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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Negativity

Sometimes I seriously want to punch people right in the face.

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Everyone has problems, everyone has a story to tell. I get that, trust me, I have lots! So I really don’t want to spend my days hearing you natter on about yours.

I’m not talking about having discussions with friends or family here, those are moments that build relationships and save sanity, a life necessity really. I am talking about those people that we work with or casually see who never have anything good to say. They are never happy and life is never good enough. They have the woe is me attitude and a million reasons to support that. At first you may get sucked into these stories, you identify with people and offer your sympathies. Then you find out that they have taken 8 Caribbean vacations in the last year and you begin to wonder what the hell they are talking about.

I wonder if they have ever stopped to wonder how they are affecting their lives and the lives of everyone around them with their constant negativity. Its always been amazing to me to see how someones frame of mind can completely alter how they view their own circumstances and those of others. I have always tried to be a person who has focused on the positive side of things, a natural optimist. I truly believe that this is the only reason that I haven’t been committed to some kind of institution. Life has thrown me many challenges, that for the most part I have kept very quiet about and dealt with in my own way. I have been able to always see the light at the end of the tunnel and look at things with a decent amount of perspective. I ache for those who struggle with that, I have many loved ones who have struggled with depression and I cannot even begin to imagine how that must affect every moment of their day.

But for those who have simply elected a negative attitude, or one of impenetrable ungratefulness, I have no time. Take your complaints elsewhere.

Infectoid

So I got shingles. Again.

No, I did not get my roof redone. I am currently experiencing an outbreak of herpes zoster. No, not THAT herpes. Essentially its the cousin of the chicken pox, who likes to remind you when your life has become unduly stressful by having you break out in a blistering painful rash. I’m not really here to talk about that though.

The last couple of weeks have offered up quite the cornucopia of stressors…

My almost 4 year old apparently decided that being toilet trained wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and gave up. He had about 53 accidents over the course of the week and I got to the point where I was no longer upset, but rather just sad and desperate to understand what was going on and hoped with all my heart that this wasn’t in delayed reaction to his dad and I’s separation.

A departmental meeting at my workplace brought to our attention the implementation of a safety plan for one our of our employees whose personal safety had been affected by their spouse. A million thoughts and scenarios run through your mind when you hear those words. We were provided no situational details, only the protocols to be followed and the response to any conflict that may arise.  All I could think about afterward was how lucky I was to be able to call my ex-spouse a friend rather than an enemy. I took some time to digest the information and then I took the elevator upstairs to see my ex-husband. I told him I needed a hug and he, reluctantly at first, gave me one. He asked what was wrong and was concerned about my family, worrying that something had happened to someone. I told him that it was a work situation that I was not allowed to discuss and he understood. I thanked him for being such a great dad and for being a partner in this with me. Divorce can bring out the worst in people, we have tried to look at things differently and have focused on becoming co-parents instead of ex-spouses.

Then Friday afternoon came around. Working in a hospital, I hear the all too common overhead announcement for a Code Blue, the universal indicator for healthcare workers that someones life is in distress and it calls the appropriate responders to the location. I am not one of those people. I work quietly in my department and am usually shielded from the gruesome and devastating side of the healthcare world. But on this day, I was requested to bring some additional supplies to the doctors attending a code in the ICU. I am trained in CPR and First Aid, I have performed abdominal thrusts on a visitor in the cafeteria to stop him from choking, but nothing could have prepared me for the moment I walked into that room. I always thought that being there and seeing people in action during this process would be incredibly interesting, it wasn’t. It was awful. I felt like an intruder into someones intensely private moments, moments where families weren’t allowed and wouldn’t have wanted to be. This isn’t Hollywood, this is real CPR being performed on a real human being, this is a person whose life is in the most delicate balance and there were more people in that room using every fibre of their being to keep him alive than I could have ever imagined. It was a scene that I hope I never have to experience again.

Did I mention that I turned 30 somewhere in there? Didn’t think I cared, pretty sure I lied to myself. Life isn’t what I expected it to look like at 30. I am supposed to be this confident, happy, well-adjusted mother who has her whole life and career figured out. I have NOTHING figured out. Seriously, nothing.

Add in a couple of complicated life/relationship issues and we have cooked up a perfect recipe for a little Shingles relapse. Awesomesauce. Got to spend part of my Thanskgiving in the ER awaiting an Rx for antiviral meds.

No where but up, right?

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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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Its Been Awhile

Life has been full of, at times, overwhelming changes in the past few months.

New Job

New Address

New Car

New Legal Marital Status

oh, and my tiny little amazing human is going to school.

So I’m sure a lot of people will think that this means that I would have had plenty to talk about, and there was, but I wasn’t ready to share my inner struggles and outward changes with everyone. I knew that life was going to be an interesting journey this year, but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional toll it was going to take on me or how much I was going to second guess myself.

But here I am, on the other side. I recently (as in, its still peeling and making me itch like I am some kind of crazy person) started another tattoo project to commemorate these changes.

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It was perfectly described by my artist as a bird of light and infinite energy. She is in full flight, graceful, beautiful, loved and powerful. Those are all things that I never accepted as being a part of myself, but this past year has forced me to rethink not only my life, but myself. Its been a year of spectacular growth for me, one that has made me shed more tears, smile more times and grant myself more forgiveness than I have ever allowed myself.

What this really means it that I have lots to say and I am now ready to say it.

Wow, that felt good.

In Transition

Being in the in-between is undoubtably the most difficult place to be. Not knowing what is going to happen next, what you should be doing or saying and the inevitable self doubt that comes from any major life change weighs heavily on your mind.

I am there. I have chosen to be there, but it’s hard. Knowing that you are making decisions that affect the lives of countless people, some of whom you love more than anything in this world. I am acutely aware of the damage that I am causing on a daily basis. I see it in the strained faces and hear it in the distant conversations.

The worst part though, is second guessing myself. Wondering if I am doing the right thing, making the right changes or if I am just ruining everything I have thus far built in my life. Giving up my outwardly perfect world to reset back seems crazy, but I know if I don’t do that I will live as I have been – unfulfilled, unhappy and not being the kind of spouse or parent that my loved ones deserve.

And so, I set off on this journey. One of self discovery and self acceptance. Some days are better than others. There are days when I love who I am and am excited about the new opportunities that I am going to have. And then when I least expect it I become overwhelmed at the prospect of going it alone. Thinking that I will forever be a disappointment, a failure in the eyes of everyone on the outside.

I am incredibly lucky to have a co-parent who is as dedicated to preserving our family unit as I am. Things aren’t perfect, but we are figuring things out as we go. Electing to choose happiness and understanding instead of the hate and negativity that all too often consumes people.

And that is exactly what I have learned through all of this. Life is about choices. You make the conscious choice every moment of every day to be either happy or sad, hateful or joyful. I choose the joy and happiness that I deserve, that my son and his dad and the rest of our families deserve. Not because it’s the easy choice, but because I know it’s the right one.

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