A Tango With Pain


This morning began as all mornings usually do, with the promise of hope and accomplishment.

Then, I got out of bed.

I stretched, as we all do upon waking, and something in my right shoulder or back shifted out of place. I audibly gasped, and J asked me what was wrong. I told him I was fine, finished up in the bathroom, desperately trying not to scream as pain washed over me while I washed my hands.

I opened the door, hunched over, and made it to the bed, where I knelt down and rested my upper body on the mattress, head in my hands, my hair falling  down around my face. I tried to move so my hair would allow me to breathe but I was wildly unsuccessful. I stayed there for a short bit, until the pain eased enough to allow me to climb into bed. J moved the pillows out of the way for me. I attempted to do the Cobra Yoga position which will sometimes pop things back into place but all it did this time was steal my breath. I grabbed a pillow, rested my head on it, and that was that.

I was stuck in bed for awhile.

I made it downstairs after the pain subsided and managed to eat an English muffin along with my morning medication plus ibuprofen. We menu-planned as I sat, nearly immobile with fear on the couch, and decided to go get J’s van while I was feeling better. Somehow, I managed to drive my 5spd to the dealership and back home. It wasn’t that bad because I was sitting down and there was not a lot of sharp movement involved in driving.

Once home, as J ran errands, I decided to fix his daughter’s nightlight in her bathroom and that’s when my lower back decided to join the party. After I got the new bulb placed, I retreated to our bedroom, tossed two pillows in bed, grabbed my body pillow, and curled up with the two pillow behind me, and the body pillow intertwined with my body to prop me up. A neck pillow lay on top of my regular pillow. I was as cushioned as I was going to get.

J finally arrived back home and came upstairs right as I was uncontrollably drifting off to sleep. It was not my intention to fall asleep but the pain was so great I could do little more than sleep. I slept until shortly after 3. He brought me some cheese (I wasn’t very hungry nor was I interested in sitting up for a long period of time to eat), water, and some Aleve.

I tried to get up shortly after to use the restroom only to move horribly wrong and fall back onto the bed, utterly defeated, tears streaming down my face, terrified J would need to help me.

I’m stubborn, though, and I made it on my own.

Eventually I took a hot shower right as J & his daughter ran errands. It helped slightly but not enough to kill the pain. J came home with patches and a heating pad. I opted for the Capsacin patch which helped somewhat and allowed me to get a few things popped but as I sit here, now using the heating pad and finally on Tylenol Arthritis, the pain washes over me as if high tide were rolling in.

Pain is my nemesis but over the past couple of years, it has worsened immensely. I have a threshold of pain I live with on a daily basis but when things go above this threshold, I get bitchy. Today? Today I would qualify at triple my threshold. I’d rather be asleep, to be honest.

Tomorrow, my goal is to make it to the gym to sit in the hot tub for as long as I can tolerate it to help with this. I may swim, I haven’t decided on that yet.

Just like PPD, the pain has taught me to be patient with myself, to be willing to take care of myself, and to let others do things for me. For some reason, I am less willing to do these things with the pain than with the PPD which makes no sense at all because with the pain, I am physically incapable of doing all the things. Perhaps it is the frustration of having the capability suddenly snatched away which initiates the frustration, who knows.

Pain is a cruel mistress, y’all. May you never end up in a permanent tango with her.

When You Thank A Vet


Today marks Veteran’s Day here in the United States. It’s a day we set aside to honor those who have fought so valiantly for our country.

With the advent of technology, reaching out to Veterans to declare your support is easier than ever before. Businesses, organizations, individuals – everyone is sending a shout out to Vets today. It is amazing to see the support flowing forth.

But.

I think there is an aspect we often forget about as we reach out to give our thanks to the vets who have fought for us through service in various branches of our military.

It is important to remember they are human too. They have emotions, reactions, and they too, are remembering their journey in their own way as we lavish them with praise and appreciation.

Some may struggle with PTSD. Others are lost in thoughts of brothers in arms lost to battle. Others contend with the idea that those who thank them for all they have taught them are themselves the teachers and worthy of praise.

We forget, all too often, I think, the intense emotional aspect of war. The toll it takes on all of us. Perhaps this is because best summed up by this quote:

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Is war something we are unable to closely associate with human emotion because of the very nature of it? Is battle too fierce? The fighting too gruesome? Do our psyche’s not allow us to carry the traumatic alongside the sensitivity? Is this our brain’s way of protecting us from an emotional overload? Or is it because the majority of soldiers for so long have been men and therefore not allowed to operate as anything less than robotic?

We do not broadcast our losses on the evening news as often as we should, a point made in this deeply moving post about a citizen sharing a last flight home by a soldier. Instead, we relegate ourselves to separation from the tremendous loss and focus instead on the reunions of soldiers with loved ones. We are not acknowledging, in my humble opinion, the steep and tragic cost associated with prolonged battle. The loss, the heartache, the raw emotions steeped in battle and drenched in blood shed against tyrants who dare to threaten our freedoms, are far too great for humanity to bear.

We, for whatever reason, do not often equate humanity with soldiering. Empathy and compassion fails to mesh well with the ferocity of battle. So when soldiering and emotion intersects, as it often does on Veteran’s Day for so many, it can be triggering. It may leave some feeling overwhelmed and not knowing quite how to deal with the gratitude flowing their way.

It is not like Christmas or Thanksgiving. We are not celebrating, we are honoring. There are no gifts or celebratory meals. Instead, there is quiet recognition and thoughtful consideration of all that our veterans have sacrificed. Like anything else, we all choose to do this differently for it is intensely personal for those of us who have a veteran in our lives. Whether they be brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, grandfathers, or grandmothers, how we choose to honor their memories is as unique as a snowflake which falls with the first snow.

We may choose to honor them quietly or we may make a public statement. For me, today, I am wearing my grandfather’s tag and will probably at some point watch Mister Roberts, a movie I used to watch with my grandfather quite often. Both of my grandfathers served in the Navy in WWII and although they never spoke of it with me, I knew they carried their experiences with them, as all veterans do. Military service is a part of their souls and the very fiber of their beings. Once you have served, there is rarely a time when you can untangle soldier from human. Therein, in my opinion, lies the challenge in coming to grips with the flow of gratitude on Veteran’s Day.

I only saw my grandfather cry once – when we were at a play meant to raise funds for the WWII D-Day Monument. As the telegraph notifications came in reporting the deaths of the soldiers in Bedford, Virginia, the hall went completely silent. Deeper than an audible silence; the kind of silence which envelops a room when there is great respect for what is occurring. I glanced over at my grandfather at this point to see his cheeks soaked in tears. I quickly looked away and struggled to hide my own flooded cheeks shortly thereafter. We never spoke of these tears but I never forgot them for they symbolized the emotional depths of war for me and always will.

For many, in particular those who have seen war since 2001, today is different. The memories are recent, the pain is ongoing, and they have joined the Greatest Generation in knowing the pain of war. Yes, the pain. War is not some glorified wonderful thing. It is not the Hollywood version where there is a rise to action, action, and then a conclusion. It’s messy, it rips families apart, it pushes soldiers to their limits and back again, and if they’re lucky, they get to come home, alive and still intact both physically and mentally. For all too many, this is not the case, and their wounds may not be visible to the eye.

veteran-infographicSuicide rates among soldiers, for the first time ever, outnumbers the deaths occurring in active combat. There is PTSD, and number of additional other issues which, again, because of technology and advancements in mental health awareness & medicine, are now at the forefront of the adverse affects of war. Women who are deployed face a higher risk of Postpartum Depression which in turn, affects an entire generation. War truly leaves a mark on every one of us, both on and off the battlefield.

So today, when you thank a veteran, particularly a younger veteran, take the time to embrace that they may be filled with emotions they may not be ready for today as a result of the onslaught of gratitude. Take the time to realize that these brave men and women have lost loved ones, brothers in arms, and they are replaying this in their heads as you thank them for their service. Respect their journey but also take the time to check in with them and ask them how they are doing.

For they are soldiers, they are brave men and women, but beneath it all, they have a heart, a soul, and they have bled for us, some more than others. They deserve nothing less than our greatest compassion and understanding for the hell they witnessed on the battlefield as they fought for freedom from tyranny in our great country’s name.

Here Comes the Rain Again


Yesterday, as we hustled out the door to head to the gym at 5:00am (seriously – who does this?), we were surprised by the downpour just outside our door. It was a soft, quiet downpour in our neck of the woods but by the time we arrived at the gym, the rain fell harder and drifted sideways somewhat, thanks to the growing winds associated with the storms heading our way.

We went inside, I changed, and hopped in the pool. I swam for 40 minutes, engaged with focusing on my stroke instead of the rain just outside the massive windows next to the pool. Once in the hot tub though, I could see the rain, illuminated by the parking lot lights. It still fell quite heavily, according to a fellow soaker.

The rain didn’t stop until last night.

Throughout the day, it wavered between insanely driven to soft and quiet. People in the apartment complex ran to and fro, many covering their heads as they dared to venture into the uncovered spaces. I heard a few giggles from children and witnessed just a couple of adults use their regular strides as they headed to their cars.

Then it hit me.

Rain feeds the vegetation around us. Without it, we wouldn’t have ancient oak trees, green grass, gorgeous flowers, delicious vegetables or fruit. We wouldn’t have the oceans, lakes, ponds, creeks, fish, and all the other flora and fauna which depends upon the very vitality the rain provides as it falls.

Even though many of us don’t like the rain, it provides the means for our planet to thrive.

Boom.

Each of us is different. Each of us reacts to crying in our own way, just as each of us protects ourselves differently when it rains. Some of us run. Some of us use umbrellas. Some of us cover our heads with our hands or a magazine or newspaper. Some of us meander through the rain, not caring if we get soaked and enjoying the feel of every drop on our skin.

Bottom line – we all cope with the rain differently.

Tears are a part of processing emotion. Some of us cry at the drop of a hat or an overtly emotional commercial. Then there are those of us who hold our tears in until they burst through all our carefully constructed barriers, causing a flood as our emotions tied to those tears release. Then there are those of us who just don’t cry at all.

There is no right way to process emotion. There are unhealthy ways to process emotion, yes, but there are so many variants on the healthy ways to process emotions. Just like a walk in the rain – we all do what feels right for US.

Rain allows our planet to grow and thrive.

Tears allow us to grow and thrive.

It’s okay to let go and cry, it’s okay to breathe deeply and open the floodgates.

It’s not okay to pretend everything is okay when it’s not, to keep things to yourself if you’re hurting. What’s important is to remember you’re not alone – no matter where you live – (in a flood plain, a rainforest, a desert…) just because how you process things looks different than how someone else processes them doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

It just means you are human and an individual.

In which I thank a friend for saving my life


I shared the above graphic on my personal FB page tonight. You see, today is National Suicide Prevention Day, kicking off a full week of awareness. I’ve seen blog posts, links, graphics, etc, pop up all over the place. Hell, even Wil Wheaton shared about depression.

A year ago this time, I was dancing with Suicide. Tango, actually. Cheek-to-cheek. There was no rose, no romantic embrace, just chills, thoughts, wondering, wanting, yearning. It was a dirty affair with no promise of a happy ending.

But I had this friend. An online friend who recognized my fall from grace despite my best efforts to convince everyone around me (and myself) that everything was hunky dory. My divorce had just been finalized. I was still unemployed. Not with my children. My heart broken into a zillion pieces, scattered and yet still throbbing on the cold hard floor. Yet somehow, I fell asleep every night and awoke every morning.

Did I want to? No.

Every time I was in my car, I wanted to swerve in front of every 18 wheeler I saw, every sturdy oak, down every steep hill. But I didn’t.

Then there was THE day.

The day when I stood upstairs, in my bedroom at my parents’ house, staring out the window, calculating at what angle I’d have to throw myself out of it in order to hit the cement retaining wall which separated the house from the lower driveway. As my hand reached out and touched the screen on my window, I recoiled. Ran downstairs, phone in hand, and sat in the living room with my mother, silent.

I texted my friend.

“I am not okay.”

He responded. Wanted me to call him. I did. He talked me through it. Searched online for an agency which offered income sensitive help. I called them the next day. I was in therapy until this past May with an amazing therapist who constantly pushed the envelope and forced me to face life head-on, something I hadn’t done for years.

That friend?

SAVED.MY.LIFE.

Do you hear me?

HE SAVED MY LIFE.

For so long, and even now, I am *that* person for others. To be on the other side of the equation is impossible for me to fathom. It was then and it is now. But even those of us who *KNOW* about mental health and the toll it has on lives struggle from time to time. We are not perfect. We are human. We too need support when it gets dark. In fact, I’d even postulate that it’s sometimes more dangerous for those of us who *KNOW* about mental health because we tend to talk ourselves out of it without reaching out for help because dammit, we’re supposed to know our stuff.

Reach out.

If you’re suffering, reach out.

If you’re not suffering, reach out to those around you and ask how they’re doing.

Then LISTEN. Don’t listen and think about what you’ll say in response, just listen. Let them pour themselves out and wait for them to need a response. Sometimes? We don’t need a response.

Sometimes?

We just need a comforting and safe place into which we can pour our fear, our darkness, and let go of our terrors. We need a warm hand willing to lift us out of our miry clay into the light. We need to be rescued before it’s too late.

To the friend who saved my life, thank you. Thank you more than the number of stars in the sky, atoms in the universe, and more than all the bacon I will ever eat in a lifetime. Because of you, I am still here. I am still breathing. I.BREATHE.BECAUSE OF YOU.

Thank you more than I can EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER say.

If you or a loved one are thinking of suicide, there’s a button at the top of my sidebar on my homepage here at the blog – click on it for resources. You are not alone. Suicide is a very permanent answer to a very temporary problem. There IS light, laughter, and love on the other side – I’ve found it and I will never again take it for granted.

All alone in a digital world


The following post is not meant to make anyone feel guilty or wonder if they should have leaned on me for support over the past few months. Everything I’ve done to support others has been of my own volition and if I needed to step back, please know I did so. It’s because of what i do that I’m writing to you today.

It’s been a helluva summer over here in my world.

I’ve not talked publicly about the details and will not do so now but I am now divorced. So when I say it’s been a helluva summer, I mean it. Over the course of this past summer, I’ve had a lot of emotional upheaval come my way. There have been things in addition to my divorce, which, I also will not divulge the details of, but these things have shaken me to my very core. I’ve gone to bed in tears. I’ve screamed. I’ve cried. I’ve wailed. I’ve wondered why I have to wake up. If I wanted to wake up. And yet… here I am.

In Nashville, I arose at 530a CT, made my bed, got dressed, drove to a nearby park and hiked 1.5-3 mi, showered, ate breakfast, made coffee, then onto the job hunt. I didn’t find a job. So at the beginning of July, I moved back home with my parents. Which, hello, humbling.

I lost my drive. My routine. I’ve been job hunting but I’ve also felt frozen. Frustrated. Scared. Rejected. Dejected. Alone.

Me? Alone?

But you’re a well-known blogger. The founder of #ppdchat. Giving. Compassionate. Funny. Awesome. One of the best friends I could ever imagine. Always there when people need you.

Surely you have people.

I have people. But I type to them on the computer. On my phone. They’re electricity, phantoms at best. In person?

I have my parents. People with whom I have been close with from a distance for the better part of the past 11 years. And let’s face it – you really don’t want to sit down and share everything with your parents.

Here, in person? I have no friends. I’ve lost touch with them all and really, at this point, don’t want to reconnect. I haven’t had an in-person best friend (other than my former husband) in nearly 11 years.

Then.

Trey Pennington.

Well known. Over 100k followers on Twitter. Committed suicide.

Alone.

Trey’s death scared the shit out of me.

Why?

Because there have been thoughts. A lot of thoughts.

Oh look. That tree is sturdy. I bet it’d destroy me and my car if I hit it going 70mph. Or… A steep hill… a ravine…. And trees. Surely I wouldn’t survive that.

But the one that scared me into really reaching out to someone?

Standing in front of my bedroom’s second story window wondering if I had what it took to fling myself out of it – at what angle would I have to do this in order to hit the cement wall? How long after I hit the ground would I survive for? Would I feel anything? Surely that pain had to be better than living in constant anxiety and frustration.

As I reached out to push the screen, I recoiled and rushed downstairs. Too close. Too.FUCKING.CLOSE.

A friend had reached out and told me if I ever felt Not OK, to text. So I did. We talked. He searched for some local agencies and found one for me. Today was my second therapy appointment. It rocked me. Hard. I drove for nearly an hour just to be okay enough to come home.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for almost a month now. I’ve been lying to myself. To you. To people who love me. I’m not okay. On my good days, I’m okay. But most days? Most days I’m a shell wrapped around shattered porcelain supports threatening to break any second. I rock, I pace, I can’t get my leg or my hands to stay still. I’ve been telling myself I’m okay, that I can do this, that I’m strong, that I have to make it through this because there’s no other choice but through. I can’t get out of this. It is my life. But – I’m alone in my life right now and I’m not so okay with that even though really, I have to be. There I go again.

Why now? Why today?

Because over the past week or so, I’ve had a couple of friends who have been in the same place come to me for support. I’ve watched myself type things to them I should be heeding but haven’t been. Words I need to live by but haven’t been.

It’s so very easy in this day and age to isolate ourselves. To live in an ivory tower connected to the world only with Wi-Fi. There are walls we put up, a lack of contact, a lack of true connection even if we try to impress upon others how much we care, they are, ultimately, still alone in their private hell. Our words are not three dimensional. They’re not hugs. They’re not “real” no matter how real they may seem or feel to those sending them. You can’t hug an email, a tweet, or a comment on a status update. Well, you can.  But it’s awkward. And you’re still alone in the dark. It hurts, y’all. Like hell.

Trey’s death especially hit home because again, here was someone who was not only connected online but in person and yet he felt so profoundly alone and lost that the only way out he could locate was death.What’s really scary is that from initial suicidal thought to completion, time lapse is typically only 10 minutes. 10 MINUTES, people! Which, in the Social Media Realm seems like forever but in the real world? It’s only 10 minutes. That’s not a lot of time to do anything. No amount of Klout in the world is powerful enough to prevent someone from going through with suicide if they’re truly determined.

I don’t want that to be my way out. I don’t want to be a statistic. I can’t let myself be a statistic. I’m fighting as hard as I can but it’s exhausting. Some days, I may be quiet. I may not be able to handle supporting you. I need you to be okay with that. I need to be okay with that. I need to be okay with not being okay right now and admitting that I’m tired. It’s a work in progress and I suspect will be such for quite some time to come.

I’m not posting this for pity. I’m not posting this for attention. I’m posting this because the more honest we all are about how we feel and the more truthful we are with facing the hard, the easier it is for us to make strides in healing the hard. The easier it becomes for the NEXT person to talk about the hard, especially when that hard is suicide or a mental health issue.

I’m refusing, once again, to remain silent. I hope my refusal to stay silent about this will help someone somewhere.

Know I’m on my way to my new okay. I don’t have a plan right now and I am seeking help. In the meantime though, and especially right after I post this, I’m going to need some time to myself because wow has this been hard to write. I imagine deciding to hit Publish will be even harder. Because once I hit that button there’s no more hiding this from anyone.  And also? I’m supposed to be strong. I’m supposed to be the support. Once I hit publish, that flips. Being on the opposite side of the equation is a bit scary… it’s territory I’ve not been in for quite some time. At least not publicly. Or ever, really, because I didn’t go through my PPD in real-time through my blog or on Twitter. Maybe I’ll just close my eyes and click. Like Pin the Tail on the Donkey except this is Bare your heart and soul to the entire fucking Internet and never take it back. It’s a pebble which, once dropped, will create uncontainable ripples.

Also? Make those connections. Online and off. Lean on them. BE HONEST when you’re not okay. Lying about your well-being only hurts yourself. I am SO sorry for not being honest but it’s hard to be honest with others when you’re not even capable of being honest with yourself. Now that I’m somewhat heading toward self-honesty, I will do my best to be honest with you too. I pray you’ll forgive my dishonesty and understand my struggles. I know most of you will. But I do worry some of you will worry unnecessarily about me as well or even wonder if you’ve done anything to add to my issues. Rest assured you have not, I promise.

I love all of you to pieces and hope you’ll continue to support me as I go through this new and not so stable time in my life. I know you’re going to want to help but a lot of this involves things I need to work through on my own. Just knowing you’re out there to support me as I’m moving forward will be more than enough.

I’m working to find my happy again. I promise.