The devil is in the details

I have been letting myself slip into a worse state of mental health as my husband and I have been trying to move forward. The ever churning thoughts of worry and anxiety well up inside my mind and I am stuck frozen in an insurmountable moment of time.

“Nothing will move forward. You will be stuck this way for ever.” My internal monologue whispers, as if my conscience had puffed into being. As though the proverbial angel and devil sitting atop my shoulder had spoken to me, thoughts whispered into my ear. “You will amount to nothing. You will suffer. You will not find respite.” These thoughts echo through my mind and begin to swirl down into a spiral of angered noise. The angel at my ear has been tied up with a gag in their mouth to keep them from talking. The devil on my shoulder keeps chirping away.

In many ways this figurative description of my anxiety and current state of mind is a reasonable representation of the spiritual aspect of my struggles. The devil is in the details of our every day life. If you follow him, he will reward you with all the things that will never fulfill you, but if you refuse he attacks like a wild boar. Yes, we are autonomous creatures with free will, but we are not impervious to spiritual guidance or mis-guidance. St. Ignatius Loyola wrote extensively about this, and many other saints battled demons in a more than figurative way. Padre Pio was attacked physically. Yes, these individuals did receive attention in a way that most people will not, but no one is left alone. The enemy is relentless and will take any opportunity to snag a sheep out from pasture.

Lately I have been spiraling, very very badly. I am not in a position to implement the strict balancing act that I had found helped reduce my fibro, and I won’t be until my husband and I are able to live without roommates. This will be some months away, but no more than 4 months. We have had some ups and downs with jobs, but it has ultimately led my wonderful partner to a strong sense of vocation in his life. He will be starting college in the fall for police foundations with the intention of joining the RCMP, it only took 9 years working in the security industry for him to find the path that we are walking now. It is a series of events that caused an incredibly short period of discomfort in the grand scheme of things. Yet, somehow, the fact that my health is not where I would like it to be at all has meant that this beautiful progress shines like dimly lit kindling. I cannot get passed this sense of overwhelming impossibility. Everything is lining up, but there is a constant sense that everything will fall apart and I will be in ruins left to suffer horribly.

I realize that my feelings of depression are not at all rational. I realize that I am not moving backwards like it feels. Even still, I am unable to pass that wall that screams of failure. Though it may feel as though the little angel on my shoulder has been locked away by the devil, I do find a sort of fearful solace in knowing that my God is always waiting with an arm stretched out for me when I am ready to ask for help and guidance.

Trying to keep my head clear

There is meme that has been floating around social media that I believe expresses the feelings of depression incredibly well through the analogy of mashed potatoes. In essence, I am paraphrasing:

Imagine all of the food you love. The flavors, the texture, the experience of it all. Slowly all of those flavors begin to fade, and the texture begins to feel like mush. Every bite you take looks, feels and tastes like mashed potatoes. That favorite meal is suddenly a tasteless white mush sitting in front of you. People ask you why you aren’t eating it anymore, but they just don’t understand that it is mashed potatoes to you. They offer up some advice and recommend some spices, but those are tasteless too. It is all just mashed potatoes. Eventually, you don’t even remember what anything tastes like except those ever disappointing potatoes. So why bother eating those other things if they are only going to be potatoes anyway?

Lately I have been dealing with my own potato filled existence for a number of reasons, that really all boil down to my health at the core. I have been losing weight rapidly (I lost 3kg in two weeks, and have steadily been losing weight without trying). My abdomen has been in significantly worse pain for months, especially after eating. My doctor poked and prodded, finding that my large intestine is inflamed. I have a colonoscopy on Friday, and as much as I am glad that I will have answers soon, I am terrified to have more issues going on in my body. In the years since I was diagnosed with Celiac disease, I have not seen much improvement in my overall GI health, which is indicative of something else going on unfortunately. This means that although it is not that I am “getting something else” per se, there is something going on that does not as of yet have a lovely label of it’s own.

This constant pain after eating, among other unpleasant effects, has left me facing the unknown. Unfortunately the unknown is scary. It is especially scary when you have a family history of colon cancer and polyps rather than IBD. Thankfully, I am one of those people who have gone and had genetic testing done, so those results do allow for other possibilities. I do have genes associated with both major types of IBD, so I can at least weigh my genetic makeup against the family tree… It is scary to not know… and it turns everything into a looming and overwhelming heap of unending mashed potatoes…

Finally set up

It has taken a bit of time, but I have finally been able to set up my work space. With a working computer, an online tutoring job and our printer out of storage I am ready to get back into the swing of things.

The current plan for tackling my novel is to write up chapter summaries, print those out and go over the story progression as a whole before editing the individual chapters themselves. As I break down the story progression, I will be able to ensure a smooth continuity as I tweak various aspects along the way. That is the plan for now, and barring any technical malfunctions it should be fairly simple to follow.

Setting up a workspace

The last two weeks have been a bit of a blur. I have been productive, though as always that productivity comes at a cost. My husband and I have finally found a good working layout for our bedroom, and have begun creating a suitable work space. I have been hired for online tutoring, so if I combine that with writing I should be able to do some decent work from home. Other than a few electronics that were accidentally put in storage, we are just missing a desk and chair to fit the space. I am hoping that this new layout will bring with it a sense of peace of mind. I am feeling much less clostrophic thankfully. Theoretically setting up a new routine will do some good. 

In this whole process I have found myself better able to identify when I am reaching my upper limit. I am in more pain than I would like to be, but at the very least I am getting quite a lot done in a day moored to before. I am hoping that when we have everything set up I will continue this level of exercise but targeting specific muscle groups. The impact of muscle strength on joints is huge, so if I can find some joint pain relief I will try it. Hopefully all of my efforts will bear fruit. 

Moving is never easy

I am exhausted. I am not sure that I could describe myself in any other words.  Physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually exhausted. I have been having a hard time answering whether or not I’m happy and I have realized that it is because I am too tired to tell. I’m drained from the stress of the quick move. I’m drained from the physical needs of the move and setting up a useable space that will not give me panic attacks to look at. I’m drained from the emotions of leaving the friends I have left behind. It is not the first time I have been this utterly tired, and I doubt it will be the last. It is hard to describe the physical pain I am in as well. I absolutely wish I could fix my nervous system, yet even suffering this I am too tired to cry from pain. I can’t cuddle my husband or even enjoy an affirmative touch of any kind without searing pain. Sleep doesn’t help either. I have barely had energy for the last 10 years, yet it feels as though I have even less right now. I have officially moved 4 times in the last year, twice between cities. I am exhausted from moving. Unfortunately, this is the most I can offer as a blog post today. If I were up for more, I would send something more thought provoking. Thank you for bearing with my complaints.

Weaving a New Direction

Over the last few months I have had a serious loss of direction. Although I still don’t feel as though I have a sense of direction, I am beginning to look again. After finishing up with running summer camp, I found myself battling the impact that such an increase in activity had on my health. From my perspective, it felt very much like a losing battle. As the two weeks came to a close, my pain levels skyrocketed- but I was shocked to find myself coping better due to the sleep pattern I had begun. For the first time in many years, I was asleep at 9pm and awake at 6am. This had actually been my sleep routine for the vast majority of my life (though in my teen years it was closer to 10pm to 6am), altered only by the advent of medications that compromised my sleep cycle. It doesn’t help that my husband does rotating shift work; it is quite hard to go to sleep before him or without him. I think that if I had been able to continue this sleep routine after summer camp, the last few months would not have been so hard. Contrary to my nature, I wallowed. Truthfully, I am not sure wallow is even a strong enough sentiment to express the head space I was in. I had pushed my body, and it pushed back with ferocity.

After the unfortunate celiac reaction and the deterioration of my already poor joints shortly after the camp had finished, I felt defeated. Completely and utterly defeated. It is much harder to cope with pain when you can no longer physically do your coping mechanisms. I would usually turn to arts and crafts to boost my spirits and distract myself, yet I was bested by my illness and unable to do anything. It felt impossible to fight against the sense of helplessness that had welled up within me. Already combating the constant sense of uselessness most with chronic illnesses go through, I felt true despair. This has been very difficult to struggle through.

In the midst of this, somehow the smallest of gestures has changed the direction of my focus. Last night, my aunt showed me a very nifty little project that she had started at her homeschool meet-up earlier in the evening. She had learned a simple yet elegant form of weaving using straws. Almost instantly my curiosity was piqued, and I examined her progress carefully to sort out how she was making the project. This examination gave me a tiny spark of something I hadn’t felt in months: inspiration. I tried a few rows and was astonished to find that it did not hurt my joints at all to do. With excitement, I ran to my art supplies and grabbed out everything that I needed. I started making a brown cotton belt, something simple to begin.Before bed  I was able to make a solid two inches. Today, I finished a quarter of it and have felt productive for the first time in a few months. Though I am not entirely over my negative emotions, this small and simple craft has turned my gaze away from the seemingly perilous battle towards brighter possibilities. If there is a craft I can spend hours doing without pain, there has to be more that I can do as well. There may even be ways to make the other activities I enjoy possible as well, though likely with reduced frequency.

I am not giving up, as much as I have been wanting to. I hope to renew the fervour I used to possess for life over the next coming months, and I am planning to use this blog as a means to do so as well. Writing a blog post is an accomplishment, and it is one I can do even with limited use of my hands if pain is flaring. Even in the worst of times, there is always something that can be done. There is always hope.

Even though it is as simple as weaving a belt, I am proud of my accomplishment today.


Change, once again…

Change is something that is universal and unavoidable. This last year has been one of exceptional change, and therefore growth. Yet, now, this chapter in Toronto is coming to a close. On Monday my husband and I will be saying our goodbyes to the friends we have made here and returning to the city we came from. In many ways I am sad to see the end of the chapter drawing near but I have hope for the direction that we are headed. I have unfortunately not seen much improvement in joint pain, and will need to begin investigations with my doctor as soon as we have moved. This change has been a very hard one to bear emotionally, but I am beginning to search for the brighter side of things. It will be a wonderful thing to be close to our family once again, I really do look forward to that. Though I do worry about leaving behind the community I have built up at Church, I am certain that God will guide me to a new one as we move. With any luck, this move will be what I need to dedicate myself to writing once again.

All things in their own time.