Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Remember the Worst

remembering the worst  life's a polyp

I've been through worse. I've survived worse. 
I can survive this too.
I chant to myself, reminding myself, preparing myself.

I underwent a biopsy of a section of my last stoma site, now a scar, that never healed. It would become irritated and blister, a painful blister until it was made to burst. This cycle would continue on a weekly basis for 15 years until I decided to address it with a doctor. Although believed to be benign, the doctor wanted to complete a biopsy just to be safe while removing the sore simultaneously.

I dreaded the procedure. Actually, I dreaded the lidocaine shot. Not only can it burn but the level of pain would depend upon where the needle was placed - something I was afraid to ask about beforehand. My anxiety built and as the needle was placed inside the sore twice, I couldn't help but scream in pain before bursting into tears. The rest of the procedure was completed without incidence. And now, I'm left with the irritating pain that remains after the lidocaine has worn off.

I've survived worse than a shot in a sore on my scar. I've survived being sliced open without anesthesia, my intestine twisted around itself and surrounding organs, insertion of ng and rectal tubes, and the Essure procedure. And yet, in that moment those past survival achievements mean nothing. They don't help reduce my pain in the moment.

So how are these achievements helpful at all?

Remembering the worst helps in our mental preparations for what's to come next.

We survived worse so we can survive less.
If you're like me, mental preparation is a requirement for most medical procedures. Even lab draws require some mental preparation on my part. I have to coax myself into the right state of mind, inducing a bit of calmness into my highly anxious and fearful mind. I anticipate the pain before the pain begins and if I allow myself, I'll physically feel that pain without any actual physical prompting.

At times I require more than coaxing but also convincing of myself to go through with a procedure.

When asked if I would still have gone through this recent biopsy if I had realized the level of pain I would experience, I wasn't sure how to answer. I'm not sure if it would be worth it to me to go through this again. After all, the blistering sore was more of a nuisance than anything. It was never infected and posed no danger, just a reoccurring irritation of fluid build up. Now as the pain begins to subside with healing, I'm glad I had it done but would I really go through it again? I'm not sure I would. I like to avoid pain when I can. And it honestly hurt more than I first thought it would when I decided to have the sore removed. It was only during the approaching time to the biopsy that I started to fear and imagine what the pain level would be. Not only was it just a nuisance than any real issue, but as I wait for my new incision to heal I'm increasingly paranoid about the section of skin that was stitched to the incision section. This junction caused a new bump, very similar to the unhealing sore I just had removed. I worry that this will just create another unhealing sore or worse - a bump that will be more irritated than what was there before. Now I'm overanxious for the removal of the stitches to be removed so I'll be able to find out what this new scar will become. Would I go through this again to fix a new problem? Not likely. I would, however, regret my initial decision if my fears are confirmed about this possible new irritated sore spot.
I debated the idea of receiving iron infusions simply because it involved an IV. I desperately wanted my hemoglobin to reach a normal level - I was so exhausted I was ready for an IV. But after that first round, would I really want to continue with the infusions? So far, I'm willing to undergo the infusions in an effort to obtain a stabilized hemoglobin. And now I'm anxious to discover how the combination of infusions and ferrous gluconate (instead of ferrous sulfate) will affect the stability of my hemoglobin. And honestly, the first infusion of a round is the worse. After going back to receive an IV after several months without any it causes the anticipation to build, increasing the fear of the dreaded IV. Yet, the second infusion of the round is by far easier than the first. I survived the first one, I can survive the second one. There's less time for anticipation and fear to build between the first and second.

Regardless the various reasons we may hold onto remembering the worst, it remains to be helpful as we prepare ourselves for another medical battle - small or large. It reminds us of our strength and resiliency. Without these two characteristics, we become hard pressed for taking to the battle again. With these two characteristics though, we are fierce and unrelenting even we don't realize it. So stay strong, don't shy away from what you've survived. It will help you fight another day.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Focusing Our Efforts

focusing efforts  life's a polyp

I've been working hard on preparing my new home for moving in and I've noticed several changes - not only physically but emotionally. There's a strong, established connection between behavior, thoughts, and mood - when we change one, we change them all.

I had been experiencing an emotional funk as I was battling my excitement for a new home and grieving my divorce simultaneously. With my new home, I was able to distract myself from my grief and instead focus on my future. And it worked. In spite of a 9.4 hemoglobin, I was able to physically work on my home 14 hour days on the weekends and 4 hours during the week after work. I was pumped with adrenaline, I felt better physically, I was motivated and filled with excitement for the possibilities unfolding before me. And yet just four months ago, with a hemoglobin of 9.2 I was falling asleep at work. And it all changed because I focused my efforts on preparing my new home.

We feel better, physically and emotionally, when we keep active. Whether it's exercise, projects, or socializing our bodies and mind need activity. Remaining stagnant is harmful to our well-being. It is common for depression to take root when we are listless in our activity. Without action, we become bored and isolated, we focus our thoughts on our frustrations and our sorrows. We allow ourselves to become fixated on what bothers us, what's wrong rather than what we can do and enjoy.

The key becomes balance, as it is with so many things in life. Striking balance between activity and inactivity can be difficult at times when we are highly motivated and on a euphoric high of feeling well. We are prone to overdoing ourselves at this point and risk our own health. My family and friends cautioned me as I quickly began to overexert myself in my efforts. I slowed down, started taking breaks and eating regularly again.

Burn out is another side effect of overexerting ourselves. When we start to push ourselves, it is easy to push ourselves too far, too hard, too fast until our motivation and adrenaline fizzle out. We must learn how to pace ourselves in our efforts so that we may take care of ourselves while enjoying the fruits of our endeavors.

Find the courage, the motivation to discontinue inaction and instead focus our efforts and we will find ourselves more fulfilled than when we were listless. Our well-being will be most appreciative of our conscious decision for activity.

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.