Saturday, March 28, 2015

Say Cheese!

June marks the tenth anniversary of when I first became sick. Ten years since life as I knew it ceased to exist. Ten years of more devastation, loss, and anguish than I thought one lifetime could possibly possess. During the last ten years, I've reached some severe lows. Like many people who live in chronic pain, eventually my appearance became the last thing in the world I cared about. I hurt too much to give a rats woo-ha how meth-addicted my long, dark roots looked against my bleached-blonde hair. When my chronic fatigue syndrome/ME was so bad I had to choose between taking a shower and emptying the dishwasher, the dishwasher usually won. Between the weight gain and medication-induced apathy, panic and fear over my crumbling ability to care for myself, and that faithful friend called depression to accompany all of this misery, I let myself go.

I didn't just let myself go. I wouldn't shower for days. I'd greet both the sun and the moon wearing the same sweatpants, again and again and again. Makeup became something I put on for work because, after all, I was a makeup artist and kinda had to. After my strokes and post-Prednisone weight explosion, I fit into exactly one pair of pants. I wasn't working anymore, had no friends, no money to buy new clothes, and never went anywhere with my frizzled-out brain anyway, so I stopped caring about what I looked like. I shunned both the mirror and camera with equal vigor and retreated into hermit-ville to write my book. 

Eventually I found my way back from the dark abyss of chronic illness sucking up my entire existence. It wasn't until I started juicing that I began caring about how I looked again. Not spending most of my days in a horrible flare left me with enough frivolity in my life to want to look better. I dug out my cases of makeup and tried to remember how to put it on. I forced myself to shower every day until I started to feel nasty when I didn't. My shoulder didn't hurt so bad anymore, so I started straightening my hair. Except I still wasn't working. It seemed completely absurd to go to all the effort, only to sit on my sofa by myself and write my book.

Enter Instagram. My profile is selfie-obsessed on purpose. After so many years of self-neglect, I had to get comfortable with the woman I saw in the mirror again. So I forced myself to take my own picture every flippin' day and publish it on the world wide web. Ahhhhh! It was so awkward at first! I felt like an idiot. A self-obsessed, conceited, superficial ninny. Eventually I got over my self-consciousness, remembered I was doing it for a reason, and started having fun. Today caring about my appearance has become about so much more than my vanity. It's yet one more thing sickness stole from me, that I fought my ass off to win back.

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#fibromyalgia #chronicillness #chronicpain #sickness #vanity #selfie #appearance       

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Anger Inside

I accidentally put sunscreen so close under my eyes that my eyelashes picked it up and deposited it in my eyeballs. So I proceeded to squint and blink my way through stinging, blurry vision for most of the morning until I finally started going so crazy I doused my eyes in water. But it was too late. By the time sat down to start writing I was already pissed off and fidgety and distracted. The kernel of anger sitting inside my stomach started pushing anxiety into my limbs. I started obsessing on everything I need to get done, which is a lot. Then I got mad over how late in the day it was and how little I'd already accomplished. This led me to fixate on how many things are wrong with my life, which is ginormous. Next, the bucking panic over the fact that this shattered, shambled semblance of reality is actually my earthly existence started to take over.

It's my daily fork in the road. Or at least every other day, so it seems. I've found if I squash my perception of what's real and intently focus on doing something to improve my circumstances, like writing my book or juicing, I can actually kinda skip over the complete freak-out threatening to suck me down. By now I know the physical symptoms of the flare will come tomorrow. And in a few days I'll once again look out the window of my life to see blue skies and rainbows. Hopefully I can get a few days in before the viscous cycle starts all over again. 

Except if I indulge that anger. That anger is so huge, so all-consuming, so tremendous that if I give it one second of credence it's all I can see, do or feel for days on end. I become so self-destructive to my own life it's actually not an indulgence I'm allowed any longer. I've had two bad flares the last two weeks. After a few months of doing pretty well I have to ask myself what's going on? That's when it hit me. I've been indulging my anger. Accepting that this is indeed my life, and getting to the point where I can ride out this cycle without reacting, is one of the hardest things I've ever done. It's also the only way I've moved my life forward. So I'm taking a deep breath, rejoicing that it's 2 PM, not 4 PM, and focusing all my attention on something that improves my circumstances. After four years, it's high time I finished this book. 

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#fibromyalgia #fibro #chronicillness #chronicpain #anger #coping