Tag Archives: illness

Acknowledgement

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For those of you who have experienced the loss of someone close to you, you will understand what I am writing about.     It never goes away, at least not for me.

Fourteen years ago today my kid sister died at the young age of 38.   She had been diagnosed just ten months before with Ovarian Cancer.   I’m not sure what hurts the most.   The journey through it, where we did our best to comfort her and bring her to any treatment allowed, or the endless missing.  I think it’s the missing.

Fourteen years and I still cry when I acknowledge this.  But if I don’t, it makes its way through illness or pain, so it’s best to nod to the memory than deny it, at least for me.

At 37 she and her partner had just bought a house and had moved in just two weeks prior to the emergency surgery that was previously scheduled a week or two later.   I remember it all so well, and I’m trying hard to not go there today.  To just honor her, and tell you what a great person she was.

I can tell you that she worked very hard and knew how to play.  She had a boat, snowmobiles, a toy for every season.   She loved to fish, to play sports, and was a natural athlete.   She had an old soul, I think about this often, wondering if this played a part in her short life.  A natural observer, she was always warning me when to shut my big trap, or when I had gone past “obnoxious” she called it.   Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.  It’s one that I experience a lot when I think about her.

One would think that after fourteen years you wouldn’t on occasion say to yourself “I have to call her, and tell her this!”    It happens less each passing year, but it still happens.

She was my dads bud.  I mean that with every part of my being.  She loved hockey, she loved fishing and shared these things with our dad.   We all share memories of this with her.   It was rather comical last year when my father admitted one day “Okay, Darlene was my favorite”.   The three of us laughed until tears came out of our eyes.  “What?”  “I’m sorry” he said.   “Um dad, we have known this FOREVER!”    I think he really believed it would shock us.   NOT.   I was sitting beside her on her couch the day she learned she was not going to recovery from this, and she called dad to tell him.  “I’m sorry, dad, I’m so sorry”.

So it was on this day that my, our lives changed.  For years I described things as “happened before she died, or happened after she died”.   I didn’t mean to.  It was just a game changer.    My life changed.  I changed.

I remember asking my cousin Marie, who came down to sit with me just hours after I learned she had died “How am I supposed to stop loving her?”   “You never will, Donna” she said.   How did she know?    It was through my sisters death and living life without her that I learned, love doesn’t stop just because someone you love died.   Nor does life stop, as cruel and vulgar as it seems at the time.   “How can the birds still sing?  How can people laugh, how can anything go on when my life has just come to a screaching halt?”   But it does.  But I have learned something beautiful within all the sadness and that is that love doesn’t ever stop, for me it continued and miraculously grew and still does, all these years later.

So on this day, I acknowledge that hope changes.   At first you pray for a cure, you pray for treatment to work, and then when that stops working, you pray for strength and a new doctor, another treatment, and more.   That is until you realize the suffering is going on too long, and you start to pray for God to be merciful with her, with them.  Please, take her soon.   Yes, hope changes.

I miss you every day.  There hasn’t been a day in fourteen years you’ve been gone that I don’t think of you.  You are part of me, you always will be.    I can still close my eyes and see your face, the little tiny mole above your eyebrow, and see that beautiful smile that radiated wherever it was shown.

Time does teach us how to coexist with such loss, but it doesn’t heal the broken heart.  I think because even when you pray for an end to the pain, and there is relief when that happens, the missing?  It never stops.

 

(end note:  I wrote this and posted it on 4/8 but for some reason it’s showing the 9th which I find interesting, because I actually found out about it just minutes after midnight on the 9th)

 

 

There’s another storm a

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Dragged my butt out of bed this morning because my cat was persistent.  I was dizzy, my head felt separate from my body, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to even get down the stairs.

An unproductive day bothers me.  I feel the need to accomplish.   But carrying around severe clinical depression in a knapsack on my back, some days I have to give myself a break.  Sometimes getting out of bed is the one and only accomplishment I’ll get done.   I have friends, friends who understand the talons of this disease, and encourage me to do the basics.

So when I was able to make it to town to get milk and a few groceries (We are in between storms here in Vermont, and I should’ve shopped LAST week!), I was thrilled with myself.  Managed to get the garbage out, and then took a three hour nap.  Cold medicine helped me lift my head from my favorite couch pillow, and I felt well enough to paint.   Happy!

The market where I went to get milk, bread, basics, there was a woman my age who was working.  She was friendly, pretty.   We spoke briefly on the impending storm, and she mentioned she had to shovel her drive and walkways.   I comically shared with her that Winter, three-four years ago I had a plow bill of about $450, and I figured I’d have to sleep with my plower to get the bill paid off.   She did a huge belly roll, surprised that I said that.  “I have no one to plow, my husband died in July”.   “I’m sorry, I said”.

Normally here, I would offer a brief  pause in my day to listen, if she wanted to share.  I wasn’t feeling well enough to stand there much longer, so I wished her a good day and drove my ass home.     All the way home I was thinking about her.  Man, she’s still green with her loss, that is a hard hard trek.   But she was working, was very friendly, KIND, and I said a prayer for her.   So many friends are experiencing loss right now, or serious serious illnesses, life threatening.   It’s hard here in New England in Winter.  I can go all winter without seeing my next door neighbors.  It’s just the way Winter is.

As I was painting tonight, (working on farm animals, not my forte, but I want to get good at painting them!), I thought again about her friendliness, her kindness, and somehow, some way, I will do something kind for her without her knowing it.   She so deserves that.  Facing such pain and changes in life, for her to be MORE than civil, is, in my book, awesome.

Now I’m going to go finish this Rooster, and then head to bed.   I’m finding that I don’t want to go to bed.  I love my bed, I truly do, and my bedroom is pretty.  But I’m finding it harder and harder to get up.   Need to boost up my D3 intake, and get outside, in fresh air, no matter the weather.   But today?  Today I think I did very good, given how crappy I was feeling.

Kindness is so contagious, and in her circumstances I dare say “courageous”.

 

Abandoned faith

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I deleted the past three blogs I’ve written, one in which sharing (with what many would say ‘inappropriate’ vocabulary) about the latest cancer diagnosis in my family.  I was angry.  I mean, ANGRY.   So now I want to share with you what I experienced IN my anger.

I pray 10-20 times a day.  First thing every morning when I wake up, I praise, give thanks for another day.  Throughout each day, I pray for guidance, for strength, I rarely if ever make a decision without praying on it first.  And then I pray for those who ask for prayers, who are in need, and I end each night the same way I start my days, giving thanks for this day, for food, clothing, shelter, family, friends….   This has been how I’ve lived my life for the past decade or so.    It is how I have walked through the difficulties, the sadness, the challenges of life.

I’ve been angry at God before, I think if we are all to be angry, who hasn’t?  This most recent bout I wasn’t fit to be around others, at least that is how I felt.   I stopped praying, talking, why bother I thought?   It’s not going to change “what is”.      So for a couple of weeks when I would wake up, when I started to pray I stopped myself, and on some days even offered some colorful words to a God that has allowed so much loss in my life.   I would catch myself throughout the day when I would pray for guidance, what for?   Obviously he  isn’t ‘listening’.

It was a very long couple of weeks.   Frankly, it sucked.    I cancelled plans, (which if you were scheduled to see me then, I probably did you a huge favor, given my mood).     I was miserable.  Nothing was going right, things seemed to be spiraling out of control, and then one night I realized something that changed my outlook.

Why was I punishing myself?  Why had I turned on the one constant in my life?  What good was coming from my tantrums?  If anything, I felt so alone.    I have been single for over a decade.  I don’t mind it.  I really don’t.   I keep busy, I have good people in my life.  But when I was mad at God and not talking to him?  I felt more alone than I’ve ever in my life.

I know I’m not alone in my struggles, challenges.  I know I’m not the first and won’t be the last to turn their shoulder to their higher power in anger.     So I started to talk to him again.   On my hands and knees, I once again surrendered to HIS will (and surely included my dislike for such), and things, as they always do, immediately started to improve for me.

Circumstances, illnesses haven’t changed, and in some ways, things have gotten a bit worse, but my attitude has changed.  I am living once again in hope, in faith.

I find myself wondering why, when the going gets tough, I abandoned my faith, as that’s when I needed it the most.

I still don’t like the circumstances, and I don’t know HOW things will be alright.  But in opening my arms and prayers again to God, I know I will be given what I need.  Maybe not what I want, but what I need.    The weight of oneness, extraditing myself from my faith was far too much for me to carry.  I don’t have to do this alone, so why was I choosing it?  If I love myself the way I love others, I would never ever suggest to them that they “go it alone”, so why would I want this for myself?

Oh, ego’s, self will, how easy it is to get caught up in this, and in pain, disappointment.    I’m very grateful for recognizing this, and for once again knowing I’m not doing this alone.

 

 

Sensitivity, mental illness AND being right brained

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I read a LOT of self help books.     My mother said to me one day last year “I think it’s great that you want to improve upon yourself, but Donna, what about fun?    Well, I read art books, that counts for fun.  And I read articles online, a lot about cancer, guess that isn’t too fun…    But this comment of hers “came back” in my head this past week.

Thinking about sensitivity.   I have always been very sensitive.   Cry easily (ask my siblings, growing up with me, my parents didn’t know what to do with me and my emotions, so to eliminate stress for all, they would omit sharing things with me!   Now, this works, to an extent, but not all that great after that.   I found myself in my 30s and 40s before I started to really learn how to sit with stuff, how to deal with things that otherwise “hurt”.    Hey, they did their best, no blame there, just thinking about what it would be like to NOT be so sensitive?

I remember sitting in a 12 step meeting, an addict was struggling.  He shared how his newly found sobriety was good, but it was also overwhelming.  He realized booze helped numb him from his “oversensitivity” (also labeled that as a child).    He was an artist, and part of who he was was this beautiful sensitive soul, and he didn’t want to lose that.  But he was going bat shit trying to figure out how to cope with life on a daily basis without a numbing agent.    I sat there, shaking my head with understanding.  I thought EVERYONE cried at the end of Casper?!?   And a whole lot of other things.

Where is the balance?   I don’t know.   The older I get, the easier it becomes to screen or throw stuff out that I just don’t want to cope with.  I’m not talking about responsibilities, but others drama and things that frankly, bring me discomfort or discontent.   I have heard, numerous times, that most mental illness (including addiction) comes with an undiagnosed dual diagnosis.   I think about this, and I have many many friends who have been treated for one, and who still struggle.   It was like being diagnosed with ADHD just two years ago at 51.  Holy crap!    Medication made my life SO MUCH BETTER.  I was the first to judge another if they put their children on ADD or ADHD meds.  Now?  I encourage.  If this gives their child an opportunity to function better (and it will if they are truly ADD/ADHD), their life will be improved upon so much.  Mine has.

Most people my age are only diagnosed because their children were, first.     The things that I once thought were “normal” and that everyone shared, and now I realize, a big part of my self esteem and confidence being lower than it should.   Because I felt stupid, or lazy, sometimes crazy.   I have always known I’ve been wired different from others, but I always attached a negative connotation (just listed above) to it.   The truth is, I’m not stupid, nor lazy, nor crazy.   I’m not!  I struggle with mental illness and this isn’t fun.   But I’m not insane.

Most important thing for me to do has been and will be to learn how to cope….     I believe I have good self awareness, and I strive, I really do, to be a good person, do the right thing, one day at a time.    I’m not special in my struggles, I’m far from alone.   But you know what is worse?     It HAS to be having an undiagnosed, untreated mental illness.  And the stigma that is attached and has been to mental illness sadly keeps many lives struggling, with little quality.

I recently went off five medications after I was discharged from my outpatient therapy because I had missed too much time.  Another blog.   I weaned myself off, and started to pay attention to my body.   I believe I was overmedicated.   Now, I am starting to “feel” again, and my hands do not shake anywhere near what they did, which is part of why I stopped painting, teaching.   I’m doing well.   I’m focusing on the physical problems that need attention, and keeping a close check on my depression with close friends, through blogging, and a lot of prayer.

I want a quality life.   I want to feel peace, happiness.   I want to feel grief without losing myself to it, or several years of my life.   This means I have to learn to coping skills, and I have and am.     I need to accept that part of being me is being sensitive and to accept myself for who I am, and may very well always be.    I remind myself that God doesn’t make junk, and that I was designed to be perfectly imperfect.   We all were.

Today I’ve had a nice day, a peaceful day, a productive day.    I’m very grateful for this.   I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here.     Just want to say one more thing.  If you have never been diagnosed or treated for mental illness, educate yourself.  Read articles, peoples blogs, etc.   Only a very small percentage are really insane.  Most of us struggling with learning disabilities and mental illness are just trying to find our way out of the chaos that can ruminate in our heads.    I share on my experiences to help others know, they are far from alone.  I know it helps me to know this, too.

Happy Mental Health!

Spring… I’m jumping on springs!

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It has been a very busy week for me, but a good week.   I have been “good tired” from all.  It’s a wonderful tired, unlike that of depression, pain.    I have been feeling so well I don’t want to change anything, or “rock the boat”.   Now past the fear of “losing it”, I am very much enjoying it.  It seems like a lifetime since I have felt this good.

A conglomeration of a perfected drug regime, two years of therapy, twice, sometimes 3 times a week, monthly appointments with my psychiatrist, what seemed to be a pouring of pain from my soul was and is met with compassion, suggestions, coping skills.   I am humbled, I am grateful for both my therapist and psychiatrist.  I am grateful for my desire and commitment to taking care of myself and learning, at the age of 52, how to love myself.    I’m not fooling myself into thinking this is “happily ever after”… I know better.  There will be times ahead where I will need to delve deep into all that I have and am learning, but today, right now, my life is exempt from further loss, pain of such, or depression.  Hallelujah!

I participated in a festival of arts in Massachusetts this past weekend.  It was the first time in years that I set up a booth with my artwork.   Having passed the torch and props to neighbors and friends who have started a new business, and who were so generously willing to lend me some of their antiques and displays to have the booth, I went well prepared.   At first I was a bit nervous, as I unpacked my wares, but in no time I got into it and enjoyed the process.  Every travel teaching gig, every show, no matter how well organized and prepared I am, I inevitably forget something.  This trip?  I forgot what I selling!  My packets!    It worked out fine.  I did not dwell, in fact, was able to laugh at the ridiculousness of it.

I spent a day and two nights with my girlfriend from Newfoundland, Canada whose normally 9 hour ferry trip turned into 3 days and 3 nights, they were “stuck on ice”.   As she was sharing the story I just kept shaking my head and laughing… only Anna Marie…only Anna Marie would experience something like this!  Well, that and the 799 other passengers whose plans were largely squelched in ice.

It was so nice to connect with others again.   Heck it was nice to SEE others again.  What seemed to be a very long endless winter, thus isolation from even neighbors, shelter from the storms, has ended.   Hope, new birth, warm temperatures and sunshine have returned.   It was evident on the faces of all who attended.   Winter’s in New England are not easy, and we survived another!   It was enjoyable sharing about art, life with friends and students of past, and some, the future.   It was also wonderful to hear compliments on my artwork, and feeling sincere concern from many who inquired as to how I was feeling, understanding the depth of darkness I have crawled out of.   It was nice seeing sincere happiness from others that I am doing so well.    Grateful…I am grateful. 

With my house once again turned upside down with what remains of my booth, I am sitting, looking at it with admiration.  I did it!   I did it!  I really did it!

As the train is passing by, only resting from whistling once every 6 seconds, I am very much aware of my surroundings, I am very much aware of how fortunate I am to have woken up this morning, to a new day…granted another day.

My psychiatrist told me that I get into trouble because I stop doing what I need to do to stay well.  Not intentional, not even consciously.   I have been vigilant of late in continuing and committing to doing things to help myself.  Grateful…I am grateful.

Grateful…I am grateful.