Mindfulness Monday – Loss

CIMG2712

“Everything that has a beginning, has an ending.
Make your peace with all that and all will be well.”

~ Buddha

“Compassion invites us to open our heart
to everyone who experiences
joy and loss,
pleasure and pain,
hope and despair.
This includes ourselves.

~Heather Strong, Mindfulness and Grief

 

*all artwork and photos on Picnic with Ants created by W. Holcombe, unless otherwise noted.

I Give Myself Permission to …

I’ve been participating in a Chronic Pain and Illness photo project.  I participated in the same group last year, you can see those photos on these posts: Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project, Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project 2015 Week 2 , and Chronic Pain/Illness Photo Project 2015 Week 3.  This year I’m sharing a few photos here and there, not the whole project.

I’d love to hear your take on this topic.  What do you give yourself permission to???

Today – I give myself permission to Cry.

My x-rays showed more degeneration in my neck. C5-C6
The pain is intense. It just hit me that this is only going to get worse. The pain will always be there.

My father is in the hospital. I can’t go. I can’t ever go.

Today I give myself permission to cry.

(photo taken today, I manipulated it with photoshop, but the tear is real.)

crying

I didn’t expect…

Sometimes you wake up and think it’s going to be a great day, and it isn’t.  Sunday was that kind of day for me.

First thing I cuddled with hubby when I woke and had a silly dog jumping on us all excited and playing, so waking up was loving and fun.  Soon that changed.

I’m not sure what the first thing was but the day became full of petty little arguments and bad feelings.  We would disagree, apologize then something else would happen and we’d disagree again, or we were just very short with each other.  I know I spent most of the day in a huff, or tears.

I tried to talk about what was discussed in my last therapy session….loss….and I got very emotional (read sobbing like a baby).  He did not react like I wanted.  Notice what I said, I felt he was in the wrong because he didn’t behave like I wanted, like I expected him to.  So who’s at fault there?  I think that would be me.  We aren’t hurt by people, we are hurt by our expectations of people.  And I think that is how the rest of day kind of played out.  We didn’t act the way the other person wanted, or expected and that caused bad feelings.

equanimity 6

This can happen with anyone.  If I admit it, that is what happened when I felt abandoned by my friends when I got sick.  I was so hurt, so angry, they didn’t react the way I expected.  This caused all my unhappiness.  That is why I was so hurt.  My friends did not react the way I expected.  What did I expect?  Visits, talks, help, I expected this and more.  People aren’t always going to do what we expect.  It doesn’t make them bad people.  We don’t know the reasons.  Perhaps my illness brought back bad memories, or fear over their own health,   Some people simply don’t know how to be a friend during these times or they don’t really want to be.  We have to accept this.  More than anything we need to understand that the hurt comes from our expectations, not from the people.  Does that make it hurt less?  Sometimes.  When a person I’ve loved for years and years disappeared after I got sick, it hurt.  It hurts more when I know I was there for the person when they needed me.  However, their need ended, there is no end in sight for my needs.  I will always be different than I used to be.  That’s a hard thing for any relationship to endure.  We loose relationships for a number of reasons, we fight, we move, we change jobs….  Not all relationships stay in our lives.  Things change.  We can look at friends we’ve lost since our illness took hold and think, “they showed their true colors”, “they weren’t real friends”… The truth is, they aren’t what we expected them to be and it is that expectation that causes us pain.

I can hear some of you saying, “They abandoned me, shouldn’t I be hurt?”  I’m not saying it won’t hurt, what I’m saying is, we often bring more hurt upon ourselves than is needed.  We have to let it go.  Did the fact that they are no longer in our lives negate all the good times we had?  I hope not.  It changes how we will interact with them in the future.  We’ve changed, they have changed, the relationship changed.  That change may be that it is over.  It may be that the relationship becomes something different from what it was before, we have to decide if it is worth it.  We can have bad feelings about this, but it is our decision whether to hold on to these feelings or let them go.  I try hard to let them go, to find equanimity.  Do I always succeed?  NO.  Sometimes the hurt comes back to the surface, I think that’s a part of grief.  But now I can sit back and think, why is this bothering me so much?  I always come back to the same thing, I want it to be different than it is.  My wants are causing me harm.

Not everyone has to understand what I’m going through, and not everyone has to be there for me.  It is a great feat to be able to accept a person for how they are, even when they let you down.  I’ve decided to let go of the past relationships that didn’t work.  I work on relationships with people who understand my limitations and are willing to work on our relationship the way it is now.  I don’t have many friends from before.  I have made a number of friends on-line since I’ve gotten sick, and lost my hearing.  Due to my limitations, I haven’t been able to make friends outside of the house, maybe that will happen in the future, but I’m okay with that.  I will continue to nurture the relationships I have and focus on these things.

When I got sick most of my friends were starting a family.  I had many friends who were pregnant at the same time the year before I got really sick.  Keeping up with me kind of went by the wayside.  They had a new life, one that would have been new if I were sick or not.  Our friendships would have changed.  Would they have survived if I hadn’t gotten sick?  Probably, at least for longer than they did.  Things changed.  I could no longer nurture the relationships the way I had before, my friends couldn’t find a way to bend to my new limitations.  Is there hard feelings?  I’d lie if I said they aren’t ever there, but for the most part, I’ve found peace with this.  Realizing that my pain comes from me, makes it easier to have equanimity in this situation.

Something else I noticed, when I tried to attend a few gatherings with my friends after I’d been sick for a while, I realized, I had nothing to say.  I used to be a social butterfly, always being able to have conversations with anyone.  After getting sick my world shrank, I rarely go out other than go to the doctors.  My friends still worked, ran around with their kids, and had rich social lives; my life revolves around my health.  That doesn’t give us much to talk about.  I wanted to hear all about their lives, but I had nothing to contribute to the conversations.  I was uncomfortable, and I made others uncomfortable.  Conversations were forced.  We had changed.  The fact that our friendships didn’t survive doesn’t mean either of us are bad people, we grew apart, as many people do.  When you become chronically ill to the point that your life changes so dramatically, it forces all of your relationships to change in a very short period of time.  Suddenly I didn’t have hardly anything in common with my core group of friends.  Normally if relationships change it takes time,  If you lose a relationship it doesn’t normally come in a mass exodus.  That is exactly what happens to many who are chronically ill.  We don’t see this as a natural progression in a relationship, we see this as abandonment.  It hurts much more than when you lose one friend because of something, you are suddenly losing many friends.  When I realized things change no matter what, and I will never know just how they would have changed without me getting sick, it helps me accept these things.

I realize now how much relationships change no matter what, and how much we need to nurture a relationship to keep it alive.  I hope this helps me to be a better friend and find compassion for others and myself when dealing with changing relationships.

 

Chronic Pain/Illness Photography Project

Starting on April 26th, I’ve been participating in a Chronic Pain/Illness Photography Project on Facebook.  It is a closed group, but I wanted to share my photos here.  By the way, if anyone wants to join the group, you can enter at any time.  You can complete the previous projects if you would like, or you can start of where we are now.  So far, it’s been a lot of fun, and a lot of support and camaraderie between between people who “get it”.

Many of these photos my long time readers may have seen.  Some are photos of my artwork.  (I can’t really get out and create many new photos right now since I’m recovering from hip replacement surgery.)

Day 1 – Hope

I made this for one of my doctors. She gives a lot of people hope. Unfortunately her treatment didn’t help me for long, but I always have hope, not necessarily for a cure…..Hope springs eternal.

Hope... for Dr. Gray by w. holcombe copywrite 2014

Hope… for Dr. Gray
by w. holcombe copywrite 2014

Day 2 – Loss

This photo represents losing my hearing, and much of my balance due to one of my illnesses, Meniere’s Disease.

 Fractured Ear manipulated photo -  by w. holcombe

Fractured Ear
manipulated photo –
by w. holcombe

Day 3…Today.

Today I got my bandage off from my hip replacement, all looks good there! You can’t tell in the picture, but I have 6 stitches you can see, but mostly I’ve been glued together, it looks pretty cool.
I haven’t felt good today. The nerve in my back is acting up and my leg is in a lot of pain. I didn’t sleep much last night.
My monkey is guarding my hip that was just operated on so my dog or cat can sit on my lap. In this photo, Kiki is keeping me company. We rescued Kiki right when my hip/back started hurting. The doctors thought I’d just strained it when we moved. I had no idea I’d be hip replacement surgery just 7 months later because my femur head was collapsing because it was dying. Avascular Necrosis sucks. and mine was caused because of over use of prednisone. Doctors caused this disease by treating other diseases I have with too many steroids. If I’m lucky it won’t attack my other large joints. I’m 51, in the last 3 years, I’ve gotten 2 artificial ears (Cochlear Implants) and an artificial hip….no metal detectors for me!! haha.

I’m not complaining, honestly….it’s just the way it is.

and when my hip heals I’ll be able to walk!!
Woo Hoo!!

Wendy Hip Replacement Recovery - April 2015 photos by w holcombe

Wendy Hip Replacement Recovery – April 2015
photos by w holcombe

Day 4 – Self Portrait.
This looks a little depressing, but I’m not..not today. I just like this self portrait of me. I took the photo in the bathroom mirror, and manipulated it on Photoshop. It shows part of my cochlear implant.
Some days are better than others….this day was a rough day. Taking the photo helped me get part of those feeling out, and helped me explain them to others.
I still have a hard time with my cochlear implants at the time. My hearing isn’t supposed to fluctuate with them, but it does…a lot! I’m lost, often. People don’t understand why I can’t hear when I have these devices. For those who don’t know, when someone has a hearing aid or other hearing device, it does NOT allow you to hear like a normal person. We often miss a lot. Often HOH/Deaf people won’t tell you they are having a hard time hearing.
I speak up, but it’s amazing how many hearing people don’t hear me. 🙂
Wendy charcoalwithCI

Wendy with CI – manipulated photo  –                     by w holcombe

Day 5…Tool Kit.

(sorry I’m a day late, yesterday I had a 12 hour vertigo attack…yuck….happy I wasn’t alone, and the violent spinning didn’t last long, I spent most of the time in slow spins…it’s still miserable, but it could have been much worse!) I have a few tool kits, emergency kits…..I believe in being prepared. smile emoticon This is my medication kit.
Top left – all closed up and ready to go. Top right – top part is open, this is where we store my shots and things that are needed for that, and other little things. Plus my med list, with all meds I take listed, pharmacy, prescribing doctor…ect. I also have this list with me in my wallet too. (this includes supplements and everything) Bottom left – bottom part of container is open and top of pill bottles showing…..the “A”s stand for A.M. or Morning, “P” is P.M. or Evening, AP are pills to be taken in the Morning and Evening. If there is a number on the top then I take more than one. I line all of these up and fill up my pill boxes…you can see those on top of my medicine box Bottom Left. I have two morning boxes because I have to take 2 pills before breakfast and the rest after breakfast.

There’s more to keeping up with my meds, but that’s my medicine box. If I’m going out of town for more than a couple of days, I just grab my box. It really has helped me to stay on track, and know when I need to refill my meds, to buy more supplements….ect. It also helps me keep everything in one place. I love my medication kit.
So this is ONE of my tool kits.

medicine box

Medication Toolkit photos – by w. holcombe

Day 6….Acceptance.

One day after hearing me talk about how hard I had been fighting, a fellow Meniere’s patient told me that perhaps I should learn to walk with old Mr. Meniere’s instead of fighting him so much all the time. I had never even thought of that. I knew this disease had no cure, but it never occurred to me to not fight it tooth and nail. Suddenly it hit me, I had to accept it as part of me. I can’t get rid of it, some days may be better, but it will always be there. I accepted it. Once I did, things got much easier. I have a number of other illnesses, I’ve accepted them all. Meniere’s Disease was the hardest to accept….it comes packed with a lot of stuff….and mine is a very complicated case. (my doctors at Duke now say I have “more than Meniere’s”, they have no idea exactly what I have. I have a several complicated vestibular disorders.)

I drew this little doodle one day to show I think I’m perfect just the way I am.

I am (imperfectly) perfect - by w. holcombe

I am (imperfectly) perfect – by w. holcombe

Day 7 – Grieving:

This was a hard subject for me to figure out a photo for. I kept thinking of things more suited for loss. I wanted to show something that worked more for my grief over all the things I’ve lost…. I came across this entry in my journal, and a photo of a flower I took that I think work fairly well.

Here are the words on the journal page, I’m sure you can’t read them….
The tears have been shed.
The lines have been drawn.
Do we dare to cross.
Do we dare to dream again.
The tears have flowed line rivers down our face.
The mourning continues.
How do we hope again.
How do we believe?

journal entry w. holcombe

journal entry
w. holcombe

by w holcombe

by w holcombe

I hope you enjoyed my photo journey so far….you may have learned a little about me along the way.

There are more to come!

Remember, if you would like to join me in this photography journey, come join the Facebook group, there’s a great group of people putting out some great work.

I have a confession…

For over a year I have been clinically depressed.  I have had some small doses of mania in there, but mostly I have been shrouded in a black cloth with no hope of seeing the light.

photo by click tongue, at deviant art.com

photo by click tongue, at deviant art.com

I realize now that my psychiatrist was going through some issues of his own, and didn’t pick up on the fact that my depression was more than what I should have felt.  At one point he told me that he felt like he had done all he could for me and I should see someone else, I could not hear that he was looking out for me, I only heard that I was losing something else in my life.  He had been my doctor for close to 12 years, I felt I was just being tossed away.  So, I ended up staying with him.  It eased my mind, but didn’t make me better.  Yes, I had many things happen that gave me a reason to be depressed, but not as depressed as I was.  I wasn’t acting like me.  I really don’t remember much about 2012, I remember some horrible highlights, but not the good moments.  We all know, that is not me.  I normally cherish every moment I can, and look at things realistically, not escalate them to the point that I can’t see past the hurt.

The mania manifested itself as anger.  I was so angry at times, and I had no control over it.  I hate that Stuart was the one who had to be on the receiving end of all this emotional turmoil.

In 2012 and part of 2013 I cried every day.  Yes, part of it was losing Sandy, but it started before that.  I think the catalyst that started all of this was my diagnosis of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH).   I finally knew I would never get back to the point I was at the year before.  I would never feel “normal”.  There were a lot of emotions that went with this, a lot of realized loses.  I never expected to become a completely “healthy” person.  I’ve never been one, why would that change now?  But something snapped, and I no longer felt as positive as I had.  My new psychiatrist thinks my medication had not been working as well as it should even before then, but I was handling what was coming my way.  The diagnosis just pushed me past the point of helping myself.

I won’t go into everything that happened to me last year.  I will say there were some major things that I simply could not deal with.  However, I didn’t realize it then, I thought I was doing rather well on most accounts.  I knew there was one thing that was eating me up and sent me spiraling out of control….  I posted a poem about family.  How I wasn’t very close to my biological family and I was so happy I had a family with Stuart.  I was not saying it was anyone’s fault that my family and I don’t see eye to eye, it was really more about my love for my chosen family.  Well, a member of my family saw it and sent me a comment out of the blue.  This is someone I used to be VERY close to, but now she hates me and slanders my name to anyone who will listen.  I have not heard from her for about 10 years, yet she says my friends here don’t know me.  She says I’m evil….ect.  I never expected to hear from her again, but there it was, a comment from my niece.  She is 3o years old and still holds a grudge over something.  I don’t know what, and no one will tell me.  I have a feeling it is something from my very unstable Bipolar days, but I don’t remember most of that.  I was literally a different person while that disease had hold of me.

Now I have a new psychiatrist, and after one visit I felt like a weight had been lifted off of me.  I felt validated.  She understood my illnesses without me having to explain them.  She saw I have IIH and immediately said, “You can’t even exercise.”   THANK YOU!   Other doctors have said, “if you could exercise”…..blah, blah,blah.  It makes it sound like I choose not to exercise.  Not that I really can’t.  I will have excruciating pain, and will pass out.  I have figured out ways to do some weight-bearing exercises.  But I have to go slow.  I cannot do cardio, if my heart rate gets to high, I’m out.  She increased one of my medications.  And I am feeling better, but I think it needs to go up a little bit more.

However, I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Right now it’s just a little candle, but it’s leading me out of the dark.

light at the end of the tunnel....photo from deviantart.com by zoop zoop

light at the end of the tunnel….photo from deviantart.com by zoop zoop

I have good thoughts again.  I am not crying every day.  My anger is much more under control. (I know my husband is very happy about all of this.)  In short, I’m feeling more like me.

I appreciate what I have.  Even when I’m stuck in a dark, silent room because of my migraines I am grateful I can get out of the light, and have a roof over my head.  When the world is spinning and I feel like my stomach is going to come out of my mouth, I am grateful I have a safe place where I can ride out the storm.  I may not be able to walk unaided most of the time, so I’m very grateful for my spiffy red walker, that is also a seat.

I’m grateful for my dear friends who read my rantings and support me so much.

This past Tuesday was my birthday.  I received more birthday cards than I think I ever have since I’ve become an adult.  Some made me cry (in a good way), some made me smile and feel all warm inside.  One I don’t believe the sender was thinking, or perhaps they don’t realize my hearing limitations, it played music.  I can’t understand music.  Stuart had to tell me it played Happy Birthday.  *funny*   He thought it was rude, I really think it was just a matter of not understanding.  Or wishful thinking.

Needing Strength – Writer’s Choice- #HAWMC 23

Today’s Prompt: Health Activist Choice Day 2! Write about whatever you like.

Strength by Carnegriff at deviantart.com

Needing Strength


The losses, so many losses

my mind struggles to comprehend.

The year has been a blur

I cannot keep up with the grief.

My life has been about strength,

never staying down for long.

Now I am broken, the pieces are scattered,

missing pieces never to be found.

The light in my soul is barely a flicker,

the flame will not light the way.

Until reached, no one knows what their “breaking point’ is,

now I know mine.

I can lose many parts of me,

always finding the strength to change and carry on.

Add the loss of a love so dear,

and I cannot find the strength.

If not for the love of another,

my life would have no meaning.

Grief, anger, love, tears, memories…

all things we share, with each loss.

We lean on each other,

each needing the strength.

The strength to live with,

all the losses.