How Rainbow Rowell helped me beat anxiety – for one night anyway.

Wow. Okay. So. This post contains two big things for me – the first being hearing Rainbow Rowell speak, and meeting her after. The second, and it ties in with the first, is how I (barely at times) overrode the anxiety that tends to rule my life – for a night anyway.

About… a month and a half to two months ago I got an e-mail from my county library system. Important to note that my city library isn’t a part of the county system, and I’m not exactly sure how I ended up getting this email. Anyway, I found out that Rainbow Rowell (and Markus Zusak!- more on that later) were going to be in my area. I waited a bit too long and wasn’t able to get meet and greet tickets for Rainbow Rowell, but I was signed up for her talk that night. One of my best friends was going to try to join me. I was, obviously, beyond stoked. Rainbow Rowell! I love her books and relate especially to Cath in Fangirl – the whole not going to the dining hall because of anxiety was me in college… both times.

Day of the event, my friend can’t make it and it’s snowing/icing outside. I decide that if I can find a fairly easy way to the library she will be at I will try to go on my own. I am terrified to do this. I DO NOT want to go alone. I don’t do well at all in unknown places with lots of people I don’t know when someone is with me, so imagine how I can be when alone. I realize this chance may not come again for a long time, if ever, and get in my car and make the drive.

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Oh so blurry, but its Rainbow FREAKING Rowell!

 

She spoke for nearly 90 minutes.  I teared up when she came onto the stage.

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Seriously, guys.  It was a life changing moment for me.  For nearly 90 minutes I got to hear an author I adore speak, and I was so captivated by her words that for most of that 90 minutes, the anxiety was pushed back just enough.

When the talked ended we were informed that Rainbow would be singing books.  ALL the books, but only personalizing one.  Being by myself was a slight advantage at this point because while people gathered their things and waited for their friends, I was able to maneuver around them a bit and get in the line, so I wasn’t standing alone in line with my anxieties for too awful long.

I brought the three books I have in hard copy.  Eleanore & Park, Landline, and of course – Fangirl.  I was set to have her personalize Fangirl for me.  I stood in line and just stared at her… she was so attentive to every person who was there.  Reading her interviews and twitter feed only scratch the surface of how amazing she really is.  Then, finally, it was my turn.  Shaking and teary eyed I get up to her and hand her my books.  Where she personalized TWO of the three for me, as I explained to her my kinship to Cath and she shared her own anxiety story with me.  I told her how came alone, but I wasn’t willing to miss her even in the storm of anxiety and she looked me in the eye and told me how happy she was that I made it there.

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In short, it was amazing.  So much so that today at work when I was telling some co-worker friends the story, they said I was glowing.  I was absolutely excited about meeting her and having my books signed.  That still hasn’t worn off. But I was also proud that for one evening, just for a few hours, I managed to beat my mind at it’s own game.

 

 

Spoonie.

Today was a big day, y’all.  I got my first tattoo.  And, to make it even more special two of my dearest friends were there with me and got tattoos as well.  We all got spoon tattoos.

Spoons?  What?!
Yes, spoons.

Let me start at the beginning, at least for my story.  I’m sure you’ll read this and wonder what the hell it has to do with spoons… but hang in there, it’ll all make sense soon.
I am 32 years old (nearly 33) and live daily with chronic, invisible illnesses that are both physical and mental.  From my teenage years I struggled with depression.  Anxiety came along for the ride when I was in college.  When I was 18 (my first year of college) I had emergency surgery to remove my appendix, when they cut me open it turned out my appendix was fine but I had a huge cyst on my ovary that was pushing all of my organs out of the way.  After many years of cysts and other not so pleasant issues, I was finally diagnosed with PCOS in July of 2009.  In my mid to late 20’s I started to notice that I always hurt.  I started to have sleep issues.  I honestly didn’t think much of it at first.  Then, it just became a part of my life… I didn’t think much about it until I started having severe chest pain in February 2014.  I went to my doctor who said it was costochondritis (an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breast bone).  Since it was a new thing for me my doctor asked questions and checked some pressure points.  He told me he felt something wasn’t right and wanted to rule out RA and Lupus.  So I had plenty of blood drawn.  A few days later he called me to tell me that,thankfully, I did NOT have RA or Lupus.  However my blood showed a very high level of the marker for inflammation and he was positive I had fibromyalgia based on my symptoms and that blood test.

So, here we are.  I’m sick. I don’t generally say that, but it is what it is.  I spend my days fighting for my health in ways not many can understand.  I am always tired.  I always hurt.  I can have really bad days. Each flare is different – I never know what fun symptoms will pop up or how a fibro flare may affect my body to cause issues with my other illnesses. I have moments where I get so frustrated that I don’t have a ‘normal’ body that does what it’s supposed to. I sometimes take my pain and frustration out on those closest to me, but I never intend to.  I keep a lot of it to myself with those outside of my close circle for various reasons.
The real bitch? I usually don’t “look” sick, which throws a lot of people off and even has led to people saying that I’m not really sick or that I just need to “suck it up”. Those words hurt and they make fighting with my own body even harder at times because when I struggle I fear speaking up because I don’t want to be looked at in *that* way.  The way people look at others that they don’t believe or, even worse, pity.

So, what do spoons have to do with all of this?

In doing my research on fibro I came across But You Don’t Look Sick.com where  Christine Miserandino wrote this amazing piece on what it is to be a spoonie, that is someone who lives with an illness that is chronic and often times invisible.  We don’t look sick, but we are.   The idea is that we start each day with a limited number of spoons and each activity we do costs us spoons.  Some days, often times many days, we run out of spoons before our day is done.  We have to think long and hard before we do something out of the norm for us.  Sometimes it can take days to fully recover from even something as seemingly simple as a shopping trip.

So, I am a spoonie.  I measure my days in spoons the way a person would count out spoons for a fancy dinner party to assure they have enough for everyone.  Some days are fantastic and full of energy, but often times and especially as of late, I can barely get myself to do what HAS to be done (work things, school work) let alone things that should be done (cleaning my house, cooking healthy meals).  In my case it seems like my list is linked together in some way… both PCOS and Fibro can cause depression and anxiety.  There are small studies that have shown a link between chronic pain illnesses and endocrine disorders (such as PCOS).

It’s not easy to live with a chronic illness of any type.  I’d imagine it’s not easy to live with someone who has a chronic illness, either.  My husband and good friends should be canonized as saints for dealing with me.  Seriously.

spooniegirl(image is my spoon tattoo taken right after it was completed)

So, aside from showing support for the spoonie community we got our spoon tattoos so that we will always and forever have an extra spoon when needed.

I am absolutely in love with mine.  I also think I have opened a crazy new obsession – tattoos.

spoonietrio(image is a collage of tattoos done today – my two friends and myself)

I was always bad in chemistry.

I have many topics I want to share with y’all – but today’s is personal and a bit heavy.  So, please, bear with me.

As I lay in bed in the middle of the day, again, staring blankly at the ceiling the truth of things hit me hard.  I’m depressed, again.  Screw you, brain chemistry.

I think a lot of it has to do with trying to figure out how to cope with living inside a body that won’t work the way it is supposed to.  Between the fibromyalgia and the PCOS I feel like my body can’t do anything ‘right’.  The fact I am still not pregnant kills me.  The fact that no matter what I do lately weight loss won’t happen is upsetting.  The fact that my body hurts so bad at times, for no obvious reason, that I just want to cry is beyond frustrating.

Overall, my life is pretty great.  I have a loving husband.  A job I enjoy, and working toward a higher education to do even better in that department.  We have a roof over our heads and food in the pantry.  I have access to ‘extras’ that while they seem basic to me, I know not everyone can afford them.  But, things aren’t how I always pictured they would be… and it isn’t a bad thing in most cases… but sometimes when life doesn’t match the beautiful picture that has been painted in your head it can get to a person.

Depression and anxiety have been near constant companions for me for most of my adult years, and before.  I have times where things are really really good and times when they are awful – thankfully the truly awful rock bottom is a place I only have been to one time.  A good portion of the time things are fairly even keeled.  I have coping tools that help me when things are really bad – as I really dislike medication, mainly because one hasn’t ‘worked’ for me and most have awful side effects.  I know not the best excuses in the world – but here we are.

I’m an avid reader, that’s nothing new.  I enjoy mental health memoirs, I always have.  I think a good part of that is being able to strong identify with the author and/or main subject in the stories.  Realizing that the thoughts I have aren’t all that ‘crazy’ and that I am, in fact, not alone.  There is comfort in knowing you aren’t alone, even if you don’t know the person who shares in your turmoil.  Misery does love company, after all.

In a lot of those books they focus on how deep into it they felt – not being able to get out of bed, shower, or basically do anything.  I completely get that.  I feel like there is this… part of my brain that somehow functions under depressive conditions.  This part is what keeps me getting up, getting dressed, pulling forty hours a week at work, and doing all of the other life things I have to do.  If that part ever totally shorts out, I am beyond screwed.  I don’t know why it works even at the worst of times… but somehow, something keeps me moving forward.  Barely, at times, but I’m thankful for even that.

Honestly?  I’m not sure why I even felt the need to write this.  I generally keep these things to myself.  But with the stress of school, work, and life in general I figured maybe writing would be cathartic.  That maybe, for even a few minutes, by putting words onto the screen something may make more sense.