U-P-D-A-T-E

Hi, friends.

I keep hearing that it’s been awhile since I wrote anything. Is that true? Has it been awhile? I’m sorry.

I think when we last spoke, I was deep in the throes of my final round of Adriamycin/Cytoxan, which is to say that I was being ripped end to end by some poison that I pay professionals to infuse into my bloodstream. The drug made me constantly tired and really ill, but I lost 12 pounds and reached my goal weight (thanks, chemo!), so it wasn’t all garbage! It felt a bit like a “milestone” or something to “celebrate” when I finished those four treatments, and I was almost excited to move on to Taxol- the once weekly drug that my oncologist built up as ‘not that bad‘.

I’m now six rounds of Taxol deep, with another six to complete, and I’m feeling pretty good. By pretty good, I mean I’m not vomiting, I don’t experience nausea, I don’t have to be left alone in a dark room for days on end (a piece of me enjoyed that part), and I’m no longer addicted to potatoes. Soup is not the only thing I can eat! I don’t have to endure Neulasta, which boosts your white blood cell count, but makes you feel like even a sneeze in your general direction is the most painful thing that’s ever happened to you. And I no longer rely on my 29-going-on-78 pill-box to get me through the day which is a real breath of fresh air- if that fresh air is still polluted, but only slightly less so.

The reality is that Taxol has actually not been that bad. Sure, my fingernails look like I’ve been living in a sewer and surviving off the garbage that rats don’t find fit to eat, but I’ll take it. And sure, my eyebrows finally fell out, but that just seemed to add to my sexy alien appearance. I even got cat-called as I walked into the cancer center last week! #blessed (Men are pigs.) But at its worst, Taxol has given me a wicked case of acid reflux and has run me into the ground, physically and emotionally. I didn’t know I could feel so exhausted at 6:30 AM when my alarm is going off…but again, it could be worse! I could have a shitty brain that doesn’t cooperate and intentionally mangles words and phrases, just to really goad the English major in me.

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Actual photo of my brain.

But, I suppose I should be honest and say that my writing has been slacking because I’ve been out enjoying life- something I never thought I’d take pride in typing. There’s been much less time spent dwelling on things recently, and while I think that part of that has to do with the “bitch, you got cancer live ur lyfe” attitude, I also think that I might just be happy.

SHOCK.

HORROR.

I know, I know. I didn’t expect it, either! What sort of demonic entity could drag me away from the safe haven of the Internet that I so dearly love? Could it be that I am just now understanding the concept of immediacy and participation? Because here I am, looking forward to getting up, looking forward to doing things with people, and looking forward to living this crazy life with my chosen humans. Naturally, there are still a ton of things to bitch about, but why do that when I can wake up to Justin and Mini-J: two people as thrilled to be going to the state fair as they are about Halloween? Who would have ever thought I would look forward to something like that? But here we are.

Don’t get me wrong, the irony of a death-invested person just coming to this conclusion is not lost on me. I know I have a lot of work to do once this time in my life is past (and if it passes without my passing??!!). My goal of becoming a mortician and assisting people in their end-of-life care is still very much alive and, as a I wrestle with my own mortality, is much more meaningful. I’ll get there; just not within the timeline that I had originally anticipated. Such is life, no? In the meantime, I’m staving off that pre-30’s meltdown (what’s 30 when you look like you’re 20 but feel like you’re 60?) and growing my hair out.

 

A special thank-you to everyone who sent me kind emails and bath bombs. You’re the bomb. Literally.

What they don’t tell you about having cancer.

Regardless of what disease you’ve just been diagnosed with, you’ve probably been given a metric fuckton of information about it. You’ve probably been scheduled to see multiple providers without regard to your actual time constraints. You’ve probably been told a whole host of things about stuff n’ things (facts, statistics, data, opinions, culturally ingrained bullshit opinions), and you are likely now in information/sensory overload with the immediate threat of stroking out looming over you. The point is that people throw information at you like a wasted frat boy throws darts at a wall.

My preferred method for dealing with provider appointments is to show up, look attentive and, at the first mention of something depressing, stop listening. Thank the gods for people like Justin and my mother who have sat through those appointments with me and listened to the information when I could not. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be an active participant in my own treatment. Listen, when you start talking about freezing eggs and the millions of dollars it costs, expect to get traded in for the finer parts of my brain, such as Do You Think I Made the Right Decision at Breakfast? and Imagine What Would Have Happened If I had Done XYZ Seven Years Ago.

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But between shoving pink accouterments in your face and telling you that you should probably consider letting a plastic surgeon make bank off your acute despair, people forget to tell you important things, like how your life might change, or how you might want to consider mental health support immediately. Granted, I can only speak to this from the lens of breast cancer, but I have an inkling that it’s a feeling shared by many people who find their lives upturned overnight by the phrase “I’m sorry, but it’s….”.

So here’s a very incomplete and rambling list of things I’ve learned about living with a disease (that no one else mentioned).

  1. You may think you are strong and can see things through to the end without the thin veneer of bravery shattering into a thousand different pieces, but you are probably wrong. And that is okay.
  2. Your friends are going to turn it the fuck out. Their awesomeness has always been known, but it will be amplified by the threat of non-existence, and you will want to hug them that much harder when you see them. Don’t break their neck.
  3. Not all of your friends will want to stay your friends. This isn’t exactly specific to a post-whatever diagnosis, but if it happens while you’re in treatment, it’s going to sting like nothing you could imagine. George RR Martin couldn’t craft a better betrayal.
  4. You’re going to contemplate your mortality in ways you didn’t think possible. What would life be without the tangy bite of a good Gorgonzola?
  5. Decisions you were convinced were the right ones to make will vacillate between “greatest idea ever I love it so me” to “jesus christ what have I done this is all wrong” in a matter of minutes. In my case, once I’ve seen a nice pair of breasts on a Netflix show.
  6. You’re going to spend a lot of time wondering why your partner is with you when they could be with someone else who doesn’t share a temporary zip code with the cancer center. And who has hair. And who is in control of their life. And shits on a regular schedule. And who probably knows how to do winged eyeliner or some other magical craft.
  7. Your partner is going to surprise you with their kindness and understanding, and you will chastise yourself for pondering item 6.
  8. Potatoes are Satan’s gift to the world. Potato soup, mashed potatoes, lightly fried potatoes, raw potatoes, Mr. Potato Head. All amazing.
  9. You will have dreams of a day when you could brush your teeth without your gums bleeding, take a poop without bleeding, breathe…without bleeding. But then you’ll wake up.
  10. You’ll probably feel crazy and second-guess everything you think and do. It’s a real Gollum/Smeagol situation, if I’m honest. This is where it would have been helpful to have that mental health support in place.
  11. Lush bath bombs are made by kitten angels and sent to earth for your enjoyment and relaxation.
  12. BATHS. ARE. GREAT.
  13. Trying to take care of everything like you used to is a real stupid idea. Actually, this one they kind of hint at (plus, it helps to have family members who echo this sentiment), but you don’t listen because you’re so strong and can handle it.
  14. Glitter can, in fact, make things more tolerable.
  15. You will break. You will have moments of wishing that you didn’t have to see this through. End of that thought.
  16. BUT! You will get through it because, even if you don’t believe in yourself, hundreds of other people do. And you show up for the people you love, because they’re worth it.
  17. And maybe so are you.

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Edit: I forgot one! No one mentioned that the chemically-induced menopause was going to make me cry all the time. It’s onions. ONIONS.

Thank You.

I have received a lot of feedback regarding this blog since I started it. The stories ranged from my best friends to people in my ex’s family. I cannot be more grateful for you- you who sent words of encouragement, you who shared your own stories, you who empathized with me. Those of you who reached out to me? Thank you eternally for your contact. It is truly wonderful to connect with you and hear your powerful narratives.

The one sentiment that I keep running across in these messages is ‘thank you for saying that’, ‘thank you for speaking out in public’, and ‘I know what that’s like’. This should not be a trend in conversation. I should not have to hear this from my peers.

I speak out (now) about my experiences because I am tired of hiding them. Am I over it? Of course. Am I sensitive to certain topics? Sure. Though I am pretty desensitized to media and communication (because of how I choose to view it), I still feel the fall-out of many assault-related incidents. I feel pain for women who are victims of campus assault. I cry for women who are victims of domestic abuse. I cry for those humans who aren’t taken seriously- who are looked at as ‘sluts’- and are shamed for their actions against their perpetrator. I see you and I hurt for you.

This post stems from a conversation I had with one of my best friends- a woman I have known for ten years- a woman who has literally seen me through the shits and shallows. She has been there for me- through cases of PBR and cases of wine- and has never wavered in her love. It’s difficult to think about life-long relationships, but she is that human for me.

Recently, we were watching Harry Potter: And the Bullshit of Bullshitzekeron and she mentioned how ‘proud’ she was of me for speaking up about my assault. It took me a minute to realize that she was talking about my rape experience- a thing I mentioned briefly along with the experience of other abuse in a blog. I didn’t even realize she was talking about that because I never bring it up. Who wants to hear about that?

It took me a hot minute.

Did I mention that?

I guess I did.

It’s not a thought to me anymore, dear readers. It is a thing that happened and it was a thing and it is in the past and goodnight. I am who I am and I have moved on, etc. But she made me reflect on that moment- who am I to ignore it? Who am I to forgive what happened? If I do, I only support that idea that assault is okay.

And so, here it is- when I was sixteen years of age, my then-boyfriend, whom I had traveled across states to see, had invited his friend over. The intentions were clear to him, apparently- not me. When said friend arrived, boyfriend blocked the door. He helped hold me down while his (and this is just me recounting the facts, not being a body-shaming dick) obese friend writhed on top of me. After it was all said and done, I was told to leave and go sleep in my designated bedroom (he was from a nice Mormon family, y’all). I was nothing. I was a shell.

The next morning, he came upstairs and whispered to me that I was a ‘slut’ and that I ‘had asked for this’. That motherfucker gas-lighted me all the way from PA to NY and all I could do was cry or internalize it. I didn’t tell anyone for years. Why would I? It was disgusting. I felt culpable. It was my fault. It was just a thing that happened because I was stupid enough to let it happen.

Thousands of women experience the same thing every single year…so why bother mentioning it?

My friend’s response to a flippant comment I made is why I bother. Women who have experienced this type of cruelty is why I bother. Women in general is why I bother BECAUSE: one out of every three women you know has been affected by sexual assault. BECAUSE: every 2 minutes an American is sexually assaulted. BECAUSE: 54% of my age group is at risk for sexual assault. Because this is important. It is not a joke.

I normally pride myself on my transparency in life- I’m not one to bullshit around the bush. But she was able to call me on something I’ve been silent about. She was right- why should I ignore the pervasive issue of female assault? One can’t ignore how it is treated in our media. Every single day we see a new case of assault- and every single day we do our best to ignore it. Someone will do something. There will be some sort of law enacted. It could never happen to me…

Our media ignores what it means to survivors of assault- it makes it okay to feature subjects where violence against females is totally acceptable. While I am a total consumer of media and understand the necessary prevalence for violence against anyone, I fail to see the fun in the idea of violence against women now. Maybe I’m getting old. I don’t know. There has to be some other way to entertain ourselves.

We don’t get to ignore this now. Women must stand up for themselves and for what they believe in. I’m not the greatest example because I took years to come to terms with my sexual assault, but I refuse to believe that it’s okay for any woman to be silent moving forward. If something happens, say something. Sitting on it is only detrimental to you. Trust me, I know.

You get to be happy.

 

 

 

 

 

Because Self-Worth is Fun to Chat About

Buckle up, kids. We’re going on a roller-coaster of shit sandwiches.

And by shit, I mean feels.

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I mentioned in my previous post about my self-worth being basically destroyed. It’s a thing. It happens to people who caretake and who have mental illness and whateverthefuck. It’s a real thing! I wanted to dig deeper into why I feel the way I do currently. I have some fun suspicions and speculations. Do bear with me…

I could start at year one, when I was birthed to a wonderful mother and a shit father. I could start when my mother’s next husband adopted me and things went even further downhill. And I could talk about my harrowing rape/abuse stories regarding dating while I was a teen. But why? All of this made me who I am today. It has strengthened me and given me tools to deal with future-me bullshit.

Well, I thought it did.

I’ve been in some form of therapy since I was thirteen, I think. I do what people tell me to do. I listen to their words and try to internalize them. I hit heavy bags because it’s supposed to make me feel better. I’ve opened up my fucking chakras and balanced my ‘chi’. And yet, here I am, wondering where it all went wrong.

I think everyone who has had a therapy background can tell you that you develop a split personality (this is not medical and is only based upon my experience). Every single day, I have conversations with two different people. I have the Counselor Elspeth:

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I can do all things through Satan that strengthens me blah blah blah. I am beautiful, I am worth it, I am funny, I am all the things. Cool? Cool.

And then I have this Depressed Elspeth:

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It’s quick to remind me how fat, ugly, unintelligent, unworthy of praise/everything I am. It’s way better at its job than the Counselor. Go figure. It’s had more experience.

I know people love me, appreciate me, and cherish me. I do. I love you back- more than you will ever know. But I struggle with loving myself. That’s a hard thing to do, I think. Self-loathing is instilled early and is difficult to break.

It doesn’t help that I spent four years with a man who constantly doubted me. Who told me I looked like a “lesbian” when I cut my hair, and built a relationship with me based on lies. Who never trusted me to do anything other than spend my savings on bringing him here. The negativity was real and palpable, regardless of what I did to improve it. Date nights? I asked. Therapy? I asked. Opening up our relationship? I tried.

It solidifies who I see in the mirror every morning. I hate who I am, but I won’t stop because this self-loathing is ingrained. Because I am needed at work, I show up. Because it would be wrong to leave this life because people depend on me, I show up. Because I am supposed to be a loving and caring wife, I showed up. I was there when my partner wasn’t. I will always be there when my partners aren’t.

Relationships throw me the fuck off. I’m a very open person normally, but recently, I’ve not been able to open up to anyone. I know why that is- I cannot form meaningful relationships with humans that I want to hold my trust. Friends are fine. Casuals are fine. I don’t give my actual love out to anyone, though, unless they’re worth it. And that has been two people. And they have both destroyed my heart. After having spent my Friday night sobbing on the floor of First Ave (something I DO NOT recommend) when someone said something nice to me, I feel like I have some work to do, even though I would rather squash those feels deep down inside me.

I can give a lot, but I’m not perfect. I know I’m not. I know I can be unfair, terrible to deal with, and crotchety…I know I’m human.

Thus, I pretend to be okay. I keep things inside myself because I know I’m lucky and I’m loved. And I am technically okay. But I hurt. And I have zero self-worth. What a shock.

 

 

 

Titles are Overrated

Hello, and welcome to Obesity and Malaise- a blog I started because I finally have feelings again. Some of you may remember my previous blog, Don’t Take Black Coffee for Granted or whatever it was, but this will be nothing like that. Mostly because I live in the Midwest now, and not some fantasy land that most people only dream about visiting. But it will also be different in the sense that I really have no direction. I just know that I have a lot to say. Normally, my preferred method of dealing with feelings is shoving them deep down inside me and pretending they don’t exist (not unlike the compost bin when I’m too lazy to take it out). My second preferred method is throwing on some Elliott Smith and knocking back a bottle of wine (or two) just to test fate. So that part hasn’t changed, I guess… Anyway, let’s do this thing.

Perhaps it would be pertinent to go over the thought behind the title of this “blog”. Typical of myself, I was drinking wine and shit-posting with friends on the internet, when a friend (sorry sphygs) described something in his home state of Ohio with the term ‘obesity and malaise’. It made me laugh hard enough that I immediately ran over to WordPress and registered a new blog under the name. I still had nothing to write about, though, and so here it sat.

It sat here until this morning, when something on a dumb social media website pushed me over my emotional edge. I found myself sitting in the kitchen thinking “I’m going to claw my fucking brains out if I don’t get these feelings out of my head.” It was then that I realized my heart and my brain had more in common with the title of this blog than I originally thought. To break it down:

Obesity (n): the condition of being fat or grossly overweight.

Malaise (n): a general feeling of discomfort, illness, or uneasiness whose exact cause is difficult to identify.

I’m a caretaker. I always have been. I have a big heart and a lot to give, often at the expense of my own happiness or sanity. It makes me happy to help, though, so I do. Therefore, I like to think that I have a big (obese? fat? phat?) heart at times. It also means that I am often expected to give and give and give without taking time for myself. Therein lies the problem- I don’t take care of myself as I should. I ignore things until things hurt me so much that I vomit them into a blog post.

As for the malaise? Well, some of you know me and what I’ve been dealing with during this last year. Though I definitely knew the source of my discomfort and uneasiness, it still works (because I say it does, damnit). The feeling didn’t end when I left though. Starting my life over, opening up my heart again, and having to think about myself has all been incredibly difficult. Because I am who I am, I’m still vulnerable to feeling things very intensely, even though I make a conscious effort to do the opposite. I may look like I’m fine on the outside, but my self-worth is at an all-time low.

And that’s fine.

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And so, I suppose, this is what this blog might be about. We’re going to have some frank conversations about feels. Because when 13 years of on-again, off-again therapy just gives you a split personality disorder, it’s best to open that shit up to the internet. Because my heart is a sad spot in Ohio right now.

It’s fine.

Totally fine.