If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been pretty much absent from social media lately. In fact, I’ve been somewhat absent from all of life. Those demons that lay dormant within me most of the time have been rearing their ugly heads over the past week or so. And when that happens, I retreat. I withdraw from everything and everyone and try to get my mind to just shut down.

When I’m coming up out of these black holes, I picture stepping in front of a support group, something like Alcoholics Anonymous. So…

Hi, my name is Jess, and I live in a place called Denial.

When dealing with the depression that has plagued me off and on all my life, these days it doesn’t come in the form of immense sadIMG_0095_2ness, loneliness, feelings of worthlessness or despair. No, these days, I just sink down into a funk, an emotional numbness, and come close to being a hermit.

That’s what I have been doing the past week. I haven’t written anything or felt productive in any way. In short, I’ve been a slug. My writing suffers. But so does everything else. Housework, relationships, even grocery shopping. Not that I don’t already look for an excuse to not go to the grocery store.

So, back to the denial. There’s one thing that has been forefront in my mind the past few days, and that is the fact that I need to get my shit together and start taking care of myself.

It’s been almost a year now since I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). I wasn’t really surprised when my new rheumatologist told me. I had suspected it for years. There were too many injuries that had gone unexplained. Too much weird crap that had all my doctors saying, “huh…I really don’t know why that happened.” Let me tell you, that’s reassuring.

For a while, I tried to do the right thing, really I did. I took medication, changed my diet, and got more exercise when I wasn’t in a terrible flare. But for some reason, after changing medications twice already, I’ve just been holding onto the bottle of the newest pills for months.

I think subconsciously, a part of me thought it would just go away. I know, unrealistic. That doesn’t happen. I’ve been dealing with all the symptoms without trying to treat them. Why? I have no idea. Maybe a part of me is scared. These drugs for RA are like taking small doses of chemotherapy for the rest of my life. Maybe they will prevent further joint damage or the disease affecting my heart and lungs, but at what cost? All the side effects are annoying at the least, frightening and potentially deadly at the worst.the-good-news-is-not-cancer-the-bad-news-is-autoinmune-and-you-will-need-chemo-for-the-rest-of-your-life-dd4f8

I’m kind of stuck between a rock and a damned if I do, damned if I don’t place. Don’t take the pills, deal with the pain, swelling, immense fatigue, daily low-grade fevers, yadda yadda and risk deformation, eye, lung, and heart diseases. Take the pills and I’m faced with destroying what little immune system I have left, nausea, dizziness, hair loss, upset stomach, a long slew of other potential side effects, and oh yeah, liver failure.

Sigh.

I know what I have to do, and I’ve been kicking my ass about it all week. So, I’m writing this now to take baby steps out of my writer’s block, and tomorrow, I’ll swallow a pill and schedule an appointment with the rheumatologist.

Then, I’ll shower, shave my legs, do something about my ratty hair, plaster on a smile and face the day. The day I start living again.

Simple Can Be Great

Posted: March 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

Okay, yes, I’m cheating since I haven’t done a blog in a while. But I’m also sharing something I agree with and find inspiration in during my struggles with what I call “missing the creativity bug”. AKA writer’s block if you want to call it that.

thelongandwritingroad

One minute: “Oh, I love this.”

Next minute: “Ugh… this is utter crap.”

Three minutes later: “Wait, maybe it’s not toobad.”

Six minutes after that: *Crumbles paper and throws it across the room* OR *Delete… Delete… Delete…*

Every single writer I know has had this moment a few hundred thousand times, if not more. It’s exhausting to question every word we write. It can be excruciating. I tend to pace the floor as I talk out loud (or scream) at my characters, while pulling my hair out at the root.

Pace… pace… pace… scream.

Yes, I know if I chill out, not force it, the words will work themselves out, but of course, it takes me going through the screaming and pacing drama to get me to the other side.

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Thankfully, I have random days when it seems all the stars are in alignment, and the rays of writerly-love shine upon me, at the

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A blogger friend of mine – you may have heard of her, the amazing August McLaughlin – is hosting a blog fest titled “The Beauty of a Woman” this week. I accepted a Facebook invite to the event thinking, sure, I’ll read and comment on blogs, sounds like fun.

When the fest kicked off today, I began pondering the question: what makes a woman truly beautiful? I realize there is at least a hundred different answers to that, so I dug a little, asked myself the simplified version – what is beautiful to me? As cynical and sarcastic as I am, I do find beauty in every day things. I even see it in some of the most terrible places thanks to my skewed vision.

I touched on my depression in my last blog post. Let me take you a little deeper here.

I had absolutely no reason to be depressed growing up (of course, any of us with the tiniest bit of knowledge on the subject know there doesn’t have to be a reason). My parents were never abusive in any way, shape or form. I had a glorious family life. I still do. My parents, brother, all my cousins, they’ve been called my “Brady Bunch Family” because we all get along so well and would do anything for each other.

Yet, there I was, sixteen years old, and I had my suicide planned. I saw it in my head; everything from the method (slit wrists, in the bathtub so it was easier to clean) down to the fact that Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” (hey, I was a child of the 80s) would be playing on repeat when I was found.

My faith and family – though none of them knew about it – were the only things at the time that prevented it. A year later, I developed severe panic disorder and dying was my greatest fear. Funny how that works.

At any rate, all these years later, I look back on the grueling path I traveled to the freedom I have today and realize there were a lot of beautiful bumps in that road.

Yes, I have been stricken with so many illnesses and diagnoses I could practically list them and use the entire alphabet. Yes, I’ve had to make sacrifices and learn what is truly important in life to me. But all the while, I have looked upon each as a milestone to contentment. And I’ve met some awe-inspiring people along the way.

So, what is beauty to me?

The woman who finds courage to leave a broken relationship. The man who reaches out to a complete stranger and offers understanding and camaraderie. The child or young adult who finds inspiration in those decades older than she.

It’s being who you are, who you want to be, and not settling for anything because it’s too hard to achieve. It’s acknowledging your inner flaws, fixing them if you can, and making the best of them if you can’t.

Being you, including all the ugly parts, is beautiful.

In my tween years and beyond, I was ridiculed and shamed, called names, pointed and laughed at by my peers. All because of my weight. This subsequently caused me to jump from diet to diet for almost twenty years. I wrote about it.

In my teenage years I was full of depression and anxiety. I was a worrywart. A goth chick. A loner. A crappy poet. Eventually, a cutter. Still, I wrote.

In my 20s I went straight from being a daughter and sister living at home to being a wife a daughter-in-law. Still consumed by underlying depression.
In my work life, I was always some kind of Secretary or administrative assistant, then a registrar at a local high school. Though during this time, I felt my creativity had left me, I still wrote. Granted some days, it was just lists (over and over thanks to a generous touch of OCD) or scant paragraphs of scenes or a scribbled description of a dream.

In 2007, my life changed. It seemed on top of other chronic health issues, my spine had begun its descent into deterioration. I sustained a back injury that required surgery the same year my family lost our matriarch member, our cornerstone – my grandmother.

Little did I know at the beginning of that summer my life would never be the same.
All the time that elapsed and events that unfolded between the time of my injury, the surgery and the subsequent second surgery (that’s a whole other story – maybe another time) I developed something called sacroiliac joint dysfunction. That was the final nail on the medical coffin which would entrap me as officially disabled.

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I can’t begin to tell you what anguish, frustration and depths of darkness engulfed me. I was too young. There was too much I still wanted to accomplish. I hadn’t found my best fitting label yet.
But I had so many I’d gained throughout the first three decades of life. From others and self-imposed. Good, bad, and terrible.

Fatty. Weirdo. Lard-ass. Freak. Daughter. Wife. Sister. Caregiver. Cousin. Niece. Bitch. Angry. Frustrated. Depressed. Worthless. Hopeless. Broken.

I didn’t write.

About three years ago something changed. I can’t define the exact moment I decided to take charge of my life again. Maybe for the first time. I was done taking care of everyone else; it was time to take care of me.

First off, it was time to quit dieting. I have learned one of my medical conditions was making it very hard for me to lose weight so I decided to stop focusing so much on it.

Second, my marriage. We had been living for years like roommates and friends but not much else. We both deserved better. We divorced and I faced my fear of being alone head-on. I actually discovered I quite like it.
I took up writing again, joined a critique group, met some new friends.

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Now, I’m a co-founding partner in an up-and-coming publishing company with a family of authors who all support and promote each other.

And you know what? I still have those labels. I just have better ones now.

I am a businesswoman. I’m a publisher, a friend, an advocate, a survivor.
And most of all, through it all, I am a writer.

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#WomensRightToWrite