When it gets bad

Ever felt like eating is a chore? That’s where I am these days. I quite literally got bored of eating in the middle of dinner a couple nights ago.

The craziest thing was that I was still hungry–I just was tired of the maddening, nauseating sounds of chewing and slurpy drinking, tired of feeling my permanently clenched jaw muscles aching as they worked, and tired of dealing with the sharp edges of overly crunchy food poking at my gums and lips. (We’re talking crunchy like chips/crisps.). It all suddenly felt like it required an enormous effort to continue feeding myself when all it was doing was making me irrationally angry and somehow empty.

So I just quit. I wrapped up my food with the one remaining sh*t I had left to give, and lay in bed vaguely hungry and headachy for four more hours…until my blood sugar level sharply reminded me if I didn’t eat more soon, I was going to pass out.

I wish I could say this has been an isolated incident, but it’s been this way more of my life than not. This latest bout is probably spurred on by dad’s illness, which I feel powerless to help with much and which reminds me too much of what mom went through before she died…but it’s not all external, not all explainable. And how am I supposed to tell anybody else what this is like if I don’t understand it well myself?

It’s odd, I can stand outside myself in certain moments and recognize “this is depression again.” But when I’m having to live through it, slog through each day minute by stupid maddening minute, it’s like living my life in a trash compactor, the walls coming ever closer each day like that scene in Star Wars: A New Hope. My life is getting away from me so fast, and yet I can’t even enjoy anything anymore. Even existing with meals that are more like light, preprocessed snacks, existing without expending nonexistent energy on cooking or bathing or fresh clothes, feels like fighting an interminably long siege. I’m all out of ammo and the enemy has stormed the gate.

I don’t really want to die yet though, which is good–I’ve been suicidal before and I know not to let it get that bad again. This time, it’s just like “I don’t want any of this life anymore. I don’t want to have to fight like this just to appear normal. No one normal has to claw up the side of a mountain every day just to be passable. I am sick of it and I want to be myself again.” I’m tired of the ache all over, the ache inside.

I hope to get help soon, but I’m still snowed in from all this garbage weather we’ve had and can’t get out to go to any appointments. (Side note: I HATE snow and ice!). Hopefully soon we’ll have enough melt off out here in the woods that I can go outside without falling and hurting myself again. Then I can think about calling for an appointment, maybe finding a primary care physician who won’t treat me poorly because I’m fat. Maybe it’s time to try meds since behavioral therapy hasn’t really headed this off.

I want to get better. I really do. I just wish it didn’t take a monumental effort on my part to just look like I’m barely trying. I wish my greatest efforts weren’t judged by those who are trying to help me as “not enough.” That’s been the most discouraging thing of all.

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What Caregivers Need

Dad is home, praise the Lord, and he is more functional than I could have imagined after seeing him fall so horribly. He’s still shaky when getting around, but he can talk and think pretty clearly. Still some follow ups to do, but overall things are better than they could have been.

That said, for me life is now a little more challenging. I have in many ways always been an emotional caregiver for my parents, even from childhood–it’s not healthy, but it was what happened–but now I am additionally taking on some physical care responsibilities. Dad thankfully doesn’t need as much as Mom did in her last year of life, but I greatly fear the day he loses all function, because I know I will be overwhelmed just like I was with Mom. (The grief of watching a loved one suffer completely overrode my ability to function as a competent adult, and I spent most of the last months of 2016 and the early months of 2017 shut up in my bedroom trying to escape from that ten-ton weight on my heart.)

During this time, I’ve received a lot of on-the-ground support and a lot of sweet counsel and prayers; as Dad and Mom’s only child, I’ve relied on others greatly and been grateful that they are there. However, I’ve also received “advice” (using the word loosely) that has done nothing but make me feel guilty. Some have insinuated that if I was a decent daughter and human being, I could care for Dad myself without needing to pay a home health worker. Some have subtly suggested I’ve been asking for prayer/help too much and I should just get on with my business like a “real adult,” whatever that is. Still others have interrogated me about the fall itself, and why I wasn’t standing there ready to escort Dad from the stage so that he would not have fallen in the first place. And some, well meaning though they are, have critiqued my inability to have Dad a bedroom prepared on the main floor so far, due to a massive clutter situation left over from when we were caregiving for Mom.

All of these questions and comments come at a time when I am emotionally and mentally exhausted from the shock and trauma of seeing my daddy fall, his mortality and fragility on display for everyone to see–I’m still processing the fright that I would lose half my world in a moment. All these questions and comments do is impart negativity into a brain and heart that is already aching with guilt and shame.

This is not what caregivers need. What caregivers need is compassionate help that does not come bundled with judgmental, disdainful comments. What caregivers need is understanding that we are human and need escapes and help as well, since our previously restful homes usually become the battlefield of our loved one’s health crisis. What caregivers need is someone to listen, to work alongside us and to help us shoulder the weight of this frightening event. Now more than ever, we need others to understand that asking for help is not a sin, and complete self-sufficiency is a myth. ❤️

Prayer Request for Dad

If you pray, please pray for my dad. He had a mild stroke last night and fell down four stone steps, landing face first. He is alert and talking, but still pretty dizzy and disoriented at times, plus having some speech problems on occasion. His knee and face took quite a wallop as well. Hoping he’ll be released tomorrow if there are no complications, but we are still waiting on results from several scans. Thank you ❤️

Person in Progress

I am the first to admit that I am a person in progress, still developing, learning, and healing. So it irritates me when others come along and judge my progress to be “not enough,” when I know they have no clue what they’re even talking about.

This week I have shared with multiple people at various times about the positive strides I’m making spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. I’m excited about my progress, I wanna talk about it, y’know? But the only response I got back from any of them was “Well, what about losing weight? What kind of exercise are you doing? Walking isn’t enough,” etc. As if I don’t know I’m fat, as if I don’t know I’m “unhealthy,” as if I don’t know my weight is a problem. Insert eye rolling here.

I know they meant well, I really do. But I felt like screaming at them, “Look, [expletive-laden epithet], I know EXACTLY how much this body weighs and how much it sucks to be this big, okay? But I can’t fight a war on multiple fronts!” Right now, I am doing a TON of mental and spiritual work to feel like living again instead of merely existing, and that “head work” has to be completed before I even think about taking on any kind of physical fitness journey. (I should know, I’ve tried doing it the other way around and it didn’t work.). I’m doing things the right way for me this time. I’m not interested in hearing a pep talk, I’m not interested in any diet shakes or classes right now–that’s just not where I’m at and I’m not gonna be there for a good while yet. Just because somebody else thinks I’m not as far along as I “ought to be” doesn’t mean they’re right.

It was impossible to say these things directly to them, though; I was too busy thinking things like “don’t strangle them, they’re not worth the jail time, ‘thou shalt not kill’, remember?” LOL! But now that I’m calm and can think more clearly about it, I have realized a couple of things:

  1. I can learn from each of these people, but I don’t have to follow the timetable they’re pushing. God is leading, I am following, and my path doesn’t have to make sense to them for it to be right.
  2. I am perfectly placed to learn what I need to learn with the right people at the right time. I’m making progress, even if they don’t see it. Every little itty bitty step is a victory. ❤️

Real Talk: Holidays

Mostly, I try to post helpful stuff here, stuff I’d want to read, but today, all I’ve got churning in the ol’ gray matter is a sense of emptiness. The holidays are hard more often than not for me.

I won’t bore you or weight you down with descriptions of what I’m going through, though. What I will do is offer you comfort and compassion if you’re entering this holiday season with significantly less than exuberant joy. Whether you’re grieving a missing loved one, feeling disconnected and isolated from your living loved ones, wondering what’s the point of the holidays (or living) anyway, randomly feeling sort of lost and broken, etc., just know that there are lots of us out there who understand. The holidays are not merry and bright for everyone–maybe not even the ones who put on a good show of it.

So I invite you to be real with yourself and with those you trust this holiday season. You are worth loving, you’re not a burden, and you don’t deserve to suffer. If it’s time to make that hard but necessary call to a mental health care center, please take this as your sign to do it. You deserve to feel better, and your struggles are not strange. I say this as someone who has not won the proverbial war at all, someone who is still in the trenches with you. We will make it through this season together, and perhaps even reclaim some of its light for ourselves. ❤️

3 Things List Challenge

As the holiday season ramps up, I have to complete a number of tasks around the house in order to get ready for get-togethers. But how do I do that when I’m running on low energy?

One possible answer: a to-do list. But not just any list…

A “3 things” list is not merely just a selection of 3 tasks that must be done, These are specially crafted listings that can be sections or even micro-sections of a single normal task. The key is to make each of the 3 things on the list completable in a very short amount of time. Why? Because simply put, if it takes more than 5 minutes, I’m probably not gonna bother. LOL 🤣🤣🤣😂😂😂

Here’s an example of a bad “3 things” list:

  • Clean living room
  • Clean bathroom
  • Clean bedroom

This might work fine for some folks, but to me, this is overwhelming. There are dozens of micro/tasks involved in each of those list items–I struggle to process it all, and you can forget about me actually selecting which to do first. In the end, with this to-do list, nothing will get done. Been there, done that, don’t even need the shirt. 😂😂😂

Here’s that “3 things” list, fixed for me:

  • Remove all items that don’t belong in living room
  • Dust top of TV
  • Pick up loose change

These are 3 specific, easy tasks that all fall under the heading “clean living room,” but when they’re broken down like this, they make sense to my low-energy brain. They all look really easy to do, and I know from past experience that if I get started on one of these micro-tasks, I’ll likely see other stuff I can do in the room, too. The brain momentum from getting one tiny thing done can potentially launch me into doing more, especially if I’m on a deadline (either perceived or real). It’s a weird brain hack, but it works!

If you’re already feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list this season, give this list format a try! (I’m going to today as I hide out from Black Friday by cleaning at home! LOL)

Spoonie Questionnaire

Saw this over on the Authentic Human Stories blog and wanted to share my answers with y’all! (I’m not sure how to tag the author on the mobile app but I’ll try to figure it out, lol)

ABOUT ME

Introduce yourself ! What’s your name and where are you from?

I’m Robin and I’m from North Carolina, USA.

What type of content do you produce online?

I write about real faith (struggles and successes), grief, loss, mental struggles, finding joy in little things…pretty much the human experience.

What’s your favorite comfort food for when you need a pick me up?

Anything with chicken or cheese in it!

Perfect song to jump start your morning?

I have a pretty big “happy playlist”–here are the tracks, in no particular order:

  • September – Earth, Wind and Fire
  • Got a Star Piece – Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars OST
  • Hey Baby – Bruce Channel
  • Celebration (Single Version) – Kool & The Gang
  • Night Changes – One Direction
  • Wipe Out (Live) – The Surfaris
  • Theme from Ghostbusters – Ray Parker, Jr.
  • Ray of Light (Radio Edit) – Madonna
  • Yes – Merry Clayton
  • It Takes Two – Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston
  • Victory over Culex – Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars OST
  • December, 1963 – The Four Seasons
  • Electric Slide – Shannon
  • Shut Up and Dance – WALK THE MOON
  • Beauty and the Beast – Angela Lansbury
  • Uptight – Stevie Wonder
  • Dance Again – Jennifer Lopez
  • Kung Fu Fighting – Carl Douglas
  • Ode to Joy – Beethoven
  • Good Lovin’ – The Rascals
  • Pieces of Me – Ashlee Simpson
  • Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars) – Mark Ronson
  • Let’s Get Ready to Rumble – Jock Jams (found this on Youtube I think xD)
  • Tequila – The Champs
  • Everybody Have Fun Tonight – Wang Chung
  • Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix Radio Edit) – Omi
  • Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol
  • That’s the Way It Is – Celine Dion
  • Let the Groove Get In – Justin Timberlake
  • Let’s Groove – Earth, Wind and Fire
  • The Rainbow Connection – Sarah McLachlan
  • Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley
  • Tunak Tunak Tun – Daler Mehndi
  • MOON PRIDE (Theme from Sailor Moon Crystal – Momoiro Clover Z
  • Happy (from Despicable Me 2) – Pharrell Williams
  • Dancing in the Street – Martha and the Vandellas
  • For Once in My Life – Stevie Wonder
  • Be My Baby – The Ronettes
  • Shout (Full Version) – The Isley Brothers
  • Moskau – Dschingis Khan
  • I Wanna Dance with Somebody – Whitney Houston
  • Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band
  • Why Should I Worry – Billy Joel
  • Gimme Some Lovin’ – The Spencer Davis Group
  • Rockin’ Robin – Bobby Day
  • Cupid Shuffle – Cupid
  • It’s Your Love – Tim McGraw & Faith Hill
  • Dance to the Music – Sly and the Family Stone
  • Chasing the Sun – The Wanted

What does being a spoonie mean to you?

For me, it means managing my energy so that I at least do the stuff that’s most important to me on any given day.  Sometimes that means husbanding my energy for a few days before a long car trip, stressful appointment, or walking-intensive adventure; sometimes that means using the random burst of energy I get at 2am to finally clean the things that have been annoying me for weeks.  (It also means that folks who aren’t spoonies feel like they can comment on my life and how well I’m running it, but they just have no clue what I go through so their opinions matter about 1% to me now.)

What are your goals for the present and the future?

For the present:

  • Get a sleep study done to see if I do have sleep apnea since I’ve been grinding/clenching my teeth at night and feeling very very tired all the time.  Solving this issue might just help me have more energy!
  • Keep training as a vocal performer.
  • Work on my NaNoWriMo novel and my other creative projects.
  • Bring in a little money via my tutoring job.

For the future:

  • Get my book(s) accepted by an agent, edited, and published
  • Get my music copyrighted, written down, and published
  • Get married to the love of my life ❤
  • Look after my Dad’s health and needs

What are your favorite hobbies and past times?

I love to write (poetry, short stories, and fiction), compose music, sing, and make hobby websites.  I also love spending hours on YouTube, Netflix, and Hulu, as well as random games and social media.

Do you speak any other language other than english ?

I am moderately good in French, though I’ve forgotten a lot since my high school and college days.  I can understand or make good guesses about most French I encounter, and I can speak intermediate-level phrases.

CHRONIC ILLNESS/DISABILITY

What’s your official diagnosis?

Multiple old injuries to my knees, ankles, and feet, resulting in shooting nerve pain up my legs and joint instability when walking.  I also have flat feet, which has contributed to balance issues and ankle issues.  I have a handicapped placard for my car so that I don’t have to walk long distances.  I also had PTSD (released from treatment February 2018), and now possible depression or some other mental disorder (we are not certain yet).

What are you self diagnosed with?

I think I might have sleep apnea from what I can tell of my symptoms, and I also feel a strong kinship with those who are ADHD–I feel like I’ve been inattentive, hyperactive, emotionally unregulated, disorganized, and prone to sensory overload and meltdowns since before I can remember.

When did you first start seeing symptoms appear and when were you diagnosed?

My physical condition doesn’t really have a diagnosis per se, but things started going really haywire during my college years, when I had several falls in a badly designed shower environment and also tried stupidly to get to class during a couple of ice/snow storms.  As for my mental condition, I was diagnosed with PTSD in September 2016–my therapist estimates I spent about 25 years undiagnosed but suffering, since symptoms of it began to show up when I was around 8 years old.

What’s the worst part about your illness?

The constant shooting pains in my legs, even when lying down, take a toll on my days.  I used to get up and move around so easily, and now I have to plan out my moves through the house, plan my activities so that I don’t get too sore or tired…it’s just a lot of junk a relatively young woman shouldn’t have to go through.  Also, my PTSD used to make it difficult to get out and about because I was afraid of being followed, shot, mugged, kidnapped, raped, etc. while just going on errands.

What has your illness taught you?

That health of any kind is not permanent and is actually quite fragile, so you gotta take care of it–even if others don’t understand!

What do you wish other people could know about your chronic illness?

That it’s not a choice I make, and I don’t get to decide how I feel every morning or what I’m able to do.  The pain decides.  I hate being this powerless but there’s very little that can be done, apparently.  (Also that sometimes doctors don’t quiiiiite believe you when you say you’re in pain and need help, especially when you’re fat and female)

How has your condition affected your mental well being?

I’m definitely less upbeat than I want to be.  Constant pain will wear on your mind like that.

What are some things you never thought you would miss or struggle with when you were able bodied (if you have a progressive or onset condition)?

I never thought I would struggle with stairs.  Our house is nothing but stairs and I used to get up and down them like it was nothing.  Now I even go without doing laundry as long as possible because of all those (pardon my French) damn treacherous stair steps between me and the washer/dryer.

Phrases or advice you are tired of hearing?

  • “Just think positive!”  When I hear this, I wish I could Force Choke the person like Darth Vader.
  • “Well, why don’t you just take a pill for it?” I can’t just take dozens of pain pills for the rest of my life, unless I want to blow out my liver/kidneys.
  • “You could just decide to feel better, though!  It’s all about attitude!”  See above about Force Choking.  LOL

TREATMENT

Hot or Cold Relief?

Cold for my ankle swelling, heat for my knee pain and nerve pain in my feet.

What types of medications have you taken and which one has worked for you?

I usually just do Advil–it helps take the edge off enough to get around.  I’ve not gotten any stronger stuff for it because I don’t want to get too dependent on it, plus I don’t have a primary care physician right now so it’s hard to get stronger stuff.  I don’t currently take anything for my mental health.

Worst side effect of medication you’ve ever experienced?

Thankfully, I have had no side effects from Advil so far!  I try to take it as sparingly as possible for that reason.

What type of western and natural medical practitioners are you accessing?

Chiropractic adjustments and physical therapy exercises.  For my mental health, I got EMDR therapy for my PTSD from September 2016-February 2018.

Do you use mobility aids and if so, how do they help?

When my ankles and feet really get sore and painful after long periods (1-2 hours) of unavoidable walking, I use a cane–it helps me balance, but doesn’t help a lot with the pain.

SELF CARE

What are some of the best items you have found to help ease your symptoms?

A great mattress is key.  I wish I’d bought this one I’m sitting on right now several years ago!  Also supportive and comfortable shoes that are also easy to take off, so that I don’t have to bend and risk falling over trying to get out of them.

What’s your self care routine for when you’re feeling blue?

I usually plug in one of the funniest movies I own on DVD and have myself a laugh fest.  Either that or I have a good cry, write my feelings out, and take a huge nap.  LOL

What’s your bedtime routine?

I get my teeth brushed and flossed, apply facial moisturizer and lip balm, and listen to ASMR videos through my phone or tablet.

What do you do when you can’t fall asleep?

I watch YouTube videos till I’m falling asleep on them (LOL)

How do you cope when you have a flare? What are the prevalent symptoms? How do you let others know that you’re not feeling well?

I rest in bed a lot when the joints are sore, and if I’m having a really bad mental health day I stay in the house and try to surround myself with media that makes me happy, including creating my own if I feel like it.  Generally I just feel very sore and very tired, often cranky and hangry (lol).  I usually text folks and let them know if I was scheduled to do something and it’s just not gonna happen today.

Tell us about some interests that you’ve discovered after becoming chronically ill!

I found I like to watch home decor and crafting shows (first on HGTV back in the day, now on YouTube)–I have no skill for stuff like that, but I sure like seeing others do it well!

SUPPORT

What can friends or family bring you that might help? Any gifts, food, etc?

I love the idea of folks coming by to visit–they don’t even have to bring anything, just themselves if it’s a rough mental day.  I also appreciate when they bring food I can easily heat up in the microwave, since I’m a bad cook even on my best physical days.  xD

What’s the number one piece of advice you could give to others who have just been diagnosed or going through your illness?

Things will change for you, but this change does not have to be permanent.  You can claw your way back slowly.  It’ll take time and lots of help, and you may never be quite the same again, but you can regain some of what you lost.

Who is your number one support?

My fiance and my dad are both amazing and take on lots more stuff than they ought to just to make sure I’m cared for.  When I am more ambulatory, I try to return the favor when I can.

What are things that others or society can do to become more accessible and supportive?

More handicapped spaces (in reasonable places, not out past Timbuktu!!), and better education for non-handicapped folks about why it’s important to leave those spaces for those who need them.  Sometimes being able to find a handicapped space or not is the difference between me getting my groceries or not.

Do you take part in support groups and if so, have they been effective? Are you part of any online support groups?

I haven’t been a part of any support groups in recent years…my experience of support groups has not been good.   Instead of folks talking things out and helping each other cope, I’ve seen support groups become zones for complaining, lashing out at others, and policing what others can/can’t talk about (even if it’s key to a person’s recovery to talk about stuff).  I don’t want to bring “drama” in, nor do I want to deal with someone else’s burdens when I have enough of my own, so I just don’t bother anymore.  It’s sad, but I have found my “tribe” of folks I talk to anyway, so I honestly don’t miss it.

Better than Expected

In the span of just a few days, a few “ugh” things have happened:

  • cracked off a piece of one tooth in the middle of the night from grinding/clenching
  • car randomly stopped working at the oil change place, had to get it towed
  • found out my fiance had to take a huge pay cut out of his already small salary, which means we still can’t get married because we can’t pay hardly any bills…so after almost 11 years together I still can’t even live in the same house with the love of my life
  • will have to test-drive some new primary care physicians so I can get a sleep study done (and hope that they are nice and don’t treat me badly because I’m fat–this has happened many times before)
  • going to have to change medical insurance by the beginning of the year, and it’s definitely worse insurance coverage than what I had this year
  • might have to replace both my car and my computer (which I use for all my creative work) soon, hard to say…both are showing signs of their advanced age, and we don’t have the money for any of that

But in the midst of all this, some great surprises have happened, too:

  • the car repair bill, towing and all, turned out to be about 70 bucks instead of $200+ like we thought
  • the chip in my tooth was very small and easily handled in about 10 minutes with no need for numbing (praise the Lord!)–and it too was about 70-80 bucks instead of well over $1000 like we feared
  • got some recommendations for good doctors in the area from friends
  • may be able to replace a part in my computer rather than the whole thing

So even though we are still facing some big time struggles financially, and I often feel like my future and my happiness are being cruelly toyed with, there are lots of little ways in which things are working out better than expected.  I can see that God is still there for me in these small moments…even if I do get impatient with Him sometimes (LOL)!

 

Where is All My Energy Going?

I used to be a hyperactive, very energetic person. I used to get excited easily, angry easily–my emotions were all over the place daily, and so was my energy level. For the things I loved (like writing and composing music), I could do them without tiring, it seemed; for the things I hated (like math and physical education), I could spare very little energy at all. But I still had a ton of energy.

That’s changed over the years, and I thought perhaps it was a result of growing up, or perhaps related to the chronic pain I now endure. I thought maybe it was my hormones, since they’re apparently out of whack, or the now-diagnosed and treated PTSD, or the anemia I suffer on and off.

All of those are completely plausible. But I’ve always suspected there’s much deeper reason that I have no energy these days…and when it finally occurred to me what might be going on inside, it made an unsettling amount of sense.

I think the reason I have no energy is that I have been chaining up my emotions…yes, the ones that were once all over the place, the ones that were boundless and changed faster than the weather. And in so doing, it drains a lot of energy away every day, because it takes a lot of force of will to keep such powerful feelings in check. (Understanding that I might have ADHD and therefore have trouble with emotional regulation is part of the puzzle too, since this definitely does not come naturally and is much more difficult than it seems to be for “normal” loved ones.)

Now, why might I have chosen to chain part of myself up? There’s a long convoluted life pathway that explains it, but I’ll try my best to summarize:

  • I was constantly corrected and punished/threatened with punishment at school for being too emotional, getting overwhelmed, and having meltdowns as a child (the word meltdown was not in the national vocabulary yet, so I was just deemed a “bad kid”)
  • Other kids shunned me at school because I scared them or made them feel unsafe when I had these meltdowns…plus they bullied me for having them because it obviously wasn’t normal, so I had very few friends until I started chaining myself up
  • Adults in the house had wildly fluctuating emotions of their own, and I ended up often mediating their conflicts and counseling them as a tween and young teen
  • Adulthood is always associated with “self control,” and self controlled people apparently never feel rage/despair/exhilaration/terror/any of the other things I experience in a typical hour…so if I want to be an “adult” and get along in society, I have to appear like I don’t have these feelings (even though I very much do)
  • My emotions, especially my anger/rage, are apparently very scary to others, and I never want to make anyone feel the way I did when trying to deal with others’ messy emotions as a child

Okay, that took longer than I thought, LOL! But there are quite a few big reasons why I chain my emotions up, especially my anger. If I let every bit of rage out, I truly shudder to think what would happen. Would I have a stick of furniture left in my house? Would I self harm until I ended up in the hospital? Would others around me get physically or emotionally hurt by my selfish decision to vent? These are very real worries I have, and I don’t have the time, money, or effort to risk it.

But keeping emotions in check is a very difficult task when they are as big and monstrous as they have become after years of shoving them down. Folks already think I’m too emotional as it is, and they ain’t even SEEN the iceberg yet…they just saw a couple snowflakes! I allow joy or excitement out to play a lot more than anger or sadness, but even then I keep them on tight leashes because “adults aren’t supposed to act like children.” So even my smiles are restrained, my laughter truncated.

You can imagine how much energy this saps out of me–to pretend all the time just so I can be socially acceptable and tolerable to even the people who love me. I’m trying to get myself and my energy level back now, but that means letting these emotional monsters out of me, and that’s been frankly terrifying to think about. What will everybody think? How will I fit into society once I’m freed? Will I ever fit in or have friends again? How much is life going to change for the worse? Is it going to be worth the positive change?

I am going to hopefully get professional help tomorrow, to find out what exactly is going on and what I can do going forward…wish me luck, this is probably the scariest thing I’ve done in years!!

Music, Prayer, and Perfection

Another musical epiphany tonight:  since I have always used music as a form of prayer, this also explains why the study of perfecting musical technique has always felt profane to me.  It feels like someone is getting in the way between me and God.

I’m not saying that I’m perfect as a musician already and I don’t need training.  I KNOW I still need training, especially with my voice, despite 20 years of choral music experience.  But I resent the idea that music is something that can be technically perfected, something that gets better when it’s beaten with rigorous practice that saps every last ounce of joy out of the performance.  I learned how to sing and play technically perfect music, but there is no pleasure in it; there is only lifeless performance and pleasing others.  There is no raw emotion, no humanity left.  Trying to perfect music, for me, is like someone telling me “you’re not praying right, let me show you the right way.”

Come to think of it, I resent and have always resented anybody telling me how to do something that is so personal to me, something that doesn’t HAVE to be perfect to be powerful.  Our very lives are things that don’t need to be perfect to be powerful.  The art we make is the same–the imperfections in it make it real, make it relatable.  Striving for perfection, to me, takes away all opportunities for self-expression, takes away the natural joy of music and life and just about everything else.  I should know, I’ve been striving for perfection (in order to be safe and loved) since I was young.  Pushing that horrible mindset aside has helped me get closer to God than I have ever been in my life.

I’ve had a lot of trouble with my voice training, especially over the last few months, and maybe this is why.  I know my voice teacher is awesome and nurturing, and isn’t meaning for me to be perfect–she just wants me to open my throat enough to make the big sound that’s in there–but knowing I’m not doing technically “enough” yet drops me right back into that “pleasing performance” mindset.  I want to break out of that, because it’s hindering my progress as a singer…and sometimes I get close, but it hasn’t really happened yet.

So maybe, at my next voice lesson, I could try thinking about it as a prayer session instead.  I think I’m gonna try that and report back how it goes!