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turning inward

you look outside of yourself, hoping that somewhere out there, someone can complete you or satisfy you. you look towards others for love, for acceptance, for understanding. and perhaps you did find someone, or some people, who do love you, accept you and understand you. and for awhile you feel like you’re home, glad that you can finally let your guard down. but time passes, and it hits you like a truck. there are conditions attached. haven’t you heard that there are always “buts”? you learn that there are things you do, things that are actually just parts of who you are, that make them love you less, accept you less, and misunderstand you. how do you make that right then, you ask yourself? how do you make them love you whole again? you will always have to be more. better and more. it will never suffice. and you will chase after that till the day you die, if love and acceptance and understanding is what you want to carry you through.

the human condition is terrible, truth be told. we are made like that. but it is also the human condition that makes us soft, and vulnerable. that gives us the capacity to love. give and take, no? expectations and its disappointments will kill you if you let it.

above all, trust in no one but in God alone.


the last 2 months have been spent in much anguish. i made a difficult decision of taking a step back from the desire of human connection. at that time it was very painful for me as i felt that many conversations i had were not genuine, whether it’s because i wasn’t intentional, or vice versa. for someone who thrives on human connection, i basically deprived myself of my social sustenance. the last 2 months (which also fell during the period of Lent) was also a period of spiritual desolation for me, and i really wondered why i was deliberately putting myself through so much pain.

changes in medication, lots of therapy, 30+ stitches, plenty of tears, and many prayers later, and on Good Shepherd Sunday, i know now.

turn not to people for your sustenance, but to God. He is unfailing!!! 🙂

“The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing i shall want.” 

Psalm 23:1

recovery

to be entirely honest, the state that i am in right now is rather disconcerting. recovery never felt like this, all these while in the past 6.5 years. it’s been 2 months since i entered this stage of normalcy where nothing quite happens. everything seems monotonous and flat. and i then i wonder if this is really life? it feels so awkward?

despite still being on a school break, i still try to keep up with managing my pain. pain always seems to outrun me, and then also the painkillers that i’m willing to take. painkillers, anti-emetics, physiotherapy, tennis ball, acupuncture, TENS unit. despite all these i still can’t keep up. i also have psychiatric appointments to keep every week, and they make me so tired *phew*.

my friends tell me that they noticed that seem more joyful, more at peace (really??). 2 months of normalcy hasn’t been easy, and i wonder what it would be like to lose it all again. too easy. i know i am very vulnerable right now, especially with visual triggers. and i know i will fall again if i lose to my impulsivity. but no one ever said it was easy?

let’s just pray that i will keep wanting this. because i sure am hell ain’t used to this.


after edit:

i don’t know what clicked. how recovery could’ve eluded me for 6.5 years, and it happens just like that??? i know it must’ve been divine intervention.

but nevertheless, no matter how rosy it seems, the struggle seems real. i still have bouts of sadness, but i do feel inexplicable joy at times. i don’t hurt myself anymore, but i had an incident, and i get triggered constantly and the threat of falling any second is very real. most of my other symptoms have improved from the tireless pursuit of psychiatric medications.

fibro flare

i’ve been struggling for weeks now, with back pain, headaches and fatigue that fibromyalgia brings. i managed the pain with paracetamol+orphenadrine, etoricoxib and ergotamine. my pain management wasn’t optimised because i loathed to take tramadol. the nausea it brings causes me plenty of grief.

the back pain (entire back) didn’t improve with rest. in fact, it felt like being horizontal made it worse. what sort of back pain doesn’t improve with rest??? i wrestled with the pain, resting nevertheless, and taking the analgesia. the pain worsened the insomnia, which in turn also affected the pain. what’s worse was that my mood has been poor. i am unable to identify if the poor mood triggered the pain, or vice versa. living with these chronic illnesses, i usually find myself entangled in its midst, never really knowing which was the real trigger.

last night however, i plucked up the courage to take tramadol 100mg with metoclopramide. the pain improved a tad, and was able to sleep better. then i realised i’ve been so silly omitting tramadol and causing unoptimised pain relief, just because i was afraid of nausea. i took tramadol again this morning. the pain continues, but it’s much better. knowing that i can still take another 300mg of tramadol for the rest of the day, gives me some relief. fibro can be a real pain in the ass, but oh well.

the low mood and insomnia will go on, but lessening the pain itself makes the struggle easier. i’ll let my psychiatrist take care of it!

God works in His ways, as long as we surrender to Him!!!

stronghold

Image result for the lord is my stronghold

each morning, i wake up to a mood that usually dictates how the rest of my day goes. it usually isn’t a good one. and while i sigh, resigned to the day my mood has already condemned, i forget there is a greater Being in my life in the midst of it all.

He is my stronghold.

i sobbed in therapy last Wednesday, and asked rhetorically if i would ever see the light again. i was reminded gently by my Catholic psychotherapist, that recovery is about growth. that it’s a journey, not a destination. in my own true fashion, i retorted that it’s been so long. would i ever live to see the light?

the disordered mind rages and talks, asserting itself, while the heart aches. i feel too deeply what my mind thinks, and i can’t seem to help it. the mind never ceases to demand that i should despair. that i should go, when it finally gets too much. but the heart keeps fighting. fighting to cling onto Him, fighting to stay, fighting to tell the mind that i just need to hold on and trust. that i will surely see the light, if only i gave it more time.

back then in a matter of years, my doctor told my parents to be “mentally prepared”. i was dying then. and i was dying of sadness, of utter despair. i don’t think i know though, if i ever got better from that state of being. the mind still asserts that it is easier to go, while the heart fights and clings on tightly to the One.

i may despair or rejoice from day to day, or feel nothing at all. the pain from the despair might feel so visceral, and the tears may fall. everyday is a struggle to hold on, and i still don’t have the confidence to say that i will live to see the light.

but the Lord is my stronghold. what do i have to fear?

i will continue to trudge on, and i will continue to give thanks to Him for all that He has given to me. my heart will keep fighting to live, even if my mind says no.

 

what you don’t know

  1. RA and fibromyalgia changes a person. living with chronic pain does that to you. it makes me embittered and disillusioned with life and the healthcare system.
  2. Chronic pain means that i carry a pouch of medications in my bag always. Painkillers that go up the spectrum in its strength. Topical painkillers. Anti-emetics in case the painkillers make me nauseated. Anxiety also means i carry with me benzodiazepines (usually clonazepam). Without this pouch when i’m out, i’m practically nothing.
  3. RA is an autoimmune disorder, and it can only be managed (put nicely, put in remission), never cured. And there was nothing i did to induce such a chronic and debilitating disease. Mine started when i was merely 1 years old.
  4. Fibromyalgia is a legitimate illness. It is not a diagnosis placed on a person if a doctor can’t figure out what a patient is going through (i.e. garbage diagnosis). No my pain is not psychosomatic. No my pain is not because i’m doing everything wrongly (posture, ergonomics at school/work, the way i sleep etc), No i’m not lazy, i’m just perpetually exhausted/fatigued despite the amount of sleep/naps i get.
  5. I don’t find excuses because of my illnesses. I try my best even through the pain and the exhaustion. Heck it even takes courage to admit that i am giving something up, or if i have to say no, when i feel my disease involvement is really being tested and exacerbated.
  6. i have chronic depression, and it happened (and still persists) not because i was weak. it started in 2010 because i gave too much of a damn about something- something that i was passionate about, and was good at, that pride took over. at that point my eating disorder was in full swing for a year already, and it didn’t help with the stress and pressure i faced.
  7. i fight. and i don’t stop fighting. i fought to finishing nursing school, and fought to finish it well. i fought at and for work as a nurse. i gave up my career as a nurse because undue pressure and sanctions were placed on me just to validate my license. it triggered me everytime i had to go down to board’s office to submit the letter from my psychiatrist.
  8. the people who are in the caring profession are the very people who perpetuate the stigma of mental illnesses. this was something i could never understand.
  9. i’ve lived in hospitals- medical and psychiatric- for a total of nearly 3 years. it takes courage to go in, to admit that i need help. it is not attention-seeking behaviour. and to be honest, all these time in hospitals are the ones that kept me alive.
  10. and yes, as much as it seems the opposite, i am fighting to live. i subjected myself to 63 sessions of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT- in layman terms, electric currents that runs through the head), because i struggle with chronic suicidality. if i seem forgetful, this is why. amnesia is the primary side effect of ECTs.
  11. i’ve been labelled as the “worst case” my psychiatrist has seen, “the most difficult patient” my psychiatrist has had. 70 over sessions with my psychologist yielded almost no effect on my mental health. so pardon me if i think i am a hopeless case.
  12. people have asked it, and implore you not to ask it nor even think about it, why i am “still like that”. do you actually think any sane person (yes i am very much sane) would want any of this bullshit? if i can have it my way, i want nothing of this.
  13. i am always fighting to manage my conditions, and that includes working towards recovery. sometimes i am able to muster the strength to stay relatively well (usually from extrinsic motivations). but it doesn’t mean that i’ve done it before, that it cann be replicated. circumstances are always different. and not reaching recovery doesn’t mean i am weak. it means i’m still fighting. whether it is me managing my symptoms because that seems to be more important at that time, or whether it is me fighting my demons because it feels like i’m well enough to work towards recovery.
  14. i am always seeing doctors, and again this is not attention-seeking. i see a rheumatologist, a pain specialist, a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist (who’s also a psychiatrist), with the occasional visit to a gastroenterologist, a nephrologist, a neurologist etc. i am for the record, not the healthiest person around, and no i did nothing to deserve anything that warrants these visits.

  15. when i cancel on you, it does not mean i’m not keeping my end of my promise. it usually means i’m exhausted through and through, either from the disease process of RA, fibro, or even depression. or it means my mood has plunged, and/or i am crippled with anxiety that i can’t leave the house.
  16. when you see me smiling and laughing, talking (sometimes loudly), walking with normal strides with my head held up, 99% of the time it is a facade you see. this facade is quite true to my old self. and it takes immense energy to keep the facade up.
  17. when you see me turn a little quieter, becoming more reserved and isolated, head down, and walking a little slower, it means the energy that’s keeping up my facade has run out. it means you are seeing a more genuine side of me, and honestly, i’m not fun to be with once this occurs. it can dampen the spirits of everyone, and i don’t mean to do that.
  18. i am easily triggered. when i see images or hear about things like suicide, means to kill oneself (like ropes, pills etc), and all, i immediately withdraw. it can mean that self-harm will come later, but that’s just the way i am. i am extremely sensitive.
  19. when i bare my arms to you, it means i trust you enough not to judge me. i am not proud of my scars. but i don’t want to tie it so much to shame as well.
  20. it’ll be difficult to accept me because of the way i butcher myself. but i always hope people can understand that self-harm is my way of coping, of self-regulating. it’s just like how people turn to alcohol, drugs and ciggs. and if you have questions, i really don’t mind being asked, as long as it is done tastefully.

it’s difficult for people, and even my doctors, to see how pain is inevitably intertwined with depression. everyday is a battle for me. i start off my day downing anti-depressants and a cocktail of pain medications. it’s a judgement call to make, for how much pain medications i need to start my day. a painful day makes for a very moody and/or angsty day. on the other hand, there is no happy pill. when i’m anxious, i pop a clonazepam, but it doesn’t make it go away totally. sadness, despair, distress and worry usually accompany anxiety. and if i can, i lie down, hide under a blanket, an try to sleep it off. if i’m out, i try with all my might to get home to do precisely that- hide and sleep. the worst is when my mind decides that my life is not worth living. there is no anti-suicidality pill. there is only self-injury and ECTs. i don’t hurt myself for the sake of it. ironically i hurt myself to stave off the suicidality (at least when i’m not inpatient), and it does help. it’s difficult to believe it, but it really does help. it helps me to at least live till tomorrow. and sometimes that’s all that is important right?

everyday is still a day of self-discovery, of learning who i am and what i am. everyday is a chance to be stronger, more resilient, more accepting, and a chance to desire living instead of dying.

my friend from my community described me as a fighter, as do many others, in different ways and words. i constantly deny them, because depression tells me everything otherwise. but for the past few days, i’ve thought about it. if i hadn’t fought, even as a child with undiagnosed juvenile RA, would i be here? if i hadn’t fought through the pain even as it progressed into adulthood, and then also fighting with fibro, would i be here? if i hadn’t fought with depression and bulimia, would i even still exist? it answers it all.

lastly, without my faith in God, i am nothing. He was the one who carried me through all these years, giving me the strength and courage when there was none to go on. He carried my crosses (which are my burdens and struggles) with me, and never left me even when i turned the other cheek. what can i say? God is good. God is Love!!!

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be still. -Exodus 14:14

going, going…

it’s that time again. i have been in the dark abyss for far too long. i truly am no longer safe.

i’ve tried. i really have. it is never my wish to be inpatient. it’s a terrible place to be in. and i never fail to feel like a failure succumbing to institutionalisation. but i have learnt that choosing to be helped is strength itself. choosing to fight to live another day, and many more to come, is courage. i’ve been on the brink of giving up, of dying, so many times. surely i can get through this again?

God gives me grace. but my flesh fails. and the depressed and suicidal mind is ominously strong. i can’t fight it myself. 

it’s time to surrender, to say “yes, i need help”. it’s especially time to take courage in the Lord, and accept that i can’t do it alone. it has to end here, at least with this escalation. 

let go, and let God, Steph. fight to live.