How are you not grateful?

I am living my life with consciousness, and it’s teaching me that I can’t understand how the average person is not immensely grateful for what they have.

I don’t understand this and yet I was one of them. Living a fast paced, un-grounded, un-centered life of lack. Sure, I thought I was grateful, and in comparison to the people I surrounded myself with maybe I was, but there was always this sense of lack. An underlying feeling of not having enough. It’s Christmas time so it’s natural to be contemplating gratitude and all that I have but there’s more to it this year. I am going through a process of awakening. I am still so sick and yet I’ve never been happier or more grateful for what I have, with no sense of need for more. I still have goals and ambitions of course, and I would give almost anything to be healthy, but today, for this moment and in every moment, I have all that I truly need.

I no longer feel that sense of longing for the newest technology or a fancier house or car. I am not sad that I am spending the holidays single, or that on this Saturday night I am alone. There has been a shift inside of me.

One day recently I truly did not have it in me to make dinner and as I was eating popcorn and drinking tea on the couch in my pajamas’s I was surprised that I didn’t feel disappointed in myself for being unable to cook or for not having someone else to cook for me. Instead I felt truly grateful that I am a single person with no kids to feed because this allowed me to eat popcorn for dinner without guilt. The reason this feeling surprised me is because I didn’t have to think about it, I naturally felt that way. This is not something that always would have come naturally to me and has definitely taken training.

I don’t have a lot of money, and what I do have has basically been allocated to my treatment and bills, but with the major help of my parents with medical costs, I truly do have enough. I rent a basement suite that I have made home. I have a car that is old and run down but it works. I have a dog that is my soul-puppy. I am single but I have self-respect and happiness. I have so many beautiful people in my life. Do I never want anything more for my life? Of course not! But for today I truly do have more than enough.

I was recently chatting with a friend who, based on his family and who he is as a person I would have assumed wanted kids, so I was shocked when he told me that he didn’t. Not being able to afford to give his kids the life that his parents gave him was his reasoning. Well, I thought that this was completely delusional! First of all, no matter how much money you’re making, you’re going to be raising your kids in a completely different era than you were raised in. Even in the span of ten years the world changes so significantly. I’m 27 and I have not had kids yet and I look at the kids in schools now and can’t believe how different it is than when I was in school. The technological advances alone are enough to change society completely, not to mention ecological and economical changes. I live just outside of Vancouver, B.C., Canada. One of the most expensive places to live in the world. Even if I moved somewhere cheaper I would never be able to give my children the same life that my parents gave me. And they couldn’t give me the same life that their parents gave them, and so on and so forth. Not because of finances, but because the world has changed so much. The person that I was having this conversation with does not have a menial job. I don’t know what he makes but I know he’s on a great path to move up within a good company and that he makes more than I do for sure. Everyone has different needs and comfort zones when it comes to finances and I am not here to judge, but I can only assume that based on where he is now, if he were to have kids in the next 5 years, I think they’d turn out okay. I am far from saying that someone should have children before they’re ready, or that children aren’t expensive or don’t require extra care, the point is that this conversation, and a lot of my conversations with this person were very focused on lack. A lot of people that I talk to all seem to focus on lack. Even when I know that they have more than me, I often only hear about how little they have. The light-bulb that finally went on for me during this one particular conversation was “wow, it’s not that you don’t have enough, it’s that you’re not grateful for what you do have.” I wanted to shake him and say, “you’re 32, you have a roof over your head, you have a $60,000+ vehicle, you have a good job with benefits and room to move up. You get to go on a hunting trip once a year. You have holiday pay, sick pay, and over-time. Your work is paying for you to travel across the world next month. That is a lot more than many 32 year old’s have and if you don’t think that that’s enough right now then it doesn’t matter how much you have in the future it will never be enough!”

I’m home alone on a Saturday night, hair still wet from my shower as I had to sauna as I do most days for my health. Every joint in my body hurts. It’s the Saturday before Christmas and I should be out with my friends but my health simply won’t allow it. I can picture them all, laughing and clanking their drinks as I sit in the empty quiet of my home. Some people would feel lonely. They would feel betrayed by their bodies and angry. Sometimes I feel this way too. But the truth is, it’s Christmas in two days. The weather has been mild but cold, and there is snow on the ground. I’m sitting on my couch writing this under a heated blanket with the fire place on, on a 10 year old laptop that although has broken keys and is painfully slow, clearly works well enough for me to blog. My fridge is full of groceries that I was able to go purchase for myself to make Christmas breakfast for my family. I am drinking a glass of wine from a bottle that I purchased without stress today, my dog is curled up beside me and I am looking at a dozen red roses that were dropped off this morning by a dear friend. How can I not be immensely grateful? There have been countless times that due to my health I was unable to go to the grocery store for myself, unable to get out of bed even. Vomiting from treatment for days on end, still going to work throughout it because I couldn’t afford the time off. There are so many people who right now are curled up with their kids in their car, trying to stay warm and keep from crying so the little ones don’t see. They’re trying to make sleeping in their car in the dead of winter not so scary for their children. The shelters are all full. There are men and women and children of all ages and backgrounds huddling under 2ft overhangs off of buildings, trying to stay dry.

Somewhere, someone is sitting all alone in the dark because they couldn’t afford their power bill. Someone else is grieving the loss of their child; another their wife. Someone’s child is lost and someone is being beaten, a child watching through the slats in the closet doors. Someone has just lost their ability to see, someone else to walk, another to hear. Somewhere, someone has just lost a leg. Somewhere else an arm; somewhere else, their life.

With all of this happening while I sit in a warm house with the lights on, sipping my glass of wine, how can I not be filled with immense gratitude? I hope that no matter how dark my life gets, no matter how sick I am, that I can always see and feel this gratitude for all that I do have.

Recognize yourself in this blog post? Start a gratitude journal. I used to write down every single morning 3-5 things that I was grateful for followed by 1-3 people that I wanted to send energetic love to. What you focus about comes about.

It’s okay to be depressed, it’s not okay to not do anything about it.

At the risk of a lot of people being offended by this (including my 15 year old self), it’s okay to be depressed, it’s not okay to not do anything about it.

I’ve been there. At the bottom, feeling like there was not a single ounce of light left in me. Spending time with an old friend recently has given me the opportunity to crack open a window into my darker past. I’ve been able to remember some of the broken pieces of me that have since been painted over and somewhat forgotten.

I was really miserable. And, most likely terrible to be around. Nobody really wants to spend a lot of their time with someone who is always sad, because, well, it’s depressing. To those of you who are reading this and thinking, “screw you I can’t help it, it’s not my fault, you don’t know how it feels,” I’m sorry. I’ve been there, and my experience may or may not be what you want to hear right now but it also may (or may not!) help you – I truly hope that it does.

I don’t expect you to do this on your own. I expect that family and friends and pets and councilors and maybe doctors will help you. But the fact of the matter is, we don’t all have those supports available to us. I was lucky in that I did have a few family and friends to help me, and that the gaps left by those who walked away were often filled by people who were closer to what I needed at the time, but do you think I saw that back then through the thick black smog that surrounded my life? No. Of course I didn’t. Unfortunately, no matter how hard someone else tries, they cannot fix you. I have spent a lot of my life trying to fix other people, all the while not realizing that there were probably other people that I didn’t recognize were trying to fix me. I never recognized this because I never felt worthy of being fixed, and maybe that’s why I focused so much of my energy on trying to fix others instead of myself.

(By the way, not only did me trying to fix other people never work, but they also probably didn’t want to be fixed! Who am I to say how they should live their lives?! But that’s an entry for another day..)

Every person in the world could offer you help, but if you don’t take any action steps not a single one of them would be able to help you.

Over the years I’ve learned which of the little (and big) things add up to help me get through life. Some of these make very little difference on their own, but when combined have been life changing. Maybe some days you can’t do them all, especially if you struggle with physical ailments as well as mental/emotional, but you have to start by at least figuring out what they are. Make a list to refer back to on the bad days, when you feel helpless and like there’s nothing you can control. Keep it on your fridge or mirror or nightstand, somewhere that you are forced to see it frequently. Post it on the wall that you see from your bed so that it’s the first thing you see every morning and the last thing you see every evening. And then slowly, one by one, do them. If it feels like you can’t have a shower, have a salt bath. If you can’t workout today, meditate. Can’t handle doing laundry? Just change your dirty pyjamas for fresh pyjamas. I don’t care, just do something.

Here’s my list, plus or minus a few things…
Drink lemon water, ideally several glasses per day
Stretching
Exercising
Meditating
Clean the house (or at least the kitchen, bedroom or bathroom)
Personal development reading (always have a book on the go!)
Wash laundry
Put away laundry (for some reason this one always seems so hard)
Put fresh sheets on the bed
Use a fresh towel
Pick or buy fresh flowers for a vase in the house
Garden
Sit with my crystals or salt lamp
Pull cards
Ask a friend to pull cards for me
Write
Do yoga
Walk the dog
Cook a healthy meal
Grocery shop

Sometimes things that seem so basic, such as changing your sheets, filling the fridge with fresh food or taking a shower seem absolutely impossible when you’re in the midst of a never-ending battle within yourself, but as difficult as they are, they can make equally a positive shift when you do them. Yes it would be nice if someone did those that they could for you, but here’s the hard truth: eventually they’re going to stop. Depression is debilitating. Anxiety is paralyzing. Still, no one can spend their entire lives trying to fix it for you, eventually they will need to take care of themselves and you will be left to do your life yourself. If you can, you need to search your soul for that one little tiny spark of light that is left in there and you need to feed it. That’s your only job, find what that spark needs in order to grow, and feed it. You are the only one who can, and ideally you’ll do this before everyone walks away in self preservation.

I don’t care if it’s one thing a week or even one thing a month. Just put the effort in. When you feel like you don’t have even a touch of effort left to give, that’s when you need to give it the most. I’m not saying do so much you burn out, just do something.

One little action step at a time is all it takes. In the moment they may not feel like much, but I promise you that compounded over time they could give you not only your entire life back, but a greater life than you could ever have imagined.

Career=Self Worth?

It just occurred to me how absolutely terrifying it would be for me to not be working. To not have a job to wake up and go to. To not have a purpose. To not have significance in the world. I never realized how much value I put in the ability to show up for the world each day in the form of a career!
I can’t help but wonder if today’s doctors appointment, the reality of me possibly not being able to receive some form of disability assistance, was the universe’s way of showing me how truly afraid I am of the idea of not being capable of going to a career each day.
I put such a significant amount of my self-worth into my ability to create a successful career for myself. I didn’t realize that such a huge part of my fear of having to ever go on disability doesn’t have so much to do with me not wanting to take money from the system as it does for me not being able to handle the idea of not working.

Many of you saw my post on Facebook today, my desperate cry for help:
“Alright I am going against all of my insecurity and all of the feelings that I’m not good enough or not doing enough in order to share this here knowing that there must be someone on my facebook with all of my political and chronically ill friends that SOMEONE must have a direction to point me in so im really putting aside all of my pride here so please be kind because this is too vulnerable even for me.

Today’s a rough one… broke down into a complete ugly sobbing cry in my GP’S office. I went in to find out why he isn’t comfortable filling out my disability tax credit forms and my rental assistance request forms when I’ve had a woman from the Canadian government tell me that I am eligible for the disability tax credit and a woman from the bc government tell me that I am eligible for the rental assistance. I was supposed to have a woman from MP Carla Quattrough’s office with me but she didn’t show show up.

I just completely broke down. I said with my history it is a miracle that I am even alive today or not a drug addict. I have done everything “the right way”. I have been fighting for my life in one way or another since I was 14 years old. At 15 I was hospitalized for 3 months with severe chronic depression/suicide/anxiety/panic disorder. I continued to fight these things the rest of my life. At 19 I was assaulted and have suffered ptsd and chronic pelvic pain ever since. Just when I sort of started to get myself to a good place I left a relationship that leaves me still having nightmares 2.5 years later and immediately got hit by lyme.

Throughout all of this I still managed to start my hairstyling apprenticeship at 16 years old and complete it on time despite overdosing on pain pills halfway through it. I have had 3 businesses at one time up until getting lyme, plus I sat on the local business association executive board and the south delta mental health local action team. I was a very well respected member of our community and now I’m fighting so hard to keep working 3-4 days a week just to keep any sense of normalcy at all not to mention to be able to afford to live and all of my not covered life saving medical treatments. Even if I were to go on disability it would not even cover my rent let alone utilities, transportation, food, medical treatments etc. I am also in the process of having to move for my health due to mold, second hand smoke, and a rat taking up home inside my ceiling/wall.

So now for the first time ever I’m doing something that I NEVER thought I’d ever have to do and I’m asking for government support, but BECAUSE I’ve kept fighting so hard and because my family and I have spent thousands of our own money to keep me alive and from being bedridden, I am not sick enough to receive the help that I need. So now I have to wait until I literally push myself into a full mental breakdown – which is not far off – or just give up now in order to be “sick enough” to get assistance.

I don’t want to stop working, I don’t want to give up, I just want to be able to know that I can afford to only work 3-4 days a week until I am healed and can get back at it full time and go back to my regular productive life. The same as anyone else whos seriously ill does. Most people in my condition do not continue working the way that I have.

And guess what I did right after the doctor’s appointment. I washed my face from my big ugly cry, put a smile on and went straight back to work making other people feel beautiful. Like I always do.

I don’t have it better or worse than anyone else and I am not better or worse than anyone else but I do know that I have spent my life making every choice possible to be as healthy and as positive-contributing member of society as I possibly could be and it’s just sucky right now.

**Please do not take this as an opportunity to share with me how I can make money from home with your business or how I can cure myself from Lyme with essential oils or anything like that. I know you mean well but I simply don’t have it in me to be polite about that right now.**”
(What I really wanted to say in this last line was, “I know you mean well and its not that I don’t believe your business works, its that I truly do not have any extra energy to start a new business and also I have not come across any MLM businesses that I’ve been even remotely interested in besides Beachbody. Just because I tried it once doesn’t mean that I want to sell for any companies I can, I truly enjoyed BB and working out and what it did for my life and I don’t really give a f*ck about makeup [or insert other MLM company here] otherwise I would have reached out to you about it. And as far as telling me how to cure my Lyme goes, unless you or a very close loved one has had or has lyme, or you are a highly experienced LLMD or LLND, there is no way you have the magical cure that the other tens of thousands of us haven’t tried or heard of and you do not know better than my highly trained top LLND. But because I am way too uncomfortable being rude to you or even politely saying No or using any assertiveness at all, I will use extra energy to make you feel better about making me feel uncomfortable. So please, lets skip that whole dance.”

I truly did feel so ashamed posting about trying to receive financial assistance from the government and it got me wondering why I felt so ashamed of it when I would never question anybody else in my position for receiving help. I thought that it was the fear of being judged, the fear of not being good enough because I’m in a tough spot financially. But in reality, I am 26 years old, I have my own business, I have no debt, I work my ass off at everything I do, I live on my own with my dog who I take care of, and I have amazing people in my life. So outside of being dealt a really raw hand I’m actually doing really well in a lot of ways, and who in my position wouldn’t accept government help if they were eligible for it?
So that brought me to the realization, holy sh*t it’s not the financial assistance that I’m ashamed of its the ability to work and create a successful career for myself and my future family.

In my brain what would that mean for me if I couldn’t create a successful career for myself?
obviously this would leave me unable to financially support myself or my future family, all on my own as I am a single person and even when I have a family I may have to support us on a single income
– I would end up homeless or in unfortunate or embarrassing living situations such as living back at home
– I would never find a partner because if I don’t have a career than I’m not worthy
– I would lose all of my friends because if I don’t have a career I’m not worthy
– If I can’t work and create a successful career that allows me to purchase a home and support the family and children that I don’t even have and do this all on my sole income RIGHT NOW then I’ll never be worthy of having those things and my whole life will be a struggle financially
– I would have nothing to get up for every day
– I would lose my whole purpose
– I would no longer make my mark in this world and I would be forgotten
In reality what would it mean for me if I wasn’t able to create a successful career for myself?
first of all I don’t even have children. Not even a partner to imagine children with! So this is ridiculous
– I would find some kind of income supported housing or get a job that although maybe not a career, would provide enough income for a decent rental living situation
– If a man wanted me not to have a career I wouldn’t allow for it. And thats the way it was for ages! So why should my ability to have or not to have a career for myself have anything to do with my potential worth in a relationship?
– What do I care if my friends have big successful careers or average or less than average? So why would my career or job choice matter to them?
– I’m 26 years old. The majority of 26 year olds cannot afford to purchase a home on their own or support a family and many of them can’t even afford to support themselves!
– I would find a new reason to wake up each day! A purpose outside of work. A passion, a hobby, I would volunteer, I would put my time towards healing and meditating and yoga and creating and blogging and self-care. I would find so many ways to put my mark on this world in ways even more meaningful to me than any career and I would not be forgotten by those who mattered.

Omg no wonder I’m not getting supported! I’m putting it out to the universe every day in my thoughts and actions and subconsciousness that I can’t get assistance because that means I would be able to cut down on work which would allow me to heal but I would no longer be good enough as a person so I’d rather keep pushing and suffering and killing myself doing it because that’s what makes me worthy as a human being. (Please read this run-on sentence really fast without taking a breath to mimic how it runs through my head).

This is the same reason I kept working whenever I could even while I was in the hospital at 15 years old.

This is the same reason I was back to work the day after I was let out of the ER after overdosing at 17.

This is the same reason that I didn’t give myself even one day off after being assaulted at 19.

…anyone else sensing a pattern… the value I have held in working is higher than the value I have held in healing. And how will I ever receive something that I am showing the universe that I do not want? Anyone else struggle with this? How did you re-write your brain?

P.S. welcome to a high functioning anxiety-brain.

What I wish I’d been told after being sexually assaulted.

I was 19 years old. I was enjoying the fun and excitement of my first ‘casual sex’ or ‘friends with benefits’ type situation. Something that I believe both men and women have the right to experience as an enjoyable, empowering experience. That being said I was 19 and naive with a life that made me particularly at risk for choosing less than ideal men to be in my life, including ones that only lowered my already very low self-worth. It turns out I also chose to surround myself with friends that only lowered my self-worth as well.

I realize that no 19 year old, or anyone really, knows exactly what to do for another person (or for themselves) after they’ve been assaulted. However, I feel like there are a few things that should be common sense that apparently are not. I never did do a really great job of standing up to these so called friends at the time, and I don’t see the point in standing up to them now after all of these years – they may have changed between then and now but I have a hunch that most of them are the same shitty, low-vibe human beings they were almost 8 years ago. So instead, naturally I’ve turned to my blog to teach other people how to have what should be common sense in these situations, and basically just how not to be a shit friend.

Go to the ER: I was in shock for months after this happened to me, trying to come up with any plausible explanation for the event that would make it not be rape. I did not want to believe that someone whom I had considered a friend, someone who I invited into my home, into my family and friend Christmas gatherings, into my social circle, into my body, could do this to me. I was too busy searching every corner of my mind for a different outcome to even think to go to the ER for a rape kit or even to check me for STD’s or give me plan B or simply make sure that physically I was okay.

Call the police: I waited almost a year to finally report this incident, and partially because of this there was lack of evidence to prosecute. The man who did this to me is now married (with my ex-best friends in his wedding party) and last I heard possibly has or is having a kid. He has never paid any price for what he did to me besides the obvious damage that it would do to his soul. He did apologize to me once, so I know he understands that what he did was wrong, and he has to live with that for the rest of his life. Even though Crown Council did not take this to trial it is on record for anyone who reports him in the future, and I do believe that he has done this before and will do it again. This is why anyone who is assaulted needs to report it even if it won’t make it to court.

You’re not going to be okay for a very long time, but one day you will be: I didn’t think I’d ever be okay again. But I am. I am definitely changed and scarred but I’m also healed and wiser. My chest no longer burns like an open wound and is now a dull ache. A reminder of what once was, and how if I can overcome that then I truly can overcome anything. The validation and honesty that comes with this sentence is huge to a survivor, or at least it would have been to me.

I believe you, and I’m here for you: I needed someone to be outraged for me. Someone who’s emotion validated everything I was experiencing. When I reached out to my friends completely lost and confused, telling them what had happened to me as if I wasn’t even sure I believed it myself, I needed someone to say “Wow! That is so wrong. I am so sorry, I love you, I believe you, I am angry for you, let me help you.” At the time I didn’t have the type of friends who can see outside of themselves for long enough to be outraged for anyone. In fact, some of them told me it was my fault while others tried to convince me and/or trick me into having said man at a surprise party that I was planning! The behavior from 3-4 “friends” in particular is so disgraceful it completely changed my view of who these people were and to this day I still cannot look at them the same way or think of them without feeling sick to my stomach. The way some humans treat other humans is absolutely despicable and I do not understand how a person is even capable of this sort of behavior.

You are not alone: Do you know how many Canadians this happens to? 1 in 4 women in North America alone will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Look around you, how many women are around you? How many women and young girls do you have in your every day life? Think of your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, sisters, daughters and friends. 1 in 4 of those women and girls have or will be sexually assaulted at some point. 60% of them will have been under the age of 17, and 80% of the assailants will be a friend or family member of the victim.

Rape is rape. It doesn’t matter whether or not you were already involved with the assailant: Instead I was asked by a very important male figure in my life, “Well were you already sleeping with him?”. Even if the assailant and the victim are married, any non-consensual sexual act is assault. Period.

Your assailant is a sad, disgusting, pathetic human being and you will always surpass them because you are a survivor and anyone who feels the need to do that to another person has some serious issues: I thought it was my fault. I thought he had taken my power. I thought he had taken pieces of me that would never re-grow. Looking back on this incident now I actually feel bad for him. How disgusting and pathetic and empty someone must be to feel the need to pin someone down, arm to their throat, and rape them. And for those who followed him, their lives can’t be much better.

People think sexual assault is rare, its not. It is however under-reported and under-prosecuted. That woman you met in the elevator today, the child at the bus stop, the telemarketer who interrupted your dinner, the person delivering your mail, they could all be survivors. Check out these Canadian statistics to understand how common this really is:

  • Of every 100 incidents of sexual assault, only 6 are reported to the police
  • 1 – 2% of “date rape” sexual assaults are reported to the police
  • 1 in 4 North American women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime
  • 11% of women have physical injury resulting for sexual assault
  • Only 2 – 4% of all sexual assaults reported are false reports
  • 60% of sexual abuse/assault victims are under the age of 17
  • over 80% of sex crime victims are women
  • 80% of sexual assault incidents occur in the home
  • 17% of girls under 16 have experienced some form of incest
  • 83% of disabled women will be sexual assaulted during their lifetime
  • 15% of sexual assault victims are boys under 16
  • half of all sexual offenders are married or in long term relationships
  • 57% of aboriginal women have been sexually abused
  • 1/5th of all sexual assaults involve a weapon of some sort
  • 80% of assailants are friends and family of the victim

If one of your close friends is assaulted, sexually or otherwise, I really do feel that it is your duty as their friend to offer your support, your confidence, and your unwavering love to the survivor because this person will not be able to do it for themselves possibly for a very, very long time. Also, if anyone is reading this who may have made a mistake with how they handled this situation with me, we all screw up. Forgive yourself, on the basis that you learn from this and be better with the next person in your life who’s experiencing something like this, because trust me, there will be more.

And to my own assailant: you didn’t ruin me. You didn’t take away my trust for the human race or male population. I’m still here, spreading love wherever I go. And for you, but mostly for your wife and potential children, I’m sorry that you’re such a pathetic loser that you needed to rape me to feel powerful. You’re not, and never will be, powerful.

 

Loving your body through illness

Well I might be sick with nerves in regards to posting this publicly on the internet, but here I am spending my Friday night the way I spend many friday nights, contemplating pretty much everything only to finally have my epiphany right before bed and then staying up way too late blogging. Only this time using my cell phone as my laptop hurts my eyes too much.

Having a potentially life-threatening illness really puts perspective on body-image. When I was fitness coaching I felt so good about my body even when I wasn’t at my ideal weight because I was working so hard and I was gaining so much strength. I put my heart and soul into it because I could feel both physically and mentally that I was taking control of my life. I was seeing myself in a whole new stronger, sexier way and mostly I just couldn’t believe that I had visible arm muscles, haha! I felt the best I’d ever felt in my life and I associated it all with the ability to exercise.

That’s what makes exercise the biggest loss to me since I got sick. In the beginning when we didn’t know what was wrong with me and before the people in my life began to understand how debilitating Lyme can be, some would try to tell me that exercise would make it better. Some friends still try to get me to “just come to the gym” or encourage me to workout and no one expects that teasing me to exercise more or encouraging it because they think it will help me is actually completely gut-wrenching for me because it is one of the abilities that I ache to get back the most. Not so that I can be a size 2 again, but because I want to feel that strong again. I need the emotional release from exercise again.

A year ago I would have written that I also wanted to love my body again. But the truth is I do love my body now even with the extra weight. I have to be grateful that this is the body that is fighting so hard for me right now. This is the body that is doing everything it can to save me. When you’re sick and losing control you tend to begin to hate your body. Not just the differences in appearance but you also begin to hate it for failing you. The trust between you and your body diminishes. But it’s not my body that has caused this, it’s my body’s natural reaction to the bacteria that are attacking it.

If your truck was falling apart from rust, and you were using water as coolant and regular gasoline in a diesel then you wouldn’t blame the truck for breaking down. My healthy eating definitely kept this disease down longer but I was filling it with stress every day and not repairing past trauma and the Lyme was floating around wreaking havoc and eventually my body broke down. And for that I hated it.

My point is, for all that is against it right now, my body is putting up a good fight so how can I hate it?

I recently have had no appetite. I have gone through periods of lack of appetite, nausea, vomitting, and food aversions mixed in with other periods of being absolutely ravenous on and off throughout treatment. This period of lack of appetite has been particularly strong and long-lasting so I thought I should check if I had lost any weight. I’ll be totally honest, part of me was wondering in hopes that maybe I could have lost some of the weight I’ve gained back and another part of me was wondering in fear, knowing the dangers of losing too much weight with Lyme disease. When I stepped on the scale however is when I realized just how much of my weight I’ve gained back. At the start of my fitness journey I was 186 lbs. My fittest was 148 lbs. My “feeling best” was somewhere in the low 150’s. When I stepped on the scale the other day, I was 190 lbs. I might throw up with nerves and embarrassment about posting that publicly to the Internet, but what I’ve come to understand is that my weight at this point in my health situation could have the potential to become a life or death issue. Never before has my body been so reliant on its own self for nutrients.

Some Lyme patients develop complications of the disease that cause the body to stop absorbing nutrients properly. I’ve read more than one story about this where the patient ends up requiring a feeding tube, but one story that has always stood out for me is of a young lady in BC around the same age as me, who’s body, due to complications of Lyme disease, could only properly absorb nutrients from a certain type of feeding tube food that was not covered under medical and she ended up dying. My body so far has not only continued eating for now, if less lately, but has also stored a good amount of fat that would give me so much more time if it ever came to that. I expect that my appetite will come back 10-fold in a couple of days like it usually does, but that’s the thing with this illness, you just never really know what’s around the corner.

Chronic Lyme does have a way of teaching you things that you never thought you needed to know however, and if there was ever a time for me to appreciate my body for holding a little extra weight, this would most definitely be it. It has been and continues to be an interesting and important lesson on body image and I am learning to love my body, with the extra weight, for all that it does for me.

For more information on my past fitness and mental health journey visit my old blog at www.strengthenbodynotexcuses.com

An Open Letter to my Support Group

It’s a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, probably one of our few left for the year. I should be out with whatever friends I have left, enjoying this beautiful day and instead I’m laying in a detox bath attempting to ease my aching body. Although I do try to keep my blog very authentic and truthful and real, exposing the behind-the-scenes of Late-Stage Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease and chronic illness in general, I typically don’t share when I’m feeling this vulnerable. Even my closest friends won’t usually know when I’m suffering this badly, only maybe my mom and my support group or good Lyme-friends who are all living it too. Today however, as I was writing to my support group I thought, this is something people need to understand. So here it is, in all it’s unedited vulnerability, my open letter to my support group…

 

Feeling the lowest I have in quite a while today. I’ve been treating for over a year, sick for almost 3 years but only really unwell for 2. Which I know is quite a bit shorter time than many of you.. today I’ve basically been in bed since Wednesday afternoon besides doctors appts and picking up prescriptions. I’ve had to take the most time off work in the last week and a half than I ever have before. I only had to move 5 clients but to me that feels like the end of the world. Thankfully most of my clients are so wonderful and understanding and kind, I’m so grateful for that.

Usually when I write I get fired up and excited, but today while writing I just feel sad and numb. I’m only 26 and I couldn’t go hiking once this year. Last night I really wanted to go for a walk and see a few friends at a little event and I required a cane to do it, it was less than a 10 minute walk away. I’ve never let any of these people see me with a cane as I’ve always kept my invisible illness invisible for them. But I really wanted to be able to say that I went and showed my face, so I did.

When I got there I could hear the whispers which I would not have thought were about me if it weren’t for all of the looks that accompanied them. They’re all lovely people so I can only assume that they were whispers of curiosity and concern rather than judgement but I’m not sure that that makes it any more comfortable – at least if they were mean I could be angry and tell them off, lol, but instead it just feels uncomfortable and sad. People who used to look at me with such respect and equality, now don’t even know how to approach me and I don’t know how to approach them.

As I was standing watching this, the happy-go-lucky, friendly guy beside me asks me, “what’s new and exciting?!”
I thought to myself, “I can’t possibly respond with the only new thing in my life is that im about to start a new treatment that absolutely terrifies me, so what the heck am I going to say?!” So I just brush it off and say, “oh nothing,” looking away continuing to watch the ladies whisper. He pushes further, “come on! There must be something new and exciting!” I don’t know why I didn’t think to just change the topic at this time but my brain wasn’t exactly on 100% and I responded with the only thing that was on my mind, “I start IV treatment in 2 weeks,” well what did I think an average, healthy guy would have to say to that? But in all honesty I still wasn’t expecting his response, something along the lines of, “come on you’ve just got to be positive!” And some other words that I zoned out, basically along the lines of I wasn’t acting positive and happy enough for him and suggested that next time I see him I respond with something like “I’ve been skydiving and mountain climbing!”.
“I’m sorry I usually am positive, just give me a break today.” I said defeatedly. And that’s when I realized just how exhausted I was. I go to work 4 days a week with a smile on my face even when every joint in my body is firing with pain. I run to the bathroom in between clients to vomit and then I wash my face, grab some gum and water and continue cutting hair until my shift is over. But last night I couldn’t even look excited for one conversation. I may complain to my mom or a close friend or a Lyme-friend or turn to my blog but overall I do my best to stay positive and, I think anyways, that in the grand scheme of things I do an okay job of it.

Today I’m so tired, and in so much pain, nauseous, sick of spending my days laying on the couch, lonely, bored, and so irritated that someone would talk to me that way and question my attitude. I’m also possibly herxing because those always seem to make me suddenly depressed out of nowhere. As I poured my detox bath and started typing this I just sat on the edge of the tub and sobbed. Only for a moment, but in that moment I felt completely broken and helpless.

P.s. last night I also thought, “omg there actually are people out there stupid enough to say these things. This is literally what people write about that I always think there is no one dumb enough to say things like that to someone.”
But the truth is, he didn’t mean any harm at all and I’m sure if he knew it upset me he wouldn’t like that, but people just don’t know what to say to me anymore.

Still Broken

•Sometimes I forget that I’m still broken.•

Or should I say remember; because really it’s more often I think that I’m whole than not. Or maybe what it really is, is that I forget that it’s OK to be broken.

I’ve over come so much for so young, I wonder if sometimes I believe that I shouldn’t ever struggle anymore because I am so much happier than I used to be. Did I believe that once I became a genuinely happy person I would never struggle again? That none of my past trauma would ever rear it’s ugly head or that no new trauma or heart break would ever occur? Or that when it did I’d suddenly be invincible to life’s challenges?

I don’t know if it’s the smoke in the air right now, or a neurological Lyme herxheimer reaction, hormones, the inability to exercise, or mourning the loss of a really good friend who is still with us, however, is just not the person I needed him to be. I thought that maybe if I could get from him what I could never get from my dad, then maybe I’d be good enough (typical right?!). Whatever it is that’s causing it, I am learning that I am not immune to sadness.

I believe my heart has been broken so many times that it will forever stay open – and I love that! Without heartbreak there is no love, and that’s all that should ever be – love.

For as long as I can remember I’ve longed for a family that fit into my box. My version of what I view a family should be – a group of people, blood or otherwise, who love each other, check in on eachother, hang out together, eat meals together, enjoy eachothers company and genuinely look out for one another. I have longed for this and searched every corner of my life to find it, and maybe I still will someday. Maybe I already have it and don’t even know it. Maybe I have more to let go of in order to create space for it. I’ve held on so tightly to so many nouns that just anchored me. I have pulled around the weight of years of grief for so long now, but link by link that anchor is being left behind; soon I will be weightless. Soon, I will fly.

As you walk through your life, may you all take each step forward with love and an open heart.

An open apology to my elementary school bully.

I don’t know why I thought of you today, but sometimes at random you pop into my head. When this happens I don’t think of you with anger or fear or hate, I think of you with sympathy and with sadness. Sadness not for me, not for the several other people I witnessed you bully throughout our elementary and highschool years, but sadness for you.

It was grade 3 when we first were placed in the same class, out in the portables of our little elementary school, and that’s when I remember the bullying beginning. Three years in a row the school placed us together. I remember dreading it and questioning why anyone would force me to endure yet another year of your taunting, negative presence. Then, at the tender, young year of grade 5, I remember the school threatening to expel you if the bullying didn’t stop, and I don’t think I was ever placed in your class again until highschool.

First I want to thank you, because although I understand and respect that this is not everybody’s case with their school bully, your behaviour helped me learn how to stand up for myself – and by highschool I revelled in it. I would witness you bullying others and would jump at the opportunity to stand up for them. As far as I was concerned, you were simply a mean person and I had no patience for it. Even the teachers would conveniently turn away as I called you out in the middle of class, in front of everybody, for bullying another student, then they would catch my eye and smile, or wink.

Years later, teachers would ask my mom if I ever ran into you anymore, happy, when they heard that I did, and that I was still standing up to you.

What I wonder now as an adult so many years later is, who taught you to be a bully in the first place? While you were being punished at school and probably at home for your behaviour, was anybody kind to you? Did anybody ask you, not why, but what needs you had that were not being filled? When your mother apologised to me for your actions, did she take the time to learn what was happening in your young mind and body to cause you to be that way towards other students?

At your young age of grade 3, did anybody in your life create a safe space for you? Space for you to heal whatever you were battling in your little body that caused you to act the way you did?

Based on my interactions with you before I left DSS 7 years later in grade 10, I suspect that no one did, and for this, I am sorry.

I am sorry that I never saw it from the other side. I never slowed down and offered you kindness. I never offered you understanding, I never offered you love.

My wish for you now, as an adult, is that you will create space for healing for yourself – maybe you already have. That you will create space in your life to accept love, and to give love to others. That you will not let the cycle continue through to your children – that you will offer them whatever your young soul was needing but didn’t know how to ask for.

Rock Bottom

We all have some sort of vice that we shouldn’t use when we’re at our lowest, cigarettes, alcohol, pills, self-harm, shopping, eating, projecting, you name it, we all have something. For years in highschool mine was self-harm. It was like an addiction, the self-inflicted pain that I was in control of, temporarily lessened the emotional pain that I didn’t know how to control. Although I stopped doing that years ago, it is still one of the first things that comes to my mind every time I’m in that distressing, not sure where to turn to, unable to cope kind of pain. Since I refuse to give in to these self-harming urges, the pain has to be released somewhere.

When I was heading into my 11th year of school, my ex-boyfriend passed away. This was one of those times where I couldn’t figure out how to let out my emotions and all of the pain that consumed me every day. Eventually, I started to learn that it came out when I drank. The screaming, the sobbing, the vomiting. It didn’t take too long for me to recognise that alcohol and me in pain did not mix well and I stopped drinking.

Then when I was 19 I was raped, and the cycle happened again, and again I recognised the pattern and got it under control.

It’s been years since anything like that has happened, but lately I’ve been feeling that way again. The over-whelming pain and grief and loss of my life. The daily physical pain as well as all of my other Lyme symptoms and simply learning to live with Lyme disease has put me over the edge recently. My new counsellor suggested that maybe the only time I feel safe to express my emotions is when I’m drunk. That for some people they don’t have to feel guilty for what they do or say when they’re drinking. I would be the opposite of that. Even if I don’t remember what I did or said, I feel an over-whelming sense of guilt anyways, which only adds to all of the pain I’m already trying to process. I feel like I’ve been crying out for help for so long now, and the support that I needed never came. Last week I was feeling so self-destructive. I don’t know why that’s the place that I naturally arrive to when I can’t cope with the world inside of me, but I’ve battled that for years.

I’m not a big drinker, in fact most people when they find out I’ve gone out and had a few too many on those rare occasions, congratulate me and tell me its good for me to let loose sometimes. I’m your typical glass of red wine with dinner maybe a couple, and usually can handle my alcohol fairly well, that is, until I’m in that mode of overwhelming emotional pain and self-destruction. Not to mention Lyme disease and all of the meds that come along with it seem to have changed the way alcohol responds in my body as well.

I feel like I’ve been crying out for help for so long now, and no one listened. I’ve even flat out said to my friends, family or boyfriend, “I need more help,” “I’m feeling really self-destructive,” “I need to do some things to make myself feel better,” “I can’t keep doing everything I’m trying to do by myself,” I also wrote this blog post the afternoon before I self-destructed. Each time I said one of these things I got a small acknowledgement that I said it, but then nothing. Now I’m certainly not trying to blame other people for my actions – I am the only one who can control what I do and I realise that. I just really, really needed some extra support, and if those weren’t clear ways of asking for it, then I don’t know what is.

So we went out to the pub, and I drank too much. And like any self-destructing 26 year old, I wanted to keep going even when I normally would have stopped after 2-3 drinks, so we did. And we had a blast, but at the end of the night, the only one sobbing and vomiting, was me. And I blacked out.

The next day was rock bottom for me. Not only was I severely hungover, Lyme symptoms flared, struggling to remember how ugly the night before really got, I had to admit to myself why this had happened. No one forced me to go out. No one forced alcohol down my throat. I did this. And since I know from my history that I only do this during certain moods, I had to really face the reality that I am not okay. And have not been okay for a very long time.

The truth is, I don’t want to live. Not like this anyways. And after picturing what kind of letters I would leave behind and who would take my dog, I had to admit that to myself, and finally admitted it to my mom, and got an emergency counselling session right away, with a second one booked for only 4 days later. I should have asked for counselling sooner, but I was in denial. I wish someone else had recognised it sooner too, but no one is to blame for that.

This is my rock-bottom. And the thing about rock-bottom is that you can only go up from there. I have my counsellor in place, and now that my mom is aware of what is going on she can better support me as well. All of my old coping mechanisms no longer work with Lyme disease, which I’m sure contributed to me being here now, but with my new counsellor I will be working on creating new ones and getting back to my healthy happy self, even if that looks different now than what it used to. I’m working on mending relationships and finding forgiveness, but most of all, I’m working on mending my relationship with myself, and forgiving myself.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with any kind of chronic illness or mental health issue, listen carefully to their words, chances are they’re asking for help in ways that maybe you don’t recognise. If you are struggling, please call a counsellor. I used Alongside You and they were fantastic but you can also find a list of counsellors in British Columbia here.

**This turned out to have a major Lyme herx reaction contributing to my mood as well

Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Congress, from a youth.

Reflecting in my hotel room for a little bit after a lovely native healing amythest biomat session with a beautiful native healer, while we break before dinner here at the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Congress. It’s been a long day of learning, and I may have taken a couple of opportunities to stir the pot a little bit – that is afterall why I sit on the South Delta Mental Health Local Action team isn’t it…
I am filled with gratitude that I’ve learned of some system changes and progress today that tell me that our mental health systems in BC are better than they were when I scrambled through them as a youth. I am humbled to hear that there are now some systems in place to assist in the sharing of information between a youth’s mental health team, so that different care groups can begin to work together, rather than apart, for the benefit of a child’s mental health.
One question that was raised was if the file is being shared between the professional team members working together for this child, is the file also then shared with the family for their own support and understanding. This is not the case due to the issues around is the file belonging to the parent or to the youth. If the youth is over 16 and does not want the file to go to said parents, is that the child’s right or the parent’s right? The presenter went on to argue that although the file is not given to the youth or parent, they do own it and can go through the freedom of information act to recieve it.
Although I wish there was a simpler solution to this barrier, I do understand it. So MY question was, Is anybody informing the youth or parent that they have the right to request said file for their own personal use? The answer of course, was no. I only learned recently that I had a right to my medical files, most youth and parents that I have spoken to are not aware that this is within their rights or an appropriate action to take, if desired.

So although I am humbled and grateful for the progress that has been made, today left me with the following main questions:
– Why, are parents and youth, not informed that it is within their rights to request the child’s medical file when dealing with mental health crisis?
– Who and how, do we hold doctors, psychiatrists, care workers, etc, accountable when a situation is not handled professionally or with care, or when their reports do not accurately describe the patient, or when they drop the ball over and over again leaving a mentally ill youth without care or support, or when they don’t understand the illness so they unnecessarily blame physical ailments and disease on mental illness? Or to be frank, when they are flat out ignorant and narcissistic? Lets be honest, that happens.
– Why are doctors not being taught to PROPERLY explore other physical health issues such as nutrient deficiencies, lifestyle choices, or infectious disease such as PANDAS, Lyme, etc, before jumping to anxiety, depression, bipolar, panic disorder, schizophrenia, psychosis, autism, ADD, ADHD, and other mental health disorders?
– Why when a parent or youth tries to advocate for themselves or their child, wanting to explore options such as infectious disease, are they sent by their doctor for a psych eval instead?

While at this conference I helped a person with a history of serious mental illness, drug abuse and homelessness, who is now an incredible advocate, learn that he/she has lyme disease. I got said person in contact with a doctor who has confirmed this. This individual’s tick bite happened as a child before any of their mental illnesses began. When the bite happened a bullseye rash appeared, the doctors ran tests and told the family that the child was fine. What they did not tell the family is that not everyone with Lyme disease gets the bullseye rash, but everyone with the bullseye rash gets Lyme. Years later this individual has overcome severe mental illness, drug abuse and homelessness as results of said mental illness, along with severe joint issues, rheumatoid arthritis, surgeries for said joints, pain issues and more… Could any of this of been prevented if our doctors were better educated on the subject?

I have no idea when I was bit. I don’t know if I got it from a tick or from a mosquito as west nile was also found in my blood. I know for sure that I’ve been sick for 2 years, but I show some physical signs of Lyme disease going back to before any of my mental health issues began. Is this a coincidence? Or could my story of also been drastically changed if doctors would look for these things before jumping to mental health? I do know for a fact that my story would have been changed if they’d thought to check my iron and thyroid levels…

I am so grateful that we have come this far, that people from different groups have begun working together for a better system and better child and youth mental health, but at the same time my heart aches for how far we still have to go…