Reflection Cube

Three-dimensional thoughts

Tag: pain (Page 1 of 2)

picture of memo

Memo

I wish my back would learn
That it's okay not to hurt.
It feels as though a little child
Stuffed my muscles tight with dirt.

I wish my legs would understand
It's a fine thing not to wobble.
My productivity and time
Vanish quickly as I hobble.

It's difficult to be a mind
Whose subjects miss the memo.
It's a journey, learning to resign
And live inside my soul.

Yet in these prison bars that bind - 
In my soul - at last I find
I've never felt more whole.

© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

picture of girl behind prison bars and wall of glass

Prison Bars and Walls of Glass

For most of my life, I’ve felt alone.

Separated.

Isolated.

I could see everything going on around me. Life. People. Progress. Accomplishment.

But I was stuck behind bars.

Bars of anxiety, fear, and apprehension.

Bars of depression.

The bars of rejection and failure.

And the bars of chronic illness, and the cognitive and physical struggles stemming from that.

Throughout my life, I’ve felt much like a lioness, walking back and forth in my cage. A creature with restless energy, but no idea where to put it or how to apply it within such limited scope.


Peering Into the Past

I am too malnourished to break through these bars, and the glass wall beyond them.

I silently watch as life – my friends, opportunities, my dreams – go by, wondering if I’ll ever be freed from this cage, yet slowly coming to accept my fate – that I may die here, forgotten, with no contribution or legacy or meaning to leave behind me.

I gradually lose my creativity, coming to instead see these walls as my limitations and boundaries.

Until, at some point or other, I stop looking at the walls.

When I stop focusing on my limitations, I find that there is more within the space that confines me than my eyes could previously see.

I’ve spent so long looking out. Out at a life, a world, relationships, ideas, events, materials, opportunities that I would never touch. Things that would never be available to me – at my disposal to work with or use in my creative process.

I’ve spent so long looking outside the boundaries of this prison and wishing to have or be something I could not – coveting what would always for me be a fantasy – that I’ve lost time I could have spent trying to be resourceful with the air available to me, the nitrogen, the oxygen, the sunlight within my domain.

When I at last stop looking at my boundaries, and instead look within them, I begin to see past them. I see a new dimension that was not evident to me before.

Not a dimension of height, or depth, or breadth. Another dimension, another energy. Something I’m still trying to describe and explain and understand. Perhaps it’s a form of music.

I begin to sing.

I start with a quiet song. One that is only audible to me, and the walls and waves of energy that blanket me.

But as I practice, my voice becomes stronger.

And eventually, it begins to carry.

It carries through the glass.

The vibrations of my voice begin to mildly, subtly disrupt the field of energy around me.

I soon sense the presence of another soul.

At last!

I am not alone.

But…why? Why would anyone in the free world come to visit a captive? A nobody, locked away in prison? How would they find my small offering even mildly relatable or interesting?

At last though, it starts to make sense. I begin to realize that they, too, are in a prison. But just as mine had formerly been invisible to them, so was theirs to me.

Perhaps their prison is one of societal pressures.

Financial instability.

Relationship pain or heartbreak.

A persona they wear, which conceals their true essence from everyone.

A career that they hate.

A different form of chronic illness.

Mental illness.

As they visit me in my prison cell, I begin to feel free, and no longer isolated.

I watch as they, too, begin to sing from the confines of their prison.

I watch as their formerly invisible chains begin to unravel.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

migraine pain - brain on fire - what it's like having a migraine

What It’s Like Having a Migraine

Ever had a migraine? Do you know a migraine sufferer?

A migraine is not just a common or severe headache. It is that, but much more. A migraine with aura means a migraine accompanied by sensory disturbances or odd perceptions or sensitivities to various stimuli. An aura is something that can show up for people before a migraine or seizure. However, I often experience mine during the migraine.

Everyone’s migraine experience differs in some way from others’ experiences – in the presence or absence of various symptoms, the severity and timing of those symptoms, and the triggers and remedies.

I’ve had migraines since I was six (or at least, I first recall experiencing them at that age), and only since radically changing my diet and lifestyle in recent years (especially the past year or so) have I seen major improvements.

I don’t get migraines very often now, but when I do, they’re still quite the nightmare.


Walking Through a Migraine

It’s 11:15 at night. You just got home from work, and you feel a throbbing pulse of knotted-up heat surrounding your right eye. You try to massage your head and dig at the deep pain, but it is too deep to reach, and it almost feels like any pressure you apply just pushes the pain deeper inside.

“Light jazz” music is on the radio when you walk inside. Normally, this type of music can give you a headache, but now, it’s triggering feelings of nausea. The lights are too bright, and the smell of garlic bread and pasta seeps through your nostrils and pierces deep into your head, setting on fire your already inflamed brain. The pain intensifies and spreads. You wish your remedies could pervade your head this quickly, could heal the damage as fast as it’s inflicted.

You faintly, dizzily wobble up the stairs to your bedroom and lie on the floor in the dark.

It’s been a long day, but you want nothing to eat. Even imagining food or the smell of it makes you sick.

You struggle to find a comfortable position.

Once you do, you don’t want to move. Doing so – even an inch – just reignites the fire.

Even the slightest motion is infinitely painful. It hurts to talk.

People visit and ask you questions. “Are you okay?” “What can I bring you?”

You attempt to respond as briefly and painlessly as possible, not speaking too loudly or moving your mouth too much. Which then prompts them to ask you to repeat your response, because it was not discernible the first time.

Inwardly annoyed – at your own hypersensitivity and pain more than anything – you muster the strength to speak more loudly (if possible), knowing that may set you back for the next several minutes or hours.

You know that they care and mean well, and you don’t want to ignore them. But it’s so painful to shout. You feel like you’re shouting. All sound is magnified. The vibrations of sound fuel the flames permeating your head. And it hurts to move your jaw. It hurts to think.

Your cognitive function is compromised, and it’s painful – if not impossible – to process thoughts efficiently or lucidly.

In response to your loved ones’ queries, you request a hot cloth to place on your face. This will aid in blocking the traces of light biting through your eyelids, as well as relaxing muscles and possibly clearing some nasal congestion, removing at least some pressure from your head.

After about five or ten rounds of heating and applying the hot cloth, you’re beginning to feel some improvement, but you know that your only hope for seeing the end of this migraine is taking pain reliever and trying to sleep it off.

But…nope. Unless you’re fortunate, it’s still there in the morning, if slightly less so. “Hey there!” it greets you. “Didn’t think I’d leave so soon, did you?” Your head feels like a block of lead weighing down your pillow, and you know you lack the energy or equilibrium to get out of bed uneventfully right now.

The pain has traveled since you fell asleep, radiating to other areas of your head.

Once you finally manage to safely descend from your bed to the floor, you attempt to rebalance yourself enough to make it down the stairs, and repeat the hot cloth procedure. You also prepare a cup of tea so that you can drink in the steam (and eventually drink the tea).

You finally feel like eating something mild, and after doing so – and continuing to apply other remedies – the final traces of your migraine at last begin to fade.


Migraines and the Workplace

In the workplace, staying home for a migraine is often viewed as a weak or unnecessary decision. As far as I recall, I never called out for a migraine (perhaps because I feared it’d be viewed as an “excuse” not to work), and so I remember dealing with them while working.

(The first manager I worked with there was pretty kind and understanding, and once he found out I suffered from migraines, he encouraged me to do whatever was necessary to care for myself, but he left soon after I was hired, and leadership changed a lot after that.)

I wonder how much the quality of my work was compromised, as migraines can diminish my thinking/processing ability, and also render me more dizzy and clumsy (I did spill/break my share of things at that job, a highly active and fast-paced position).

To make matters worse, at my first workplace, we were actually not allowed to have water bottles with us. We were only permitted to somehow carve out the time to walk far away from our work area (which was not always allowed) to drink water (laced with germs, heavy metals, and likely fluoride) from the water fountain.

If employers are going to “demand” that their migraine-suffering employees show up to work, they should at least make provisions for their staff that would aid them in coping with the pain:

An electric tea kettle.

A quality water filter.

Maybe some gluten-free tea bags with minimal ingredient lists.

Pain relievers (at least – or including – natural options such as boswellia and maybe white willow bark. Businesses should be able to get away with providing these if they label them as “food” and not “medicine”).

Slightly longer breaks.

Light sensitivity glasses (and/or yellow-tinted glasses for desk jobs), or allowing employees to bring/wear their own on the job.

If businesses are unwilling to make these accommodations, they should not expect employees to show up to work while suffering from migraines, unless they want to risk damage/loss in inventory, information, or labor processes and work quality due to clumsiness/dizziness, severe pain, and impaired neurological processes in their employees.

Chronic illness and autoimmune disease rates are only increasing, so the long-term solution is not simply to fire these employees and hire healthier ones.

The solution is to make our workplaces, homes, and environment cleaner, less toxic, and safer for – and more supportive of – those with chronic illness.


Triggers and Remedies

Some things that may trigger migraines for me (sometimes, they start out as garden-variety headaches and “transform” into migraines):

  • Dehydration.
  • Prolonged exposure to blue light or sunlight.
  • Crying.
  • Walking inside the mall (which I don’t do anymore).
  • Excessive physical activity.
  • Running, or lifting weights.
  • Eating dairy, eggs, corn, coconut, or foods high in various glutamates (tomatoes, grapes/raisins, black beans, foods [such as soups] with the ingredient MSG [monosodium glutamate]).
  • Eating foods high in refined sugars.
  • Eating foods containing dextrin, dextrose, or maltodextrin.
  • Exposure to gluten/wheat (sometimes even without consuming it).
  • Certain types of “jazz” or other “light music” (not quite sure how to describe this music, other than that it sort of tastes like peaches canned in pear juice).
  • Exposure to petroleum for more than a few seconds.
  • Exposure to synthetic fragrances (even briefly smelling them on other people).
  • Smiling for long periods of time (something I still have to work to do less, but often do because sometimes people perceive me as angry or upset if I wear what feels like a neutral face [I have deep-set eyes, so this makes me naturally look a bit more austere or intense when I’m not smiling]).
  • Staying at a party for more than maybe 1-2 hours.
  • Riding along in a car but not driving (in this case, I can usually only prevent a headache or migraine if I’m lying down or resting comfortably against something, or am riding along only for a short time). Additionally, the scents/smells of others’ cars often bother me and make me feel unwell.
  • Sickness.
  • Not taking magnesium.
  • Not getting adequate sleep.
  • Walking through a hardware store.
  • Walking through the laundry detergent aisle.

Some remedies that can help:

  • Being in a quiet, dark place
  • Putting a warm cloth on head
  • Steaming face over hot tea
  • Drinking water/tea
  • Taking natural pain relievers

If you are a migraine sufferer, what are some migraine triggers for you? What things help?


Please see disclaimer.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

Cloudy pink and white heart #Valentine's Day #love #romance #affection #attraction #relationships #loneliness #singleness #holidays #marriage #dating #life #depression #sadness #hope #joy #mentalhealth #healthyrelationships #strength #insight #standards #selfcare #patience #waiting #lifestyle #choices #decisions #heart #heartache #heartbreak

Single on Valentine’s Day?

You’re not alone in that. <3 😉

Me too.

I happen to not be a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. Not really because it reminds me I’m not in a relationship, so much as the fact that I quickly tire of seeing that much of that shade of red (you know, the typical bright Valentine’s Day red) everywhere, and if I were to celebrate, I can’t eat chocolate anyway, can’t drink wine, can’t tolerate synthetic fragrances, and cards collect dust (I mean, I appreciate them, but I wouldn’t feel hurt or upset if someone didn’t want to bother to get me one. Because then I’d either have to throw it away after reading it (which feels a bit heartless), or I’d have to find a place to put it. Cards are most meaningful when random, unexpected, or given during a rough patch in life.)

Plus, it saddens me to see Valentine’s Day transform into an opportunity for people to get upset or hurt if their loved one forgot the “special day”, and consequently neglected to give/do anything in recognition of the holiday and the relationship. Like, don’t you do and give something to recognize the relationship every day? Maybe things that go unnoticed or are taken for granted, but don’t you cook for each other or do the dishes or keep the books or talk or embrace often?

Perpetually single girl speaking here. I’m just observing relationships and married life in confusion, awe, and perplexion, imagining how I’d operate and function in such a world, and wondering at the seemingly nitpicky complaints and troubles that so easily mushroom into major ones in that environment.

But truly, I hope that if and when I’m in a relationship someday, our love would be deep-rooted and solid enough that I wouldn’t need mini trinkets to bolster my sense of security or convince me that we’re still “in love”. Indeed, even in a “shaky” or “poor” relationship, such tokens would offer little to reassure me.

I would hope that our love would be marked by give-and-take every day. Not of things or stuff or cards. But of service, sacrifice, mutual learning, counsel, trust, and sharing of information, quality time where possible, and lots of hugs and touch. 🙂 And when one of us couldn’t meet expectations or had to rely more on the other to “carry the load”, we would still stick together. We wouldn’t say “Hey! You didn’t meet your work or love quota for the day!” We would extend grace.

I may be an idealist who’s never been in a relationship, but having been fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness lasting love between my parents and many other couples, I know that this kind of love is possible. The problem is, it takes work, persistence, and a lot of pain along the way. And most of us are terrified to run that gauntlet.

And I also realize – from witnessing other couples’ relationships (including some really unstable marriages) – that there are some incredibly toxic people out there who truly seem to be incapable of give-and-take, negotiation, other-mindedness, learning, or reasoning. Hopefully, we are able to recognize warning signs and red flags early on, before we ever commit.

Seriously though, if it’s a solid relationship, a holiday isn’t necessary to know that. If your love is strong, you don’t need presents or tokens other than fellowship and hugs (if physically possible – I know this is something military spouses often sacrifice) and steadfastness to know that you’re secure and loved.

And to love someone in the first place, you actually don’t need any of those things at all. Love is something you give without expecting anything back. If you expect something back, I’m not sure it can really be called love. Once reciprocation or ROI is expected, it becomes a transaction. Business.

business-marriage-handshake awkwardness

All of that said, I get it. February can already be challenging enough, without the added pain of a holiday that reminds many of us of what we don’t have. Of things that aren’t (whether the thing that isn’t is being in a relationship or being “remembered” on Valentine’s Day).

In response to this painful reminder, some of us even go so far as to mourn our singleness on Valentine’s Day with black flowers and ice cream “binge eating” sessions.

Valentine's Day black flower #black #rose #flower #blackrose #singleness #depression

Pixabay photo (CC0 License)

Valentine's Day girl eating ice cream gif #depression #loneliness

That be you? Hope this “infographic” can offer some encouragement. <3

Valentine's day #singleness #loneliness #love #romance #attraction #relationships #patience #growth #time #freedom #blogging #writing #katerichardson #reflectioncube #life #joy #peace #waiting #lifestyle #decisions #choices #February #holidays #heart #sadness #depression #longing #desire #improvement #maturity #identity

Photo by Kate Richardson / Reflection Cube 2018

With that, my lovelies, I send you mega cyber hugs, and wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day. <3


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

more than meets the eye - lens, filter, distortion, objectivity, bias, clarity, perception

More Than Meets the Eye

There’s more to each of us than others see.

More layers. More systems and subsystems. More untold stories.

Often, we are quick to assume that we understand why a person is acting the way that they are. I am guilty of this.

Although at times our perceptions and inferences may hit the bullseye – accurately nailing the reasons for a person’s behavior – at other times, we err in our assumptions, perhaps because our brains are so eager to assign some explanation to a confusing phenomenon.

Our brains hate to not know or not understand. So they will continually try to make reason out of (seeming) insanity, or label as insane that which seems, on the surface, to be without reason.


Scenario #1

You’re a cashier at a retail store. One customer comes through with “tons” (like, hundreds of pieces) of makeup – cheap and expensive brands, and practically every possible color of every possible product – lipstick, eyeliner, foundation, etc.

You carefully scan and bag every piece of makeup.

And then….

“I’m sorry…actually, I’ll have to cancel everything except these twenty-five items.”

You feel your heart sink into your stomach. You’re not sure what hurts more: seeing someone attempt to spend so much money on makeup, or seeing them practically cancel the transaction after you’ve both wasted a lot of time at the checkout.

Thankfully, your customer hasn’t paid yet. Your best option, at this point, is to simply void the entire transaction, put all the unwanted makeup in a bin to be returned to the floor by some poor sales floor employee (assuming your customer doesn’t want to hold the cart and come back to purchase everything later), and again ring up the twenty-five items.

But why? Seriously, how could a person not think ahead? And why are they wasting so much money on makeup?

Here are some possible answers or explanations – things which wouldn’t necessarily be readily apparent from your vantage point:

  • Your customer is starting a business as a makeup artist, but forgot that she wanted to set-up a separate business bank account first. The twenty-five items are personal or for gifts.
  • Your customer lives with a chronic illness which causes severe brain fog, and therefore struggles to think ahead very well or remember things.
  • Your customer wanted to give away all the makeup to a charity, so that women in underserved communities could still have access to products that would help them feel “put-together”. Sadly, her heart is bigger than her pocketbook.
  • Your customer is accustomed to buying anything and everything with credit cards and has been racking up debt, but is trying to establish a different spending pattern, and only at the checkout – while witnessing the snowballing total – mustered the resolve to say “no”. Although the whole scene may seem pitiful to onlookers, this is, in fact, quite a red-letter day for her.

Scenario #2

Your friend hardly speaks when with you. But you’ve seen him talk to other people. Ouch.

It’s possible that:

  • He finds you smart, cool, and attractive in many ways. He wants to impress you, and feels nervous in your presence.
  • He’s got a crush on you, and his brain chemistry changes when you’re around, so he loses many of his mental faculties. He gets fluttery inside and his brain goes out the window.
  • You’re both just not sure of the best questions to ask each other yet. You’re still building that foundation of familiarity with each other. It usually takes your friend a while to warm up, especially with those he particularly admires or respects, and your relationship just needs time to spread its wings. Maybe you see him talking with other people, but that doesn’t mean that their conversations are as deep as you’re desiring yours to be. Perhaps you have imagined that they are enjoying the type of conversation you want to enjoy with your friend, but you don’t actually know the degree of intimacy and depth of their communication. And if you walk over and listen to find out, your friend, of course, gets quiet, because of the aforementioned or other reasons. 😉

Scenario #3

Your coworker just said something that totally shocked you. You never expected those words to come out of his mouth, and you take it personally. You feel completely disrespected and crushed.

Perhaps your coworker:

  • Isn’t naturally very agreeable (diplomacy and politeness simply don’t come to him very naturally, or he doesn’t see the value in them). But he has no intentions or awareness of being disagreeable.
  • Has a brain wiring that is less conducive to understanding the nuances and subtleties of communication and social graces, but totally didn’t mean to offend, or intend the statement to sound the way it did.
  • Grew up in a rather cloistered community and is now working extra hard to hone some fundamental social skills.
  • Just lost a loved one or got diagnosed with a fatal illness, but hasn’t told anyone and isn’t ready to talk about it.
  • Just got chewed out by your mutual boss.

Scenario #4

You reach out to hug your niece, and you can feel her body stiffen. You conclude that she must either hate touch or strongly dislike you – or both. Could be, but some other possibilities are:

  • You happen to be hugging her right by the door where there’s a draft.
  • Your niece generally feels pretty cold anyway.
  • In the community in which your niece grew up, most or all forms of touch have been demonized, and it’s sometimes a challenge for your niece to switch gears now and convince her brain that it’s okay to embrace someone.
  • She grew up in a familial environment where touch and physical affection were scarce, and so she doesn’t quite know how to handle it, even if she likes it.
  • She associates hugs with punishment (it was something that only came after discipline). Or her primary memory of touch as a child is of being corporally punished, and she rarely, if ever, received physical affection.
  • You remind your niece (perhaps not even in character or appearance, but simply by your gender) of someone else who once violated her (or currently does).
  • Your niece craves touch but doesn’t believe she deserves it. And/or, she expects anything good – such as touch – to be taken away suddenly and forever – and that fear is manifesting in her body. She doesn’t allow herself to fully enjoy anything, due to this fear.
  • She’s trying to keep her head from getting smushed into your shirt, because she has makeup on, so she stiffens in a caring attempt to prevent you from smushing her face into your shoulder to the detriment of your clothing.

The issue may not be at all that she doesn’t like or love you, even though it totally looks that way.

If you grew up in a family where physical affection was on par with verbal communication in terms of importance or prevalence – sort of like drinking water or breathing air – this reaction by your niece is, no doubt, very puzzling to you. It feels as though you’re trying to speak to a person with aphasia. Perhaps they sort of comprehend or want to understand your language, but they struggle to “speak” it back to you.

Or she may totally understand your language and want to reciprocate by speaking it in-kind, but environmental factors (makeup, temperature) are getting in the way.


Our Filters

We don’t always know why people act the way they do. I have certainly made my share of assumptions about people’s motives or stories. And I also frequently get misread by others. 🙂 I think misreading others and being misconstrued happens between all of us a lot more than we realize.

If we could somehow remove the distortions, biases, and personal filters through which we interpret others’ lives, might we gain more compassion, understanding, and respect for them? If we saw all that they’d endured, and how that plays out in their current behavior, would we have more patience? Would we make friends with someone we’d previously shunned, after hearing their story?

If our conclusions about others’ actions and the reasons for them were derived from observation through crystal clear lenses – completely separated from the tainting influence of our personal experiences and feelings – what would we discover? If we were able to take ourselvesour egos and personal experiences – out of the equation, what would be left in our perceptions of others?

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that a complete separation between our thoughts and our personal filters is possible.

We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are. – Anonymous*

Yet if it were possible to make this separation – even partially – would the “insane” and “idiotic” and “unintelligent” and “heartless” and “cold” and “thoughtless” and “brash” and “shy” and “fearful” suddenly seem more “reasonable” or “normal”? Would we find they’re just like us, but with different backgrounds and in different bodies? Would we see in them the person that we ourselves could have been, in different circumstances?

If we were in the practice of asking ourselves – upon observation of a “strange” behavior or person – the question, “I wonder how they got there?”, how might that change our view and treatment of others whose behavior we don’t understand? And might we gain new friendships? Business connections? Hire different employees? Establish other long-lasting relationships?

All that is gold does not glitter – J.R.R. Tolkien

We are all more than meets the eye.


* There is uncertainty as to where this quote originated.


Please see Disclaimer.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

dried-up faucet in sun - concealed tears, crying

Faucet

Like a faucet, struggling, spurting
Like a spigot, bubbling, bursting
Slowly trickling out the tears
Are my eyes after trying years.

Slowly I am learning to cry
Yet sometimes still my well is dry
And tears fall out as cackling coughs
Or shivers in the place of drops.

The faucet wheel is often turned
And oh! For ages I have yearned
To let those streams fall from within
Yet in dry years could not begin.

And even now, the faucet favors
Nighttime to unveil its quavers
When all is hidden, all is dark
And few will hear its grave remarks.

The sunlight keeps me cool and dry
My tears concealed from passersby
And in the light my alloy shines
Reflecting back the sun’s designs.

Like a faucet, struggling, spurting
Like a spigot, bubbling, bursting
Slowly trickling out the tears
Are my eyes after trying years.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

brain comprised of tears - depression, sadness, crying, blogging obstacles and challenges

Blogging Obstacles and Challenges

In the middle of the hardest month of the year for me (physiologically, neurologically, emotionally), continually creating fresh, thoughtful, and substantial content can be particularly challenging – especially if my emotions are going berserk.

I don’t want to write something I’ll later regret – in the heat of emotions and long nights of insomnia and tears.

Depression also often impairs cognitive function/efficiency for me. Excellence in my writing is incredibly important to me, and I don’t want to produce content that you, my lovely readers, might find boring or useless. Granted, someone is likely to find any or all of my content to be these very things, despite my most diligent and sincere efforts. Others’ perceptions of my content lie outside my domain of influence. All I can do is give it my best. But if my brain is not at its best, then I also feel the need to be extra cautious and patient with myself (and so likely less prolific) with my writing.

And yet…I don’t want you guys to think I’ve abandoned you! 😮 🙁 Especially in a season which can be challenging for many of you as well. Struggles with depression – though often year-round, or capable of showing up at any time – seem to flare up for many of us around February.

So I’m just stopping by to say that I love you guys. I’m grateful for every single one of you – that you exist and that we have crossed paths. <3 Sending some cyber hugs your way. ❤️💖❤️💖❤️

I still plan to try to keep up with writing this month, but the frequency and consistency of posts may seem particularly erratic.

I’m keeping this piece short and sweet – especially as I’m currently operating on approximately four or five hours of sleep.*

If you are struggling this time of year – mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually – know that you are not alone. Your experiences and pain might be very different from mine, but we are in this boat together. And the doors of this online house are open. You know where I live. 😉


* I have found that certain supplements (B6 and magnesium) improve the quality and depth (though perhaps less reliably the duration) of my sleep. B6 has also helped me significantly with my depression, and I’d likely be in much worse shape right now without it. For more info on the forms/brands of B6 and magnesium that I use, check out my Resources page.


Please see Disclaimer.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

person disintegrating from the core - from within - depression, suicide, mental illness, mental health

Depression and Suicide

In the season of taxes and overcast skies, life can already feel bleak enough.

But often, our battles with depression are not rooted solely (if at all) in finances or gloomy weather. Although they may play a role in aggravating depression, such concerns can present as mild or practically nonexistent annoyances when juxtaposed with the heavy burdens we carry within.

What causes depression in the first place? Sometimes, it seems from our vantage point that there is no apparent cause for depression at all (or anxiety, for that matter). It just appears out of nowhere and stays for as long as it pleases.

And then, in our weakened state, all it takes is a slight tipping of the balance to push us somewhere we thought we’d never go…or at least never go again.

Perhaps you’ll find that our stories are very similar or very different. Maybe some of both.


Depression in My Life

Much of this is very hard for me to write about, though I’ve mentioned or alluded to my struggles before in various corners of my blog. But I think it makes sense to share it in this season, in the hope that someone might read it and know that they’re not alone. Maybe that someone is you. <3

One common misconception is that depression must be caused by a serious or stressful life event. Depression is often mistakenly equated with sadness, the thought process here being that sadness is typically caused by significantly painful or stressful life events, therefore, if depression = sadness, then depression also must be caused by significantly painful or stressful life events. However, while the two do often overlap, they are not synonymous.

It is possible to be depressed but not “sad”, or to be sad but not depressed.

From my piece Platitudes and Cliches You’re Probably Tired of Hearing:

Sadness is not depression. You can be sad that you lost your wallet, but you’re probably not depressed about it. You’re likely worried, and pretty frustrated about the hassle that will ensue, but once your accounts and cards are restored, you’ll be happy again. Sadness is typically circumstantial.

Depression is also frequently circumstantial, but not always. Sometimes, it comes out of nowhere. Other times, the cause is extremely covert. And often, you don’t even know you’re depressed. You’re going through the motions of life – numb, visionless, jaded. Depression can disguise itself as erratic sleep patterns, overeating, chronic fatigue, and general lethargy.

In my experience, depression doesn’t always have an obvious trigger (although recently I’ve learned some patterns and correlations to watch for). It is often just a mode of being. I stop wanting to be around people so much. Their conversation and laughter begins to sound louder and more annoying. I answer people’s questions more briefly or even defensively or critically (though I may not think I’m being critical or have the intention of sounding that way. I just notice problems more (or at least find the same issues to be more problematic or overwhelming than I normally would)).

My depression is often aggravated by overcast skies, but it is not entirely dictated or controlled by that. Often, if the weather is gray and cloudy, I will be depressed, but excessively sunny skies can cause similar reactions in me. My favorite weather is rainy weather (which, yes, involves overcast skies, but the clouds are actually yielding something healing and refreshing and not just hovering ominously over you). Rain melts the ice inside me and evaporates the numbness. It reminds me that I have skin, hair, a face that can get wet. It reminds me that I’m still alive. It caresses me like a timeless friend and tells me that I still have a reason to be here.

Sometimes, I only know I’ve been depressed in retrospect. I felt excessively tired or reclusive, but I attributed it at the time (partially correctly) to my health issues and introversion.

To summarize, depression does not always have an obvious cause – in terms of life events. However, there are many factors – seen and unseen – that can play a role in the onset or perpetuation of a depressive episode.

For me, depression can often be traced to nutritional deficiencies. (So still a cause, but not a readily apparent one.) I’ve found that I struggle if I don’t get enough vitamin B6 (I really notice a drop in sleep quality, skin health, and mood).

While depression may not always have an obvious cause, suicidal thinking/focus typically does for me.

If I am not already in a state of mild depression (at least), I’m unlikely to entertain suicidal thoughts when struck with an adverse life event or severely impacted emotionally. However, if I am already in a weakened state (mentally, emotionally, nutritionally), I am much more likely to respond to such pain by desperately scrambling for a way to escape the pain which I have no physical, mental, or emotional strength left to handle. If I am feeling vulnerable already, much less of a hit is required to knock me to the ground or throw me into a deep, dark place.

I’ve been seriously suicidal twice (to the point of ideation and attempted implementation) and “mildly” suicidal many other times (where I at least wanted suicide to be an option, or didn’t want to be here). Note: “serious” and “mild” are poor choices of wording on my part. All suicidal thoughts fall into the category of “serious”.

Both “serious” episodes involved situations in which I felt completely helpless. I had an unsolvable problem. Something obviously beyond my control, with no obvious way of escape.

I’m not going to get into the gory details – the triggers or my methods.

All I will say here is, were it not for timely intervention and the tremendous love and care of my family and God, it’s quite possible that I wouldn’t be writing this today.

But what’s really weird is that days or even hours prior to both episodes, I wouldn’t have seen myself reaching a point this low. Minutes or hours before, I was interacting with the public and likely smiling – though whether I was doing so out of social obligation or innate desire I don’t recall.

This is not to say that life wasn’t challenging and trying. Prior to these episodes, I was emotionally vulnerable and in pain, and I felt physically unwell much of the time. Stress from various areas of life was wearing me down. In retrospect, I was most certainly fighting depression in both cases. And unknown to me at the time, I was dealing with some deep-rooted (genetics-based) health problems (which I’ve now linked to many of my physical symptoms and mental/emotional struggles).

In spite of all these struggles, I still saw my situation as partially manageable, or had a glimmer of hope within – even up to a few hours prior to completely collapsing.

But it didn’t take much – in those two Februaries – to snuff out that little bit of light remaining. All it took was some “mild” thunderstorms (which seemed more like golf-ball-sized hail storms at the time).


This – even the vague bit that I’ve shared here – is not easy for me to write about. “Depression”, “mental illness”, “anxiety”, and “suicide” are terms that evoke a lot of emotion and personal pain in some and a lot of criticism from others – particularly some of those who have never personally experienced depression (sadness, for sure, but not the clinical, chronic, bone-deep depression that transforms you into a different being).

But if, on average, one person somewhere around the globe dies by suicide every 40 seconds, then there is still more action to be taken. There are more stories to be shared and hands to be extended. More resources to be created and awareness to be spread.

So here I am, sharing.

Until awareness is increased, the stigma, fear, and misunderstanding will remain alive and well.


More than once, I’ve been in a situation where I was drowning beneath the waves of depression. Most of us, when stranded and sinking in the water, forget how to swim and instead begin to panic and drown.

Right now, maybe that’s you.

You’re trapped inside a terrifying or heartbreaking situation from which you see no escape. A problem for which there seems to be no solution.

No solution except to end it all.

You’ve endured all that you possibly can.

Death has never looked more appetizing or enticing than it does now.

Or maybe…dancing with death is all too familiar for you.

Resources

How Can I Get Help For Depression?

List of International Suicide Hotlines

And as always, you are more than welcome to email me for a listening ear (but please do not treat correspondence with me as a substitute for professional help.)


What’s Helped Me

Note: I am not a doctor. I’m just sharing my story. Please research things for yourself and seek the help of a medical professional and therapist for any and all health and mental health concerns. See full disclaimer.

Some things that have helped me with depression:

  • Vitamin B6 (a key component in the production of neurotransmitters, and in which I’m naturally constantly deficient [see What is Pyroluria, and Do You Have It?])
  • Eating optimally for my body
  • Getting adequate amounts of sleep (when I can, which is more likely when I’m consuming enough magnesium and vitamin B6)
  • Pacing myself. Not biting off more than I can chew (I used to do this a lot)
  • Journaling/blogging
  • Prayer
  • Meditation

You are loved.

<3 <3 <3

Kate


Please see disclaimer.


© 2018 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

question mark

There Is Always A “Why”

People don’t generally wake up and say “I’m going to be a jerk today”.

Addicts, criminals, bullies. Cranky moms, neglectful dads. Irritable customers, traffic “idiots”, narcissists.

You probably know one. At least one.

And if we’re honest, we’re probably all at least one of these things ourselves, in some shape or form. Or we have been, at some point in our lives.

Okay. I’ve just thoroughly insulted my readers. Great. 😛

But seriously, none of us is exempt from “jerkness”.

marcus aurelius faults quote

Consider that you also do many things wrong, and that you are a man like others; and even if you do abstain from certain faults, still you have the disposition to commit them, though either through cowardice, or concern about reputation, or some such mean motive, you abstain from such faults. – Marcus Aurelius

I was once a sugar, caffeine, and shopping addict.

I once got a ticket for speeding (waaaay over the limit). I was a traffic idiot. (Or road idiot? There wasn’t really traffic to speak of. It happened on a quiet country road.)

Whew.

Those were both tough things for me to share.

Especially because…those things aren’t “me” anymore, and I’m afraid of being identified by them. I have this fear of being labeled by or viewed through the lens of the things I’ve done in the past…the crummy choices I’ve made.

But there you have it…it’s out there.

But notice the labels I was quick to assign myself.

“Addict” and “Idiot”.

How often do we look past a person’s behavior…and ask…who are they on the inside? What brought them to this point? There must be a reason. Something deeper going on.

I am not in any way attempting to excuse or diminish the careless decisions I made in that season of my life.

However, I wasn’t happy to be destroying my health with sugar or wasting money with excessive shopping.

I didn’t really want to be speeding, or to “tempt fate”. Or break the law.

So something brought me to a point of doing that which I didn’t “really” want to do.

There were reasons for my actions. Lame reasons? Maybe so.

But when you examine them, lame as they may be, those reasons do lend a different insight into my story, personality, and situation. You get a different picture of me.

And suddenly, I become more than just an “addict” or an “idiot”.


How Did I Get There?

Story #1: The Ticket

I remember well the morning on which I got my ticket.

It was a Saturday morning in April – probably around 7:30 – and I was running late for work.

When getting ready for the day, I had been waiting on a family member in order to do stuff I needed to do in the restroom, and this caused a delay in my departure from the house.

Punctuality was very important to me, but I couldn’t just barge in and invade the privacy of my family member. I was trying to be a good “roommate”.

Well, I ended up getting out the door pretty late, which made me extremely anxious about getting to work on time.

Work was already stressful enough, without the added stress of worrying about losing my job or being approached/confronted for tardiness.

Conflict:

I must be on time. Tardiness = stress AND possibly losing job or getting a “strike” on my record. Even if these things don’t happen, I will still be very stressed by the fact that I’m so late.

I hate disappointing my team and letting people down.

And I want to maintain a reputation as someone who is dependable.

BUT….

I also must not break the law. (Or, in my “survival” or stressed-out mode of thinking, the greater concern may have been “I must not get in trouble”. I do (and did) care about honoring the law, but that matters more to me now than it did then, and I wasn’t thinking too clearly in those days, with all the stress of my job and trying to keep my job.)


Well, of course, out in the middle of the country, early on a Saturday morning, when I’m running late for work, an officer would pass by me and pull me over.

And today, I’m actually very grateful that that happened.

It was a wake-up call for me.

I have not been the same type of driver (or person) since. In a good way.

But I digress. This is not the point I was making. 🙂

My point is that, I got a bad start to the day, and it created a very difficult conflict for me.

Because, on the one hand, I had to be on time to work. Honor commitments. Be reliable.

But, on the other hand, I had to honor the law. (And, like, be safe and not risk my life or anyone else’s.)

And I know, some of you are probably reading this and thinking, “C’mon, Kate! That’s a no-brainer! The law takes priority over a job!”

But in a moment of anxiety, time pressure, split-second decisions, and fatigue (oh, did I mention, I was going on about four hours of sleep? 😛 ), making the “right” call was tough. Because in that moment, multiple things seemed right (being on time to work, driving safely) and at the same time, nothing seemed right (speeding, or being late to work).

And the whole reason I ended up in this predicament (IIRC) stemmed from something outside my control (family member spending long time in bathroom and not working/negotiating with me).

(Admittedly, I don’t remember how long I was waiting [or precisely how accommodating or unaccommodating my family member was that day]. My time spent waiting may have felt much longer than it actually was. It’s been a while.)


Story #2: The Addictions

Sugar. Caffeine. Shopping.

Might as well throw chocolate in there, too.

Okay, well, chocolate is an excellent source of magnesium. And I am forever magnesium-deficient. So there’s my explanation (at least in part) for the addiction there.

But chocolate also falls in the category of “stimulants” (or foods containing stimulants).

Problem is, I am sensitive to stimulants (including coffee).

I’m also sensitive to sulfur – in which chocolate and coffee are abundant.

However, I was relying on stimulants to keep my sleep-deprived self in a “functioning” state at a fast-paced job. (It was very difficult to get on a consistent sleep schedule, as my work schedule was usually quite erratic.)

I also tend to suffer from low blood sugar. So cane-sugary-stuff was a quick “fix” for me, to keep me going and give me some fast energy (whatever carbs I consumed, I typically burned within short order at my job.)

Did I know that cane sugar probably wasn’t great for me? Sure. I even knew that I was somewhat sensitive to cane sugar (from an IgG test I had taken). But I didn’t realize at the time just how harmful it could be, or how much it was affecting me.

And even if I had known this, I don’t know if it would have made a difference at the time.

It was hard to think of changing anything in my life or mode of operation, because any such action would require energy and brainpower, and those two things were in very short supply at that point in my life.

Even working in a time at home to cook healthy food to bring with me to work seemed overwhelming.

Plus, my schedule changed from week to week, and the lack of consistency made it challenging to plan any sort of routine.

(…Not that I’m much of a “routine” person anyway….) :/

I know. I made some lame excuses.

But they were legit enough to me at the time to keep me from taking any action.

I largely defaulted to buying things at my workplace. They had some healthy or “less unhealthy” options – which I mostly tried to stick with – but in retrospect, most of those options were still not well-suited to my dietary needs. Things like veggie smoothies and fermented drinks, and organic or non-GM sweets/desserts and chocolaty stuff, which…were still super-sugary sweets and desserts, and therefore unhealthy. Somehow I convinced myself that they were more acceptable because they were organic or non-GM.

They were the fuel that kept me going, so I “had” to believe they were okay.

This would probably explain why my eyes gradually became droopier, my skin became more coarse in appearance and more diseased, my speech became more slurred, and I suffered from excessive brain fog.

(Sleep deprivation was also a major contributor in the aggravation of these symptoms.)

I remember beginning to feel like I was actually dying. Like I was aging way too fast.

And coffee? I kept drinking it to stay awake, but it actually began to make me more tired.

According to Dr. Jesse Chappus in this article:

Here’s the problem. Coffee stimulates the adrenal glands, which means that every time you drink coffee, you’re activating the body’s fight-or-flight response. But, instead of releasing adrenaline so the body can react to a true stressor, the adrenals are releasing this hormone in response to your coffee consumption.

What happens over time is that your adrenal glands start to burn out from overuse, which can lead to adrenal fatigue. Naturally, you can help to prevent adrenal fatigue simply by avoiding coffee, or keeping your consumption to a minimum.

Read more about adrenal fatigue.

And shopping? Well.

I wanted to fit in. I had always felt out of place in various situations in my life, and didn’t want to be a social outcast at my workplace (especially because this could affect job opportunities in the future).

If I could just look more professional, hip, or stylish, I thought, then maybe I would be respected more, treated more kindly, considered for promotions, etc.

Additionally, I had a “crush” on someone at work at the time. So I wanted to look attractive.

And working a metrics-heavy, stressful job each week – where corporate-originated pressure and expectations trickled down to employees, and where all of this crap (stress, negativity) had to be hidden from the public – with whom I was constantly interacting – I began to wear down.

In such a work environment (in most work environments, but some more than others), criticism, pressure, and poorly considered words are not uncommon.

And I began to question my value.

Without even giving it much thought, I began to search for other ways to increase my value – or at least to feel valuable, even temporarily.

And so I purchased things that (I hoped or believed) would make me more attractive or even smart (or at least seem smart).

I know it sounds silly and foolish now, but I was drowning then. And when you’re drowning, you’re not thinking.

But I think the biggest reason I was hooked on shopping was because my neurotransmitters were imbalanced and I was looking for a thrill or “high” to make me temporarily feel better (my physical pain/discomfort – such as a headache – would sometimes disappear or diminish while I was shopping [typically only to return later]).

I was also looking for a way to cope with the intense stress of my job.

The work itself was fairly straightforward most of the time. The most stressful aspects were: the amount of time I spent on my feet, the smells, toxins, bright lights, and other factors (which can cause migraines and other symptoms for me), the particular work environment/culture, and often, the unreasonable goals/expectations and understaffing, as well as the retaliation or irritation with which vocalizing concerns was sometimes met.

Shopping was sort of a way to escape from all of that, albeit a temporary one.

To experience – for a moment – a feeling of “wellness”, when all was not truly well.


My addictions and dangerous driving represent some very poor choices I made, which affected my [already compromised] health and compromised my safety on the road (and maybe the safety of others, but I had a habit of speeding the most on country roads – because they were pretty quiet – in order to get to work on time. I tended to slow down once I got in town. Still, something could’ve happened.).

And not one of those choices was free of consequences.


But my point in sharing all of this is that:

We all have a reason for doing the things we do. Even for making the poor decisions we sometimes make.

Although our reasoning may not be the wisest or most logical in these situations, we are still rational and reasoning beings, and there is (almost?) always an “understandable” motivation lying beneath the harmful or dangerous choices we make.

There is always a reasoning or rationalization that takes place in our minds, even if it is flawed.

But sometimes, the “non-rational” part of our brain – the limbic brain – is the one doing the “reasoning”.

When our brain shifts to survival mode (because we’re in a stressful situation), our limbic system takes over.

When this happens, the “childish” part of our brain is taking the reins and calling the shots.

Interesting article on trauma and the limbic brain:

How Trauma Changes The Brain by Nicole Priesmeyer

Today, I’m thankful to say that I’ve been able to work through these particular addictions, and I am a much safer, more cautious driver. I’m definitely constantly watching my speed. 😛

But lemme tell ya, other issues and struggles have popped up in their place. It’s just like Whac-A-Mole. 😛


What “they” do – on the surface – may be evident to us.

Bullying others at school or work, getting hammered, driving aggressively or carelessly.

But there is always a “why”.

And that may not be so evident.

What they suffer may be hidden from us.

longfellow-quote-suffering

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


How could they not just throw that alcohol away, and stop purchasing any more booze (because it’s obviously such a temptation for them)?

All it takes is some willpower, we muse.

How can they continue like this and just throw life away?

And sometimes, we make assumptions about their motives.

What is this f*****g moron thinking cutting in front of me? Risking my life, so he/she can enjoy a momentary thrill and look “cool” for a few minutes?! Well, that’s not cool, a*****e!


epictetus-quote-judgment-understanding

When someone speaks to you curtly, disregards what you say, performs what seems to be a thoughtless gesture or even an outright evil act, think to yourself, “If I were that person and had endured the same trials, borne the same heartbreaks, had the same parents, and so on, I probably would have done or said the same thing.” We are not privy to the stories behind people’s actions, so we should be patient with others and suspend our judgment of them, recognizing the limits of our understanding. – Epictetus

And I’m not saying that we should condone bad behavior, or that we should never take measures to protect ourselves.

There are times when, as much as you love a family member, or because you love them, you must distance yourself – at least for a time – in order to stop enabling unhealthy behavior and thinking patterns that you may be feeding in them or in yourself by sticking around. And in order to keep yourself safe.

Additionally, while you may forgive a family member for what they are doing or have done – and may have compassion for them – that doesn’t mean that you must (or necessarily can) press your “trust” button and…presto! – immediately feel trusting of them again.

Forgiving others doesn’t necessarily mean that everything inside us will instantly return to “normal”.

And showing compassion doesn’t always mean occupying the same space or placing ourselves in a dangerous situation. Compassion does not necessarily equal closeness.

The act of loving and forgiving does not preclude the action of allowing ourselves space – at least for a time. In some cases, there may be ways to still help your loved ones from a distance.

If you’ve been abused, and chosen to forgive your abuser, this does not mean you return to a situation in which you may be harmed.

Someone who is suffering from antisocial personality disorder may try to convince you that you have not forgiven them unless you restore to them the level of trust they once enjoyed. They may attempt to shame you for establishing distance or protection from them.

Forgiveness does NOT equal trust.


suffering girl standing in hallway

Photo by Eric Ward on Unsplash

What if the behavior we see traces back to something that occurred in the deep, dark caverns of our “enemy’s” past?

Or what if their actions stem, in part, from physiological illness? Neurotransmitter deficiencies, hormonal imbalance? GABA deficiency? Pyroluria?

Or from abuse or neglect?

It is crucial that we look at the “why”, and not simply demand or expect the person to cover their problems with a bandage, or fix themselves externally.

We must recognize that there is likely an internal, hidden cause.

And until that cause can be identified and treated, behavioral changes are not going to take place.

I was talking to my sister about this, and she made a great point. Her words (paraphrased): “The behavior that we see is often symptomatic, rather than being the actual disease.”

Yet how readily do we consider alcoholism, or “narcissism”, or irritability, or erratic behavior to be “the disease”? The problem to treat?

Yet the actual disease (whether emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical) is often the part we don’t see.

And I’m not saying that there is never a time for a “quick fix” to something as a protective measure. This is sometimes necessary in the case of an emergency.

Going to the hospital for suicidal ideation/behavior. Or severe malnourishment from an eating disorder.

Arranging legal restrictions/restraints for someone who is physically out of control and harming or likely to cause harm to others.

However, these are not long-term solutions, and they don’t address the roots of these problems.

There is always something that led that person to suicide, or an eating disorder, or physical aggression.

Maybe they know what got them there. And maybe they don’t.

Sometimes, the investigative process takes a while. Therapy and medical treatment may be required.

But telling someone to just “snap out of it” and “stop being ___ (suicidal, alcoholic, anorexic, depressed, tired, aggressive, prideful)” is very unhelpful.

Sometimes, we don’t even understand why we do what we do. Especially in the throes of a panicky state. Like a dachshund struggling not to drown, we make all the wrong moves to stay afloat, sometimes grabbing onto others or pushing them down.


Pyroluriapicture of depressed or sick person - possibly suffering from pyroluria

Please see Disclaimer.

Pyroluria is often correlated with mental illnesses, including alcoholism, schizophrenia, and depression, and physical problems, including digestive/GI issues.

Pyroluria: The Most Common Unknown Disorder – Dr. Jockers

According to Dr. Jockers:

Pyroluria is a genetic condition that is typically related to familial alcoholism and/or environmental toxicity.  If an individual has a family history of alcoholism they may very well have this genetic mutation.  It can be induced with childhood trauma or a chronic infection early in life.  The onset usually begins in the late teens and is often triggered by a traumatic life event.

Pyroluria certainly can’t explain all behavioral problems, addictive behavior, or mental health struggles. But it’s definitely worth checking into.

I have the genetics for pyroluria, and many of the matching symptoms.

For me, pyroluria has manifested as: skin conditions, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and pale skin. My eyes’ sensitivity to light may also be connected.

Supplementation with vitamin B6 and zinc has been extremely helpful for me in treating this.

What is Pyroluria, and Do You Have It?


What are some things – besides pyroluria – that might cause people to struggle?

Poor methylation.

Sleep deprivation / insomnia.

Low blood sugar.

Adrenal fatigue.

Chronic fatigue syndrome.

PTSD.

Lead or other heavy metal poisoning.

Hormonal imbalance.

Neurotransmitter imbalance/deficiency. For example, someone who’s low in dopamine or GABA (and some people are genetically inclined to be [see this article by Dr. Michael Veselak]) may be particularly attracted to recreational drugs or substances that increase GABA transmission or dopamine in the brain, because the brain is sending a message, “Help me! Fix this! RED ALERT! LOW GABA! Dopamine critically low!”)

One may not know that their brain is begging them for more of the drug (or why it is).

Is Your Brain Making Enough GABA?

And…the “obvious” (but not always so evident) possible causes:

Abuse.

Neglect.

Relationship problems.

Loss of a loved one (human/pet).


Why does your coworker always feel she has to tear you down?

Maybe she feels insecure because her boyfriend or husband is mistreating her, and she fancies that you must have a great love life.

(Don’t we often fancy that others live more fulfilling lives than we do? We know the worst about ourselves, and only the best about others [the images they project to us]).

Or maybe you remind her of her father who neglected, misunderstood, or abused her. The father she could never please, the father who hurt her. Perhaps she now sees you and other men through that light.

Why does your son continue to destroy his health with alcohol?

Perhaps he wants to “fit in” with his friends.

Maybe he is battling pyroluria, and trying subliminally to medicate his brain and restore balance in its chemistry.

Maybe he is trying to drown out a feeling of emptiness or inadequacy or guilt or disappointment in himself.

Why is your sister continuously anxious and depressed?

Perhaps she’s experienced excessive stress in recent years.

At work.

With school.

A car accident.

Surgery.

Broken friendships or other relationships.

Pregnancy.

Recurring illness.

Or maybe something happened in her childhood. She was teased, bullied, or rejected at school or neglected, abused, or unjustly punished at home. The impact of these experiences on the brain can last into adulthood.

Even if you’re her family member, you probably don’t know or can’t recall everything that’s happened to her.

Why does that mother always yell at her children or belittle them?

Perhaps her mom always did the same thing, and to a greater extent.

It scarred her, and she is taking out the pain on her children.

Or, it jaded and calloused her, and she thinks this is normal or acceptable behavior for a mother.

Perhaps that “idiot” who cut you off on the road just got fired, and they’re trying to overcompensate by feeling “cool” or on top of something. Maybe speeding or “getting ahead” on the road makes them feel powerful for a minute.

Perhaps – just for a moment…the thrill drowns out the excruciating pain.

Or maybe…they’ve got a passenger who’s in labor!

No, speeding and erratic driving is NOT okay.

But the practice of asking “why?” can provide us with more insight into a person’s situation, enabling us to show more empathy.

marcus-aurelius-quote-love-perspective

It is peculiar to man to love even those who do wrong. And this happens, if when they do wrong it occurs to you that they are fellow humans and that they do wrong through ignorance and unintentionally, and that soon both of you will die; and above all, that the wrongdoer has done you no harm, for he has not made your ruling faculty worse than it was before. – Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, VII.22)

I want to reiterate: I am not saying that this sort of behavior is acceptable.

And if you are on the receiving end of the harmful/dangerous actions of another (your safety is being jeopardized), I cannot stress enough that it is extremely important to do everything you can to extricate yourself from the situation.

Here is an international list of helplines.

We may have immense compassion for a person who is struggling, but this does not always mean that we remain physically close to them while they are sorting things out, especially if we are much weaker than the other party, or “disadvantaged” in some way in the situation.


When we pause, and seek to comprehend where other struggling human beings are coming from, this enables us to demonstrate more understanding and kindness.

It gives us an “appreciation” for the difficulty of the battles they are facing.

They are no longer just:

“Bullies”.

“Criminals”.

“Bad moms”.

“Bad dads”.

“Irritable customers”.

“Idiots”.

“Addicts”.

“Narcissists”.

They are complex human beings – just like you – but with very different life stories, genetics, wounds, scars.

There is always a “why”.


PLEASE SEE DISCLAIMER


© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

 

Person standing on edge of dark cave, looking out at ocean

The Hardest Thing About Being Chronically Ill

It’s not the sickness.

It’s not the pain or the fatigue.

It’s not the challenge of solving a problem or trying to figure out how to get well. (For me, that’s actually fun…most of the time.)


Getting really vulnerable here….


Over a month ago, I wrote about my journey to wellness.

I must clarify an impression that you, my reader, may have taken from that initial post, by adding that I still have a long road ahead of me. How long, I don’t know. The struggle could very well be lifelong.

While I have seen improvements in my health over the past few months, the journey is definitely a roller coaster, with constant ups and downs. The progress is slow. And it seems that I am constantly discovering additional causal factors implicated in my sickness, and new diseases that I may have to deal with.

My health has not been – and likely will not be – transformed after a week of following some popular or highly-radical diet (although it could be argued that my current diet is pretty “radical” 😛), though I have seen significant improvements over the course of the year, for certain.


The hardest thing about being chronically ill is the nagging feeling, the merciless, unrelenting whisper in your head that says:

“You are a disappointment.”

It’s seeing the pain that your family and friends feel for you.

It’s looking into their eyes and souls and sensing great fear.

Fear that you’ll never know what it is to really live (by a certain measure of “really living”). Fear that you’ll never be free to fully enjoy life.

Fear that you’ll never marry.

Fear that you won’t be able to provide for yourself when they (especially parents) are gone.

Fear that they (again, especially parents) messed something up or are responsible for your pain, and that they won’t be able to fix it.

And potentially, fear that the hopes – the castles – that they (family or friends) built with their hearts for you – or to involve you – will come crashing to the ground, because your body didn’t get the memo.

And all you can do is sense their fear, and try with all your might to block it out of your head. Try to keep pressing forward, and not to let the outworkings of their fear get to you.

A parent’s emotional breakdowns. The moments when they’re just “Done with it all.” Because they feel your pain as if it were their own, and feel guilty – perhaps even angry – that there’s absolutely nothing more they can do to fix anything.

Your loved ones’ frequently asked questions, “So [your name], what’s the next step (meaning, next step to getting well or moving forward in life)?” and “Figuring out more foods you can eat?”

And all you can answer internally – or verbally, if you dare – is “I’m trying. I’m doing the best I can. The only solution is to give it time. To give my body time to heal. To keep doing what I am doing, and to keep researching. If I knew of something else to do, I’d be doing it. It may take months or years. And I may never be completely healed. But that’s okay.”

And you know that is definitely NOT what they want to hear.


The hardest thing is thinking about all the things you ought to be, ought to have accomplished, all the milestones you ought to have reached by now, but aren’t and haven’t.

The hardest thing is the social isolation and feelings of shame that can come from living a life utterly different from everyone around you, and thinking that most people must either judge or pity you.

And so you judge and pity yourself, so they won’t be the first ones to do it. If you hurt yourself enough first, then no one else can hurt you.

You begin to see some friends pull away, and that just reinforces all the negative messages and depressing thoughts you’re replaying in your head.

It’s true, then. You are a failure. Evidently some of your friends are beginning to see that. And why shouldn’t they pull away?

You are a disappointment.

Again, and again, and again, that message – that condemning voice – plays mercilessly through your head like a solemn durge on a broken record.


I still have moments when I get really down. When I’m just so weary of all of this. I don’t understand why it has to happen to me, when I’m only 24, and there’s so much I wanted (and want) to do with my life. Why couldn’t this happen to somebody who doesn’t give a s**t about how they spend their time or their life? Somebody who would waste their time – in sickness and in health? Why me?


Only very recently have I come to accept the reality – initially with resignation, but now with an inexplicable glee – that I may never be “well”, in the sense that most people experience wellness.

Finally, I am beginning to see this as a gift.

You see, were I not in this place of extreme illness, I would never have ventured through certain doors. I would never have permitted myself to try certain things.

Things like, starting my own business online.

Reading, writing, and learning like it’s my full-time job, or college. (Although learning is something we are always [hopefully] doing anyway, even if that learning doesn’t involve literature.)

Trying the stuff that everyone ridicules. The things they say can’t make money (but, in fact, can be financially profitable – given smart [as well as hard] work, persistence, and patience). Trying the things that are not supposed to be successful, by a certain definition of success.

I am doing those things. (I was going to say I am trying those things, but there is no try, there is only do. [I <3 Yoda :)])

I am doing those things, because I don’t have a choice anymore.

The bridge has been burned, so to speak. Not by my hand (I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this situation) but, I believe, by God’s hand.

I’m in no place to be working in a brick-and-mortar building anytime soon (I’m extremely sensitive to toxic chemicals, even things like perchloroethylene (a dry cleaning chemical), materials used in building remodeling, and new flooring or carpet. I feel sick if I’m around other people who are eating gluten, even if there’s no gluten on my plate. Breathing in a few air particles – or even the vapors or smell – is enough to give me head pressure and make me feel unwell for at least the rest of the day.

I have no choice but to work from home.

I cannot afford to get completely wiped out and burned out again.

I still have days when I can barely move (though this is less frequently the case now).

I used to think that I could never be an entrepreneur. I had ideas, but didn’t know how I would implement them.

I didn’t think I could be successful at a business venture.

I figured nearly any business venture would require a significant financial investment upfront.

But I learned that that’s not true for all businesses. It depends on what product or service or commodity you’re offering.

If that commodity is information or creative content, the initial investment can be pretty small (save the substantial investment of time and mind-grease).

So here I am, doing things I’ve dreamed of for a long time, but never actually allowed myself to try. Or had the time to try.

Well, now I have the time, because my body won’t permit me to do much else.

 

I will plant flowers in this prison.

I will roar from my cage.

I will paint a picture behind this wall of glass, to reach people in places that I never could have touched with my physical presence.

I will sing a song in this lonely, dark cave, and trust that there is another soul in this same cave of whom I am unaware, hearing the echoes of my music – my joyful songs and laments – and being comforted with the knowledge that they are not alone.

Girl standing in cave, near spot where sunlight is shining through

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

YOU are not alone.

I hear you. I feel your pain.

Perhaps there is something going on in your life right now, that you feel no one can understand.

You think everyone thinks you’re crazy, lazy, insane, dumb, lost, confused, deluded. Everyone is worried about you. Or no one is.

I see you.

I see the picture you’re painting, because you cannot speak with words.

I see the beauty that you are creating in your prison.

Don’t stop. Don’t give up.

Don’t ever for a moment believe that because your path is different, you are lost.

person on path in sunlight

Photo by Mahkeo on Unsplash

 

 

sunlight shining on lonely path

Photo by Cerys Lowe on Unsplash

 

Pain is not all loss. Pain is the price we pay for life’s greatest lessons and most precious gems.

 


What’s something you’ve learned or gained through chronic illness? I want to hear your story! <3

Kate

person walking on forest path in sunlight

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

 

© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved

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