Part I of II- By guest writer Cammie LaValle, 2016
Remember that light inside of you that used to shine? We reminisce about it in our heads; back to that person we used to be. That silent yet screaming conversation in our minds we have on a daily basis. For some, it’s the majority of the actual conversing we do and sadly, it’s only with ourselves. We are feeling ourselves; our internal light- the fire that once helped us accomplish so many things in life, is now reduced to less than a flame, more like a sad, almost non-existent spark which could barely keep a match lit.
Sure, there are flickers of hope and tiny little fires at times; but personally, they are getting few and far between. I have not given up all hope, but I am struggling to keep the grasp.
One of my motto’s is “Let Your Soul Shine” taken from a song. How hypocritical of me to tell others to do just that when I am watching, feeling and experiencing my own go darker and darker every day. I don’t mean dark as in evil, although I will admit I’ve had some pretty evil scenarios which I wish would play out in the lives of some of the doctors I have encountered in the last few years. No, I would not harm anyone; but as you read that, I am certain you can recall one of those thoughts that has played out in your mind so detailed as though you were actually plotting a dismemberment. I for one thought a log-splitter would suffice.
As I am writing this, I have backspaced hundreds of times thinking what I have to say or what I feel is not ready to be heard or will be perceived as seeking pity, over reacting, not being thankful for what I do have or God forbid, the “It could be worse” reaction we often get. Yes, we all comprehend that, but more often than not, it is far from a supportive statement as we perceive it. Minimizing our hell is what most of us feel; even though we know most of you mean well when it’s said. But I realized the words I put down, if were written by someone else and read by me, are exactly the words I would need to hear; and yearn to hear.
So without a hesitant mind, and the pain jolting through my body and hands, I shall spill the complete ugly truth that I am not shining by any means. I’ve gone dim. This is not news to some; as they know me too well to believe the crap that spews out of my mouth when I say “I’m fine.”
I ask myself daily, how much more can I handle? Do I even want to for that matter? Yes, those thoughts are there when in my dimmest hours. Will I say it out loud? Probably not. Will I say it here, when I know others just like me are reading this; yes, yes I will. I can’t say I am proud of my thoughts, but I can say I am not about to blow sunshine up anyone’s ass; especially knowing the people reading this are struggling right along with me. That’s not what we need and I may very well do it to others so they don’t have to worry about me, but I will not do it to you. I know that sounds terrible as I have more than likely never met or ever will meet 99.999 % of you. Why be truthful to people I don’t know and hide and lie to my own family and friends? I have no clue the rationale behind this and won’t pretend I do either. What I do know is that there is a greater chance those reading this, understand it to their core and need no explanation of the words, the thoughts, the expressions, the pain, the isolation, the self-doubt, and the meaning behind “Going Dim”. I fully understand all humans go through struggles in life and I am not discounting any of that; anyone or any struggle of any kind. I am addressing our struggle.
I am opening up my broken spirit and soul, my tired mind, and using my pain riddled body, to let YOU know, you are far from alone in this battle. And I may be writing what you can’t dare to say out loud, but feel it as if it has taken over your entire being. I know I have read some stories which after the first sentence I felt the lump in my throat. I certainly am not sharing to cause distress or any tears, but if anyone reading this has that lump, let yourself feel the emotion and release some of that internal pain that is eating you alive and has taken over a portion of your soul.
More than likely you have caught on that I have not begun to describe the pain. If you are reading this, you already know how it will read. However, for those friends or family that are reading this who have a loved one suffering, I will follow this with a brutal truth that the one you know, who is suffering, is too damn scared to tell you. Whether it be pride, or wanting the world to believe we can handle this, or the complete farce we muster up in order to appear stronger than we actually feel. Your loved one has gone dim. And you might have as well; attempting to care for them. Addressing the other side of this is just as important as addressing ourselves.
The ME I once was, is still seen by my husband and some family and friends; however, I don’t see her. I feel as if she’s gone for good. I talk with her in my mind and actually pray she will come back, somehow, some way. She could light up a room (from what I was told). She was vibrant, funny, witty, intelligent, strong, hard-working, worthy, helpful, selfless, and although some deep down pain existed as we all have and hide; she was happy. She helped raise 2 children, who she loves. She was a good wife, a good friend, a reliable sister and had worked since a very young age; worked her ass off. Now, the relentless quest for her to return has come up empty. She was me. I was her. We’ve both gone dim.
Where did she go? CRPS (full body), Fibromyalgia in addition about a dozen other health issues; some quite severe, has held her captive and the ransom demand at this time cannot be met. The hope and flicker of light is diminishing. Sure, I say I am hopeful and staying positive, but who am I kidding? It’s gradually becoming such a farce, I can barely hold back the tears when I say I am still positive. It’s a blatant lie. I feel as if I am getting a very real glimpse of Hell.
Ice pick, razor blade, vice, hammer, pins, needles, knife, match, truck, salt, gasoline, fire, electric shock and flames; all of which I feel has been used during this captivity. A scene from a mysterious attempted murder movie in which we wait in the trunk to be rescued. Someone on the outside may not comprehend that comparison, but I, along with so many others; truly feel this. And the trunk is our lives at times. That dim, cold, dark, isolated place, we don’t willingly go to, but find ourselves there, stuck; more often than not. The tools used is what we compare our pain to; as CRPS/RSD plays out such a brutal attack on our bodies daily. As we wait for the ransom, which in our lives is a doctor, a treatment, a cure, we succumb to this attack and 24/7 try to prepare ourselves for the next dreadful blow. I try to hold it in as to not be a burden; not wanting people to see how bad it is. There are times it just comes out, screaming, howling, paralyzing pain to the point I can barely breathe. Arms, legs, feet, back, hips, face, ears, chest pain where it feels like I am having a heart attack, but I know I am not. Then I think, what if I do have a heart attack? If I feel like that daily, if I have one, will I even know? And my hypertension gets so out of control, my neck feels like I am being stabbed, my vision gets blurry, I lose minutes and have lost recollection of hours of time. I get scared to be alone in my own home. This scares the sh*t out of me! On nights the blood pressure is too high and the chest pain is severe, I am too damn scared to go to sleep as I honestly wonder if I will wake up. Yes, that is how my mind works. I pray I wake up. I won’t go into the thoughts and prayers that go on, when I honestly question if my life, as I know it, is actually ending that evening. This is brutally honest and I know it sounds far-fetched to some. But, many reading this feel the same way or have felt the same way. I am saying it now, to give you some peace of mind that you are far from alone. It is not by any means a healthy way of thinking, but it is where one’s mind tends to go at times. I am not proud of these thoughts, but they are true.
Pain changes people. It’s relentless. The beast wins in those moments and all I can do is wait for it to let go of its ever so tight grip of my body. I think to myself during these times, how the hell am I to live this way? How is my husband to live this way, with his wife being consumed by pain, lost herself and her feeling of self-worth? I am not the woman he married. Far, far from it. He is my biggest advocate and has not left my side, although I wouldn’t blame him. His wife is gone. The anxiety, stress and depression that goes along with this beast leads my mind to wonder “when” he will have had enough; not “if”. For better or worse, sickness and in health, meant something to him, just as it did and does to me. How lucky am I to have such a man who took his vows so serious, that as he watches his wife diminish and change into someone he didn’t marry, he continues to assure me we are in this together and he will never leave my side. He is the only one who can make these demons stop in my head. He is the only one who has seen it all and still has faith I will come out of it; come back as the woman he married; come back from “Going Dim”.
What has brought you to this page, is why many of you will understand what I am about to say next. You are dim yourself from disease and pain or you are caring for someone and are desperately trying to find a way to understand and help that person; your loved one. (For those seeking help to care for another – THANK YOU! Sadly enough, you may be the only one doing so for that lost screaming soul).
Too many are left alone and instead of having support in waiting for that ransom, they remain in the trunk; dim, isolated, begging for relief, kicking and screaming to get out; get help and for someone to actually listen. When there is never a response, those broken souls take it upon themselves to put an end to their private mysterious movie which is their life. They don’t think they can handle the next blow, they have been disregarded by doctors, family, friends and in their mind; the world.
Pain messes with your mind. Even those who truly have support; at times feel like an overwhelming burden to everyone, isolated and alone (even if the room is filled with 20 people) and misunderstood, they would rather not be on this earth for one more second of pain or one more feeling of being dismissed by a friend or loved one. That emotional pain alone when one’s suffering is dismissed; as if we are over-reacting to a common cold; could and has triggered people in pain to start planning their demise, as it is too much for them in their broken mind and body to fight anymore. Death, in their mind, however wrong one deems that thought process; is what they are contemplating. If you think this is reaching; just read through posts in some of your or your loved one’s support groups.
Daily, I see people tell people they never met, that they “can’t handle it anymore”, “I just want to end it”. Keep in mind, if you look at their FB page, or Twitter, or recall a recent phone call, most would have just said or posted on how great their day was. “I am fine.” It’s a farce, which most of us continue to do; as to not upset our family or friends with our true feelings and pain, or to not be honest with people we actually know because we’ve been dismissed too many times and are broken to the point that some knowingly make a decision to NEVER again speak to a loved one, hug a family member; and even their own children; as their mind has told them it’s easier to die than live.
How sad is that? Are they selfish? When people take their lives due to pain, any type of pain; they cannot comprehend the ramifications other than they no longer will have pain. So completely torn down, the thought their child will lose their parent, is not strong enough to stop them. How in the hell is our society missing this? How are family and friends missing this? How are people in pain getting to this point? Whether it be lack of treatment, lack of cure, lack of support or the mind games played out in your head when your pain takes over your life; it must, meaning right now, start being addressed.
Are you thinking your life is not worth it anymore? Well, it is. You don’t see it, but others do. And I beg anyone reading this, to reach out to someone. I can almost guarantee these thoughts have gradually entered the minds of your loved one who experiences 24/7 pain; not remembering a day without it. And if someone asks you, be honest. I have uttered the words I’m fine for the majority of my life; over half of which has been in chronic pain. I hid so many things from even my family; out of pride and factors which stem from my childhood, some of my own family do not believe I am in such a state of despair and pain; broken down with a tired soul and body that feels useless. I hid for too long. Yes, it’s my fault for putting on the mask. I was and at times still very good at it. A habit very hard to break.
It’s natural for me to pretend I am okay; for I’ve done it all my life in one way or another just like most of humanity in some aspect. However, I am removing it now and so should you. This does not give us the right to become an un-consolable hot mess of a person; but it does give us power to deal with what is behind the mask; our true selves. It certainly will not be easy, but how worn out are you right now reading this? My soul is tired and there is no amount of sleep in which can awaken it.
“Live without living?” What does that mean? If you ask that question, you have yet to comprehend how our minds work; how we feel & what this has done to us. Or better said, what it has done with the person we once were. The reason I; we’ve gone dim. We strive to live better and we do anything and everything to get there. Find relief, find a new normal, find peace, find understanding, find faith, find God, find a way; find ourselves. I am trying and I have resorted to begging at times just to get a doctor to listen to me. Most ignore it; but I’ve been lucky to find one that listened; one who upheld his oath. One who has promised to help me find a way, a new normal, and a treatment in which I can maybe, just maybe, have a chance at finding myself again. I don’t trust many, but trusted him and have for over 10 years. Due to this trust and mutual respect between a doctor and a patient, I have a chance; a slight flicker of light in my dim world which I am grasping onto so tight, if I were to let go I feel as if I would crumble; again.
You see, although I’ve gone dim like many of you reading this, I also found HOPE and it was due to raising some hell and advocating for myself and not shutting up when I was told NO. I kept going, I kept calling, I kept writing; I kept fighting. I am still dim, but I have seen the flicker of light; that same light which could let “My Soul Shine”. I don’t know if it will, but I’ll be damned if I’m not going to try. I deserve it; as do you.
I started writing this 8 months ago. When I started, I was in my darkest times. I thought about deleting those parts; but that would be me lying to you, and again, as life has taught me, continue to pretend I am okay when I am not. So I hope when you started reading, you felt you were no longer alone in the pain, the dark thoughts, the hopelessness, sadness and you knew, in your heart and soul, there are others like you. And as you read on, you found understanding, a bond with someone you probably will never meet. A bond due to pain, no one wants, but one everyone needs so they don’t feel alone and don’t ever think tomorrow is not worth waking up to.
I’m honored to share this project by chronic illness activist, guest writer Cammie LaValle, featured for CRPS/RSD Awareness Month. She’s not only a personal friend I met in the chronic pain community, but she’s a personal inspiration to me as well as so many others. She leads the charge in fighting campaigns for chronic pain and rare disease causes with the tenacity like none I’ve seen before, whilst attacking her disease with the same vigor. I’m proud to be in the same warrior club with a woman like Cammie, as I have learned much from her. Read more RSD/CRPS articles, see art projects, poems, and survival stories here. Talk to others with CRPS/RSD here. Article originally published in 2016.
Thank you for visiting and sharing, -Mary
One year ago today, my husband decided he wanted to separate. For months after, I fought for my marriage alone, for the man I loved, and then…after months of silence, I realized I was standing alone with an untied knot in my hands. Everything was torn away from my life. I had to decide whether I would keep going on, or if the pain and loss was too much to bear. I made a decision to continue fighting, but this time, for myself.
I wrote another post today in which I outlined May 1st of last year, and how the days and months unfolded with everyone’s shock and grief and the unexpected surprises to come which I could never have foreseen. But, I think I’ll save that piece for my journal as today I don’t want to look back thinking only of my ex-husband, and the loss of love. I’ve grieved him, our marriage, and our life together throughout the year. Today, I want to look back over the year and remind myself that I overcame everything I believed was utterly impossible to do alone. I want today to be another choice for myself. Next year, I want to celebrate this day as the beginning of letting go and starting fresh. Typing those words brings a few tears to my eyes, but I want them to be cleansing tears. I don’t know how to be just me without longing and loving and planning for 2 yet, but I will learn, and I have great expectations.
The first thing I did when I came to stay with my parents was I made a doctor’s appointment. It’s the most difficult thing I have to do physically; only my ex had ever taken me before- and my doctors helped us avoid making the tremendously painful and exhausting trip by scheduling me months apart. After such an emotional shock, why did I want to go through a physically traumatic experience with an inexperienced caregiver? I guess I just had to prove to myself that I could do something impossible without him! I went out of my way to do as many impossible things as I could find while I was so emotionally fragile. I’ve been to several doctor’s appointments, I’ve had new tests, and I had been afraid of going back to the hospital, but I’ve since been twice this year. My body fighting me on the outside as I pushed it harder and harder seemed to match the feeling of my heart dying on the inside.
My ex-husband was my caregiver for the last 4 years of our relationship. He knew what no one else could: about my condition, about my needs, about my doctors, about my life, about my heart, and he knew everything about my soul… I thought he did. When someone has spent years exploring the very depth of your soul, and can go to such lengths to reject you, no pain matches it.
The loss has been cavernous. I first believed I wouldn’t be able to continue on living without him- practically or theoretically. Not because he supported me physically, but because he was my heart. After mustering the strength to ask my mother and father to help me do several impossible things, I went in search of both a professional caregiver and marriage counselor. That took me a great deal of courage to even allow a stranger to enter this room. I thought, how will I carry on a conversation? What if they can’t be quiet enough for my pain level? What if they don’t know how to touch me and injure me, spreading my condition? But I had to do these impossible things, as well. I had to allow a stranger bathe me, and help me dress, and prepare my meals. It was a point of my very survival to find someone else to help me with my basic needs. It could have been degrading and humiliating, but I was so stubborn in what I needed to allow for myself to live in my new normal, that the physical need mattered far more than my personal dignity.
Soon after, I began inviting visitors for the first time after coming to my parent’s home. It was terrifying at first. I can’t imagine what that’s like for them to remember me one way, dancing, hiking, laughing, and now, laying in a bed, startled by every sound and speck of light, grimacing in pain. Letting those I adore into my bubble felt impossible at first, but it’s another kind of exposure therapy that’s a lot more fun ! Seeing old friends is like a mirror through their eyes, and it can be tough emotionally, but it’s also exciting, and makes me feel more like the laughing, hiking, dancing me that they remind me I am still. My own mirror sees myself through the eyes of my ex now. Where there were once loving, gentle eyes, I see a look of disappointment and disgust. His eyes have always superseded others for as long as I can remember, but he’s not mine anymore, and I’m not his. I’m God’s, and in His eyes, I’m worthy, I’m valuable, and I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose by living it.
My closest and oldest friend went through her own very difficult divorce in the year before I went through mine. They say, “God goes before us” and when I think of my sweet friend who has been walking her own hard path, checking in with me, and visiting often, I promise you that is true about the love of God lighting candles ahead of us. I’m grateful to be able to practice showing love to her at a time that I feel so empty of everything inside of me I used to be eager to give away. She has reminded me to keep pushing forward so many days that I felt alone. Having a friend who continues to tell you that you’re still the same person, you’re improving, and was willing to fight for me when I couldn’t fight for myself is more of an angel than just a friend.
The short quiet visits I was only tolerating have turned into longer, more enjoyable visits I so look forward to. I started with home physical therapy, which has been an immense help in my progression, and I BELIEVE I’m going to be a functioning human being again- no matter how long it takes. While I do get frustrated with my body, I’m not worried about the time table, only that I make the goal. My parents allowing these people, and often strangers in and out of their home for me has been life-changing. I hate when people say that I’m better off without him, because now I’m able to utilize so many resources to improve, but I understand what they mean. I’m just thankful they are seeing improvement that I still need help seeing for myself.
Every time I’ve wondered how I would pay a bill, how I could live without something I thought I needed, how I could go on without the people and pets I loved, God has always provided a solution, an answer, or a strength to live without. This consistency has lead me to rely on God coming through and has added to the peace in my spirit and courage to face the impossible with the safety net of the universe.
Even though I’m not grateful I was forced into it, I’m grateful I was able to manage my own proceedings via electronic communication and courier to/from the lawyer. I had no idea how it would work with my condition, and just the thought of it regularly caused me anxiety. But again, God had the right lawyer in mind for me, who worked as my advocate, familiar with disability, even meeting at my home. I had a Power of Attorney to appear for me twice as my signatory, and my lawyer spoke on my behalf in my absence or with statements from me. Being disabled, you feel marginalized so often as it is. It’s as though you’re disappearing. Because of my condition, my movement, voice, independence, and freedom have been taken from me. I think that’s why it was so very important to me that I didn’t give away my privilege to speak for myself. The decisions, paperwork, and meetings were all so overwhelming, I was cognitively pushed to thinking in critical, complex ways I had not since the brain issues began. As much as the divorce may have damaged parts of my life, the process was a healing experience for my physical progress, and has propelled me forward in many positive aspects. I thought I would break apart as my heart broke more and more, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it, and managing my personal business.
Learning to be proud of myself is new. No one else is going to do that for me. I’m learning to encourage myself. No one else is going to remind me to take it easy and be gentle with myself. Giving to myself is a new concept, but I’m learning to view it as responsible and not selfish. I feel emptied of everything I was, and all I can do while I heal is continue on, pretending I’m a human being. The life I worked for and dreamed of is gone now. The slate is clean and I’m beginning to feel empowered and free to build back a completely different life. Some moments my heart aches, but at other times I’m revitalized thinking of the future of possibilities.
I started working at 15, graduated at 17, and left my parent’s home to travel the day after HS graduation… Now I’m back. I’m being cared for by my parents, learning to nurture myself, learning to walk again, my parents are making me food each day…it’s quite an irony! For me, this anniversary is truly a rebirth.