You know, I had this realization in the car this morning. My mom and I were sitting in rush hour traffic where 394 turns into 94 (I say this as if any of you know what I’m talking about- it’s a bad habit). We were at a complete stop for nearly five minutes which would normally make me drop a couple of F-bombs and drive my anxiety through the roof, but I was able to just sit there calmly and wait. And in this Twilight Zone-like state, I realized that there is no point in being angry at a situation that I can’t change or have no control over. And then I realized that I’d heard that somewhere before…

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

It’s been made so very clear to me recently that the only thing I can change in my life is myself; I can’t change other people, I can’t change situations, and I can’t change for someone. Really, all I can do is take some time for self-reflection and make changes based on that.

During our final conversation, the ex told me that I needed examine myself and my behavior. Of course, he said this out of anger and to hurt me (congrats buddy, it worked), but he’s not necessarily wrong. I do need to take a hard look at myself and process some of the things that have happened in my life that have shaped who I am today. I’ve been working on it in therapy and thought I was making some progress. Part of me wants to laugh and say “obviously, it wasn’t enough lol”, but I know that’s wrong because again, we can only change (for) ourselves. I hope my insurance pays my therapist really well because boy does she have her work cut out for her this Saturday.

I think one of my biggest flaws is my insistence on putting others before myself. I don’t mean in that martyr/St. Theresa sense, because I’m definitely not the nicest person in the world, but I do often go out of my way to put other people first and care for their needs before my own. I think we’ve talked about this before…but I see now how that’s really just a coping mechanism to help me avoid dealing with my own shit. It’s much easier to throw myself into a person, to get completely lost in them, than it is to address how I might be feeling, or what my wants and needs are. I also have a strong inability to identify my own wants and needs. My guess is that I’m incapable of it because I don’t feel validated. This was a new one for me- my therapist brought it up in the context of my relationship with my mother. She asked something (I don’t remember what), but I said something and then back-pedaled because I felt guilty. She then asked me the same question, but about myself- if I felt validated by myself. I burst into tears because, no, I can’t give myself validation. It was such an odd response for my body, but I guess that’s like…having feelings or some shit. Gross.

Along with that comes my poor communication skills:

  • I can’t communicate my wants and needs.
  • I can only communicate via writing.
  • I will sometimes lie to avoid a reaction that I (my brain) perceive to be a threat to my safety.

Allow me to explain with an example. Early on in our relationship, when we were dealing with some friends who treated my partner poorly, I lied about seeing them. I said I was going to the gym, and I did, but it was also to see this friend and spend time with her. I understand now that I should have been up front about that and not worry about the reaction, but I was afraid. I knew it would cause an argument. The funny thing about that is my behavior caused an argument anyway. Silly Elspeth. When we talked about it in therapy, I realized that it stems directly from the abuse I experienced growing up. I mean, it was so bad that I had to hide food, have my friends bring me clothing to change into at school, etc. I grew up thinking that it was okay to hide these things because that’s how I protected myself. Does it make it okay now? No, but at least I can see that.

Another silly behavior I exhibit is the inability to be alone. I think I’m scared of the idea because, you know, I hate myself. Before this gigantic shitshow happened, I really thought it was easier to be partnered with someone, and it was a source of joy for me- I was happy watching them be happy. I am now very excited to be alone af because a) let’s be honest, there’s no way I’m trusting anyone with my heart ever again (lol) and b) because I clearly have a lot of work to do. Also, I can already hear you saying “not all men”, but let’s not. I have a vibrator. So here’s to focusing on me. All the time. All. The. Time.

Okay, that’s all the self-reflection I can handle for now. I need to go cry in the bathroom.

 

PS: If you know where I can buy some courage, let me know. Is there a courage black market?

In which we discuss feelings, doormats, and ways to be kind.

I’m going to state, note: not apologize, that this post is fueled by a lot of emotions and anxiety. If you have a problem with something, you know where the red x is.

These last few months have been pretty stressful. And when I say ‘stressful’, I mean fucking insane, ridiculous, demanding, brutal, unkind, etc. It’s been a real sidewinder of shit, but in a way, I’m grateful for it. Cancer has forced me to slow down and examine my life in a way I probably wouldn’t have been capable of otherwise. It has shown me incredible kindnesses through my community of friends and family, and given me a chance to connect with people I might not have before. It has forced me to work on my relationship with my partner, as well as my friends, and really value them for what they bring to my life. So for that, I am grateful. And because of that, I’m doing some self-work, y’all!

Please allow me to be the first person to acknowledge that I have a tendency to be a doormat. I am the type of person who goes out of my way to accommodate people who I consider worth it and, often, people who continually prove they don’t deserve it. I do it because I was raised to treat most humans with respect and kindness, and I stick to that as a general rule. Sure, I set some boundaries, but it takes a lot of abuse and pushing to get me there.

Even my work knows my questionable personality traits!

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Sometimes, I think being a caregiver and being a doormat coincide. My ultimate desire is that everyone be happy and cared for and this often comes at price- to myself and my needs, to my partner and his needs, to my family and their needs. Again, I know that this has played a part in the end of some of my relationships, but it’s hard to break the cycle when it’s something you’ve been doing for so long. It’s hard to say ‘no’ to people when you only want to say yes, because helping people out is a fulfilling feeling. But it’s difficult to set appropriate boundaries with people when you’re used to bending over backwards to please them. And it’s quite difficult to understand why people would not afford you the same kindness.

The clear unwillingness to not be kind to someone, even if you don’t “understand them”, is baffling to me. And no, I don’t mean #peaceloveandhappiness #truth #powerofpositivity Instagram bullshit kindness that isn’t followed up with an action. I mean put your biases aside, slide into your human suit, and offer people the same treatment that they have extended to you. It’s not hard! I do it all the time, and I do it because I believe that people deserve respect, until they demonstrate to you that they don’t. And, as I stated before, I have previously CONTINUED to show them kindness, well after they’ve shown me their true colors.

I guess I believe that, even if we don’t necessarily see eye to eye on something, or we don’t get along for whatever reason, that you are still deserving of respect as a person and I am willing to help you. I believe that people can coexist in this world peacefully even if they don’t like each other. For example, you might have voted for someone whose policies I don’t agree with, but I’m not going to treat you poorly because of that choice. Someone might engage in activities that I would not choose to partake in, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to think less of them for it. The world isn’t black and white like that, at least for me.

Recently, I started going to therapy. I think the cancer has pushed me to the point of serious self-evaluation; a place where I need to decide what/who is important to me and put in serious work to realize my life goals and dreams. So, through all this work, I have come to conclusion that it is time to start enforcing boundaries. Saying ‘no’ is going to be big area of growth, as well as learning how to divide my time appropriately. I want to  learn how to accurately express my feelings, even if it feels uncomfortable and weird, and then learn how to stand firm in them when they are inevitably challenged.

So a shout out to all those people who have abused my kindness. The deliberate avoidance of eye contact when I’ve gone out of my way to do something for you or your family member? Bye. The honest well-wishes to you and your family members in their times of need, when you’ve referred to my illness as a “FUN ADVENTURE” (yes, this really happened). Bye. Tolerating snide remarks because I’m too nice (doormat)to call you out in public? Bye. Expressing my feelings in what I assume is a safe space, only to have them used against me in the workplace? Bye. Holding all of this in and letting it fester is just hurting my chances of healing. So blessed be the fruit, fuckers. It’s a new Elspeth.

BUT!

I would also like to sincerely thank everyone who has stuck with me through this last year and a half. The people who have turned out to show their support and love have floored me. The people who continue to read this word salad and send me thoughtful messages- it means more to me than you know. I know I’ve said it before, but I never thought that I would, or could, make a difference to someone just by writing. Thank you for being there for me, for being part of my community, and for being the amazing people you are. My sock drawer thanks you, as well. I value you, I appreciate you, and I love you! I have no idea how to ever repay the kindness, but I will do my best.


PS: If this seems disjointed, or not like my regular writing, I apologize. I am apparently suffering from “chemo brain”, which is a real thing verified by my oncologist (!!!), and it has really been taking a toll on the way I express myself, as well as my memory. Bear with me, as all I can do is continue to push through it. October can’t come soon enough. 

Cheese, BRCA 1 & 2, and #healthiswealth.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “oh, so you’re doing the Angelina Jolie thing?”, I would have ten dollars. Maybe. And sure, in the sense that we both had bilateral mastectomies, they would be right. But there is quite a difference between Tomb Raider and I- she carries a BRCA 1 mutation and I don’t. Because she has a gene mutation, she was told that she had about an 87% chance of developing breast cancer. Mrs. Smith opted to pursue something call a prophylactic mastectomy (sometimes referred to as a preventative mastectomy), which seems to have been a wonderful option. She also opted for reconstruction, but I don’t have time to blather about that.

When I was diagnosed, a myriad of appointments were scheduled for me, and speaking to a genetic counselor was one of the first things I did. After watching my mom survive breast cancer, and then watching my grandmother do it eleven years later, I figured I should probably get some testing done. When I brought it up to my GP, she stated that I could do it but that I “was young and it was expensive”. Both are true, of course. My mother had just done her own testing, only for BRCA 1 & 2, which both came back clean (sans mutation), and my grandmother was old enough that testing wasn’t really seen as a helpful option.

So my genetic counselor and I mapped out my family (to the best of our ability because I don’t know shit about my bio-dad’s family) and opted to test the eight major genes that are considered high risk for cancer development. I figured that shit would come back with mutations across the board because…duh…it’s me. The test results took forever to be analyzed and it took me even longer to get in for the results, so in that time I had already had my surgery, had my drains removed (for the first time), etc. Justin and I both went into the appointment with trepidation, both of us assuming that things were going to be terrible- we wouldn’t be able to have children because I would just pass on a bunch of shitty shit to them…

Lo, and behold!

Not a single mutation. Nothing that explained why my body wanted to murder me slowly. The mix of disbelief and surprise was fleeting when reminded of the actual statistics of breast cancer. So I am not genetically mutated, but I still have cancer. And my mom isn’t genetically mutated, but she still had cancer. Granted, these tests aren’t 100% guaranteed, but come on, science and shit- they’re right. We must just be those fluke humans that develop cancer due to stress. I think that’s why it’s important to tell my story. So many people (read: women) have said to me “but you’re so young and healthy!”. First off- thank you. I am young and I am healthy. And then they follow that up with “I should get checked out”, to which I reply emphatically “YES, YOU SHOULD!”.

Here’s the thing: I AM young and I AM healthy. Sure, I smoked for five years. Yes, I ate meat. Yes, I did drugs. Yes, I engaged in risky behaviors because that’s just the natural course of life for a lot of young women in America. But I am a vegetarian, I engage in regular physical activity, and I live my life as exuberantly and as safely as I can. That “but you’re so healthy” is a real double-edged sword for me. I often feel like women are subconsciously judged for their life choices when they’re diagnosed. I certainly have felt that. But I also get the sense of disbelief that this could happen to a young woman. So really, dial it back, world. For those of us who don’t have a gene mutation, there is no cause and there is no cure.

Sure, sure. I could go vegan. I could go sugar-free. I could do a lot of things that I’m not doing to help/prevent/kill my joy. The beloved and I have talked about going sugar-free, but it sounds like a lot of work and we’re already incredibly stressed and anxious as it is. My mother reminds me about giving up dairy products because of my diagnosis. There is estrogen in cheese, she says. I will lower my risk of recurrence, she says. But you will pry this Brie from my cold, dead hands!

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This brings me to the #healthiswealth portion of my rant. Guess what? No, it fucking isn’t. It doesn’t matter how many kale and avocado shakes you make, your chances of getting cancer are still the same. You can buy one of those horrid Juicero things and squeeze your sustenance out of a plastic garbage bag for $400 a day and still get cancer. Bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people, diseases happen to young people, and evil people live forever. My point is enjoy life responsibly, be aware of your body, and do your research.

Women don’t do anything to deserve breast cancer, but it happens.

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Update time!

My drains were removed on Monday due to them trying to physically escape from my chest cavity. Who knew that my body wouldn’t love foreign objects sewn into it?! This means that I am now cleared for all of the prerequisites for chemotherapy, and my port placement surgery is scheduled for this coming week. Chemo commences on June 1st and I will have more updates on that treatment soon. It’s a bit to digest at the moment, but isn’t all of life?

And now for something completely different, kind of.

I think I might have mentioned that I’ve only ever been truly in love with two people. Maybe. I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. I only want to harp on one for a quick second here, before I explain my upcoming prolonged absence. It all ties together, don’t worry.

This last human (let’s call him Daniel Plainview) and I have a bit of a history. We met long before the ex-husband and I met each other, and had a bit of a fairy tale romance. Shortly after I split with the ex, Danny P. and I reconnected. It didn’t take long for us to become very close. It confirmed that tiny gut feeling that I had all along- I loved this guy.

Long story short, Daniel and I parted ways in a rather volatile (so many feels!) way, but attempted to stay friends because I’m a masochist. Recently, he threw some salt into a very open wound, and we had to have a long conversation about things. In this conversation, he mansplained to me how I should just “move on without him” and that was that.

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It’s just that easy, friends! Just move on! Just forget everything! SO EASY EVERYONE’S DOIN’ IT!

Anyway, really the point of this post is to backhandedly thank him for saying that. I was recently given the opportunity to go to Burning Man, an incredible experiment in community, art, and music. Trust me, this is not something I would have ever chosen to do by myself, but my friends convinced me that it was what I needed right now. Two weeks disconnected from reality, spent with people who are accepting, etc. Sounds pretty good, right?

At first, I was all “this is just a bunch of hippies in the desert burning stuff and wearing costumes and glitter and it’s hot”, but after this conversation I’d just had, I started to come around. I started actually researching the event and came across their ten principles:

Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self-Expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Participation, Immediacy.

So, just looking at those, I can count four principles that I need to seriously work on in my life. I started looking at the trip as a way to turn off and reset my mind. A way to refocus my energy on not being so caught up in what other people want and need from me, but what I need and want for myself. And as my fellow cohort, M, says: MANIFEST!

I’m a total convert. I’m going to give myself over to experiencing the experience, I’m going to talk to anyone and everyone, I’m going to do things that make me uncomfortable in real life, and I’m going to let all this bullshit go in the Temple and rejoice when they burn the fucker down. It’s going to be seven days of magical catharsis. Bring it on, BRC.

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We’re leaving tomorrow morning. My friends rented an RV, and we will be taking our time getting out to Nevada. I’ve picked out some horrible roadside attractions for us to see, and I guess we might see that dead guy mountain or something. I’m looking forward to this. I’ll try to post from the road if I can, but otherwise, this is me signing off for the next two weeks. Wish me luck- this place is hot as balls.

And to Mr. Plainfield, a tip of my hat:

 

 

Doggone It

Because talking about removing yourself (emotionally) from a relationship is the most fun I think I could ever have on a weekday.

First, let me mention how incredibly grateful I am to those of you who have responded to me and this blog. I didn’t have a goal when I started writing, and I certainly didn’t expect people to receive it the way they have. I would have never imagined that people would relate to me, and would also be impassioned enough to write me and share their stories. For that, I thank you. You make this word-vomit shitfest worth continuing. Keep sharing!

I’m currently working on distancing myself from relationships and the people in them that have hurt me. It’s hard, I think, because you spend so much of your time trying to convince yourself that the relationship can work while ignoring what you need out of it. Thus, when it’s over, you’re left with this hole in your heart and the feeling that you have to do the work to make up for the reciprocation you never received. Self-work, essentially. Having to tell yourself that you’re pretty, and smart, and worth it…because your partner never did. Or if they did, they certainly didn’t mean it.

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I’m slowly learning to stick up for myself and be an advocate of my needs and wants, but it’s hard. I’ve lived through two father figures tearing me down in various ways, too many failed male relationships, and a marriage that was based on….what, I have no idea. So naturally, I think I’ve internalized this idea that I don’t deserve to be happy, because why should I? Something about me is clearly wrong. Counselor Elspeth refutes this and says “absolutely not, not all things are meant to be, and those people have their own issues to work out. Do some daily affirmations, etc, etc.” Depressed Elspeth counters and says “Nah, girl. You’re messed up. You’re not good enough. Look at all those other eligible women. They’re better than you. They have long hair, know how to contour, and are better at social media.” How does one argue with that?

I left my ex for many reasons, but mostly because needs weren’t being met. I did everything I could (or that I knew how to do) to fix the relationship, but in the end, it just wasn’t right. There was too much apathy and resentment on his part, and not enough desire to change that. When he started seeing this “girlfriend”, I was so hurt because he was doing everything with her that I had wanted to do with him. *Further reinforcing that idea that there is something inherently wrong with me.*

But the more I reflect on that fact, and the more I see come up in my newsfeed, the more I realize that I’m just not the type of partner he was looking for. I’m not the kind of woman who posts “live, laugh, love” every five seconds. Nor am I the type of person who wants to celebrate inconsequential milestones like a 6 month anniversary with tickets to Metallica. Metallica. 

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So, distancing myself from such things may be hard, but it’s getting easier. Every day I learn more about what I want and don’t want in a relationship. I’m learning to identify red flags in potential partners- something my therapists have been talking about since I was 17, but I’m only just picking up on now. And I’m working on listening to Counselor Elspeth, even though she seems like she’s full of shit. I just don’t know…

More on this later.

PS: I’m attempting to write more frequently, but I’ve been pretty ill since last Wednesday, and over-the-counter medication cocktails just don’t have quite the same effect on my creativity as wine does. My apologies.

 

 

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.