Anxiety, Brain Injury, Depression

Triple Whammy

Dealing with depression, anxiety, and a brain injury is confusing and disheartening.

Were my lows this low, before the stroke? Did I always hate crowds this much? Did I overthink things this much? . . . or everything just a little bit worse? I don’t remember so I can’t make an accurate comparison.

I spend a lot of time scrutinizing things like, what to do with my time, who I’ll spend it with, where I’m comfortable being from moment to moment, and how I’ll get there.

I make mistakes, but they’re not as drastic or detrimental as they used to be.

I have no regrets because in each wrongful act I’ve committed, or mistake I’ve made, I’ve learned more about myself and human nature.

As humans, what we want and what’s right, don’t necessarily coincide.

On top of that sentiment, it’s all relative to who you’re surrounded by, what your beliefs are, what takes priority at the given time, what makes you tick, what resources are at your disposal, etc.

That being said, I’d like to strive to be a better person, while minimizing emotional pain across the board.

A few of my goals for this winter are to remain seizure-free and to combat my impending, debilitating depression. That means staying away from stressful, demoralizing situations.

Part of this quest for salvation is having to battle my inner demons and win. It can be done but it’s not easy and it’s a never-ending struggle.

So, after a week of serious thinking, in early December, I decided to try remain to sober.

My neurologist okayed me to have ONE alcoholic beverage per day. However, I can’t ever predict whether I can stop after one.

For instance, on a Wednesday night about a month ago, I thought, “A glass of cabernet sauvignon would pair nicely with a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie,” and it did but . . . Then, I had two more glasses of wine, only one glass of water, and forgot to take the evening dose of my anti-convulsant.

The morning after the “wine and pie fiasco,” I had a seizure.

I was treating the site where I bit down on my cheek during said seizure. It wasn’t healed after a week. This, among other things, solidified my decision to try self-restraint.

I’m really good at justifying things to myself. I never, really, considered sobriety before because I’ve never believed in abstaining from something. I believed that telling yourself, you can’t have something is just . . . cruel. But, in weighing pros and cons, at this moment, allowing myself to drink is more cruel because of the imminent domino effect.

Overall, I need to take better care of myself.

It’s been a solid month of sobriety. The more time passes, the prouder I am of myself. I’ve been treating myself the way I’ve always wanted to.

I figured, if I could just make it through the holidays, the rest would be cake.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to drink within the past month to deal with stress, to make myself comfortably numb, to “fit in,” to not remember, etc. But, I realize that those “coping mechanisms” are temporary, counter-productive, and NOT healthy. Again, one drink would be alright, but I never can tell if I’ll stop after that one. It’s better FOR ME to cut it out completely.

It took a few weeks but, now, I feel better than I have, in a long time.

I’m more in-tune with my body. If I feel “off” I think, “Did I take my meds? Do I need food? Do I need sleep?” There’s no ignoring, or guessing, or forgetting.

For about a year or so, I was afraid to leave my apartment; afraid I’d forget my morning meds, worried I’d have a seizure or a panic attack at the gym or on the bus, stuff like that. Irrational fears, really.

I people say, I’m sharper and my speech has improved. I think it’s true. Even if it’s a placebo effect, I’ll take it!

I’ve been having weird, embarrassing dreams where I slip up and do something stupid. When I realize it’s only a dream, I feel relieved and reminded of what could be or has been and I’m like, “No, thank you.”

I’ve had more energy. I still NEED my naps and I still crap out from general fatigue, but it’s less frequent and doesn’t last as long.

 

It helps that everybody in my life has been so supportive.

They say, “Do you!”

And I say, “Hmmm . . . Okay!”

 

I don’t know. Something just feels right about 2016.

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Education, Humility

Being a Disabled Student: A Lesson in Humility

For the past few months, I’ve been attending school and it’s filled me with self-doubt.

Normally, you have to have your IEP (Individualized Education Program) drawn up before school starts. That’s what gets you services with the Students with Disabilities office.

In the summer, I was anxious to get started on the next step, moving forward with my life and in my stroke recovery, so I pressured the appropriate people at ACCES-VR (Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation) to approve to me attend school in the Fall.

The stipulation was that I have an appointment with a psychologist to test for said IEP, as soon as possible.

The IEP tests problem solving skills, reading and auditory comprehension, ability to retain information, memory (both, short and long term), any attention deficit, etc.

What I learned about myself through it (other than the obvious speech and speed deficits, and physical ailments) is that my visual memory is on point but my auditory memory is shot. For example, sometimes, I don’t remember key points to conversations or lectures. If I’m distracted, forget about it. That’s part of why, everything takes way longer to sink into my thick skull.

I went into the Fall 2015 semester knowing computer science was going to be a challenge, totally outside of my comfort zone, and without proper services in place.

I worked my ass off at school, anyway, and “failed” miserably with 0.000 in computer science.

Someone, who works at the college level, explained that the 0.0 GPA reflects that the course taken in that given semester was “failed.”

However, this “F” can be replaced if the student chooses to retake the course.

Now, I know more about what limits are, based on what’s happened within the past few months with school, as well as the results of the tests concerning the IEP.

With services in place with the Students with Disabilities office, in the future, I’ll get more time on tests (because of my slow reading, writing, and comprehension) and I’ll have option of having tests split (because of impending brain fatigue), etc.

That should help tremendously in coming endeavors.

Needless to say, this has all been very humbling.

But, now, I have a plan!

You see, computer science is a prerequisite for Web Design, which is was I’m interested in (besides tattooing, https://mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/identity/, Identity, Nov. 30th, 2014.).

When I had my last meeting with my ACCES-VR councilor, we discussed the results of my IEP.

We decided that I don’t really need another degree (I, already, have 3; see Identity, again), but a few classes.

My plan is: In the Spring 2016 semester, I’m retaking Commercial Illustration (initially taken 10 years ago, or so) to give my brain a break and brush up on Photoshop and hone my left-handed skills (the stroke affected my dominant right side).

I’ll, then, spend the summer reviewing computer science, making sure I grasp the material, so I’m ready for to retake the class in the Fall.

With any luck, I’ll be free to take Web Design in the Spring of 2017.

For other “Students with Disabilities,” I’m sharing my experience with you because I hope you’ll see that people are willing to work with you, if you put in the effort. Communicate with the people in your corner and if you’re not sure where to start, ask a doctor, councilor, or your service coordinator. Someone’s bound to know SOMETHING.

 

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” (Polonius, http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/hamlet.1.3.html, Act 1, Scene 3 of Hamlet. William Shakespeare.)

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Adapt, Balance, Change

Redefinition

I’ve become, quite recently, truly (in the plainest of terms) grateful for my stroke.

The reason being, it’s given me a real chance to redefine myself, and what I think is pivotal to my well-being. I have the time to actually become the person I want to be.

That is a gift. No more coveting. The world is my oyster. The sky’s the limit. Yes, because of my new-found, so-called “handicaps,” I’m supposedly limited to what I “can do.” But, not really. I have the mental capacity and resources to navigate around obstacles. It takes longer, but what are we in a hurry for anyway? Think about it.

When I had that significant change at the blink of an eye, I spent the following year, working my ass off, trying to regain what I’d “lost;” hoping everything would be as it were. I wanted my life back.

Once that year went by in my stroke recovery, I was devastated. I thought I’d be so much further than I was. I went through the stages of grief, mourning my past-self. I was in a very dark place, feeling very disheartened. After months of debilitating depression, I finally came terms with how different my life had become and will always be. I tried and am trying, to find what will makes me content in the moment, while continuing moving forward, especially in recovery. I’m trying to find self-worth.

With being labeled as disabled, I believed for a time, that I no longer had anything to offer anyone. Pre-stroke, I used my trade (tattooing) to show people I cared, to make money, and to travel. I gave newlyweds, birthday girls/guys, etc., tattoos as gifts. I made trades for things I wanted/needed. I could afford to visit peers/friends or offer rides places because I was always working.

Since the stroke, I’ve had to rethink my Love Languages (see www.mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com, Support and Forgiveness, January 23rd, 2015.). What makes me a “good friend?” What am I physically, emotionally, or spiritually able to do now to show people that I care?

I have no money. I can’t, legitimately, drive. I can’t tattoo.

What CAN I do?!

I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received. Without it, I couldn’t have survived the first year of recovery. Not only did people visit me, but there were numerous benefits on my behalf. There was a place, online, where people could donate. All this started happening before I could even begin to fathom what was going on. No joke, in October 2013, I was out-of-it for nearly 3 weeks, but, without knowing it, I was being taken care of. Words cannot describe how much that means to me. With that support I was able to get through that first year financially and emotionally. I had a roof over my head, rides wherever I needed to go, kind words and encouragement, etc.

My mother helped get services in place: Medicaid, Disability, the Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver, etc. She gave me what I needed to be able to figure out what I want. In one word: my mama gave me “SECURITY.”

Medicaid helps me maintain my health and keep my doctors and therapists in cahoots. We’re a team. I love it.

Social Security Disability Insurance gives me money every month, which I use to pay bills.

The TBI Waiver provides me with, basically, loopholes with insurance, and services through an agency of my initial choosing. That said organization, first and foremost, hooked me up with a service coordinator (SC) and a councilor. My councilor has been with me since the beginning. I got lucky with her. Unfortunately, I had to go through 4 or so service coordinators in a year, and threaten to go through another agency, in order to reach the SC I have now. But, such is life, and we’re sure making up for lost time now!

Through the TBI Waiver, my service coordinator was able to get me funding with TBI Housing. Now that I have my own apartment, I have food stamps as well. They definitely lesson the financial burden. I’m, also, going through ACCES-VR (formerly Vesid) to make myself more “employable.” Namely, they’re helping me with driving lessons and going back to school; stuff like that. I figure, even if or when I start tattooing again, I could adjust my schedule accordingly. I’m not worried about it in the least.

So, on paper, things are going quite well.

There are some hiccups in regard to my health but I’m working on those too. I have to remember that I’m NOT a typical young woman anymore. The best I can to do is to take care of myself. Believe it or not . . . the alternative . . . THAT would be selfish. When I slip up on the things I need (or need NOT) to do, not only do I suffer, but the people who care about me suffer, as well (maybe even more-so).

That mentality has changed a lot of things for me. I used to think that giving all my energy toward other people mattered. I set myself lowest on the totem pole. I put other people’s needs and happiness before my own, because I thought that if the people around me were happy, I’d be happy too. I didn’t want to make waves. I wanted everyone to “like me.” I kept silent and sweet. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” right? Not necessarily. I now realize, you can be pleasant without sacrificing your self-respect.

Throughout my stroke recovery, I’ve been working hard at, not only my abilities and health, but my character too. Like I typed, previously, “I have the time to actually become the person I want to be.” How cool is that?!

So, I ask myself:

1.) What DO I THINK makes a solid human being?

Integrity. “Word is bond” (Wu Tang Clan, c.1993.). I like that phrase. It embodies everything I want to accomplish. I look at it as encompassing honesty, loyalty, following a certain moral code, strength in the face of adversity, etc.

2.) What qualities do I find in people I respect and admire?

I don’t believe in accepting hand-outs. I believe in working for what you’re given. I have to keep in mind, the services I use now, are in place because I NEED them. You’re not taking advantage if you’re in need. 

I respect conviction. Even if I don’t agree, I admire people who sick to their guns but allow room for discussion; debate, even. 

I lost a lot with my stroke but it’s okay because, in turn, I grew a backbone. I learned to say, “No.” Now and again, I try to keep up with the Joneses, but more often than not, if I need to sit a round or two out, I do. I’m still working on that. 

3.) What qualities do I find in the people I truly love unconditionally?

I appreciate when people are honest, while treating me as a peer. “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” (Judge Judy, 1997.) And, patronization or babying does’t do anyone, any good.

I would do anything in my power for the people I care about. That’s not a lot right now. Still, the people I love, don’t expect much but still make me feel special and held in high regard. 

4.) Would I date me?

Nah, brah. However, I’m starting to like myself and exhibiting more self-respect than ever. I’m getting there.

5.) After all is said and done, what do I think’s most important?

Integrity. Honesty. Loyalty. Strength in the face of adversity. Hard work. Conviction. Respect.

All these things matter to me, but NOT at my personal expense. Some overlap. Some contradict. But, it’s all about finding a balance. Allowing some vulnerability without victimization, pride without conceit. Finding self-love without selfishness. Knowing when to fight and when to walk away. Exhibiting discipline without obsession. Etc. Etc. Etc.

. . . : Make way for “Mariah 2.0” : . . .

Ask yourself versions of these questions and see where you end up.

Fine-tune yourself.

Above Photo by James Via

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Aphasia, Coping, Effects

Aphasia: Another Acquired Speech Impediment

“The Greek word, aphatos, literally means “speechlessness.” [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/aphasia] What’s that word? That word that means you can’t think of the word that you’re thinking of? . . . Oh. Aphasia.” (http://www.rochesterwomanmag.com/rwm/what-doesnt-kill-me-makes-me-stronger/, What Doesn’t Kill Me Makes Me Stronger, June 2014.)

One of my new catch phrases, since I had my stroke, is “Damn Aphasia . . .” I use it when I, for the life of me, cannot think of a word I know that I, otherwise, use frequently.

Aphasia has, over time, become less of an issue than apraxia ever was. However, my brush with aphasia was no less than terrifying.

  1. What emotions come along with aphasia?

Fear, frustration, and taking pleasure in little victories.

2. How have you overcome these emotions?

When, I, first, had the stroke, I had trouble communicating at all. My uncle brought me a bell and my mom a white board, to the hospital. We made a game out of my one-armed charades. I’d ring the bell whenever someone guessed what I was trying to convey. I used the white board for anything I could try to work out; whether it be the first letter of a word or a picture of something that I forgot how to spell, etc. 

Again, “I’ve had to learn to be patient and use whatever resources I can to communicate.” (www.mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com, Apraxia: Effects and Coping, March 14th, 2015.)

My phone has become my lifeline. Albert Einstein said, “I never commit to memory anything that can easily be looked up in a book.” (http://www.azquotes.com/quote/616898) Google and the thesaurus have become my, most-used, tools.

The thing about my experience with aphasia is, it’s become less worrisome over time. I’ve always prided myself in my grammar and vocabulary. Managing acquired aphasia means, “unlocking” what you already know is there. 

One of my speech therapists described it as such: think about your brain as a file cabinet. My stroke was like a hurricane that went through my brain. Some folders wound up in shambles on the floor, some remained in tact but needed to be gone through for memory refreshment purposes. Some things were just out of order. The information was still there but, with aphasia, I couldn’t tell which end was up and I couldn’t find the words.  

As time passed, I knew in my head, the gist of what I wanted to communicate, but I couldn’t comprehend how to get it out. I was trapped with my thoughts and I was so scared that it would be that way forever. My head can become a very dark place that I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy be confined to.

So, I worked my ass off, organizing and tidying up that file cabinet, finding comfort in every word I relearned, every grammar rule I recalled, putting everything back in it’s right place, little by little, till I restored enough to know I would be “okay” eventually.

Social Media has kept me, more or less, grounded and has given me an outlet and a chance to reach out, simultaneously. 

 

3. Were there any medications that helped?

No. “I take Keppra, an anti-convulsant, and in the first hour or so after I take it, it slows my motor functions down, noticeably.” (“Mariah Rose’s Ramblings,” Apraxia: Effects and Coping, March 14th, 2015.) It make me sluggish (more-so than I already am). 

4. How does this complication effect the people around you?

I count on people to be patient with me and, if I don’t want help and have the time, I, simply, signal for people to wait, and, most of the time, they do. 

When I get frustrated at not being able to think straight, I tend to snap. When I used to panic because of that trapped feeling, I’d fly off the handle to the point where I was scaring myself.

If I’m having more trouble communicating than usual, it’s become an indication that I need sustenance or sleep. Sometimes, this happens without warning so I have to decline invitations, more often than not, or sit down randomly or make pit-stops if I’m not prepared.

5. What would you personally want to change about your therapy? Were there any exercises or techniques that helped more than others?

Through speech therapy, I was able learn what tools worked for me and what things I could use outside of therapy to further my progress. I was always happy with my speech therapy because I never felt like I hit a plateau. There are always ways to improve. Some days are better than others. I cried a lot out of frustration and embarrassment but all my therapists helped me push on through. 

As I said, Google and the thesaurus are very useful for me. Reading “unlocks” with little effort. Listening to music and watching movies or TV shows that I knew like the back of my hand, pre-stroke, make me recall even more. 

Anything to test my memory seems like therapy; like going to the art gallery and reminiscing about my favorite artists and their lives and techniques, or getting nostalgic about my knick-knacks (Who gave it to me? Where did I, or they, get it? Why is it significant?)

Writing (as I have said, in previous blogs) helps build my vocabulary back up. I, often, repeat myself, which I think, is okay. It forces me to think of “new” ways to say similar things; break out that handy thesaurus. 

“Words with Friends” is great for getting those gears turning. There are many other games that help broaden abilities in similar ways, such “Taboo” or “Bananagrams.”   

“Words with Friends” and “Bananagrams” are both reminiscent of “Scrabble” (another excellent therapeutic game), while “Taboo” made me realize that, even in describing something in a roundabout way, I can till get my point across, as the object of the game is to make someone guess a word or person without using other key words. 

So, battling aphasia, for me, once I wasn’t afraid anymore, has gotten to be (Dare I say it?), somewhat, enjoyable. 

“When first had the stroke, I couldn’t read or speak. Any messages I responded to were courtesy of my mom.

“Texting came easier then talking (it still is) but I couldn’t find the words to say exactly what I wanted to say. I called it ‘inability to make abstract thought.’

“Now, I, suddenly, have diarrhea of the mouth, as it were, via text. I can only assume that my speech is to follow.

“Watch out, people! I’m on my way to becoming whole again!” (Facebook: Mariah Rose, March 15, 2014.)

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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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Art, Change, Learning

BREAK the Cypher

I spent my New Year’s Eve, going through my artwork from high school up through college; some after too. The idea was to refresh my memory as to what influenced me at different stages in life; what motivated and moved me. I wanted to ramble about art and not leave anything out. I still plan on doing that but I came across something I forgot about. Something along similar lines but not what I was looking for.

I forgot I used to use writing as an outlet. I remember, I took a creative writing class but I didn’t know I ever wrote anything relevant or that I attempted to share.

In my hoarding, I found three issues of “Galerie,” a yearly student-run publication, put out by my high school. I was on the staff for two years. I had, at least, one visual piece, as well as one piece of writing, in each issue I found.

I’d like to share a piece I passed off as “fiction” in my senior year. Bare with my eighteen-year-old self, as I’ve had 12 years to fine-tune my “voice,” grammar, vocabulary, etc.

“She looks into the mirror stares into the face of a person longing for change. She is a girl of eighteen with dark hair and blue eyes. She has a pale complexion and her lips are rosy pink. As she looks into her own eyes, she is distracted by the leaves outside the window, rustling as the wind whistles through them. They remind her of how restless she is. She has been a part of a twelve-year routine that she has wanted to end for so long. The end is so near but so far away. She covets a new beginning. She can’t wait to start over. She wants to cut ties with all those surrounding her. They are all so boring because they are all the same. She wants to be with people have goals. She wants to be with people who are like her. She’s different. She likes being different but she’s so lonely. She’ll be glad to go. She won’t cry when she does. She’ll smile. She will be sad to leave some people because even the important ones in her life right now might not feel that she is important enough to stay in touch with. She knows, however, that the people who care about her most will always be there.

“She hopes that some of those people will support her when she begins a new life for herself. She is so afraid of what the future has in store for her but she welcomes it with open arms. She will rise to any challenge that faces her and conquer it so that she may do what she wants to do and become what she wants to become. She’s not sure what she wants to do or become, but she’ll know when the time is right. What she does know is that she wants to succeed. She know that she is capable of accomplishing anything that her heart desires. She is intelligent and interested in so many things.

“Some people might not believe this, though. When she tries to speak about what she is feeling, she sounds stupid and ditzy (for lack of better words). She knows what she wants to say but struggles to get it out. Her cheeks become flushed and she stutters. When she finds the perfect words to say, she often forgets them before they escape her mouth. She fidgets and slumps. She has horrible posture. She’s not confident in herself and in order to counter her nervousness around people, she talks and talks. Actually, she babbles. She realizes she does it but she needs to feel less nervous somehow. The only way she can truly express herself, though, is on paper. The only way she can say what she wants to say without interruption is on paper. She wishes she had more time for her paper, whether it be lined or Strathmore. She wishes she had more time but she’s tired. When she thinks she can finally rest, there is something else to be done. She relishes the thought of a world where money is no object and time is on her side. If she could, she would spend all of her time utilizing that paper. She is sick of work and school and anything else that gets in the way of her and herself. She wants everything to be finished. She wants to be settled in a house with the perfect job. She wants to be in love. She wants to have time.

“In the middle of her thought she blinks and realizes that she has been staring into those blues eyes for quite some time now. She has been caught in her own gaze for what seemed like an eternity. She rubs her face with her hands and sighs. She looks her own face over a few timed and asks herself those age-old questions, “Who am I? What is going to become of me?” We’ll see.”

Again, I wrote that when I was a senior in high school. Sure, I want to pick it apart and edit it but the nature of the content would be similar. Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to man-up, because the character I was describing was, clearly, 110% ME. I was trying to express myself while attempting to be, somewhat, cryptic. Some of my favorite authors (namely Chuck Palahniuk and Tom Robbins) “taught” me to use my sense of humor and not be constrained to the “rules” in writing. I cling to them because I’ve found that, like my influences in art and music, I respond and relate the creative people who aren’t afraid to let their personalities shine through in their work.

I’m going to address each of my relevant fears and points, and turn this depressing, albeit optimistic, piece, into a lesson.

When I first wrote that passage, I was a naive, gullible virgin, who had never ventured outside of Rochester, NY with anyone except her immediate family. I’d never been in love and was completely lost and lonely.

I’ve been through a lot in my life. Some of it was my own doing. Other times, I didn’t know any better. Sometimes, it was just a matter of timing and/or placement. Whatever happened (or happens), I’ve always try to learn and grow from it; evolve.

I’m neurotic and methodical, which can be blessings or curses. I think EVERYTHING through. When I say, “I don’t care.” It’s not because I’m indecisive. It’s because I, genuinely, don’t care because the outcome won’t have that much bearing on the bigger picture.

Honestly, I’m not sure how much I want to share about my past but I will say, my stroke is the single-most difficult thing I’ve had to deal with in my entire life. However, I’m doing just fine a year later because of all I’ve experienced up to this point.

A cliche I use once in awhile is, “If I knew then what I know now . . .” Listen, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s kind of a joke to me. It’s one of those *wink wink, nudge nudge* types of things.

I tattooed over my knees, “No regrets. No worries.” I do worry a-lot-a-bit but I’m forever trying not to. Life is a lot of trail and error. Sometimes, you get second chances. Sometimes, it’s one and done. Sometimes, people hurt you. Sometimes, you hurt others. I’m sincerely sorry for the people I’ve hurt. But, at the same time, I don’t regret getting hurt because it’s made me who I am. You have to think about each situation individually because, even if you’re experiencing deja vu, no one is exactly the same. If you don’t think things through, when you can, you’ll never grow and the results will send you around that same vicious cycle.

That’s why I’m analyzing my priorities from 12 years ago; because I want to see how I’ve grown and see what’s no longer important and what I still need to work on.

Here it goes!

I’ve always been restless. I’ve realized that I’ll always be restless. I can’t sit still for too long. I love, love, love traveling. Just a change of scenery for even a day satiates my nomadic tendencies, if only for a little while. I’ve found, if I don’t change things up a little bit, every once in awhile, I get stir-crazy.

A friend shared a quote by Robert Holden. It states, “Beware of Destination Addiction . . . a preoccupation with the idea that happiness is in the next place, the next job and with the next partner. Until you give up the idea that happiness is somewhere else, it will never be where you are.” I understand where Holden is coming but part of the reason I’m forever restless, is because I’ll never be satisfied. Another friend and I were talking the struggle with being an artist. You’re your own worst critic and mortal enemy. For artist like us, nothing we create is ever “good enough.” If we created THE perfect piece, we’d implode and there wouldn’t be anything left for us to achieve; nothing to work toward. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Yes, I need to choose goals that are reachable but I’ll never stop trying to do better; to BE better. That mindset has gotten me through my recovery so far. I’m not striving for absolute happiness. I’m trying to be content, moment to moment. Like MOST HUMANS ON THIS PLANET, I have good days and bad days. You just need to seize the days you can. If you have a bad one, dust yourself off, and try again.

“You pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can’t pick friends’ nose.” Well, I “pick[ed] . . . friends” who would let me “pick [their] nose[s],” as it were. But, seriously, I have so much love surrounding me . . . I’m so grateful. It’s been hard to let people go who hurt me and there’s a lot of disappointment involved in that but the feeling passes, eventually, and the love and support of those ones who stick around, fill up those voids. I still get lonely from time to time but I think it’s another part of the human condition.

I’m not afraid of the future anymore. I still maintain, “[I] will rise to any challenge that faces [me] and conquer it . . . [I want] to succeed. [I] know that [I’m] capable of accomplishing anything that [my] heart desires. [I am] intelligent and interested in so many things.” And I, once again, have so much support that it doesn’t matter if I talk slow or stammer. People wait to hear what I have to say. Also, I’m just as forgetful as I ever was, if not more-so. I’m working on using my resources and tools to make things easier, memory-wise (See “Memory Lost, Memory Found, Repeat.” mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com).

I still get nervous but I’m working on that too but my “babbling” and “fidgeting” has become part of my awkward charm. People who don’t appreciate it . . . well, ya know.

I’m still working on time-management. I’ll probably never get it right but I’ll always keep trying.

I’ve changed my mind about “settling in a house.” I don’t EVER want to be tied down. There’s no such thing as the perfect job, although tattooing comes wicked close, for me.

As far as love goes, there are no rules and it’s painful. With romantic love, comes stress, sex, insecurity, tests of trust, etc. I’ll probably never figure out that whole mess but what I do know is that I can’t worry about that right now anyway. I have too much on my plate. I feel that in order to truly be with someone, you BOTH have to be content with yourselves.

With that, I suggest making a list of what makes you content and if you’re not one thing . . . start.

My List:

My own space

Travel

Working out

Doing research

Reading

Writing

Yoga

Decompression time

Being creative

Feeling healthy

Being around people I love, who love me back

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.

This e-mail address is 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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