Peeking out of the Hole

Posted: April 9, 2015 in Chronic illness
Tags: , , , ,

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.


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.

  1. Cheering for you all the way, Jess. I’m so glad to hear that you see self-care as such a vital focus, and adore you for your beautiful rawness and honesty. Sending so much love!

  2. Jess Witkins says:

    I’m rooting for you! When I was dealing with a lot of change in my life – and writing wasn’t going well – the best thing that helped me was journaling a list of things I learned that day. My struggle is always thinking I’m not moving fast enough or that others are all ahead of me. I forgot where I came from and how hard I had worked and was working to get there. I needed that visual reminder. Maybe that could help. August is right, self-care is important right now – for your mind and body. Flood yourself with positive, inspiring things. And remember it’s one day at a time. I truly am rooting for you and hope you keep writing. 🙂

  3. lynnkelleyauthor says:

    I can totally relate to the hermit routine. I pretty much have to sleep for a few days to get through it. Sleep, so healing for me. I think there are a lot of people who can relate to what you’ve been feeling. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with other health issues, too. You mentioned changing your diet. Did you try eliminating gluten? It can cause so many health issues and worsen symptoms for many other medical problems. I’m not offering medical advice, just a suggestion because I know so many people who have had life-changing results from the clean eating and eliminating gluten if you have a sensitivity to it. It’s worth a shot if you haven’t tried that route. The clean eating can only help you feel better and better. Every month I continue to eat clean, I feel better and better. Gluten makes me fatigued. It’s nice to have energy for a change. These are things that helped me. I hope you find answers that will help you. The meds sound scary. If you take them, be sure to drink tons of water to flush out your liver and kidneys. And this might sound silly, but hang out with people who make you laugh. Watch movies and TV programs, YouTube videos, etc. that make you laugh. Laughter is healing and studies show that it helps improve our immune systems, releases endorphins, and so many other benefits. Wishing you all the best!

  4. Hi Jess. Found my way here by August’s sharing your post. (Thanks, August!) I won’t pretend to know or imagine how you feel, but my heart and prayers go out to you.

    I get depression. I’ve lived through some terrible (situation-related) funks and have often wondered how people who live it clinically, or due to illness, conditions, and who knows what else get through on the day-to-day.

    That one-day-at-a-time attitude can serve well. (Sometimes you have to break it down that much more: one hour, one minute–whatever it takes–at a time.) It’s easier said than done, especially when one is down, but practicing an attitude of gratitude helps me immensely. I wish you all the best and hope to come back here again!

    Hang in there and be well!

  5. amyskennedy says:

    Jess. Baby steps are the bomb.

  6. Pulling for you, Jess. You’ve “got” this, girl.

  7. Hi Jess, I found you through August as well. Much of what you describe hits home for me, especially letting go of self-care and hiding away. Brava to you for making those first steps. And brava for speaking publicly about your struggle.

  8. Jan Morrill says:

    I understand this kind of writer’s block, Jess, and as I’ve said in the past, I so admire your steps to unblock. It’s hard for me to write about what’s been going on with me, yet the fact that I don’t blocks everything else that’s behind the wall of “stuff” I can’t or won’t let out. You’ve given me a bit of courage. I pray for your strength and hope that your pain will subside as you become stronger.

  9. Ginger Calem says:

    Oh goodness, no one wants to be wedged between that big rock and that solid hard place. I admire your strength for reaching out, for committing yourself to emerge from the dark place and take action for your health. I’ll be cheering you on, praying for you, and sending you all sorts of good, healing and joyful energy.

  10. I, too, found you through August (thank you!).
    Much of what you described, Jess, is my day-to-day struggle as well. I don’t have RA, but I have been diagnosed three separate times by three different doctors as clinically depressed. Yay me.

    I turned into a hermit too. I rarely leave the house. I’ve gained a ton of weight. I struggle daily to just get out of bed. Writing? HA! Blank pages stare at me defiantly from my computer.

    But you know what? I don’t care.

    Not in a “nothing matters” kind of way but rather in a “this is temporary” kind of way. Because I am taking it step by step and day by day. And tomorrow is another chance to get out of bed, to find a reason to laugh, to get words on the page.

    These last couple of years have been the first time in my life that I’ve ACCEPTED my illness, and more importantly, started talking to others about it.

    My biggest step in my journey to beat depression has been accepting that I WAS depressed.The day I decided that I was no longer going to pretend I was okay, no longer going to deny that I was struggling – practically drowning – to stay above water, was the day I took my first step toward beating this demon of mine.
    I took my meds, sure. But that was only one part of the process. For me it really IS a mental struggle. The dark thoughts and moods can be debilitating – IF I let them. I stopped focusing on all the things I WASN’T doing and now I focus on what I AM doing.
    For instance, I got up out of bed this morning. Hells yeah! That’s half the battle!
    AND I ate a healthy breakfast this morning. Booyah!
    I know it sounds silly. I mean these actions are no big deal, right? Things that most people don’t even think twice about. But when getting out of bed, taking a shower, getting dressed, doing NORMAL everyday chores is like climbing a steep mountain with no rope and no strength to pull up to that next outcropping… then those little things become GINORMOUS things. But, I DID them!!

    And so can you. After all, you wrote this post. Words on the page. And you can do it again. And again.

    My sister has a Facebook page that is dedicated for support and encouragement of those who suffer chronic pain. It’s called Partners in Pain. She welcomes all and I bet you might find some like minded people there who will totally understand how your RA affects your daily life.

    It is a struggle. It is a battle. But you’ve just dealt the winning blow – you made the decision to move forward.

    Feel free to reach out to me to vent, to talk, to laugh or even to cry. Our struggles may be different – everyone has different issues and challenges – but we are both fighters. And I know we can do this!!

    Sending virtual hugs and healing thoughts your way. 😀

  11. Shannon Esposito says:

    One of the main things to remember is although you may feel isolated and alone, you are not! I think this is one of the greatest things about the internet, our ability to connect with people who are struggling with the same demons as us. (Thank you, August for connecting us) And thank you for writing this post! Every time I read about someone else’s struggle it helps me feel less alone, and I hope that by sharing my story you feel that way, too.

    I’ve battled clinical depression for twenty years and the one thing I’ve come to realize is it’s a cycle. Whatever happens to allow me to succumb to the dark, numb place that sucks all meaning and joy from life…whether it’s an actual event, hormones, not watching my thoughts carefully enough…whatever it is, it WILL PASS. That’s the lifeboat I hold on to when I fall.

    My current irony is that a year ago I was taken off my anti-depressant because it was causing high blood pressure which, in turn, caused a weak artery above my eye to burst. Going off the anti-depressant after the medical emergency was too much for my nervous system and triggered fibromyalgia. So, now I am med-free struggling with chronic pain and fatigue. I have really, really dark days. Days where the only way to make it through is sit in a bath and sob. But even in those moments, I’m able to recognize that I just have to make it through that moment. Just that one. As heart-wrenchingly painful as it is, it is only one moment. Eventually the moments brighten.

    I know RA is so much worse because you don’t just have the pain and fatigue, but the physical affects as well. My heart goes out to you in your journey with this new challenge and I hope you find the right dose of medication to help you without any side effects. ((((hugs))))

  12. Jess, I’m here thanks to August’s thoughtful request too. This comment thread overflows with caring and helpful words and yet again I am touched by the kindness that is generated through a simple connection with a mutual friend. You’ve taken that vital first step in moving forward and I hope that the thoughts and information expressed here help smooth the path as you walk those baby steps. If writing is still a struggle, start a “gratitude album” with the camera on your cellphone. Take a photo every day of something that you appreciate or gives you pleasure or brings back a good memory. Look at those photos often. I hope you find that helpful.

    When pain and depression are pulling you down, reach out … support is waiting for you. *sending a gentle hug*

  13. August sent me–and I’m so very sorry you’re dealing with such challenges. But my gawd, woman! you write with passion and from-the-heart guts–and did I mention eloquence?–that if your other writing is even close to this, you will turn this awful-ness into a positive. Baby steps get the job done. I think sometimes we writers are given the gift of words, and then it’s balanced with crappiocca that we HATE HATE HATE but also gives us purpose and fuel. I don’t have suggestions what else to do–others here have posted much ore on that than I ever could. So my note is simply to say, you are not alone. You are heard. Your message is valued, and your writing already has an audience that will only get bigger.

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