Saturday, August 11, 2018

It's Okay That I'm Not Okay

I’ve never had good luck with doctors, with taking my health into my own hands. Whether it’s my physical or mental health, I’ve always shoved it to the side because there are more important things to deal with, and by god, I should be able to push past the pain to get shit done.


I’ve always measured myself against the people around me, consciously or not. The dreams I’ve pursued, the things I wear, the way I speak — it always falls short when held against others. I’ve held myself against younger versions of myself — after all, young!Reyah was outgoing, healthier, more creative…I wasn’t always like this.


I don’t know when I stopped being able to push through it, when the pain and the depression, and the anxiety, became too much. I don’t know when I finally sat down and said to myself, It’s too much. You can’t do it and that’s okay. It’s okay that you can’t do it.

It…it is okay, right?

I want it to be. I want it to be okay that I can’t work the 60 hour weeks on my feet like I used to. I want it to be okay that there are days when my body or my brain says no, you’re not leaving this bed. 

It wasn’t a conscious choice, a New Year’s Resolution, for me to make 2018 the year of my tackling my health, both mental and physical. I guess you could say I started this journey last year, when I went through a very brief, and abruptly ended therapy program, and found that I wasn’t satisfied going back to just living with depression and hating myself for not being able to do anything about it because…because I couldn’t, because I told myself I couldn’t, because the world said I didn’t deserve to do anything about it but I also had to fall into what the world wanted me to do and those things just weren’t possible for me the way I was. The way I am.

I’m not healthy, and goddamn it, that’s okay. 

Going into the rheumatologist’s office was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, because I was certain I was going to leave with a diagnosis that would put a expiration date on my hands.

I know I can still write, can still have a fulfilled and happy life, sans my hands. But I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t terrified. I assumed I would leave with an arthritis diagnosis, or maybe I wouldn’t leave with a diagnosis at all, and maybe I would just be told that my chronic pain was because I was fat, and I needed to push through the pain and go to the damn gym more often.

But…that didn’t happen. Instead, I walked out with a fibromyalgia diagnosis, and wow, that wasn’t even close to being on the list of expectations for that visit.

I don’t entirely know what to do about it now. I have a follow-up in September, and I suppose we’ll see about a pain management plan from there.

Having a word, a diagnosis, for this pain that I’ve forced myself to push through for 10 years, every single day, is overwhelming and scary, but it is such a relief. This is only the beginning, and I have such a long, perpetually painful road ahead of me, but I’m so deeply thankful that it’s a road I’m not walking alone, and having that diagnosis helps me to see where I’m supposed to be going.

So yeah.

I have fibromyalgia. I guess we’ll see where I go from here.

Monday, April 16, 2018

It's Worth It

Content Warnings: 
Discussion of fatmisia/fatphobia,
diet culture, disordered eating, and related topics.

I didn’t always hate my body. I remember a time, early in my childhood, where I honestly didn’t think about my body much at all. I wore the clothes I was given, let my hair go where it wanted to (my hair has only ever had a purely Latinx idea of “obedience”) and I was fine like that.

I could probably pinpoint the age where that changed, and I became more and more aware of my shape, and the way I was perceived by those around me. I was never a skinny child, but I was blissfully unaware of the concept of fatness and societal opinions of it.

Until I wasn’t.

I was born and primarily raised in Louisiana. If you’ve ever been to LA, you know how brutal our summers can be. (I say, now living in Florida, for I am forever doomed to live in semi-tropical areas) My body image and self-esteem was bad enough that I didn’t wear shorts until I was nearly 22 years old. I wore long sleeves and leather jackets in July, when the heat can be hazardous to your health.

Eventually, my attire shifted to preferring long tunic style shirts, anything to hide the pooch of my belly, 3/4 sleeves to hide the flap of my upper arms, and the hair too thick, too obvious, on my forearms. I still primarily wear longer shirts, longer pants. But my closet is now filled with tank tops and shorts that show off the thickness of my thighs and the shape of my ass, the jiggle of my arms, and every last dark hair passed down from my Latinx heritage.

I struggle with disordered eating, and harmful thoughts about my weight, and dieting in general.

I’ve worked hard to get through it, to create healthy habits, and it helps that I have amazing support networks who know about my issues, and others who have struggled in similar ways.

Over the last year, I’ve been making more of an effort to go to the gym. I won’t lie and say that the act wasn’t born out of a hatred of my size, a desire to be smaller, to look in the mirror and not hate myself based on arbitrary ideals that diet culture swears I need to embody. But I also won’t let myself let that be the only reason I’ve been going, or let those very ideals dictate why I do things.

I enjoy going to the gym. I like the physical challenge, the exertion that lets me get out of my own head, and I feel exhilarated at the end of it. The anxiety I feel walking in is nothing compared to how I feel walking out, covered in sweat, and physically exhausted, but proud of myself. Proud because I pushed through the anxiety, because I didn’t touch the scale in the locker room, that this body of mine can do things that I never believed it could, that I know others don’t think it can.

And sure, I’ve noticed visible changes with my body. I’ve noticed that my legs seem leaner, stronger, and my body doesn’t feel as wide as I’m used to it feeling. And I honestly don’t know how much of that is actual change in my body, and how much is a change in perception. I catch sight of my reflection and I look different. But I also don’t feel like I have the impartiality to say what’s actually changed.

I will never stop fighting for fat acceptance, for fat joy, fat inclusion. I may always be fat. I don’t have to be unhappy in that. I’ve worked hard to have a few days where I feel good in my fat body.

But neither do I have to feel like it’s a betrayal to that work to feel good in a changed body, and that’s a feeling I’ve been struggling with. That, as a fat activist, as someone who has worked so hard to feel like I deserve to love myself and be loved by others in this fat body, it’s a betrayal to want to be not fat. To be happy as my body changes.

However my body does or doesn’t change over the course of my life, the thing that doesn’t change is that my body is worth loving. It’s worth the effort of caring for it, of appreciating the things it can do, instead of lamenting the things it can’t.

I don’t always succeed in loving my fat body, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

One Step At A Time

“The steps you make don’t need to be big; they just have to take you in the right direction.” - Gemma Simmons, AOS 

I’m in the process of getting caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D right now, and this may be my new favorite quote. Today, for me, it’s one I needed. It’s hard, sometimes, to remember that a little progress is still progress. Depression makes small progress feel like nothing. Anxiety makes life feel so huge and overwhelming that even the tiniest bit of happiness or success can be overshadowed. 

But I’m trying to be better about remember the steps I have taken, the ones that, while small, are taking me in the right direction. 

Getting on anti-depressants was not something I really thought I was going to be able to do — not only because I’m a poor, uninsured person, but because of my own anxiety about going to the doctor in general. I was terrified, going into that office, absolutely certain that I would be turned away and told to come back after a psychiatrist had formally diagnosed me with depression. I was sure it wouldn’t matter that I knew I was depressed, or that I’d had days where non-existence sounded like bliss. I just knew that it wasn’t going to happen for me because I wanted it too much

I wanted to get better, and it felt like it was never going to happen because I wanted it. 

I’m now on month two of my meds, and, while life certainly hasn’t magically become perfect, I can see the ways in which it has begun to improve. Sure, I’m still depressed and anxious, and it’s still really hard to believe I’m worth a damn, especially when compared to the people around me. But it’s getting easier to say thank you. It’s getting easier to look at my face in the mirror and not hate every inch of it. It’s getting a little easier to not want to die, figuratively and literally. 

By the end of today, I will have had my first driving lesson in years. Being able to drive has been something I’ve been wanting to do for years, and have not been in a position to do, beyond a handful of short lessons spread out over the course of a decade — and when I have the money to take actual courses, something happens and the money is gone. So this has been another thing that my brain says I’ve wanted too much, and because I wanted it too much, I wouldn’t ever get it. 

I don’t think I could ever begin to express how lucky I am to have the friends that I do. Because of them, because of the innumerable ways that they’ve supported me and helped me, I can pursue this thing that I didn’t think would happen for me. 

And sure, I’m still not published. I’m still struggling to get words on the page — fictional ones, anyway, apparently — but I’m beginning to feel that spark of faith that says the words will come when I’m ready. I’m beginning to feel like it’s okay to focus on other aspects of my life before I focus on that. 

The simple fact of the matter is that focusing on my health — mental, physical, financial, etc — can only positively impact my writing goals. 

So yeah, my steps are small, but they’re taking me in the right direction. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Yelling About Insecurities

A friend of mine recently posted a status on Facebook, inviting her friends to scream about their insecurities together. Feeling open to vulnerability, I commented. I certainly didn’t dump all of my insecurities there, because no one has time for that if I’m not paying them.

But one of the things I did say was that, among my many anxieties about my life, I worry that writing is not where my life is meant to go. I’ve been writing “seriously” since I was 13. I wrote my first fanfiction at age 9 but the idea that writing was an actual thing I could do hadn’t occurred to me until I was 13, and after that, I was sold. That was it for me.

I was a writer, and anyone who wanted to tell me otherwise wasn’t worth my time.

From five years, I could be found either reading or writing. Often, a little bit of both at the same time. When I started getting on the internet, I sought out a community of other writers to learn from. I read all the blogs, followed all the agents and authors and fellow aspiring authors. It was amazing, and I learned so much from that time.

I turned 18, and I started working a day job. Between a full-time job, my undiagnosed and fully ignored depression, I found little time for writing, let alone participating in a community that I was rapidly losing touch with.

My blog posts dwindled. I didn’t have anything to talk about when writing began to slip through my fingers as a dream I’d lost my chance at. I was 18, and already having a mid-life crisis about my “career.”

I went to a writing conference — earlier than I really should’ve, to be honest, but I certainly wouldn’t trade that experience for much.

I’ve spent more of my life being a writer than I have not being a writer. So the idea that this isn’t what I’m meant to do is terrifying. I’ve toyed with the idea of agenting, editing, publicity — something related to publishing somehow, but maybe not this craft I’ve dedicated myself to.

And to be honest, I don’t think I could tell you how much of this comes from anxiety, depression, and how much of it is a legitimate feeling. I don’t want to let go of writing. And I know I don’t have to. No one is telling me that I can’t hack it, or that I don’t have the talent or skill — quite the opposite. And I know that I have the skill and talent, and the dedication, to make this work for me.

But sometimes I don’t know it, and it’s hard to believe even the voices of my friends, and the people who have done nothing but cheer me on from day one.

I don’t want to let go of this dream, so fuck it. I’m not going to. I will continue to go after this, because when it comes down to it, I’m the only one in my way. And I’m tired of fighting against myself and my own bullshit self-image. It’s crap, and it has no basis in reality.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Falling In And Out Of Love

Every few years, I try to come back to Blogger, and talk about writing. I try to keep it focused on writing, and little snapshots of my day to day life -- the fun, anecdotal snippets that I enjoy sharing.

I freely admit that, while there has been plenty of fun and enjoyable parts of my life over the past few years, the Depression(TM) has kept me from being able to truly focus on those parts. Depression has kept me from truly immersing myself in my writing the way I used to. Reading and writing were once my escape from the depression, though I was young enough that I didn't have the knowledge to name it that.

I've been struggling with the same story for going on a third year now. I've fallen in and out of love with it every three months, starting over, recycling old bits, and crafting new parts. There's so much I genuinely adore, but there's so much I've grown to hate. And I don't remember how to get back to that excited feeling I know I felt when I first began.

And I know this is a common issue among writers; there are any number of articles and twitter threads about falling out of love with your story, and rediscovering that spark, and the reasoning behind the phenomenon. I've spent the better part of three years of my life with story -- of course I'm tired of it. But I do feel like there's a lot of it that I'm looking at through the mud-colored glasses of depression, and I can't seem to take the damn things off.

Tomorrow marks the One Month Anniversary of beginning anti-depressants. I can definitely say that I've noticed a marked difference just in four weeks. And, y'know, if your brain can't produce its own dopamine/seratonin, store-bought is fine, too. I'm perfectly okay with this. But it's also not a cure-all. This doesn't make the depression disappear; it makes me capable of functioning through it. I plan on talking to my doctor about upping my dosage, though, because there are some things that are still difficult, even after this period of time, and I think increasing it will help. If it doesn't, I talk to her again, and we figure it out.

But I want to fall in love with writing again. Not just this particular story -- if I never finish this one, but I come back to others and I can find that joy again, I'll call it a win. But opening that document with a feeling of dread isn't how I want to feel about writing anymore. It's gone on too long.

I have no guarantee that I'll come back to blogging with any sense of regularity. I hope so. I used to enjoy blogging so much when I was younger (because 25 is soooo old lol) and depression took that from me, too. But maybe I will. Maybe I won't. I suppose we'll see.