You Are Still Loveable

Valentine’s Day…it has never been my favorite holiday. Sure I like it for the chocolate and the little gifts I get (and so appreciate) from my loving parents. And I have to admit, it has always been more fun when I have been in a relationship. But Valentine’s Day does not have to be celebrated only if you are in a relationship with someone. I do want to say that yes, I am currently in a serious relationship that has been so good for me. It is a lot of give and take. Well, quite often I feel like it is a lot of taking on my end, and not enough giving. The reason I feel this way is because I suffer from anxiety and other mental illnesses, as well as chronic illnesses. And I get it, everyone has something. No one is perfect. We all have flaws. We all have struggles. But sometimes, I feel like there is A LOT of baggage that comes with me. And my chronic illnesses, well, they are not always easy to deal with. But honestly, the thing that I feel extra guilty about, the thing that has always pushed other people away in the past, is my mental illness. My eating disorder, my severe anxiety, my depression. I mean, who wants to deal with that?

Well, I finally found someone who will go to any length to make me smile, who will try his hardest when I am in an anxiety attack to find words of comfort. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything. I am so blessed.

But back to my main point: I want you to know that if you suffer from anxiety disorders, depression, or any other mental illness, DO NOT LOSE HOPE when it comes to relationships. I am not the easiest person to be in a relationship with half the time (just to put it plain and simple). But maybe, we are better at it then we think. When you find the right person, that person will love and accept every part of you. And you, in turn, will feel more comfortable being yourself and going to that person when you need a hand, hug, or shoulder to cry on. And sure, your anxiety might be annoying or aggravating at times to that person, because he/she is only human too! But that person will accept you with your disorders or perceived flaws. They will look at the whole you instead of that one part of you. They will not be annoyed by you (maybe by your anxious or depressive thoughts once in a while, but not by you). They will love you unconditionally and do what they can to help you or make you feel better. For the longest time, I thought I was unlovable. I thought I would never be in a solid, healthy relationship, never get married, never find true happiness. Slowly but surely, God and the universe is proving me wrong. We are all deserving of love. We are all deserving of a happy, healthy life. And my advice to all of my friends who spent this Valentine’s Day without a significant other or felt lonely, is to have patience with yourself. Shower yourself with some love because before anything, you need to love yourself. This does not mean that you have to fully love yourself 100% of the time to be in a relationship. That certainly is not the case. Self-love is an ongoing process. Something that we need to work at every day. It may come easier to some than it does to others. For me, it has not been an easy journey. But I am on the journey none the less, and I am learning to love and accept myself more and more each day. You do not NEED a significant other to celebrate Valentine’s Day. All you need is you, and of course, family and friends matter and mean everything too! But if you felt lonely this Valentine’s Day, and if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or other mental illnesses in particular, I hope you show yourself extra kindness and give yourself grace. Know that everything happens in its perfect timing, and you are loveable, and you are beautiful, and you are special, and you are deserving of good things. And if you don’t have anyone who can tell you that or show you, you are at least hearing it from me. But please, hear it from yourself, too. Happy late Valentine’s Day, friends. And if you didn’t do something nice for yourself, go buy yourself some chocolate :).

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When You Are Too Sick To Be Well, But Too Well To Be Sick

Some people may not consider me sick. Heck, half the time I don’t consider myself to be sick. Sure, I have all of these diagnoses; too many to count with mental and physical illness combined. But sometimes, that is just not enough. Often times, I feel like I am stuck in this limbo between being sick, and being normal.

Too sick to be well, but too well to be sick.

When I was first diagnosed, I was much worse off than I am now. My world came crashing down with my first and only hospital admission where I stayed for a week. Due to severe dehydration and Dysautonomia combined, I was really struggling. I struggled to walk, struggled just to make it 5 steps to my bathroom. I was shaking, dizzy, weak. When I was discharged, I was not much better than when I was admitted (minus being rehydrated). It was difficult getting around. I used a walker and a wheel chair much of the time. I spent the majority of my time in bed, sleeping or just laying there with heating pads. But then something happened. Slowly, I started regaining my strength. Maybe it was because I said to myself: “enough is enough!” I started pushing my body just a little harder. I signed up for classes, I slowly incorporated more activity into my life, I brought my puppy home who has been the biggest blessing. There was no treatment that kick started this improvement. It was slow and gradual, and for the life of me I can’t pinpoint how it happened. But isn’t that a defining feature of chronic illness? Disease symptoms that wax and wane in intensity throughout someone’s life?

I am not cured. I am not in perfect or peak health condition as I used to be. I still struggle after showers with tachycardia and low blood pressure. I still struggle to stand for more than 5-10 minutes at a time. I still have difficulty walking around the mall or grocery store, and often need my walker for these tasks. I still feel as though I could easily fall asleep during the day. I still get tired and fatigued. But at the same time, I am in school part time. I am a grad student. I go to my internship for 15 hours a week. I work part time from home teaching children English. I do all of these things, more than what many people can do with chronic illness. And sometimes, I feel as though I don’t belong in the spoonie community. That I am too far along, ahead of the game. I don’t go to doctors multiple times a week every week. I don’t have access to IV fluids. I don’t have many hospital admissions. I don’t have much testing left. I am in the stage where, yeah, we know what’s wrong, but I just have to keep doing what I’m doing.

“Keep plugging along.

Keep taking your medication.

Conserve your energy.

See you in three months.”

Sometimes, I don’t have all that much to talk about or update my spoonie friends on (particularly on IG) because I’m stagnant. Sure, I go to physical therapy and work on my dietary changes, but life really isn’t all that exciting right about now. Which, don’t get me wrong, is good. I am lucky that I am not worse! But sometimes, I feel like I have to work extra hard just to keep up with my counterparts and fellow classmates. I am constantly going, running, trying to keep up with people who do not have chronic illnesses. And it is so hard. It is a tough situation to be in. Because the truth is, I cannot do all that other people my age without chronic illness can do. I am still sick. I still am dealing with symptoms. But I’m not in the hospital. I’m not on my death bed. Heck, I’m not even in bed at all some days (minus the days I am free of obligations, lol). So honestly, I don’t know where I belong. I don’t know where I fit in. I don’t know where I should focus my energy, on my life with chronic illness, or my life without chronic illness. In so many ways, I am still dependent on other people in several areas of my life. I see my classmates living alone, supporting themselves, and I feel guilt over not being able to do so. I kick myself for being so far behind, because if I am well enough to do what other people my age are doing, why am I not there yet? Why do I feel as though I am running to keep up?

I know why.

Because I am sick. But not sick enough. I am well. But not well enough.

I am in limbo, bouncing around between being sick and being well, not sure of where I fit in.

But I know I am not the only one in this situation. And that is what I need to continue to remind myself. That, and giving myself grace.

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Book Review: Turtles All The Way Down

So – let me just start off by saying that I am not a huge book person. I love the idea of reading a good book, and I could spend hours in Barnes and Noble. BUT, the actual reading part and keeping me interested in the book I am reading is pretty tedious and trying. I wish I was the type of person that could dive into anything and everything, soaking up all of the beautiful words, immersing myself in the pages and filling my mind with information. That’s just not reality unfortunately. I have many books on my shelf that I have bought and haven’t read, or read but only part way through. And some of this is due to disinterest, while some is due to the fact that I am a grad student and have textbook reading that I need to focus on. There are a handful of books that really get me fired up and spark my interest – and Turtles All The Way Down, that’s one of them.

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green is a unique story line about a high school girl, Aza, and her best friend/partner in crime, Daisy, and their wild adventure they embark on to win a 100,000 dollar reward. When a local billionaire goes missing, this reward is put out in the open for whoever finds Russell Pickett. Russell Pickett’s son, Davis, was an old friend of Aza’s, and they reconnect in this story while beginning to really fall for one another.

This seems all well and good right? A perfect love story.

Not as one would think.

Aza tries hard to be a good friend, a good daughter, a good ‘more than friend’ to Davis. But she is trapped by the ever spiraling of her thoughts, and consumed with anxiety stemming from obsessive compulsive disorder. She can’t be the ‘normal’ friend, girlfriend, and daughter, despite how badly she wishes to and how hard she tries. In reading Turtles All The Way Down, readers get a glimpse into the mind of Aza Holmes; we can sympathize with her, and feel the pain and panic she endures on a daily basis. As someone who has been diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder, I can empathize with Aza. This story hit home in a variety of ways. No, Aza and I do not share the same obsessions/compulsions, but I understood that spiral. I understood that relentless anxiety, constant doubting, and needing to check. Even if you do not suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, this book is a fantastic read. It is so much more than mental illness, which is only a piece to this beautiful, thought provoking book. It is about friendship, love, loss, pain, suffering, and family. It is about the complexity of life, and reading it forces you to look at life from different angles and multiple perspectives. Readers can relate to the bonds of friendship and the conflicts that may arise as well as experiences with falling in love for the first time. And if you are one of the many out there that feels imprisoned by your own thoughts, you will be able to relate to that, too.

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In sum – I highly recommend this book for anyone to read. I know it is currently popular among teens, but I am in my twenties and enjoyed every second of it. It is heart wrenching, funny, and can make you chuckle and fill you with emotion (likely not at the same time haha, but you get what I mean). Now, onto the next search of what I can read during my next break from school, and I think I already have some ideas. Stay tuned for more book reviews in the future!

Living Our Best Lives with Illness

Chronic illness. Two words that represent anything but fun and joy. Rather, those two words are the epitome of pain and suffering.

Those with chronic illnesses know that following a diagnosis, and even before one receives a diagnosis, life can be utter hell. People’s once happy, fun-filled, and busy lives gets turned upside down. Sometimes in the blink of an eye, other times it is a slow, gradual process. Both of which are equally as painful and devastating.

But – we, as chronic illness warriors have two choices.

  1. We can wallow in our pain and feel sorry for ourselves.  Or
  2. We can make the most of our situation and find ways in which we can feel a little better and live our lives to the fullest – WITH illness.

Now, I don’t mean for this to sound harsh. Believe me, I am fully aware that there are varying degrees of chronic illness, and some of us are in excruciating pain every day or bedbound. I was once house bound and spent most of my days in bed. It is not fun. It is crushing. You feel as though you are a sack of potatoes not able to do anything or contribute to society. You wonder, what is the point of my life? 

But I am here to tell you that it may not always be that way. In fact, it probably won’t always be that way. Many chronic illnesses wax and wane in severity. Different treatments, medications, IV fluids, homeopathic options, will allow you to eventually find something that works. Even if it helps just a little, there will be some improvements made at some point in your life. Maybe one day you will be able to get out of bed, leave the house, do some form of exercise, engage in physical therapy, or meet friends at a coffee shop.

This past weekend, I took a road trip with my boyfriend. We went to the mountains to go skiing. Last year was the first time I tried skiing at my local ski club in three years. I was only able to do a couple runs, and I was exhausted, but I was so proud and ecstatic with that accomplishment. My trip this past week was a blast. I was at the ski resort for a total of 4 hours. We had to make lots of stops along the hill, and go in to take a break, but I still had the best time and was satisfied with all I was able to do. I pushed my body no doubt, and of course I payed for it later that day and a few days after the fact. But I did it. I had fun. I enjoyed myself. And for the first time in a long time, I felt normal. Even walking around the town with my walker the day after skiing, I felt alive. Sure I had to use a walker and was the only one wandering the town with an assistive device, but because of that device, I was able to do what everyone else was doing.

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What I really want to get at here, is that we can still have fun. We can still enjoy life. We can make the most of this life and practice gratitude for all that we do have. Sometimes, you don’t always have to be grateful it isn’t worse. We are allowed to have bad days. Believe me, I have my fair share of them with chronic and mental illness. But it does help to remind myself of all my blessings, and that somewhere out there, just miles within my little radius, some people have it worse. There is so much suffering in this world. Every one of us struggles. Every one of us suffers. Every one of us experiences some sort of pain. But we don’t have to let our pain define us. Chronic illness friends: do everything in your power to lead the life you deserve. Try different treatments, work your muscles if you can, do things that YOU ENJOY. Take up knitting or crocheting, draw, paint, get out of the house when your feeling up to it, meet a friend, watch your favorite television shows, take a bubble bath, write, connect with others via social media. Live your best life, because it is so possible. We may not be able to do all we once did, but we can live life to our fullest despite our conditions, and with illness.

Getting My Head Out of The Sand

Some of you may know that I have an eating disorder. Or should I say, am in recovery from an eating disorder. Some of you may not have known. Well, now you all do. Cats officially outta the bag!

Now, I liked to think that for the past year or so I haven’t had an eating disorder. I have not really struggled with eating or counting calories. I can’t really exercise anyway so that’s out, and body image, well yes there are issues with that. But won’t there always be?

I have just been going through life taking challenges head on, and not really looking back. Yesterday, however, I was reminded that my eating disorder is still a part of me. That voice, though small, is still there. And when it wants to come back loud and rearing it’s ugly head, I cannot have my head in the sand pretending everything is just fine and that I will never relapse.

 

Let me just be clear about one thing: I do not plan on relapsing back into my eating disorder. Ever. But – I am not a magician, and I am not a psychic. In other words, I can’t do magic and I can’t see into the future. I HAVE an eating disorder. It may not always be active in my life, but that small ED voice is always going to be in the back of my mind. It’s whether or not I choose to listen. But even when/if I choose to listen to my ED, it is not as simple as “oh, there Claire goes choosing to listen to her eating disorder instead of choosing recovery.” No. It is way more complicated and complex than that. Eating disorder thoughts and behaviors are so engrained in me, and in others that suffer, that it’s not always just a matter of choice. These things can sneak up on you, life can sneak up on you. It’s a sickness that’s intent is to destroy and ultimately kill. It’s not so simple.

But, let me get back on track. Yesterday, I was reminded that I do still have an eating disorder. And that I have to be cautious, careful, and mindful of this fact. I was going skiing with my family for the first time this season, which, is a big deal due to my having chronic illnesses. I tried on my snow pants, and sure enough, they didn’t fit. I could not do them up. Immediately I felt ashamed and embarrassed, not to mention anxious over what snow pants I could find that WOULD fit me. Well, I tried my sister’s on and they fit. So those are the ones I wore. But I just could NOT stop thinking about how I couldn’t fit into my snow pants. It put me in this awful mood; I was upset, sad, anxious, and wanting to shed some pounds more than ever.

Well, fast forward. I ended up going skiing. I took five runs and had a great time. That’s when it hit me, and everything fell into perspective again. So…my snow pants didn’t fit me. Maybe, over the last year I have gained a few pounds. Maybe I am not a stick anymore. Maybe, I actually have a woman’s figure. Maybe my chronic illnesses cause weight fluctuations (even those without chronic illnesses experience weight fluctuations). But you know what? IT DOESN’T MATTER.

There you go, I said it.

It really does not matter. Your size doesn’t matter, your weight doesn’t matter, what does/doesn’t fit you does not really matter. The things in this life that DO matter: family, friends, love, health, happiness. If you are healthy, that is all you can ask for. So, maybe size and weight matters in some circumstances, because it can be linked to health and health issues, on both ends of the spectrum. But overall people, your weight in the grand scheme of things is not the most important thing. And above all, our size should not dictate our self-worth. We should appreciate all of what our bodies can DO, instead of how they look. My body has been through so much over the years between eating disorders and chronic illnesses. It’s time I start taking care of my body instead of punishing it; not seriously restricting my food intake, but eating foods rich in nutrients that will help my body heal. It’s time I start appreciating my body rather than criticizing it. It’s time for you to do the same.

Does Social Media Help Chronic Illness Sufferers, or Hurt Them? My Thoughts

 

I have grown my chronic illness Instagram quite a bit over the last year and a half, and I have met some amazing, strong individuals and connected with a lot of great people. But sometimes, I feel as though chronic illness can be looked at as a competition: who is the sicker one? Who takes the most medication? Who sees the most doctors? Who has the most diagnoses?

And – I am not saying that the chronic illness community on Instagram in particular is giving off this vibe on purpose. And I am also not saying that I am not contributing to this competitiveness within the community, because I very well could be. I look at it as a similar problem that is seen in the eating disorder community. One has to be very careful and selective of the people that one follows in the ed community, because it is soooo easy for Instagram to become the “who has the worst eating disorder” competition. And, as someone who suffered from Anorexia for eight years, I can safely say that a part of eating disorders is comparing yourself to others, and trying/wanting to look the “thinnest” or the “sickest.” And if you aren’t the thinnest or the sickest, you do not belong in treatment. This was my mentality. It’s sick and twisted, but I was sick…very sick. And it’s no different with chronic illness. The community that is built to support one another can so easily be turned into a competition if not careful. People, by no fault of their own, can get trapped in this cycle of seeing posts about doctors, medicines, blood pressure and heart rate numbers (which, by the way, I am guilty of posting) and feel like they are not sick enough or that they need to post more of these pictures, too. I feel this way sometimes. Scrolling through IG does not always leave me feeling better. In fact, at times it makes me worse. It makes me feel like maybe, I don’t belong in this chronic illness community on Instagram. I see the pictures of the doctor appointments, medications, and numbers…and I get anxious. I feel as though I need to post more of those things, and so I do, whenever I can or get the chance. And there I am, sucked into this vicious cycle or black hole where I am not really living my life, but engulfed in the IG world and defined by my illnesses. And trust me, that is NOT how I want to live. I don’t need pictures to prove to myself, and to others, how sick I am or that I really am sick to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong, IG has been great in that it has allowed me to make connections with others and gain support of people who get it. It has allowed me to support others who are going through similar issues. Not only that, but it has served as a good way to keep track of how I am doing. For that, I am so grateful for my account and the community. I think, we just need to be aware of the extent to which social media and the community can start to effect us in a negative way. If you find that you feel worse about yourself after scrolling on social media, or if you feel like you have to prove how sick you are, or if you start wondering if you even belong in the community or meet the criteria to be called a spoonie, then maybe social media is becoming more toxic than helpful. And I think we have to be mindful of this, and honest with ourselves about how advantageous our social media accounts really are. And of course, everyone has a different experience. Some people absolutely may not feel this way. Maybe it is my obsessive compulsive disorder and competitive nature that starts twisting things around.

Call me crazy, I just think that sometimes we get so wrapped up in social media that we forget that we actually have lives to live. And I want to do a little more living and a little less scrolling.

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What are your thoughts? Does social media bring out your competitive side? How does social media impact you as a chronic illness or eating disorder sufferer?

Liebster Award Nomination

Hello everyone! I am so excited to have been nominated for the Liebster Award. This little blog is brand new, and when the notification popped up on my phone that I was nominated, I couldn’t wait to get started in creating this post! (Although, I had to wait a little bit because I was at my internship when I saw this.) It was such a nice surprise, and to know that someone likes my blog thus far and is looking forward to what more I have to say, it means the world. Thank you Kaitlyn from With Being Alive! If you have not seen her blog, definitely stop by and check it out. Her writing is inspiring as she discusses mental health and recovery, and she includes the simple joys of life in her posts. Her blog is overall, just a great read, so I suggest you head over there.

liebster awardThe rules are:
1. Create a new post thanking the person who nominated you.
2. Provide a link to their blog.
3.Include the award graphic.
4. Answer the questions provided.
5. Nominate 10 recently followed bloggers and share your post with them, so they can see it.
6. Make a new set of 10 questions for your nominees to answer

My questions from With Being Alive are:

  1. What is your favorite song and why? Picking one favorite song is difficult, so I have to say, really anything Ed Sheeran. I love his music. His lyrics always speak to me. Right now, I am really liking the song Perfect. I love everything about the song and the music video! It is so relatable to me and just awesome because I am a skier… But if you haven’t seen that music video, I suggest watching! It’s really sweet – if your into that kind of thing!
  2. Where is the best place you have been? Oh, gosh. I have actually been to a lot of places – and to pick one is so difficult! The Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River holds a special place in my heart, as does the British Virgin Islands! Both places are special for me, and so beautiful in their own unique ways! In Europe, two places I would love to go back to and see more of, are Switzerland and Austria. I am definitely an Alps kind of girl. The mountains are so beautiful to me, and represent strength, adventure, and comfort.
  3. What is something truly amazing that you have seen? You know, I think the most amazing thing that I have seen, has been people undergoing self-transformations and breaking out of their destructive ways. At one time in my life, I was surrounded by people struggling with similar demons as I was, and I was inspired by so many of them. And to see these people break away and find their voice, and find themselves, nothing is more remarkable than that.
  4. Who is your role model? I have several role models. And to be honest, most of them I no longer talk to. But there are a handful of people that left a handprint on my heart when I was most broken, and most vulnerable. Without their compassion, care, and help, I don’t know if I would be where I am today. And for that and for them, I am forever grateful. Oh, and my parents, too 🙂
  5. If you were only able to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be? Oh, goodness. Can you tell I am a bit indecisive? Due to my chronic illnesses, I have dietary restrictions and regulations to follow, which makes this question a bit tricky. But I guess I will have to say: fruit (anything with fructose) cause, I need that sh**, beef jerky, salmon (and any fish really, but salmon’s my favorite), my creamy and crunchy peanut butter, and honey. Haha, see how hard this question is??
  6. What’s a weird dream that you have had recently? It’s not really weird, but I think it gets at the heart of my fears. I was at a big hospital, like Cleveland Clinic. And they said that I was misdiagnosed, but that they would straighten it out and properly diagnose me. The doctors were telling me that they could figure out all that’s left to figure out with no problem and no hassle. And then my mom mentioned that the reason I had all of these health problems was because of the relationship that I had in high school and through the beginning of college (which, for the record, was very toxic). BUT, had nothing to do with the health problems I have now, soooo yeah that part was weird.
  7. How has your day been today? It’s been good. I worked my part time job this morning, which actually always puts me in a good mood. I have just been so exhausted, so I’m laying low and spending today resting: writing, reading, and television.
  8. How did you come up with your blog’s name? It just sort of came to me. People call me bear (my name is Claire) and I like to think that I am finally finding balance in this crazy world where I previously viewed everything from a very black and white perspective. It’s hard not to have that mindset, because it’s so drilled into me. I am definitely a perfectionist and have my own cognitive distortions, but I am working on it.
  9. Describe yourself in three words: empathetic, introverted, anxious.
  10. Of your own blog posts, which one is your favorite? To The Doctor Who Told Me He Could No Longer Help Me; Quote of The Month – January The first is from my previous blog that I am no longer contributing to, and the second is my favorite from this new blog where I will be focusing all of my energy. The first is one of my favorites because it is 100% heartfelt and of an issue close to me. But the second is more hopeful and of a broader lense, so take your pick or read both!
  11. Where would you most like to travel to? Would LOVE to see Australia and New Zealand at some point during my lifetime.

My questions for my nominees are as follows:

  1. What is your favorite part about blogging?
  2. Are you more of a phone or planner user to keep track of your day to day activities/appointments?
  3. What is your favorite icecream flavor?
  4. What is the best form of self-care? What brightens your day or helps you during hard times?
  5. What is one thing that really annoys you?
  6. What are you currently reading?
  7. What is your favorite holiday and why?
  8. Would you rather watch sports or play sports?
  9. Are you a night owl or an early riser?
  10. Do you have any pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?

My nominations for the Liebster Award are:

Simply Introspective

With Love, Madeline

Mind Body Mito

Chronically Caroline

Shits and Giggles

Em Recovers

Blue Jay of Happiness

Reviving Emily

Keep Glowing

A Tale of Chronic Illness

Thanks everyone for sticking by and reading this! I am looking forward to blogging more, and connecting with all of you.