People Pleasing and when I Stopped Singing

Ever since I was little my personality was described as sweet, kind, nice. I was sensitive and caring. My aunt recently reminisced that even when I was very small I would offer other kids my toys to keep at my own birthday party. My mother loves telling a story, that only makes her cringe just a bit after all these years, where I sold my books to the neighborhood kids to raise money to buy computers for my grade school. I sold my books for pennies and dimes. For these things I was praised. I was loved. Of course a little girl with her heart in the right place was held at a high esteem and ultimately a high standard. It wasn’t until I was much older that my need to please people was connected to my mental disorders and emotional issues. Being nice and kind and sweet are good things but for most of my life these things, these personality traits taken for granted, were often at a detriment to my own comfort, wants, and needs.

 

I was always quiet. I didn’t run around as much as other kids and I certainly couldn’t keep up with them being the youngest, asthmatic, and chubby. If I was making other people happy, though, I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to. This included being as nice, considerate, and giving as I could be. My brother was the angry selfish one who would be playing with me one minute and turning on me the next. This only reinforced the fact that I needed to do anything I could to keep peace, make sure everyone around me was happy, and if I was achieving all that things would be okay. Things were not okay. I still constantly felt a sense of wrongness, I kept having negative thoughts that I did not know were fueled by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and I could not figure out why I felt so different from everyone else. My Catholic upbringing reinforced my assumption that if I was just good enough that things would get better. I would be absolved of my wrongness, my bad thoughts and feeling would go away, and I would finally fit in with the people around me.

This was all a lot to deal with for anyone let alone a child. I didn’t know how to express how I felt and even more I felt like I could not express the wrongness that I felt. If I still felt bad and wrong then I must have not been good enough. There was still something I wasn’t doing to achieve the peace that I was searching for. My mind didn’t quiet and the harder I tried to shut out the negative, compulsive thoughts the harder they seemed to push back. I was sweet and considerate and compassionate and nice and giving and all these words that met with such approval to the adults around me but I was constantly conflicted because it didn’t seem like enough. I wasn’t ten yet but the word that I tied to my identity the most was not “nice” or “sweet” but “worthless”. That word seemed etched on every one of my bones, every wrinkle in my brain, ever cell in my body and you’d have to have a microscope to read it all but I felt every one. It was a mantra that would keep me up at night. Worthless, worthless, worthless. I didn’t know at the time if it was coming from me or my idea of god or what but I believed it. I got quieter, I did less, and I tried not to bother anyone. At home I tried to please my parents, my older brother as much as possible, my grandfather while he lived with us, my neighborhood friends and their parents. At school I tried to please the nuns, my classmates, the teachers, and the priests. I only felt validated, like I was any kind of right, when I was making other people happy and it didn’t matter what I needed to do to make it happen. Instead I just felt worse most of the time because I wasn’t getting what I needed and no matter how hard I tried it never seemed like enough.

 

I coped with food and self harm. Not to say that I didn’t have a largely positive childhood with wonderful people and parents but there were things wrong that no one knew about, no one expected, and my inability to cope properly lead to a binge eating disorder, self harm, and so much avoidance. I didn’t quite belong with my classmates but I had a few friends. I didn’t belong with my religious group because they already had their friends. I felt like I didn’t belong at home because I believed I was doing something horribly wrong if my brother could get so mad at me without me being able to figure out why. There was a point when I decided that I was a mistake. Something wasn’t right. I fantasized about just vanishing from existence and everyone being happier. I didn’t know that this was depression lying to me. I didn’t know what depression was and I didn’t know that anyone else cut themselves when they felt bad. I thought about dying a lot. That somehow felt more right than anything and I tried to act on these thoughts once. I didn’t reach out to anyone because I was a kid, not even ten, so who would I tell and what would I say?
I accepted that I would always feel this way. Wrong and out of place and lonely with these horrible, confusing thoughts running through my head. My family moved and I lost the large family gatherings, I lost my few friends, and my world got smaller. It wasn’t until looking back on photos that I realized how outwardly angry I was. Angry! I wouldn’t have told you that from 12-17 I was an angry person. I was. I could see it written all over my face back then and it was startling because I thought I had kept all of that concealed. I was still struggling to make everyone happy. Be as nice and inoffensive as possible because if I made everyone happy then someone was eventually going to like me! I didn’t really make friends at my new school. When I finally did they were toxic but I clung to them because they were all I had. Public school was so different than the Catholic school I had grown up in. Country kids were so much different than the city kids I had known for most of my life.
Freshman year of high school I showed up as what I was trying to project as the new me. In eighth grade a girl had made plans with me to show up dressed goth. I thought it sounded like fun and it’s certainly not something that I would have been able to get away with at my old school. I showed up in head-to-toe black and cheap, smeary black lipstick and she had forgotten all about it. I liked it, though. I liked the reaction goth me got. I liked the way I felt in black. Goth me felt a bit more powerful than regular me. I thought she was different than regular me. I wasn’t different, though. I was just a confused, hurting, disordered, lonely teenager wrapped in dark clothes. I was still sweet, funny, nice, giving, and put everyone I met before me. I was losing more and more of myself but fought back with black and more aggressive self harm and religious exploration and pretending that I was edgy and okay when I really wasn’t. I toyed with treating my depression, OCD, and weight issues but I was scared of getting better. I was scared of the things that were wrong with me so I ignored them.
Then I stopped singing. It was speech class and we were all supposed to talk about our pet peeves. We listened and nodded in agreeance as people talked about chewing with their mouth open and sneezing without covering their mouths and sticking their bare feet in your face. It was all relatable to some degree. Then a girl stood up and said that she couldn’t stand it, just COULD NOT stand it, when people were singing along to a song and messed up the words. Or mumbled through parts or stuttered over lyrics. She hated it! It infuriated her! And I sat there with a sense of dread pressing down on me like a heavy cloak placed on my shoulders. I did that. I was that person. I was her pet peeve. If she hated it then there must be all sorts of people who hated it! And I didn’t have any friends so I couldn’t afford to alienate potential new friends. I couldn’t afford to lose friends I already didn’t have! I remember sitting in class in my black velvet skirt and black combat boots and black turtleneck and black lipstick (but still very blonde hair because I was told dying it was a mistake and I had to adhere to what would be met with most approval) panicking because I had been doing something terribly unacceptable all along. I was failing in my job to make sure I didn’t do anything that bothered anyone else. I felt horrible for offending her even though I’m 100% positive that girl had never heard me sing before.

 

It started immediately after that. If I heard a song that I wasn’t absolutely sure of the lyrics I would stop singing it. It didn’t matter if I was alone because I had to train myself to be better. I had to train myself to be more accommodating, less offensive, and then maybe I’d be a better person who deserved real friends and to enjoy myself and to get invited to things. Maybe if I did enough to correct myself things would finally start to feel better in my head and in my heart. I still desperately clung to this notion because I had spent years memorizing its empty promises. Then I stopped singing period if I was around anyone because I couldn’t be absolutely positive that I wouldn’t mess up the words. That wasn’t enough, though, because I felt like I had to punish myself for this behavior from before. I had to do anything to correct it, change, be better, seek absolution. I stopped singing when I was alone. I stopped singing along to my CD player and I stopped singing in the shower. My favorite place to sing, the place where I can soothe my soul and escape and right my muddled insides… I stopped singing in my car. I would hear a song I loved on the radio and that good feeling I would get from belting out a song would start to swell while the wind blew through my hair and I’d only get out a small, strangled note. I wasn’t allowed to sing anymore. I didn’t deserve this. I hadn’t earned this. I was wrong. I’d mess it up. I’d press my lips together and keep driving. That good feeling darkened and sank deep into the pit of my stomach. Sometimes I couldn’t stand to keep listening to the radio.

 

That’s one of the many ways that I shrank myself to fit into this idea, born of my untreated mental disorders, that I would never be enough if I didn’t make everyone happy. If I didn’t remove anything about myself that another person would not find absolutely acceptable. In doing so, for many years, I completely obliterated myself. I was so desperate for approval and acceptance and love and to make the bad (disordered) parts of me disappear that I lost track of the things I loved, wanted, appreciated, enjoyed. Singing was only one of the many, many things that I felt bad for enjoying. I was trying to stave off the encroaching darkness but I was only feeding it because my needs weren’t being satisfied and I was constantly running at a deficit. My weight met with disapproval with my family but it had gotten so out of control that there was no way I could reign it in. I hated myself for that, too. The approval I was getting from teachers started to slip when I could no longer muster the will to perform at school. I was slipping and I could feel the areas of my life I should have been on top of spiraling out of control but I felt powerless. All of my atonement hadn’t worked. It had all been a waste because I was still messing up and I was still lonely and I still couldn’t bring myself to fight for myself. Not yet.
Then in college this behavior continued. At work it continued by something shifted. It started when I cut myself for the last time. I had tried to quit several times but in college it finally stuck. I wasn’t doing great in my classes, I wasn’t well enough for that, but I tried therapy. I quit therapy. I tried meds. I quit meds. I still took care of people who were no good for me but it was the beginning of this change in me. For me. I had programmed myself to be one way for my entire life and changing that was incredibly difficult. I still struggle with it sometimes daily. Parts of my brain still want to be as inoffensive and accommodating as possible but it’s not something I can devote myself to anymore. I finally started spending more time on my meds than off. I found a great doctor, met a great counselor, and I started to get help figuring out my feelings and my habits and my wants and my needs. I started sorting out my personality from the penance I inflicted upon myself. You know what? I’m still a nice, kind, caring, empathetic, compassionate, thoughtful, lovely person. I’m just not killing myself to be that way. I’ve accepted my flaws, am working to better myself in a healthy way, and I let go of people and situations that are not good for my emotional and mental well being. I devote time to loving, empowering, and building up myself. I let myself be human. I forgive my past self for trying to go about this all wrong and not understanding what I needed. No one else needs my forgiveness because how would they have known? I was outwardly so nice. Nice people are okay, after all. Right? No. Not all the time. Sometimes they crush parts of themselves just to keep being what they perceive as “nice” or “right”. I did for most of my life and I have to stop myself sometimes from doing it now.

 

I started singing again. When I was alone. I hummed. I said things in a sing-song way. I still felt anxiety when I got the words wrong at first but the singing, even if I messed up, felt so good. So liberating and cleansing. I sang in the shower and in my room and when I was in my car heading down M55 I would belt out whatever came on the radio and one day I stumbled over the lyrics. Horribly. I would have been mortified and found a way to punish myself. I laughed, though. I had made a harmless mistake. No one was there to hear it but me. No one to get annoyed and even if I had had a passenger, so what? It was my car. My space! I could sing as badly as I wanted to. I murdered the lyrics and I laughed hysterically. Loud and crazy and I didn’t stop before the song was over. It wasn’t the end of the world. It didn’t make me less of a person or a bad person or a less deserving person. It was just a song. I was just making myself happy and if I sang every word wrong and still enjoyed myself then it was okay. I was okay. Now I’ll sing no matter who’s around. My niece rolls her eyes and I smile back. My friend will join in for spontaneous karaoke. No dread or anxiety when I use the wrong word or kill the melody.

When someone sings and they notice that they’ve been noticed… and they shut up? They apologize for singing (or clicking a pen or laughing too loudly or telling a cheesy joke or any number of harmless things) it physically pains me. I feel this sharp pain lance my chest and my stomach sinks a little because I remember how terrified I was when I caught myself doing those things. How I fought to make myself, my personality, smaller and smaller until I wasn’t really me. I was so worried about angering, offending, or alienating others. I just want to take these people and tell them to go ahead and be obnoxious! It’s never as bad as you think. You’re going to mess up and ruffle feathers and hurt some feelings and annoy the piss out of people but that’s human and it’s life and there’s no way to completely avoid any of it. So please just embrace it, be yourself, apologize when you really do hurt someone and make sure you’re taking care of yourself, your needs, and that you’re not spending days losing little but important pieces of yourself. They add up so quickly and then you have to figure out who you are all over again. Rebuild yourself into something new but still you and a little wary but still beautiful. The rebuilding is entirely worth it but I’d just want to save anyone from crushing the life out of themselves. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel like they had to stop singing.

My past has made me who I am. I love who I am. I am a messy, gross, lovely, weird, disordered, hesitant, talented, kind, creative, anxious human being. I’m a great person even when I’m pissing someone off or singing the wrong words or stumbling over simple math or reading junky zombie novels or taking my meds or being a blanket burrito or leaving dirty spoons on the desk or baking a cake or explaining that a situation is really not good for me and that I can’t do everything that others want from me. I love who you are with your quirks and flaws and pet peeves and I’ll let you borrow my books even if you dog-ear the pages and I’ll sing with you even if we both get the words wrong. Let’s cook together and I’ll be finicky with the vegetable chopping and irritated with having someone in the kitchen with me but I’ll be glad that you’re there. Pet peeves aren’t deal breakers or detractors. Differences do not make us incompatible. You do not have to earn my approval or friendship. Just being who you are is enough. If I’ve ever made anyone feel like they had to change to fit into my life I am so very sorry from the bottom of my heart.

 

I also apologize for keeping parts of myself from you. Parts that I trained myself to be ashamed of. I’m sorry that I didn’t trust you with them even when you proved that you could handle them. I’m sorry that I’ve overreacted when I was corrected. It’s just that I felt like I had ruined everything and it wasn’t that I was angry it’s just that I was ashamed of myself. I’m sorry that I didn’t sing to you all the times that I wanted to. I’m sorry that I kept things to myself because I didn’t think they were good enough for you. I should have shared, made, opened up so much more. I’m sorry for apologizing so much. I’m still working on that, too. It’s really very hard to correct a lifetime of minimizing and dampening who you are. Thank you for being here. Thank you for accepting my weird as hell self as I’ve fumbled through this new me and while I’ve reclaimed old parts of me that I’ve missed so dearly. I’m not finished yet but who is ever done becoming themselves? Different situations but we’re all in this together. If you’ve never even met me, never knew of me before you read this but you did read this and discovered this small but raw part of me… thank you for being with me now. If this resonates with you my heart is certainly with you.
Having said all of this, things I’ve hinted at but never said outright, I’m happy. I feel a little more me, a little less anxious, and a little lighter for having let go of a secret that never needed to be a secret at all.

So please. Be you! There’s no shame in being you. You don’t have to atone for being gross or annoying or weird sometimes. We all have our moments. If it’s all too much reach out. If it doesn’t work then reach out again. Keep fighting for yourself. The you that hasn’t been squashed and diminished and stomped into something unrecognizable. You are important. You are worthy. You deserve to be the kind of happy that comes from belting out your favorite song going down the road with the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair. Or the unencumbered joy of wherever your happy place is. If you’re a little lost please come into my happy place and I’ll make you some cookies. I’ll sing awkwardly to make you smile. I’ll sit with you quietly while you sort out what you need and I’ll try my best to help. I’ll make you guacamole or draw you a picture or hold your hand. Whatever it is that I can do that might connect to a person that really shouldn’t be lost from this world because of pressure or expectations or inner demons. You deserve that. Because you’re wonderful.

 

You deserve so much from this world just the way you are.
❤ ~Glo

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It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog but this has been on my mind for almost as long. It wasn’t until I talked to a few other disabled people, those who felt that they were able enough but not disabled enough to fit into either category of people well, that I decided it was time to take on this post. It’s not directed at anyone in particular. It’s not meant to shame, blame, or make anyone feel bad. I just want to put this out there for the people like me and those who love and care about us. Those who might be treating us differently without even realizing it.

I’m disabled today. I’ll be disabled tomorrow. I’ll still be disabled later. I don’t have a job and haven’t had one for over four years. I’ve been recovering and getting stronger and losing weight and becoming a familiar but very different person. At first I was treated like you would a sick person. Visits, help, attention. When I was finally able to get out and around it was celebrated and I was included as much as I could be. There were triumphs and milestones and all sorts of things that kept me visible.

Then I got better enough that I could do most things on my own. I started refusing help and even started helping other people where I could. I wasn’t independent but I was better than I had been in years. I wasn’t as in need or noisy. The better I got the less people asked how I was. That’s the way it’s supposed to happen, though. I transitioned from this person perceived as “sick” to a disabled but capable person. And that’s when I started to fade.

No job of my own, family of my own, and my days revolved less and less around appointments and assessments. My schedule opened up but my standing in priority also dropped because I’ll still be disabled later. I’ll still be jobless later. So I noticed that things I needed were put off (even by myself) almost as a rule. It became farther between visits and outings because if you don’t catch me this week there’s always next week. What could I possibly be doing anyway? And I was still disabled so on top of normal social interaction becoming limited there was also the exclusion based on my my ability. Next week became the week after that. Next month. Next, next month. All of a sudden I had collected half a year of cancelled plans and it all got so heavy I stopped counting. I stopped counting missed visits and trips and movies and I stopped counting on people to follow through. Because I might need help this day, but that doesn’t matter when So-in-so needs help all of a sudden because they have to be at work tomorrow! Or they need to be somewhere for their kids. Or they need someone to cover so they can go to a concert. Any number of reasons that bumped down my priority as a friend. A loved one. A person. You might have plans with me this day, that were already postponed two weeks, but you’re very tired and you apologize. Then maybe you stop apologizing or even acknowledging missed plans or forgotten invites. Next time, right? Not the next-next time… but the time after that for sure. Right? Pinky promise?

And it wouldn’t bother me if it wasn’t so consistent. It wasn’t as if one week it was this person and a couple of weeks later it was that one. It was an overall devaluing of my time. Because what would I be doing anyway? What could it hurt to wait one more week? The thing is it wasn’t just one person who let me slip through the cracks of their busy lives. It affected all of my relationships. And I’m not absolving myself of any and all responsibility. I helped create this situation in some ways. I didn’t try as hard as I should have all the time. Just as my life had become so broad, so expanded from being sick and in recovery and using a walker and all the things that defined me as a disabled person at first, it started closing up again. I was at the back of the line holding a little white ticket waiting. Except every time I looked down at the number in red to see when I got to go to the head of the line it changed. 4, 6, 10, 17… 42.
I thought it was normal at first. I relished not needing as much attention! No problem, I’ll see you next week! You’re busy, I understand. There’s a lot going on in your life right now. Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about me. We’ll catch the next movie. You can help me later, it’s not urgent. We can talk when you have time. No problem! No worries. Hakuna Matata. But then it seemed to become this knee-jerk assumption that I didn’t need attention right this moment. Other people who had a lot going on, those people really needed! Glo is doing well. Glo is capable. Glo will still be disabled later. What could she be possibly be doing next week to keep us from hanging out? Except next week there will be car issues or errands to run or a forgotten appointment so maybe the week after. Let’s just call it next month, okay? Fresh start. I’ll be here because I’m always here. Where would I go?

So in waiting for people I started to feel like I was waiting to be a person. I was waiting to be a person who could have a job. I was waiting to be a person who could move out. I was waiting to be a person who deserved help. I was waiting to be a friend. I was waiting to be visible. It created a disconnect between me and the people around me. My life closed in around me and I couldn’t bring myself to do things I wanted to do anymore. I kept telling myself that I understood why I wasn’t a priority. I told myself not to be selfish. That it was important for people to spend time with other people. What if this week was the only time they had a chance to spend it with this other, busy person? The other person has a job and a family and a book club and a dog to walk and on and on. So go, have fun, no worries! But months went by and I started to worry. But I shoved it down. This was the way things were supposed to be, right? This was progress. I just hadn’t gotten far enough yet. I was in a weird state of flux and things would get better soon. Once again I was this person watching other people live from the sidelines but it had nothing to do with my physical ability to do so. I stopped taking my meds. I got depressed. I tried not to care, I didn’t care about anything, everything hurt me deeply, I was confused. If there were things I could do I stopped doing them. Why bother? I hadn’t earned being a real person yet. That’s how I felt after the realization that my time wasn’t worth as much as anyone else’s time.

Why would it be? I’ll still be disabled later. I’ll still be here. A little dustier. A little smaller. A little more vacant. A little less giggly. A little warier. A little less shiny. A lot less me. But I’m BETTER! Why is this happening? Why do I feel like this? Why do I feel guilty for wanting things to be different? Why do I feel like crying when my car is down for repairs again? Why do I feel trapped? Why am I less of a person this way than when I was vastly more limited? Because I can do as I please with my time. It’s all free. It’s all mine. Few obligations. It just gave me more time to miss people. To wonder when I got to be a person again. My place in line kept getting further and further away. My life felt like it became taking steps backwards. I kept minimizing these feelings though because I felt that I had no right to have them. I lived! I kept my leg! I was going to get my life back… eventually. Just wait, Glo. Keep waiting. Step back so people can take their rightful place in front of you.

And there are so many other people feeling like this. Disabled people who don’t feel like they belong to any community. They’re waiting to be people, too. Maybe it’s not even a disabled friend. Maybe it’s the stay at home mom/dad who is SO lucky to be able to stay home! Maybe it’s the person between jobs who you feel weird about inviting out because times are hard. Or because you feel awkward. Or what will you talk about? Or maybe, no matter their situation, it’s because they’ll always be there later for whatever reason. If you’ve ever thought about someone “They’ll always be around later, I’ll catch up with them next week.” I’ll bet you that just about every other person in their lives has thought the same thing. Maybe all at once. Maybe in a long chain of events that leaves them isolated and lonely. Maybe without realizing it you’ve let someone you care about feel like you don’t value their time. Someone so near to you might be waiting, and wanting desperately, to be a person again. A person not tied to their disability, some aspect of their family, their employment status, their mental/emotional health, and/or a myriad of reasons that could cause a person to shrink their own wants and needs because they feel that it’s right for them to be standing at the back of the line. Perpetually growing distant from a life they thought was secured for them when they started getting better.

 

And I hesitated to write this because I don’t want anyone to feel bad for inadvertently making me feel like an afterthought. No one intentionally wanted me to step backwards until it felt like I had fallen into a pit. No one knew I felt this way because by the time I realized what was going on and why I felt the way I did… I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. How do you ask someone “Please, can you not cancel on me? Not again. Not another week. Not another month.” How do you tell someone that you don’t feel like a person when you’re standing there, looking all person-ey and stuff. Breathing and everything. How do you explain to a person who has never went through it that you’re tired of being the person who understands when plans are cancelled and they leave without you and even though you’re doing well… you’re not really feeling like you’ve earned anything for yourself because there’s no value placed on how far you’ve come anymore. It’s not acknowledged in the form of accomplishments or relationships or anything. You’re just here. Like you’ve always been. How you’ll be later, too. Grieving intangible things.

 

So I’m saying all of those things right now. I’m doing much better – taking my meds – but there’s still a part of me waiting. There’s still a part of me that halfheartedly agrees to plans while knowing they’ll never come to pass. I’m driving toward so much but I’m not there yet and I’m honestly a little lost in the in-between part. Point A: I was quite acutely disabled. Point B: I’m working again and building a life for myself finally. Who am I in the middle? What do I do? I’m figuring it out but I’m saying all this anyway because I’ve discovered that I’m not the only one who’s lost their sense of self. Who got lost because they were too accessible. Who got lost because… well people just didn’t know what to do with us. Where do we belong? What can we do? What can we aspire to? What are we allowed to want? Not feeling like a person skews so much of our perception.

Just do me a favor and consider the people in your lives. Make sure no one has fallen through the cracks waiting for a next week that seems to never come. The always around person, the difficult person, a person you care deeply for but maybe lost track of without realizing it. I’ll be honest with you… weeks can get very long while strangely at the same time months fly by so fast. Months spent disconnected. Months spend wondering and waiting. Days creep up on you where you can’t remember for the life of you when the last time you went out with anyone. The last time you were invited anywhere. The last time anyone put you first. I don’t speak for everyone, of course, but I’ve connected with enough people that warranted me opening up about something I found more difficult to talk about than anything I’ve said in a very long time.

I’m taking care of myself now. I’m driving towards new things. I have someone to ground me. I’m being honest. So I’m saying all of this for the people who aren’t in a place to say it for themselves yet. I’m saying it because it feels very important right now. I’m asking all of you wonderful people out there to pay attention to the people who are easy to miss for whatever reason. I know that if you had any idea that you were inadvertently making someone feel like this you’d want to know. I’ve crawled out of my pit and finally feel like I can take my place. It’s not in a line, it’s not in some predestined place between two points, it’s just here with me fighting for myself in a new way. It’s me diving head first into the uncertainty. It’s me acknowledging for myself that I’m still a person. A different person. I’m going to be here later but I’ll be doing something that validates my existence in whatever form I can hold onto right now. So thanks for coming along for the ride. I’m glad I was finally able to say this. I hope it helps someone.

So much love,
a rather person-ey person called Glo

MEEEE

I’ll Still Be Disabled Later

Sebastian, a Tree, and Remembering that I’m Okay.

First of all, Sebastian is a Hyundai Sonata that was brand new back in 2000. It had an owner before me with whom it was in an accident. When I adopted him he was black with a green front fender and a blue side-view mirror until my dad took it upon himself to unify his donor parts and paint them black, too. Maybe it’s just part of my personality and maybe it correlates with my OCD but I get close to cars. Medication doesn’t alter entirely the fact that I humanize inanimate objects and my car is a large part of my life so I make him more human. Sebastian was my friend for drives to college, numerous trips back and forth to work, he chauffeured me to more than one week-long writing conference/seminar, and when my heart and head were murky he was always up for a drive to clear my head. I love driving. I’ll drive just to drive. I sometimes enjoy the trip more than the destination.

When I lost my job several years ago I clung to my car. I’d need it for interviews so I could get back on my feet. I used my savings to keep my car insured and then I put payments on credit cards that I could no longer pay on. As you can imagine that didn’t last long, I don’t recommend anyone do that, and I had to remove insurance and park my car. My friend. My freedom. I lost my job in August and by January I had been to more interviews than I care to think about and sent out more applications than I can remember, but finding a new job proved impossible at the time. I got really depressed and I got really sick. I had been sick for a long time. I didn’t know that when we parked Sebastian for a break that I would become disabled and not have access to him again for years. Over three years. I was eventually able to borrow my parents’ Blazer but we didn’t have a connection. I didn’t like the thing and it wasn’t comfortable. It wasn’t mine. We didn’t really share a drive like Sebastian and I had; I just drove it like anyone would drive a car. It was wonderful to be mobile but it wasn’t perfect.

A little over a month ago I was finally able to insure my car. Extensive repairs had been made by my dad and brother over a year. I chipped away at all of Sebastian’s issues from sitting so long as I could afford parts. I had a reunion with an old friend. I knew that I had missed MY car because it was mine, but then I drove him for the first time and I remembered exactly what it felt like as opposed to my parents’ Chevy Blazer. My sporty little sedan just felt right as I accelerated and felt his gears shift. I remembered how much I really loved driving with my windows down and the music turned up as I didn’t feel at liberty to do quite as much in a borrowed vehicle. I felt like I finally was starting to get my freedom and independence back after living as a disabled person for years. I finally had a friend back. I had access to my car no matter what. Just sitting there waiting for a small adventure. Paying insurance and putting gas in my own tank and dealing with all my car stuff were things that I relished.

All of that was incredibly wonderful. Really and truly. I appreciate everyone who helped me get my car back on the road. Then I took a few emotional hits. I talked about in a previous post how I was looking forward to volunteering at my niece’s school for the end of school year and though the summer. It had seemed like a done deal when I turned in my paperwork so they could check my squeaky clean background. I figured that would take some time but I didn’t think they’d say no to free help as I have so much time to give. They did, though, in as much as they never called me. I was incredibly disappointed. It reminded me of all those interviews that had seemed to go so well before my application was tossed into the trash. At my niece’s kindergarten graduation the woman who worked in the office was there and she seemed to avoid making eye contact. Should I not have mentioned I was disabled? Did I seem too eager? Did they dock me points for not wanting to be more involved with the kids? Had I still not come far enough to make people stop seeing me as a person who possibly couldn’t be able to do enough to be worth a chance? I didn’t talk about my disappointment, though, because I didn’t want to acknowledge my faltering already after just starting to put myself out there.

Then I put myself out in a different way as I entered into a casual, long-distance kinda-sorta-relationship with someone across the country. We had met online and while it was fun and flirty and very different from anything I’ve experienced before, it was scary as I was putting myself out there in a way that was totally unique to me. We texted daily for a few weeks. It was a safe and removed way to explore a side of myself that never really got attention. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking and I kept it, at large, a secret. I was just thinking about opening up about my little bit of new happiness when me and this person actually talked on the phone and I found that the person I was talking to wasn’t someone I wanted in my life at all. Soon after another type of friend removed themselves from my life and I was emotionally raw. I got depressed in spite of my meds as no treatment is 100% perfect. I didn’t feel like talking about it and reiterating how I had failed to my friends and family. I just processed it on my own. People noticed I wasn’t quite the Glo I usually was so I confided that I was feeling a little off, my depression was rearing its ugly head, and I’d be fine in a bit. Everyone was supportive but I couldn’t shake feeling a little down.

I decided, a few days ago, that I would go out for a drive and shake off the remnants of my gloomy mood. I jumped at the chance to run an errand that could have waited. I stopped here and there in my drive to take pictures. I could feel myself brightening with every mile of road I put behind me. I was glad that my depression had relented for just a moment to let me pick myself up off the couch and go. I took a different rout to my destination to take a specific picture that I had wanted for a long time. There was a barn I had seen dozens of times with “I love Kate” carved into the side at about eye level. I made it a point to make a special loop to pull over and take that picture. I snapped images of the sun getting low in the sky and clouds and stretches of fields. I felt good again. I put things that didn’t work out behind me. I didn’t know that every moment I delayed, I was lining myself up to experience a very strange thing on my way to the store.

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You see, a tree fell on me. A very large tree. Fell. Onto me. As I was driving. I saw it sway out of the corner of my eye and I thought it was strange since the air was breeze-less. It wasn’t swaying, though, it was falling. Sebastian and I were heading straight for it. It was heading for us. I slammed on my breaks, not quite believing what I was seeing until the branches and trunk made contact with my car. I made it past the tree, though, to stop a few hundred yards away. I was stunned. I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the tree lying there through my shattered back window. there was glass everywhere and I was shaking as I clutched the steering wheel. A couple who had been coming from the opposite direction had seen the whole thing and stopped to check on me. I was fine, as far as I could tell, and they walked me through the 911 call. It was still so surreal as I told the emergency operator that I had been hit by a tree and the road was completely blocked. I finally Calmed down enough to leave my car to inspect the damage. My driver’s side headlight was busted up, there was an array of new scratches and dents, the roof near the back was horribly dented, and like I mentioned the rear window was broken into thousands of pieces that were distributed throughout the entirety of my car, in my hair, and clinging to my sweater.

Everyone involved in the situation was wonderful, though. The couple that had witnessed the incident stayed with me the entire time rather than making a u-turn and achieving their destination via back-roads. People who lived nearby emerged from their homes with chainsaws and rakes to begin the removal process before even the police had a chance to show up. A man removed tow straps from his car and walked down the procession of waiting and confused cars so he could maybe help move the tree out of the way. A woman walked down to me from her home to check on me and offer me a beverage that I gratefully declined. I texted with my brother who kept me grounded and commiserated with me over the unreal incident. The police officer, once he made it through the branches from the other side of the tree, was bewildered and kind. I removed twigs and leaves while he tied up my busted fender and the couple who were still hanging out with me carefully brushed glass off my back-end so I didn’t leave a trail when I drove away. Someone came to chat with us and report that the entire base of the tree had rotted away and just fell. I was finally cleared to leave, the bulky tree was finally cut into manageable pieces so the road could be cleared. Sebastian started without issue and I waited my turn to pull back onto the road and head back home. I was gawked at and I saw people passing me looking at the state of my car. My car that I waited a year to get road-worthy. A car that been insured for just barely over a month. A car that wasn’t much to look at but was my friend and represented so much to me.

After limping home, not sure how much damage had been done, I explained the incident to my dad then my mom. I texted my best friend to let her know I was okay. The adrenaline wore off. Things didn’t look good for Sebastian, though. He needed body work and a new rear window and a new headlight that we knew of. That’s what we could make out in the dark. I had made it home but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any internal damage (which it turns out there is) but my car wasn’t worth much to my insurance company. I had to spread part purchases out over months before and they were largely small things. We talked about cancelling my insurance and scrapping my car. Scrapping Sebastian. A friend who I had just regained whether that seems silly or not. That’s the way it felt. My freedom and independence evaporated. Every step forward I had tried to take in the past few months was met with failure. My depression and self doubt surged forth. I vented to my friends on Facebook and went to bed unsure of my future and myself. I went back and forth being glad and grateful that I was unhurt and then hating the fact that I had stalled just enough in my trip to be precisely under a tree as it fell. I had trouble fighting against negative feelings about myself.

Then my friends and family came to my rescue. I received support via online messages, texts, and phone calls. People were stunned, concerned, compassionate, helpful. People made me laugh and that was so important. I was emotionally exhausted but already back on track to being Glo again. My dad and brother went over my car. Found some holes in a reservoir under the hood from a sneaky branch but in the light of day Sebastian could be saved. My little ugly duckling of a car. It would take time, of course, and I looked into suspending my insurance for a few months rather than removing it completely. My depression still tried to isolate me, though, as I tried to sort out my mixed-up feelings about the whole situation.

Then a friend did something that was really quite spectacular. A friend I have known for years but never officially met in person. A friend who understood my weird relationship with my car. He set up a campaign to help me fix my car. I cried at my computer when he and his wife asked for help on my behalf because they had seen me struggle to regain my life as a disabled person, through therapy and surgery and pain and triumphs, and I was surprised and overwhelmed to see that having Sebastian out of commission devastated them. I have said before that I am, most of the time, kind of lonely. I always feel a little removed from the people around me and I didn’t expect people whom I cared about, removed from my life by distance but not appreciation, would do something so wonderful to help me catch a break. Even without knowing all the extra stuff that had been going on to dent my ego. Not that I should have been surprised because I’m surrounded by incredible people but when I’m in a funk it’s hard to see myself as an incredible person, too. My disorders were telling me that nothing was working out because I didn’t deserve them to. I don’t believe that deep down. I’ve learned to sort these negative thoughts connected to my mental disorders away from my real feelings but it still wore on me as it was a constant theme in the back of my mind because depression is an insidious kind of cruel.

So I cried. I’m crying now as I write this because a simple gesture was so overwhelmingly beautiful to me. Then more people gave of themselves. More people shared my experience and reached out. It didn’t turn into this crazy thing that died out. People kept checking on me and supporting me and encouraging me. A few days after the accident I got to spend time with my niece who did an amazing job of continuing to lift my mood without even realizing it. I was shocked to see that my friends had pooled donations to pay for half my windshield replacement. I’d have an actual rear window! Not just plexiglass screwed into my poor car like I had expected to resort to after my dad assured me it was safe and legal and more importantly something we could afford. No one shamed me for being on the road when I couldn’t afford to fix these kind of damages. No one implied I shouldn’t have been out for no reason. No one belittled my experience. Everyone was a lot nicer to me than my wonky brain. I went from feeling so isolated to realizing that all these people really are a part of my life and want to be a part of my life in the ways that they can be. A string of bad experiences doesn’t hurt my value as a person. My depression, my feelings, my experiences are not something I need to hide from anyone. I forgot that for a moment but getting hit by a tree fixed something inside me that was starting to break apart. There’s no monetary value to attach to that.

So I debated about including the link to my car fund. I am not used to asking for help quite like this but at the same time I am not ashamed of being in need, I am not ashamed of what my friends have done for me, and even if this doesn’t raise a single dollar more than it already has, I’ve already been given everything I need to get through this bump in the road and deal with stress, disappointments, and my depression and anxiety in the future. For the first time in maybe forever I really felt that no matter what, I was never really alone in spite of my situation, the circumstances of my relationships, or the whisperings of my depression. I had a hard time finding the silver lining in this situation at first but a silver lining is too small a thing to describe what a wonderful gift I’ve been given. Ultimately I’m glad I got hit by a tree. Maybe God or the Universe or Mother Nature or something else entirely knew how stubborn I am and that it needed to do something drastic to really let the people around me have their complete impact in my life, my mind, my heart because I’m obviously in theirs in a bigger way than I allowed myself to realize. I tended to believe that I was less of a friend to the people around me because my involvement was so limited. So thank you. Everyone. I hope I have conveyed how much this whole experience has really meant to me even though words can seem so inadequate.

Help Sebastian get Back on the Road!

With so much love it’s leaking out of my eyes,
~ Glo ❤

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Prescription for Self Care

I’ve been witnessing for a while a Self Care Revolution. It’s wonderful! People making sure that they are in a good place, mentally and emotionally, by doing whatever restores their selves mentally or spiritually or emotionally or all of the above. Reading, dancing, alone time, making art, singing, Netflix marathons, and anything else imaginable to take some time to love, respect, and care for the self. It’s really important stuff no matter who you are. It’s been an amazing and beautiful thing to see and to have people understand about myself. That’s why it strikes me as so odd as why mental health is still, at large, considered a kind of taboo.
I’ll show you a picture of some of my self care items:

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It’s not a book and a cup of hot tea. It’s not a photo from a beach-side blanket. It’s not strawberry ice cream with rainbow sprinkles or a trip to the movies or a lunch out or a myriad of things I’ve seen and some that I’ve done for myself to “Self Care”. Why is this any less acceptable, though? I take medications for my mind because I have mental disorders. I take vitamins based on my blood-work post bariatric surgery. I also sometimes face judgment for these things on occasion and I see others being belittled and judged for these simple things that I consider very much a large and important part of my Self Care regimen.

I have heard that I should not take medication for my mental disorders because those drugs will inhibit my ability to be creative. I hear this from people who tried medications and did not like the experience and I’ve heard it from people who have never needed medications for their mental health but assumed that they would cloud my creative self based on things they read or heard. I was told my art, my writing, would be more pure or more real or just somehow better if I wasn’t taking meds. As if the medications that allow me to function create an artificial self that couldn’t possibly be as good and genuine as an unmedicated me.

Let me tell you what bullshit that is. Yes, there are times when a medication does work for one person but not another. It takes time, trial and error, and adjusting dosages to find what works for an individual. One doctor put me on so much anti-depressants that I couldn’t feel anything. It was bad but not because I was medicating, it’s because I was seeing a doctor who didn’t know how to treat me and didn’t care about what I was going through.

When my current doctor started seeing me he put me on a prescription and I saw him regularly so he could gauge how it was working for me. It worked well for my depression but didn’t put a considerable dent in my OCD or anxiety. He suggested that we add an anti-psychotic prescription in addition to the anti-depressant. That was scary! I wasn’t psychotic. I wasn’t that bad or one of those people. Now I feel so terrible that I thought like that. An anti-psychotic is just another kind of medication to help tackle mental problems. It doesn’t say anything about the person who needs them. It’s just help dealing with a disorder. No fault of the person who is suffering but it’s such a stigmatized thing.

We eventually figured out a regimen that worked really well for me. That coupled with therapy, more perfectly acceptable self care, and you know what? I made more art. I write more, smile more, laugh more, go out more, read more, sing more, enjoy more. Medicating my mental disorders didn’t make my experience smaller, less genuine, or less admirable. It has given me more access to my true self and made me more in touch with what I need to do for myself than ever before in my life.

I also take prescriptions, one oral tablet and two inhalers, for my asthma. I’ve had asthma my whole life. It’s a physical chronic disorder but when I whip out my inhaler for a puff no one tells me that I would be better off wheezing and struggling for breath. That I’d be a more interesting/better/more genuine person if I just let myself gasp for air. People understand that I have a medical necessity when they see the inhaler and hear my lungs crackle. They see it and ask if I’m alright. They let me catch my breath, stay with me to make sure I’m okay, offer to get me water or anything else I might need. They show concern and empathy. Why should anyone treat someone struggling mentally or emotionally any differently?

When I mention my medications for my anxiety, OCD, and depression? Sometimes people are not sure what to say or do. It makes people uncomfortable. It makes me broken. It means I’m not strong enough or that I’m unstable or weak or that I’m not really a normal person. Like I mentioned earlier some people take it upon themselves to let me know that my medications, vital to my Self Care, are wrong. I should meditate or pull myself up by my bootstraps or eat an all organic diet. Or they’re confused because they like me and find that I’m a generally happy, optimistic person. They can’t fit who I am and my disorders together. Maybe it’s a mistake? Maybe I got over it? Maybe it was just a phase? I’m just too nice to have things wrong with me. I’m not that type of person.

I am that type of person, though. And there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with me. My diagnoses are not a black mark on my identity. More people than you think have mental or emotional disorders. It’s a perfectly normal thing to go through at least once in a person’s life. As for my medications? I know that I need them. I’ve gone off them from time to time and have realized that my disorders aren’t something that I’m going to grow out of. They’ll always be there and I’ll always be medicated for them. It doesn’t bother me, though, because why should it? Why should anyone be bothered by my medications? It’s ridiculous that my inhaler is seen as a lifeline but the medications that I utilize for mental health have a shaky reception. More people understand than years ago but I still see so many people around me that cheat themselves out of some of the best Self Care out there because of the stigma attached to mental health.

I didn’t understand, accept, and love so much of myself until I underwent counseling with a therapist. Doesn’t that sound like some amazing Self Care? I wasn’t freed from rituals, compulsive thoughts, and obsessing over and over and over about nonsensical things until I started taking RisperDAL – and anti-psychotic. Doesn’t that sound like fantastic Self Care? It wasn’t until I found the right dose of Fluoxetine (Prozac) that I had more days where I could drag myself up off the couch than not. More days where I could enjoy my life rather than just going through the motions. More time where I felt like I was worth a damn in this world. How is that not Self Care? How is that wrong? How does that make me unworthy? How does that make me less creative? Why should I hide this part of myself, this experience that has made my life so much better, because is makes society uncomfortable? Because someone’s inexperience with my problems creates a divide. There is so much misinformation out there, so many negative connotations that some people not only can’t understand but they can’t even begin to let themselves acknowledge and accept something that they’ve learned is wrong. Something they’ve been told should be a dirty, little secret. Something they think makes me weak.

I do understand that people sometimes don’t know what to say. Pretend, if you will, that someone you care about is having an asthma attack or going through some kind of physical malady. Instead of hearing “I’m having bad day with my anxiety/depression/OCD/fill-in-the-blank” do what you’d do if they had said “I’m having an asthma attack” or “I have a horrible cold” or “I pinched a nerve in my back”. You don’t need a medical degree to help someone with their injury or illness and you don’t need to have and special training to deal with someone who is going through something mentally or emotionally. If someone is opening up to you that they’re having a hard time mentally or emotionally just be there. Listen. Ask if they need anything. Offer to take care of something. Encourage them to eat or drink something. Do what you would do for a person you love who was hurting physically or under the weather. That’s all it takes. Even if you just listen without judgement, without assuming, that is a beautiful gift and does so much for a person who can feel alone in their disorder.

Here is a handy list of things that are GOOD to say to someone suffering with a chronic disorder or even chronic physical illness that you don’t understand:

1. I don’t understand what it’s like to be (depressed) but I’m here for you.
2. Do you want to talk about it?
3. Is there anything I can do for you?
4. I love you.
5. What can I take care of to make your day easier?
6. I love you, you know that right?

Things you should NOT say, even if you feel like your intentions are good:

1. You’re just sad/angry/upset. It happens to everyone. Get over it like the rest of us.
2. Your medications are part of the problem. They’re unnatural. You’d be doing just fine if you did X, Y, and Z.
3. You’re too happy to be really having a hard time like this.
4. Are you just doing this for attention?
5. OMG there are people in other countries dying and being raped and starving! (or anything that will devalue their experience with their problem)
6. I knew someone who had an uncle and his friend’s cousin’s sister took that medication (had that disorder) and her insides liquified and poured out her nostrils!

Another thing NOT to do is to just ignore it. That’s something I see a lot. If you love someone and they’re going through something you don’t understand, ignoring it until it goes away doesn’t do anything to help the person you care about. If someone reaches out to you and you ignore them, you’re telling them that not only do you not care about them as a whole person but that they deserve to suffer alone. I can tell you from experience that it is so hard to reach out. It’s so hard to just open up and say “Hey, I’m kind of having a hard time right now.” In the beginning I learned that it was a good way to make people disappear from my life until they thought I was “better”. I didn’t get better, though, I just learned how to hide my problems better. Silence made me feel like a burden. Silence made me feel like I was wrong. Silence made me feel unworthy of time, love, life. Silence taught me to take the less than ideal parts of myself and mask them with fake smiles and utterances of “I’m okay!” If you love someone, really care about them, wouldn’t you risk the discomfort you feel to save them from feeling like I did? Ignoring a person when they’re having a hard time doesn’t just allow you to avoid their pain. You could very well be adding to their suffering.

My Self Care, while it may be different than yours, is no less valid. It’s no less healthy, it’s no less admirable, it’s no less normal. Sometimes I just need this part of myself acknowledged. I need to know that the people around me aren’t going to disappear when I mention my medications or need to express that I’m having a bad day when my own mind is at odds with who I am. I’m lucky to have people in my life that notice these things. They don’t skirt around my disorders. They don’t give me a strange look when I take out my pill container full of Self Care. I’m grateful for that and wish that it was something everyone going through a hard time had for themselves. The world could do with a little more acceptance and understanding for people who need to care for themselves a little differently. Less glamorously.

You never know when simply reaching out, just checking in, can make a world of difference. If you don’t agree with someone’s Self Care, if you have ideas about what they need to be doing for themselves, kindly keep it to yourself at least until they’re in a better mindset (unless they are hurting themselves or you believe them to be in danger). Chances are they are in communication with their doctor, have found a beneficial course of treatment through trial and error, and are doing what they need to do for themselves in spite of an article you found on social media. I speak from personal experience that St. John’s Wort and meditation aren’t an adequate substitute for my medications when it comes to my disorders. Acceptance. Love. Support. That’s all you need to do. Commiserate if you can, but at least let them know that you see them suffering, appreciate that they’re reaching out, and you care about them.

With so much love from a woman who performs Self Care, Self Love, Self Appreciation, Self Acceptance every time she takes her medications.
~ Glo ❤

The Past in an Envelope

Not too long ago a lovely friend of mine sent me something that I didn’t have. Something I made sure, years ago, that I did not possess. Pictures of myself as a teenager. It was eighth grade and we were at her house getting ready to go to homecoming. This was my first year in a public school, my first year outside the city where I had grown up, my first year feeling so disconnected from my family, friends and old life. I did not expect to open that card, that lovely gesture, and see what I saw. Here, I’ll show you:

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That is a 1999 version of Glo. (Thanks for labeling the photo, hon! I am super horrible with dates even in my own life!) When I was younger, more depressed, and had self loathing in spades this picture would have filled me with revulsion. I would have torn it up and burned the pieces. I would have hid any trace of who I was because I was so damned ashamed of being that person up there.

Instead of any of that, I held the picture in my hands and saw the lovely young woman that I had been even back then. I saw her face, looked into my eyes, and I was so saddened by the way that I had treated myself all of those years. This photo made me want to reach back in time and tell her that I was wrong, I had been so horribly wrong about everything. I was so vulnerable, so depressed, so wracked with anxiety that I couldn’t embrace the smart, funny, beautiful person that I was. I’m not saying that being picked on and ostracized for being fat (or anything else) is easy. It’s not. But I made a choice to believe everything horrible that people said to me and all the cruel things that my disordered mind was telling me.

My friend, who I cropped out for her privacy, remembers this night happily. The parts with her in them, when we were alone together, were really great. I would cling to those moments of friendship to help keep me sane through high school. That homecoming dance for me, though, was torturous. I was an outsider. I was different. I was fat. I was wrong. I was ugly. I was less than. Those are the things that stayed with me and were the tone of my existence for years to come. I didn’t dance that night. I don’t remember laughing but I must have given nervous smiles as a group not far from me was obviously talking about me. Judging me. Mocking me. At one point I remember leaving the gym to curl up in a corner with the hood of my jacket pulled over my face. A boy walking by, no idea his name or where he’d come from, asked “Didn’t anyone ask you to dance in there?” I shook my head. No. No one asked me to dance. Why would they? I couldn’t trust myself to utter one syllable. He walked away and the only lesson I took from that night was not to hope. Don’t hope to have a good time. Don’t hope to not get made fun of. Don’t hope to be asked to dance. Don’t hope to be included by anyone other than the one person who is obviously insane for wanting to have anything to do with you. (Sorry, lovely. You know I know better now.)

It’s so strange how a person can look at themselves in the mirror every day and never see the truth about themselves. I was a beautiful young woman. Not in spite of my fat. Not that I had an okay face but could have been prettier “if only”. I was beautiful and kind and intelligent and funny. I was a wonderful person and wouldn’t let myself acknowledge it because I was so certain that feeling good about myself would only mean disaster. It got so bad that I expected something to come along and crush any budding self esteem I ever felt. I can look back now and see that more times than not I was the one obliterating my self worth because I was so scared and confused. I was afraid to be happy because it was just asking for trouble. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be like other people who enjoyed life, loved themselves, and allowed themselves to have fun. I told myself that if I had deserved that then I wouldn’t feel like I did all the time. That is the lie of untreated mental disorders. They make us feel worthless. They make us cling to them as if they were a lifeline but in reality they’re killing us bit by bit.

At the time of this picture I was already past the one suicide attempt that I’ve made in my life. That doesn’t mean I didn’t wish every day that I could just disappear. I prayed to fall asleep and dissolve into nothingness by morning. I begged God to take the chance to correct His mistake because I had obviously never meant to be alive. I just wanted to stop being all twisted up and sad and hurting all the time. I wanted the decision to get up and get out of bed every morning to be taken out of my hands. More than anything back then I just wanted to stop being. After being treated like a joke by the doctor that diagnosed my depression, OCD, and threw Prozac at me like she got a commission per pill I couldn’t bring myself to seek help again until years later. I really hope you don’t know how exhausting, painful, and absolutely dehumanizing years of crippling depression can be.

I just want to tell that girl in the picture, with so much pain and isolation and struggle ahead of her, how amazing she is. How loved she was even though she couldn’t see it. Even though she was afraid of letting in all the good people tried to show her. I would tell her to fight for herself because she is worth so much more than she’s allowing herself to have. I would tell her how beautiful and bright she is. I would tell her to instead of pushing people away to draw them around you like the real lifeline they are to help you get through this part of your life that seems so impossible. I would tell her that her whole identity doesn’t have to be her pain and nothing but her pain. I would tell her to love herself because she is so worth her own love and acceptance. I would tell her that her life will be so much better with that love and acceptance. I would tell her that her sensitivity is an asset. I would tell her that her own mind lies to her and help her figure out how to defend herself from the darkness.

I can’t tell that girl in the photo a damn thing. Not as she was. I can’t save myself any of that pain that is now a part of me. I have already lived that struggle. I already bear the scars of self harm, the memories of a confused and hurting young woman. But I am also not her anymore. I have come so far, learned so much, and have accepted so much more love and happiness into my life. I can now see that I deserve all that, too, as anyone does. I have accepted myself for the incredible person that I am and I believe that I’ve made peace with how I’ve gotten here. I can finally say that I own my body. No part of me, physically or emotionally, is owned by shame anymore. No part of me is owned by the words that others may sling at me. No part of me is owned by my depression or my anxiety or my OCD or my disordered eating or my fears or my insecurities or my doubts. While I can’t pick up my phone and call that version of myself to try and help her, I can put this out into the world and talk to another perfectly wonderful person who feels like I did when I didn’t need to. I would tell anyone reading what I would have liked to tell myself: Reach out. Keep reaching out until you find the right person who will help you. Love yourself. Define yourself. Be yourself. Anything that a person says out of hate reflects on them, not you. Their issue with your body or your mind or your clothes or your heart… that’s all on them. Give yourself the gift of letting that go. You are not wrong or worthless or bad. You are incredible and have so much potential. You can be happy. Take the chance and believe me. Believe in yourself because you are the most important person you can have in your corner.

This post is dedicated to that girl I was, anyone who could use these words that I wish I had back then. To my friend who sent me an envelope full of more love than she could have realized. This post is also dedicated to me now. Me who can fully appreciate how beautiful and talented and smart and kind and empathetic I am. How truly wonderful I always have been even when I couldn’t see it myself. This post is in thanks to everyone who helped me really see myself and learn to love myself over the years. It’s a gift that I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for and continue to be every day of my life. This post is for the me of the future that will be possible because I fought for myself.

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So much love,

so much hope,

so much belief in the person you are now,

so much belief in the person you can become,

so much faith in your strength,
~ Glo ❤

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-8255

Tuna Salad

Some days, more than I could have ever dreamed of at this point, it is easy to forget that I am disabled. Or it’s at least very easy to ignore that aspect of my reality while I’m doing, living, enjoying myself. Other days remind me why I am not yet fully immersed in the world. Why I’m working so hard. Why I’m still in a place that feels weird where I can’t necessarily do all the things that I want to do yet even though I often feel great.

Today I am feeling my disability. Today it took me almost an hour to make myself lunch. Did I prepare something amazing? No. I made tuna salad. It took me almost an hour to make tuna salad. I have been working out hard this week. I’ve been pushing my body and I’ve been enjoying myself. I am so damn proud of myself for what I’ve been able to do this week in spite of my excess weight and bad leg. I don’t regret anything that I’ve done but I am having a hard time today. How does it take an hour to make tuna salad? I’ll break it down.

First of all, I’m not including the time it took me to motivate myself to pick myself up off the couch to actually make the tuna salad. I’m in pain, my muscles are tired, I’m tired, and I already helped my mom by decorating a cake and helping her get ready for her church’s women’s group meeting. I got up, though, and hobbled to the kitchen. I injured the ball of my left foot so while I would have been limping, I am trying not to put pressure on my tender tootsie which makes walking difficult with a weird gait. I get in the kitchen around a quarter after one.

Locating the tuna isn’t hard. I know right where it is, it’s easily accessible, and I select three pouches of light, low sodium tuna in water. I figure since I’m up making lunch I’ll make extra to either share or have for tomorrow. Next ingredient? Light Miracle Whip. (I know Mayo people just cringed in disgust but that’s how I ate is as a kid and that’s how I make it now. No Miracle Whip shame! Haha!) This is my first stumbling block since there is only a very scant teaspoon  left in the container. Where is the new jar? In the bottom cupboard. On the bottom shelf. Aaaalllll the way at the back. This is where I debate calling off my lofty tuna salad dreams and settle for eating wasabi beans until my face falls off. Or maybe just skipping lunch and slumping back onto the couch. Instead I carefully and painfully lower myself to the floor. This is still an improvement to not being able to do this at all, so I’ll call it a win anyway.

I spend a long time moving cans, boxes, and bags to get to the back of the cupboard and locate my precious Miracle Whip. At this point my bad leg and injured foot are okay, but I am really feeling my arms, shoulders, back muscles, and stomach muscles as I move all of the canned goods out of my way and lean further and further into the cupboard. I finally drag it out, rearrange the stuff I moved around because my people are pretty particular about the placement of our pantry items, and then I sit there holding it because I am even more tired and I’m not ready to drag myself to my feet. I take a cursory look around the other cabinets at floor level looking for my missing bottle of hot sauce. I don’t find it but I finally work up the nerve to haul myself up to the counter. It hurts. I make strange noises involuntarily. I can’t help but bear weight on my bad leg and my bad foot but I manage to get upright without too much difficulty. Time it took to get a jar or Miracle Whip from the bottom cupboard? About twenty minutes.

I gather the rest of my ingredients: a piece of onion leftover from dad’s eggs, a pickle to dice since I don’t currently have dill relish (anyone who puts sweet relish in tuna salad is a monster – just sayin’), salt free garlic and herb seasoning, and my tuna. I hobble over to the table with my arms loaded. I then take my time gathering a bowl, cutting board, and knife. I consider getting a Tupperware container for the leftovers but I really need to sit down so I park my butt at the table and begin actually making the tuna now that thirty minutes have elapsed since I started making my lunch.

I make sure not to hurry. I’m using a knife, after all, and my muscles are tired and sore. I’m already frustrated with the amount of time I’ve used but I also know that hurrying while I’m sore and tired will only do more harm. I start chopping the quarter onion and realize the knife is dull. I consider getting up and swapping knives but decide not to as the muscles in my bad leg are burning. I carry on chopping my onion then a pickle and throw that together with the tuna. I sprinkle in some seasoning, scrape the nearly empty jar of Light Miracle Whip clean, and open the new one. Everything seems slow and tedious by this point. My muscles are protesting, my leg aches in spite of extra strength Tylenol. I’m not hungry, I never really am since I had weight loss surgery, but I know I need to eat and I know that the sooner I eat the sooner I can put my leg back up to rest. I know that if I do too much today I won’t be able to go watch my niece play mini golf with her class tomorrow. I am arguing with my own body as I stir my tuna in seeming slow motion.

I finally get everything mixed together and it’s been around forty minutes since I started. I taste it and there’s something weird. Something missing. Then it dawns on me that I forgot to add celery. I quickly debate whether getting and chopping a stalk of celery is worth it. These are the kinds of things I think about on days when my disability is very obvious to me. Things like if I have enough in me to chop a stalk of celery. I decide that I want the celery. My mom might have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow and she’d like it better with celery, too. I also still needed that bowl to put the leftovers away so I put away what needs to be put away, throw out the trash, and grab a stalk of celery out of the fridge. By the time I hobble back to the table, chop my celery, and mix it into the tuna salad it is 2 o’ clock on the dot. I spoon out a portion for myself, put the rest away, and finally put my leg up and enjoy my forty-five minute lunch… my serving finished in sixteen minutes. It was pretty darn tasty at least.

I told you about my grand lunch adventure because even though I have done some amazing things this past year I am still a disabled person. There are still days where I do nothing more than move from one spot in the house to another because of pain or weakness or difficulty with my asthma. These days don’t define me, though. They don’t define my progress or my recovery or anything else about me. These days aren’t the most important part of my life. My disability isn’t the most important part of my life. The fact that these days still happen, while sometimes frustrating, doesn’t mean I haven’t done enough, worked hard enough, or done right by myself. This just means I need to take some time and rest because I’ve had a busy, fulfilling, wonderful week. The kind that wasn’t possible even last year let alone three or five years ago. These days don’t mean that I am weak or less-than or lacking. I am not ashamed of these days. I am grateful that they are no longer the majority of my time.

I’m writing about this day instead of waiting for another great, do-anything, accomplish-a-lot days because I think it’s important to show this part of my life to those that might be experiencing them, too. It’s easy for people outside my immediate life to not even notice these days. It looks like I shouldn’t be having these days from the outside but I’m lucky that I was able to recover enough so far that these days aren’t my every day. For some people every day is one where they debate whether or not they have the energy to make lunch. Or eat lunch. Or just move. Or just go on. Luck has been on my side, incredible people have been on my side, and I’ve finally figured out the things that I need to push myself to do for myself. I am so grateful for everything that has brought me to today even though today I needed almost an hour to make a bowl of tuna salad. I made that tuna salad, though. I am lucky that I had an hour in which to make my lunch and then even more time to continue resting my body.

Today is going to be about self care and that is perfectly alright for me or anyone else that needs it. Rest today means that I’ll able to participate tomorrow. Pushing myself today to make the tuna salad means that I’m dedicated to myself and my recovery. It also means that I’ve had worse days since I was able to push through the pain and fatigue to actually do something for myself. Now that I’ve rested a bit and wrote this very important tuna salad post, I’m going to motivate myself to brush my teeth since I have some pretty gnarly onion breath.

Anyone out there who’s struggling to do the small things, however often, your struggles aren’t all of who you are. You are worth getting through the bad days. You are worth taking time to take care of yourself. You are worth resting without guilt or shame or embarrassment. Would I rather it had only took me five or ten minutes to make lunch than nearly an hour? Of course. But I’m not going to beat myself up for needing to take my time and be gentle with my body. I’ve pushed myself hard. My body still needs work. That doesn’t mean that today is any less important of a step forward.

You are worth anything in this world. You are worth rest. You are worth taking your time. You are worth appreciating your body even on hard days, too.

Much Love,
~ Glo ❤

One Year Later

I’m standing in the shower surrounded by hot water and foam from a sweetly scented moisturizing body wash. I learned to put my phone in the bowl of the sink while streaming music to amplify the sound. Some days I need Nirvana. Some days I need Tom Waits. Some different but glorious in their own way days I am engulfed in upbeat pop rock. Something strange has recently started happening in the shower. I didn’t realize it until my body was swaying while my feet were firmly planted in the anti-skid strips on the shower floor. I’m raising my arms and singing into the pink pouf full of suds. I startle myself when I realize my hips are shaking. I’m dancing in the shower. When was the last time I danced in the shower? Have I ever done this?

It may not seem weird to you at all but it’s a sign, to me, that I’m happier and healthier than I can remember being. Long, hot showers have always been my guilty pleasure. I play music, I use all the hot water, I would buy as luxurious of products as my budget allowed me to buy, I cherished a decadent sugar scrub a friend gifted me, and I nearly always have my best ideas in the shower. The past few years, though, showering had become difficult. I was sick, in pain, and super obese. Showering took a lot of energy that I didn’t always have. My hair has always been thick and when it was long I would skip washing it more often than not because it was just an ordeal. I’d stick it up in a messy bun and ignore my hair until it had matted clumps. My mermaid hair was a burden. Showering was another difficult, shameful thing. Then entered the white-plastic medical looking shower chair into my world. I made things easier, it helped me care for myself, but it was another thing in my world that kept me from feeling like a whole, able, person. I know that I’ve always been a whole person, of course, but disability and depression can wreak havoc on anyone’s inner dialogue.

When my leg was Franken-leg and I was suffering with wounds from infection, my showers were something that filled me with anxiety. The skin on my leg from mid-thigh down was thin and sensitive from being stretched. The first shower I took in the hospital terrified me. I hadn’t been upright for that long in days but a nurse stayed with me, helped me, and I leaned on a walker nearly the whole time even though I was seated. There was no strength in my leg. Just pain. When I shambled with my walker out of the bathroom I remember very clearly that the nurse said “Oh, you’re bleeding!” I looked behind me and down to see that my left foot left bloody prints all the way out of the shower. After that I was scared. I would imagine getting in the shower and my leg disintegrating. Or rubbing too hard with a pouf and my skin sloughing off. My guilty pleasure had become a living nightmare and, once home, I had to be encouraged firmly to stop giving myself basin baths and actually get in the shower.

Now maybe you can better understand how incredible a thing it is that I caught myself dancing in the shower. I wasn’t even thinking about it, my body just expressed my happiness through the ability to actually stand and dance and enjoy that small part of my day without any dark cloud hanging over my head. I wasn’t consumed by fear about my leg or about falling. I didn’t require that chair which has been relocated to storage where it is not missed (though I am grateful for what it allowed me to do for myself while I used it). A shower is a lot bigger without a large hunk of plastic taking up half of it. I got back something that I didn’t realize I had missed so damn much.

All this is what has inspired me to write briefly about the things I have gotten back since my vertical sleeve gastrectomy (VSG) a year and a week ago. It’s been one heck of a year.

– My hands. The first place I noticed my weight loss, strangely enough, was my hands. I was reading a book and it suddenly seemed like I didn’t recognize the hands holing the book. I Have celebrated my hands by donning rings, wearing bangle bracelets, and painting my nails more frequently.

– Walking. I don’t need my walker anymore in assistance with my mobility. I say it that way since I did use it at my niece’s soccer games because I do not yet trust a folding camping chair to support me. I have trust issues with furniture that are designed to collapse.

– My ability to catch my breath. I can walk decent distance without huffing, puffing, and gasping for breath. Which means I don’t cough or yawn because I’m embarrassed about my labored breathing and desperately try to mask my difficulty. I’m pretty sure it never really worked, but I tried. I’ll always have asthma but it’s gotten so much better.

– In-store clothes shopping. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve had to exclusively shop for extended sizes online, but it’s been years. In the past few months I’ve been able to find tops, a duster type sweater, and even pants on the rack in a store where I could try things on. I didn’t shy away from the many mirrors in the horrible light. I wasn’t ashamed of the plus color codes on the hangers. I bought my clothes with my head held high and I’m enjoying the heck out of them.

– The movies. I went years and years without going to the theater. Even when the size of the seats weren’t an issue because of handicapped sections, I was just mortified to be in the situation and it was often too uncomfortable to sit in the same place with my bad leg. And what if it was a popular movie and the theater was packed?! Then I’d have to sit near strangers! I couldn’t handle the anxiety. Now when my bestie invites me to catch a movie with her I don’t hesitate.

– Aunt-Niece time. Before my niece was very understanding that I could play with her for a half hour, maybe a bit longer, then I would have to take a break and put my leg up. She rarely complained but I could tell it was disappointing even though one of the grandparents would swoop in and do something with her. She knew that I wasn’t likely to show up places or go out with the family, she knew not to ask me to go on walks, she knew not to ask me to push her on the swing or play on the floor or carry her or a myriad of other things that I just couldn’t physically do. Now we can walk outside, I tried to help her fly a kite, I went to the movies with her and grandma and then we walked down to the toy store. The only brakes I take while we’re playing are bathroom breaks (sometimes I take a few more minutes than necessary and check my phone) and she’s getting used to me just simply showing up.

– My strength. The other day I helped haul my mom’s glass-topped patio table across the yard. My strength isn’t limited to moving my heavy, damaged body anymore. I can lift tables and move washing machines and haul dirt. It feels great to be a strong person again.

– My energy. Exercise then shopping? Yes, please! Chase my niece around the playground? Sign me up! Gardening? Let’s do it!

– My confidence. People have noticed it in my face. I’m just living my life and I’m happy. While I am still working on myself, I am comfortable with who I am and am extremely happy with how far I have come. I’ll wear that dress to the store and if it’s hot I’ll leave for water aerobics without covering my arms. I’m not always constantly worried about what someone else might think of me. Talk about ditching emotional weight!

– My relationship with food. What I put in my body is no longer my enemy. I’m not constantly hungry and thinking about what I could be eating. I’m not hiding food, hoarding food, buying excess crappy food, and I’m not always worried about what others are thinking about what I eat. I was so paranoid choosing food in public. If it was too healthy “they” would think I was doing it for show and didn’t really eat like that. If I chose something very unhealthy “they” would assume that’s how I ate all the time and no wonder I was so fat and they’d judge me for doing that to myself. It was a stressful line to walk so I would order something in the middle and just binge at home when I was alone. That stress is gone. I still enjoy food, of course, but in much smaller portions and I have learned to prepare and choose much healthier things.

– Driving. Not only do I fit behind the wheel of a car that I used to not be able to drive, I can buckle the seat belt. It’s extremely liberating. I spent a little over three years not driving which is something that I completely love doing. Windows down, music up, wind in my hair, wearing my oversized sunglasses. Little bit of heaven on earth. Next month I’ll have my own car up, running, insured and I’ll be practically unstoppable!

– Helping. One of the things that was hard about being disabled for me was not being able to help. I couldn’t help myself sometimes, how could I help anyone else in that state? Now I can cook meals, help in the garden and around the house, help my niece, help carry in groceries, and all kinds of other little but important things throughout the day. I’m going to be helping at my niece’s school, too. It’s amazing to finally not be trapped inside my body like I was before.

– Desire. Not that kind. But I actually want to do things again. Things I love. My depression and inability to be present in my life are all but gone and I want to get out into the world and do things again. I want to build a new life for myself.

– My health. Borderline high blood sugar? Nope. Borderline high blood pressure? Not anymore! Levels are good. Lungs are clear. Leg is strong. Lymphedema has lessened. Life is beautiful.

– My future. Obviously I’m still alive which is a big plus. I have also begun to think that maybe my plans for the future aren’t impossible. I’d like to travel, have a place of my own someplace new, meet friends I’ve known for years but haven’t hugged yet. I want a career. I want to see things and experience things and learn things… and that’s really starting to feel possible for the first time in years. I feel like I have a chance.

– Me. I’ve gotten me back. I missed me.

So, all of that happened in a short 372 days. But who’s counting? 😉 I’ve stumbled along the way, of course, but my progress is undeniable. I have a lot more weight to lose but it’s no longer if I’ll manage to lose it, it’s just a matter of time and effort. I don’t wish to wake up a different person. I’m still going to be disabled for a while, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m getting there and I’m enjoying my life along the way. Finally. After way too long.

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Much Love,
Thanks for coming along on this crazy ride,

~ Glo ❤

Purpose

I will confess something. I have a secret Pinterest board. It’s not for some future wedding that may or may not happen, it’s not naughty things (that one’s open), and it’s not something I’m ashamed of. It is, in fact, full of my depression pins. Not hopeful, inspiring things. It’s not full of happy things to help bring me back from the sadness. It is sad and dark and maybe some of the things on there are a little desperate. I’ve only pinned to that board twice. It has 109 pins. I have it because sometimes I need a private space to live in the thick of my depression. To embrace the sadness or loneliness for a little while and really feel and explore it so I can let it go. I also visit this board when I am happy so that on the now thankfully rare dark days I can remember that while I’m in this emotional funk, there have been so many more times when I’ve not only been okay but when I’ve been thriving, happy, and complete all on my own. I can rewrite the negative when I am happy so when I view those same things through a film of depression or anxiety, I remember the “talk” I had with myself from a better place. That board is a safe place to be sad. It’s somewhere I can dwell a little, wring out the depression, and come back to my real life without dragging anyone else into that space.

There is one item on that board that speaks to me quite a bit. It’s simple, one line on a red background: “Loneliness is not a lack of company, it’s a lack of purpose.” While there is purpose in my life, there is nothing really that drives me while I’m having this period of health and recovery. Everything is a bit self-centered and while that’s exactly what I’ve needed it’s also fueled days where I’ve felt particularly empty. The only thing that drives me to get up and out is me. My family will entice me to get out into the world, but I hardly ever have to be a certain place at a certain time. I’m not out interacting and meeting new people. My recent doctor visit reminded me again how important finding more purpose in my life is. He said to me, when he commented on how well I was doing and inquired about my return to the workforce, “You’re a people person. I know you have your issues, but you really shine out there with everyone.” I do, too. He gets me. How great is that? When I was a cashier the best part of my job was meeting people. Helping. Making conversation, listening, experiencing that part of my world is something I miss.

My parents expressed that they don’t think I’m ready quite yet. My dad would like me to have skin removal surgery because they’re with me and they notice what’s going on with the rashes and ulcers and when I’m having trouble walking because my body is a landslide of loose skin. I understand that and appreciate them looking out for me. It would be wonderful to be able to wait for that. I also really, really feel that I need to be doing something. I have been without a job for years. I no longer have weekly appointments with doctors, occupational therapists, and my surgeon to occupy my time. When I don’t have some kind of schedule to keep everything sort of falls through the cracks. I do what I can from the computer and with my family, but my small world isn’t enough anymore. It hasn’t been for a while. I can do more so I want the opportunity to actually do it. While the consensus is that I’m not ready to be punching a time clock I am ready to do something with my time. I’m ready and able to give of myself.

For months now I’ve been looking for volunteer opportunities. I figured it was a good use of my time, I’d be helping and interacting with new people, and I’d even be doing something to put on my long dormant resume when the time did come to return to work. So far opportunities have been too far away to be feasible or required a lot of hard work that I’m not able to do yet. Someday I’ll be out there building houses for people in need. I’m not there yet. I accept that. My niece, noticing that I’m more active and participating with the family more, suggested that when I feel even better, I should volunteer at her school like grandma does. I love that little girl to death and wouldn’t deny her anything within my realm of possibility, but my mom is active in the classroom once a week. She helps the kindergarteners with lunch, watches over them while they play, helps them with work in the classroom, cleans, and does whatever gophering the teacher needs. While I love my niece and adore spending time with her, she is my niece, after all. Those strange kids, a bunch of them in one room all at once, are not mine and I am not equipped for that kind of situation. That is definitely not in my realm of possibility.

The last time my niece spent the night, my mom brought from her class a bunch of those different labels kids collect to raise money for their school. There wasn’t enough time to organize them during the school day so grandma brought homework to share with me. We trimmed the ragged labels, sorted them into their different brands, and counted them. She told me how there was too much going on to get through all of them so everyone took home a few hundred. Divide and conquer. Inspiration hit. “You know, I could help out in the office if they need help getting through stuff like this.” Mom’s eyes lit up! She thought that was a great idea and would suggest it for me. I thought it was a good compromise. Helping my niece’s school while staying out of the sticky clutches of her classmates. I didn’t get my hopes up, though, and kind of forgot about it for a while.

This Thursday when my mom came home with my niece in tow she had good news. The lady who runs the office was thrilled to hear about my offer for help! Apparently while I had been praying for purpose she had been praying for help. Mom rattled off my talents as her a dad’s personal home secretary in dealing with all their online needs. She boasted about my degrees in art and writing, my shining personality, and my willingness to donate my time. I haven’t hammered out the details with the school office lady yet, but it sounds like they’ll have plenty of things for me to do including typing and answering phones. I lamented aloud that I hadn’t thought of it sooner, the school year is almost over! No worries. The school is far from wrapping up and since they are connected to the church, there will be more than enough for me to do during the summer as well. Not only does she want my help during Fridays when my mom heads in for lunch and class duties, but she’d be happy to have me for a couple days a week since I have access to a car and the ability to drive. Everyone I’ve met and heard about from my family has seemed kind, inclusive, generous and friendly so while I might be a little nervous heading into uncharted territory, I’m mostly looking forward to the work and excited to have this purpose to help balance my life. I really need something I can throw myself into and this seems like a perfect fit while I continue to work on myself and drive towards being a completely capable person.

It’s going to be nice to have a place to be regularly. Something that keeps me getting up, getting dressed, and appreciating my own time more. I am crossing all of my fingers and toes that it works out as well as I’m hoping and that eventually, when I need it to, it’ll lead me to the next right place for me. My mom, the well of optimism from which my glowing spirit was born, is hoping that they eventually hire me on. While I’ve heard of volunteer work leading to job offers, I’m just happy to have something new to put on my resume. I’m happy to be helping and making my niece proud and seeing new people and tackling other people’s problems. This is going to be great for me and is another step towards the life I eventually want to have for myself. Sometimes things just happen to work out. Now, while prayers are being answered, if my next stepping stone is in a warmer climate, that would be fine by me. 😉

Much Love,
~ Glo ❤

Shame’s Role in my Healthcare

I’ve been open about being ashamed of receiving treatment for my mental/emotional problems and my weight problems. I felt like I should just be able to pull myself up by my bootstraps and be “normal”. That was obviously not something I could do on my own and no one should feel like that’s something they should need to do alone. My weight crept into other aspects of my healthcare, though, and the shame I felt because of my ever increasing size kept me from the doctor’s office for anything from the flu to serious problems. For most of my life I was fat but healthy on paper. I let myself hold onto that so I wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of marching into that sterile hallway, balancing precariously on that scale that would not register my weight, getting some kind of remark about it from the nurse, and then talking to a doctor about a no-no subject. My weight. Diet? Exercise? Slim Fast? Pills? Surgery?! It was overwhelming and anxiety inducing and depression triggering. I avoided it at all costs.

Tomorrow I’m going to my current doctor that takes care of all my general, day-to-day needs in life. I’ve been diligently taking my medications, vitamins, and I’m actually looking forward to seeing my doctor. He’s a good guy, one I can tell cares about me, and I feel bad for ditching on him while our vehicles were busted. While I’m just having a checkup and getting prescriptions renewed, I’m going to ask him to help me get an appointment that I’ve been too ashamed to go to until now. It’s something he tried to encourage me to do when I was seeking help through counseling. I couldn’t do it, though.
The truth is that I am damn near thirty years old and I have never had that wonderful little yearly physical that all women should have. I was horrified by the whole prospect of someone rooting around in my vagina. By the time I was over that I was just too damn ashamed to go to a gynecologist while I was so fat. My doctor, great guy that he is, offered to refer me to a specialist and set everything up. I couldn’t do it, though. I had trouble hefting myself onto the exam table. How was I going to get my huge body and misshapen Franken-leg into stirrups?! I was so ashamed of my body that I couldn’t consider inflicting my fat-lady vagina onto a doctor. Someone who does that sort of thing for a living and is totally used to different bodies, different problems, and wouldn’t bat an eyelash at some things that would give me nightmares.

So years went by and I convinced myself that because I wasn’t having sex, I didn’t need to get my secret garden checked out. The thing is, vaginas do a whole lot for themselves. They clean themselves and everything! It would be a breeze if it wasn’t for the whole period thing. Women need to get their vaginas checked for a myriad of things including pre-cancer, full-blown Cancer cancer, PCOS, and all sorts of other scary things that are treatable if you find them. Just because I’m not having sex doesn’t mean I’m exempt from things like HPV. I knew all this but shoved it down, thinking that a fat lady had to hide from the GYN in shame. I didn’t want to deal with my body, so why should I make someone else do it?

The thing is, though, my periods have never been regular. N-E-V-E-R. That didn’t seem unusual considering my mom’s history. I just ignored it and, for the most part, decided to go with the irregular flow. My doctors over the years said I should get checked out when it was time for those type of appointments to start, nothing to be concerned with. Then since I wasn’t sexually active that date got pushed a few more years into the future by a doctor that wasn’t the best fit for me. I wish I would have gotten it over with then, realized that it wasn’t a big deal, and been on top of my vagina health. Then I was just in full-blown body shame and hid from any kind of appointment because I didn’t want to talk about myself, I didn’t want to show anyone parts of a body I saw as horribly ugly, and I sure as hell didn’t want to strip down, hop onto a table, and spread my legs. What would I do with my voluminous, hanging belly? Now, I’m twenty-nine and have never had an appointment with a gynecologist. The real shame is that I felt like I had to hide my body from medical professionals, not the fact that I’ve been fat my whole life.

My last period was over three years ago. I remember vividly because I started when I was in the hospital and nearly died. A real good way to get over vagina/body shame is having an array of cute male and female nurses cramming thick, cotton pads up around your lady bits since you’re catheterized and can’t really wear underpants. After that I promised to myself that when I lost enough weight I would start going to gyno appointments religiously. I was still worried about my body and while I had accepted myself in a way, I still let myself feel bad about the basic human need to show my body to my doctors. I assumed that I’d lose weight, my period would return, and then I’d have my appointment and not have to worry. But my period has yet to return in spite of the rampant hormones coursing through my body from rapid weight loss.I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I am a little worried about the state of my reproductive system.

So tomorrow I’m asking for the referral to the gynecologist that I refused years ago. I am a human being and I deserve complete health care no matter what state my body is in. I’m happy to be doing this for myself and while I am not yet confident to bear my naked arms in public, I do know that my body is nothing to be ashamed of. Especially in a doctor’s office. I’m not waiting for healthcare anymore and neither should anyone else out there. I wish I could have seen back then that the gynecologist wouldn’t have taken one look at me and said “WHOA! No fatties.” and walked out of my appointment. I did have a doctor, when I was younger, that was not shy about making fun of me and that left a mark. I felt that I deserved less because of my weight, my body, my problems. No one does, though. I shouldn’t be twenty-nine and planning on going to my first gynecologist appointment! I’ve learned to respect myself even though my weight isn’t where I want it to be yet. I’ve realized that doctors want to help me be a healthy, happy person. I’m doing this for myself and I’m talking about it so another young woman like I was won’t wait so long. Who knows what could be brewing down there? I will (hopefully soon) find out.

I am worth quality, complete healthcare. Anyone in the world is worth that in spite of their weight or whatever other situation is holding you back. If you do run into that rare doctor that treats you poorly, find another one. Make noise, get your voice heard, and see someone who will listen to and respect you. I love my current doctor. He takes me seriously, treats me like a person, and I’m comfortable with him. I can trust him and that’s a very big deal. Find that doctor you can trust and get taken care of. Please, take care of yourselves. You are worth that and so much more.

Much Love,
~Glo ❤

Everyday Adventures

Do you remember those “choose your own adventure” books? The ones where it let you make a choice, left or right, into the cave or into the woods, fight or flight, and you skip to the page of your choice and see where it takes you? If you got eaten by a bear or goblin you’d shriek and tell yourself that didn’t count because you didn’t get the page quite all the way turned so you’d make a different choice. Slay the dragon, save the princess, become the hero. You got to make multiple choices as you read and see what kind of story you helped create for yourself. Lives themselves are like those books. We’re constantly making choices about doing this or that with our time. Maybe it’s not exciting as putting on armor and charging into the enchanted forest, but it’s an adventure and it’s an amazing thing.

Over three years ago I spent so much time with a very small book. I could make one choice, select one, short path in my adventure and be done for the day or even week. I could do the dishes or take a shower. I could fold laundry or use my resistance bands for maybe ten minutes. I could go out of the house, interact, and be exhausted and in pain for days or I could stay inside, closed away, and surrender my adventure entirely. I hated not having a choice. I longed for the mundane adventures of taking a walk with my niece or going shopping with my parents or driving my car to look at books or pick up snail shells at the beach or anything at all.

Today I made lots of choices. My pages fluttered before me and I embraced them. I took the “garden with your parents” adventure, the “go for a walk and take pictures” adventure, the “hang out with social media family” adventure, the “go for a drive” adventure, the “go to aqua Zumba class” adventure, and the “go shopping” adventure. None of these were possible three years ago. None of them. I was too sick, too heavy, and my leg was too damaged. I was still healing, still getting better. Last year I could have chosen shopping or taking a walk and punctuated my day with Facebook and rest. Today I did it all. ALL of these simple, everyday adventures were mine. I had options, made choices, and enjoyed this small segment of my story. I had energy to devote to each of these so I could really be present and enjoy them. I still have energy left and I am not in pain. These small things seem meaningless, but that was my life before. This day? Where I got to fill my time with things that I wanted to do? Magical.

It’s strange and wonderful how such small things can enlarge a person’s life. My world isn’t as big as I’d like it to be someday, but it’s growing every day. I can do so many things that I forfeited for so long. I’m rediscovering my love for everyday things that I got used to not having. I wasn’t sure how soon or if I’d ever have them again. I started taking care of myself, though, inside and out. I went to doctors and counselors and dieticians and physical therapy. I eventually had surgery (vertical sleeve gastrectomy) and a shift began. My adventures went from those that I needed to spend energy on to those that I wanted to. Adventures that I want to take pictures of and share. Adventures with people who I care about. No sidelines, no cop-outs. I choose one adventure and another and another. I am laying the foundation that will support my bigger goals, dreams, accomplishments. The adventure is in seeing how they begin to stack up. Today’s small adventures will turn into the big ones. A career? A home of my own? Traveling? I can get an inkling but my future is still a huge, glorious mystery. Sometimes that is intimidating. It absolutely can be. Today though? I caught a glimpse of myself building up to something different, something bigger. I have a feeling that, whatever it is, it’s going to be great.

Thanks to everyone who has been a part of that. So much love to all of you. No matter how fleeting some people have been in my life, the impact has not been. Today it has been apparent that I am worth the struggles, the victories, and every wonderful thing to come.

Much love,
~ Glo ❤

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