Some Insights from Eastern Philosophies

(A photo of a time my soul and spirit was tired and was taking time to rest and heal)

I can’t say I subscribe to any one religion or spiritual practice as it’s something I’ve been seriously exploring lately. When some of your abuse was done in the name of religion, spirituality of any sort is something I shied away from. When you’re told “god would never love a person like you”, why even bother seeking it out?

Well, I didn’t for a long time as I was taught there was only one way to believe, and for me, it was abusive. Over the past couple years, I’ve been reading about all sorts of spiritual philosophies as I seek to find my own truth.

Nearly a year ago, I went to Thailand on a whim. I was interested in going to a country that was 96% Buddhist. Please understand that Buddhism isn’t a religion, but a philosophy and much of modern psychology is actually based on some Buddhist concepts. There is a lot of peace and the concept of “impermanence” has been one of the best I’ve embraced on my healing journey.

I had been very sick with numerous ailments, but my doctor figured out I had chronic Epstein Barr virus as one of them. She put me on antivirals and after a week of taking them, I had a moment of feeling better. I decided I wanted to go somewhere. I hardly had any money left in my savings, but I was tired of just being a sick person who went to the doctor as my identity. I knew I’d probably just end up spending the money on failed medical treatments. At first, I searched out France as my French is decent and have wanted to go back for years. I’ll say it was way more than my tiny savings had in it. Thailand has been on my bucket list since I made a good friend several years ago who grew up there and was struck by her kindness and that of her family.

So surprisingly, 2 weeks in Thailand with round trip airfare was cheaper than staying home. I decided it was a moment of divine intervention. I booked the trip and 48 hours later, I was driving to San Francisco alone, scared, and thinking I was out of my mind.

As the plane pushed back from the gate to my first leg to Tokyo, I even thought of feigning a heart attack so I wouldn’t have to go. Instead, a little Japanese toddler turned around in his seat and gave me the biggest smile. I took it as a sign that it would all be ok. I put in my headphones to a calming music playlist, had a row of seats to myself and enjoyed doing some seated yoga poses to manage the pain of being on a plane for 11 hours the first leg of my trip. I also took the time to read about Eastern philosophy of all different sorts.

Something that struck me was the view of depression. I can’t vouch this is how things are done now, but depression is viewed as the idea that the spirit and soul are tired. I read that someone who is depressed is surrounded by community and brought food and prayers. How different than how it is viewed in the US!

All too often, people who are depressed here don’t talk about it with friends or family for fear of being judged. We rush to the psychiatrist for our 20 minute appointment on our lunch break to be handed some pills and see you in a month or two (or so that’s how it used to go for me and many others) and go back to work. Some people get 1 hour of therapy a week where outside that hour, contact is limited to serious emergencies.

After reading about the Eastern philosophy of depression being a concept of the soul and spirit being tired where rest is prescribed and community steps up, I understand why people don’t heal from depression in the US. There’s no real support. If your soul and spirit are tired, how are you expected to do that all alone and in your regular life patterns with an hour a week to talk about it, if you’re lucky to find a decent therapist.

I will often talk about how I healed from my CPTSD in many ways. I got off all psych meds nearly 2 years ago (under doctor supervision) and now have the luxury of when my soul and spirit are tired, I rest. Unfortunately, there isn’t community in the US that surrounds the depressed person as despite the fact that so many of us have been afflicted by it at a point in our lives, we still don’t discuss it.

I’m not advocating just stopping antidepressants or any other psych meds on your own, but I do advocate rest. I don’t mean that depression rest where it’s the rest because you’re trying to avoid life due to being overwhelmed. Rest with a sense that you are resting to heal your soul and spirit. Engage in good self care, but restore and rest with the idea that you’re working towards getting to a peaceful state.

It’s NOT simple in any way, shape, or form, and literally took me years to understand this. When I feel depressed, or now I believe my spirit and soul is tired, I rest as much as possible and reach out to a couple people who understand and support me in my rest and caring for myself. They will check in with a phone call or text and it means the world to me.

I encourage you not to hide your weariness. If someone isn’t supportive, and I’ve found plenty who weren’t, move onto the next person. If you’re feeling depressed or your soul and spirit are tired, you can anonymously post to this blog or send me an email. I understand. I will be your community or help you find one.

Love

Lizzie

Self Love is THE Path to Freedom

No matter what happens, it can be hard to appreciate who you are and what you contribute to this world. Have you found it hard to accept a compliment? I used to. Now I embrace them as I realize compliments are gifts others give me and the people who give them aren’t ones to lie or just say things to say things.

In 18 months of being really ill, I got to know myself. It first started out as just being hateful it happened to me, then I rode a roller coaster of thinking I’d be cured to feeling like I was imminently dying. I then became overwhelmed with how lucky I was to have time alone to accept what was happening and have time to do what I wanted to do. On my better days, I was free, no longer a slave to a job. On my bad days, I could write or read a little or do nothing but heal.

I’m grateful to say as I emerge from the worst of it, I have come out a stronger person full of self love that I never would have gotten to experience had I not become ill. I’d still be a slave to a job I loved, but also stressed me out just to have things and appear “happy”. My trauma made me a happy phony.

It’s not that I’m physically a whole lot better. In fact, I have my days… I have learned to adapt my life to my disabilities. I’m writing for paid work and selling my art. It’s starting slow, but isn’t that how all dreams happen? (Well unless you win the lottery I suppose.). Dreams and goals happen slowly with dedication and hard work. Sometimes a goal seems unattainable as mine did a year ago, but as I continue to actually dedicate daily time to them, it works. I know I have to work at it when I feel good, not necessarily my best, but just try.

Probably the best part is that I let go that I could do everything perfectly. Would I like to have sold more art already? Sure. Would I like to have been accepted for another freelance writing position I applied for yesterday? Definitely, but I wasn’t, but the employer also told me to submit my blog for a more public presentation and that they would save my resume. So it didn’t work out perfectly, but maybe it did. I’m a huge believer that things work out as they should. Once I gave up getting wrapped up about the outcome i thought should happen, my anxiety left me. It happens how it happens. It is what it is.

So I did this art piece last night as I personally needed some inspiration for myself. I’m no “artiste”, but it’s my joy to do it. I hope it sells soon as I would love to pay my water bill this month! If anyone is interested, shoot me an email. I can also make poster quality prints.

I hope when you look in the mirror as the woman in my art is that you see you are love. You are! Especially people who have been through difficult times and work to better themselves are the most love and light I know. It doesn’t matter if you are in the throes of self hatred, depression, making bad mistakes, emerging into the light, or regularly experiencing joy, we are all love.

Love

Lizzie

Happiness is Portable

A friend and I had a conversation a few months ago where she was telling me about transferring universities and moving to another state. The part that struck me was she said, “maybe I’ll finally be happy”. I came back with, “you have to make your happiness portable and carry it with you wherever you go”.

People will often ask how I can maintain a positive attitude and stay in gratitude when I’ve had a lot of horrible things happen. For me, it feels the only way now. I grew up with enough misery, so why would I want to continue to perpetuate it upon myself now that I’m an adult and have choice and free will to live as I choose?

In the past 18 months, I dealt with homelessness, being physically sicker than sick, more family trauma than I’ve cared to admit to most, friends departing as I couldn’t care for them anymore, loneliness, grief…, but I always maintained knowing that I had dreams and goals worthy of coming true and that kept me peaceful. I kept my happiness with me.

People will often ask what my secret is to being so peaceful and content. I will tell you that getting sick has been a gift. I took my 18 months to be forced to know myself and appreciate who I am, and realize I’m more than a person who does for others, I’m a person who can do for me.

In 18 months, I had to be alone. Sure, I screamed, cried, grieved, felt “why me?”, but I also took the time to evaluate my life and the goals I had when I was little. I’m certainly not going back to a job in counseling, but my goals and aspirations I have been able to focus on these past 18 months are coming true.

I signed a freelance writing contract last week and sold the above art piece within an hour of posting it publicly. I was forced to slow down–a lot. The past few days, I’ve been lying in a dark room in what felt like unbearable pain, barely able to move, but I stayed in the present moment enjoying my solitude to meditate, think about how I can continue to meet my goals and constantly stayed in my own joy and gratitude that I am still breathing and know that life will continue to move upwards (with plenty of dips to make it interesting). I also did a whole lot of thanking my body for working so hard to maintain as best it can instead of hating it for what I’m no longer able to do. I even managed a bit of writing and a touch of reading.

So feeling miserable and depressed? My best advice is to spend time alone, lots of it if you can. If you are forced into loneliness as I was, take the time to dream and set goals, even if you’re lying in a dark room trying to block out the light and noise to heal a bit. And I did get up again today to enjoy a fun picnic with my son.

I’m not the person I was a few years ago when I had a full time job and security. I wouldn’t even want to be her. I’m simply happy being, no matter what comes or goes.

Isolation isn’t scary. Sickness isn’t so bad. Appreciate what you’ve been given and it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.

Love

Lizzie

Doing Things Alone

Did you ever wish you had that perfect friend or partner who would do things with you that YOU loved? Well, me too.

Unfortunately, my long term relationship ended 10 years ago and sporadic dating hasn’t showed anyone that I’ve been thrilled with.

What I’ve learned through healing from my CPTSD and then being hit with several chronic illnesses, I need and highly enjoy spontaneity. It’s a luxury many can’t afford as people are tied to jobs, children, partners needs, so many responsibilities. I use this time as a gift in my life as on the days I have energy to do more than sedentary activities, I just GO!

I don’t have anyone to go with. My friends are busy, and I have to go when I feel good. A few years ago, I NEVER would have gone hiking alone. I was too scared. I could barely make it to the grocery store without severe anxiety. I’m not sure what I was scared of, but I stayed home and lamented about how much I wanted to hike and many other things, but there was no one to go with.

Saturday, I decided I was going hiking. I didn’t feel particularly well, but I was compelled to don my hiking boots and be among mountain peaks and trees.

There’s no doubt I was nervous as I drove the 45 minutes to the trail I had my sights on. I kept thinking I must be insane to go hiking alone with my disabled body, walk further that I have in Years, and go into the wilderness where I might not see anyone for a bit. My stomach was queasy, but my heart said it was right.

I got to the trail, part of the pacific crest trail specifically, and thought of all my friends suffering from agoraphobia or anxiety that would never allow them to do this. I set my own anxiety aside, thought about how proud my son would be of me and set out one foot and one crutch at a time.

I felt elated, joyous, and youthful as I got deeper into the trees. There was still a lot of snow on the ground, so my walk was cut short. I still did 2 miles round trip.

I know I can go back and finish when the snow melts and the wildflowers prolific. The important part was that I tried something new that felt scary. I pushed all my anxiety aside and had joy instead.

I’m not asking you to go hiking alone, but if your anxiety is keeping you trapped, what can you do to push yourself just a little out of your comfort zone? I promise if you can push through the fear, you will be highly rewarded with feelings of strength and your world will grow.

If you push yourself, no matter how small or big, PLEASE tell me. You can anonymously comment or send an email.

Happy pushing through. Love

Lizzie

From Chronically Giving to Chronically Ill

First I want to say this isn’t one of those “I became chronically ill and everyone left me bitter posts”, it’s actually about the role I played in it.

Sure, as I healed from CPTSD and was dealing with multiple chronic illnesses at the same time, people ghosted me big time. Yes it hurt, and I still don’t believe I deserve all of that, BUT…

I have come to realize over the course of my life, I have given to the detriment of myself. I taught people and myself that I was only like able or lovable for what I could do for others. It didn’t make sense that people would like me for me if I didn’t even like me.

When I left Texas in the beginning on 2018, my psychologist wrote me a beautiful letter of goodbye and the most striking part said something like this, “I hope someday you will understand that people will love you for you, not what you can do for them”. Reading her letter was what made me realize I was a chronic giver. The prospect of people actually wanting to know me was in fathomable.

One of the best things in getting chronically ill is that I could no longer give to the detriment of myself. I couldn’t give at all for awhile as I was merely trying to survive and get my basics done. As I became more incapacitated and asked for help, people disappeared and got the typical “I’m busy, but I think about you” line. I understand busy, but I also understand I would go a couple days without water as I couldn’t move.

It’s partly my fault. I didn’t let people know how bad off I was. When I stopped eating a couple weeks ago as my symptoms of gastroparesis were so painful I stayed curled in a ball for days, I couldn’t let anyone know. I give to others, not the other way around!

Luckily, I ended up being in so much pain, I became delirious and didn’t realize the conversations I was having. I told a friend who lives halfway across the country I was stopping eating as it was too painful, she called the paramedics as she knew my immune compromised system wasn’t going to make it much longer. Anyway, I got to the hospital, got diagnosed, and am temporarily on a medication to help that.

Nonetheless, the point is people started to leave me, because I couldn’t give. The first time I realized I didn’t have to give back to receive was when a friend helped me out with getting an Uber to the hospital when I was admitted back in March. I had 78 cents in my bank account, and she knew I needed to go. I asked what I could do for her. She said it’s not “quid pro quo”, and she was right. I don’t have to give exactly back to the person who’s giving to me. I’ve been giving my whole life, personally and professionally. I’m starting to feel better, but I deserve love and kindness just because.

So yes, people dropped out of my life, and I subsequently chose to drop people as well. I wasn’t the friend I used to be. I’m not interested in one sided friendships anymore. I want reciprocation, perhaps not equally as I give more in some friendships and others will give more to me.

I refuse to feel guilty for receiving help without giving it. I’m ok to know just because I exist.

I have also begun to find real community. Im finding people who will genuinely help me more than anyone I’ve ever met. My community is growing and I’m currently feeling surrounded by a lot of love (even if I am still managing the basics alone)!

So I’m grateful for chronic illness. It has taught me what it is to be a friend. It has taught me that it’s ok to accept help, but most of all, it has taught me that I’m ok to know even when I have nothing to give.

Love

Lizzie

Happy Blogversary!

I never thought I would be still blogging a year later, but today my WordPress account was renewed for another year.

My blog has been fairly successful. I’ve had thousands of people visit, a few faithful followers and plenty of the most beautiful, personal emails sent my direction from people who wanted to “talk” to me without publicly posting a comment.

It’s been quite a year for me personally too. I started my blog to talk about authenticity and the struggle when you’ve had complex developmental trauma. It’s turned into a lot more for me. This blog has been my therapy, especially as I’ve greatly shied away from traditional psychotherapy. This has been my place to vent, but more importantly, a place to share how good it can be when it all seems beyond impossible.

A year ago, I didn’t know much about what was going on with my health, but along with a couple medical professionals who finally took me seriously to actually help me, I’ve figured a lot of it out and continue on the journey to figure the rest out, or not, and just focus on being better.

I’ve learned a lot. I figured out that being authentic means some people will hate you, but the ones that appreciate it, will lift you up higher and more loving than was previously imaginable.

I’ve figured out what works for me. I’m learning that the less I do, the more I’m able to do. If I take the time to rest (not being lazy as my inner critic wants to yell), I can go out and have small, paced adventures.

Yoga is my thing. I’ve definitely figured that out. Aerobic exercise is not. I can get really strong and fit just by going to class up to 3x a week and a small daily practice at home.

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned this year is that I can’t do this alone, but I also can’t do this with the wrong people. It’s better for me to manage a bit of loneliness sometimes than be surrounded by toxic help. It sure sounds nice for someone to come rescue me, but I know it’s been better for me to have done a lot of it alone. Holding myself up has given me an inner strength and courage that radiates out, or at least that’s what I’ve been told.

It’s absolutely ok to take care of yourself. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to disregard ridiculous things people say about what they perceive about how you live, your illnesses, your symptoms, or their advice. You know your truth, even when everyone else says it’s not.

It’s also ok to be grateful for the little things and stay in it as you navigate the hard times.

I like to set goals for the future. In my New Year of my blog, I’d like to categorize my posts, upload more videos of my talking as some people find it easier, update my bio section, and work on SEO.

Personally, I want to have a book ready for editing by next year, continue to work on my health, and meet some people who have turned into my biggest support.

This picture I took today after committing to yoga about 6 weeks ago. I’ve always had the goal of having good arms. I met that at 43, totally sick, barely moving many days, but felt determined. I know I look too skinny. Now that my gastroparesis was confirmed, I understand why eating has been hard. Like everything, I’m working on it!

Love

Lizzie

On Being Authentic

Obviously my blog is about being authentic and admitting to adversity and managing it. Unfortunately, I can’t be totally authentic in this. I want to give the knowledge that I still have moments where I hugely struggle.

I have moments where I feel so alone as many people have left my life (or I chose to leave theirs) due to people not being able to handle my multitude of physical illnesses and how it doesn’t always make me feel joyful and happy. It’s hard to be authentic about feeling bad when people leave when you admit you do. Those moments of loneliness only compounds the physical pain, and I begin to feel like a terrible person who must deserve this, but an unexpected person will appear giving me accolades and reassurance that I’m not terrible, but pretty great.

Another thing I can’t be so authentic with is when I get really low. I definitely get low and have moments where I feel I can’t keep going, but I still do. I’ve been warned that my blog and social media are watched to make sure I don’t stray from impeccable mental health for reasons of parenting, payback, and a whole host of other things when you’ve dealt with a lot of unkind people in your life who are looking for a way to bring you down. So if it looks like I’m living this simple life of ease and wonder with the world, I’m not.

I just make this post so I can achieve the goal of authenticity while maintaining my personal boundaries for what suits me best in living the most productive life I can given a history of developmental trauma and a slew of diagnosed, painful illnesses.

I definitely do have tons of joy and that’s what I choose to make much of my focus. I have new people entering my life, some of which I’m extremely excited to form new friendships! I also do get amazed by the courage I show daily in managing my life where the practicalities are done alone. I also enjoy focusing my blog on what works when you have complex PTSD and not so much what doesn’t as we can all tell ugly stories of hardship and deep depression or anxiety (much needed and appreciated BTW), but I’m trying to show that there is more to life than being a psychiatric diagnosis when what you really needed to do was work through it, feel your feelings, and find true love and support in a community that understands.

Do I have days where I’m curled up in a little ball wishing it would all be done as the physical pain gets loaded with emotional pain and it’s too much? I definitely do, but I have even more moments where a simple drive to the grocery store inspires in me my childlike wonder of the majesty of the mountains again as I first saw them when I was 10. I have many more moments of feeling like the world is an ok place and better for my being a part of it.

So the ugly moments are there, but they also pass and a bit of fresh air with a deep stretch and long inhale and exhale will also bring me back to gratitude. Every. Time.

Love

Lizzie