Inauthentic Acts of Love: How They Misshape Hearts

A/N: This post contains sensitive topics. If cheating, domestic abuse, or mentions of child abuse may trigger your own traumas, please proceed with caution. Finally, reach out for help if feeling suicidal.

The National Suicide Hotline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress: 1-800-273-8255

“He played his part so well that even after he switched characters, she’d rave about him as a lover, like none of the other stuff mattered. After all, he was considered to be an idealistic human, even when his actions weren’t the slightest bit humane.”

I’m not sure how it’s March. Time seems to fly these days. I have a lot to blog about: a new writing endeavor, health updates, some inspiring ideas I want to share for all my readers. Above all else, I’m eager to share several lessons I’ve learned, all of them the hard way. They’re lessons I wish I could shout from the rooftops. After all, that is the main prerogative behind my blog’s existence. 

One in particular is something that’s been on my mind a lot these days. Not only am I seeing some amazing people in less than ideal romances, but I’ve been recently hit with the weight of all I endured in my twenties. Sometimes I don’t acknowledge this, and secretly still blame myself for not making better decisions. It comes from years of growing up with all kinds of abuse. I’m trying to change this, however; to practice self-compassion. So here it is: a glimpse into my past; a look at how my traumas misshaped my beliefs about love. I hope it helps somebody else heal from a similar problem. I feel compelled to share it now, more so than ever before. For me, that often means someone I care for is desperate to hear it.

When I was younger (only five years old), an adult in my family slowly started grooming me: special attention, spontaneous presents, time spent with me, but no time with my sibling. Eventually, it led to inappropriate behavior, including but not limited to acts of molestation. Although I was believed when I finally told someone else, I was also going through extreme abuse of other kinds at home. It went undetected by most other people. My sister and I suffered our entire youths in silence, so much so that “childhood” was fairly nonexistent. Someone meant to cherish us chose instead to disrespect, berate, manipulate, and hurt us through multiple tactics of narcissism. 

The extreme narcissistic abuse we endured will undoubtedly appear in many future posts. For today’s post, however, I mention it to set the premise for my backward views on love. Besides the cruelness aimed at us (all of it maternal), my parents also rarely showed each other any love. My father truly loved my mother, but dealt with dysfunctional deficits because of his own tragic past. As such, he was often emotionally vacant. He struggled with adulting, not fully grasping the purpose or importance of many things crucial to family life. This left him open to verbal abuse and daily, unspeakable shaming. He lacked the skills needed to stop it, for himself or for his children. 

My sister and I were subjected to watching my father get fat shamed consistently. We grew up thinking marriage meant arguments and hateful words. We thought mothers didn’t like fathers. We knew we weren’t allowed to show remorse towards our father’s afflictions; the only scenario ever deemed none of our business, despite bearing witness to its ugliness each day. 

I distinctly remember hearing bedtime stories surrounding how awful my father behaved as a husband. Before I was even in grade school, I knew that my mother did not love my father. I knew she regretted their marriage the same day it took place. I knew about all his addictions, violent acts supposedly committed against other lovers, intimate details that children (especially one who was sexually harmed) should never learn about their parent’s life. 

As one can probably imagine, by the time I got to high school, I held a very damaged view of almost all relationships. When I was attracted to someone, they became my main concern, often so intensely it was borderline obsessive. I quickly latched on to the smallest affection, perceiving lots of friendly acts as meaning so much more. When someone didn’t feel the same, I couldn’t accept or move past their rejections. I took everything personally, undoubtedly due to depleted self confidence and constant, verbose degradation at home. 

I didn’t date in high school. I couldn’t get a date. I was literally starved for a healthy connection, causing me to make some very unwise choices. Around the time I turned eighteen, I finally realized the key to attention – be it insincere – was through my physicality. I shifted my focus from staring at boys to using my body to sway them my way. The summer I finally graduated, I dated half a dozen different ones. I liked having power for once, although realistically, the opposite was true. Most of these males would move on within weeks, something I didn’t quite care about now that there were others to always replace lust fueled interests. 

I went into college a virgin, but not opposed to changing that. All that I learned as a girl about sex was that it was off limits til marriage, unless I wanted to be seen as impure in the eyes of God. Part of the reason I just wasn’t on board had to do with the hypocrisy. Nothing about the relationship between my married parents was sacred, pure, or whole. Therefore, in my mind, the logic was broken. Unfortunately, demons from my past abuse would surface unexpectedly. 

 I went on my first date with an older guy I worked with. It was only by two years, but he was ten times more advanced. I honestly thought he was God. Things were going perfectly until he moved too fast. I had my first of many “blanks” in the passenger seat of his sports car, more or less black outs about being touched. Although he never forced the issue, he also didn’t understand or care to give it time. He’d moved on by the morning, and I was completely devastated. I realized I was terrified of sex and what surrounded it. All of my experience was via pedophilia, and all my education was from vague, religious lectures.

Hearing I was damaged for as long as I remembered – genetically and mentally were dominating insults – convinced me a husband would not understand or help me through my past. I wanted to conquer my fear before marriage, which was the only end goal I’d been given as an option. I figured as long as I did so in love, premarital sex wasn’t something that left any room for regret. To an extent, I still hold that belief. The trouble with my choice specifically was not understanding the constructs surrounding healthy love. I’d always received it conditionally and thought it was normal to work for affection. I didn’t factor in the equal importance of choosing a partner who also felt in with me.

At twenty, I met someone seemingly perfect, deciding that he was the one. I fell for him hard, so much so that even now, I’ve never once doubted my feelings for him. I loved him in every capacity a heart can adore someone else. It makes zero sense, since he treated me terribly. He’d tell me the things that I wanted to hear, but show me a different person as soon as he got what he wanted. He lusted after my attention, thriving on my praises. He’d seek me out to fill his needs, but had no interest in my own. When drunk or alone with him, things were ideal. In public or sober, he’d often ignore me. All that I’d get was a head nod, as though he didn’t know me. Though it went unspoken, his obvious embarrassment cut just like my mother’s words. Still, he’d be outside my dorm room when it was time for bed.

The constant give and take of his outward displays of affection simply took the place of hers while I was gone at uni. The pit of dread inside my gut would soon return full force, reminding me everyone’s judgments of me would always be my fault. Eventually, I learned the feeling was a common thread, tying young women with pasts of abuse together in false shame. Yet at the time, I just assumed complete responsibility, thinking my inherent flaws had made me damaged goods. This meant I cherished scraps he threw, deciding I was lucky to even be with him for limited time.

The first eighteen months we were dating, he broke up with me seven times. I tried to move on, unsuccessfully. Every time I made some progress, he’d come back and tell me he’d made a mistake. Three months before graduation from college, I found out he’d lied to me right from the start. He wasn’t a virgin before we had sex, lied about being monogamous throughout the entire relationship, was telling his friends all our intimate details, and only intended to use me for sex. 

When I found out the truth, I was crushed. Later that night, he informed me that suicide wouldn’t be scary, and I should end my life. His urging for me to give into my struggles with suicidal ideation – often a symptom of PTSD – brought even my mother out to put him in his place. She didn’t have a leg to stand on, given her own verbal beatings, and all that she accomplished was bullying him into penning apologies so she didn’t call his folks. From then on, they struggled for power of me, both just as guilty as whom they accused.

Much like it took me decades to leave behind my mother, I still didn’t leave him, not even after he’d clearly admitted my death would be of no concern. I kept going back to false promises, though nothing was there except a mirage he’d constructed with lies. He convinced me of things that I’d never believe if I had an ounce of confidence or any sense of worth. He told me that one day he’d marry me, but couldn’t even title me his girlfriend until he was ready. He said it was my choice to wait or move forward without him, but every time I tried to, he’d be begging for me back. Because of his insistence that there wasn’t anybody else, guarantees he loved me, and the chaos surrounding the rest of my life, I held on to a fantasy while he did as he pleased. 

He’d spend a month or two ignoring me, avoiding my calls and just ghosting. Out of the blue, he’d return and spend a great night “making up” for his absence. When he was around, he was always attentive. He’d take me to dinner and make me feel wanted. The rest of the time, I lived starved while he feasted on whatever flesh was of interest. Sadly, I saw my endurance of loneliness and total isolation as proof that I was worthy of receiving all his love. Under his constant assurances, I thought that once I proved myself, he’d finally choose only me.

I wasted almost seven years, ultimately thinking that for the last two, he’d moved to Chicago for business. He never let me visit him, but told me the reason was company policy. He wouldn’t provide his address, claiming he stayed in hotels, and they changed depending on the week. He’d only call me close to dawn, or during the end of the business day. He stated the reason was Wi-Fi connections being unstable inside his hotel. Looking back, the logic was completely… well, illogical. 

I know that some reading may even decide that my blatant stupidity caused all my pain and lets him off the hook. It all goes back to what I thought I actually deserved. I grew up being screamed at, but always required to respond with love when adults in charge felt like loving me. I’d be taken care of outwardly: always sheltered, clothed, and fed. Yet I’d also be torn down for hours each week, often told my mother wished that I was never born. Narcissists excuse their flaws by justifying all their actions; it’s always someone else’s fault, and they aren’t ever culpable. A child being raised like that will learn to blame themselves for absolutely everything, even once they know the difference between wrong and right. 

To complicate things further, it was getting increasingly difficult for me to let someone I loved slip away, like my surroundings. I had zero stability. My parents had divorced, and both had drastically gone off the deep end. Getting my degree was literally a miracle. During those years, I was forced to take care of my father as though he was my child. My sister moved away as soon as she was able. My mother sold our home, got rid of our pets, and moved in with her boyfriend. Friends mean well, but they have their own relationships and problems. Once I left college, I went back to virtually nothing. The only “normalcy” I had was an abnormal relationship with a pseudo boyfriend, and I was desperate to hold on to it. He knew that, and he used it to his full advantage. 

Following the patterns that my “family” began, my “boyfriend” had answers for everything. Even when doubting an obvious lie, I chose to accept it as truth. I knew that speaking up would only cause more, more pain. It was always me who had to bear the consequences of their actions; my mother, my father, my lover. Therefore, I stayed with him far long after he’d moved on, only a shadow beside where I stood, and even then only appearing when he felt deflated. I thought I’d die without him, even as he killed off parts of me he knew were previously damaged. My low self-esteem was depleted by him. My reclusiveness was multiplied, my depression was amplified, and other potential romantic relationships weren’t ever given a chance. 

The end was so long overdue, but also came abruptly. There were too many pieces I couldn’t make fit, despite my desire to cram them together. My soulmate had knocked someone up, someone he’d apparently also been seeing while we were in college. He’d married her and lived with her an hour from my home. He’d only see me when he knew he’d be able to do it without her suspicion, making sure long in advance to keep me from all our mutual friends, so I had no way of discovering things. At some point, he’d gotten too confident though. I found his hidden life. While I was losing everything I never even had, he was off the hook and could continue his alternate life.

After my discovery, I had a nervous breakdown. At least, that’s what I’d call it. I dragged myself to work so I could pay my mounting debt, but spent all the rest of my time hysterical or drunk. Out of desperation, I finally went to a therapist. I’d seen them many times before, but never put the work in. I was at the lowest point I thought a human could be without actually dying. I was overweight from medications, in debt from several surgeries I had without insurance, without a job I cared about – I absolutely hated it, and suffering PTSD from abuse I’d never dealt with properly. As mentioned above, most of these topics are lengthy and need a blog post of their own. There’s one crucial to the discussion here, my struggles with fertility. 

I was dealing with horrible health complications, one of which turned to be HPV, transmitted to me by this “man” I loved. For years, he wouldn’t use protection, insisting two committed people who lost their virginity to one another had no need for condoms. Meanwhile, he was involved with at least half a dozen other girls. Sadly, when I was informed I had gotten Human Papilloma Virus, the Gaardisil shot was brand new. My doctor pushed it on me, insisting I’d wind up with cancer unless I consented to both the injections. As a twenty-three-year-old who didn’t know I had alternate options, I’d taken the shots, and was left with huge problems. In less than three months, every menstrual cycle went from nonexistent pain to pain so bad that I’d black out. The issues there got worse and worse, resulting in what now appears to be my infertility. It’s still a lot to swallow, knowing my ex had a baby he’d denied ever creating while my reproductive system wound up in shambles because of his lies.  

I can’t put one hundred percent of the blame onto his shoulders, despite his deception and cruelty. I always had the option to dissolve things, walk away, not take him back. I never said enough’s enough, that being whatever I was to him was so much worse than letting go. That’s on me, just like choosing to cope with the bulk of my traumas by using self-harm, weed, and alcohol. Back then, everything was dark, and many exploited my less than clear vision. Depression lies, dysfunction breeds, and “better” often seems impossible when stuck in the labyrinth of both. Hopelessness can make it feel like choices aren’t existent, but all of my stories are here to remind you that most of our mountains can be fully climbed; even if you have to claw your way up to the top. 

Fast forward to today. I’m sober, married, thriving, and free of my mother’s control. Though there’s still confusion in some monumental life decisions, I’m finally able to say that I love every single part of who I have become. I’m deeply attuned to emotions. No matter what I’m feeling, I feel it all profoundly. I’m passionate, intense, and strong. I broke, but glued my pieces back. I learned how to grow despite all the weeds surrounding me from birth. I’m still a work in progress, and I didn’t get this far alone. I’ve been shown unconditional support, friendship, and love. The only way I found the people offering those gifts was by cleaning out the trash that others dumped into my lap. I had to face the junk I’d swept into a jam packet closet, never intending to deal with those traumas. They say you can’t grow through it if you never go through it. I know that to be true. 

I still have bad days where I doubt myself. Shame and depression both still rear their heads. Now, I have tools to combat all the noise trying to drown out my peace. I’ve also learned to recognize the toxic traits I found attractive, only out of habit. Now I make better decisions in all of my relationships, and I try to be less ugly in the way I deal with conflict.

As for my ex? This past August, I passed the eleven year mark of his absence. He’s someone I’ll always be thinking about, even on days where I do it subconsciously. He’s a wound I’ll always have, and it will never heal. I’m finally able to understand tears don’t always line up with unresolved feelings. Sometimes, tears serve to remind us just how awful something was, in order to help us avoid it again. I’m infinitely grateful that he married someone else. Though I hate that he covertly tossed me into his affair, the knowledge that his cheating was a serial addiction and was never about me brings me more solace than anything else. I even feel pity that he’ll likely never know what real love entails. I have my suspicions about why he’s chosen to go down these paths of extreme infidelity. Although I’ll never know for sure, I choose to believe that his past contains traumas, rather than accept he’s simply rotten to the core. 

To all my friends looking for love and thinking the issue is being unlovable, that is rarely true. Every single human being succumbs to fallibility. What you do with your mistakes dictates their role in your future. Keep loving yourself, celebrating yourself, commending yourself, and living your healthiest life. No one needs a partner to be happy or secure, but I truly understand the want. The right person won’t need to be chased, kept, or satisfied. If you aren’t enough for them, they don’t deserve any of your love at all. Not only with lovers. It should be a rule in all of your relationships. 

Know your worth and never settle. The wrong people look for the spots where you’re weakest and try to settle in, convincing you your value equals anything but priceless.They take advantage of your worst and strive to keep you from your best. On the contrary, the right ones find you at worst and help you reach your best. Shine on lovelies. See your beauty. Never dim your light. Learn to be okay no matter who leaves or betrays you. If you need help to get to that place, you’re far from alone. There’s no shame in admitting your past if it betters your future. Hopefully, you’ll find someone (only if you want to) who sees you for all that you are: uniquely irreplaceable. No matter what you’re working towards, you’re never unworthy of love.  

*Graphic taken from Pinterest ~ Not the original work of the blog owner (me).

Twelve Prompts of #VSS: My Very Short Story Submissions

Last year I followed a writer who blogged a year-end recap of his best Twitter story submissions. He was a regular participant of #vss365, a daily prompting platform. For those unfamiliar, the acronym stands for very short stories. A monthly host chooses a word of the day, and writers cultivate a poem or story that fits within Twitter’s character limits. I was new to the concept, but challenged myself to complete enough prompts for my own recap by the next winter.

Below are twelve poetic blurbs I penned in 2020. I’ve dissected the content, providing the reader with more detailed words and a closer glimpse into my world.

~ She rolled her eyes, chiding his blasphemous statement. Nothing could happen without her permission? She was tempted to bring up the human condition; illogical actions resulting in victims. She chose to save her breath. The power of intention held no traction, never did.

I wrote this piece while reflecting on toxic positivity, which is said to minimize another person’s authentic emotional experience. As someone with an incurable illness, I’ve been given a lot of advice about changing my mindset in order to facilitate physical wellness. I pulled from the perspective of someone going through dark times and being told they have the power to change the circumstance if only they’d turn on the lights.

~ Her empire came at no personal cost. She prided herself on connecting to loss, claiming she rarely got blessed. Strangers were drawn to her chronic complaining, but sadly, she lost several friends. That wasn’t important to her though. She’d emptied their wallets already.

When I penned these words, I had a specific past relationship weighing on my mind. Choosing to walk away from friendships that no longer serve a purpose or foster healthy emotions can be extremely difficult. There are plenty of days when I miss certain aspects of (overall) detrimental relationships. When those days appear out of nowhere, I find it beneficial to remember why I walked away.

~ She grew up in judgment. They called it a creed. To her it was fantastic, like a blatant parody. Demons vs. angels. Souls. Rules. Beliefs. She never received anything but a total lack of peace. Now? She feeds her own damn soul. And now, she’s been redeemed.

I wrote this one about my journey towards Agnosticism. If you regularly follow my blog, you’re likely aware of my religious upbringing, and why it didn’t work for me or nourish my spirituality. If you aren’t and you’re interested in learning more, read my last post for a more detailed story!

~ She wondered what happened when periwinkle dulled; both orbs rolling up, then out; her seascape no longer supporting the swell. Just empty and silent. A snapshot. All still. No rhythm. His stagnance? Her storm. She needed his chaos in order to calm.

A submission about taking someone (or something) for granted. Sometimes we don’t realize what we have until it’s no longer available. For many, human nature draws us first towards places we feel the most comfortable. Those raised in healthy environments are often attracted to strength and stability. Likewise, those raised in dysfunction or with traumatic backgrounds are often attracted to chaos. I wrote this from the viewpoint of a broken woman, one struggling to acclimate to a simpler life.

~ My summer aesthetic? A mix. Blue and green. Iris tears and emerald city “not at home here” dreams. Winters are ashen. Spatters of grape. Nightmarish bruises I fail to escape. Aesthetic? Magnetic to mood, place, and time. Pathetic? Electric? Depends on your vibe.

Here, I touch on individual perception and how it molds perspective. Sometime last winter, I took part in an online aesthetic activity. Ever since, I’ve loved the concept of aesthetic energy. For those unfamiliar, choosing a personal aesthetic involves creating an environment that reflects individual ideas of beauty. Choosing a themed aesthetic simply means creating the same kind of environment, but on a specific topic. For example, I love the idea of seasonally aesthetic cover photos on all of my social media platforms. I hope to make my own soon, using seasonal items that ignite personal positivity or warmth. For now, I borrow seasonal aesthetic photos from Pinterest.

~ Delusion is serving a pot of canned chili and claiming it tastes like a bisque. Hope? A bit different; a gas station sandwich you doctor to dull the grotesque. And here we reach dissension. You read like a book from another dimension, quoting an upside down past.

I got my inspiration for this piece while in the middle of binge watching Kitchen Nightmares. I was also working through some difficult family issues. In particular, the selective memory of a psychologically abusive parent, and their refusal to acknowledge how they’d hurt me.

~ I’ve done the math a thousand times and still arrived at zero; calculated avenues, seemingly impossible; realized most fears I freeze under are fires, burning me. Scorning me, sad and illogical. Missing opportunities. Reasoning preposterous. Why do I give up my power?

Self doubt is often a hurdle. Fears about failing can drastically limit potential for growth and success. This micro-poem was written on a day of self-reflection. When weighing professional options against all my health limitations, I often second guess myself.

~ Someone plucked my sunflower, eclipsed it right out of the garden. In its place a raven scavenger, with too many labels attached to my character. I know not intrepid repose.

We’ve all been mislabeled at some point, usually by someone observing our worst and unfamiliar with our best. Most of the time, I’m proud of who I am and able to leave my mistakes in the past. Once in a while, I backtrack and get stuck in the trap of regret. Until I can find my way out again, my mind nitpicks and dictates false narratives. I wrote this piece during a day I felt trapped and anxious about unfair judgments.

~ Autumn strips my covering. Everybody leaves. Sensitive when naked, and it’s arduous to breathe. Hypothermic winter’s wrath. I don’t get a season pass. Was hoping you’d simply believe me. Anfractuous roads go from coastlines to coves. Blow me down, connote I’m falling.

Over the summer, my grandmother died. She was under my mother’s care for the last year of her life. Unfortunately, boundaries I put in place to protect myself left me unable to say goodbye. It was the last straw in my landfill of secrets. I finally came clean to my family – and anyone else who would listen – about the gross psychological (and emotional) abuse my sister and I endured for years. Not everyone believed me, or condoned the sharing of my experiences. In the span of a week, I had to mourn the loss of several additional family members, all of whom are still alive. I penned this as a glimpse into my pain.

~ Aqueous bottle to empty your head. I need my own to forget what you did. Pressed with bare breasts to glass prisons. Cauldrons of dirty decisions. Banging in silence. You promise again. The lies pull me under. We drown either way.

The premise of this piece dates back to my twenties. I fell in love. He fell in lust. I had no self-esteem and wasn’t able to look at the situation objectively. I settled for far less than anyone deserves, subjecting myself to degradation and wasting way too many years on a dead end road full of deceit.

~ You and I were scratched, but every damaged lyric stuck inside those jilted tracks was always damn near perfect. Never to you, though. Always to me. I left my heart on those CDs. Tastes of you lingering. Vodka and minty deception. Earnest and nasty. Drunk and delicious.

Again, my work alludes to a previous relationship. The highs put me on top of the world, and the lows left me suicidal. Lines between love, lust, and abuse were often blurred by alcohol. I’ll cover aspects of our love in many future blog posts, and my work in progress – a poetry book – was primarily influenced by it.

~ In front of a window. Quiet. Serene. Loving the rainfall first thing in the morning. Misty rose glass a catharsis. Slippered feet and perfect smile. Only breaks in novel sounds. Frigidaire hums in the background. Spreading jam over a toast. Made it to London, albeit alone.

For as long as I remember, I’ve had two separate lives: my actual reality, and a fantasy world I dreamt up. The fantasy is fluid, changing with the years. I’m sure it will evolve again. For now, I imagine a life set in London. I picture a happy, self-sufficient woman with a lucrative writing career. It serves as a little escape from the truth, which leaves me dependent on others, and feeling discouraged because of my health.

There you have it: a closer look at twelve of my 2020 #vss submissions. If you enjoyed what you read, follow me on Twitter (ARCAngela0519) and Instagram (lyricalenlightening) (destinyduets).

Prompt words were provided by #vss365, #BraveWrite, and #CeruleanProse (all Twitter platforms)

*Graphic taken from Pinterest ~ NOT the original work of the blog owner (me).

Authoring Personal Bibles: Why I Became An Agnostic

A/N: Religious topics often cause defensiveness. My views aren’t intended to undermine anyone else’s beliefs. Things that left me anxious may bring another the peace I was lacking. None of my negative viewpoints summarize entire groups. Please read with the same open-mindedness I did my best to write from.

I take part in several writing communities, all on social media. Many put up daily prompts for writers incorporate into their poems or short stories; usually a keyword. Over the holidays, I noticed an influx of religiously inspired submissions. Naturally, many alluded to Jesus, penning him a savior and attributing his birth to the reason we celebrate Christmas. Although I’m well versed in the story of Christ, recent years have changed inclinations to look at certain things semantically. When I read the prompts with redemption and child incorporated into them, I found myself surprised about the references to Jesus. It wasn’t a point of contention to me, regardless of beliefs. It was simply a matter of personal perspective. I currently view Christmas in a non-religious light. Therefore, the word prompts held much different symbolism.

Of course, this doesn’t mean all contributors choosing to write about Jesus follow specific religions. The beauty of being a writer is the ability to “speak” from any perspective you wish, regardless of personal views. Nonetheless, the exercise compelled me to touch on my broader beliefs. I’ve only very recently been able to define my stance on spiritual matters.

Like many others growing up, my practices were pre-defined by parents. I was raised in a religious sect I now consider cultish. It was rigid and structured, with no room for members to think for themselves. The utmost importance was placed on rules and regulations. Questioning sermons or pastoral teachings were painted as sins of the spirit. Doubts were expected to be pushed aside, as we were supposed to rely on our faith when things didn’t seem to make sense. We weren’t even permitted to bring others into our church, unless they intended on joining. Visitors were labeled threats, and we were taught to pity non believers. Divorce was encouraged if spouses chose not to attend.

Fear of eternal damnation was emphasized above all else. Repenting and casting out evil became routine parts of my life. Any negative occurrence was automatically assigned to Satan. My sister and I suffered from genetic sleep disorders, a topic I’ll blog about later this year. For over thirty years, we were told our vivid nightmares and sleep induced hallucinations were direct attacks from demons. Pastors came to every single house we lived in, casting out spirits and anointing our doorways with oils. Imagine being five years old, sharing nightmares with a parent, and being told demonic forces lived inside your closet. That was my reality. It set the precedent for my entire emotional construct, leading to widespread, irrational panic.

Fear ruled my life for a very long time. Even years after we found a new church, anxiety stayed with me. I spent nearly three decades afraid of the devil, but didn’t dare admit it. I was supposed to be gaining the gifts of spiritual enlightening; visions and languages meant to be holy. In order to stay in my mother’s good graces, I fabricated faith and told at least a dozen lies. I was further confused by the sins of the adults supposed to instruct me religiously. Justifications were always in place for their abhorrent lifestyles. Being expected to show them respect when no respect was given slowly made me angry and rebellious towards authority.

By my senior year in high school, my life was a disaster. I was living in a broken home, and a product of every conceivable form of abuse. I was extremely suicidal, engaging in self harm, and dealing with crippling bouts of anxiety. I was emotionally stunted, unable to handle rejection, and couldn’t cope with normal stressors all my peers were handling. These issues stayed with me through college, growing in severity and ruining so much.

I was circling the drain, and told I could be saved through prayer. I was encouraged to pray harder, get more involved with the church, go to healing services, rebuild a holy life. For several years, I found myself inside a state of limbo. I didn’t want to die, but couldn’t fathom living ruled by such intense trepidation for the rest of my time on the planet. To make things even worse, my fears were compounded by physical illnesses no one knew I had.

I needed treatments well beyond my spiritual control, but wasn’t taught to put my trust in tangible solutions. When nothing got better, I only blamed myself. More often than not, I went to bed not knowing how I’d get through one more day. All I did when not at work was cry and pray for peace. Most of my friends were securing their dream jobs. Some were getting married, having kids, and more. All I wanted, all I craved, was strength that surpassed understanding and peace that could not be explained. I read religious teachings, found another congregation, took all the classes, tried to believe. Things kept getting worse for me until I chose another path.

I know many people possess steadfast faith, and I’d never attempt to discount that. I also know many believe in the theory that God helps those who help themselves. It’s been difficult for me to see the logic outlining God’s duties. Within my old religion, good news and positive outcomes were credited to God. If you recovered from an illness, found professional success, learned the keys to happiness, achieved the impossible, accomplished the improbable, so forth and so on? All of those things were supposedly granted by heavenly divinities. Negative outcomes, however – premature death, incurable illness, abuse, loss of income, and more – were blamed on sin, or said to teach a lesson we may never understand.

Once I met my (now) spouse, he slowly started challenging concepts I was taught to trust. I realized my primary issue with my own religious rhetoric stemmed from beliefs of omnipotent powers holding all the cards. If there was one creator, and he knew how we’d end up before we were born, how were we calling our outcomes free will? Our free will supposedly had no restriction, other than damnation if we chose not to follow the one “true” religion. To me, it just didn’t (still doesn’t) make sense. With over four thousand religions worldwide, it simply seems improbable for all but one group of believers to find themselves in hell.

By nature, I’m overly cautious about denouncing anything. That cautiousness includes religions. After all, I haven’t died, so how else would I know? Faith is only fact to those who have it and trust it inherently. To anyone else, it’s opinion. I often used to wonder why I had to make a choice from speculations. After I researched the bulk of my personal convictions, I came to a freeing conclusion: I had zero obligation to choose anything, including a concrete commitment to one belief. Under Agnosticism, I’m able to author my own beliefs and morals, without the fear of condemnation. I can be my own spiritual guide, without the fear of punishment from any superior being. It’s alright to lean towards my own probabilities, while admitting possibility in absolutely everything.

The bullet points below reflect my personal beliefs and aren’t necessarily held by every Agnostic believer. Agnosticism doesn’t choose one universal truth, but acknowledges plausible truth in all religious doctrines. What I’ve (more or less) adopted is as my spiritual truth:

  • There may be (or may not be) new life after death. Although I have my own ideas, I won’t be sure until I pass, and that’s completely fine.
  • I acknowledge my thoughts about life after could very well be wrong, but don’t believe I have to choose one universal truth in order to get into heaven.
  • I wholeheartedly believe being a good person and making the most of our time here IS enough to save me, if another life awaits.
  • In terms of good and evil, I believe most things are relative. An exception = altering another person’s life in any way that interferes with basic human rights. I believe doing so should have earthly consequences, but don’t believe it seals their fate, should new life begin after death.
  • I value life and advocate against suicide, mainly because I believe depression and trauma lie. Much like my statement above this, I don’t believe suicide seals someone’s fate.
  • I believe love is love – LGBTQ are all valid forms of love. I identify as a straight woman sexually, but it doesn’t mean I’m not attracted to females on a spiritual / emotional / physical level.
  • I don’t feel anyone needs to define themselves as any one thing; I believe they can redefine themselves whenever they see fit, and I believe no one else should judge that.
  • I don’t believe all women should be mothers, all people should get married, or all men should be breadwinners. Basically, any societal stigma causes me to cringe.
  • I don’t believe forgiveness is always warranted, or kindness is always deserved. Yet again, however, I don’t believe our fates are sealed if we do something deemed unforgiveable.
  • In order to get respect, I believe you need to give respect… regardless of age or relationship.
  • I embrace freedom of religion, including the belief in no religion, or all religions simultaneously.
  • I don’t believe in hell, and no longer follow organized religious practices.
  • I don’t view the bible as holy. I still find parts of it useful / therapeutic, but take very little as truth.
  • Most of my spiritual truths have been found in lyrics, poems, and nature.
  • I support anyone’s right to hold their own beliefs, unless those beliefs intrude on someone else’s right to do the same.
  • I recognize there are over 4,300 religions worldwide, and that any of them may have parts of truth or deception.
  • If I’m completely wrong, and it comes down to being allowed into heaven with one group of believers, or being cast out with the 4,299 other groups: I’m still okay with my beliefs. If you aren’t, I would rather not hear about it.
  • I don’t need to be pitied or converted in the name of salvation. I already feel I’ve been saved.

Summary: Identifying as Agnostic offers me peace I spent decades without, and allows me to be the best version of myself. I’ve studied and even followed other religions in the past; I was ruled by fear of everything. I grappled with dozens of teachings I felt were contradictory, ones described by someone else’s religious convictions. I’ve since learned to embrace the unknown, confident I won’t be punished in my open-mindedness. I don’t hope to convert you by sharing my beliefs. All I hope to do is spread more tolerance and love.

*Graphic taken from Pinterest – NOT the original work of the blog owner (me).

2020 Wrap Up: Unexpected Outcomes

A/N: The last few months have sped on by without enough updates / entries. Dubbing this my annual, obligatory post to wrap up the end of the year. I hope to bring you all more content; planning for weekly, but promising monthly.

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Having chronic illness in a world where most don’t pause to rest is often a point of dissension. In terms of professionalism, healthy people often have a hard time understanding the difference between can’t and won’t. Chronically ill individuals usually desire to work just as much as our counterparts. The problem is, our bodies won’t cooperate with will, or allow us to push past a redefined normal. Doing so has repercussions far beyond losses of revenue. 

Ignoring the signals we need to slow down can cause our flares to burn us out. Consequences may include our already subpar immune systems to weaken, or shut down completely. We become even further susceptible to germs or common illnesses, and recovery times are much longer than those who are normally well. Even chronic illnesses that don’t meet the criteria for autoimmune diagnoses increase the risk of winding up admitted to the hospital. 

As a result, we often spend most of the winter in states of hibernation. If we can avoid leaving home, we won’t leave. We limit social interaction, take extreme precautions to avoid those feeling ill, and try to combat loneliness with online interaction. We spend a lot of time exploring our options for making a lucrative income at home, and we don’t do so because we’re all lazy and want to stay in our pajamas. 

Contrary to many stigmas still in circulation: most who are chronically ill have inactive bodies, but proactive minds. We aren’t making excuses in order to get out of manual labor. We hate being slaves to our symptoms and wish we could keep stringent schedules. We often say no to demanding positions just so we aren’t disappointments. The list goes on and on. Sadly, until recently, most of our options were limited. 

Many of us have been forced to leave jobs that once were defined as the keys to our dreams. With the pandemic came unforeseen changes. It opened many doors we thought were closed to us forever. Now that isolation applies to an entire nation, simple (yet crucial) solutions were implemented. Once most livelihoods were stripped, and our entire planet felt the detrimental impact, higher ups finally jumped into action: businesses that used to cater only to those in an office expanded to online employment; professions dependent on social engagements found alternate ways to reach quotas; workarounds like zooms and streaming often proved invaluable. 

Yes, there are still those essential careers dependent on physical contact. Medical staff still head to work every day, selflessly putting their health on the line in order to heal others. Their bravery and dedication shouldn’t go unnoticed, and I’d never discount the essential professions by leaving them out of this post. Some critical skill sets can only be practiced in person, and reliability is key when choosing whom jobs with those skill sets employ. Life isn’t fair, and the chronically ill individual often couldn’t cut it as a medical employee. Some still do, and I’m in awe. But most of us can’t and chase alternate dreams. 

I’m grateful for the able-bodied people who still stay available, should my own worn body need their intervention. I’m also not professing that by any means, pandemics can be blessings or solutions. I’d never wish the loss of life, especially when those lost passed over without family to be there at the end. Finally, I recognize that many lost their jobs, and can’t use their skill sets online. I feel for them and truly hope a cure for COVID comes to light sooner than later.  

I simply want to also recognize the “something good” that came from something bad: global awareness for those out of work has led to remote opportunities in fields that were strongly opposed to them. In many situations, it’s increased the income of those who were working for peanuts because of their health. Even though it seems ironic, this new widespread illness gave old widespread illness some long overdue recognition. After 2020, the prospects for my future have increased by leaps and bounds. I can’t take that for granted, even though I wish those gains weren’t due to so much loss.

*Quote taken from Pinterest – NOT the original words of the blog owner (me).

Coveting Illusions

Sometimes it’s hard to be satisfied. Life can grow stagnant. Previous highs can become present lows. Decisions we once made with confidence can turn into choices we’ve come to regret. Jobs that once carried excitement can gradually bore us to tears. Previous traumas can turn into crutches. Misdirected energy can leave us drained and unfulfilled. Realities we can’t control often fall short of the dreams we expected.

At some point, we all have our seasons of sorrow. When we find ourselves lacking or struggling, the lives of the people around us can tend to appear more attractive. It’s hard to ignore, thanks to modern technology showing us constant reminders. The internet gives us small, virtual glimpses into vastly different lifestyles, many of which seem alluring and leave us desiring things we don’t have.

Most of us are well equipped with personal examples where covetous behavior detracted from our joy. We’ve seen others thriving and craved their attention. We’ve longed for their radiant beauty. We’ve wanted to possess their talents. We’ve prayed to be just as revered.

Sometimes, our envious feelings are fleeting. They transition with the next life season, or lessen with self exploration. Other times, however, they can dominate our focus. We fixate on a public piece of someone else’s puzzle, convincing ourselves we can see the whole picture. We scroll our devices for hours, lusting for so called luxurious lives. We disregard the sweat and tears our idols shed behind the scenes. We overlook the places where industrial greed trumps their personal needs.

We fail to acknowledge all parts of an upper-class package, only unwrapping the parts that appeal. Or, when we read of their struggles and heartaches, we use their darkest moments as a form of entertainment. We do we read about grave indiscretions, and still choose to view them through rose colored glasses? We don’t see the depths of their severed relationships. We only see famous acquaintances.

We view their professional photos and covet the bodies that scream of perfection. We don’t feel their lingering loneliness after the photo shoots end, and they crawl into bed states away from their loved ones. We put half truths on pedestals, blindly desiring lies. We waste our time grieving the things we don’t have and hating the things that we do, forgetting we used to be desperate to have what we now find mundane. We base our successes on salaries, convincing ourselves there’s a pricetag on happiness. We fail to remember what money can’t buy, such as genuine connections and being transformed by life’s simplistic beauty.

If infamy defines an idealistic way of life, why are so many celebrities still penning words of sadness? Why are they subject to breakups and breakdowns? Why do the stars in a super fan’s figurative sky often feel so hopeless they decide end their lives? It all boils down to the human condition, which no one can escape.

Religious belifs set aside: life is a game many master, but death is the level nobody can beat. We all have a different sized hourglass, unable to be slowed or flipped. We can’t go back and do things over. All attributes, earned or inherent, are finite for all individuals. Lucrative trades aren’t forever. Trending talents change, as do societal interests. No one is immune to setbacks, pain, or disappointment. Fame often expires, and leaves insurmountable voids. Every single body ages. Every single soul departs.

We all have aesthetics to gift to the world, gifts that mark our places when our mortal journies end. We shouldn’t take any acheivements for granted. It’s natural to wish for more. It’s always good to strive for better. Yet we have to be sure we distinguish between perceptions and gross misconceptions, rather than idolize scripted illusions. We should strive to fulfill our ambitions, but keep in mind we once had less, while working towards our something more.

Embracing the ebb and flow of existence means accepting the blessings and droughts in our stories. Nothing worth having is free. Everything obtained equates to losing out on something else. Every commitment has downsides. No one has it all. Some of us simply have access to publicists, and get to showcase smudge free snapshots. Trust me when I tell you that we all have blurry negatives, even if nobody prints out the evidence. Everyone, even the ones we admire, wish they had something they’re doing without.

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*Quote taken from Pinterest – NOT the original words of the blog owner (me).

Diplomatic Disagreements

A/N: This is a difficult entry to write, as it forces an honest examination of my past online behaviors. In terms of online arguments, I’m nowhere near exempt or blameless.  I’ve learned valuable lessons by making mistakes, and strive to bring them to light as reminders for myself, just as much as for my readers. Please keep in mind this is only one perspective, and I’m not sharing to dissuade anyone else from holding their own.

I take part in many online forums, one of which encourages anonymous questions and answers. Since the forum focuses on women’s health and wellness, many posts revolve around a female’s sexuality. I found the premise positive, even educational. Instead, when I read through the comments, I was saddened to see many women putting others down for their lifestyle choices. In a place where I expected to see words of solidarity, I saw a lot of shaming.

As a female who has gone through the ringer in terms of abuse, I feel passionate about embracing body positivity. I don’t agree with shaming women who vocalize sexual preferences. I believe self exploration can lead to a sense of control and empowerment. I stand behind women who are able to find sexual gratification outside of a partner, just as I stand behind women who choose not to.

Sadly, I was raised in a religion where questions about sex and reproduction were labeled sinful and unpure. Sex was used for procreation, after one was married. It was hailed as something sacred, to be enjoyed by only a small demographic of people. Otherwise, it was inappropriate or promiscuous. Those beliefs, like many others, were detrimental to my personal recovery from sexual abuse. I learned things not from parents, but from peers and online research.

Since modern societal practices seem far more inclusive and open, I was shocked to see so many women still putting sex in a box. In terms of female roles within an intimate relationship, many seem to still believe in patriarchal notions. Watching those thought patterns spill over as advice for young women with questions, I found it only natural to set the record straight. I was proud of myself for speaking up against counterproductive or negative sex talk. The problem? In my quest to liberate others from what I deemed oppressive, I wound up leaving condescending words for those who saw things differently. It took another woman to remind me I could disagree without the daggers.

After the brief argument, I thought about other occasions where my passionate responses were poorly delivered, or altogether misdirected. I’ve had countless past skirmishes where defending my opinion ended with insults. Yet there’s a lot to be said about differing experiences. They often shape moral convictions and lay the foundation for a person’s belief system. If everyone accepted multiple approaches to controversial issues, social media would likely be far less divisive. I compiled four reminders to benefit my future interactions. They won’t apply to everything, and some may feel they don’t apply to anything at all. Have at them and do what you wish. I wrote them for personal accountability, even though I’ve chosen to share my thoughts with others.

~ An individual’s truth doesn’t always equate to a universal truth. Many times a person’s past has shaped their current viewpoints. Detriments and benefits are relative, based on one’s personal experience.

~ Stay away from blanket statements. They rile people up. No one wants to feel judged or condemned about their personal decisions, regardless of validity. Although judgments shouldn’t matter, human nature wants acceptance. We all let words get to us, at one point or another. It’s important to clean our ears and close our mouths from time to time, figuratively speaking. It makes for diplomatic discussions, allowing both parties to grow from the experience. No one has to change beliefs to consider the beliefs of others.

~ Online conversations shouldn’t be driven by the lack of any consequences. What I mean by this is simple: if we wouldn’t be comfortable making the comment in a public place, we shouldn’t make the comment on a public forum. Online, it’s very easy to start a heated argument and leave it behind seconds later. Advances in technology have allowed us easy access to correspond with people all over the world, people we don’t know and probably won’t meet. We should always consider the leverage of our words. What could they do to someone already depressed, overly anxious, or having a difficult time?

~ Thoughts can get lost in translation. Not everyone is a writer. Not everyone speaks the same native language. People often have bad days. Certain topics may trigger anxieties. No one is perfect, or kind all the time. All that to drive home a point: one comment or internet post should not be used to judge the entirety of someone’s character. Certain things should not be tolerated, most would agree to that much. Yet it’s crucial to refrain from preemptively (and publicly) trashing someone’s reputation, based on remarks that may not have been received as the other intended.

One of my favorite quotes: be the diplomat, not the doormat of your life. I’m not advising anyone should stay silent just to keep the peace, or be a doormat in toxic situations. However, no one likes a keyboard warrior We should always consider the weight of our words, and whether letting them fly from our fingertips will do any good in the broad scheme of things. I’ll leave off here for now, but plan on delving deeper into some of these points when I blog about celebrities and trending societal topics.

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*Quote taken from Pinterest – NOT the original words of the blog owner (me).

Year 37: Beginning With Reflection

I haven’t blogged in the last few weeks. July has been insane. I lost my grandmother, cut ties with some family members, and was cut out by other family members. Then of course my health, and the current health concerns of seemingly every person in the world, were always vying for attention I was meant to give to writing.

Luckily, not everything was negative. Some of the chaos brought comforts I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten. My sister was able to stay with me for a few days. She’s one of the only people I’ve had human contact with since the pandemic began, and also one of the only people who fully understands the extent of our family toxicity.  I’m sure most of these topics will make an appearance in future blog entries. For now though, they’ll serve as memory markers, outlines to be colored in another day. 

Today was my birthday. Not to make my words poetic, but in general, this year has been a hellish heaven. I’ve been hard on myself, proud of myself, and scared for myself. There were times full of darkness, as well as times of perfect clarity. I’ve watched my illness – and my confidence – ebb and flow like never before. I’ve had tiring days, boring days, and even a few exceptionally good days. For the most part, I’ve managed to push through regardless of circumstance. I’ve made significant progress on my hobby fiction, as well as my poetry. Sadly, I’ve also had occasions where my problems seemed unbeatable.

Those weren’t merely the days where nothing productive got done. They were the days where I stuttered when trying to speak, and couldn’t write coherently to save my life. They were the days where my pain made me physically ill, knocked me off my feet, and left me wondering how much longer I’d even be around for. Days where it felt like I blinked, and lost a full ten to twelve hours. Days where I struggled to see any purpose, and felt absolutely worthless. Again, my chronic Lyme disease is a subject I’ll speak about at length, throughout my blog. It’s just not the focus of this post. 

I’ve learned some valuable lessons the last 365 days. Isolation has brought with it the impact of loneliness, but also an overwhelming amount of love. When push came to shove, those who stuck around were the ones who truly wanted to be there. Social situations and mandatory functions weren’t part of what prompted them to carve time out for conversations. They had to make me, a physically invisible comrade, a priority. Amidst all the demanding situations in front of their faces on any given day, they had to choose our relationship as something worthy of remembrance.

If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t have high expectations for people, once this pandemic hit full lockdown status. In a sense, my life has been isolated for years. I’m vocal on social media, but mainly out of necessity. My daily, face to face interactions are usually limited to my spouse and our fur children. I’ve managed to build strong virtual networks, but mostly with those who were chronically ill. I’ve also lost many who saw my illness as a burden, or didn’t believe me at all. I learned to value those who stuck around, but I fully admit I didn’t anticipate any further infiltratation of my inner circle. I expected lots to reiterate how lucky I was to be sick: to always work from home, and only if I “chose” to.

Ironically, this global virus has primarily shown me the opposite. Many healthy friends have realized, to some extent, the challenges attached to chronic illness. Sure, celebrities speaking up about their own battles with Lyme and coinfections have made a huge difference. Yet now more than ever, people who are used to always being on the go have experienced what it means to be confined to one’s home. Their responsibilities and demands haven’t lessened. Rather, the stress about not getting them done has increased. The time off they’d always complained of not having hasn’t been enjoyable. Friends who used to get breaks at their offices now have to juggle being around multiple family members, during every waking moment. Many of their tribes and their support systems have dwindled, now that every household has to keep respectful distances.

Over the last few months, I’ve made an amazing discovery. It’s one I’ve understood for ages, but never personally witnessed (or thought I ever would): People don’t get it, until they get it. Unfortunately, this pandemic has forced everyone to accept their limitations. Some will be forever scarred by this time. They’ll lose family and friends to the virus, or become very ill themselves. Some will lose, or have lost, people and things already. A lot of the lost things will be new experiences for them.

The list, though not limited to these, will include financial stability and a sense of security. During these difficult circumstances, I expected to hear even less from my normally functional friends. Instead, many have fully surprised me. Women have been thinking of me more than ever. They’ve reached out to check on me, as well as apologize for not understanding before this.

I have so many fierce lady friendships right now, some of which I never expected to be blessed with. My faith in humanity & empathy has been restored. Some of these ladies have taught me the power of forgiveness. Some have extended me grace. Some have been my strength when my own wavered. Some have finally recognized my strength. This past birthday, I have never been so validated or supported, when it comes to my passions and career goals. Every single person who gave me a physical present centered it around my love of writing. So much love was poured into each and every sentiment. Equally as many friends, both male and female, sent me virtual support and love.

I’ve learned just how easily friends turn into family. Some of my closest friends come from different ages and life stages. Some showed up in very unexpected faces, and very unexpected places (globally). Yes – some have decided to walk away, and close the door on our relationship. I now understand that’s just life, though. I can’t fault them for their journey, or the feelings attached to their decisions.

I’m sure most have heard this before, but I’ll say it again for some emphasis: people will enter ours lives for a season, a reason, or a lifetime. For me, a few of those seasonal friendships have ended this summer. Some of the reasons are evident, while some I’m not sure if I’ll ever fully understand. My life will proceed with their leaves missing from my branches. For awhile, I’ll feel the chill of their departure, as I hold myself a little tighter. My tree will not be barren, though. The empty spaces will fill once again, bringing a thaw, and new warmth.

 I will no longer blame myself for anyone’s choices, even if they seem to make no sense. I will no longer let what’s best for someone else make me into a worse human. I am strong. I am loved. I have people who believe in me, simply because they believe in me. I’ve never lost anyone without learning a valuable lesson, and those I’ve gained replaced in me some things I thought were lost forever.

 Thank you to everyone who has kept me humble, as well as everyone who has built me up. In a round about way 2020 HAS given me perfect vision… even if I was initially blind to it!

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*Quote taken from Pinterest – NOT the original words of the blog owner (me).

My 2020 “Sunscreen” Speech: Advice For Younger Me

When I was a junior in high school, a song by Baz Luhrmann was trending. “Everybody’s Free” was written to resemble a graduation speech. The premise was as follows: the speaker gave advice to the graduating class of 1999, most of which he claimed had “no basis more reliable than (his) own meandering experience.” The one piece of advice he claimed was proven fact? The importance of wearing sunscreen.

Given that this year has been anything but ordinary for graduating classes everywhere, I found myself thinking about what I would say to those graduating in 2020. Consider this list some tid bits of acquired wisdom, the guidance I wish I’d received when receiving my diploma. Similarly, it has no substantiated truth outside of my own experiences. Yet I offer it, in all its glory, to take or leave as the reader sees fit.

~ The simplest, but most poignant advice I wish I had gotten while younger: when something hard / negative / horrible happens to you, do something fun / positive / wonderful for yourself. Don’t add to the detrimental impact by reacting with self destructive behaviors. In other words, don’t punish / poison your body / mind, in response to a pain / trauma you aren’t responsible for causing.

~ If you do happen to experience pain / trauma as the result of a personal mistake: heed the lesson being taught. Don’t let the hurt form bad habits. Grow from your missteps, then continue moving forward.

~ You deserve happiness, unconditional love, reciprocal relationships, and mutual respect. Don’t waste precious time on anything / anyone who gives you less than the things you deserve.

~ Prioritize self love, before every other love. You cannot strive to live your life entirely for someone else. This doesn’t mean you’re selfish. It simply means you’re building strength that circumstance can’t take away. Parents may think this advice is unfounded, as I don’t have any children. To clarify what I’m addressing: nothing (and no one) we’ve been given is ever guaranteed. The ones you love could decide that they hate you, or could hurt you irrevocably. They could suddenly leave you, or they could pass away unexpectedly. Bottom line: you need to be able to stand alone, and on your own, if necessary.

~ Not everyone is going to like you. It doesn’t mean you need to change. Stay true to your moral construct. Don’t become a person you dislike, so that others will accept you.

~ Don’t dismiss the ones who loved you at your worst, during times you feel your best. Those who were there for you when you were at rock bottom are the ones who helped you climb back out. Don’t forget them. Don’t replace them. Repay them. Be there for them, too.

~ Life does not owe you anything. Don’t let your circumstances curb your potential. Someone will always have it easier. Someone will always have it worse. Take what you don’t have, and use it as a motivator. Don’t let it be a crutch.

~ Always consider your future.  Every important decision you make, from adolescence on, will contribute in some way to it. Weigh the pros and cons of all potentially impacting choices. Don’t make decisions impulsively. This applies to finances, friendships, lovers, career choices, self care, sobriety… absolutely everything.

~ It’s okay to question. It’s okay to experiment. It’s okay to find your own truths. All parents are fallible. None are omnipotent. You don’t have to believe everything you were taught. You don’t have to adopt someone else’s ideals. You don’t have to follow their footsteps. It doesn’t mean you’re sinning / rebelling / disrespectful, if you choose a different path.

~ Don’t take your health for granted. It can change in the blink of an eye. Not everyone has until old age sets in, to live their best lives. Sometimes physical limitations start years before they should. Sometimes illnesses happen, and never go away. Cherish every day that you feel well. A rule of thumb to go by: Appreciate your abilities. Don’t waste your agility. Don’t keep postponing professional ventures. Go on an abundance of adventures. Don’t always wait til the time’s right. You may run out of time altogether.

~ You are never stuck. Don’t become complacent. Don’t take up permanent residence in places / people that rot your potential. If you don’t like yourself, work to improve yourself. If you’re in an unfixable relationship, leave it. If you truly hate your job, find a new career. If you need a fresh start to put back missing pieces, move wherever is needed to find them. You’ll never improve on a bad situation without making the necessary changes. It may be hard to change your life, but barely surviving is so much worse than pushing through and thriving.

~ When it comes to life, loss is the single most important thing to keep in mind. It helps you love harder, live wiser, and appreciate each moment. Death is unavoidable. Grow from your grief, and walk with your loved one(s) in spirit. Carry the reason you loved them inside you. Let them continue to live through your laughter. Those who are gone never leave us, if we don’t allow them to be forgotten.

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*Quote taken from Pinterest – NOT the original words of the blog owner (me).

Corona With Lyme

A/N: I debated writing this blog entry. I wasn’t going to follow through with it. I told myself that calling attention to it was inviting in the negativity, and or controversy, that chronic Lyme disease is already inundated with. I’m still internally battling with myself, even as I’m writing this note. But fuck it. I feel the message is important.

My goal for the blog was (and still is) to share varied first hand experiences, in hopes that others facing similar circumstances feel supported. Chronic Lyme does not define me, but it is a part of my identity. So here are my thoughts, along with some basic information on Chronic Lyme. Accepting them as fact or fiction is up to the reader, but as for me (the author) this is my truth.

I’m going to try and keep it short, and will list a few resources at the end. For nonbelievers, I’m not trying to sway you. Take or leave the information. I still feel led to share. 

Talk of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has taken over most of my social media platforms. Given the school closures, town quarantines, event cancellations, and overall economic impact that most of the world is currently facing from it, I can’t say I’m surprised. That being said, I’m also not planning to dissect the specifics of it, or delve into statistics. I simply want to provide some correlations between COVID-19 and Chronic Lyme, and offer a perspective that those unaffected by Chronic Lyme may not have considered before.

Let’s start with the obvious. I think it’s safe to say many are in panic mode, when it comes to the spread of Coronavirus. Rather than stocking up on essentials for the next two to four weeks, people are stockpiling enough food and supplies to last them for the rest of the year, and then some. Preparation has seemingly turned into panic. Those unable to scour their cities for necessities, such as the elderly and the disabled, are bearing the brunt of the consequences.

I’m choosing my words carefully, for multiple reasons. First: I don’t want to downplay the circumstances, especially for those who have lost loved ones, or those who are currently infected. Second: I have no way of predicting the future, and or assuming that I know the outcome, when it comes to the impact COVID-19 has on us. Third: I have no right to tell anyone else what they should or shouldn’t feel. People are scared, and it is not my place to invalidate their fears, regardless of whether I share them or not. Despite all of that, I feel it’s important to point something out.

Overpreparation has contributed to cleaning out stores, as massive bulk shopping trips leave slim pickings for those who live paycheck to paycheck. Many seem on the verge of hysteria, and are unknowingly spreading information from unreliable sources. As a chronically ill individual, what’s even more notable to me is the fact that many consumed by Corona concerns are the same individuals who roll their eyes about chronic Lyme disease, doubt its validity, and claim those infected are hypochondriacs. Here are some things that they either choose to ignore, and or may not even be aware of:

Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious bacterial disease in the USA. There are over 100 strains here, and 300 strains worldwide. The Lyme Disease Association estimates 400,000 new cases each year. As many as 36% of those cases are estimated to become chronic. That equates to 144,000 people a year.

The bacteria responsible for Lyme disease is called Borrelia Burgdorferi. The parasites that come from it are shapeshifters, and routinely transition from cell form, to corkscew form. In spirochete (or corkscrew) form, they are burrowers. They shed their cell walls, and can literally bore through human tissue and bone, in order to hide from treatment.  As time goes on, the result is a lingering infection, one that the body is unable to remove, and eventually begins to regard as normal. In simple terms: the parasites assimilate into their surroundings by process of resistance. Once they are no longer threatened, they resume cell form, and continue replicating. Detoxing seemingly becomes futile, as total elimination is not currently possible to achieve. 

The universal treatment protocol for Lyme – 30 days of an antibiotic called Doxycycline – is most effective for those who receive it during the first 6 months of infection. Those who are treated anywhere from 6 months to 3 years after initial infection often experience residual side effects. Those who are treated 3+ years past initial infection do not typically achieve full remission. Many who believed they were cured reported the return of their symptoms, further down the line. 

How can one contract Lyme? It can be transmitted through mosquitoes, mites, and spiders, as well as deer ticks. While you can’t catch it from being sneezed on or coughed on, there is evidence to support that it is spreadable via unprotected sex with an infected person. There is also evidence to support that it can be passed to an infant, via the birth canal. There are entire families who are infected, from newborn to grandparent.

What are the symptoms of Lyme? The list is extensive. For the purpose of brevity, I’m just going to list some of the more common symptoms, as they pertain to Chronic Lyme patients: severe headaches, neck stiffness, severe fatigue, intermittent pain in muscles and joints, heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, and short term memory loss. 

Why am I sharing this? Lyme disease, like Coronavirus, is an epidemic. Some experts go as far to call Lyme disease a pandemic. Countries all over the world are affected. To sum up some points I’ve already made above: it carries multiple co-infections. It is resistant to antibiotics. There is a specific time window to receive treatment, before it becomes chronic. It can affect every single organ, and often leads to a lifetimes of debilitating symptoms.

To take it one step further: since Chronic Lyme is not recognized as a separate disease, we don’t have an accurate depiction of how many cases become lethal. I would assume this is why people are less apt to take the dangers of it seriously, and become educated on transmission. Nonethless, it can be lethal, especially if it develops into secondary conditions, like Lyme carditis.

Many of us with Chronic Lyme – who are among those most affected by Coronavirus, because of our weakened immune systems – are being cynical about the current hysteria for a reason. We’ve lived a similar nightmare daily, for decades. Many of us got sick simply by participating in daily activities. I was bitten while at work, as a camp counselor, when I was only 19. Since that time, I’ve had to cope with the resulting illness.

Yet no one is shutting down society over tick concerns. Most of us haven’t been able to work outside the home for years, but we can’t file for unemployment, or even get disability. The treatments offered to us are mostly ineffective. We are forced to keep up with societal demands, despite being gravely ill 19-20 days a month (average). Some deal with even less than 10 “decent” days a month. My average is 2-4.

Worst of all: when we have debilitating flares, that often last months at a time, we are turned away from treatment at most hospitals and doctor offices. When we do choose to seek treatment, it is usually per symptom, and costs several hundred dollars at a time. We often have to travel out of state, sometimes out of the country. And none of it is covered by insurance. 

In summation, I’m not faulting anyone for taking precautions with Coronavirus. I’m also not faulting anyone for being anxious about the impact it will have on our lives. Something to keep in mind, however: there are other prevalent illnesses – like Chronic Lyme – that are spread just as easily as Coronavirus, yet are discounted entirely. They exist year round, and have for decades. Their prevalence is growing, but acknowledgment is staying the same. For those of us who have to live that reality already, the thing most surprising right now is how society is reacting so strongly to one, but not nearly enough to the other.

Sources for those interested: http://lymestats.org/ or try lymedisease.org

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*Quote taken from Pinterest – NOT the original words of the blog owner (me).

The Pursuit of Our Passions

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a passion for writing. When I was in kindergarten, I created a classroom newspaper. It may have been made from construction paper, and written in crayon, but I was pretty impressed with myself. I made a new edition every single week, regardless of the fact that none of my classmates were interested in helping me.

My own interests extended beyond the classroom, even as young as I was. When not at school, my favorite place to go was the town library. I spent a lot of my nights reading. I would lose myself inside of the stories, long after I’d turned the last page, and had been told to turn out the lights. I would often continue the story well beyond the author’s intentions, writing additional scenes and chapters to feed my hunger for more.

In the 5th grade, I was assigned a paper on a recent field trip. It was supposed to include the facts we’d learned, while visiting various historical landmarks. My report covered the requirements of the assignment, but also incorporated fictional elements. I wrote my entire class into the story, creating adventures and mischief that I imagined each personality capable of. This time, my teacher was the one left impressed. He was the first person to believe in my potential as a writer, and encourage me to continue pursuing my talents. His support gave me the courage needed to go public with future assignments, several years later.

When I started high school, I entered a writing contest that was advertised in our monthly newsletter. The qualifying subject matter was open ended, allowing participants to follow their own creative direction. I chose to write a fictional story, based on a historically significant time period. When I handed the finished product to my mother, she was disappointed with the outcome. She felt that my choice of topic was cliche, and that I’d rushed the writing process. I stood by my convictions, however, and ended up placing first for my age group. I was invited to read my story at an awards ceremony, and also given money towards my education. Winning that contest is what prompted my hunger for competing.

At the end of the 9th grade, I fell in love with poetry. Calling it a pastime would be an understatement. I filled notebook after notebook with each emotion I experienced, mostly using traditional rhyme schemes to compile my thoughts. I joined every poetry class that my curriculum offered, and continued to pursue the genre during college. As I moved on from beginner courses, and found myself in more advanced small groups, I was introduced to many different poetic styles.

No matter the thematic focus, one opinion seemed to be universally accepted as accurate among my peers: poems that stuck to rhyme schemes were generally viewed as sophomoric, whereas free verse was admired. To my benefit, my professors didn’t seem to share the same opinions, and still recognized my writing as strong. I did, however, begin to get a complex. In order to appeal to the masses, I abandoned my own writing convictions, and attempted to convert my style from lyrical to free verse. It just wasn’t something I could commit to.

When I graduated college, I had a Bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in creative writing. Due to various hardships in my personal life, I hadn’t focused much on a graduation plan. In fact, it had taken all I had to even get my diploma. Although I took notes for a student with learning disabilities, and often helped my peers with their papers, the resume boosters stopped short. Any projects aimed at assisting in the acquisition of an actual career fell by the wayside. Needless to say, without internships and shadowing sessions, I had a difficult time securing any sort of position within my chosen profession.

I was left wondering what to do with the rest of my life, but had little leeway in terms of financial flexibility. When thinking about career opportunities, it was never my intention to teach, or to edit. All I wanted to do was write what I knew; to share relateable content, about topics of interest. When I found myself in desk job after desk job, forced to put a salary above any professional satisfaction, I began to lose sight of my dreams.

It never dawned on me that writing afforded a huge advantage over other career options. Freelance opportunities were almost always available, even if the pay wasn’t always ideal. For years, however, I didn’t pursue any of those avenues. Again, I listened to the masses. I heard their words of “wisdom” in the back of my mind, as I got up daily, and made my way to jobs that I loathed: the paycheck makes the pain worthwhile; you can still pursue your passions as a hobby; no one actually likes their job; everyone has to grow up sometime. I quietly continued writing in the background, strengthening my craft to the best of my ability. As far as still believing in my potential, it was limited to my confidence that I could successfully compile an interoffice email.

In my free time, I continued cultivating my poetry skills. I became enchanted with the musical aspect of writing. The ability to produce deep lyrical content was something I held in the highest regard. I began focusing on lyrical poetry, switching from exact rhyming to implied rhyme schemes. I was thrilled that my proclivity towards poetic flow  had (potentially) found it’s place. I entered as many critiquing contests as possible, and found that fellow writers were still divided about my style. Some commended my commitment to the near rhyme scheme, while others urged me to try penning something completely freeform. I attempted to follow their advice, but it simply wasn’t my forte. The only time I felt the truly satisfying rush of accomplishment was when I produced lyrical results.

At the end of 2015, all of my professional aspirations came to a standstill. My health, which had been steadily declining for a number of years, was completely in the trenches. I had finally left my stressful office job the year prior, and was doing something that I loved almost as much as writing: working with children. Unfortunately, the ability to work outside of the home, even part time, was becoming increasingly challenging. Luckily for me, I was finally in a position that allowed me to prioritize self care over a salary.

For the first time, I was in a healthy romantic relationship. My spouse fully understood, and supported, the decision to make my health a top priority. He took over most of our financial burdens, as I pursued the cause of my ailments. A year later, I received my chronic lyme diagnosis. For awhile, it seemed that my future was pointless. I entered a period of mourning, and gave up on the idea that I would ever be able to lead a meaningful existence.

It didn’t help that I allowed myself to get caught up in the comparison conundrum. I was in my thirties at this point, and had nothing to show for it career wise. Other people my age were already well established at their places of employment; some of them had been for decades. I felt absolutely useless, and embarrassed about my lack of professional accolades.

I distinctly remember coming across the name of a former friend, who had recently been interviewed in a running magazine. As teenagers, we had similar goals for our futures. We both wanted to model, and to write. Running had always been an additional passion of hers, and she had fully pursued it. She was not only repped by an athletic company, but was a model and spokesperson for their brand. She was also a published author, with multiple articles under her belt. She qualified for the Boston marathon that year, was recently married, and had even managed to become a mother.

As for myself, I had been through one traumatic event after another, since we’d parted ways: My already dysfunctional family unit had fallen apart; I essentially became the caregiver for one of my parents; I continued growing sicker after my tick bite; I was misdiagnosed, and mistreated, by medical professionals for years; I was in a very toxic and emotionally abusive relationship; my finances were in the toilet, due to medical expenses and dead end jobs; I finally married a great guy, but we were unable to conceive; my body was literally failing me, and no one could figure out why.

For the next few years, I let bitterness set in. I lashed out about my less than ideal life. I gave up on my goals, all of which seemed impossible, from the very narrow viewpoint of my bed. I refused to acknowledge that finding fulflillment was still possible, if I reworked what it meant to pursue my passions. I wasn’t able to see beyond societal definitions of success, which my blog readers will (undoubtedly) hear me write a lot about in my future posts. In fact, this is my second post that mentions it!

I began to self sabotage. Eventually, people grew weary of my negativity. Most of my remaining friendships began to fill with unsupportive toxicity, either theirs or my own. I had a hard time being confined to my house most days, viewing it as a death sentence. Out of boredom, as well as desperation for human interaction, I took to spending a lot of time on social media. It turns out that I greatly underestimated the power of the internet, and also learned some transformational truths about my own abilities.

First, I discovered that I still had the ability to reach others, by sharing relatable content on my social media platforms. In fact, being online awarded me an even greater advantage than my nine to five profession had. I realized that although I knew a surprising number of people, I didn’t actually know them on a personal level. Many were also struggling, behind the scenes. They divulged that they often kept quiet about their need for support, due to the stigmas within their social circles. In response, I decided to start several health related Facebook groups, where others could share freely and without judgment. I started making a difference in the lives of people who felt powerless, giving them an avenue to collectively voice their hardships. By being candid about my own weaknesses, I ultimately came to view them as strengths.

Second, I became privy to the wonderful world of Twitter. Although my latent use of the platform has been limited to a couple of months, it has already become one of the most powerful assets I’ve stumbled across. The abundance of writing resources, as well as other writers, that I’m now able to access at any time of day, has been instrumental in reigniting my passion for all of the arts. The renewal of hope, when it comes to my professional potential, has exceeded my wildest expectations. It has also opened my eyes to more opportunities than I ever realized existed.

I’m once again working on my poetry, and now have a poetry book in progress. I’ve also begun to branch out into other literary genres. I’ve taken my relateable rambles off of Facebook, and started blogging. I’ve also fallen in love with hobby fiction, and have my first solid idea for a novel in the works. I have access to beta readers, grammar resources, and constructive criticsm as often as I need it. I’m more productive than I’ve ever been, in terms of my writing goals. And I’ve done all of it from home, often on days when my health has been horrible!

I guess the point that I really wanted to drive home with this blog post is as follows: the pursuit of our passions is always within the realm of possibility. If you’ve let your own slip through the cracks, or put them on hold, or decided they aren’t currently a priority, there’s no judgment from this gal! I’m truly empathetic towards anyone who feels a void in that department, and want to encourage those who may have decided to accept that it will never be filled. No one is ever too old, ill, or damaged to go after their goals. No one is too obscure, unskilled, or uneducated. Likewise, no one is too busy, boring, or broke. If your vision has to be readjusted, or your path slightly altered, so be it! Start where you are, do what you can, and utilize whatever resources you have easily available.

If I’m able to revive the dreams I once believed to be dead, I truly believe anyone can. I may be the product of multiple types of abuse, which spanned multiple decades of my life. I may have three incurable illnesses. I may never be a mother, in the traditional sense of the word. I may never be able to return to “regular” routines or schedules. I may never be repped by a publisher, or start my own greeting card line, or hear one of my songs on the radio. My name may never be synonomous with fortune, or fame. All of that aside, at least I can always say that when push came to shove, I still made it.

I can still pen relateable reads for my followers. I can write lyrical content, expand on my poetry book, self publish my novel, and sell greeting cards on Etsy. I can actively engage with others every single day, despite having zero ability to leave my house on most of those days. I have a long road ahead of me, in order to reach the goals I’ve reworked for myself. Yet for the first time in ages, I’m able to see past a dead end.

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*Quote taken from Pinterest. NOT the original words of the blog owner (me).