A desert rose.
“the stone embodies strength and assistance in standing your ground. The stone allows you to have heart-centered thoughts and brings clarity to understanding one’s own emotional body.” ~ littleboxofrocks.com
A stone passed down to me from my father when I was very little, and one that is still my favorite out of my collection. It is a unique beauty, and appears to be fragile. It takes on the look of flower petals.
Bringing clarity into my day to day life has taken a lot of effort. There’s a deeper lever of self awareness and a personal conscientiousness that I’ve allowed myself to embody and embrace this month. Yet, this deeper level has brought forward an awareness of my limitations, typically limitations I have placed on myself.
With April coming to an end, I wanted to reflect on how I’m growing beyond these limitations or how I can begin to.
Limitations aren’t just areas where I am not comfortable or need to break through my comfort zone, but they are beliefs that guide me. These beliefs often aren’t backed by anything. There are also beliefs that are rooted in fear, and overcoming fear begins with recognizing it.
I am not the opinions that I have read online. I am not the speculations and the what ifs.
My primary goal for the month of April was to get more sunshine.
A huge barrier for me is my sensitivity to light. I often spend all day upstairs, in rooms that have been painted grey or black, filled with calming ambiance lights. It’s cool. It’s dark. It’s quiet. Getting more sunshine stemmed from wanting to care for a plant Torie got me. I realized how incredible it was caring for something and recognized that Mr. Plant can truly only flourish in the sunlight.
I should be flourishing in the sunlight too. Keeping myself in the dark, especially on days I’m not writhing in pain could be doing more harm than good. If I made a conscious effort to sit outside, enjoy the beautiful April weather and soak up sunshine, perhaps I’d start to feel better.
I have no idea if I’m feeling better, but I do have a good start on a tan. I can tell my skin is healthier, and I no longer feel like I’m grasping for warmth in the depths of the night. The sun exposure has left my skin warm.
But, two days in a row I found myself laying out by my pool feeling very carefree. I wasn’t out very long maybe an hour or two tops, but I shared with friends and family photos of the pool and a staged photo for Denim Day.
I was left initially feeling proud for being outside and having truly worked towards my “more sunshine” goal, until it hit me:
What right does a disabled person with such a severe chronic condition have to be out in a swimming pool? Why are sick people allowed to live off of government money and spend their days relaxing looking like they’re on vacation? How can she be disabled or unable to work if she can be in the sun or be happy?
It was sickening. It stems from the proposal of Social Security monitoring Disability Benefit recipient’s social media accounts to watch for the misuse of funds or misrepresentation of need. This proposal may go no where, but the idea that the questions I internalized because I had a few moments where I was okay enough to be outside, could be the same ideas some government worker has is scary. It brings up so many issues with so many parts of the system but also the stigmas people have to live with.
But that thought isn’t fair.
No one that I know or no one that interacts with any of my content would ever make such a suggestion. My ability or lack there of hasn’t been questioned in almost a year. So why am I still allowing those thoughts to take over, especially on a day that should have been full of joy?
And so, I must work to remind myself that I am not those opinions. Those opinions have been made up in my mind. I do not have to internalize the ideas that someone else has proposed in terms of what if this happens and how will this impact us.
I can certainly contact elected officials, but worrying about it when that’s all I can do, is only doing harm to me. I can and I will soak up the sun without worrying about what anyone else may be thinking.
I am not a support system for all and I do not have to take on helping everyone around me.
I touched on this a bit in Removing The Weight From Burden, but as an advocate and as someone who has the tendency to reach out, I do not have to always reach out.
I have found a strength in sharing my story and in connecting with people with a wide variety of conditions. On my worst days, I spend half of my time scrolling through new thoughts on The Mighty and focusing on checking in with people and offering reassurance and comfort.
However, I shy away from many of the mental health posts. I fail to offer ample encouragement to individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression, self harm, and suicidal thoughts. I’ve drawn that line on The Mighty for two reasons: I personally cannot relate to these struggles and firmly believe you shouldn’t offer advice on something you know nothing about, and I find these posts triggering.
But they aren’t triggering in the sense that I am pushed back into cycles of self harm or negative thoughts. I never had those cycles. Instead, I am overcome with guilt. I want to help people, but I am not able to help everyone.
This is a difficult barrier to get over, but I have to recognize that I can only offer aid in what I’ve experienced. I cannot feel bad for not wanting to or being able to have the right thing to say.
This month I offered help, and I was proud of myself for helping someone through a difficult time. But I found myself suddenly stuck with a responsibility I had accepted without knowing what I was coming into. I am not equipped to deal with the mental health of others and the ups and downs that accompany it.
I can’t focus on others and I can’t allow myself to internalize other people’s issues. I can’t take what people say personally. I have to recognize that when people reach out to me and can’t get through that they may feel defeated because they believe that helping others will help them.
I need to focus on my writing. I need to focus on continuing to tell my story and write about the things that matter to me or intrigue me. Those stories help people better than me verbally expressing support or me accepting support that I don’t want.
I will be the same independent person when migraine leaves me in remission.
There will come a day when my pain stops or is so dramatically reduced that it isn’t a factor. That days leaves me with the puzzling question of who will I be.
I’ve come to accept certain parts of who I am, but when I reflect on my personality, the fact that it won’t be different without the pain is scary. I’m afraid that my habits and who I am has been put off to being “migraine” related, but they are in fact exactly who I am.
The deeper fear is that these qualities will be less acceptable once the pain is gone.
Right now, people accept that I’m single and not looking for any sort of relationship because I’m in pain all the time. I couldn’t go out on a proper date if I wanted to. I don’t have the capacity to let someone in and go through the learning curve that is this condition.
But when the pain is gone? It’s not like a particularly am fond of cats, so I’m not quite the single cat lady that everyone would expect. But I don’t want a family. I don’t believe there is anything sacred or valid in the institution that is marriage. I believe that you can absolutely love more than one person at the same time and that love isn’t exclusive. But that doesn’t mean I want to participate. Other people don’t give me joy or peace and having someone to spend the rest of my life with doesn’t sound inviting.
I look forward to those days of independence. I look forward to sitting alone at the bar in a bustling restaurant and making conversation with the bartender. I look forward to going to a show or event alone and taking my time and enjoying every minute of it. I look forward to being able to take in life all by myself again.
I am allowed to express how I feel and it is not a call for help.
In one of the spaces that I’ve developed to go to for encouragement and beauty, I’ve come to notice that often times speaking of pain or frustrations is met with a much larger concern than it demands.
It feels as if I could say something minor and forget to specify that I’m talking about a poorly made iced coffee and I’d have a dozen people putting their day on hold to make sure I am mentally okay.
People truly ignore what I actually say online.
I tell people I need space or am not available to talk? The response is to understand why and attempt to force me to talk. I don’t have to be available to strangers online.
I’ve made that mistake and I’m currently still hurting from it. I cannot read people’s intentions fully, and when individuals begin communication by talking about my blog or asking deeper questions pertaining to my migraine attacks I tend to be more trusting. This is because I manage a blog where I often work with and connect with other sufferers or people with other conditions and want to help share their stories.
But there’s people who use this to get close to me. They find things we have in common. They check in in ways that aren’t offensive. They pay attention to the things that interest me or the hobbies I take up and they make an effort to show that they care. But suddenly, I found I let an individual who was simply trying to manipulate me into my closest support system.
Someone I turned to almost every day for this and that. And as I tried to back away the guilt tripping and faux apologies flowed out. But it is horrifying trying to be open online and connect with people, when thousands of people are just preying on individuals like myself. Thousands of men have no interest in my pain or my art, they are interested in seeing me in person and having a relationship with me. But they won’t ever say it. They choose to be possessive instead.
So, I’m forced to step back. I don’t want online support to begin with, but people need to respect and understand why I want nothing to do with it. I don’t trust your faceless profiles and my daily encounters truly make me thankful I know how to defend myself.
But anytime I express something online, people believe it demands a response. They see it as a cry for help and they’re going to be the person to save me.
Everyone wants to be a hero for everyone but themselves.
I must learn to not express my in-the-moment, reactionary thoughts in places like this. I have a support system for a reason and I should reach out there instead.
In places where I’ve made it clear I need encouragement and not support, I must share things that promote encouragement.
I am open to receiving fruitful opportunities when the time comes and they will be the right opportunity for me.
When the pain stops, then what?
Do I drive back up to Milwaukee and finish my last two years at Mount Mary and get my BA in Interior Design? Do I find an online certification or degree program that I can slowly work through while returning to part time work? Do I leave the country and never look back?
I got an opportunity with the timing of my migraines disabling me: I can be whoever I want to be.
But the thing is, I’ve only ever pursued paths others have made me believe I wanted. Paths that others thought would be most serving to me and would provide me with the most opportunities. I don’t really know if anyone ever asked me the question of “what do you want to be?” but if they did, I certainly didn’t have an answer.
For career day in 8th grade, I was a detective. I wanted desperately to be in law enforcement and to solve crimes.
As a freshmen, I filled out my 4 year plan to become a journalist.
At the end of high school, I enjoyed my engineering class and applied to schools with engineering and architecture and Clemson gave me the best offer so Architecture it was.
But, Architecture archetypes weren’t for me and I transitioned to Interior Design only to find out that the archetypes overlapped too much to truly make it enjoyable.
So then what?
I got the reset button but no direction to take.
And so I have to actively remind myself that this – this blog right here – is what I’m doing now. It has given me numerous job opportunities already, some of which are very considerable options even with a regular occurrence of migraines.
But I have to believe that the right path will be there. I have to believe that I will discover my purpose and that it will lead me to the career I am meant to have. If I go searching for it, or try to force it, I may be successful but maybe not happy.
There’s fear and there’s beliefs that prevent me from fully moving forward.
In striving to understand these beliefs, I’ve become more aware of my emotions and what some people would consider “mental health.” I’ve actively started working on finding things that have a positive impact on my mental health while recognizing how to break down the fears and beliefs in a way that allows me to embrace them.
I am solely responsible for my healing.
I am capable of what I put my mind to, but I must be mindful of what I embrace. And as the great Nelson Mandela said:
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”