Recently I came across an article that gave quite a bit of insight into some of the behaviors that I have noticed in myself and my husband that I had never really understood before. It is a common trait in ADHD and the various manifestations of it are all too familiar. Though I am not one to rely on labels to hold myself back, it is important to be able to be informed about various aspects of yourself in order to better yourself.
It was in reflecting on this article that I came to realize a very different insight than you might expect. One related to how I have been dealing with my emotions related to the auto-immune flare ups and fibromyalgia flare ups I have been experiencing lately. I have been struggling emotionally with not being able to push through the pain and sickness, because when I was younger I was able to. Something that struck me as I was reflecting on my own behavioral patterns is that I had never actually thought of the true difference in the situation between then and now. I let my emotions build up wildly because I have already gone through a good variety of situations where I faced Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria because I am not able to just push through the pain. I’ve let myself stew and ultimately bottle up the emotional reactions to those situations, which I have unjustly internalized against myself.
What I had not let myself look at was the rational difference between when I was younger and now. I had not explored why I could push through before and why I cannot now. It was the chemical reactions that my body produced when consuming gluten and casein that I had forgotten to grant any weight. Although I was suffering, inflamed and in tremendous amounts of pain when I was younger, my brain was flooding with opiod-like substances. Even after going gluten free 5 years ago, I had continued to consume dairy–which I later discovered an allergy to. I can vividly remember the sensation of the ever delicious DQ blizzard on days of stress or pain. I relied on this almost weekly during university. Although not healthy, it had become a coping mechanism that helped me to push through the migraines and pain I was experiencing.
Now I am in a situation where I am eating healthy, avoiding foods that cause upset and trying my best to move forward through the suffering. Comparatively, I have gone from having an opiate-like high all the time, to not. Realistically, whether I was in more pain back then does not effect the fact that I at least had some form of relief, albeit a horribly unhealthy form of relief. I am no longer able to ask for most kinds of relief, because I cannot tolerate most medications without experiencing severe side effects. I am fighting the real battle now, without any shield. I know that there will be people who judge me and criticize me for where I am and what I am capable of doing, but at least I can give myself the peace of mind to know that I am doing what I can. Although I know I will still have stronger emotional reactions than I would like to admit, I can start to work through them without beating myself up for being sick.
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.
How do you know that you are on the right career path? What if you don’t know what you are planning to do with your career? What if you don’t know how to get there? How do you overcome the obstacles in the way?
Those are some of the questions that mull through my head as I try to sort out what to do with my life. I am married, have a university degree religious studies, have a series of health problems and have absolutely no idea what I actually want to commit to as a career. I have been told by some that I should go on to be a Speech Language Pathologist, others have said Dietitian, others still Aesthetics. My experience is in teaching and tutoring, though I did not complete teacher’s college.
Ideally, I want to go on to become a university professor teaching theology. Unfortunately, life is not ideal and neither is my heal, which puts a serious kink in the timeline of feasibly being able to complete those years of study without some other reasonable career-like job in the interim. My husband is on his way to become a police officer after years of experience in the security industry, and I am stuck reflecting on how I can help to provide for our family as well. Most things require more training than I have, which I do not mind undertaking. What I am stuck at is deciding what makes the most sense to dedicate that time into while knowing my limitations and working within them.
I feel like I almost have too many options, so for now, I will look prayerfully and continue with improving my health as I tutor online from home.
Steps forward are sometimes small, something large and sometimes seem like steps in the wrong direction. I think the reason that it can feel as though the steps are going backwards is because there is only a dead end ahead. Instead of staying at the dead end, the path opens up a little ways behind, leading forward once again.
Right now we are moving backwards down the path that will hopefully lead us to a better way forward. Though the position my husband took yesterday does not offer a larger salary, but it does offer a significantly larger opportunity for advancement. We are staying with family to save up money, so although we are sacrificing our independence, we are working toward a foundation for a better future without debt. I feel like we are working to go forward, but I am not certain where that will lead us. Right now I don’t believe I need to know what the future holds, I simply have to trust that it will turn out as it is meant to.
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.
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 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.