Tuesday, November 19, 2013

treading water

You know that feeling in a swimming pool when you think you've reached a point where you're at a depth where you should be able to reach the bottom so you stretch your feet down, and then all of a sudden you can't find the bottom, and your chin dips under the water, the bottom isn't where you thought it was at all, and all of a sudden there's that moment of panic, disorientation, almost of falling, sinking? For a moment you keep going down, how far down it is to reach the bottom? You don't remember the water being this deep. And you can't find it. You bob back up to the top, gasping for breath, looking for air. Are you where you thought you were? Everything looks the same. But everything underneath your feet has somehow changed.  You look around you and everyone seems to have not had any trouble navigating this new depth. Did they grow somehow over time and you missed it? Are they all taller and breathing easily over these inches of water that are suddenly over your head? They glide easily through the water where you are left treading water.

I feel like I am perpetually stuck in a moment like that. That feeling of losing your footing and not being able to find the bottom of the pool. The water feeling too deep somehow.

And yes, I see it. I know how to swim. Of course I can do this. I can get through this. But it takes so much more out of me to tread water and swim everywhere, when I used to be able to walk easily through these depths. And sometimes, I can hold my breath and pretend to be the same as I used to be. I carry rocks in my pockets and walk along on the same ground as everyone else, underwater, and I try to smile. But I can't for long. I have to come back up to the surface to catch my breath and stop and tread water again, while you go on ahead without me. Or I bob up and down, in a crazy lopsided way, grabbing my breath and coming in and out of the water, and you will wonder what in the world I'm trying to do, but I'm just trying to stay doing what I remember I used to do. It's not at all how I remember doing things. I don't remember everything shifting below my feet like this. I don't remember how everything looked so much easier to everyone else. Did I really used to glide so easily like that too? Just doing things? Was it really ever easy? I might have always been somewhere on that edge, slipping and sputtering with water at my chin.

This is what it's like living with chronic pain. Some days are harder than I ever think possible, in ways I never expect and I never feel like anyone truly understands. I feel like the ground under my feet is constantly being pulled out from under me and I can barely tread water and keep going on the bare basics.  I don't know if anyone, even Zac, can ever really grasp how overwhelming it all can become in some moments. Pain and depression coupled together are nasty nasty unrelenting beasts.  They are like underwater serpents grabbing my feet and trying to pull me under. This water is perilous. There are too many ways to go with this metaphor. Let me just suffice by saying please help me along the way, if you see me struggling to stay afloat.  There are monsters swarming beneath my legs, and I cannot reach the bottom, even though it seems like I'm tall enough that I should. And sometimes I've been treading water for far longer than you may realize and my arms may just be at the end of how long they can hold out and burning and screaming for rest. Please be patient with me and I will try to do the same for you. Forgive me when I am tired and overwhelmed. There are no excuses for poor behavior ever. But maybe understanding can be a salve for hurt sometimes. That's all I ask.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Things You May Not Know About Me (Bonus Edition)

If you've been on Facebook lately, you've seen the thing going around where someone gives you a number and you post that many things about yourself that not everyone may know about you. But not all of you may be friends with me on facebook and some of you stalwarts may not even be on facebook at all.  I know. 

 So, I am reposting the 8 random things that people may or may not know about me. And then, as a BONUS for those of you that already saw this on my facebook page, I am going to give you some extra stories that you may not have already heard!! So keep reading, you won't regret it!

  Alright I was given the #8 so - 8 things people may not know about me. I've made a lot of new pain buddies and many people who have only known me since all of that started so there are some things that people may not know about me before all that started such as: 

1. Right as my pain was starting I was training for and completed my first and only sprint triathlon. I miss really exercising. 
2. I read approx 100 books a year on average and I will read books about just about anything.
3. I've written in over 50 journals.
4. I birthed 3 of my 4 children naturally and breastfed for a total of ... approx 6 1/2 yrs - lol.
5. I never figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was interested in too many disparate things. This still really bothers me. I'm a stay at home mom, which is what I really wanted. And now I am mostly bedridden with pain anyhow. But if I wasn't those things, what would I be? I don't know.
6. I consider myself a half expert in ultra marathon running since my better half is an ultra runner. It's a funny thing being a spouse of a crazy person like that. 
7. I play the violin but it's another thing that is aggravated by the facial pain. I haven't really been able to play.
8. One thing I love that not many people know is bread making. In another life I think I'd like to live in Germany and own a bakery. Yummm.

One thing I learned when my older sister did this on her facebook is that when she and I were quite little (I was 1 or 2, and she was 4 or 5), my parents apparently picked up a hitchhiker and had him sit in the backseat with us. He proceeded to threaten my sister and I with a knife to rob my parents or something. My sister remembers this happening to her. I obviously do not - but I'm still kind of disturbed to learn about it.

Another thing that happened to us when we were very little is that my mom was traveling alone with us by train to visit relatives once and when the train was crossing a bridge over a river it crashed and tipped over and everyone had to walk along the windows to evacuate. I was a baby and so my mom was carrying me. My sister was 3 yrs old and my mom was holding her by the hand. This was in the middle of the night, so it was dark and she could only hear the river rushing below them. I imagine this must have been terrifying.

One thing that I do remember happening when I was little was when we had a copperhead snake on our back patio. This must have been in the somewhat early 80's. Our neighborhood had it's own police force so my mom called the police and the officer came to our house and blew the snakes head off with a rifle. I'm not exactly sure why this was the best course of action, but it saved the day!

We had a lot of snakes around our semi-rural neighborhood when I was little. I remember a time when I was riding my tricycle around my driveway, I must have been around 3 or 4, and I came around to the front of the house to our sidewalk and there was a huge black snake in the middle of the sidewalk and it reared it's head up at me. I have no idea what kind of snake it was but I was absolutely terrified and I just jumped off my tricycle and ran away.

It seems that we also somehow had snakes that got into our basement somehow. I don't know how it happened. Mom? Dad? Someone might be able to tell me how we got snakes into the basement. It might have had something to do with flooding. I'm not sure. But then I developed quite an irrational fear of having snakes in the basement. I had nightmares about it for years.  In fact, it's entirely possible that this didn't really happen and it was all just dreams but I really hope that's not the case because that would be really freaky.  I really think it did happen once and that's what started the nightmares.  And my new neurologist is also a sleep specialist and he asked me a lot of questions about my sleep and dreams history and he says that it's really not normal to become confused between what is real and what you have dreamt. So. Yeah.

I also had fears of seeing Giants looking at me through our second story windows. No idea why.  And tornadoes.  I had a huge paranoia of tornadoes. I had heard that they sound like trains so I would lay in my bed at night, listening to the wind and straining to hear if it sounded like a train approaching, my heart pounding.  I also slept on the top bunk of a bunk bed and I was so afraid of a tornado coming, I would move to the floor to sleep, because I thought that if our roof blew off I'd surely be the first to go with it and I didn't want to get blown away by myself.  This was when I was about 9 years old. I know this kind of fear is developmental as children learn about the world and become afraid of all the bad things that can happen but I'm not sure if all kids are as afraid as I was or for as long as I was. I don't really know.

Anyway - so hmm there's an interesting collection of stories about me that you may not have already known. Some interesting little traumas I don't even remember which reminded me of some little weird memories and some of my early fears. What were you afraid of as a child? Do you think my fears were unusual?  Do you have things you dreamt that you can't remember if it really happened or not? Do you think early traumatic experiences that you can't even remember can still affect you? 
Anything else you feel like commenting?  Please do.:)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Paralyzed by Choice

There is an oft quoted sentiment that if we put all of our trials and troubles in a pile and saw what everyone was else was truly going through, we would very quickly retrieve our own back for ourselves rather than trade with anyone else. I can't say that with any certainty. But I do know that I am forever grateful that I am not the one in charge of choosing for myself which trials and tribulations I will go through in this life. I know for certain we will each have our fair share. None of us is spared some measure of sorrow and hard times, of some degree. I don't know how it all works.

I'm sure all of us have thought through that scenario at some point of whether we would rather be deaf or blind. That thought alone has often panicked me. Which would I choose if I had to? To give up music, soaring notes, melodies, harmonies, rhythm, that calming influence, the rousing beats, dancing.... so much of me is in music. So much joy, so much expression, catharsis. To hear people's voices, laughter, rustling woods, water, nature. Would that be my choice?

Or would I give up sight? To be able to look into someones eyes? To see the smiles on my children's faces. The colors of autumn. Sunsets. Trees. Light. I take so many pictures now, I see so many things that I never would have seen before, never would have noticed. Would I be able to give that up? Would I be able to live in a world of darkness?

I don't know.

And now, I have constant pain. And I will admit that it is hard not to compare my struggles sometimes with others' and wonder sometimes, would I rather have theirs than my own? Which would be easier to deal with? I am ashamed sometimes of my thoughts. I am ashamed to admit to them.

 But sometimes I think I would rather have a terminal disease, because then I think at least, at least their pain and suffering will come to an end. Yes, it is horrible and terrible and awful, but at least they and their loved ones know it will soon come to an end. And yet I know they would yearn to trade with me to be able to live another day.

And I think, oh how I would rather have this pain be anywhere, anywhere besides in my head and my face because I just can't think. The face is just so sensitive and when your head hurts, it's just so hard to do anything at all. You can't do ANYTHING without involving your head and thinking. But, I know that's not fair. Because everyone with pain is suffering. And I become insufferable when I think like this.

And sometimes I think I'd rather just be paralyzed and not have pain, then be in pain and be able to move. Because if I were paralyzed and have no pain, at least I could think clearly and be able to use my mind and do something of worth. I could put my mind to good use and be a functioning, serving and contributing member of this world, instead of a writhing whimpering thing in constant pain in bed that everyone has to avoid almost 24 hrs a day.  Instead of not being able to do anything.  And yet I know they would trade just about anything to be able to move and not be imprisoned in their own bodies.

I don't know.

But you see, I don't make the choices. I didn't choose this. They don't choose their trials. It must be better that way. I think if we looked at the whole pile of everything that everyone is suffering we might be paralyzed by all the choices sometimes. We might be tempted by some of them, like how can I possible know how it would feel to me to be deaf or blind? Which will be better for me? Which would I really rather be? Which would I be able to endure?  And when I am in the middle of it, how will I possibly be able to bear the weight of it? To say to myself, this isn't what I wanted, I want the other one back now.  But no. There is no choice.

So I am glad I am not the one making those choices. My choice is how to get through this. Sometimes that doesn't even feel like as much of a choice as I once thought. It's like when people are in a crisis situation, they don't often think to react in the ways you expect that they might. They sometimes do bizarre instinctual reactive responses. It's not all conscious choice. So I go into survival mode, fight, flight or freeze. But I get through.  My choice is to wake up and get through.  That is what I do.
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