that others. Not sure why that is, or what causes it, it just is. Em was one of those people to me. Way back when I first retired I saw a post on a nonprofit that offered pen pals, I signed up and within a few days I received notification that I was paired with a Pen Pal! I was so excited that I wrote her that day. We never exchanged emails or phone numbers early on. We just learned about each other from our letters. We wrote each other once or twice a month, some times it was less because life makes us live it. Through the years we shared, encouraged and were fast friends. We finally shared some on social media but not much. Mostly it was to say ‘look what happened today’ because we wanted to enjoy our letters to each other.

I would print out photos of things I was doing, people and cats in my life lol and she would do the same. I learned of how amazingly talented she is with her welding, she made welded art pieces. This girl had a knack at making costumes or her own clothes as well. I kept telling her I wanted to sew more. I would send her beaded crafts, necklaces and earrings or bracelets. She loved wearing them and told me once that they fit a skirt she just made. Her talent and joy in it motivated me to keep my own crafting going.

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She was so young and had such a brightness to her. Of course there was also the sadness and pains. See, Em’s hubby was a Veteran who was battling PTSD. She worried for him, hated how he had changed but loved him so much. That much was clear in our back and forth communication.  I knew what he was going through to a certain extent, I was battling my own PTSD demons. So we shared that with each other too. I loved how free she was, how fierce she lived! Damn it to hell if I admired her love and hate of it all.  Look at her all beauty and FIERCE!

 

She was kind and smiled, had fun and had her own adventures even when others didn’t agree lol. I remember her sending me post cards of places she and Curt went even when they shouldn’t have. They just wanted that adventure.

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I only had her in my life for a bit over 3 years. It wasn’t enough, but the impact she made was huge. At that time during our back and forth letters, I didn’t see it. Maybe didn’t really pay attention to it, I don’t know but I knew it was there.

As time went on we would reach out on social media, a quick check in with each other because our letters had gotten sporadic. We weren’t losing touch we just didn’t write as much. Things were getting rough for her and her life she felt was getting harder. Mine was just busy and chaotic but we just had to be sure we each knew we were there for each other.

The afternoon of  December 4, 2015 she told me that her husband was missing. They had been trying to find him but couldn’t. I wasn’t sure what to do, I remember checking flights to her area and trying to figure out how I could get there. Traveling for me was not easy, but I wanted to be there for her to help somehow. Later that evening, she messaged that he had been found, sadly he had taken his own life. That was the last time I heard from her.

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The next day, I was waiting to hear from Em. I knew she was with family and with friends to begin the process of taking care of Curt. It wasn’t a surprise that I didn’t hear from her.  Just happened to be going through some military pages when I stumbled upon a post about Curt, as I read on it said that they just found out his wife lost her battle. I was floored. My heart was broken, shattered and I was just done. I remember walking into our gym where my husband was working out and didn’t say anything. Just stood there because speaking those words made it more real. He had his headphones on in full beast mode lol so he didn’t notice me standing there. Honestly I have no idea how long I stood there crying and unable to get his attention. He finally saw me and I still couldn’t say it. He knew what happened the day before, he is my shield in the battle against PTSD so I share with him many things. He just held me and I was finally able to say what happened. I think I just shut down after because the following days are a blur.

I didn’t know who to contact, didn’t know where to call to get information or anything. I was just lost. There I was going thought the military social media sites to see about a phone number, email address something. There was a go fund me set up and I emailed that person but never heard back.

A few days later I got a phone call, it was Em’s sister Ashley. She called to tell me about Em, about Curt. It meant the world to me that they reached out, to want me to know that Em cared about me. Here I was hearing this from her sister, I should have been the one providing comfort in her loss. I failed. No matter what you say or what anyone says, I failed Em and Curt. She wasn’t just my pen pal, was not just a friend. She was more to me and I hate myself for not doing more.

I cannot tell you why Em’s death hurt so much, I have lost many people in my life. Yet losing Em was a breaking point in my life. So many questions as to why I was doing what I was doing if I failed the one person I never thought I could let down. The one person who didn’t ask for loving a Veteran battling his own demons but she loved him madly.

How can I tell people that I am here to help them when I couldn’t help my own damn friend? Can I honestly say that I am doing anyone any good? Oh these and many other questions came into my head over and over and over.

This doesn’t get easier, time does not heal everything. I think of her and Curt every single day. As I sit here at my desk typing away I see her gifts to me. Every night I go to sleep and every day I wake up I see her post cards. She is EVERYWHERE in my home and in my life, but she isn’t here anymore.

I have stolen some of Em’s moments in time, moments of laughter and joys. Moments that are heartwarming and make me laugh. Then there is that moment the memory of losing her hits and it is tragic. Y’all I cannot tell you why she has such an impact, I cannot even begin to explain it all but she has and she always will.

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Maybe I am just a pen pal, who was lucky enough to be paired with her. A total stranger who is a nobody to many. Whatever the reason I know this means something.

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