Father’s Day

As Father’s Day approaches, so does the cracking of my artfully crafted exterior. I think about my dad often but I try to hide the pain I still feel. I know my sadness and unease makes people uncomfortable so I internalize it.
Only a few times a year do I let myself grieve or allow my pseudo tough-girl exterior to dissolve and just feel. My dad was a lot of things to a lot of people, and although it has not always been so, I know I can have my own opinion about him. It has taken me years to realize that despite what other people feel, my memories are mine and mine alone to keep.
He will always be the man who held me when I cried after I got into a huge fight with my first boyfriend. The man who, when I felt like my world was falling apart, told me to “never let them take my smile.” A man who, after losing a bet, got his hair braided and walked around downtown Waikiki with me.
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For better or worse, he was my dad.
He taught me a lot. He showed me that some of the hardest lessons we learn in life are ones that come from the people we are supposed to love and trust. His actions both directly and indirectly have shown me the type of person I do and don’t want to be. Even in death, he taught me to love people like they could disappear tomorrow.
Nothing I say or do will physically bring you back dad, I know this…but I still search crowds for you. I play the songs you loved and pretend we are in the car together. On days I miss you most, I toast plain strawberry pop-tarts and slather them in butter, even though I hate them. For those few seconds, I am a kid again; I can close my eyes and have breakfast with you. I see your face when the boys smile, and I sometimes hear you when I talk. I think about what I would say if I could call you. I wonder if you would be proud of me.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I wish I could be with you today.

Real Life- Unpolished

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WARNING: gross mental visuals ahead!
As I have said before and will probably say again, the symptoms of Crohn’s are so commonplace to me that I’ve forgotten what life was like before Crohn’s. I have good days and bad, but always feel an effect.
For the last month I have been on a slow Prednisone (steroid) taper. I started at 40mg, then 30, then 20, and so on. Well, to err is human, right? I forgot a dose. Usually it would be no big deal–take it as soon as you remember. However with my brain fog and back-to-work stress I couldn’t remember. Did I take it with breakfast? Did I eat breakfast? Did I take it with my coffee? Did I have coffee? I don’t want to double dose…better safe than sorry, right?
Next thing I know, it’s two days without the medicine and my body has started the withdrawal cycle. I was faced with a choice: go cold turkey or reintroduce the pill, only to continue tapering.
I picked cold turkey.
Now before anyone sighs, lectures, eye rolls, or whatever else one might normally do when someone makes a bad decision, realize this: at a 20mg dose, the tapering slows to decrease by 5mg at a time. When I went cold turkey it was time to taper from 10mg to 5mg. I made the choice I thought would be the best for myself and my body….but man, the itching, the hot flashes, the mood swings, headaches, etc.? I felt like a dang meth head.
As if that was not enough, I had an incident yesterday that I would normally internalize, ignore, and basically chalk up as a product of my life. However it occurred to me, this disease is so glossed over and prettied up that true awareness is hard to come by.
Since August I have had a fissure, open sore, or scorched wound thing (doctors have pretty much called it everything). Yesterday I was in the bath and the “injury” was hurting, so like any wound I tried scratching it. I instantly regretted it, but the pain went away so whatever, I went back to reading in the bath. Some time went by and I looked down–the entire bath tub was an orange-like red color. For a few seconds I stopped breathing. I had never had something like that happen and it took my brain a minute to jump into action.
Gross right?
Fortunately, or unfortunately (I have not yet decided which) for me, the “injury” is a superficial and common symptom of IBD. Because I lack the ability (for the most part) to form solid waste, I mostly expel a bile-like substance. Bile is acidic. Until I can manage the amount of bathroom visits and bile, the wound cannot properly heal.
As gross as this topic is and as difficult as it is for me to talk about, this is my reality. My life unpolished. So thank you to those who add color to a sometimes dark world and who are unafraid to be themselves. Thank you to the girl in the black Scion dancing like no one was watching. Thank you to the man butchering singing Savage Garden at the top of his lungs like a band member and not an off-key and possibly tone-deaf man. You give me pause in a loud world; you offer me an opportunity to not take life so seriously.

Anxiety

Anxiety

Have you ever had a feeling or emotion you couldn’t explain? One that sounds illogical or insane even in your own head? You try to rationalize your fears and make sense of them; you tell yourself it’s because you want to understand, but really you just want other people to.
This for me has always been true of anxiety. I constantly feel swathed in uncertainty and panic. Sometimes my heart rate increases or my stomach churns and howls with a language comprised of anticipation and angst. I feel alone and gripped in an ice-block covered hand. The people around me are there but fragmented silhouettes of black and white. In my head I hear the chatter all around me but none of it comes in clear, like a facet slowly pouring into my soul. The ultimate disconnection.
I have yet to find the cure for my anxiety but I have learned ways to manage it. I hum to myself, make pro/con lists, twist the sleeve of my shirt, snap a rubber band, tap my foot, count to ten, or even breathe deeply. Sometimes these things help, other times I just have to remind myself that I have been through worse and that this too can be conquered.
Anxiety has kind of become a dirty word; a hushed term that gets swept under the rug or glazed over. Personally, I am not okay with that and you shouldn’t be either. I am writing this post because I know how easy it is to let your anxiety and fear consume you. To hide away and pretend that nothing is wrong. I know you feel burdened by your anxiousness and don’t want to put a strain on other people. Well, let me tell you; you are not a burden.
Whisper me your secrets and I will shout you my acceptance.

The beginning of Intrestinal Fortitude

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If I were to hear someone else telling my story, or animatedly reliving parts of my life, I would find it riveting. I would want to examine it under a microscope, view it from a far, and study it like a textbook. I am fascinated by one’s reality of going from zero-to-oh-shit (literally) in seconds; however, life is personal. It is raw, real, our connection to the world. Our experiences make up our foundation–our essence. I know the reality and intimacy of my chronic illness and rarely take the opportunity to step back and just soak in the absurdity–and oftentimes humor–in it all.
 
I met this co-worker a few years ago. I don’t know if she broke down my walls, climbed them, took a hammer to them, or slowly chipped them away, but befriending her has made all of the difference. You see, over a decade ago I used to write fan fiction. I loved reading and writing so I spent a good chunk of my spare time doing both activities. A book idea didn’t just come to me, it seeped into my soul and clung to me like a shadow. I HAD to write it down. So I did; well, I started to anyway.
My dad, who was living in a different country, wanted to read my work and that is something I rarely let anyone do. He said what all good parents should: that my work was good, great, whatever. I will never know if he truly felt that way or if he was just being supportive. He died shortly afterwards. Even though the book had nothing to do with him, I couldn’t write any more. I tried over the years but rereading my work just made me sad. In fact, I kind of stopped writing altogether. Until my friend.
 
I never stopped loving writing, I just think it stopped loving me. I thought it out grew me, or I it. I thought I needed to be a different person. Between the growing up, the losing a parent, and the living a life with an auto-immune disease, I became a wife and mother. My priorities shifted. I believed that I needed to be someone more; I needed to be someone worthy of their love. As I have grown and learned to love myself I realize these things are not mutually exclusive. Becoming a parent, having a disease, and being married doesn’t require me to become someone else, they just give me a different outlook on life.
With the encouragement and support of my friend and my husband, Intrestinal Fortitude was created. This is my way of taking back writing and taking back my life; and any luck, reaching someone who needs to hear the words I have to say. 

Live life outside the void

With every flair I learn a little bit more about myself. I learn about my strength, my pushing points, my fears, my weaknesses, and even my hopes and desires. This current flair has given me clarity regarding my future: I no longer want to live life in a void. I want color, meaning, fulfillment, and memories.
As some of you know from previous posts, I recently started taking Prednisone. Now, I have been on Prednisone a decent amount of times throughout my life, and each time I react in new or varying ways. There was depression, there was insatiable hunger, there was anger, and sometimes when I was really lucky–all three.
This time I decided to get ahead of it. So along with my 200-pill prescription, I picked up boxing gloves. I am not taking classes or learning in any professional capacity; it’s just me, my gloves, my brother, and his training mitts. I will tell you this: if you need an outlet, boxing is amazing. I am already loving it–the sweat, the release, the endorphins, the aches and pains, the power. For a person like me who has never felt powerful or in control, boxing is amazing.
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I said I want color, and I meant it; I have been wearing colored pants to work. It is completely outside my comfort zone. I have a “black/gray looks good with everything” outlook on life. (I consider it the Wednesday Addams’ approach.)
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If there is one thing I have learned, it is that you have to shake things up. Comfort is great, but living isn’t about a routine. Living is about the expensive, decadent dark chocolate espresso bar, it is about the right turn you’ve never taken, saying the words you never thought you could, and that someday trip that finally comes.
It is easy to say all this, to breathe in the fresh, after-rain air and wax poetic, but doing something about it is another story. So I offer a challenge to you: be daring, be bold, be UNCOMFORTABLE. Live life outside the void.

Flair/Post Flair

Yesterday I had every intention of writing all about my run-in with a stranger named Michael. But, as all of us auto-immune people know, one second life is good: you find yourself running around outside engaging in silly string fights with your boys, and the next second you are sweating profusely, stripped down to your underwear, hovering over the toilet.
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I started to get a headache, something that, unfortunately, is not uncommon. I decided to take a rest and drink some water. Then the headache progressed into full tension. Then the sweating happened. It was like I couldn’t regulate. I was hot, way too hot. I opened windows, I drank water, I stripped down to nearly nothing, and it wasn’t helping. Then the shaking started.
I was overcome with dizziness and nausea. The fear in the moment was plenty: Is it the cold the boys had? Is it because I missed my prednisone dose yesterday? Is it the inflammation in my colon? Is it the new meds? or is it the tapering I have been doing?
I found myself wondering what to do. If I go to the ER and it is nothing, I will have scared the boys, racked up a medical bill I don’t need, and wasted an already uncomfortable day in a more uncomfortable and scary environment. On the flipside, Crohn’s can progress rapidly and unfairly, can I really do nothing?!
I have a tendency to underplay how I feel in these moments; I never want to burden anyone else. Jon had worked all day and is recovering from whatever new ailment the boys brought home. Going to the ER or Urgent Care would require him to deal with me when I could tell he barely wanted to handle himself. So I just took a bath and prayed the pain away. Thankfully, after throwing up, cooling off, and a dinner of crackers and water, I was able to get some sleep.
The mornings after a flair have me reeling. I want to make memories and to try and erase the horrible day(s) before. So today, in true after-flair fashion, I dressed the boys and loaded them into the car for a day of fun and fat.
We started off at my favorite donut place, cruised the town with our new shades, picked up a pizza, and headed to the park. Jon took his lunch break and met us. It was a beautiful day in the Pacific Northwest, and the boys had a lot of energy to expel. I tend to take a lot of photos on these days. I never want to remember the days laid up in bed, I want to remember the boys laughing, feel the wind on my face, and remember the smell of a fresh brewed Americano.
PS, if you are wondering about Michael…there was a roll-over accident less than a mile from my house and traffic was being turned around and rerouted. (I commute an hour each way.) I had worked all day Friday and was anxious to get home, see the boys, and put my feet up. As the car in front of me was flipping around I smiled to the driver and asked if he knew if the next community over had a way around. He smiled back and then told me to meet him at the next community, he would let me use his gate code to get through.
I don’t know a better word for community; basically, the place next door is miles of sprawling woods with houses. I live in the middle of nowhere; I’m pretty sure the directions say to go until you think you are lost and then go another 10 miles. Anyway, it took me a minute to get to the next gate, between the chaos of people being turned around and the traffic from the other direction. There stood Michael, out of his car and by the gate ready to punch in his code.
As I got close he waved and I asked if he knew the way to the back gate. He told me to go through and wait for him, he would guide me. I didn’t realize how truly selfless this act was, until I started following him. Had I tried to navigate myself, I would still be lost… in an unknown area with no cell service.
Michael, I have never met you before but I appreciate you more than words. I am grateful to not have been stuck for the two-plus hours they quoted before the road was opened back up. Your small act of kindness was a HUGE blessing for me.

Carpe Diem

Every day on my way to work I pass this sign: “Coffee 1 mile, turn right.” For two years now I have passed this sign since work is on the left. Well today I thought, Carpe Diem, why not! Life is about adventure, so I took the right.
I had no idea what this place is called or even what side of the busy intersection it is on, I just know it’s one mile away. So here I am, scanning this uncharted road at 6 a.m. bubbling with excitement and seize-the-dayness. I only hesitated slightly when I spotted this (for lack of a better term) ‘rustic’ coffee stand, one aptly named “Randeez.”
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A name like that had me questioning the attire of the barista inside. Whether today’s adventure would bring about skin-amax-at-night, or prove perhaps the owner just had an unfortunate sounding name for a coffee place, I didn’t know. (P.S., She was fully clothed…and in flannel, no less. P.P.S., The coffee was awful.) As I am driving away, I had this realization: Crohn’s or no Crohn’s, auto-immune disease or no disease, what is life without a little spontaneity?  
So flip the script. Turn the I-have-to-get-up-at-5-a.m. blues into I am finally going to take that right. Because, I will let you in on a secret, nobody makes it out alive. So eat that second donut, Facebook that photo you think you look absolutely horrible in, dive head first (if it’s safe!), make no apologies, and live every day with excitement and wonder.  
Trust me, the good days are rare but the good times can be all you need to appreciate the bad ones.

Awesome Blogger Award

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I am giddy with excitement and frankly a little shocked to learn that I have been nominated for The Awesome Blogger Award! This award was created by Maggie – Dreaming of Guatemala She created the award “For the absolutely wonderful writers all across the blogging world. They have beautiful blogs, are kind and lovely, and always find a way to add happiness and laughter to the lives of their readers. That is what truly defines an awesome blogger.”

  • The Rules:
  • Thank the person who nominated you.
  • Include the reason behind the award.
  • Include the banner in your post.
  • Tag it under #awesomebloggeraward in the Reader.
  • Answer the questions your nominator gave you.
  • Nominate at least 5 awesome bloggers.
  • Give your nominees 10 new questions to answer.
  • Let your nominees know they’ve been nominated!”

Diary of Self thank you for the kind words and high opinion. I am honored!

  1. What language would you like to learn? Spanish. I have tried several times and while I learn a few new words each time, nothing has ever stuck.
  2. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Oh man, everything! I wanted to be an actress, a writer, and a lawyer. Mostly though–and this is still true today–happy. I just wanted to be happy.
  3. What is something you now like that you didn’t like before? Carrot Cake. The idea of mixing vegetables and cake–not my style! Or wasn’t my style…I guess.
  4. What is currently your favorite song? I love music, all music…but lately I have been obsessed with, “Hold Back the River” – James Bay
  5. If you wrote a script for a movie, what would it be about? A feel-good, coming-of-age story about a girl with an auto-immune disease.
  6. Would you ever want any piercings? I want a nose piercing. Ironically enough though, needles terrify me. I have my ears pierced and for one beautiful summer I had my belly button pierced. The piercing rejected, which is just as well, since I have a scar from above my belly button all the way down.
  7. Did you ever have a crush on a cartoon character or anime character? My cool-girl persona would scoff and say no, but my brothers would laugh and tell you Roxas from Kingdom Hearts II. I was kind of (cough–still am–sorry, Jon) in love with the voice: aka Jesse McCartney.
  8. If you were given $100, what would you spend it on? I think it would depend on the circumstances surrounding the receiving. Bills, groceries, or maybe something special for the boys!
  9. What was the best birthday present you have ever received? For my 15th birthday I was given meet-and-greet passes to, you guessed it, Jesse McCartney. I totally met him. I have the Polaroid to prove it. Yes, Polaroid. (Message me if you want me to explain what that is!)
  10. What instrument do you want to learn to play? In my head I am this badass drummer chick. In all reality though, I attempted violin in my earlier years and I still cringe when I hear “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Basically, I doubt my ability to master any musical instrument. 

I nominate-

Real Life of IBD Warriors

Polishing Dookie

Crohnsinthecity

My Life As A Case Study

BeautyBeyondBones

 

Question to my nominees:

If you could live anywhere in the world, where you live?

Who is your hero?

Is all really fair in love and war?

What is your favorite book?

Would you live in a different decade if you could?

Who is your favorite actor?

Do you believe in magic?

What is one terrifying thing you want to do?

Books or movies?

What would you tell younger you, if given the chance?

 

-Since 1949, May has been known as Mental Health Awareness month-

I have spent the last 16 years building a pretty high threshold for pain. I remember the night I got admitted to the hospital with an abscess, the doctor asked me to rate my pain. I must have said something low like 3 or maybe 4 because the doctor gave me this weird look of shock and disbelief. He said, “Most people in your situation would say 8.” It isn’t the pain that makes having a chronic illness so hard for me to bear, it is the emotional and mental exhaustion that comes with it.

Standard-Pain-Scale
After I got diagnosed, this dark cumulus nimbus shadowed my every thought, my every move. I sometimes think of my life in two stages: before diagnosis and after. I wouldn’t say the diagnosis changed me, it just gave me a different view on the world. I guess it is true what they say, ignorance is bliss.
I have had some pretty dark days.
Admittedly though, I consider myself lucky. No matter how bad things got or how lost I felt, I never wanted to give up. I’m not exactly sure why that is. I just had this undeniable will to keep going, a yearning to be the girl I was before I got labeled a Chronie. Maybe it was fate or divine intervention, who knows.
Now, do not misunderstand me. Some nights when the pain is off-the-charts unbearable, when the tears burn hotter than the sting of the cold bathroom tiles biting into my skin, and the anger inside my inflamed intestines grows, I want to throw in the towel. I beg, I plead, I even bargain with the devil to make it stop. I am not completely immune, but I have never wanted to give up in a permanent sense.
It has taken me years of self-hatred and shame to fall in love with myself, something I am still working on and learning how to do. Finding people, like the ones I have met through Team Challenge, has been instrumental in my healing process. I know, despite only having completed a season and a half with them, that I am a better person because of them. They have opened up a space inside of my soul that I thought was sealed. More than just love and support, they showed me how to be myself and share who I am without shame or guilt. (The samething I hope to do with my blog.)
All the darkness you hide in is the light someone is searching for.
So maybe you’re not ready to open up about your struggles. Maybe, like me, you need someone to help you, to show you how worthwhile and valuable you are. If that is the case, hear me now: You matter. Who you are matters. What you feel and think, it means something. You are beautiful. You are loved. You can be anything you want to be.
If, like me, you want to change the world, start by changing your world. Be a friend, lend a listening ear, engage the quiet person, compliment a stranger, flip over tails-up pennies, laugh often, live a life worth remembering. Live.

 

Socially Awkward

Socially awkward to my core, I spent years clinging to the notion of that which makes me different and weird separated me somehow. I thought I was a martyr of some long, drawn out and noble cause, like I was somehow meant to rise above. As I get older though, I am starting to realize I am not a chosen one or a mid-century victor, this is just life and in life there is a little bit of “doesn’t belong” in all of us. It’s what makes us unique and beautiful.  
I was doomed from the start; in addition to the intrinsic isolation stemming from years of emotional turmoil from an undiagnosed chronic illness, I was also home-schooled in high school. I could blame this decision on a lot of things: parents who wanted to bubble wrap me from the world, an under-funded school district, or maybe even the illness itself. But I won’t place blame. That isn’t really my forte.
I am choosing instead to offer some reflection on a life filled with loneliness, emptiness, and introspection through my blog, in the hope that someone can take away something or maybe connect with me on that level.
I read a lot, I am never pop culturally relevant, and nine out of ten times I don’t pick up on proper social ques. I have had to develop a thick skin and learn to laugh at myself. I am an over-anxious thinker and worrier. I spent so much time stressing and wondering “What if?” that I often miss out on the best the world has to offer.
I rarely see outside the black and white. I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. I cling to my loner status as a form of protection. I hate caring so much about what people think. I never feel good enough. I want to be accepted. I want to fit in. I want to belong. I feel alone in a crowd. Guilt consumes me. I live in a world of fiction and fantasy. I believe in the magic of a good story.
The thing about fairytales that has always attracted me to them is not the happily-ever-after; it is knowing that the dragon can be slayed, that evil can be destroyed, that the days I fight my hardest are not done so in vain.
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