Shouldering The Pain

Jase the blog jacker here again.

I always want to write funny stuff. I know it comes from writing when I was traveling around the world. I used to fill my brain up with beautiful landscapes and funny adventures. I now realize I was filling a pot. The pot was my brain and it had tons of vivid material to draw from when sending correspondence to people on over five continents.

The last few years have been exciting. I moved to Colorado, started a new life and met a wonderful girl. We’ve had tons of adventures together. When we first met we were traveling every weekend camping and staying at ritzy resorts while spending on a shoestring during the offseason.

Over time Mare’s energy level has plummeted. Pain has spread across her body like wildfire. Her sleep has become broken and patchy. She gets constant headaches, numbness and tingling in her extremities. Anxiety and depression can hold her hostage at times for days.

I have experienced much of what Mare is feeling currently. I had comparable symptoms while being disabled from Bipolar depression and Fibromyalgia. In my own way, I felt the similar mental, emotional, physical and spiritual pain she feels right now.

What distresses me now is that I thought that my experiences would have better prepared me to handle what she’s going through. The fact is they haven’t.

It’s one thing to journey through difficult times yourself. It’s another to compassionately sit on the sidelines cheering someone to better health. What I see is that no matter how much shit you go through, it doesn’t take away the sadness you feel for when your lover has to go through it. I am not a great spectator. I want to take this pain off her shoulders. I want to carry it for her.

The Icy Truth

photo by me

Here’s the skinny: this is a strange time of the year. I just read a post by stormsoutside reminding me of this fact.

The holiday’s are not a jolly time for everyone. It’s a time of the year that’s questionable at best.

For those of you that read this blog regularly, you know I clean homes and work retail. You also know I’m navigating mystery health issues that a team of doctors are guessing at. The recent brain scan had 2 professionals saying “oh, this is not good” and a third saying “Your brain is good, lets get an MRI of your neck and lower back”……….ok??????? I suppose I’ll gather all my “scans” and get a second opinion, blah fucking blah……..blood work, sleep studies, x-rays……. Long story short:

I FEEL LIKE CRAP.

I HAVE NO ANSWERS

Add to that the laundry list of other worries, kids, finances, bankruptcy, homelessness etc…..

I was punched in the gut with the icy truth.

I don’t know when I will feel better. I may never feel better.

So who am I and who do I want to be? This is my life, like it or not.

Only I can find a way to be ridiculously, genuinely happy. To smile kindly and keep my energy in check while working with the public.

TO REMEMBER:

I AM NOT THE ONLY PERSON STRUGGLING.

Every single person is worried or struggling with something. Their outside may look polished and put together. I assure you, it’s not.

We are gifted with the freedom to choose our perspective. No one can take that away from you. You choose how you act and which lens you look though.

I am by no means telling you to ignore you negative emotions. What good would that do? Acknowledge and work through them. This is not a fake it till you make it plea. It’s a realization that we are all going though “stuff.”We can go though it and be happy at the same time. Our emotions can learn to live side by side.

I am skilled at setting up my own private pity party camp, building a fire and wallowing in my slop. After a few day’s it gets very uncomfortable, I tear down camp, and chuck it in the fuck it bucket.

Rather than being overwhelmingly burdened, try being annoyingly happy. I’m talking crazy town happy……….I just might wear a santa hat to my retail job today…..I just might.

…when you lose yourself you find the key to paradise.

Jase again.

A key idea in religions is the idea of finding yourself by losing yourself. Christ said it. I think the Buddha hinted at it. Even Jimmy Buffet makes light of it with Zac Brown in the reggae-ish jam “Knee Deep”. This paradoxical enigma is one theme i have encountered in my life multiple times.

I grew up an athletic and scholarly nerd who finished at the top of his class in high school with a ton of varsity letters, plenty of friends, a chip on his shoulder and big fat silver spoon in his mouth. See, I was an only child with a dad who was a college professor and a mom who was an operating room nurse. We had a decent amount of money, a house in town and a ski chalet a half hour away where we spent winter weekends.

I never wanted to go to college. Instead, I wanted to continue my climbing and snowboarding somewhere out west because I grew up in small hills of Pennsyl-tucky. I fondly call it that because i lived on the Appalachian trail. Never too far from the sound of banjos as joked about in the movie Deliverance. Having a father who was an academic, I was strongly encouraged to attend a university. In fact, I was pretty much bribed to pursue a bachelor’s degree by being given a fat bank account, a credit card and a brand new car. My only stipulation was that since i grew up inland, I wanted to go the ocean so i could learn to surf and dive. I chose the University of Rhode Island. In fact, that school picked me. Because i had a pretty good GPA, I received an academic scholarship in the school of ocean engineering. I liked ocean engineering because it was challenging. Lots of math, physics, laboratories on boats…. and I figured I might be the next Robert Ballard or Jacque Cousteau. The next great adventurer to find another Titanic or Lusitana.

College life was great in the beginning. I got accepted onto the crew team. I became a founding father of a fraternity. I was on the deans list. I went to tons of raves during the early techno scene and I became a whitewater boater traveling every weekend between regattas to paddle class V rivers.

Then BAM!!! I joined a religous group at school. I don’t know why really. Maybe because i was feeling empty. Perhaps I was looking for the meaning of life. Anyhoo, this decision changed the course of my life for years. The group turned out to be a cult and I went from being a super duper happy and fun person to someone who felt he was alway wrong in the eyes of God. I felt like a constant sinner and disappointment.

Long story short, I declined in mental health for the next four years. My genes expressed themselves in a way where i became bipolar. I was in and out of mental institutions for years. It took a psychiatric cocktail of mood stabilizers, antipsychotics and antidepressants to get me back. Two years after hospitalization and seventy pounds heavier i got my life back. It was me. Just a new me. I little more compassionate with a lot more understanding of what people go through in life and a shit ton of stretch marks.

Five years after recovering i dropped my 46 inch waist back to a 32. I was training for triathlons and was in great spirits. I decided to leave the corporate world as an engineer to help a friend open a snowboard shop. It was uber successful and we had a great season. In the spring, I embarked on a sixth month road trip to visit all of our lower 48 states. I decked out my Subaru to live out of and bought a one man tent to sleep in when i didn’t feel like crashing in the car.

My expedition went well. I dove, climbed, snowboarded, ran, biked, camped and everything you can imagine from Maine to Oregon. Unfortunately however, i also picked up six parasites, Lyme disease and an intense reaction to steroids used to suppress a wicked case of poison oak i contracted in Glacier National Park.

When i returned to Pennsylvania, I planned to sell my car and move to Asia to teach english. Instead, I fell bedridden. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. For the next 19 months I was chained to my mattress. The infections I sustained caused my body to shut down. My hormones plummeted. I couldn’t sleep. I was constantly in a state of fight or flight with panic attacks daily. For nearly the next two years I was a guinea pig. Bioidentical thyroid, adrenal, and testosterone hormones. Months of different antiparasitic drugs like Yodoxin and Flagyl. Six months of Azithromycin, 30 days of Doxycyline. I took Klonopin for anxiety. Xyrem, Soma, Lunesta, Ambien, Trazodone, Doxepine, and a million other drugs for sleep. None worked. Instead, I went from being an athlete and adventurer to a raving addict.

I craved alcohol and drugs instead of sports. I got three DUIs in a short period of time. I lost my driver’s license for 13 years. I was sentenced to 2 years in prison with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. I’m not talking county jail. This was big boy prison. By the end, I would be housed in Five of PA’s state correctional facilities.

In the duration between being charged with 3 DUI’s and going to the Big House, I recovered from Fibromyalgia. I found the drug Seroquel. It was an antipsychotic medication with a heavy sedation that helped me finally get sleep. I also found the drug Lyrica. It was a nerve pain killing godsend which allowed me to move. Six months after these drugs came on board I was finishing Ironman triathlons. I was also maintaining a blog and a Facebook presence where I was helping people like me and giving them hope for recovery.

You see, Fibromyalgia was my second loss. Bipolar was my first. Bipolar robbed me of my mind. I lost it. Fully and completely. I always said going “crazy” is like going behind a waterfall. You finally reach a place of peace with everything mentally crashing down around you. You can hear the “crazy”, but you’re behind it. One with it. No longer resisting the intrusive and painful thoughts sinking daggers into your stomach 10 times per minute.

Fibromyalgia was losing my body. I could no longer do. No longer train. No longer walk. No longer be mobile. Everything I prided myself on being able to accomplish up to that point…the ability to be mentally sharp. The ability to move my body quickly, for long durations with lots of skill…..it was all gone. I had nothing left to establish my ego on.

The very last thing i lost was my freedom. I was imprisoned. Sometimes in a box so small I could reach across it’s dimensions with both hands and touch its cold gray walls. Walls filled with the grafitti of other inmates before me who struggled to make sense of what they had done and how they would spend the rest of their lives.

I was petrified of being cattle in a stall, a pig in a pen, or chicken in a coup. I went from spreading my wings over 3000 miles of our beautiful American landscape to being confined to a twin mattress for two years to conquering 140.6 miles of swimming, biking and running to eventually landing in the Department of Corrections.

As frightening as my anticipation of being incarcerated was, it taught me a lot. I will be ever grateful for it. Many of my cellmates will never be able to walk the ground i do now as a free man. They will forever be bound and confined. It makes me sad. Some of these men had big hearts, but unfortunately got caught up in the web after injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan. Other men deserve their fates for what they have done to other innocent people. For me, I walked out a different person. An individual grateful for every breath he can take in the free world.

I came to Colorado because this state offered me a new life. It is the only state in the nation which will look at a persons criminal record and loss of license and evaluate if they believe someone is worthy of having their drivers license reinstated early. Colorado ruled in my favor. The DMV reinstated my license 6 years early. The state also provided me with medical and food assistance so that i could get back on my feet and and have a second chance.

…and isn’t that what this whole blog post and all of the lessons we read in our in our religious texts about. A second chance. What is that second chance? It’s the opportunity of receiving back and incorporating what we have once lost in a way that our Egos no longer measure itself by. For me it is using my mind, my body and my freedom in a way that i will be eternally grateful for what i have; never forgetting where i’ve come from. Also, it means to not forget all those who are still stuck in those holes I have been lucky enough to climb out of. To shine a light back down into that darkness for them to see and extend them a hand or ladder to help them climb out themselves.

The cherry on the top of my loss was that within a few month of moving to Colorado I met Mare. The love of my life and my sexy little hippy monkey. If I had never gone through the hell that i did, I would never have been in the right place at the right time to meet her. She is one precious gift i have no intention of losing.

…and now a word from the other person in the room….thank you Santa!!!

A word from Jase…

My holiday gift came early this year. Way early. A week to be exact. I say holiday cause i’m not Christian, Jewish … or as you guessed it …not African American either. I’m white and pasty; mostly English with a dash of Irish. So i don’t celebrate Christmas, Hanukah or Kwanzaa. Okay, truth be told I might have a secret endearment to the jolly ole fatman who can shimmy down chimneys without burning his chubby ass. That fondess might exist still cause my 10 year old still believes in him.

Nonetheless, I am celebrating today. The reason…the beautiful love of my life got another lease on life. Ten scary days ago we received a brain MRI impression from a radiologist that said Mare….the owner of this blog, had angiopathic ischemic changes in her brain. Fuck….thats scary, right. What the “F” does angiopathic and ischemic mean even. I can tell you….it means blood vessels clogging, circulatory pathways dying. In other bodily systems it would mean a heart attack. If your a dude, it could mean you’re never getting a boner again cause you ate to many McDonalds cheeseburgers and ya can’t pour “Draino” down your Jean Thomas to unclog the block. For Mare, with this prognosis it could mean that she may have been dealing with a disease called small blood vessel disease of the brain.

In layman’s terms if your brain blood vessels are dying you could experience early onset Dementia, Stroke, balance issues, pissing yourself….you know all the great fucking things that come with being geriatric after age 80. The only goddamn problem is Mare is 44. That’s half the age you expect such fun caregiving experiences of epic humilating proportions.

Just to let our readers know….I don’t mind taking care of Mare. Saddling her up with Depends sexy diapers. Personally i’d get the form-fitting ones with the floral pattern and the smell of coconuts and Jasmine. Or maybe wiping her ass with sensitive skin huggies flushable wipe…i certainly strike the balance between form and function. I would never want a huggies wipe that doesn’t biodegrade and instead ends up in “Flippers” mouth 5,000 miles away in the north atlantic.

It’s just that….well….i’m not ready to lose my sexy little monkey to brain loss and forgetting who i am. I am her Silverback. Her gorilla. The one who adores her 24/7 365. I love our everyday life together. Our intimate evenings. Cooking, drinking rum and cokes with a side of muscle relaxors to help us melt into the couch while singing our own perverted lyrics to Disney cartoons , reading poetry and instruction manuals next to each other on the green velvet microfiber couch, blogging from our our slightly larger than twin mattress and at times professional wrestling in a kiddy pool filled with KY jelly.

The bottom line. We found out that Mare’s occluded cerebral blood vessels are few in number and small in magnitude. So that is my Christmas gift. Our Christmas gift. It could be the best one that never ended up wrapped in box and a bow placed by Santa under the Christmas Tree. Instead the gift is right here with me conveniently placed directly under the mistletoe.

When Christmas Hits Like A Brick: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

We don’t own a bed.

We are minimalists who rent fully furnished.

Christmas is next week.

Our blended family has 6 children. They are ALL coming for the holiday.

Well, that’s a brick in the gut.

Jase’s girls are 9 and 11. Oh me oh my! My boys are 25, 23, 20, and 15……….been there done that………

Time to raid the shed.

Halle~fucking~lujah

We found the mother load. We are all about a recycled Holiday. Thank you landlord.

The only thing absent is a tree. We live in a fucking forest on the side of a mountain.

Now comes the ethical decision.

To kill or not to kill. To look for a seedling in the name of forest thinning.

I appreciate the shift in perspective as we age. My thoughts are with Jase’s girls and their upbringing. Too young to understand the outrageousness that Christmas has become.

Their holiday is in our hands.

It’s too soon to lay the burden of the illusion of life on these young souls.

In the end we will kill a small tree. We will honor it and thank it for giving two girls another year of innocence, wonder and magic.

Their time of awakening has not yet come.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

The truth is, we are all doing our best with what we’ve been given.

Fuck The Bike

There are days, oh there are days.

You don’t have to get back on the bike.

Admit you’re too tired to pedal.

You’ve gone as far as you can.

Abandon the fucking bike.

It’s 3 am. I’m holding vigil, what ever that means. Really I’m freaking in, worried sick and at the same time grateful.

My son checked himself in yesterday with the help of his older brother. I remember when they were the cutest little shits and I could make it all better with a snoopy band-aid, a hug and a freezy pop.

The days of all 4 boys running around without a care. Skinned knees, bloody noses, snotty tears………

Fuck you life. Fuck you and the heavy burden you place on the youth today.

I think of friends and family members with struggling children. What are we supposed to do?

I am reminded of funerals attended. Friends of the boys who succeeded in snuffing out their lives.

We are no stranger to this thing called depression. It has been an uninvited visitor many times.

Where the hell did I leave my roll of bubble wrap? You know, the one you keep hidden in the closet. You’re sure you’ve wrapped the kids in at least 10 layers.

Honey, there’s a gaping hole in your bubble wrap. Please let me fix it. I’ll have it patched up in no time.

If only it were enough………………if only………I forgot, you’re an adult now. My magic bubble wrap became invisible…..

Fuck you life.

A Simple Thank You

I didn’t know what to expect from starting a blog. I had no preconceived ideas. I needed an outlet.

I found something to look forward to in this strange land.

I’m excited to read the latest and greatest from athousandbitsofpaper, patchworkmomma, millenniallifecrisis, floatinggold, KNJtalesandsnippets

I’d like to extend a simple thank you. Thank you for being here and for the time you put into writing. The time you put into your responses.

Thank you for sharing your lives and talents.

Thank you for giving me a reason to drag my tired ass out of bed in the morning and for something to look forward to after work when I’m sentenced to more rest.

I appreciate you.