Self love and getting lost

“Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.” *

Let us not dwell on the past may be the most apt way to begin this post. I have found myself in a slump of late, the motivation dwindles with the light for me and pray mon âme it is indeed late spring here, where is the light you may ask. A tiny island in a large sea is prone to variable weather, exciting, I guess, one never gets bored. So the week of sunshine? I spring cleaned the house. The week of dull high cloud? Hayfever, migraines and panic ensured. It’s always a few months after the last panic attack before I begin to relax and think yes you are and you will be okay. To bide my time? I have found solace in colouring books, fine markers and coloured lines; my favourite high school tunes keeping any sense of panic at a distance. And here begins the perfect segue for some self love talk, who Jessica, my main mentor and best felon initiated over at her blog -> littlest lady.com (okay she’s not really a felon but t9 and auto correct are the butt of many jokes for us)

“Over time you become someone else. Only when the honey turns to dust are you free.” *

As far back as I can remember I was picked on for my appearance at school. Why? Red curly hair. It didn’t help that this was the 1990s when curls were well on their way out, and even today, I still get the feeling that curls are seen as messy and unkempt. Now? I pretty much love my hair. I’ve never changed it much, luckily, a lazy demeanor and urge to be ‘different’ has kept me from straightening it and apart from the few black home dye jobs in my teen angst phases it’s kept it’s natural colour rather well. I do find myself bored with it at times, but the constant praise of people and strangers who wish they had hair like mine as somewhat gone to my head, and you know what? It’s me, and that’s okay. I am lucky to have a full head of hair at all & a natural fuzzy scarf in winter mind you. I’m still working on the PCOS and hormonal side of my hair as it appears in places society deems unappropriate for women. & here I’m reminded of Roxane Gay’s brilliant memoir Hunger (go and read it already!) where it’s often parents and loved ones that can be the most detrimental to our process of healing and self love. 

Endometriosis? Yeah, that thing. I’m slowly coming to grips with it. Self love is a lifelong journey and  while it’s amazing to finally have a diagnosis and explanation for my body and it’s wayward charms to put it positively  – self love & acceptance is another matter.

Self love isn’t always liking your body parts but learning to know yourself and your habits; when you are in need of rest, of healing.

  • I tire easily. My body likes to produce cortisol when it’s not always needed. I am not weak. I am learning my limits which makes me strong. I have learnt to say no to extra work and social activity when my body is screaming for rest. Keeping up appearances is bullshit and if you need sleep, get your body into bed!

Fun fact? I wasn’t born late, or early, but right on time… and I came out, not screaming or crying but …. yawning. I was literally born tired!

  • The pain. Again I am not weak. The pain is caused by factors sometimes out of my control – weather, medication side effects & well within my control – food and stress and it’s undesirable physical effects. Learning to love yourself and learning to understand your limits is STRENGTH.

Anxiety is my latest struggle. Nausea and an internal tremor which sometimes manifests to a full body shake with legs like jelly and butter fingers that smash and crash. I certainly don’t love this part of myself – but understanding why is foremost to any kind of self love that is needed.

“The question then is how to get lost. Never to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruction, and somewhere in the terra incognita in between lies a life of discovery.” *

I would like to add at the end of that quote “of discovery AND SELF LOVE.” Self love occurs when we begin to pay attention to our needs and get lost in ourselves. I have recently picked up my first Rebecca Solnit and boy oh boy. I picked up A Field Guide to Getting Lost on an absolute whim last week. It was a self-care day I had given myself. A day to buy myself some nice things and to let myself breathe without a care. Solnit? She’s like Didion on steroids. I practically underlined the first 40 pages of the book and it truly felt like Solnit had reached inside my bones giving me a shake up for the better. Like a lobotomy if a lobotomy actually worked and gave you a greater grip on life and yourself.

I have begun to understand the feelings as they begin. To understand that my body needs rest, oxygen, a cup of tea or my favourite damn song to get my circadian rhythms back to their norm. Favourite things are favourite things for a reason and this my friends is what I deem to be self love. Looking after yourself with feeling, treat yourself as you would your best friend. Get lost in yourself.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

– Albert Camus
* from, A Field Guide to Getting Lost, by Rebecca Solnit

 

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Girl, Interrupted (book & film review)

“It was a spring day, the sort that gives people hope: all soft winds and delicate smells of warm earth. Suicide weather.”

Girl, Interrupted is the true story of Susanna Kaysen’s time spent in the infamous McLean Hospital* and you have probably seen the cult film adaptation with Winona and Jolie or at least heard of it unless, like me, you live under a rock and this is all news to you. Okay, so I had heard the title and vaguely knew about a late 90s blonde Jolie. But still, I’m kicking myself for not having read (and watched) these sooner.

*famous due to it’s clientèle in the past.

“Ray Charles was the most famous ex-patient. We all hoped he’d return and serenade us from the window of the drug-rehabilitation ward. […] Robert Lowell also didn’t come while I was there. Sylvia Plath had come and gone.

What is it about meter and cadence and rhythm that makes their makers mad?”

In 1967, Susanna is admitted to McLean Hospital for the treatment of depression which is later diagnosed as borderline personality. She was eighteen.

“One of my teachers told me I was a nihilist. He meant it as an insult but I took it as a compliment.”

Kaysen’s memoir reads like a diary and whilst it deals with a rather harrowing topic it is both poetic and humourous. She doesn’t romanticize her condition but rather documents her experience living in the ward and the lifestyle it affords her. The novel is a slim one and best read in one sitting and it was definitely more heartwarming than I had initially expected. If you have ever read & loved or wanted to read, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath then this book is also for you.

Filmically, Girl, Interrupted also works well. However, it’s a glossy piece of cinema, rather than a raw period piece.  (Think: Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides).

Ultimately I expected more from the film, due to it’s cult status and my having read the novel first but Mangold’s interpretation is addictive in its own right. Lisa’s dominance in the film caught me off guard but I feel it’s effective in portraying Susanna’s sense of loss.

“People ask, How did you get in there? What they really want to know is if they are likely to end up in there as well. I can’t answer the real question. All I can tell them is, It’s easy.

And it is easy to slip into a parallel universe.”

In the book, there are two Lisa’s. Perhaps this would’ve confused the audience had it been translated to film, however, Jolie’s role is spectacular enough that perhaps with another Lisa, Winona would’ve been felt completely overshadowed. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Daisy (Brittany Murphy) in the film, but found it became all a bit melodramatic as Susanna and Lisa’s relationship deepened. I also enjoyed the ending of the book and sort of wished it was in the film – but alas – I think it may have left the film feeling a little too Hollywood if that makes any sense.

Ultimately, I love the book that little bit more, but I enjoy each piece in it’s own right. One cannot fully compare such different media. I think I love the book more because it reminds me so of The Bell Jar, my first true love. It also got me thinking of other books I loved with similar themes like:

  • Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood
  • An Angel At my Table by Janet Frame. (There is a great film version of this!)
  • The Vegetarian by Han Kang (now that would need a raw, no holds barred, throw in some magical realism effects, don’t you think!?)

“But most people pass over incrementally, making a series of perforations in the membrane between here and there until an opening exists. And who can resist an opening?”

 

 

sluggish like a hydrostatic bottomfeeder

Maybe today’s the day to write the endo post. I’ve had the shakes upon waking this morning at 0930, it’s now 1630. Pain + a headache lingering on and off all day and at first thought, ‘oh it’s the weather, this heavy fog hurting my head, the pressure, that’s what it feels like’.  Then the cramps, and would you believe it I’m actually bleeding today! The hollow legs akin to a bout of mild food poisoning, ‘oh, it must’ve been last night’s pad thai, too rich, too fatty, too oily, too much, too foreign for my body.’ It’s always something. But that’s the way it is now. Some days are clear and light spirited, think of a pony in a meadow and others, like today, sluggish like a hydrostatic bottomfeeder and the day’s gone in an instant and I’ve been sat here for all of what felt like five minutes. There’s also the mild nausea, brain fog + stabbing pains, the floppy limbs like you’re made out of jelly, like you shouldn’t even have limbs and why, you could just float all day and wouldn’t that be the life? I ought not to complain. Before my surgical diagnosis my pain was worse, think 11/10 when now it sits anywhere between 4-8/10. The trade off being it used to appear about every 2-3 months though lasting 2-3 days so I couldn’t do much but wail in bed, up to my eyeballs on ibuprofen and codeine. Staggering to fill up the jug for hot water bottles and feeling sorry for myself to the highest degree. So when doctors turn around and say it’s just your period, it’s natural, you are perfectly normal and healthy well, why, you begin to think that maybe it’s all in your head (or in my case it literally is as there is research suggesting that redheads have a lower pain threshold and higher pain sensitivity!?)

As you can see I couldn’t of held down a proper job, therefore having the ‘casual’ contract but then of course the on-call lifestyle gets to even the healthiest among us so you’d have to be taking a death sentence to have opt for on-call work with a chronic illness. I had the ibs symptoms daily and university was hellish, I still think I’m lucky to have graduated, for it drove me near insane and it’s not a phrase I use lightly.

Now: I was lucky. I saw a gyno and was put on a waiting list for surgery. That was in May last year. I was operated on in August by that same wonderful gyno (bless her cotton socks). My diagnosis, hopeful (if there is such a thing), “the early stages, entry level” and she even noted my ovaries were fine + healthy (at 19yo i was diagnosed with pcos and at 21yo a cyst left me bedridden for a week). Now I have the hormone releasing IUD and have done for near 10 months. I’m still adjusting to it, like hell it was a max. of 6 months adjustment but, ‘hey, everybody’s different!’

I’m trying to cut down on the NSAIDs I take. Maybe I could try a more plant based diet, but that makes me panic – since my ibs (or is it all just the endo – nobody knows!) cannot tolerate the mere thought of legumes, beans, soy.

I realise I am a lucky one. I know that I’m privileged in both my appearance and diagnosis. Doesn’t make this any easier (oh how I wished it did). In a world of social media I am bombarded by my friends with their children, something they (the medical professionals) tell me is possible but not certain in my future and with this IUD it seems a long way off. Funnily enough the IUD is the only way to deescalate the whole situation down there. (“pump ‘er full of ‘ormones!” – I neglected to say that the months leading up to my surgery the gyno prescribed me a case of hormone therapy – which worked wonders for my pains and figure! Why couldn’t I have stayed on them?!)

So, the pain, is less dramatic but more frequent. Every other day and nothing is going to change that. The best I can do is wake up and see where the day takes me. Let myself take it easy and not beat myself up about it when I can’t do basic human things. I need to let myself know that it’s okay to be slow for today my body needs rest + my mind is elsewhere.

I’m not sure if any of you have even read this far, but please, please don’t suffer in silence.