On being Erin

Some of you know that I have had some trouble with my arm over the past year and a half, but what I may or may not have divulged is that it’s not just a little thing.

My entire left arm, which happens to be my dominant hand, is affected by what the doctors like to call an Ulnar Neuropathy. They call it that because they don’t know what else to call it. Through X-rays and MRIs, ultrasounds and nerve stimulation studies, they have come up empty handed as to why this is happening to me. I have tried more drugs than I can name, with side effects that have crippled my ability to function.
In the end, I have been left with severe chronic pain that affects my ability to be a mom, partner and human being. Pain that cannot be measured on a scale or quantified in medical imagery. Pain that isn’t good enough for the insurance companies, so I am forced to jump through endless hoops to “prove” that I am worthy of the benefits I am granted through my work, just to be able to pay my rent.
I share this with all of you, because in trying to live my daily life, I want people to know that just because I smile or go to choir or make a joke, that doesn’t mean that I am okay. Those things can be a wonderful distraction from the endless exhaustion, depression and pain that plague my every day. These things make me feel normal when few things these days do.
Least of which is being labelled as having a disability. The first time someone used that word with regard to me, I cried. And the next time, and the next. I was healthy and happy and had a wonderful career, and now I am here. I am 31 and have a disability that prevents me from working or from picking up my son. It means I take forever in the grocery store trying to not wince as I push the tiny grocery cart and use my other arm to pack the bags, while the people behind me sigh that I am taking too long. It means that I cant get my son to school on time, because I am literally exhausted just from getting out of bed and it takes me forever to help him put on his shoes or brush his teeth.
It sucks. There is no way around it, it just does. I have sugar coated it for a long time with people, because its uncomfortable divulging it all to people. I think they won’t believe me, tell me its all in my head, think I am weak or will just tell me that they are sure I’m fine and that it will just go away. Unless you have had a serious illness or long term condition, its hard to understand the level of impact that these things have on not just your body but on your mind.
I recently had a friend talk to me about her medical struggles on a deeper level than we had ever spoken on before, and she told me some things that have really affected me and the way that I am trying to live my life from now on.
She told me not to worry about what other people are thinking or saying. That the people that matter know the whole story, not the people at work, not the people at the grocery store. So if any of them have anything to say, let it go. 
Accept help. I literally cannot do it all anymore, and thats okay. There are people who love and support me and I need to say yes when they ask if they can help, or speak up when I need to get help. No one will think less of me for asking or saying yes. They want to help, I’m not a burden. 
Understand that this is my current situation and accept that, and live within that framework. That doesn’t mean that I can’t hope for better days or ever wish that things were different, but living in a world of endless hope and no reality just sets me up for a huge disappointment.
So this is me now, I am different then before, but still me.
(If you are still reading this and are wondering what to do from here, you can read this article. Its awesome.)
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Family Ties

When I asked for the separation, he wanted it over and done with right away. Over 7 months later, I finally moved into my own place. After the initial emotions were discharged, we came to terms with the fact that separating our home and lives was going to take time and that it was never going to be possible to not be in each others lives due to our son. So, we made the conscious decision to move forward as a team, as co-parents and as friends. I told him that no matter what, we had to put in the effort to either love each other or hate each other and so why not go with love? Its better for everyone and especially for our son.

THIS WAS NOT AN EASY ROAD!

It took a lot of patience and counseling and talking to get to where we are today. The place where we can talk and have lunch together, go to each others homes or see each others families and not have it be awkward or upsetting. But it has been so worth it. When you invest so much of yourself into a marriage, its devastating to think about having to give all of that up – the friends and family, the stability, the partnership and the memories. So we have elected to embrace them.

My new place has maternity photos and wedding photos adorning the walls. It has memories from our home and our times together. They are things that I will never give up thinking about and cherishing. They gave me a wonderful life and brought me my son, I don’t ever want to forget them or resent them. He has come over to help me with my computer and to share dinner as a family, he is a person that I can vent to about my noisy neighbours or to confide in when I am having a tough time with things. I can do this, because he is sharing in all of these changes with me, he is the other side of the equation and I don’t ever forget that.

It takes two people to actively make the choice every day to have a positive relationship and I am incredibly lucky that I have this person who is willing to make that commitment to me and our family every day. Its not been easy for him and we haven’t always received the best response. Its amazing to us to hear people be so negative about it or to tell us to “just wait”, that it will get bad and tempers will flare and its all downhill from there. Its frustrating to have people ask why, if we are able to tolerate each other so well, why we didn’t just stay married.

Marriage isn’t a convenience, its not meant to act as a placeholder. We are no longer the best partners for each other, and that is all. We are allowing each other to find someone who is. But we are also allowing ourselves to embrace a new found appreciation and love for one another, one of family and as parents to this amazing little boy that we call ours. That is what keeps us going every day, the fact that he sees us as his parents, engaged with each other in a happy and healthy relationship and showing him the love and support and encouragement that he deserves. We are a family, they come in many shapes and sizes and this is ours.

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An Ode to Detroit

I love Detroit. I consistently get asked why. My answer usually tries to convey the beauty and resilience of a city that has undergone devastating change, but really, I should just tell people to go. It’s something that truly has to be experienced to be understood. And I guarantee you will either love it like I do, or hate it like so many others.

I just recently spent 2 nights there. I stay at the Hostel Detroit when I go. It’s the cutest hostel that is a non-profit trying to educate people on the awesomeness of the city. It makes me happy and gives me a sense of adventure.

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Being welcomed by name and having kitschy sheets to sleep on makes me smile and waking up in a typical Detroit neighbourhood makes you feel less like a tourist and more like a part of the true city.

Don’t get me wrong, Detroit and it’s economic situation are not to be taken lightly. There are constant reminders of the hardship the city and it’s residents have experienced. Abandoned homes and historic buildings stand like wounded soldiers on every block, but they are hauntingly beautiful and are a quiet reminder of the fragile landscape that we have created in the industrialized world.

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I woke up early the first morning I was there to take some photos before the dew had lifted and while the sun was still low in the sky to try and show people a different side of Detroit. That the sun rises there as it does everywhere else. That people get up and go to work and kids head off to school. It’s functioning under intense pressure. The people who have stayed love their city. They are proud of it’s history and are sure that it will one day recover. They are committed to making that happen. You have to see beyond the graffiti and boarded up windows. It’s not an easy task I know. But it’s there. They want the rest of the world to see it too.

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I feel like maybe I am biased though. Detroit reminds me of myself and my struggles. Overlooked and under appreciated. Judged by many and loved by few. But those who know her feel her intensity and never forget her. I look forward to my next visit. She never disappoints.

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