Monday, July 18, 2016

Tainted Moments

tainted memories life's a polyp

It's been six months since my divorce was finalized and 10 months since I separated from my now ex-husband. Life has become easier in those 10 months as I learned to accept my marriage had ended. I felt ahead of the game as I had been given the opportunity to start the grieving process months before I made the decision to divorce. I realize there is no going back, nothing to fix what transpired, there is only moving forward. There are moments, days, even months of unceasing happiness where I'm dulled into thinking I've fully moved past my marriage and divorce. But these are only passing moments of falsehood that are ripped to shreds with backslides of emotional torture and backlashes of the destruction to my life that have occurred.

Divorce is a horrendously emotionally destructive force that tears apart the psyche and the heart. Albeit necessary and unavoidable at times. It has an inescapable far reaching grasp on life after divorce. Day by day I learn to live without the one person I considered to be my true soulmate and countless other adjectives to express how much this person meant to a cautious heart that didn't expect or believe it would find or receive what was given in the span of nearly 7 highly fulfilled, unconditionally loving years. And in spite of my daily learning and adjustment, I've come to expect that the milestones of my new life are haunted by my marriage and divorce.

This wasn't an easy expectation to accept. I was blindsided after my divorce time and time again. I experienced long stretches of excellent coping with how my life was unexpectedly altered. I was happy, free of heartache, and enjoying life only to be emotionally slammed when I would accomplish a life milestone by the haunting remnants of my marriage. With each milestone or accomplishment, I'm reminded that I was supposed to be experiencing these moments with my husband not on my own or with another person. And the grieving of my marriage is renewed each time. Grieving that is soul breaking.

Divorce doesn't come in a neatly wrapped package with a guide of what to expect. I've learned one can never truly be prepared for how divorce affects the heart and life afterwards. I will be coping perfectly fine one day and my peaceful existence will be ravaged by the heartache of divorce without any warning.

Presently, I'm in the process of buying a house and as the closing date nears the worst my grieving becomes. It started the day after my bid was accepted by the seller. A couple days later my divorce's death hold loosened. Now, a little over a week away from my closing date and the death hold is tightening again. This is an exciting milestone with great promise for my future. And yet it is tainted by my marriage.

Somehow, I must force myself through the renewed grieving process and continue to forge ahead on the new paths my life holds for me as a divorced person. Otherwise, I will never be able to enjoy the wondrous milestones my future holds for me. I'm still learning how to break free of the death holds my divorce periodically has upon me. I'm told by other far more experienced divorcees that I will experience such grieving periods for 3-5 years as my heart heals and over time life becomes easier.

In the meantime, I must keep sharing my pain with loved ones who will listen to me. I take refuge in the understanding arms of other divorcees who are able to relate to my experiences unlike others who haven't experienced divorce. I restarted therapy. And beyond these steps, I'm not sure what else to do at this point. But I'm taking steps to help my heart heal and enjoy my life's milestones, tainted as they are.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Don't Shut Me Down

reaching out for help life's a polyp

I was going through another bout of depression. Not anything particularly new for me. I've battled depression since childhood when my chronic illness started. I've completed years of psychotherapy and resume counseling when needed. Although the triggers of my depression vary, it usually surrounds my health and now my divorce. And occasionally I go through bouts of feeling that life is pointless and I'm simply waiting for death. These bouts can easily become a struggle for me and I frequently reach out to friends when I'm starting to feel the pull of depression again. That is, until I'm shut down for reaching out.

It takes courage to reach out to someone when we are at our most vulnerable point; when we are emotionally raw and desperate for some semblance of peace or happiness. It's not easy opening up to others about depression especially when depression cycles periodically. We often feel like a burden to those around us and tend to struggle with our emotions on our own until we reach a breaking point where we feel we must talk to someone - for our own sanity and safety. Therefore, when we reach out it shouldn't be taken lightly. So when we finally muster up the courage to reach out for a listening ear it can be devastating when we are met with responses telling us to stop talking about what we are feeling and experiencing simply because the person doesn't want to listen or is uncomfortable with what we are sharing.

I was met with such words the last time I reached out to a friend. I can only presume that my depressive feelings was causing my friend to feel uncomfortable but as I read his words telling me to stop talking about what I was feeling I was instantly shut down. No longer did I feel safe turning to this person who wouldn't let me openly talk about my depression. No longer did I see a friend who cared for me but rather someone who wouldn't listen to my words, my pain, my cry for help. I felt betrayed. I thought this person was safe and would be there for me in our friendship. I was wrong and it stung my hurting heart.

When this happens, not everyone will reach out to another person. One rejection for help is
destructive to the psyche and the remaining emotional reserves that we cling to in our times of need. For someone whose depression has resulted in suicidal ideation, there often is not a second cry for help. A suicidal person uses the small remnants of hope and what is remaining of their emotional strength to ask for help and when that help is rejected, there is no more hope for help or recovery. When we lose hope, we lose ourselves.

It is difficult to look past a trusted person's dismissal and betrayal of our cries for help but for our own well-being we must look past another's behavior and try again. There is always someone who is willing to listen whether it be someone we personally know or someone available through online support groups or phone hotlines. We must remember this and hold strong to this knowledge.

If you happen to be privileged with the trust of a hurting person, please be mindful of what this person is experiencing. This person is simply asking for your support and understanding. Sometimes a hurting person doesn't need advice or even words, just simple acknowledgement of their pain. And if you're worried about a hurting person's safety, kindly express your concerns and direct them to professional help whether it is counseling, hotlines, or even 911 in the case of an emergency.

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Moment's Time

In the world of chronic illness anything can happen in a moment's time. Sure, this is true of life in general. However, living in the regularly unpredictable state that is chronic illness this is all the more true. As the chronically ill, we're more susceptible to change and more well-versed in change. We are pushed to our limits to adapt to an ever changing state.

Our health status ebbs and flows, pulling us into streaks of good health only to plummet us in the depths of ongoing poor health. This can happen from day to day and if we're lucky we'll have years in between the tides of changing health. With such changes in health, we become susceptible to a ripple effect of changes overflowing into the rest of our lives - employment, school, social, romance, etc. We may become unable to continue working or finishing school. We experience impacts on our social lives as we're forced to alter our activities with last minute cancellations, limiting activities, or completely giving up some of our activities. We're often faced with difficult choices as we determine who to share our lives and health with - platonically and romantically. We make ourselves vulnerable to those we care to know better. We face the risk of rejection and discrimination when we open up to others. We may even lose the one we loved if our partner no longer has the fortitude required for partnering with someone with chronic illness. And sometimes change can even mean facing death.

And yet, somehow all these changes and risks can be worth it.

With any change we are provided opportunities for growth. We can embrace our changes difficult as they may be. Achieving the embrace is made sweeter by the height of change. We are pushed and pulled, stretched to our breaking point and by the sheer strength of our tenacity, our own courageous determination we are able to rise above the change and make our own changes within ourselves and our lives. It may not be the change we initially wanted but we can make a change our change. We can own it. By owning change, we no longer let it rule and control us. Instead, we strengthen ourselves to rise above the worst of changes and learn to thrive in the face of adversity.

So how do we rise above and grow from this adversity?

  • Healing and growth begins with acknowledgment
We can't fully process and move forward until we realize what we're feeling. Only then are we able to start processing our feelings about what we're facing. The time required for processing will vary from person to person and situation to situation. Processing can't be rushed, it must be felt and it can take a lot of mental energy. But once we process we will find ourselves on the other side and much healthier mentally and emotionally than where we started. It's usually not an easy process...but the end result is worth the time.

  • Find and use support.
Although there is definite strength in the ability to face adversity and change on our own, it doesn't mean we have to face it alone or that we necessarily should. The need for belonging and social support is ingrained in us psychologically and with good reason. The ability to face difficulty alone is not the same as refusing support. The ability to stand alone is good to have but so is the ability to ask for and accept social support. It's guaranteed that there is someone who is or has gone through a change similar to what any one person is presently or will ever face. And with the advancements of technology and social media that is readily available finding someone who knows what we're going through is easier now than ever. Take advantage of it.

  • Change perspective and goals
There is such a thing as the cognitive triad. It consists of thoughts, behavior, and mood. Each part influences the other and changing one aspect with change all of them. So a great way to adjust to change? Change one of these aspects. And what better way than changing our perspective and our goals. Instead of focusing on the negative, reframe the thoughts to center around what is good about the change, what is still good about the situation, and what good can come from it. Changing goals gives us something to look forward to, something to strive for. Without goals, we're left aimlessly going through life without any real purpose. We need goals for our future.

  • Acceptance is key

Acceptance won't come quickly in most cases. But it needs to be the end result - for one's sanity and well-being. We focus so much on the change itself and what that embodies, what we've lost because of the change. It consumes us and we begin to feel like we'll never escape. But we will...with effort. No matter how hard it becomes, we must strive for acceptance. That doesn't mean we roll over and give up. No, we find happiness in where we are at in our life and enjoy the present moment. Because we never know when that moment will change again. That's the beauty and monstrosity of life - change happens in a moment's time. Finding acceptance is always beautiful though.

Monday, May 23, 2016

From a Child's View

child's view life's a polyp

"Is there any part of your body that hurts that would keep you from playing tag?" my niece asked, peering up at me with her big brown eyes full of hope that this time I could play with her and her sister. "I can play" I answered as a smile spread across her face.

This time I felt well enough to chase my nieces through the outdoors. I knew I needed to accept this play invitation as I may not feel well enough to join in their fun and games later. More often than I prefer I've had to tell the children in my life that I was too sick feeling to actively play with them. Instead, I'd watch from the sidelines secretly yearning to join them just as much as they wanted me to play with them. My heart breaks each time I have to decline their invitations to play. And although I see the disappointment in their faces, they've learned to understand that sometimes I just can't play.

My nieces actually know very little about the Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) disease that my mother and I share. We are the last survivors in our particular branch of the family line to have FAP. For this reason, it isn't overly necessary for the children of our branch to know a lot about FAP as their parents, siblings, and themselves are negative for the disease. They simply know that my mother and I are frequently ill or in pain and we're limited in our activity because of this. Occasionally they will ask questions, which we are more than happy to answer but most of the time they accept without question when we are ill.

I've been amazed watching my nieces modify their play to adapt to how I'm feeling so that I can typically still join them in one way or another. They have never acted resentful when I've been unable to play with them and instead show concern and care. They don't question or comment when I require frequent restroom breaks or rest periods. This has become normal to them as they have witnessed my health status all their lives.

I've found that allowing a child to witness how chronic illness affects a person greatly shapes how the child will react to chronic illness and its effects. Without exposure and knowledge, an individual is unable to grasp how chronic illness affects one's life. Developing empathy doesn't require medical knowledge of an illness but rather a practical understanding of the effects on everyday life. Throughout my nieces lives they've been aware when I'm ill.

We can share information about our illnesses without delving into too deep of information or scaring a child about our own well-being and safety. It's more important that the child know us and our love than the specifics of a disease, particularly when the child doesn't have the disease. We don't necessarily need to explain our disease to the children in our lives as long as we are real, loving, and ourselves with them. They will come to know us as we are and discover what is truly the most important - our relationship not our health.  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Using a Bidet for GI Disorders: A Review

bidet review  life's a polyp

Disclaimer: I have been given this product as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.

As a GI patient with Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS) my doctor recommended using a bidet to improve personal hygiene and reduce skin irritation. SBS is a rare disease resulting from removal or loss of function of the small and/or large intestine. Among the complications that arise from loss of intestine it is common to have frequent severe bouts of diarrhea even numbering 20+ bowel movements a day for some individuals. This often causes moderate to severe skin irritation, pain, and even bleeding.

Due to the effects of SBS, I was encouraged and nervously excited to try out a bidet.

Bidets are known as an environmental friendly option to toilet paper. Toilet paper can be harsh on the skin and leave unwanted residue. A bidet reduces waste while improving skin care through thorough cleansing. 

I received a Luxe Bidet Neo 185 which attaches easily to any toilet. The Neo 185 has a dual nozzle feature with two settings for posterior and feminine cleaning. The nozzles are protected by a nozzle guard gate and are retractable with a self cleaning option. With a turning control knob, the Neo 185 allows the user to easily control the amount of water pressure preferred for comfortable use and optimal cleansing.

Luxe Bidet Neo 185 Kit

The Neo 185 comes with the equipment necessary for installation and use in a convenient small package. The installation instructions were to easy to follow and installed within minutes. I had never used a bidet previously and was nervous about my first experience with a bidet and appreciated the included brief guide for first time users.

My main goals with the Neo 185 were to reduce skin irritation and reduce or eliminate use of protectant ointment for skin irritation. I required using skin ointment quickly after my Ileoanal Anastamosis in 2001 and hadn't been able to forgo using ointment since. I began using the Neo 185 with each restroom use and discontinued using skin ointment. After one full day I noticed my skin irritation reducing and increased comfortability without my skin ointment.  Feeling comfortable to no longer use ointment on a regular basis was a personal breakthrough.

Luxe Bidet Neo 185 Installed
Flare up episodes of excessive bowel movements with SBS are common causing the skin to become severely irritated and painful from frequent bowel movements and the harshness of toilet paper on already sensitive skin. I still required skin ointment during a flare up. However, using the Neo 185 during a flare up was extremely helpful as the water simultaneously soothed and cleansed the skin allowing for reduced use of harsh toilet paper. The feminine cleaning setting is an added benefit particularly during menses to enhance sanitation and a sense of freshness and cleanliness.

The Neo 185 is a non-electric cold water bidet. I would personally prefer a warm water and a warm air dry option, however, I was pleasantly surprised that the cold water isn't uncomfortable. With the water pressure knob, the water pressure can be adjusted from a light to strong stream as slowly or quickly as preferred without rough pressure. This adjustability helps to increase comfort level particularly when adapting to using a bidet.

I highly recommend the Luxe Bidet Neo 185 especially for use by those with GI disorders to reduce skin irritation and improve hygiene. The Neo 185 can easily be purchased through Amazon at a reasonable price and is well worth the investment for a hassle free bidet.