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Where’s the Light at the end of the Tunnel?

My name is Heidi and I am a survivor, warrior, wife, mother,  and friend. I decided to start a blog at the suggestion of a co-worker who says I have a lot of good things to share that could really help people. I have never blogged before and feel somewhat excited to see where this goes. The stories and moments I want to share are to hopefully inspire others and maybe offer a different perspective to a similar situation. The meat of this blog will be focused on my life’s journey through living with Major Depression, PTSD, Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Frequent Re-occurring Nightmares, Fibromyalgia, and the wonderful light at the end of the tunnel. It really does exist.

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When does it end? The Pain, Frustration, and all the other crap that goes with Fibromyalgia.

Some days are harder than others to maintain a smile and be happy go lucky. I think back in days gone by of how I would climb the rocks in the foothills or go camping with the kids and shoot my bow and just have a great time. Now I go fishing for a few hours and I’m laid up for a day and a half trying to rest and relieve the Fibromyalgia pain in my body. This is so stupid! I feel like my silver lining is fading, I mean how long can a person stay focused on tomorrow? Of course that is me just venting, really I have no other choice than to remember tomorrow is another day.

I remember reading that with knowledge comes the responsibility to own the information. What I mean is that once I learn something new I have the obligation to apply the info to my life or however it is going to be used. I can’t plead the 5th…I am responsible for me and the choices I make. This is true for my disorder too. I know what hurts or doesn’t so shame on me if I knowingly do something I know will have negative consequences. This is holding myself accountable to my actions.

Whether or not I have knowledge I still want to participate in outdoor activities so what am I supposed to do??

I guess I have to learn my limitations now. Like maybe not Billy goatin around on an island of rocks, while wading across a low section of a lake to access it. Or moving a large potted tree because I have an image of being super woman in my head. I don’t want to sit on the side lines and watch life go by. I really don’t like this condition.

I wake up and my spine from my tailbone to neck feels like someone has in a vice and/or I can barely lift my arms to brush my hair, among many other aches and pains. Days like this cause me to want to go back to bed and hit the redo button. A change in meds again and hopefully this will be the one that works. Who the hell knows, not me and obviously not to doctors.

My post today has really no meaning except for me to vent my frustrations to the world even though I know there is not a darn thing anyone can do. It seems like there’s not a whole lot even I can do. I know, lock myself in a room and stay in bed forever, maybe that won’t hurt. Now I’m whining, no time for that. I’m sure we all have our bad days but I just want mine to end so I can live! It doesn’t seem like much to ask, but whatever, I guess I’m along for the ride. I’m sure in the end, if there is one and it’s not my death, I will have learned something out of all of this.

The Scale doesn’t Lie but People do.

Being a larger person from a family of larger people it is pretty obvious there are some genetic factors playing a role in my physique. That’s not the whole story though. Losing weight is possible and I have done it but right now I just don’t really care. I’ve learned the hard way that the scale does not define me as a person, it just tells me how much my body weighs. Nothing more. It does not tell me I’m ugly, or stupid, worthless, or lazy. The scale doesn’t lie either, unless the batteries are dead. Weight is not something to stress out about but it is healthy to maintain a weight right for you.

The worst thing ever is to be depressed and fat because all I can think about is how worthless I am. Thoughts like “if I was skinny, I wouldn’t feel this way” would go through my brain and make me feel even more hopeless. Then people would tell me to lose weight and it will cure my psoriatic arthritis and Fibromyalgia. It’s a bunch of bologna. Losing weight does help reduce my pain especially in my low back but I had these issues before I got my 8hr a day sitting in an office body. I still had flare ups, depression, and anxiety. So what gives? I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. So why worry and grow gray hair.

I have struggled with my weight and perception there of for my whole life. My mother whom I love is just as flawed as I am and tried to maintain a svelte body when she was younger but to no avail our genes kicked in and well you can figure out the rest of the story. She would hit the gym regularly when I was young and meanwhile I’d hang out at the juicing bar drinking an awesome fruit smoothie. She would tell me, and yes this is so bad, that if I gained weight I wouldn’t be able to get a man and that I better be careful because you don’t want to get fat. What a rotten thing to say to a young impressionable child. I’ve spent my whole life thinking I had to be thin to be loved and valued by a man, for that matter by anyone since being fat was practically considered a sin. Growing up was difficult too since my body shape was considered voluptuous I would get mean looks from girls and drool from the boys. My perception of how I should look and feel was definitely crumbling. By the time I was in high school I thought the relationships I had with boys was how I was to receive love. It made sense to me then, I mean why not? If what my mom said was true then a skinny figure and sex was the way to go. NOT! We live and learn and learn I  did, the hard way. When I was 15 1/2 I met and hooked up with my ex-husband, he was 30 years old. It did not go very well.

Jumping ahead lots of agonizing years I finally left him. I had three great kids during that marriage and even though it was a tumultuous relationship, I still learned plenty of life lessons. One of them being that the reason he cheated on me was because he thought I was too fat. Oh my! I am larger now than I was then, what would he think now? Who cares, not me. You see learning to become me and learn myself has been one of the hardest things in my life.

I was once in a Wal-Mart with a friend and his teenage daughter, we were shopping for jeans when I had an internal meltdown because the size of my pants had gone up by one size. His daughter told me that it was OK because I am who I am and this is my body for right now and just buy the pants that I need to wear. The size didn’t matter because she saw me for my heart and person not my weight. She is such a smart little lady.

Her concept is exactly what I have finally taken to heart with the help of my understanding husband. Through many scary moments with him, fearing rejection or criticisms, he has helped me past this negative part I’ve lived with my whole life. He loves me for me and not my body shape. There is more to love than sex and skinny figures. So many people throughout my life have given me positive feedback and tools to help my self-image but it is only when the person truly takes hold and keeps it close to their heart that they are ready to take the leap and love them self.

Needless to say my figure does affect my health but not in the way one would think. I need to lose weight because I know my cardio health will be better and I will be better able to enjoy more outside activities for a longer time frame than I do now. But as I work daily to make better food choices and exercise according to what my body can handle I know that these efforts are for me and no one else.  I choose to make healthier choices because I want to be around longer and be there for my kids. Does this mean I will weigh 105 and wear clothes like my daughter, no way! I will never be 21 again unless we find a time machine to take me back, but even then I would not go back because I like who I am and the woman I’ve become. I have learned that my worth is not tied to a number and that being loved is possible without giving my soul away. I guess what I am trying to say is don’t be a number, be a person with a heart and soul. We all struggle but you’re not alone and you can do anything you want to with a little self-discipline. You are a beautiful creature and unique to yourself.

Happy Days Ahead.

Spring time is here in the Willamette valley and it is beautiful. Flowers bursting forth bring with them a variety of colors. Trees opening their leaves to fill in the empty branches from winter. Birds are chirping and geese are having their babies. Oh my it is such a joy to see so much life flourishing around me. This time of year is probably my favorite. Being outdoors with my toes in the dirt makes me so happy that all negativity gets washed away with the warm sun and beauty all around. My last post was depressing but it was also a true reality. So what can I do to help with such thoughts? I spend time outdoors digging garden beds in the soil. Making new places for plants to thrive and fairies to visit.

Finding joy in any activity can help relieve some of the pain or sadness associated with mental or physical disorders. I’m not saying gardening is a cure all but for me the activity gives me something back in return. This gift comes as a feeling of contentment in my surroundings, peacefulness in my soul, even if temporary, just a basic  enjoyment of life. Sometimes when my body is hurting so bad and I feel like pulling one more weed is going to kill me, I just lay back on the grass and look up at the super tall pines swaying gently in the wind letting my mind wander off to some nice daydream. Then back to gardening again when the pain subsides. These are the little things are what get me through.

As I mentioned before, stopping to smell the roses really is good for you, at least it is for me. When I am feeling down or hurting I look to nature as a way to distract myself. My in laws have such a beautiful piece of property that each chance I get, I go visit for a chance to see them but also a quick little get away to their deck over looking the Santiam river running by. The sound of the water as background noise drowns out all the noise in my head so I can just relax and watch the Osprey catch it’s fish and chow down or enjoy what we now call the duck races. Up and down the river they go, wash, rinse, and repeat. They never seem to get bored going back and forth all day long. Relaxing or finding new ways to relax is super important for me. Stress and tension carry a lot of anxiety causing more pain and sleepless nights than I care to admit. Since I live in a townhouse without a yard I have to get creative. The picture shows my little garden on my walkway and front porch. Even this little bit of nature make me happy.

I always look forward to spring and early summer. The best time of the year to commune with nature or to be still taking it all in. Take one day at a time knowing that if today isn’t a good day tomorrow will be here sooner than you think and we get a whole new 24hours to start all over again offering the chance to make the best choices possible as they come. Look to the light, it always outshines the darkness. Go plant some happiness.

Peace and Quiet, Maybe.

I just had a birthday and was able to take a few days off from work to cruise over to the Oregon coast. Sounds like an amazing time to spend with my husband and just enjoy the sun, waves, and agate hunting. However, as much as I enjoyed the trip I also found myself hurting quite a bit and feeling a little low. My limitations are beginning to really show with the Fibro and it really is a drain.

Watching the waves roll in one by one each with such force and awe truly had my mind engrossed. I sat and stared for such a long time not sharing any words with my husband, just sat in silence. The ocean in all its beauty and majesty seems so peaceful yet I know that it is only a facade for underneath is a raging force ready to swallow anything in its way. In this moment I sat thinking how wonderful it would be to walk right in and let the waves crash down and sweep me away to my watery grave. Then I thought it wouldn’t work because of the natural instinct to survive. We all have it and when faced with imminent death humans tend to panic trying to stay alive. The peace death offers looks so enticing. I shared my thoughts with my husband who never over reacts to anything and he just nodded, listening intently to my words. I told him it’s not that I want to die but these thoughts still continue to enter my mind. It’s like the day I was driving home from work and saw the forest and wanted to go lay down among the trees to never return. I feel as if I’m a freak whose brain always runs to death for peace and quiet. Why can’t I imagine a moment where there is peace and quiet without associating that with death. It’s not death I want, it is life.  I owe that statement to my ‘fake’ mom. She knows who she is and her wise words rang true. She said it’s not that I want death but peace while I enjoy life. The ability to enjoy activities again without pain, wouldn’t that be Fantastic!

So I’m not losing my mind, thankfully, but needed redirection to understand what it is I really want. This makes me want to cry right now because my whole life I’ve dealt with suicidal thoughts and would sink so low I felt like I’d never climb out of that hole. There was a time when I was in an abusive marriage and planned how I was going to cut my wrists and bleed out. Figuring on a mess to clean up once I was no more I planned to do it in the shower so all that was needed would be a simple cleaning and down the drain my life force would go. Obviously I did not do it, I’m still here, still searching for peace, but that was my goal then as well. Not death but peace from the torment of my exhusband and the physical and mental abuse he imposed on me and the kids daily. I reached out in that moment and called my ‘fake’ mom for I needed to talk right then. I was so close to doing it but she had me open my Bible to a passage in Psalms which spoke of being lifted out of the miry clay and given a firm place to stand. My heart lifted and something changed in that moment. I felt a relief and the burden of everyday life was lifted a little. I managed to go on.

Peace and quiet in my normal everyday life would be great but reality dictates otherwise. I know that life is a lot of hustle and bustle  and I struggle daily to find the joy in my regular activities being work or home life. I love my family and enjoy my work so I try to think “it could be worse”. I really have nothing to complain about because my needs have always been met and I am actually pretty content with my environment. We have never gone without, yet this dark sadness looking for peace is still a dark part of my soul. I share these things because there are so many of us out there wanting peace and quiet but don’t know where or how to find it. All I can say to that is my Silver Lining is knowing that each day is a journey and I try to remain positive seeing the good all around me. Whether that is the gorgeous road I drive every day to work or seeing a bird fly by. I try to stop and really smell the roses. The picture above is of my Freya and even she stops her crazy doggy stuff to smell the flowers. I think we all should. I think also the peace is already in our soul we just have to remove the yucky stuff that keeps it hidden.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Several years ago I was part of a group  called CODA. I had a sponsor and she gave me an assignment to write a paper about love and what it has to do with anything and everything. I never wrote the essay because I could not understand that concept. I kept telling her I would do it and even attempted the project but never completed the paper. Now here I am, 8 years later ready to put on paper or in this case the internet, what love has to do with it.

Let’s define what It is. It could be you, It could be the way we interact with others, It could be just about anything in our lives, family, friends, pets, ourselves, the list goes on and on. I think for me It became realizing I am a person worthy of self-love as much as I love my family. Learning to enjoy and love myself has been a long journey through the dark, stained areas of my soul and finally getting to the good part.

So looking at myself right now I am far more heavier in weight than I have ever been in my life. What have I learned about this horrible reality? Well, for one, I have found over the last year that even though I am a wide-load the number on the scale does not define my character. I am who I am and this is me for now and only in this moment because each day brings new opportunities to make better decisions. I have learned to accept myself in all my faults knowing that my positive traits outweigh the not so good ones; the good ones are who I strive to be. Also, I know that I surely will find more negatives traits as I continue on this journey, its not the end of the world. I have learned allowance. Allowance to be happy and to be free of the never ending burden of crap I carry around. All that old baggage really doesn’t matter in this moment and it is very heavy so giving myself leeway to move more freely within my own thoughts and not feel like I have to carry the whole world on my shoulders, (thanks Atlas) is freeing. The crap will still be there tomorrow so why not enjoy the here and now. I’ve also learned I’m able to be loved by others, and that is OK. I don’t need to worry about whether I’m good enough or not because it really doesn’t make a difference. If someone loves me, then they love me fat or skinny, and all things in between.

I think learning to love oneself is so important to the healing process, especially since we go wherever we go. We can’t leave ourselves behind. We have to live with ourselves until death do I part,  and the yucky stuff in our past will always be there, challenging us in every way possible, but knowing that I am important and valuable is a great way to combat those demons inside our heads. As much as I would love to say being a loner is cool, and it can be for a short while, I don’t think humans were meant to be alone forever. So being important and valuable by finding your own self worth and being able to give that same feeling back to another person can be very fulfilling. I love my husband and kids but saw how damaging my self deprecating attitude was affecting the people I loved. I personally had to self-reflect to find new ways to better myself.

Love has everything to do with everything. Through self love and respect I can grow emotionally stronger to be better equipped to handle some of the smaller crisis’ in life. Some of the tools I use to grow is self-reflection, mindful meditation, logic, exercise, time to myself, music, art, and the list goes on and on. Self-respect and self-love comes in many different forms and there is no one right way to find it. Whatever helps you and moves you forward is good enough.

Most things seem to either start with self or eventually have me finding my way back to self. What I mean is that when I’m facing an external issue I end up looking inward to see how I played a part in the issue and try to correct my behavior rather than focus on the other persons contribution. If I take each moment as they come, and try to do better the next time around, then I feel like I’ve succeeded; even if it doesn’t seem like it in the big overall picture, that doesn’t matter, small steps collected together make miles. I feel like sometimes I only learn in hindsight. What does this have to do with love? Well, I think, everything. To love another person you must love yourself first. When conflict arises love still exists but emotions can run rampant causing bad things to be said or acted on. So by learning to love myself I can become a better person for me, my kids, husband, friends, whoever by choosing to act in love and not anger or blame. There is nothing to dwell on and make me depressed or anxious when these short lived events happen. I think this sounds like I am acting in purely selfish motives but I’m not. I’m trying to love me and allow myself and others the freedom to make mistakes and get back to regular life quicker than usual.

Everyone has some kind of issue they are dealing with and learning to love myself has given me a better insight to others. I am glad that I can share my stories with others, especially since I can see the struggle. I could say a lot of really cool affirmations but they make no difference until you one day in your own experience feel the love for yourself. Then those little quotes and stuff will actually have meaning to you. Your journey to love yourself and others is inside you regardless of what baggage you carry around. Every heart has the ability to love, but the question is will you allow it to be loved?

 

 

High Anxiety

Mel Brooks is one of my favorite movie directors and if he could see my life it would be portrayed on screen as a comedy. However, anxiety is not a comedy and has been more like a curse, like a demon I have to battle everyday. Whether it is the panic attacks or my mind spinning out of control I have had to find ways to cope with the unending anxiety. Firstly, if you have the ability to see a doctor and get help, please do so. I have found relief in some of the medication I take but that is not the whole picture. Being diagnosed with anxiety and PTSD sucks. It is a daily struggle, some days are better than others, but with self management techniques you to can survive this. I used to think I was a freak when talking about my personal experiences with anxiety and felt like I was very alone in this…unless you have it, anxiety can be hard to relate to.

I was watching a T.V. show with my husband a couple of weeks ago when a lady came on who I automatically judged to be a military barbie doll but was quickly corrected when I heard her story. She had been in the military for eight long years and she was on this show to combat her own anxiety and PTSD. This caught my interest since I could relate. I watched her as she suffered through the reality show just to tap out before she could complete the competition but what really hit home was her actions during the time she was suffering and the fact that  she was strong enough to recognize the issue and get help. The camera filmed her hyper-vigilance to sounds, her constant jumpiness, brain spinning out of control, not be able to give positive self talk, and her insomnia. Her demons were showing. In that moment I felt like a jerk for stereotyping her but even more I felt bad because she was just like me. Her thoughts and triggers are different than mine but the way her body and brain responded was textbook symptoms and that just blew my mind. I realized that my anxiety was not made up or “just in my head”. It is real.

I finally went and got some help when my flashbacks about my ex-husbands truck driving down the road approaching me from the opposite direction would send my heart racing, my hands shaking, my skin would flush, and I would get super jumpy and the fear would always be just under the surface waiting to explode like a volcano. That was all I could think about when those images would flash through my already hyperactive brain randomly without warning. It was horrible. I would tell myself he is over a 1000 miles away and I was safe, there was nothing he could do to hurt me. Still, I couldn’t handle it anymore, the depression was at an all time high, with the anxiety, PTSD, and just trying to handle all the new stressor’s in my life I was at my wits end. I reached out and found some counseling in addition to some medicine, it helped, but did not fix my problem.

I don’t think anything can really fix anxiety but I do believe certain things can subdue it and make it more manageable. I learned how to meditate,  probably not the correct way, but found if I focused on the sounds around me and not what was in my head it would help me relax. Listening to the birds chirp with my eyes closed and hearing the wind blow through the tall pine trees was actually very calming. I found that this was the beginning of how I started to learn to control my own mind. It is mine brain, I should control it, not it controlling me.

Music was another choice for me. It doesn’t matter what type you listen too as long as you love it and feel it. I personally am a huge rock fan and love all the older artist like Ozzy, Iron Maiden, ACDC, you get the picture. I found that certain songs reached my soul and when I felt anxious I would put in my ear buds and just rock out. It is a great way to decompress. One of my favorites is from Ozzy and it is called ‘Fire in the Sky’. If you get a chance, here is a link to youtube to listen to the words, it really hits home with me and my journey wading through the waters. Fire in the Sky

I have also learned to breathe, be ever conscious of my muscle tension and try to relax. Long strolls on the coast, looking for agates and ocean treasures really took my mind to a happy place that was restful. I started to feel like a normal person when I began to do these activities.

I will probably always have anxiety but with good coping skills and light medication I can manage my symptoms. Once in awhile when the paranoia kicks in and the craziness of my brain try’s to take over and I have to reflect upon what I’ve learned thus far and make that conscious attempt to help myself. It can be done but is a never ending challenge. Just when I think I have a handle on life, the universe throws me a curve ball and I have to adjust again. There really is a light at the end of the tunnel even if it is in small doses and don’t forget in this crazy world of hustle and bustle to stop, smell the roses, or in this case in Oregon, smell everything because springtime is here and with that comes new life, new hopes and dreams and everything in between.

Depression

Earlier I wrote about my present diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and I how it really bothered me to have an actual diagnosis because that made it more real for me. Even though I have had chronic pain for a long time and even assumed it was probably Fibromyalgia I did not have to acknowledge it and could self medicate to help me cope. That came in the form of either smoking cigs, drinking, or just over eating to get the good feeling. None of it worked. In fact I’m overweight, can’t drink at all now due to the medicine I take, and well, I quit smoking several years ago. So how do I get through it now? Unfortunately you probably won’t like my answer but I just perservere. I manage my pain through light exercise which really does help me and I take two prescriptions that I recently started that seem to be helping a lot. But man, did I get depressed when I had to accept this was my new reality. I felt my self slipping into despair and could feel the cold hand of Depression resting on my shoulder. I reached out to my doctor and told him I just want to walk into a forest and lay down to die. This scared me.

Knowing depression all to well I knew of I did not acknowledge how I felt I could easily go down that dark road again. What I mean by that is October 2015 I had finally met my low after a long remission. I went to a party where we were all drinking and being stupid, adults only of course. I drank until my heart could not feel anything and this sent me over the edge. We were at a beach house on the coast of Oregon, normally my favorite place, and late that night I staggered to the edge of the cliffs around midnight in a storm and sat down wondering which cliff I should throw myself off. Nothing mattered to me except how and where I wanted to die. I battled internally for a long time whether or not to fall over. But something deep in me kept saying this is not the right place, or time to do this. I wanted forested cliffs with rocks to ensure a quick death. Not the cliffs of that seaside town. As twisted as this sounds it was what got me up off the ground to walk back to the house and pass out.

The next day rolls around and I was still alive but feeling worse than ever. I could not come out of the room. I stayed in bed until past noon and everyone had taken off to the beach for some agate hunting. I was so ashamed, felt guilty, still wanted to die but would have settled for being a recluse in some dark cave far from there. I manage pull myself together and go out for the day by myself.

Im still here, this is a few days later, now a month has passed. Still very depressed, crying on the way to work everyday, and trying to give myself good selftalk. I was drowning. I finally reached out to my healthcare team and in uncontrollable tears called to get some help. I did get some counseling and decided to try an antidepressant. I knew I was at my  wits end and the madness in me needed to end or at least give me a slight reprieve. I agreed to Lexapro and therapy. About 9 months in on lexapro my world really changed.  I got my memories back from years gone by and it was like the flood gates opened and I was watching a movie of my life in my brain. I was estactic. I realized I was doing good. I hadn’t felt depressed in quite a while and even my husband had noticed huge behavioral changes in me. I knew then that the depression and anxiety I was feeling wasn’t ‘just in my head’. I had a real problem affected by chemical and environmental factors. I felt like I could handle this and move forward.

So why did I get depressed when I found out about Fibromyalgia? I now think in hindsight that my reaction was probably very normal and a certain amount of sadness in recognizing somewhat unpleasant is normal and that concept was my Silver Lining. This too shall pass. Knowing that I am normal with normal feelings and not a psycho crazy lady freaking out at the drop of a hat. Something so simple but so profound hit me in a different way than I ever expected. It’s ok to be sad, but what you do and how long one dwells on the sadness, I think determines how the situation will affect you. Enough said, I hope your day is bright and sunny knowing you are never alone in your battle and the strength to conquer anything resides within you.