Before the Train Hits

I’m going to paint a picture for you, and I want you to really immerse yourself in it.

Imagine standing in the middle of a train track, with a rope almost cutting into each arm as it’s pulled taught and tied to a column on each side. You’re in the middle of no where.
You have no where to go, no one to hear your cries – no white knight to save the day as we’re so often told in fairytales. None of that, because this is real life.

You stand there, dread settling in your stomach, your mind racing as your fight or flight response kicks in. Wanting, NEEDING, to live, to be okay, to be safe.

Then you hear the distant sound of a train approaching… Panic replaces dread. Your heart rate reaches inhuman speed, your breathing all but stops in your throat. You feel the need to escape, to do anything possible to get out of that situation. You cry, you want to throw up, pass out, or just crawl out of your skin.

You lose track of everything around you except the feelings your body is drowning you in. Taken over by an inane instinct to survive.

Now, the train becomes visible, heading straight towards you with no signs of stopping. That panic you were feeling? You are consumed by it ten fold. Your body is your enemy, your hostage… And you? It’s prisoner.

That feeling of terror right before the train reaches you? THAT is exactly what a full-blown panic attack feels like.

Anxiety is bad enough, but it’s not panic, it’s not the same. I’ve had many painful surgeries, I’ve suffered a lot of loss. But nothing can compare to that inescapable feeling of terror. Inescapable because your own mind is causing it, inescapable because you can’t detach from your mind or body.

It feels like every nightmare, every fear you’ve ever had, rolled into one moment of pure, crushing terror.

So, why do people panic? Why do we actually catastrophise everyday situations until we feel like we’re about to be hit by a train? Why does our fight or flight kick in with little-to-no apparent danger?

Because that’s what anxiety is. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it’s causes are different for everyone.

Does that make them weak for suffering through that? For needing medical intervention to treat this issue? No. Having experienced this panic first hand, I’d say with full conviction that those who suffer panic attacks are some of the absolute strongest I have ever known.

I witnessed my friend ride the waves of panic and anxiety for a full half hour on a boat. I saw her fear, I felt it… And I felt pride at what she was surviving. Her mind and body were fighting her to basically jump off that boat, to escape the situation… But she didn’t. She mentally fought the battle, survived it, conquered it, and rode an easy ferry ride home on the way back.

If you’ve been through that, you should never feel anything other than pride.

The different faces of anxiety are interesting, and the way people react when faced with panic. The fight, flight, or freeze response kicks in, and it’s like internal torture.

When I have a panic attack, it’s invisible. No one has ever been able to tell (unless I faint… Whoops!) I sit there quietly, desperate to catch my breath and slow my heart rate. And I fight the urge to run from the situation, knowing that running only feeds the panic. With my friend, her panic was utterly palpable. You could see it, feel it. The sobbing, the shaking, the hyperventilation. We’re feeling the same things, but wearing it completely differently.

So, before you call someone dramatic or weak, because they didn’t ‘look’ like they were having a panic attack, or because you don’t understand why they were having one in the first place. Stop. Take a look outside yourself, and realise that even if you can’t understand what they’re going through, your steady support is all they need in that moment.

“No” Is A Full Sentence

Let’s talk about that famous ‘no’ word. It’s simple, powerful, and yet somehow often ignored.

Now, I’m talking purely from a woman’s perspective, because I’ve never lived as a man (shocking, I know.) So, forgive me if this sounds sexist or like I’m generalising men, because that is not my intention. Not all men are the same, I know that. But I can only write based on the experiences I’ve had as a woman, as well as statistics.

So, here we go.

Let me start but letting you guess how many times I’ve been accused of leading men on. Go on…

Jokes, I wish I could tell you, but it’s actually too many to count. So many times have I told male friends that I’m not interested in being more, and so many times have they continued to read into everything I say and do, hoping against all hope that I will suddenly change my mind, or perhaps I was confused. And then accuse me of sending them mixed signals.

Well, guess what guys… I’m fed up with it. Here’s a little tip, LISTEN to what a girl is SAYING. When she says she’s not interested, she probably really freaking means it.

Let me give you a scenario. I walk outside stark naked, and say “I don’t want to have sex or be touched at all.” Is it my fault if I get sexually assaulted because my ‘signals’ aren’t matching the words coming out of my mouth?

No, it most definitely is NOT. Again, LISTEN to what we are SAYING.

Sure, signs and signals can be fun, exciting, like when you first start dating someone. But when a person says “no, I’m not interested,” that counteracts ANY and ALL signals… Period.

And yet, somehow it’s our fault when we have to reinforce again and again that we want to be ‘just friends’ or nothing at all. Somehow it’s our fault if our skirt is too short, or our heels too high. Causing a temptation that apparently cannot be controlled.

But there’s also the problem of female friends excusing their behaviour with comments like “maybe you’re too nice” or “your personality is too likeable…” While the intentions are good, it is essentially victim shaming, placing the blame where it doesn’t belong.

I have a playful personality that can come across as flirty, I won’t lie about that. But despite pointing this out and still saying I’m really not interested, it never seems to sink in.

I find myself genuinely wondering lately what we have to do to actually be heard, to have our feelings and our needs respected.

I read recently a quote that said “no is a full sentence.” So freaking true! We don’t owe anyone any explanation for not wanting to do something, men and women alike, and we certainly shouldn’t have to repeat it over and over.

I’ve been bogged down, suffocated by what men want and how men think I feel, way too often. And look, I’m betting so many men have felt the same about women too! There’s no denying that. This isn’t a battle of the sexes, this is a battle against the inability to take what should be a simple response, and turning it into chaos and accusations. This is a battle against friendships being demolished because certain people can’t stop chucking temper tantrums when they don’t get the answer they want.

This is about freedom of choice, and the freedom to choose “no” at any time without being made out to be a villain.

If you read my last post about Mr Puppeteer, then you might understand this rant a bit more. Enough is enough.

What Am I Truly Worth?

We all ask ourselves this from time to time, right? What am I, as a person, truly worth?

I think it’s something those of us with a chronic illness ask ourselves a lot more frequently, especially when those around us continue to place our value on what our bodies can do on any given day.

This past 12 months, since the breakdown of my last long term relationship, I’ve been on a lot of dates. No one could accuse me of not playing the field, of not going in search of that right person for me. I’ve grown through each person that I’ve met, become more confident and realised more and more that my value is most certainly not based on my illness. I’ve realised I don’t need someone to see me as valuable for me to have value. I’ve realised I don’t want someone like that in my life.

I have also realised, that someone can in fact love me for everything that I am, illness and all!

When my health was brought up as one of the reasons for that breakup, it shook me to my core. Being sick was not something that I could help, and it simply told me that me, as a person, was not enough.

Ha! How backwards is that?!

We don’t actually have a choice in what happens to our bodies. Whether it be chronic migraines, Endometriosis, Cancer, chronic fatigue… We’re all at risk of it. And there’s something to be said about that whole ‘in sickness and in health’ thing. There’s a reason it’s in wedding vowels. Because everyone, at some point in their lives, will become ill or get injured.

Does that change your worth?

No, it does not.

And if that person can’t stick by your through it, they don’t deserve to be in your life. They’re not throwing you out like broken trash… They’re actually setting you free from some shackles that you didn’t even realise were dragging you down. I stuck by someone when they couldn’t stick by me, and that’s simply no life to live.

As a person, I am genuine, kind, creative, patient… I’m loyal, honest, and I put my whole heart into every relationship I have. As a person, I’m worth a hell of a lot, and I don’t say that in a bragging way. I just know my worth now, even where others couldn’t see it.

What did I do about my illness? I took time off work, I took time to look after myself and rest. And then I built a life for myself around my illness, a life that has brought me more happiness than any one person, any other career, ever could.

My illness brought me a resilience and strength that a lot of people never find in their lifetime. As humans, we’re adaptable. So, I adapted.

That’s all we can do. Work with what we have, and continue to adapt.

If you’re sick, if you’re going through a flare up, just rest. It’s okay. You’re still so important as a human being, you still bring something amazing to this world.

You bring your heart, your one-of-a-kind soul that can never be replicated. That, in itself, is worth everything.

What you do, what you have done with the situation that has been dealt to you in this life, makes your worth grow above and beyond those who would judge you for it. Hold on to that resilience, hold it close… Because that, my dear, is the rarest diamond of all.

Mr Puppeteer

One month – that’s all it took. Four weeks, thirty days, to see a new romance with a seemingly nice and normal guy sour to a tumultuous storm of intimidation, emotional manipulation, volatile emotions, and controlling behavior.

One month, and you became my puppeteer. And I, a slave to your emotions.

It happened quite suddenly. Once we were official, you visibly changed. I felt the strings tie around my wrists and feet, one by one, as you made me move and dance as you pleased, pulling the strings from your seat above me. My body became made of wood – not my own and completely out of my control. My face was a mask of a smile, of perfection, never letting my true emotions slip through my puppet facade for fear that Mr Puppeteer would come out to play again.

Today I feel raw, fearful… But mostly confused and sad. Sad because you were not who I thought you were, and I still like the guy you were before you became my puppeteer. I’ve made excuses for you that you didn’t deserve, because I couldn’t see you standing above me and pulling the strings in everything I said and did. I couldn’t see the little dance you had me doing until I took a step back.

My friend could, she could see it all. And she feared for me, for my safety. And I started to as well.

Things took a turn when you told me how you felt, that you were falling in love with me after only a few weeks. My response upset you, then angered you. Sitting up while I pretended to sleep as you talked to yourself and hit your bedroom wall. I felt scared, not completely sure if you were angry with me or with yourself. I wanted to hide under the blanket, under the bed… I just wanted to be anywhere but there with you in that moment.

I was scared for the rest of the weekend, scared to say anything or even move or breathe for fear that you would lash out again.

On Monday I brought it up, that your reaction concerned me… I was being polite. Again, not realising I was scared of you, not realising you had purposely made me feel that way with the pull of your strings.

You apologised, you said all the right things that you knew I needed to hear in order to forgive and forget. But I never forgot, I never really even forgave.

Yesterday things turned quicker and harder, your strings couldn’t control me any longer and things turned… Volatile. Mr Puppeteer, how did I not see what you were doing sooner? How did you make me feel SO trapped so quickly? I understand now, I understand how women get caught in abusive relationships, constantly making excuses for the man they used to love. To those women, I see you… You are not alone.

Yesterday I told you I was going to WA for a holiday, to visit my family friends. Your mood soured after that, with hidden demands of how long you wanted me to go for. “No longer than a month.” The next demands came with who you wanted me to stay with. “Stay with Jess, not with Andrew.” This required a two hour deep and meaningful conversation, leaving me feeling caged and drained. Like you had pulled your strings and put me back in my box and taped it up, trapped in the dark and unable to move until you decided to pull your strings again.

Then you became clingy, again asking me to tell you how I felt about you and us, wanting those words from me that I wasn’t ready to say. Making me feel like I couldn’t breathe as you leaned over me, my arms trapped underneath you, as you stared into my face. Leaving me vulnerable and exposed in so many ways.

The day worsened from there. I was ill, in pain, cramping (most ladies will understand this.) You wanted me to meet your family and I didn’t feel up to doing so, so asked if I could go home. (Yep, you heard me, I had to ASK.) You did not like this, not one bit. For I’d stepped out of line with the little string dance you had me doing. You became angry, then upset… You cried. Don’t get me wrong, men are allowed to cry – but in this situation, really?! You did and said everything you could to make me stay. I was scared, genuinely scared for my safety. As were my friends who were frantically trying to get in touch with me. But I couldn’t touch my phone, couldn’t respond unless you weren’t watching. You wanted, needed, to know everyone I was talking to and everything I was saying.

I was scared of you. That was hard to say at first, hard to admit, but it’s true. I felt the need to do and say everything you needed me to in order to keep your mood level, to prevent you from lashing out. Where volatile emotions come into play, so does violence.

I drove home in a numbed state, feeling completely drained of life, completely empty inside. I’d stopped doing your puppet dance, and finally my mood and body crashed.

This situation taught me a lot, it taught me I have some amazing people who have my back no matter what. That even though you made me feel trapped and intimidated, I still had my safety net of support. Willing to hide me safely if need be, willing to do whatever needed to save me from any potential emotional or physical abuse.

I’m safe from you, because I chose to be. Mr Puppeteer, I cut those strings the moment I left your puppet house. Your constant calls and messages tell me that you’re aware of this, tell me you fear that you’ve lost your hold on me. Because you have.

I don’t write this to put you down, to be mean. I write this for exposure, for awareness. I won’t be a slave to someone else’s emotions, and neither should you.

Please, I implore every woman to watch, to notice even the littlest of red flags in your relationship, in the relationships of your loved ones. Please watch for abuse before it happens. Please tell someone and get out. Be safe ladies, be loved. We all have your back. ❤

Fly Free

It happened gradually. So gradually, that I didn’t even realise it was happening until I was unwittingly set free.

Cages – used to keep animals and people controlled. These days you can find beautiful ornate bird cages, with intricate detailing so beautiful that you forget its original purpose.

That’s the kind of cage I imagine that I was in. It seemed so beautiful from the outside, that I barely knew it for what it really was.

I used to be a dreamer… I wanted so much from the world. I wanted to try everything, do everything, go everywhere. I wanted to travel to ancient and foreign lands, have hundreds of different careers, move to the other side of the country – I wanted to continue to learn and grow. I wanted to experience everything that this beautiful world had to offer.

So, why couldn’t I follow my whims?

I’ll start with a broader reason… Relationships. Now, before I go on, I’d like to point out that I’m not saying “I hate my ex – he trapped me in a bubble.” Not in the slightest. This isn’t a reflection on any one person, but a simple fact that relationships mean your decisions need to be made with consideration of another person…Duh! So, all those possibilities become smaller, especially for me as someone who has always put my partner first. I’m not sure that I’ll ever grow out of that. I would sacrifice what I wanted if I knew it would make them happy. I wouldn’t speak up – and that was the beginning of my gilded cage, a beautiful cage I built for myself. I got myself to a stage that I hardly even knew what I wanted.

Friendships – a lot more freedom there than in a relationship, but your happiness in said friendships is based solely on who you actually decide to become friends with. “Friends are the family we choose.” Clique, but oh so true! I had toxic friendships for years… They were clipping my wings and caging me in, and I didn’t even know it. Meeting my ex was a blessing in more ways than one, because he taught me the importance of standing up for one’s self, and the importance of cutting people out of your life who are a type of poison for you. Cutting out those people (as harsh as it sounds,) cut out some of the bars to my cage.

The next reason is money. Yep, so many problems in the world are caused by money. But I never grew up to put value on it. Money is to live, nothing more. At my first job, I watched my boss (a small business owner) place his happiness on how much money he made that day. I saw his darker moods, his scary temper, but I also saw his kindness and generosity when things were going well. His moods affected all of ours. It made us feel anxious, like we were walking on eggshells. If we didn’t sell enough that day, his mood would visibly sour.

And I didn’t understand, not at all. I mean, to a certain extent I would understand the stress of running a small business and the worry that can cause, especially during times as difficult as these. But not when every dollar and cent defined your happiness. If any of my friends or family came up to me right now, struggling and desperate for money, I would give everything I could to them, every cent if I had to. Because those people are what I value most, not money. This became an issue in my previous relationship, right from the very beginning. His ambition was inspiring to me, I was always proud of that – but his value on money didn’t align with mine. And I found myself feeling smaller and smaller, actually shrinking and using my cage to hide the pain that I felt like I was only worth the money in my bank account.

Now, that’s a terrifying thought. What’s even more terrifying is that I let it happen. I got in my cage and shut the door, because that’s where I felt safe.

I always felt the need to apologise, often laid awake at night anxious about money – anxious that my partner would stop loving me if I didn’t earn enough. But the greatest and heaviest expectations came from myself, from my own insecurities. I can’t blame anyone but me. I jumped into my half-built cage and hid there willingly. Not wanting to voice my opinion, not wanting to cause confrontation… Simply not wanting to lose him. For that, I would have done anything.

The next issue became my health… This is probably the biggest reason, hence being the reason for this blog. Feeling trapped in my own body, like a bird being shoved into a shoe box. I couldn’t breathe, I was scared to move, for fear I’d hurt myself or make things worse. I was flailing in the dark, having no idea what was happening on when things would get better. At one stage, I even got a false positive for a rare type of tumour – a test that took an extra two weeks to complete to find out that it really was false. That was the longest and loneliest two weeks of my life – because I made it that way. I didn’t lean on those who cared about me the way I should have. I caged them out, at the same time as caging myself in.

My health has been a trip! What started as what seemed like a panic disorder, turned out to be dangerously high blood pressure and tachycardia. It developed from there – fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, chronic daily migraines, dizziness, malaise. I would work all week and sleep all weekend. My world shrunk further, and my health continued to build my cage towards completion. What I could do on any given day, relied solely on how my body felt. That thought was utterly suffocating. I craved answers, I craved my choices back, I craved understanding. What I found was loneliness. The kind of loneliness I’d never experienced before – I believed this was my fight… Me against my body, me against the world. So, I shut out the world. I let my fatigue drag me down, let me physical capabilities define me, let me value diminish based on the lack of income I had coming in.

The next is mental health. This is a big one for many people, especially at the moment. Our mental well-being is so important, and so complicated, that it has a way of grabbing hold of us with both hands and not letting go. Feeling good, feeling happy, has it’s own way of making us feel free. But when we’re struggling, we’re trapped in the M5 tunnel at peak hour – seeing no light at the end and feeling like we’re moving in slow motion. That’s exactly how my anxiety makes me feel, and I know a hell of a lot of people could related to that. My anxiety hit me hardest with my health. Approximately six panic attacks a day – yep. That panic had gripped my heart and I never seemed to feel any relief.

The day that my doctors discovered that my then-current panic attacks were caused by a physiological response rather than psychological… Well, it was somewhat a relief – and yet, somehow made me feel even more caged in. I felt even more trapped in what my body was doing to me – because not only was it affecting me physically, but it had now gripped my mind too.

The final bar to my cage was the concept of moving out. I always thought I’d move to WA, live with my friend. Go where I wanted, when I wanted. But being in a relationship changes your priorities, means having to compromise (which I was more than happy to do! Not forced to.) However, I wasn’t the one fronting the money in our goal to move out – which I felt strongly limited my opinion in the matter. So, I shut down further. Stopped speaking up, went with the flow, pushed my unhappiness and claustrophobia in the situation way down until I didn’t feel a thing.

My cage was finished – complete with a beautiful brass padlock. And I couldn’t blame anyone but myself.

Now, this isn’t meant to make me sound like a victim, this isn’t meant to say that I wasn’t happy in my relationships or friendships, or in my career, or in life. This isn’t meant to say that I have any regrets. Because I don’t – not one.

It’s meant to be about choice.

We all have it, whether we choose to admit it. We have freedom – we just need to actively choose to fly towards it, not hide in our seemingly beautiful cages. That’s where I went wrong – my choices, or rather ignoring my choices, had ultimately locked me away.

This year has been a shit storm – for everyone in the world. But during this time, I’ve found strength in sorrow, forgiveness in anger, empathy in pain. Most importantly, I found my freedom again. Because, ironic as this sounds, choice was forced on me. I was put in a situation where I actually HAD to think about what I wanted, for the first time in a long time. I was forced to drop my own expectations of myself, step back, and see what I really wanted, where I was really meant to be, all along. This year I became a dreamer again. I became a bird soaring through the sky instead of hiding in a cage.

In loss, I found myself. Self-love, putting yourself first, isn’t ugly – it certainly isn’t selfish. It’s necessary. I know that now. I built a cage for myself, and I’ve spent the last year tearing down my beautiful self-made prison.

My final statement is this – the reason my self-built cage was so ‘beautiful…’ That’s easy – it was beautiful because I was still happy. Blissfully unaware, as they say, but never truly content.

And now…? Those obstacles are still there, but not holding me back.

Now I feel like I’m really starting to soar.

Photo by Guillaume TECHER on Unsplash

We Need to Talk

Let’s talk about chronic pain. I mean, big whoop… Man up, right?

NO!

Let’s go for some empathy here… Ladies – imagine having bad period cramps all month long. Guys – imagine being kicked in the balls and being told that lingering pain is going to stick with you every day for the rest of your life. Ever broken a bone? That pain is here to stay! Got a bikini wax? Yep, you guessed it, that pain becomes chronic.

Now, that’s not reality (praise Jesus!) But let’s just think about a pain that we get, and then imagine it never going away… Ever.

Enter stage left – chronic pain! Enter stage right – medication overuse syndrome, causing even more chronic pain. A vicious cycle of pain.

Pain, pain, pain.

… Did I mention pain? 😉

It’s something so easy to overlook. I even did it myself for many many years, before the universe kicked me in the ass and said “Dear Laura, we think you could use some daily pain. Please see attached. Kind regards, The Universe.”

Slowly, but surely, I started to understand. And regretted every single day that I lived in ignorance, that I scoffed at people ‘complaining’ about their pain. Well, I got my comeuppance for that, let me tell you!

But in all seriousness, the affect that chronic pain has on all aspect of a person’s quality of life, as well as mental health, is a really freaking huge issue. It SUCKS! 

I’m a happy, positive, and bubbly human. But when that pain hits… BAM! I’m irritable, down in the dumps, and straight up pissed off. Not to mention the anxiety and panic attacks! Because being able to do everything I used to do on a daily basis would be pretty darn sweet, but apparently too much to ask.  *Face palm*

The frustration is real, it’s constant, it’s debilitating and confusing. Do I stay in bed and rest? Do I try walk it off? Do some stretches? Heat therapy? Magnesium oil? Pain killers…? All of the above (most likely?)

Let’s talk about loss. Every little thing that you stop being able to do, or stop being able to do as often. Loss of jobs, ability to exercise, ability to socialise, ability to drink a bottle of wine and not pay for it for a whole week… Let’s talk about relationships – the ones who have stayed and the ones who have left. The friends and family that patiently sit on the sidelines, trying to be supportive, while also incredibly frustrated.
And I feel for them – because we all want so desperately to have someone to blame, but lacking that element. Wanting to point a finger and scream at someone until all that frustration is out and you feel SO much better. They wish they could blame me, but know very well that it’s not my fault. I often wonder if I’d feel better if they did blame me – if that would ease the inexplicable and unrelenting guilt I feel.

What about all the times that I wish to God that I could work off my frustration and anger during a flare up by going for a jog or bashing the crap out of my boxing bag, but my pain prevents me… LOL – universe kicking us in the balls again, am I right?!

So, you lie there, resting, using any type of therapy possible to get through the pain, while suffocating in a plastic bubble of frustration and anxiety. You literally can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t focus, can’t even verbalise how you’re feeling to your loved ones – because you’re being thrown around in a huge dumping wave, thrashing, trapped in a reality that not only isn’t fair, but should never have been yours to begin with.

I’m in pain almost every single night when I’m trying to sleep – did you know that? My hips, my knees, my legs in general… Occasionally my elbows and/or my head. My medications make the day time pain less of an issue, but it’s always there. Simply being repressed by medicine.

Does that sound restful? Let me answer that for you… It’s not.

Guys, how are your balls feeling? Ladies, picturing that bikini wax? I hope you’ve kept that in mind while reading this. I hope it’s given you even a small amount of understanding for what chronic pain sufferers deal with almost every single day of their lives – all while attempting to act normal, for fear that everyone will abandon you if they knew the truth.

Because those people? They’re what keeps them going. Don’t forget that.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze?

Survival is an interesting thing. When faced with danger, do you fight, flight, or freeze? (Previously known as the fight or flight response.)

I’d say that I freeze, but a very surprising few people actually say fight. We usually think we either flee or freeze. But you’d be surprised just how often we fight.

My Dad said to me over lunch “If I had to go through that again, I’m not sure that I could.” And I told him “Of course you could. We do what we have to.”

“We do what we have to.”

Okay, let me just say, I was super surprised by how wise that sounded when it came out of my mouth. #superproud!

But there’s a lot of truth in it. We are faced with danger, with battles, an unfortunate amount in our lives. And what else is there to do, but to fight?

People with chronic illnesses call themselves warriors. It actually took me today to realise fully what that meant (I’m still surprised by my own ignorance, and I even have a chronic illness! Whoops!) It isn’t meant to sound arrogant, it simply defines how we have to fight every single day of our lives – fight against our own bodies, and occasionally the people in charge of our care. There is literally no room to choose flight or freeze – there is no option to run away, to freeze and do nothing about it. We are forced to continue fighting. Because if we don’t, who will?

So yes, people with chronic illnesses are absolutely warriors! I’ve witnessed a lot of people that have it a thousand times worse than me, but I never see weakness in them. All I see is an incredible amount of strength. They are never without some level of pain, never without fatigue. Always pushing through to live the life that they were given, and to create a life that they deserve.

What about mothers? Women who literally tear their bodies apart to give birth to their children, then spend the rest of the years of their lives fighting sleepless nights and constant worry. If that’s you – yep, you’re a fighter too.

Look at this year! This year we’re all warriors. We are all fighting for survival against a pandemic – against the stress and trauma that it is inflicting on us, on our economy, on our lives. So don’t tell yourself that you’re not a fighter, because you are. We’re made for survival, our brains are wired for it. And guess what… So are our hearts. Ever heard the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?” (You’ve been living under a rock if you haven’t, just saying!) I truly believe that. Every loss, every heartbreak, every illness, every trauma, every accident… They all one have thing in common – they make us fight and they make us stronger.

We do what we have to.

Mic Drop: Obama Cracked On Everyone Applying For His Job - YouTube

Crossroad

Today, I find myself at a crossroad.

A year ago I started this blog with the genuine intention to help others in similar situations – to help them to feel less isolated. But also to help raise awareness for everyone else, to help them better understand the people in their lives suffering from chronic illnesses.

My intentions were pure, my goal simple. But honesty has a price, one I have paid many times over.

So, here I am. Still unemployed and using this time to focus entirely on getting my health to an at least manageable state before I jump back into work – so that I can give 100% of myself and my performance to my next employer.

I am a good worker, an ethical worker – but I am also a good person. I’m not bragging, just being real. After all, that is exactly what this blog is about.

Yesterday I received an email from WordPress, stating that my premium plan for my blog would expire in 30 days, and that I should renew before it causes any interruptions to my service. So now I find myself sitting here weighing up the risks of continuing, and the risks of not.

I think I lost a part of myself this year. I lost my good health, I lost people, I simply lost my way. But I also found freedom, independence, and strength. But I still find myself extremely fearful to continue losing, and what that could cost me as a person.

My blog is public, it’s well known. Potential employers could openly read it, as could potential new partners. Would anyone want to hire the sick girl? Would anyone want to spend their life with her? I always thought giving everything of myself was enough, that putting others best interests first and showing unconditional love was enough – but alas, it is not… Not in the real world. No matter how much we give, we’re still susceptible to loss and abandonment… To grief. We are all, after all, only human.

So, do I want to continue this blog, continue with my mission to help others, continue to feed my passion for the truth… And do I want to open myself up to more loss? Or do I stop things here, give myself a chance to gain instead of lose, or would that simply ring false?

I am sick, right now that’s my reality. Is there any point pretending otherwise? Is there any point trying to prove my worth despite my illness? Or should I simply prove my worth with my illness?

My confusion is genuine – I am stuck in two minds, as I have constantly found myself battling ambivalence over the past couple of years.

Where do I go from here? Do I continue being Laura in Real Life, or simply be Laura?

The Eye of the Storm

This is my first post in quite a while – I’m sorry for that.

This year has been a tornado – beautiful and devastating, unrelenting with brief periods of peace (otherwise known as the eye of the storm.) It has picked up the entire world, tossed it around until it is unrecognisable, and then placed it back down, expecting everything to just fall back into place.

It’s done the same thing to my life. Taken everything that was a comfort, everything that made me feel safe, and thrown it into oblivion, with everything yet to fall back into place.

So here I am – here we all are. Eight months into 2020. Eight months since the heartbreaking loss of my long-term relationship, which to this day still takes me breath away. Eight months living with a new deadly virus sweeping the world. Eight months since the devastating bushfires ravaged our country. Eight months after I left my job to focus on my health, only to have the realisation that it hasn’t gotten any better turn to lead in my stomach. Eight months of country-wide unemployment with a recession smothering us whole.

Eight months and so much has changed, yet I still feel trapped. Suffocating under a boulder of expectations that I have built for myself, for my life. Trying, and failing, to make sense of everything that has happened and to adapt.

In two weeks I turn 30 years old. At 30 I am unemployed, chronically ill, heartbroken and lost. But for some inexpiable reason, I am not afraid.

Yes, I feel suffocated and trapped. Yes, things are slightly shit at the moment. But for the first time in a long time, everything is wide open. I look towards the future and I see endless possibilities. I see change that isn’t heartbreaking, but that is meant to be. I see happiness. I see, and feel, hope.

I see freedom.

This year has been a tornado – but even the most devastating of storms has to come to an end, bringing with it an eerily quiet peace as we pick up the pieces.

Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash

“I felt like I disappeared. Tired – like I wasn’t alive.”

Tonight I watched a movie on Netflix called ‘Brain on Fire,’ which is a movie based on a true story. A story that was written as a memoir by the girl herself.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea – this is not a movie review. This is about finding something that both terrified and intrigued me… Worse than that, something that made sense to me.

This is a movie about that fine line between a psychological and physiological disease. About doctors seeing a young patient, using the all-too-common line of “it’s all in their head,” and assuming it’s stress related, assuming it’s a mental health condition. Because young people never get sick, right? Because it’s normal to have seizures, right?

I have lost a lot from my own illness. The main one being that I lost who I was as a person – the energetic and bubbly woman in her late 20’s, living life while always assuming there was a tomorrow to live it again.

“I felt like I disappeared. Tired – like I wasn’t alive.”

Now, I’ve never experienced something so extreme like in this movie, not even close. In fact, aside from the chronic migraines, my brain is not an issue. But I think I can speak for a lot of people with chronic illnesses when I say that in that simple description was a sum of all our feelings about our illnesses.

“The tests are showing us that she is a healthy young woman.” Ha – we’ve all heard that before, right?

“I thought of all people, you doctors would be able to give us some hope. I mean, that’s your job, right?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. However, doctors aren’t gods. They’re human beings, just like the rest of us. But, as human beings just like the rest of us, I’d expect a little more compassion when simple test results say one thing and that person sitting right in front of them is saying another.

All you need is one person, one doctor, that believes in you and sees through the test results, sees the true illness and beyond – to the person you were and can be again someday if they can find that answer and treat it.

The conclusion – the girl was suffering an autoimmune disease that targets her brain receptors called Anti-NMDA-Receptor Encephalitis. One doctor found it, by looking closer. By finding her.

“I’m the lucky one, because in a system that’s designed to lose people like me, thanks to that doctor, I was found. He found me.”

This was a powerful story to watch play out. One that truly touched me more than any movie ever has. Not in the way you blubber like a baby when a chick flick has a happy ending, but in a way that told me that movie had touched my soul – that I felt a little spark of hope that I haven’t felt in a long time.

I see myself as a burden, I truly do. But when I watched her friends and family, how they never gave up on her, I saw the truth. I saw how I would act if someone I loved was in that position, or in my position, and for the first time I truly saw and appreciated the people who have stuck my my side through it all.

I watched a story with similarities to my own from a different perspective. And many people without illnesses would benefit just as much, if in a different way, by watching the same story.