‘And here you are living despite it all’ Rupi Kaur

There is something infinitely terrifying about needing any type of replacement for your blood

When the doctors first told me my choices were steroids or a hemoglobin infusion, I felt panicked

Immediately stories of tainted blood flooded my brain

I became very aware of my own mortality

Catastrophic possibilities of bleeding in my brain

Or bleeding to death

Were all I could think of

I also thought of everything I would be leaving behind

Joey

My parents

My sister

My nieces and nephews

I thought of all the things I might never get to see

Maybe I’ll miss Lisa getting hitched

Or my nieces having boyfriends

I’ll just miss out

On life

I thought about Joey

And how it might be easier for him without me

But then I thought of him moving on with someone new

Someone not sick

It was soul crushing

He’s mine

I thought

We’re supposed to grow old together

To retire in a hot place

And I broke down

I ugly cried

Hard

I’m not ready

It’s not my time yet

Then I thought of 6 months ago

About how many times I said I would rather be dead than dealing with my panic disorder

Maybe I jinxed it

Maybe I brought it on myself

Maybe I put a challenge out to the universe

But see

The thing is

You can’t be held responsible for things you say under duress

I wasn’t myself

I didn’t mean it

I was scared

So many factors

But I did wish it

So many fucking times

And I did mean it

It was so painful

I remember thinking death has to be better than this

Anything that makes it stop

You know?

That was 6 months ago

Today

I’m an artist who has shows planned

Today

I am a wife who wants to live out her future with her beloved

Today I am a daughter and daughter in law who wants to spend time with her family

Today I am a sister and sister in law who wants to share more laughs together

Today I am an aunt who can’t wait to see her nieces and nephews grow up and become who they were meant to be

Today

I want to live

Through the pain

Through the sadness

Through the blood tests

Through the infections and fevers

Today

I am going to fight

Because I want to

‘Armed with skill and it’s frustration. And grace, too.’ The hip

There’s something about the sight of my hands covered in paint or glue

Chipped nail polish and stained fingers

It’s the look of hard working hands

It shows the world that I’m a hard worker

Valuable

A member of society

Even though I don’t feel that inside

It reminds the outside world that I still exist

It hints to the world around me that I’ve gone through my share of battles

Battles I still go through

It allows me to feel purpose

Even though most days I’m walking through life without an idea of why I’m still here

And yet I still feel pride in my tarnished hands

It’s similar to how I feel about my collection of tattoos

It illustrates to the whole world

That I was here

That I’m here now

That I’m alive

That I’m still surviving

The only difference is now I’ve got the battle scars to show it

‘In the blink of an eye, everything can change.’

Sometimes I’m scared to blink

Im afraid that this current edition of my life

Will suddenly morph back into the one I was living 4 months ago

Although living seems like far too grand of a word for what I was doing

Existing maybe

Barely

So now even going to sleep is a gamble

Which version of myself will I be when I wake up?

It seems like far too big of a risk to take

And I’m not that much of a risk-taker

Not with my life

I don’t want to lose this stranglehold I have on my life right now

I’ve worked too hard

Struggled and fought too hard

To lose it all

In the blink of an eye

‘Expectation is the root of all heartache.’ Shakespeare

I’m starting a program tomorrow at my local hospital

It’s teaches coping skills for people with anxiety and depression

It is half days on Tuesdays and Fridays for 12 weeks, with a minimum of 5 Thursdays

It is a group format, run by a Social Worker, Registered Nurse and Occupational Therapist and overseen by a Psychiatrist

I’ll have a primary worker and access to the Psychiatrist during the program

At first, I was really intrigued and almost hopeful

Until I went for the info session

It was a few weeks ago

It was run by the OT who was jet lagged and seemed like she hadn’t a clue in the world of what she was talking about

I felt some of my balloon of almost hope deflate

I then went for an assessment last week with the RN, who sat impassively while I cried as she asked questions from her computer

I felt foolish and disappointed when I found out she would become my primary worker

I was accepted into the program and given a start date

Tuesday March 26

Tomorrow

I’ve promised myself that I will give it an honest open-minded try

After all, everyone has bad days and all that

And it would be reckless to throw away an OHIP covered 12 week program off of two measly meetings

Right?

Tomorrow, I’ll be there at 8:45 AM to start my first day

So maybe my balloon of almost hope won’t inflate

But maybe my ballon won’t pop either

And maybe

For right now, that’s good enough

‘Armed With Skill And It’s Frustration. And Grace, Too…’ The Hip

It might look a lot like weakness to the outside world

Maybe even to inner circles

But there is nothing weak about the daily struggles that it takes to survive through a mental illness

I repeat

There is nothing weak about it

There is nothing weak about me

Yeah I get it

Maybe you see someone who is fragile

Someone who is broken

Maybe you see someone who is crazy

Fuck

I don’t know who or what you see

I know what I see

Every single time I pass my reflection in a mirror or window

I see a fighter

Someone who has spent their entire life fighting

Fighting to live

Fighting to find happiness

Fighting to find peace

What an oxymoron

I read somewhere once that,

Fighting for peace,

Is like fucking for virginity

I get it

But its the truth

I fight tooth and nail

I dig in my heels

I scratch

I claw

Anything

To make my way back from the war that is constantly waging in my own brain

If you’ve never been there

You’re blessed

Truly lucky

That you’ll never understand how totally terrifying it is to not feel safe with just you and your own thoughts

You’re lucky that you don’t have to wonder when it will all come crashing down around you

Again…

I’ll never be grateful for having mental illness

I won’t lie and pander about how its taught me so much about myself

About the world

Trust me

There are things I’d never wanted to learn

Like what Paxil withdrawal can do to your once functioning brain

Like how food can cease being appealing to a die-hard ‘foodie’l

Like what the inside of a single room at a crisis centre looks like

I could have happily gone through two lifetimes not caring to know any of those things

It hasn’t made me wiser

Or kinder

So I can’t find it in myself to express gratitude towards something that has stolen so much from my life

From my family

From my father

From me

What I can unequivocally state

Without any doubt in my mind

Is that anyone surviving with a mental illness

Must want to be alive a whole hell of a lot

To be persist

To continue

To just keep going

To anyone who doubts it

You have no fucking clue

The strength and determination it takes to do it all over again

Tomorrow

‘There Are Moments That Mark Your Life. Moments When You Realize Nothing Will Ever Be The Same. And Time Is Divided Into Two Parts – Before This and After This.’ Nicholas Kazan (Fallen)

I had an a-ha moment today in my support group. We were on the first step which is:
1. We admitted to ourselves that we are powerless over our disease. That our lives had become unmanageable.
I got to go last…which meant I got to listen to 3 MS veterans. All having been diagnosed more than 15 years ago.
One spoke of feeling comfortable in being alone on Xmas day.
Someone else spoke of being okay with their sometimes self-imposed isolation. Another spoke of being aware of their limitations, without being self-deprecating.
I sat back and listened.
One in a wheelchair.
One in a scooter.
One with cognitive symptoms.
And I felt envious.
Of them.
Me,with my mostly mobile body.
Me, with my mostly cognitive functioning brain.
I felt jealous of each of them.
I felt jealous of the comfort and grace each of them had come to possess upon accepting their illness.
I sat there and reflected over the last 6 years since diagnosis.
The ups and so so many downs.
The relapses.
The symptoms.
The steroids.
Treatments.
Injections.
Sleepless nights.
Crying fits.
Raging fits.
Anxiety.
So much fucking anxiety.
All of it, having led me to this moment.
Waiting for my turn to talk in a 12 step support group.
Their eyes looked to me.
My turn.
I looked around the table.
Less than a year ago, they were nothing more than three strangers. People I would have passed on the street, without a second glance.
Now we share this inexplicable bond.
This illness we all have.
Referred to often as the ‘snowflake’ disease, since symptoms vary so much from person to person.
These three people who now know more about my feelings and thoughts than most of the people in my more immediate circle. These strangers not so different from this lifelong outsider, after all.
I told them I thought that I had accepted having MS.
6 years ago. I heard the words coming out of my Doctor’s mouth and thought to myself ‘okay….so now I have MS.’
I thought that was enough.
I thought that meant I had accepted it.
But it wasn’t until that very minute that I realized, I would never be able to accept MS, until I had also accepted the negative impact its had on my life.
That meant accepting the change in my job status.
The permanent damage to my eyes.
The toll all of it has taken on my already fragile mental state.
Taking all of that in…and still being able to say that while I won’t succumb to it, I have come to terms with having MS in my life. That I’m OKAY with it.
I’m not there…
Not even close.
But I found hope in looking around me.
Which for someone as chronically hopeless as myself, is a fucking lifeline.

‘Pride Comes Before The Fall’

I like spooky things like Halloween in Salem

And even though I don’t really consider myself a ‘believer’, I like going to psychics and mediums

While in Salem for Halloween and on a boat cruise, I had a free reading done

I sat down and after shaking hands and making introductions

He motioned to a pin on my jacket of a broken heart stitched together

He said it represented me well

I’d been broken hearted

Not by love in the traditional sense

But by the world

I laughed a little nervously and my curiosity was piqued

It was a short reading and I can’t stop thinking about something he said during it

He told me that I always felt like I didn’t fit in

He said that maybe that was okay though

Because some people aren’t meant to fit in

Some people are meant to make a difference

He said that in my work I was trying to make a difference for people

That I’m a healer and a powerful empath

I can’t stop tracing those words in my mind

I continue to think about it and where that leaves me

Which is apparently on long term disability (after finally being accepted a month ago)

In that time period, I feel like I should be doing something

Only I don’t know what

This isn’t new though

I’ve never been someone who had a clear path or knew what they wanted to do from a young age

I went to several different schools and tried on different hats

The only one that fit reasonably well was the last one I wore

Working with youth

I knew even though

That it wasn’t the perfect fit

The school restrictions, the politics, the employer

But it was so close

And then in the blink of an eye

Like things in my life so often do

It didn’t feel right anymore

My direction was blurred

Just like my vision

I only knew I couldn’t go on like that

And it had nothing to do with the youth

It had everything to do with how others made me feel like I wasn’t doing good enough

My pride was so deeply wounded

That I can feel it

Like rubbing salt on fresh wounds

Just thinking about my job, those kids, that work, those people, that job

And I feel it all over again

Every single burn

All the pain

Pride is funny like that

It’s with you during some of your happiest moments and accomplishments

It can carry you through some of the toughest times

And then bury you just as easily