Sylvia’s Click

Sylvia is someone I met through the Owning Pink Posse.  She is one of those inspiring souls that strives to bring out the best in others.  She is a writer, yoga teacher, artist, photographer, gardener and “blissed-out” babe!  I am grateful that she answered my call and shared this personal click story, that I know will touch many.  If you would like to hear or read more from Sylvia you can find her wonderful blog about living blissfully here, on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

My click story starts in January 2001. My husband and I had heard from
my OB/GYN that the test they had done earlier that month showed that a
long treatment for restless cells in my uterus was finally successful.
We could finally work on getting pregnant.

I drove home with some mixed emotions. A little more than two years
earlier I started on a hormone treatment, and immediately got plunged
into a major depression, and gained about 30 kilo’s in weight in the
months that followed after.

So there I sat, deeply depressed, feeling utterly lost, and with a
moon cycle that was completely out of whack and very painful. A uterus
that was so cramped up I could hardly sit up straight and walking
around became more and more difficult. And my doctor told me that I
could get pregnant.

Two months later I was rushed to the hospital with what could be an
appendicitis. After a day of waiting for the two hour emergency
surgery, it turned out to be an ovary with a really bad cyst.

That surgery and the recovery from it was my click. It came in the
form of one single thought: is getting pregnant worth this suffering?
It didn’t take me long to say no. I felt like a crippled person, stuck
in 9 days out of 24 periods, and the rest of the time I seemed like I
was stuck in an endless seeming PMS cycle. I didn’t get pregnant, as
my wish to have sex had completely diminished. I felt a bloated up
mockery of who I really was.

Soon after what was the second surgery of the year I sat in the OB/GYN
office again for a routine checkup, still not pregnant, and even more
worn out than I was back in January, and I burst out in tears. I said
with a trembling voice I could no longer live like this, and that I
was ready to give up the dream of becoming a mother. It got replaced
by a much stronger dream, a will to survive, and to truly get to live
my life.

The doctors discussed my request, and it got granted. In June of that
year I went into surgery again, it turned out my ovaries could stay
but my uterus was removed. The uterus was tested, and the OB/GYN told
me that the cells were back to their restless state, and if I had
gotten pregnant, I would have had a baby and full blown cancer. The
moment he told me my decision was the right one, it felt like victory.

It has taken me a couple of very tumultuous years, stumbling, falling,
getting up again, to finally get to where I am today. I had a hard
time accepting the fact I no longer had a uterus, and struggled hard
with femininity issues, but I climbed out of it, and became the
strong, independent woman I am today.

I have no doubt that the journey I went through was one of saying
goodbye to my old self, to the dreams of that woman I used to be.

What I did gain though, was finding my passion. I had been a writer
ever since my early childhood, but lacked the confidence to do
anything with it. I found that strength again in the depth of my
depression, and for that I am forever grateful.

Toby’s Click (2)

Please welcome Toby back to the “stage.” Remember you can visit her blog here.

Endocarditis

Life as a junky is unlike any other life.  In the life of a junky, one tends to put all reality aside, existing only in a world swimming with derangement.  Only now, when I look back do I see just how bad things really were.

There were many instances that would have been one of those aha moments where my life changed forever, but I was too messed up to figure it out.  There were no ahas, but instead only the ahhhhhhhhs of getting high and relief from withdrawal.  Now that I have begun to really reflect, many of these moments scare the crap out of me.  Maybe it is only now, with some clarity, that I can call them an aha.  As I say to myself, I will never go back there!

Charity Hospital in New Orleans was not the most pleasant place.  Nothing against the facility itself, nor its wonderful doctors, but when one ends up for a stay in Charity it is never pleasant.  I will never forget my first stay there, even if it has taken me years to feel the gravity of the situation.

I was not sure what was wrong with my shoulder, or if it was even my shoulder.  The horrible pain could have been coming from my back.  I do know that I had injured it at the strip club doing some elaborate flip over type move that I was probably way too wasted to perform.  When it first started hurting, I paid it no mind.  Weeks went by before I even quit doing the move that hurt so bad but looked so good on stage.  With the use of extra dope in every shot, sometimes I hardly noticed the pain.

Eventually, the pain got so bad that it started to take my breath away.  Of course I kept working…how else was I going to keep from withdrawal?  Until one afternoon I discovered I could not even get out of bed.  It seemed then that my upper back, by the right shoulder blade was locked tight.  The pain was so excruciating that I could not even get out of bed.  I was thankful I had my works, along with a cup of water right by the bed.  After a big, fat “morning” shot, I still could not get out of bed.  Screaming in pain, I called someone to take me to Charity.

As usual at Charity, I waited for many, many hours.  I sat up, uncomfortable in those waiting room chairs for what seemed like an eternity.  I was in too much pain to eat or drink much.  I watched so many in much worse shape than me pass through that emergency room…gunshots, knife wounds, and even an awful dog bite right to a pretty girl’s cheek.  I envied them for not having to wait in such excruciating pain.  Thankfully, I had a pocketful of dope and could frequently sneak into the restroom for a little line.  Not the same kick as the needle, but I doubt even that could have overridden the pain.

When they finally called me back almost a day later, I collapsed when I tried to stand up.  I was so dehydrated and weak.  My vital signs were not normal.  They tried to put an IV for fluids in, but my veins were so bad and I was so dehydrated that they admitted me immediately.

They gave me water and eventually got a line in me.  It was when the doctor listened to my heart that the real concerns began to arise.  Apparently, the nurses had heard it first and were just waiting for a doctor to come around to confirm their suspicions.

They were hearing a heart murmur, and a very noticeable one at that.  It was so prominent that nurses in training were brought by to be taught what a heart murmur sounded like.  If one could not hear my murmur, one could not hear any murmur.  Even an untrained ear like mine could hear this weird sound in my chest.  It sounds like a thump, swoosh rather that the normal thump, thump.

The concern of any heart murmur in an IV drug user is a disease called endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection on one of the valves of the heart, which is caused by nasty foreign particles being injected to the bloodstream and lodging on the valve.  It is very serious and could require months in the hospital and hundreds of rounds of IV antibiotics.  Without treatment, endocarditis most likely causes death.

The doctors were even more concerned when they realized my white blood cell count was up.  This generally indicates there is an infection.  Since I did not seem to have anything wrong with me, the infection was feared to be in my heart.  Panic began to set in at this point.  The rib I had broken on my backside was no concern at this point, and they were keeping me comfortable with a ton of methadone.  But, my mind was not comfortable at all as it ran in all directions.

My heart?  Something is wrong with my heart?  The doctor reminded me, we cannot live without our heart.  I thought about living the rest of my life with heart problems, and I thought about dying.  I thought about spending months and months in the hospital.  All kinds of thoughts raced unchecked through my head.

Then, the testing began.  They drug me all over that hospital in those ancient wheelchairs.  They did echocardiograms to look at the heart.  They drew lots and lots of blood.  It seemed that they were just pumping me full of all kinds of stuff, taking all my blood out, and testing me like a lab rat.

After my mind was exhausted stressing the possibilities, it seems they had come to a conclusion.  Extensive testing of my blood for days had revealed there was no infection in my heart.  All I had was a urinary tract infection to cause the white blood cell count being so high.  As for the murmur, maybe it was simply a functional murmur I was born with.  Although, it was so prominent most doctors did not believe this could be the case.  Either way, I was due to be released later that day.

Relief spread through me…I am not going to die, or spend months in here.  In a few hours I was headed home, and I was so overwhelmed that I was suddenly aware of the intense cravings I was having.  I really wanted a shot of heroin.  The doctors warned me that another one could cause this scenario I had just narrowly avoided.  In the hospital, I had sworn it off all together…I will never use a needle again.  But now that I was out, I was so relieved to be okay.  I was released of all that worry and allowed to feel the craving that had probably been lying underneath the surface of all that worry.

On the ten to fifteen minute ride from the hospital, I contemplated a shot.  I must have talked myself in and out of it at least thirty times.  But, the dope addict of course won out.  I had not been for home for five minutes when the dope man showed up.  It was about twenty minutes after I left the hospital that I was shooting up again.

Almost being diagnosed with endocarditis should have been an aha moment.  It should have been a moment to wake me up, to give me clarity, to stop this deadly cycle.  Unfortunately, it was not and my addiction soared out of control for years to come.  I wish now it had scared me so badly I would have stopped because I never would have plummeted to the depths I did.

After getting sober, I was had the heart checked again and it was confirmed the sound is merely a valve that worked slightly different but is completely healthy. At this point of sobriety in my life, I have realized that there is no point dwelling on the past.  The best we can do for ourselves is to take the hand we are dealt, even when we dealt our own cards, and try to make the best play.  Sometimes, I still feel like I am taking it one day at a time, as if I have just entered rehab.  Other days I feel like this is no longer such an uphill struggle and things are getting easier.  Although I wish I could change the past, the fact is I cannot.  None of us can.  So it is best that we just move forward, using our mistakes a stepping stone to learn from.


Numb

I don’t know if I’m really numb or have just been “shocked and saddened” so much lately that there is no shock or sadness left to feel, but tonight I got the news of another death.  For any new readers that may not know, one of my best friends, Amy, passed away on October 25th just two days after giving birth to twins and on December 11th one of my Twitter friends, Traci, passed away unexpectedly.  This evening I listened to a message on my answering machine from my mother.  I could tell by the tone that someone had died.  I couldn’t reach my mom but got a hold of my sister who informed me that the man that I worked for in college for over 4 years had passed away.  He was more than my boss at the Hallmark store, he was a family friend (who hired me b/c of that connection) and later became a personal friend.  He helped in the planning of my wedding and was one of my honored guests.  Kent and my job at the Hallmark shop was probably the most stable thing in my life during college.  For 5 years, he was a lot like the big brother I never had.  I can’t even remember the last time I saw Kent.  It may have been my wedding.  After I moved away we sent one another Christmas cards for a few years, but ultimately lost touch.  Our mothers have been friends for decades, so I always kept up with him through her.  He was only in his early 40s and his death has preceded both of his parents.

There are just no words to express what I feel for these families as we are only 4 days away from Christmas.  The fog of grief (at the loss of Amy) is slowly starting to lift for me.  I haven’t made it to acceptance yet.  I think of her everyday and have at least one cry or almost cry.  I think of the babies and imagine her taking care of them and suddenly remember she isn’t (at least not on this plane).  I have dreams about her and wake up wishing I could tell her about them.  But I am feeling peace about my life.  I have stopped imagining the worst-case scenarios and feeling panicked.  I am getting back to my spiritual practices and listening to my intuition.  I wish there was a way to absorb some of  the pain of others.  The pain of losing a child or a partner is something I cannot fathom.

This year I have been reminded how fragile life is.  Everything can change in a blink.  I am holding these families in my heart this week and sending them love.

I don’t know that this song fits this post necessarily…but it’s so moving.  Also, it’s sung by the incredibly talented, Jeff Buckley, who also died too young and unexpectedly…

Kim’s Click

The following “Click” is from Kim Wencl.  I connected with Kim through the Owning Pink Posse.  I was immediately drawn to her and her story.  She sent me a copy of the book it is published in and I read it and wept (you will understand more when you read below).  Weeks went by and I didn’t cross paths with Kim online, then on the day that Amy died I clicked on Owning Pink and there was a post written by Kim about dealing with the loss of a loved one.  The next day I checked my blog and Kim had left a comment for me.  I believe that the timing of this was meant to be.  Every time I think of Kim I am reminded of our connection to loved ones that have transitioned and it is no coincidence that she was back in my awareness in the days following my best friend’s death.  Thank you Kim for sharing your story and for what you represent to me!  It is obvious you came into my life for a reason…

WAITING FOR THE CLICK

When thinking about what events in my life “clicked” thus changing my life forever, I found I could narrow them down to two.

The first was September 12, 1983 – the day Elizabeth Jean came into my life. This day was also the most physically painful time of my life.  After an excruciating labor and finally a c-section, my girl was born, and when I learned what love was really all about.  Elizabeth was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen.  She had a massive head of wild black hair, and the biggest blue eyes ever.  I knew she was special … but I wouldn’t know just how special until 20 years later.

The second event was September 20, 2003.  This day was the most emotionally painful day of my life – the day the physical presence of Elizabeth left me.  But, as painful as that was, it was also the day that the God of The Universe came into my life in the most real and vibrant way.  It took my breath away and propelled me through some of the most difficult days, weeks and months of my life.

Up until that day, I had a relationship with God, but he seemed to be this distant, far off deity that for a very long time I had cried out to and begged for help … but remained ever silent.  Liz’s high school years were tumultuous at best.  She was gregarious – she was a cheerleader, she got good grades … but she also smoked, she drank and she experimented with drugs.  My husband and I were beside ourselves with worry and fear.  We could never understand why she chose to do these things – couldn’t she see how they were ruining her life?

September 20th happened and it was literally the last straw.  I breathed a sigh of relief – she’s yours now God – I know you will take better care of her than I ever did.

But God was no longer a silent deity – that day he stepped into my life and became real for the first time.

He gave me peace.  Peace that Elizabeth was just fine, that I would be fine, and my family would be fine.  We would get through this very difficult, dark time in our lives, and we have.

God opened a door for me that day that I never expected to walk through … but I was offered the opportunity and I took it and once I did, I did not want to go back.

God showed me in no uncertain terms that Liz was just fine, in fact she was more than fine, she was amazing and VERY happy.  God reached out to others as well and then in turn they reached back to me.

And I could see this very real path forming in front of me – but again, it wasn’t forced on me – it was always my choice whether to take another step on the path, or completely abandon it for other avenues.  However, I have never in my entire life felt so compelled to follow a path as I have this one – I wanted to follow – I needed to follow – oh yes, I followed.

God does not disappoint.  He has led me through darkness and despair into love and laughter, but most of all to PEACE and a return to JOY.

Because he reached out to me in such a compelling, powerful, and real way, I now reach out to others through my words and my voice to share my experiences … it is but a small way to begin to repay The Universe for the abundant blessings and gifts received over the past six years.

I look forward to the day when I walk through the veil that still separates Elizabeth and me, and we are completely united.  But for now, I am so very grateful for all I have received – it is a sacred trust that can never be broken – not even by death.

Love never dies … and the bond we all share with those we love is never broken … not even by death, and that is the best news of all!

Live in PEACE – but most of all in JOY

Guilt, Guilt, Guilt

The term “survivor’s guilt” has been mentioned these past two weeks since I lost my dear friend, Amy.  When I hear the term I immediately think of someone feeling guilty for being alive when their loved one has passed on.  I imagine them off in a corner somewhere thinking it should have been me, it should have been me.  I haven’t felt this way.  I had a moment of thinking why do I get to be here and what am I supposed to do, but never thought it should have been me.  Mark and the girls need me.  It would be selfish to think that.

I do believe I am experiencing “survivor’s guilt” in a different way.  Right now, I seem to be drowning in guilt.  I am regretting all of the missed opportunities and the stupid excuses (not just with Amy).  The girls are tired.  The drive is too far.  There are too many people to see.  It’s too hard.  There is not enough time. I feel bad for choosing the wrong words.  Even after apologies are exchanged and accepted, I can’t stop flogging myself for putting them out there in the first place.  I feel guilty for the things I want and the things I don’t want.  I feel wrong for the love I do feel and the love I wish I felt.  I feel like a horrible mother because I am lacking the energy it takes to turn off the TV and talk or play.  I answer Callee’s demands because it’s easier than trying to teach her to ask politely.   I can’t stay on top of the mess in my house and taking one look around makes me more angry at myself.  I feel guilty for some of the things that I have written and for the stuff that just won’t get on the page.

In the last two weeks, I have told a lot of people that I’d call them.  I can’t seem to pick up the phone.  I feel guilty for wanting to crawl into a shell, just when I’ve been reminded how important relationships are.  I feel bad for being attached and detached.  There are relationships in my life that are in desperate need of healing and I’m too tired and angry to do the work.  I feel guilty for how much pain I am experiencing at this loss because I know as much as it hurts there are a number of people that are hurting more.  I feel guilty for almost everything.

Some months ago I had a conversation with a friend about guilt.  We concluded that guilt is a useless emotion and gets us no where.  I believe that now, especially as I am consumed by it.  It is paralyzing me and making it hard to be in my own skin.  I’m writing this now in hopes that by owning it, I can make it to the next step of letting it go.

Pain

I was meditating on Monday and I inwardly asked for direction.  What do I need to learn now? What came to me was “pain.”  I need to learn to accept pain, and even to find comfort in it.

I often find myself backing down from pain, both physically and emotionally.  I avoid confrontation so as to avoid the pain of criticism or rejection.  As for physical pain, I work out and do yoga, both of which allow me to experience some degree of pain.  But what I always find is that when the pain arrives I back off.  When lifting weights instead of working through the pain, I drop the bar.  One of my favorite poses in Yoga is the Camel pose.  I like it because it is a very challenging pose that I can do with only minor modification.  The problem is I can only hold the pose for a few seconds because of the pain.  I would greatly benefit from holding it longer, but it hurts way too much.

ICP

A driving force in my life (and most people’s) is fear.  What I fear is pain.  The best way to begin to release fear is to learn to appreciate pain.  When I got this “message” during my meditation, I felt very much that it was directed toward physical pain.  I thought particularly about my experience with yoga and the poses that challenge my body.  I feel like dealing with pain begins at the physical level, then moves into the emotional level, and ultimately to the spiritual plane.

Conveniently enough, I had already scheduled an appointment with pain at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday.  I have been thinking about getting a second tattoo for a while and finally had the nerve to follow through.  The process of getting my tattoo took about an hour.  In the first phase I nearly passed out.  The artist got me a cup of water and lounged the chair back.  Kelly, who was along for moral support, went to the gas station and got me a Coke.  I reminded myself to breathe (just like Alain, the artist, had instructed me) and stayed with it.  It was difficult and required me to be present.  I am very good at visualizing all sorts of things at painful moments that only make matters much worse.  I couldn’t let my mind lead me astray.  I had to just feel the pain as it was.  It was quite a challenge for me as the tattoo is big with intricate detail.  After it was over the reward was this beautiful symbol on my leg to remind me of my spiritual journey.  Throughout the  day I could feel the twinges of pain near my ankle and strangely enough I appreciated and found comfort in them.  It was the feeling of aliveness as my body worked to repair itself.  I believe that in moments of great pain and pleasure we are made accutely aware of the divine energy within us.  It is another reminder not to run or hide from the opportunities that may bring us both….

Here is a picture of the tattoo.  Unless you are one of my tweeps, this will probably come as a complete surprise to you.  I haven’t shared my desire to get a tattoo with very many people.  It is Ganesha.  The first person who told me about Ganesha, described him as “the remover of obstacles.”  It is this attribute of God that will lead me beyond the distractions and keep me on my spiritual path.

DSCF2529

More Lost Love Poetry

Here is another “lost love” poem I found in my journal from college.

Untitled (prob. 1993-1994)

A voice speaks

saying never love

for when there is love

there is pain

A hand touches

saying hold on

the end may never come

We run

saying it’s wrong

the end is always near

Fear unfolds

saying forget

what happened yesterday is gone

Today

the heart clasps

to the memories

but the mind

moves on

Leaving us

blind to the future

hurt by the past