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Sunday, 11 January 2015

This Is Far From Over: Coming To Terms With Being On Social Assistance

Life is settling into a new kind of normal. I’ve come to terms with my diagnoses of Type 2 Diabetes and high blood pressure. I am doing everything I am supposed to do, be it with a minor slip up here and there. Truthfully, they are the planned slip ups. You know the ones I am referring to, a piece of cake here, an ice cream there or a carb- laden twister bagel with cream cheese.

I have been known to say "you only have to do the first time once". That phrase served me very well, until one day it didn’t. Going on Ontario Works is difficult at best. Saying, the three words you hope never to utter, please help me is really hard.Try spitting those words out. Do you have any siblings or other family that can help you?

“Seriously, do you think coming here, feeling the shame wash over me, is where I choose to find myself? No, I don’t”.

“Well tell me about your family anyway,” they say.

Reliving painful memories, that I’ve locked in a safe, because they are to be safe and unvisited.

We need to meet with our caseworkers monthly and provide financial records.

Though feeling grateful that we are given some money on which to live, the amount is questionable at best. The amount of money allotted for a special diet for diabetes, is miniscule. Bye-bye to prepared foods. We buy fresh fruits and vegetables (only if they’re on sale), the cheapest brand of low sugar yogurt, cheese and cereal if we have coupons. No milk, fish, chicken or meat. I have never enjoyed grocery shopping and yet you can find me scanning every product that goes into the cart.

I can barely pay my mortgage. Never mind the bills that are piling up. I find it laughable, ironic almost, that my only asset is my house and I have to sell it. I will have to move into an apartment that costs more than my mortgage! Ludicrous. Days like this I feel so overwhelmed and I wonder who the lady reflected in the mirror is.

Since I had to quit work in July, a few friends have demonstrated their compassion and friendship. They lift me up when I am down. They make me laugh, knowing the many tears I have cried. I am learning a new way to live. Just as I am settling in, the month on the calendar changes. I cringe, then I look at the lady in the mirror, and smile for she is kick ass and she is resilient.

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

It's Called Management For a Reason

Hindsight really is eye-opening. If I knew then, what I know now...

Continuing on my journey of becoming a healthier me, I had my aha moment one evening. Having chronic pain is a bitch. The pain alone isn’t the problem; it’s the emotional and physical fatigue from planning my life around my illness. I’m only 52 and my body is failing me.

I have Fibromyalgia, Myofascial pain and a tailbone issue. The icing on the proverbial cake, was a diagnosis of diabetes, another chronic condition.

Going to the grocery store was already a chore I detested. Now it meant having to manage (manage + meant = management!) time more efficiently, while reading labels on everything from fresh groceries to frozen and pre- packaged goods. I felt like Toula’s father from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. “The word management comes from the Greek word…”.

I am slowly settling into a new way of eating, thinking and being. Coping with my illnesses is a process. And it’s not one I choose to be defined by.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Okay Then: My Latest Diagnosis


A few weeks ago I was given the diagnosis of Type II Diabetes.

My reaction: "Okay then". I'm not sure if it was the shock, or a "what else can be wrong with me" attitude. The doctor looked at me with surprise written on her face.

"Pardon," she replied. "Are you okay?".

"Am I okay? A ludicrous question. No, I'm not okay. What I am, however, is used to not having any symptoms and suddenly going from zero to a hundred". She went through the numbers that had led to the diagnosis. My mind was racing. I had had an appointment a week and a half prior for blood work, as I had been feeling blah. Was it my fibromyalgia? My chronic tail bone pain? My anxiety and depression?

You know how they say 'hindsight is 20-20'? I had noticed I was experiencing blurred vision, more frequent visits to the bathroom, and exhaustion. I'd assumed this was connected to my fibro. But it turns out, it wasn't.

I've since processed the news and am making changes in my lifestyle. Baby steps:

-I detest drinking water, but I am drinking a little more than I did.
-I'm also cutting sugar out a little at a time.
-I read product labels and am more mindful of my food choices. (But I don't keep a food diary, because as a recovered anorexic, I find that very triggering). I also took a nutrition class at the local hospital's diabetes education centre.
-I am trying to come to terms with adding yet another medication to my already full pill container.
-Testing my blood? Ew. A necessary evil that I have to master.

Still trying to put one foot in front of the other.

Photo source: CoHoBags on Etsy

Friday, 7 November 2014

My Disability Is Invisible, But I Am Not

We live in a world where a disability is not taken seriously if you cannot see it. I parented a child with Selective Mutism (social anxiety so severe she could not speak in certain situations) and depression. I also understand this from personal experience.

Around the time that Becca was diagnosed with Selective Mutism, I found out that I had both anxiety and depression. As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, the overwhelming sadness I felt after my mother died, and felt throughout my adult life, it came as no surprise.

The anxiety reared its ugly head when I was very small. I can recall feeling very scared in situations too numerous to mention. It, like the sadness, enveloped me. I felt as if I was in a deep pit, my hands clinging to the edge trying not to let go. I looked up, my knuckles white with tension, and was sure that something touched my left hand, making me unwittingly loosen my grip. Staring in disbelief, I struggled to retain the hold I had on the ledge with my right hand.

Suddenly a peaceful feeling came over me, and with my eyes focused on the ledge, I let go, one finger at a time. The black dog of depression had made me surrender.

So began my downward spiral. It did not help that society, and many people around me, felt it was something to be ashamed of. Stigma is a bitch.

Bring On the Medication

Reluctantly, I began to accept that medication for a debilitating mental illness is no more shaming that needing it for diabetes or cholesterol. At least it shouldn’t be.

Sadly, the stigma of mental illness is still running rampant in the 21st century. If only we could bring about change as quickly as technology is advanced. Until then we need to hold up our heads with pride and not be afraid to say, I speak for those who stand with me in silence. I have a mental illness.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

4 Reasons To Stand With Jetta

A 10 year-old Ohio girl named Jetta cut and donated 14 inches of her hair to Wigs for Kids, an organization that supports children who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments. A selfless act that should be applauded by adults and peers alike has instead made Jetta the target of bullies at her school.

According to an interview with Dayton, Ohio's WHIO News, classmates have been mocking Jetta for "wanting to be a boy" and having an "ugly" haircut. School administrators are doing nothing to stop it.

Having read articles about Jetta's generosity and bravery, thousands of people around the world are rallying to support her. Here are four reasons you should, too:

1. Bullying is never okay. Especially when it's perpetuated by adults who should know better. Jetta's principal said that Jetta and her mother should "toughen up", however the bullying had gotten so bad, by this point, that Jetta had to be pulled out of school. The family has since received some communication from the school, which was "a small step in the right direction", but it's not enough to undo the damage.

2. Girls have enough body image issues without people in positions of authority allowing bullies to gang up on their classmates. Thank goodness for parents like Jetta's mother, who are loving and supportive enough to counteract the effects of parenting.

3. Selflessness should be celebrated. Jetta came up with the idea to donate her hair, all by herself. Most adults aren't that altruistic.

4. Short hair is in. Rock it, baby! Half the girls in Jetta's class are probably jealous of her fab haircut, but don't have the guts to admit it!