Today’s Pity Party and My Brother’s Ghost

In 2008 I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease. Some years later, I’m still having health issues that range from nerve pain and fatigue to arthritis and digestive issues. Today: I’m extremely bloated (having gone up almost 2 sizes), have a bitter metallic taste in my mouth (I’m self-conscious about halitosis and my precious cups of coffee taste horrid), have joint pain in my knees and hands, am insatiably tired and thirsty, and have an impenetrable brain fog. Today I broke down and cried. I’m just so tired of it.

I went outside and smoked a cigarette. The brain fog made a gratitude list difficult – as did my self-pitying mood. I just couldn’t think of anything. Just a blank. What I could think about is how I slept away an hour of time I felt I should have spent with my 8 year old boy. What I could think about is how my stomach is oozing over the waistline of borrowed pants because mine quite suddenly don’t fit. What I could think about was how I needed to go upstairs and what a tall order that would be. What I could think about was how my mom was watching my son and how I used the time to take an epsom salt bath in a vain attempt to feel this much –> <– better. Pitiful, right? And how do you think crying over it and pitying myself helped? If you guessed that it didn't and that it made things worse, you're absolutely correct. On the other hand, the tears seemed to take the edge off of my eye pain . Yeah, forgot to mention that symptom.

What I neglected to think about in this fog is that it's my brother's birthday. He would have been 28 today. I thought about it last night and this morning and earlier this afternoon – and it's also my sister's birthday. It's not just my loss. It's hers, too. And having a birthday must be a bittersweet thing since that fateful St. Patrick's Day in 2009 when my brother died at age 24 — and the subsequent June 27th when he would have been 25.

I realized tonight that with all of the challenges I have with my health, I do have something to be grateful for on an epic scale: my life. Not just that I am above ground and breathing, but also the home I have today. I don’t mean the house I reside in. I mean the HOME I have today, a home filled with love, a home I look forward to coming to at the end of the day, a home filled with laughter and support. And then there is my life itself. I’m above ground. I’m breathing. There’s still a chance that I’ll kick this thing – whatever it is. I also have to accept that it’s God’s will – for whatever reason. And I may never ever know the reason. Humility reminds me that I don’t need to know the reason, either. On days when I have less of this humility I tend to analyze what the reason could be and why me. Well? Why NOT me?

Yesterday I peed in a cup. No news yet as to what, if anything, they found. I have a doctor’s appointment next Friday. I have an appointment with a Rheumatologist in August. I have to remember that this will be revealed in God’s time, not mine.

My sister, the one whose birthday it is, is getting married in September. She just earned her doctorate. Her Jack N’ Jill is coming up. There’s a lot of things to celebrate, a lot of things to be proud of. And why did I have to succumb to stinkin’ thinkin’? Maybe H.A.L.T had something to do with it — I’m Hungry to be CURED, I’m Angry about my station in life, I’m Lonely because it’s hard for people to understand this and I’m Tired , Tired, TIRED. I’m back on track for now — thank God.

They say, “Poor me, poor me, poor [pour] me another.” I have tremendous respect for the detrimental fallout that sitting on the pity pot can bring. And that’s no way to live a life that I’ve been granted another chance at.

I’m not perfect. And that’s okay. I have to keep this in the day and not look back to 2007 when the symptoms started to really take shape and start counting the months and years. I have to keep this in the day and not look too far ahead to the many blurring months that I’ll continue to endure this until I’m fixed. And I might not be fixed.

Thank God I can move on and shift my focus to what’s important today: my sister’s birthday and my brother’s memory. I love you guys. xoxoxo

I Want to Be a Sober Woman of Grace and Dignity …….

I see this posted on Facebook ALL the time …… by women. I see women giving it thumb’s up/Likes and commenting with “LOL” or “spot on.” Why is this acceptable?

Why do women accept this stereotype?

None of this is “spot on” for me. Thank GOD. And to me? It’s NOT acceptable.

Do I ever say these things? Yes. Here’s a happenstance when I might:

1. “Fine.” This is a word I choose to use when I’m being genuine – which, I hope, is all of the time. I am “fine” when there’s nothing wrong. I say “fine” after someone says, “Meet me at 2:00.” “Fine” is shorthand for “works for me” or “will do.” It’s a word I use to describe my boyfriend, too. Usually it’s said with a drawl and a smile. “He’s fiiiiine.” [wink] It’s is also the duty I must pay a parking ticket or speeding ticket, which is a noun version of the word “fine.”

2. “Nothing.” This is a word I sometimes use mistakenly. Someone may call me and ask what I’m up to. “Nothing.” Maybe the truth is that the TV is on and I’m not watching very closely. Maybe it means I’m napping and don’t want to ‘fess up that the person called me and roused me from my couch coma. It’s a word I use when someone asks me “what’s wrong” and I am unaware that something is wrong or maybe I’m just tired and tired of talking about it. I have chronic pain and chronic fatigue issues. Sometimes “nothing” means, “I don’t want to be the sum of my illness and don’t want to keep harping on it.” I never use it tersely with arms folded, steaming away at some slight. Not anymore. Thank God. And I find it embarrassing that women think this is OK and socially acceptable enough to chuckle about on Facebook. Actually? I find this whole entire list above to be embarrassing.

3. “Go Ahead.” I’m envisioning a bitter woman begrudging her significant other of going out with his friends. The “go ahead” is the “I want you to ALWAYS be here with me but I’m ashamed of this and really want to tell you to ‘go ahead’ out of courtesy.” I cringed at this one. Why wouldn’t a woman want her boyfriend/husband to enjoy himself? Likewise, if he’s NEVER home then that should be addressed — with REAL communication and not this passive-aggressive shit. Or can you envision something else with this?

4. “Whatever.” This sucks, too. Do sober people of grace and dignity stonewall people? Is this an effective means of communication? This word is loaded and conjures up lots of scenarios for me. One is the lazy person who just wants the conversation to be over and not worked out. Another is the person who doesn’t have the balls to say “you’re wrong” or “you’re way off base,” but just folds her arms and taps her foot and with an eye-roll says, “whatever.”

5. “That’s OK.” WHY is it okay to say something’s okay when it’s NOT okay? I’m not a chest-thumping feminist, but this one sentence seems to send us ladies back a couple of centuries when we had no voice and all we had to fall back on was manners.

ALL of this is NOT at all okay. I’m appalled every time I see it posted. I’m appalled by the likes. I’m appalled by the thumbs-up. Would we think this list was so cute if men were accused of doing these things (and some do!)? We want to be treated equally —- right? And I think equally cute is a good way to begin!

So how this ties into sobriety …… in A.A. they have an acronym (yet again) of the word FINE: F**kin’ Insecure, Neurotic & Emotional. And this pertains to the picture above. I don’t want to be “fine.” Do you?

All of the above has to do with passivity/stuffing emotions. None of it has anything to do with having the emotional fortitude to work things out, to hear what you don’t want to hear, to say what you’re afraid to say. It’s shameful that this is acceptable. I don’t judge people for engaging in these behaviors. We were all taught the things we do. Some of us have more solid role models growing up and some of us have weaker ones. I had to learn my life skills in A.A. I only knew two ways of dealing with conflict: put my head down and keep my mouth shut or go for the jugular. Either way lead to the end of my relationship. I would end up hating them through my silent scorn or they would hate me after hearing what dark and ugly things were in my heart. My angle here has more to do with society than with individuals. I don’t think it’s okay that masses of people see all women this way and embrace this. Perhaps I’m just remembering how I was and bristling with the embarrassment of it. Perhaps I’m really appalled by how accepting I used to be of this in ME.

I don’t generally feel these much excitability over silly things I see on facebook. Am I overreacting? Perhaps. Feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Today ……

Today:

  1. I woke up in the time frame known as AM
  2. My head was clear and I didn’t need to take Motrin or drink lots of water to squash the hangover and cotton mouth.
  3. My head wasn’t racing with excuses for my behavior last night
  4. I remember everything that happened last night and my conscience is clear
  5. There was no puke in my bed
  6. I know the person I woke up with — and am very glad he was there. ¬†ūüôā
  7. I have not lied to anyone
  8. I have plans for later on today and am not conniving about how to get out of them so I can go to the bar — and I’m looking forward to my plans today
  9. I am responsible and will get things done (as long as my body and chronic illness allow – but today’s a “good day” in terms of the Lyme Disease)
  10. There is much love in my life today as there had been chaos some years ago
  11. I am available if someone needs me
  12. I am not cringing when the phone rings and wondering if I should answer it — I am not wondering if it is a creditor, some guy from the bar, my boss calling me in or calling to tell me I’m late, the landlord wondering where his money is, or some other person I’ll feel the need to dodge
  13. I don’t despise myself today
  14. I love myself today
  15. I am not cringing, thinking of how I endangered myself and others on the way home last night. ¬†I am not inspecting my car for dents and dings . ¬†I remember how I got home last night with the clarity of someone who was “present” when she was driving — not just sober, but also aware and not preoccupied
  16. I am not thinking up ways of how to get my own way. ¬†I am thinking about other people’s needs today. ¬†Self-seeking has disappeared
  17. I am not hostile.  I am not looking for a fight.  I am not baiting anyone, trying to get them to argue with me or otherwise engage in battle.   I am not looking for an outlet for the rage I used to feel every minute of every day
  18. My sink is not filled with dishes in murky water with a slimy film on top of them
  19. There aren’t dirty clothes strewn all over my floor that I would later pick through to see which is the least of evils; this is how I used to decide what to wear
  20. I am grateful to be alive today.  I am not wishing I was dead and loathing the fact that I was lacking the gumption to do something about it.

Al K Hall-ic Anonymous

Last Tuesday, i was the secretary for the AA meeting and an elderly woman came up to me afterwards to tell me that something i’d shared was very intelligent. i know, i couldn’t believe it either, but there you go. What did i say that got her attention?

i shared that when i was drinking, i thought i craved a drink, but i was wrong. i did not want a drink, i wanted what the drink represented. i wanted acceptance, admiration, laughter, excitement, passion, sex, Love, yes, Love. i wanted booze to lead me to Love with a capital L. But it never did.

Sometimes the alcohol took me close to these things, so close i could taste them, but then it always let me down. It let me down so hard that i woke up sick with bruises and no money, doing inventory to see what i had lost…

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Acceptance

One thing I have learned on this journey is acceptance. ¬†I’m not perfect and sometimes I continue to fight things in my head, sometimes I struggle with resentment. ¬†But for the most part, I’ve come a long way.

I think “acceptance” is a loaded word and means many things to many people — and feel free to comment and add what it means to you so this will be more well-rounded. ¬†In the beginning, I struggled with the notion that it may equate passivity. ¬†I thought people in AA with their acceptance had “given up.” ¬†I thought their turning the other cheek meant letting people walk all over them. ¬†They were suckers.

I know now that it means accepting conditions as they ARE today. ¬† It means taking action and sticking up for ourselves and “turning over” the outcomes. ¬†It may mean believing in God’s justice instead of pursuing street justice.

One of the biggest things I struggled with (in terms of acceptance) was my health and it takes ongoing vigilance to stay on top of it.  In 2008 I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease (after many months) and if the topic interests you for any reason, I keep a blog called Bloody Lymey (www.bloodylymey.wordpress.com)  It was a long journey to getting diagnosed and other sicknesses were tossed out at me.  Lupus.  Fibromyalgia.  MS.  Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Chronic Fatigue.  Certain types of anemia and other vitamin deficiencies. It seemed endless.  By the time I saw a specialist for Lyme, she thought I had had it for 2-3 years.

In 2008, I was five years sober. ¬†I had worked the steps and continued working the steps and had a sponsor who I had been working with for 3 years. ¬†I had a pretty solid foundation. ¬†Thank GOD. ¬†But even with a “program” and even with some knowledge of how to cope and resources to use, I still fought it in my head. ¬†Before being diagnosed, I had a doctor who said I was depressed — and was willing to leave it at that. ¬† If I was PASSIVE I would have shrugged and said “OK.” ¬†But I accepted the very fact that he SAID that. ¬†I accepted the fact that he gave me all he had. ¬†I accepted the fact that perhaps he wasn’t such a go-getting type doctor and that this is how he IS. ¬†But I don’t want a doctor like that.

I didn’t fight it in my head or sit around seething and plotting revenge (which is the opposite of acceptance). ¬†Wait. ¬† Sometimes I did. ¬†Sometimes I did. ¬†Ha ha. ¬†But I realized it was using up my energy that could be directed toward something more productive. I ACCEPTED it but I took appropriate action: I got a new doctor.

In the two months it took to find the right doctor (and after some idiot wanted to give me ATIVAN for the pain!!! ¬†But that’s another story), I had to accept where I was today. ¬†That was tough. ¬† I was fairly athletic, always hiking, always on the move, always playing with my young son. ¬†I had to accept my limitations for the day. If I was passive, I would not have pursued adequate medical care. I would have laid down and applied for SSI, committed to sleeping and being in pain the rest of my natural born days.

It’s a good thing I didn’t do that. ¬†Whatever was wrong with me would suffocate me at night and I would wake up not breathing. It was terrifying and I would swallow air, trying to survive. ¬†It made my heart do peculiar things — murmur, palpitate, race, punch my rib cage, flutter ……. ¬† I talked to my son’s grandparents. ¬†I talked to them about “what if.” ¬†I made a video for my son to watch when he grew up “in case.” ¬†And that was hard to do, but I felt it was necessary.

I had to accept the fact that when my then four year old asked to go somewhere I had to say “Not today.” ¬†Remembering the invigoration following a hike in the woods or climbing a mountain, I had to accept that I couldn’t do that today. ¬† Being on the move and out doing things was a part of my identity, a part of my soul. ¬†It seemed impossible to believe I couldn’t do those things. ¬†Sometimes I made myself keep moving. ¬†One time I brought my son to the bike trail in another town to go for a ride. ¬†I struggled, bit my lip and “toughed it out.” ¬†The muscle fatigue got so severe that steering my car back to our town was tapping the last of my resources. I tried not to cry, unsure if I could get us all the way home. ¬† Little by little, instances such as this taught me not to rock the boat.

Finally I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease and there was hope. I was being treated. ¬†The specialist I was referred to thought that, based on the progression of the disease, that I had had it for 2-3 years. ¬†Finishing the course of Doxycycline, I still had all the symptoms except the respiratory and heart ones — which had been the most alarming.

It’s four years and one month since my diagnosis and I’m exhausted today. ¬†My knees and hands are stiff. ¬†I slept for 3 hours this afternoon. ¬†I have labs next month and see a rheumatologist in¬†August. ¬†My treatments have changed over the years and some things have worked for a while. ¬†I had a 10-month remission at one point. ¬†This hasn’t been constant and that’s the most insidious part of it, it’s the part that really makes me struggle with the acceptance. ¬†I get to a point and think “Whew! ¬†It’s OVER.” ¬†And then WHAM! ¬† It’s like having an abusive husband that I can never leave. ¬†He’ll woo me, he’ll make up with me. ¬†It’s all good. ¬†Then the vicious cycle comes full circle and it starts again and I’m tortured from within. ¬† Does feeling sorry for myself help this? ¬†No. ¬†Not at all. ¬†My sponsor has beaten my ass off the pity pot.

When I planned my day today, I didn’t plan to trudge around feeling exhausted and unmotivated. ¬†I didn’t plan to sleep the afternoon away. ¬†But I shifted gears. ¬†“I can’t control the wind, but I can adjust my sails.” ¬†I accept my limitations just for today – not that I can do this every minute of every day, but it’s far easier than it used to be and acceptance is the rule and not the exception anymore. ¬†I did what I could to nurture myself and to meet my needs for the day. ¬†My soul wanted to go for a hike. ¬†My soul wanted to clean part of the house to make it a better place for my family. ¬†My soul wanted to scan more old pictures for a dear relative who doesn’t have many pictures of his mom. ¬†But my body needed other things. ¬†And I know if I just make myself do what I planned then I may feel like this for the rest of the week. ¬†Doing the next right thing today will always increase the chances that tomorrow will be better— no matter what.

If I was passive, if I was taking this “laying down,” I would not see a rheumatologist in August and would not bother with the labs. ¬†I would just lay here and say “this is okay. ¬†Someone will take care of me.” ¬†I’m not mousy. ¬†But laying here and feeling angry that I couldn’t do what I want isn’t going to make today any better. ¬†Laying around here and thinking about how many years I’ve dealt with this and how many more may be yet to come is NOT keeping it “in the day.” It will make it more unbearable – particularly if I dwell on it.

Today I have a relationship with God and know that whatever is wrong with me today serves a purpose. In hindsight I have learned so many things because of Lyme Disease. ¬†I’ve learned a new caliber of empathy. ¬†Today I help people with disabilities gain employment — I know more about limitations and have become an adept negotiator for reasonable accommodations, since I know how it feels. ¬†When I have a good day, I appreciate it in the truest and greatest sense of the word — and I used to just take it for granted and sometimes even felt entitled to it. ¬†When I’m okay, I really feel more alive than ever. ¬†I don’t procrastinate as much. ¬†I don’t put off mowing the lawn today because I don’t know if I’ll be up to it tomorrow. I no longer tell my son “some day we’ll go to ________” [insert name of cool place]. ¬†I might have to tell him we’ll do it when I’m feeling better, but we always do it. ¬†Some Sundays I wake up feeling better than ever and we hit an amusement park.

My faith in God fuels my feeling of acceptance. ¬†This fatigue and creakiness? ¬†God gave it to me for a reason. ¬†Maybe I need to slow down. ¬†Maybe it’s a test. ¬†Maybe it kept me home and prevented me from being in a fatal accident. ¬†Maybe it meant for me to reflect on this some more today. ¬† Maybe I’m not even ever meant to know.

Humility, too, fuels acceptance and a lot of my humility is based on my faith in God and knowing I’m not his right-hand man. ¬†I’m not entitled to health. ¬†God doesn’t have to do me any favors. He knows what’s best for me – better than I do – And what about “why me?” ¬†Well? ¬† Why NOT me? ¬†Why should someone else have to go through this? ¬†And the end of the full Serenity Prayer is : ¬† “living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, and accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.”

Humility helps me when my pride is eating away at me when I’m gimpy or struggling up the stairs with people accumulating behind me. ¬†I’m not perfect. ¬†I’m not untouchable. ¬†I don’t need to be the tough guy. ¬†But I’m not perfect and I’m not always on the proverbial beam. ¬†Sometimes it does hurt my pride and sometimes I do feel self-conscious. ¬†Like at the end of an AA meeting, I try to be considerate of other people and let the crowd gravitate to the stairs so I can lag behind and not inconvenience anyone.

All of this takes practice.  Acceptance is earned, not granted.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts on acceptance — how it works for you, how you attain it, anything at all.

I know it’s sometimes hard to think of Syria — it’s so far away. But please do. The world is bigger than us.

The She Chronicles

I have been weeping since last night about everything that has exploded on the news and social media about what is occurring in Syria.  It is horrible over there, a slaughter.  Children are being blown away by their own leader.  My heart aches for the people of Syria.

Keep It Simple Saturday is dedicated to the people of Syria.  If you could take just a small moment and think of them, say a simple prayer of safety for them; just take a moment…for them.  I wish for peace for the people of Syria if just for one moment of today, peace and safety.  The world wishes this for them.

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