I reached out … now what?

Asking for help has never been easy. It means I owe a debt, and it’s not always a debt I’m sure I’m able to repay, so it’s only when I’m truly desperate that I do what I feel is grovelling to others to request help. If I’m able to repay the favor, then it’s not hard to ask, but without having that balance I struggle with the request.

Experiences can be humbling, can’t they?

I am at what might be my most humble. I’ve had to ask for help before, but not quite like this.

This year has been a struggle, and we’ve kept many details to ourselves. During yoga teacher training I wasn’t able to keep up well with sales so much, as there was so much going on with trying to finish training as well as my aromatherapy certification. There was also a side project underway where a new company became incorporated, and so much effort had been put into getting this endeavour underway. It was ready to go, and we were just waiting for our financing to come through. It would have been so good for us, but that’s when things started to go wrong. That’s when I could no longer make sense of the things happening. That’s when I couldn’t focus on any of the tasks I was working on without making silly mistakes. And that’s when I had to admit that I couldn’t move forward with the company we incorporated, because it was completely a team effort and we were both needed in order to move forward with it.

We cancelled all plans with the incorporation. We still own it for the time being, but nothing has progressed with it. We wanted to wait to see what would happen.

I am short of my yoga teacher training certification by 10 hours because the worst of my symptoms came up during the retreat, where I found out just how much I was affected by the sun and heat. 

I couldn’t finish my aromatherapy certification because of the brain fog, which has made it nearly impossible to not only read, but to retain new information.

I moved my products out of the house in case they were the source of my issues. This makes them difficult to sell.

All of my plans and income sources had to be put on hold because I couldn’t focus on them. Whenever I tried, I made mistakes, or forgot, and I couldn’t stand the idea of disappointing anyone. So that’s when I made the hard decision to temporarily shut down Bohemian Alchemist, with hopes I could pick it up again soon.

But I couldn’t. My inventory was stored offsite, and trying to sell it was difficult to do when I had a hard time managing the inventory. I couldn’t offer services or products out of fear of making a harmful mistake. I was making mistakes, and it was only a matter of time before I made a mistake I’d regret and hurt someone. Thankfully, they were all minor, but they were enough to make me realize that it was time for me to stop. I did the responsible thing by keeping my clients safe, rather than pushing myself further beyond my limits in order to keep everything operational. I was already beyond my limits, which had changed so, so much from the beginning of the year.

Closing was hard. So much harder than I could ever express. I love my business, and I love the products I’ve made, and I loved the direction I was heading with it. But mostly, I loved the connections I made with people. I worked hard to start and maintain it (not without help – I’ve had so much help from so many people!). I found that hanging off of “maybe”, “possibly”, “one day” and “eventually” wore on me so much, and I couldn’t answer people who wanted to know when I was opening again. The encouragement from others was well meaning, but brought my attention continuously to the responsibilities waiting for me. I felt horrible anytime someone wanted a custom order and I had to refuse. I felt inadequate, disappointing and that I was letting people down – but the one that mattered most was my husband. I have not been able to contribute to our income. He has been ever the encouraging, supportive person he always has been, but this is an insecurity of my own that stems from old, deep hurts and experiences that are difficult to keep controlled when I’m at my most vulnerable.

Everything was shut down. I found ways to keep busy and to keep my flare ups moderately controlled. The more controlled my symptoms are, the more productive I am, which is how I’ve been able to reasonably maintain our home. It hasn’t been ideal, but we’ve made it work.

But our expenses added up. Medications and supplements and specific clothes that helped reduce symptoms, fuel to get to and from appointments, window replacement, so on so forth. I’ve listed some of our expenses previously. They continue to add up.

And then our hot water tank decided to die on us right after my surgery. The nerve of it, I dare say.

What do you MEAN money isn’t everything? We are a bank!

And it’s been a struggle since then. 

I hit a low point a couple of weeks ago, which I also shared part of. But not in entirety. I had cabin fever in a bad way, and I was unsure of everything. We had been thinking about getting a service dog to help with certain things in order to get me the support I needed to function better in the day, but I wondered if maybe this was too extreme. 

And so did a few others. A few people have mentioned that they believe I may be bipolar, or that perhaps I need to find God, or meditate more, or to “just relax”. It has been implied that my symptoms are imagined and that I’m a hypochondriac. Perhaps I am just looking for attention.

These comments come from very few, select people, but they hurt, more than they could ever know. I believe they had good intentions, and truly believe the things they say. There were harmful, hurtful words regardless of intent, however. They made me think that, maybe, they weren’t wrong. They made me feel insecure. They made me feel that I was sharing too much about our situation, and that perhaps I should keep it more to myself. I found engagements with people to get less and less, and I wondered if I was believed at all or not.

To be fair, when people see me they see that I’ve lost weight and am rocking a fairly normal body size for the first time in a decade, see me walking and talking  and my clean house and see my rosy red cheeks, unaware that the redness is part of a flare up. What they see seems healthy.

What they don’t see is everything else I’ve previously mentioned. The crippling fatigue, the numb cheeks,  the thick brain fog and confusion, the double vision. I’m functional, but very carefully. They don’t see that. They don’t see the little leg pump I do before I stand up, nor do they realize why I stand up so slowly. They don’t see my balance as that bad. They don’t see me avoiding bending over to avoid passing out. It’s hard to believe, sometimes, if there’s nothing to see.

It’s there, however, if you pay attention.

For the most part people have been kind, caring and supportive. Several have offered help, and have stepped up to help where we need it most. Right now, what we need most is financial. Bad timing, I know. Our bills are paid, the animals are fed, but we’ve been maxed out in all accounts since early fall and we have been just barely getting by. The prospect of catching up hasn’t been promising – which also means no possibility of a service dog. I will not commit to getting an animal that I am not able to afford to care for.

So I  reached out.  I asked for help, as so many people have encouraged if I needed it. And I need it. I presented my case. I made a post on my Facebook page. People asked me, “What can I do to help?”

“Share my page post,” I responded. I don’t expect anyone to buy things they don’t want or need, but sharing my post would help get the word out, and perhaps reach and audience that could help. It costs nothing and is easy to do. But then, I always seemed to follow it up with, “If you can’t, then I understand.”

I don’t understand. I don’t know why I  ever said that. To be nice? To give them permission to ignore it? To make them think that we weren’t in as tight of a situation that we are? Or maybe I’m just an idiot. I really don’t know why I said it that way, but that’s what I do.

When I went to see my psychologist and he asked me how I was, I said, “I’m great! Thanks! How are you?” – which I then had to admit that I lied. When he asked why I said that if I didn’t mean it, I admitted that it’s a trained response after growing up in a place that didn’t admit to weakness. I believe working retail also encouraged said response. Customers don’t want to hear how great you’re not. They’re there to spend money, and that’s all. It’s just what we are trained to respond with in order to maintain courtesy, and I’m trying to retrain that response. It’s not an easy thing to stop doing, especially when my defence mechanisms are locked and loaded at the moment.

Anyways, Some people shared my post.

And some people never responded, and never shared it. I see so many people share things supporting other events and complete strangers, but have not supported me where I need it most. Sometimes with excuses explaining the reason of their lack of support – which I appreciate, since at least I know where they stand. Most often the response was silence, however, and it’s the silence that hurts most of all.

And that hurt contributed to my downward spiral, which also caused worsening symptoms and an emotional meltdown, which made my spiral even worse. I spoke with my internist. I was so tired. Frustrated. I was falling apart. He assured me that he believed there was something happening and that we needed to push through just a little longer to try to find some answers. He brainstormed some ideas, agreeing that I needed a break. He prescribed something to help me sleep – something I do not get nearly enough of – and agreed that a service dog would be beneficial to my case. 

This helped alot. The reassurance from both him and my psychologist made me realize that I was spiralling down the hole of other people’s perceptions and expectations again. They told me that I’ve been holding myself together so much better than many other people might in my situation. I don’t know how true that is or not, but I hung onto it. It’s been a source of strength for me to keep pushing forward.

During one of my appointments, I was asked what I would do if I had all of the power in the world. 

I answered that I’d give it away to someone who would use it well.

Then I was asked what I would do if I had all the agency in the world.

I had to think on it, but eventually I answered that I’d use it to become a better person.

Thinking on this…. I HAVE all the agency in the world. That’s not something anyone can control, change or take away from me – only I have the power to do that.

Which gives me all the power on the world to do what I said I’d do. And that’s not a power I’ll hand over to someone else, regardless of their intentions.

I need to stop giving away my power. It’s the only thing I can truly control when I keep it as my own.

I needed that challenge. And I was able to use that to find my calm once again. And my power to become that thing I want to be.

I let things be. Kept my post up, and just gave it over to the universe. A friend of mine told me, “The universe gives you only that which you can handle.” I responded that the universe has more faith in me than I do, but there was an important point in that, and one that I do agree with, even if I struggled with in that moment.

And then the most amazing thing happened. Or, rather, person, and things seem to be progressing in a way I never though I’d see.

I had asked for help, and held unrealistic expectations of others. It was never about them, however. Those expectations were based on my own disappointment in myself and my situation. Once I let go of that disappointment, as well as the expectations of others, things have changed quickly. People have taken my call out seriously and I have found myself surrounded by more support than I had hoped for. There are still those in my corner that hold silence, which is disappointing, but I hold no grudge towards anyone. No one can possibly know how the situation truly feels, and I hope they are never in a position to fully understand – which would mean being in my situation. There are those that do understand it, because they’ve been through a similar experience already. And I have never held more compassion, empathy and understanding for them than I do now.

It’s hard to accept help. Harder than asking for it, especially after the disapproval of some people. But people find themselves in situations, sometimes, and need a leg up. This time, it’s us. Now that help has been incoming, I find myself wanting to offer things to pay them back – knowing full well that we’re not able to. It’s been difficult to say “yes” to the help offered – but I have been. I’m breaking out of old habits and routines, and finding a new way to be.

And once I’m able, I’ll find way to pay it forward again.

The universe knows my gratitude, my fear, my uncertainty and my feelings of personal failure. And I’m learning to trust it to catch me with grace as I’m falling, so that I can later catch others with that same grace and help them back up.

It feels similar to performing the “Angel Walk” at the end of the YTT training during graduation. I may have been short 10 hours from a signed certificate, but I graduated in so many other ways than I ever could have expected.

I reached out for help. And now, I’m learning to accept it with gratitude, and no expectation.


Learning to Breath Again

heartbreakDear 2017,

You have given me much to think of. The bumps and bruises you have compiled on my heart and mind have shadowed the pure joy I’ve developed recently.

Shadowed, but not forgotten, and not stained. Tarnished a touch, but a little buffing will make me shiny and clean again. I’m already working on that.

You’ve sent people to me wanting things I cannot offer. You’ve sent me challenges to which I’ve refused to accept. You’ve tested my boundaries, dropped some walls, battered my defences and made me question my own actions on numerous occasions. All the while, you’ve been making me stronger, confident, smarter, faster to respond and more resilient to your unkind ways.

I’ve read much about the power of meditation, compassion, gratitude, love, peace, intuition – but only in the last few years have I really experienced what these things are and how I can improve my life with them. What I’m also learning, however, is how these amazing gifts in life are sometimes taken advantage of, and often greatly misunderstood. I have been making major changes in my life as I learn more about these things, and all of these changes are being made for me. They are my way of finding peace in a world of turmoil. They are my own little way of living the change I want to see in the world. I want to make ripples, not waves, and everything I do is my way to fill my own cup. I have found that when my own cup is full, I can share with others, and I LOVE doing that. I love helping. I love seeing people build themselves up, and then helping others do the same.

I have been questioned and accused of many things. Most recently, I was accused of “giving up” on all things, from Facebook to assigned tasks to problems that people feel I don’t want to face. This is a pretty major accusation, and I found myself angry. There have been many things happen in the last couple of months that have tested my patience and peace, and even my actions.

Sometimes there’s more to any story than even the author knows about.

Everyone has a story, and I am no exception. Someone who I felt should have been able to talk to me – didn’t. Things were said by many, actions were taken by others, and a nasty little story unfolded to be bigger than it ever needed to be. In this vague little overview of events I can summarise one thing with complete certainty.

I was hurt. I had let my walls down and let people into my circle who didn’t belong there. I treated them fairly and lovingly and kind and open, but these were actions that weren’t reciprocated. I felt violated, used, abused and misjudged. I was angry at some people for not owning their own mistakes, angry at others for their own actions, disappointed in others again for their inaction, and angry at myself for many of the same reasons. I should know better. I let it happen. I lost control of my emotions. I acted in a way that wasn’t kind, and wasn’t me.

I went for a walk. I embraced my growing fury and let it burn. I let it pump through my short little dwarf legs for 3 miles before I stopped to pause. One of the parks on the outskirts of town has a lovely spot on high ground that overlooks the well-treed park I went to. It was windy, the birds were singing, the sky was overcast but bright and I just sat. I listened to my anger. I listened to the wind. I just let myself be, I let my heart slow, I let the wind carry away my thoughts (and the mosquitos) and I found myself unintentionally in the deepest meditative state I think I’ve ever been in. Until I realised that there was a runner next to me that I didn’t hear sneak up and I nearly screamed bloody blue murder. But I laughed, and so did she, and it felt so good to have this fun moment with a complete stranger. My mind was relaxed, and then… things changed. Instead of being angry, I became curious. Why. Why do people do certain things? Why do they say them? Why do they act the way that they do? I found myself thinking of some of the whys while I continued on the park path.

It’s easy for us to have a perspective on something but not consider anything else. We live in a different kind of era that focuses on the self – but not always in a healthy way. Social media has allowed us to connect to each other worldwide, and has created a new kind of social reality. Who has the most Facebook friends? Who can get the most likes? Who will jump on your bandwagon? Who can we affect the most with the opinions we have? Who can raise the most awareness for world issues by spreading news – that may actually be false, but we don’t have time to check facts because there are too many Tweets to respond to. Communication has been limited to words and abbreviations and has become easy to misread, misunderstand and react to what we perceive before understanding what the original author actually said.

How often do we sit across from each other and actually listen? There is so much to learn from each other’s expressions. An email is easy to assign a voice to – and it’s normally a person’s own voice. They read it in their mind and assign a tone and expression and read between lines that might not actually exist, and they react to all of those things that perhaps were never part of that email or other communication. There’s so much that’s missed when we can’t look each other in the eyes. There’s more of a disconnection to those closest to us despite being connected to more people.

Although I had friends at my fingertips, I had never felt so alone. And this is perhaps the biggest reason of all that I left Facebook.

There are some people in my life who have struggled with this decision, considering I used to be a regular on social media. They are starting to get the reasons a bit better, though. Although we connect less often than when I was on Facebook, that connection is now on a stronger level, we communicate better overall and we have better conversations than we did on Facebook. Constantly being updated on a person’s life means it’s harder to find untouched subjects to talk about when we do meet up. It’s possible, but it’s more difficult. Since my absence from Facebook I find myself more involved in life and living, and so much more attentive to the people in front of me. I see more. I ask questions and listen. Miscommunication doesn’t happen often when you are face to face. Eyes and facial expression tell a story behind the words. They communicate fear, sympathy, regret, love, joy, surprise. There are emotions that simply cannot be expressed by words alone, and without those emotions, the words are easy to interpret differently by every individual that reads them. Take the words out of the emotions, however, and you’ll find that it’s fairly easy to know how a person is feeling.

Think of someone you care about that you don’t see often, but connect with on social media often. When’s the last time you saw pure joy in their smile? What color are their eyes? What is the shape of their eyebrows? How do they act when they’re ashamed? How do they stand? Are they confident? Sad? Happy? People post on Facebook the things they want the world to see them as, but it’s easy to forget what’s happening behind the scenes. And we all have our stories.

perfectA little compassion goes a long ways. When you question a person’s motives, instead of speculating and assigning your assumptions to them sometimes it’s best to sit them down for coffee and address your concerns with curiosity, instead of blame. You may learn an awful lot about that person you didn’t know before, and be able to understand the motives behind their actions. And you may be surprised at what you learn.

And if it’s your own motives being questioned, why get angry? People will see what they see, and they are allowed to disagree with you and your actions. They are allowed to dislike you. They are allowed to feel differently about circumstances. Getting angry won’t help. Sometimes it’s best to reflect on the reasons why someone may feel the way they do. It’s possible that you may learn something about yourself when you open up to someone else’s perspective. And if you don’t learn anything and feel that nothing needs to change, then no harm done. You can absolutely continue to disagree and move on with who you are. Not everyone will like who you are, and this is very normal. Find your tribe and support, and let those who disagree have their thoughts. You can make the changes you want in yourself, but you can’t force those changes, or the same ideas, on others.

There are some decisions in life that are easier than others to make. Where some people may see my actions as flaky, or attention-seeking, or quitting or anything else, these are decisions that I’ve made for myself for reasons that I don’t feel obligated to share with just anyone. If, however, anyone wants to know more, all they need do is open up conversation with me, and I’ll answer openly. Instead, my actions were judged first and questioned later.

This is not ok. This is not compassion. What happened to communication? What happened to people helping each other out? We all have a role to play. Humankind, by its very nature, is a social species. We help each other in order to survive. We are not intended to tear each other down like we are doing. I used to believe that I was my own worst enemy – and it used to be true. Mankind is it’s own worst enemy, though, and we don’t have to be. WE. CAN. DO. BETTER. It’s time to understand each other a little better, starting at home and those closest to us.

Many people encourage others to accept themselves the way they are, but that’s not good enough for me. There are always changes to make, ways to improve and grow. I love who I have become, but I DO want to change. I never want to stop changing, in fact, and I want to continue to be a better version of myself with each new learning curve, which I never want to stop coming. I make mistakes – we all do. But I’m learning to treat myself with the same compassion as I would treat anyone else. This is a new idea in my life, and I’ve realised how hard I’ve always been on myself. There are reasons for this, and they’re all mine. These are my own burdens that I’m learning to overcome, and am excited for the changes ahead. I’m finally learning to be fair to myself. I have let other people treat me far worse than I have treated myself, yet I forgive them much more easily than maybe I should. I have not offered the same respect to myself, and I’m changing that. I owe it to myself.

alright.jpgNext time someone you know is struggling with something in their life, offer a hug. A little understanding can go such a long way, and that one simple gesture can help a person feel like someone cares. Sometimes that’s really all that’s needed to a person who is hurting or confused.

In the meantime, I’m making some big changes in my own life again. Recent events have been a stumbling stone to something amazing. I just need to find the new door that I know has opened, and I’m excited to see what’s behind it.

Find your peace, live in kindness.