Loss, Love

Empathy in Heartache 

I haven’t been writing because I’m in school and that’s taking all of my time and energy but I still have things I need to get out.

I have many projects started but I won’t feel content posting them until I feel they’re finished.

This morning I’ve decided to post something short because, like clockwork, I’m always up around 4:30am. It doesn’t matter what I do the day before or when I “plan” on getting up the morning after.

I work a lot of things out in my sleep.

I avoid typing about romantic love because I haven’t got a clue but I felt compelled to share my thoughts this morning (albeit, vaguely).

Here it goes:

“I awoke with empathy.

I feel your pain.

Heartache is a special kind of hurt.

Suffering from a broken heart, leaves us feeling lost and like a piece of us is missing.

I hate it but it makes us who we are and let’s us figure out what we want and how to be better people.

It’s gonna be alright.

That little piece will never be completely filled but it’ll get better; more microscopic, easier to manage.

Don’t ignore it.

Feel it.

Learn,

Adapt,

Evolve.”

Above Pictured: “Bleeding Heart.” Acrylic paint on canvas. Circa 2008. (Right-handed, Pre-stroke.)

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Adapt, Rebuild, Regroup

NEVER FOLD

It’s been over a month since I last blogged. I needed a break. I needed to process, to reflect on, what I was typing about.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month so I thought it’s as good a time as any to resume writing again. I’m not gonna lie, having a brain injury sucks but it’s eye-opening too, whether your ready for the swift kick in the ass or not.

I’m reminded of a quote from a film where the main character describes the afterlife, or purgatory: “Everything’s the same [as life] here, just a little worse.” (Zia/Patrick Fugit, Wristcutters: A Love Story, 2006.) 

Life went on (business as usual) for most people, after I survived a major stroke, whereas my life, I felt, at the time, all-of-a-sudden . . . stopped. Having a traumatic brain injury, sometimes, feels like my purgatory. When things are good, I’m on cloud nine. When they seem bleak, I feel like I’ve never felt so low.

“. . . When [things are] good,

[They are] very, very good.

But when [they are] bad, [they are] horrid.”

(The Little Girl With A Curl, “The Real Mother Goose,” 1916.)

These extremes are like a roller-coaster of emotions every day. A year and a half later, I still have trouble not feeling like a burden to those who even WANT to help me. Yeah, I can’t get around as well as I used to, but, then, I think of those who are less fortunate than me. I feel like I have no right complain. I don’t have migraines or suffer from chronic pain. I get frustrated at only having the used of one hand/arm and get embarrassed because of my limp and speech impediment but I still have my wits about me. My memory loss could be a lot worse. When I get tired or lack energy, in general, I, sometimes, can’t help but feel betrayed by my body. I have a lot of resources and people who look out for me and, sometimes, I feel remorse for those in similar situations who have less that me. I’m told all that’s called, “survivor’s guilt.” (http://virginiatech.healthandperformancesolutions.net/Anniversary%20Articles/Survivor%20Guilt%20What%20Long-term%20Survivors%20Don’t%20Talk%20About.pdf, The Brain Tumor Society, 2001-2008.)

“It’s a cycle.

You’re miserable.

Then motivated.

Then bored.

Then lost.

And then miserable again.

I think I’m looking less than a year for recovery at this point.

I think it’ll go by fast.

I hope so.

I hope to look back on this year as just a hiccup in my life; to look at it as something that made me stronger and move on.”

(Facebook: Mariah Rose, January 1st, 2014)

When I realized I was coming up to the one-year anniversary of my stroke, it dawned on me that things were more serious than I thought. I was nowhere near back to my “old self.” I had tried to convince myself and others, that “I” was in this body somewhere, I just needed a chance to recover and I’d be good as new.

The truth is I have changed. However, you know what they say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” (Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1808-1890.) The more I beat myself up and the more I chose to be stubborn, the more I felt guilty and like I wasn’t doing enough. I’ve always been my own worst enemy.

I tried to ease my guilt and depression by having a, sort of, party for my “Brainniversary” that turned into a fundraiser.

“I, Mariah Rose, had a stroke, almost, a year ago. Without the love and support from my friends, family, and people I’ve met along the way (even people I don’t know), I don’t know where I’d be.

“To celebrate my ‘Brainniversary,’ which is on October 5th, I’m hosting an event at  Monty’s Krown to raise funding for the Happiness House Foundation in honor of the support I’ve received.

“When choosing an organization to donate to, I looked at places that are local, not-for-profit, and that I’m not affiliated with or will work with directly in the future.

“Happiness House Foundation ‘raise[s] and generate[s] funds that will promote, support and augment the continuation of long-term services . . . for people with disabilities’ of all ages, including adults who have sustained Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) like I have. The adult programs are located in Canandaigua, NY. They, also, have children’s programs there and in Geneva.”

It was an all-around success. WE raised $2700. Not bad for small-time. The high from giving and being surrounded by so much love was incomparable but, unfortunately, didn’t last long.

I’ve found that most emotions are fleeting. If you dwell on negative ones, it’s easy to spiral downward . . . so easy.

I don’t remember when, exactly, I decided to take charge of what I could and start asking questions that I was afraid to know the real answers to: the ROOT of who I really am. It hurts but I’d rather live life the hard way than to live it oblivious or naive. More importantly, I’m learning how to be content living in the now, while still working on attainable goals. That means defining what happiness is for me (because it’s all relative) and adapting my life to suit that definition. It’s all about learning about my “new self” and sticking to my guns.

It can be confusing because the line is a bit burry between my “true nature” and my new brain-injured self. I’ve been analyzing my multiple selves (past, present, brain-injured, etc.) and asking, “Would I have reacted this way before?” I keep finding (I think) that my instincts are similar, just exaggerated.

Some things I can blame on being “strokey.” Some things, I know for a fact, are just the way I am. I choose to take ownership of my blessings and curses and manage them in the way I can, doing my best. I’ve been dealt some shit hands in my life but the trick is to play those cards. NEVER FOLD. Sometimes, you lose big but you have to play to WIN.

I’ve been given a second chance. Yeah, I still grieve over the shoulda, coulda, wouldas, (I’m human after all) but through past-life experiences I can regroup and manage with support.

Now, I see my Brainniversary as my “new birthday” because it was the “death” of my past-self. When I realized what had happened to me on October 5th, 2013, it was surreal. I, even, went through the grieving process; totally textbook-like.

  • Denial, numbness, and shock: I think, at first, people around me, where more upset that I had a stroke, than I was. I didn’t grasp (as mentioned previously) how serious it was.
  • Bargaining: I still catch myself wondering what I could have done differently to prevent it from ever happening but my logical side squashes that sort of thinking because it’s of no use thinking about what could have been. It’s over. The worst part is over.
  • Depression: “I want you to think about something. I was going places. I was traveling. I was networking. I spent years honing a craft. I spent seven years working up to something only to have it taken away from me in one fell swoop. I’m okay, considering, and I promise you I’ll get back to it but I hope that you never have to know what that feels like.” (Facebook: Mariah Rose, February 5th, 2014.)

“I think I only share about 50% of the emotional roller-coaster I go through on a day-to-day basis and I’m going to keep it        that way. Sometimes, I’m sick of appearing to keep it together.” (Facebook: Mariah Rose, March 16, 2014.)

  • Anger: “I hate, hate, hate when people don’t know that I had a stroke, like, 8 months ago? I catches me off guard as much as it catches them off guard, ya know? So, feel free to throw out as much gossip as you see fit and I’ll cross bridges when I come to them because I have the balls to say something to your face if I feel so inclined.” (Facebook: Mariah Rose, May 8th, 2014.)

“Sometimes, I want to chop my right arm off with a machete.” (Facebook: Mariah Rose, May 23rd, 2014.)

“Don’t waste your energy on pity for me. I don’t want it.

“I’m not sharing my experience with you because I want you to feel sorry for me. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, I’m doing this because if I’m forthright with everything I’m going through, I won’t have to repeat myself as much and venting is, I think, better for my recovery than shutting down.

“And another thing, I had brain surgery, less than, a year ago. I’m not okay but I’m trying the best I can to get there. I’m not at the top of my game but I’m climbing steadily upwards.

“I’m trying.

“If you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen and get the fuck out of my way.”

(Facebook: Mariah Rose, June 13th, 2014.)

  • Acceptance: Adapt. Rebuild. I have the ability, resources, and know-how to modify what I’m discontented with myself about. That’s pretty cool. Most people don’t experience that opportunity. As unlucky as I’ve been, I’m quite lucky too. (Coping with Grief, http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/mental-health-coping-with-grief)

Although I feel like I’m coming out the other side and the roller-coaster rides are less severe, I still go through that cycle. Just three or four days ago, I journaled, simply, “I have abandonment issues. Now, leave me alone.” But, like I was saying, “most emotions are fleeting,” especially the negative ones. Just getting how I’m feeling out, instead of bottling it up or ignoring it like I used to, is cathartic. Acknowledging feelings is the way to go. It’s like ripping off a bandaid.

Looking at what makes me content moment-to-moment, again, I realize that I’m almost there.

  • Decompression time: My mental state, I’ve realized, lately, depends on this so it’s become a priority.
  • My own space: I started staying in my own apartment about a week and a half ago. It is so liberating. It was available February 1st but I was so nervous about it! It felt like when I left home for the first time for college and that didn’t go so well. That was 12 years ago. After a month of procrastination and pep-talks from my mom, head-shrinker, friends, etc. I was like, “Why didn’t I do this sooner!” . . . because baby steps.
  • Working out: My gym is only a mile away from my apartment and I treated myself to a new yoga mat for floor exercises and stretching.
  • Yoga
  • Feeling healthy (staying active, getting enough sleep, eating healthily, etc.)
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Doing research
  • Being creative
  • Travel: I’ll plan a trip soon, methinks, now that my apartment is more like home.
  • Being around people I love, who love me back (First addressed in  mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com, BREAK the Cypher, January 5th, 2015.)

I’ve, also, been busy sharing through social media. I want to share my recovery, people who I find inspirational, and quotes that provide hope.

Some people who have brain injuries or are chronically ill or are their own worst enemy, stuff like that, feel alone in their struggles.

YOU are not alone. I am not alone. WE ARE NOT ALONE.

By putting words and adding hindsight to photos I’ve posted through my recovery, and sharing what’s helped me throughout it, I’m further coping with my guilt, grief, and depression. I know if just person is positively affected by what I post, the world will be that much more of a better place.

Facebook: You ARE NOT Alone: Recovery

Instagram: youarenotalone138

Twitter: yernotalone138

Tumblr: youarenotalone138

Mariah Rose’s Ramblings: youarenotalone138@gmail.com

E-mail me if you want to comment on my “ramblings” but aren’t comfortable doing it publicly. I’d ask you not to abuse this gesture. I WILL NOT respond to inappropriate inquiries and I WILL NOT give out my phone number.

All these resources meant to help people, survivors and caregivers, alike.

I’m not a medical provider. I’m not a therapist of any kind. I’m just a survivor whose willing to share.

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Adapt, Overcome

“Understanding Is Reached Only after Confrontation”

I’ve been struggling with depression my whole life. Every time I think I’ve shaken it, it creeps back up again. I’ve tried to get a handle on it any way I can.

I was, first, diagnosed with it, about, 7 or 9 years ago. You see, I’ve been seeing my head-shrinker, off and on, for close to ten years. Without divulging too much information, something happened to me, at that time, that I couldn’t deal with on my own. She’s a psychotherapist, which in layman’s terms means she’s a councilor. When I found her, I just wanted someone to talk to. I was ashamed that I needed professional help but didn’t want to talk about my feelings with just anyone. I needed an unbiased ear that I could talk to, objectively.

When I had my stroke, in October of my 28th year, I, among other things, lost my ability for communicating, what I call, “abstract thought,” for a time. Slowly, getting it back, for me, meant facing all I was previously denying because I WILL NEVER TAKE IT FOR GRANTED AGAIN. There was no guarantee people would even be able to understand me, verbally, again. At one point I was convinced I’d be stuck in my own head, with little outlet, forever.

Let me explain further. This may get convoluted because my cognition is still a bit off but, as I mentioned in my ramblings previously, working it out, via text, is helping me “unlock” things, even as I type.

They say, “Hindsight is 20/20.” I’ve been trying to figure out the meaning of “life, the universe, and everything,” since I-can’t-remember when. I’ve, unintentionally, hurt so many people along the way and I was like, “Why you mad, bro?”

I understand now.

I’ve been living according to my dual nature. I don’t, by any means, have a split-personality disorder or anything like that but I’m, constantly, at odds with my emotional self and my logical side. I’m, constantly, battling with my id and super ego. I’m my own worst enemy. I suppose that’s true with most people but it’s hard when your center of gravity is off and you know it, but you sense that everything you do to combat that feeling, is approached . . . just . . . wrong. For the first time, in my life, I’m trying to find a balance and find peace within myself.

So, I’ve been REALLY analyzing myself. One thing Kevin Smith taught me at a young age was that, “Understanding is reached only after confrontation.” That phrase always stuck with me. It’s tough when you want attention but to be left alone. You love supporting your friends but hate crowds. You want to move forward but fear change. You hold onto grudges, while letting other things slide. Understanding and patient with some things, yet like, “WTF?!” with others. Angry, yet apathetic. Codependent, yet independent. Empathic, not sympathetic. Et-fucking-cetera.

I realized, recently, that, in trying to be unlike the people who’ve done me wrong in life, I was doing the opposite, so much so, that I was doing just as much damage. I was so unaware and in such denial. How could I not have known?! I became, through the years, so hellbent on protecting other people that I was only deceiving myself, thereby, doing what was adverse to my intentions and leaving myself even more vulnerable. I knew something was off within me but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was.

One of my pet peeves is when people break promises. In trying to only make promises I can keep, I appear indecisive or uninterested.

I hate being patronized or lied to. So, I’m either too truthful or say nothing at all, depending on the person or situation.

In past months, I’ve dug deep and have been thinking about what got me here; to this point in my life. I’ve realized that what I’ve suppressed and tried to move on from, is at the root of my passion, drive, self-destruction, anxieties, dreams, nightmares, maternal nature, my insatiable appetite, my desire to be loved and never left . . .

Before my stroke, I didn’t have time to think about all those things. I made sure of it. If I wasn’t working, I was traveling or partying. I was running on empty, and I didn’t care because I was trying to make other people happy.

There’s nothing wrong with living life by the Golden Rule but I was doing it at my own expense. Now, my body won’t allow it. I was running around like a chicken with my head lopped off, before. Now, I can’t even imagine having the energy to do a fraction of the things I used to do, day-by-day. Oh well.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to become the person I always knew I was capable of becoming. I BELIEVE I’ll do great things.

When I first had the stroke, I thought it broke me. I was emotionally back where I was ten years ago. Just . . . lost and in a dark place. But, I’ve learned so much throughout that time, that I’ll be back on my feet soon. I know I will. My bouts with depression, I feel like, will always be an issue but, they’re getting more manageable as time goes on.

I think part of ANY recovery is asking YOURSELF the hard questions and being honest with YOURSELF, before anything, about the answers. Only then, can you start to rebuild and IT’S NEVER TOO LATE! Nobody’s perfect. Everyone has flaws. It’s human nature.

Do your best. If you’re having trouble, regroup. “Dust yourself off and try again.”

The name of the game is, “Adaption.”

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Change, Emotional, Stroke

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead

It was Saturday morning, October 5, 2013 to be exact. I wasn’t feeling well emotionally. I remember feeling like I needed a change.

You know those days when you put extra effort into getting ready because you need the added boost in confidence? Well, it was one of those.

I put a little black dress on with my jean vest. I was proud of my vest because I had sewn patches on that were meaningful to me and I was going with a primary color scheme with white stitching. The little white exes were tedious to stitch but it was comforting at the same time and I felt a sense of accomplishment when I was finished with each patch.

Then, I put on my make-up. I went with red to match my vest which happens to also be my favorite color. I was going for the Blade Runner look for the application. Sometimes, I refer to it as my “war paint.’’

Sometime between getting dressed and putting on my boots that make feel like pirate with all their buckled glory, I messaged an ex-boyfriend and called my mom.

As I said previously, that morning I feeling not well, emotionally. This particular ex was someone I wasn’t fair to. I thought if I was honest there wasn’t a reason for him to get upset with me. Hindsight is 20/20 and was I ever wrong. That’s a discussion for another day but let me just say that those were darker times in my life and it takes a lot more than honesty to be a good person. So, I just wanted to check in with him and make sure he was alright. I’m lucky to even have gotten a response. In fact, grateful and he’s doing okay without me.

I called my mom and asked if I could meet up with her after I got my hair done before work. I started crying but I couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong. Like I said, I had this overwhelming sense that I needed to change something. Maybe, it was that I had no end in sight at work. I had been working seven days a week for I don’t know how long and I was booked for the rest of the year. It was exciting but overwhelming at the same time.

With working 7 days most weeks, I wasn’t sleeping because I was making sure I had time to play as well. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I was burning the candle at both ends. I thought, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” But, at the same time, I was happy because I liked to be kept busy. Something was stirring inside me and it made me feel off. That’s the only way I can describe it; just off.

So, anyway, I was ready to, finally, start my day. I had a hair appointment, meeting with my mom, two appointments to do new tattoos, two touch-up appointments, a consultation, and whatever decided to do later. I always worked late, whether it be a half hour or two but I didn’t care.

Fusion Salon was less than a mile from my apartment. I made sure I had everything for the day that lay ahead and once I was satisfied and I started driving down the street. I felt a little out of it but I didn’t think anything of it. Then, I got this feeling like my right side was falling asleep. I felt dizzy like my blood-sugar was low or something. I got to the salon and managed to park my car and tried to get my wits about me so I could go inside. I heard my phone go off and it was my hairdresser, Nico, wondering what I was doing. I thought about responding but ¾ of me was thinking I’d be in momentarily and other quarter was thinking I was too out of it or too weak. Then, I got out of my car and my weight collapsed out from underneath me. I tried to get up but I couldn’t. Then, I tried calling for help but the words weren’t coming out. A woman came out of the salon. She saw me laying there and drove off. Then, Nico came out and tried to come to my rescue. He propped me up in my car and kept asking me what was wrong. I think we both thought I was too hysterical to answer. He saw blood on my knee and I think it made him panic a little bit. He took my boot off and made sure that he saw no visible injuries. I knew it was just a skinned knee from when I fell but I couldn’t articulate it to him. Then, the owner of the salon, Jes, came out and told Nico that they needed to call the paramedics.

The police were the first respondents. The officer asked me if I was on anything. In my head I said, “No! In fact, I went to bed early last night after only having a glass of wine with dinner!” But the words would NOT come out! He was training a girl or something and he made her sit with me while he questioned the others. She looked like a deer in headlights. Finally (although I’m sure it was mere moments), the EMTs arrived. Somewhere between being heaved onto a gurney and loaded into the ambulance I realized my mom had shown up and amidst all the chaos I felt relief. I don’t remember them taking my vest off but I do remember them cutting up the back of my dress. The ambulance took off as I was throwing up and, then, . . . I woke up in a hospital bed.

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