Genuine Bravery…

Genuine Bravery…

“Genuine bravery for a writer… It is about calmly speaking the truth when everyone else is silenced, when the truth cannot be expressed. It is about speaking out with a different voice, risking the wrath of the state and offending everyone, for the sake of the truth, and the writer’s conscience.” –Murong Xuecun

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The Day The World Changed & How I Changed With It…

newyorkcity2

The Day The World Changed & How I Changed With It…
Thanks to Shaun for asking me this question in July. He blogged about it, not knowing I was preparing to do the same today.

The world was irrevocably changed on September 11th,2001. Lives were affected globally. People cried and mourned, and unfortunately in certain countries, some people celebrated what they felt would be the demise of America. There’s a special place in hell for people like that, and I don’t even believe in a heaven/hell concept.

There’s really no one that can’t say that the events of 9/11 have had no effect on them whatsoever. You’d have to be completely heartless and brainless (I have a list of people that make the cut, as I am sure we all do.) to not react to what occurred and what continues to occur in this great big world of ours.

I will start by saying where I was that morning and how I look back on it.

As a native New Yorker, I watched a piece of my city be destroyed by pure evil, by unwarranted hatred. My mother had narrowly escaped the first bombing of the World Trade Center years before, so I already knew the towers were a target, but could I ever have expected to wake up one morning and watch the world change before my eyes in such a dramatic way? No. It still feels like it happened yesterday, except I know how much the world has changed and how much my own life has changed in the past 12 years since the attacks.

On that fateful morning, I woke up to take my Mom to work. She was returning to her job after a little over two months of being home recovering from failed back surgery. I was her primary care-giver/care-taker, so I was present for everything, including that morning’s events.

I am vividly reminded of that day because it started out like most people’s inevitably begin. I woke up and hit the shower. The key to my shower was that the radio was dead silence. Back then I normally listened to CD’s to drown out my own “mind noise”, but since I was in a bit of a rush after my CD fogged up on me, I switched on the radio mid-shower. The station I listen to is always rife with early morning talk and music. It freaked me out after a few minutes, because every single station I switched to was pure static, and the only brief thing I could make out through said static was that the World Trade Center had been hit by a “small plane”. I guarantee you that it was the fastest shower I’ve ever taken in my entire life, because I had to know what was going on, and if my family was safe. It was a total “What the FUCK?!” moment. Hearing those words repeated a second time on another radio station amidst all that static silence, I knew something was very wrong.

I remember throwing on clothes, going into the living room, turning on the TV, and watching the footage. Initially, I thought I was watching a trailer for a new Bruce Willis film, because that’s what it felt like. It was incredibly surreal and disturbing. This could not be happening on American soil! I was in disbelief.

Every channel was showing the footage, but they were claiming that a “small aircraft” had hit the World Trade Center. Surveying the damage, I knew that it hadn’t been a small anything, and that this was an act of terrorism, as opposed to an “accident”. Knowing the area well, I knew that a plane didn’t just swerve in that direction of its own volition.

I immediately called my father, who was working that morning in a government building in the city that had once been a target after the Oklahoma City bombings. He was asking me what happened because my view was different from his, despite his physical view being clearer and closer, and as we spoke, we both watched in horror as the 2nd plane hit the other tower.

We were both vehement in our belief that this was an act of terrorism on American soil, that it was Arab extremists, and we were both upset as all get out. We got off the phone briefly so I could take my mother to work. The devastation we were all feeling was so strong, you couldn’t have come at it with a sword. Anger, silence, worry, it was all in the air.

The news that the Pentagon has been hit, and that a plane had gone down in Pennsylvania were minor shocks at the time, yet all of it was terrifying. Planes entering U.S. airspace were now being re-routed to Canada to avoid further attacks via aircraft.

I returned home to make sure my Dad was still ok, and we talked for a while before an announcement was made that his building was being evacuated as a precautionary measure. The city was in chaos, and it took my Dad a while to get home, but once he was safe I was breathing a huge sigh of relief. My Mom called me throughout the day for updates on what was going on, did my Dad make it home safely, what else were we being told, etc. My brother and I were angry, and Americans were being warned that the attacks on our soil might continue, even after they closed all of the airports. Basically we were being told to watch our own skies. Living near major airports my entire life, the sheer silence of not hearing a plane go overhead for weeks on end was, and still is, freaky. Of course now, after all these years, I still watch planes very carefully.

Despite the phone lines being jammed in the tri-state area, I was lucky to spend part of the day mostly on the phone with my parents. My Mom was completely and utterly horrified after we’d watched everything that morning. When I picked her up from work later that day, as I did every single day until she left her company, that day had changed so much, and shifted the world and our view of it completely.

I was very lucky. I did not lose any friends or family members/loved ones. People I knew very distantly were affected, and for that I will always be sorry, even though I know full well that none of it was or is my fault. That level of tragedy is not something you can put into words, not really.

A week or so after the attacks, you could still see and smell the smoke heavy in the air. I cried seeing the wreckage, my city skyline destroyed, as I went over the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn. Watching trucks in a single file going over the bridge all the way out to Arthur Kill to bring in the debris was awful. Cars, physical pieces of the towers, you could physically feel the spirits of people in the air, and it sickened me to my core.

I will never forget the friends from all over the world that went out of their way to contact me to make sure that I was safe, that my parents were safe, to ask if I needed anything. I remember exactly who contacted me as if it just happened, because almost all of them were overseas. A friend who had visited me the year before and gotten the “Lisa Grand Tour” of New York City was mortified. Eerily enough, one of the charms she had purchased for her charm bracelet had broken the day before. She immediately thought of us buying them together during her visit, and the following morning she took the broken charm as a sign alerting her to my being in danger, and she sent me an e-mail to make sure everyone was ok.

One of the biggest things conveyed to me since 9/11 is people’s fears of flying, be it domestically or Internationally. I’ve been flying my entire life. I have never been afraid to get on a plane and go somewhere, or get on a return flight home. I’ve been lucky to mostly have very smooth travels, and only one or two flights during really bad weather where I was grateful the pilot knew what he was doing.

Do I worry about clearing security at the airport? No. I’ve been hassled once, at Dallas-Fort Worth International where I was screened four times while people who were actually visibly questionable walked right through with no problems. This was at a time when the TSA was being warned to “thoroughly search single white women traveling alone”. I watched as they tore apart my carefully packed carry-on bag, rifled through my books page-by-page (I kid you not!), questioned a pouch chock full of nickels, dime, and quarters acquired during my two week vacation, and asked where I was going, where I was coming from, what my travel intentions were, etc. Texas is one of my favorite places to visit, and the experience with TSA did not sour me in the least, but once they finally cleared me after an hour of unnecessary hassle, a man in a cowboy hat and cowboy boots who’d been watching the entire thing go down told me how disgusted he was to have witnessed that, and that he came very close to intervening on my behalf. That was really sweet, but by that time I was exhausted, and honestly lucky to arrive at my gate to a two hour flight delay, as opposed to 30 minutes of time left before boarding.

Things have changed drastically since then, but my experiences at various airports have been fine clearing security. I’ve been subjected to one “hair search” due to a clip in my hair that had a metal core and one “pocket pat” to verify that what I was wearing clipped to my pants was indeed a pedometer and not a bomb. <rolls eyes> I don’t blame them for being thorough, but I definitely think they need to change a lot of their rules and make things less stressful for travelers who are already frazzled enough as it is.

In the days following 9/11, I remember a much greater sense of patriotism than I had probably ever felt in my life and I will openly admit to being proud of my President in times where I am positive his decisions were not easy ones to make. Standing side-by-side with FDNY firefighters, he made me proud of my city, of its people and resilience, and of basic human kindness and compassion. In general I don’t witness a great deal of human kindness or experience an awful lot of compassion, so it was a highly emotional time.

One thing I am keenly aware of is that I might very well have lost my life that day had I taken a job one year prior with a company whose offices were terribly affected. I like to think my intuition would have kicked into high gear and kept me home that day for a plethora of different reasons, but one never truly knows. When I heard about all of the people lost from that company, people who stayed behind and did not immediately evacuate, or those that went back in to help others, I am extremely grateful for my own life. It’s a humbling thing. Sometimes the choices we make save our lives and we may not always be aware of it, but that night, I was definitely more aware than I ever cared to be.

As a nation, I feel we are both stronger and weaker. So much has changed, but as I look deep within myself, I am glad that 9/11 didn’t harden me any more than anything else I have experienced in life. Certainly it raised people’s awareness to a whole different level and for a very long time fear was a motivating factor for way too many people. I refuse to live in any country and be fearful of my life or my safety.

Every single day we are given is a blessing. We all have our “list of shit” in our lives. Nothing and no one is perfect, but each day is an opportunity to make sure we never forget, to make sure we tell the next generation what happened, and how we all lived through a major moment in history.

In memory of those that lost their lives: You may be gone, but you are not forgotten.

On this day, please click on the FDNY link and donate whatever you can to the Official FDNY Widow’s & Orphan’s Fund. This charity was close to my father’s heart.

I Love……

I Love…

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death”  ―Leonardo da Vinci

The Fighter

The Fighter

*This is for all of us who are battling something… Give ’em hell!!*

Once Upon A Time

Once Upon A Time…

Once upon a time, in an extremely bizarre reality, I was in a relationship I should not have been in. The warning signs were there, but some people burn so brightly that you don’t seem to notice you’re going up in flames and turning to ash. Immensely large red flares of danger were being sent up so I wouldn’t get burned. Did that stop anything? Not so much.

He was the quintessential “bad boy”, complete with a Harley Davidson collection (the actual motorcycles, not memorabilia.), tattoos, multiple drug addictions, and a one million foot yacht chock full of issues. Maybe the maternal, nurturing aspect of me wanted to fix or heal him. I don’t know, but whatever it is, I’m thankful every single day that it is no longer a part of my life.

Initially there was no reaction or emotion from me towards him. He was just a guy, a guy all kinds of women fell for, but I prided myself on not adding myself to the throng of fools. Until one day, when I was seemingly drawn in like a moth to a flame. Except I wasn’t a moth, I was a butterfly, and yet, I suddenly had to have him. The pull was intense. He was crazy about me; The only person who challenged him, who questioned everything, and who was not impressed by anything. The problems though, they were simmering under the surface, just waiting to come out, one by one.

They started relatively early. I had never been told I was “too skinny” before. Even as a former gymnast that had experienced bouts of bulimia on & off for about two years after realizing that I’d never be an Olympic anything. I did not consider myself “too skinny” or “too” anything, really. I had the mouth of a Marine on leave, a writing career that had taken off in an amazing way, and a guy who told me he loved me, but to this day probably doesn’t know the meaning of the word. Someone send that man a dictionary. You’ll find him in there, somewhere very close to the word “Douchebag”, providing you’ve opted for a Webster’s upgrade.

His job allowed me the independence and space that I like in a relationship. I can’t have someone in my face 24/7, nagging, and standing over my shoulder like a watch dog. It drives me insane. He respected that, until the possessiveness became more than just one or two phone calls a day. At first it simply seemed like he was going out of his way to surprise me and brighten aspects of my life, but that wasn’t it, not at all.

The man could spit out promises just as quickly as he broke them, I just didn’t know he was trying to break me in the process.

The criticism I endured throughout the course of this relationship was actually harsher than what I dealt with from my family, and even though I had a comeback for everything he said, the words still haunt me… I went from being vibrant, smart, confident, & 100% in control to depressed, unhappy, paranoid, angry, & jealous. I was reduced to questioning why I was somehow not good enough for him. It was irrational and insane. Logically there was always an inner voice telling me “He’s not good enough for you. What are you doing?! This man is poison. Tell him to go to hell and walk away.”

I remember crying one night to my best friend at the time, after a particularly shitty thing he’d lied about. Here I was, the strongest, toughest, most direct chick people knew, asking “Why would he lie to me like that? Why would he lie about something so important? Why aren’t I good enough for him?” I was devastated by the pathological way in which he’d lie.

My best friend consoled me quietly, basically saying she didn’t know why he had lied or why he would, but eventually, months later, she told me I was “Too smart, too pretty, and all around way too good for the likes of him!” She meant it. She’d had enough of him hurting me. She was furious that he would hurt me in such a manner and then behave as if all was right in the world, and her anger continued to fuel when he showed up at a work event we all attended with a married woman on his arm. “A friend”, he’d called her. More like a drug supplier he’d hooked up with. He was spiraling and wanted to take me with him, but I would not allow that.

For the record, I was already ass deep in alligators when I realized just how big an issue the drugs actually were because they weren’t an issue at the onset. It went from being an old football injury to being an all-consuming, problem-inducing, complete lack of grip on reality. It started out small, as many addictions do, and escalated until it had to be confronted. I did not condone it in any way and refused to support the habit. I was not going to be in a relationship with an addict, period. I was the catalyst to get him into rehab, explaining in list formation all that he would lose if he did not get clean. But as most people can tell you, 30 days in rehab will detox you, it might even get you to talk about why you got into it in the first place, but it’s every single day after leaving a protected environment that matters most. If you have people that love & support you, you have a greater chance at remaining sober. You might slip up, recovery is going to be a constant for the rest of your life, but the effort you put forth is SO important. However, if you return to the exact same lifestyle and friends you had during the height of your illness, it will revert you right back into it at some point, especially if you have no real desire to be clean, no willpower, and no real desire to live. It’s a way of committing suicide slowly, secretly hoping that one day it’ll all be over and you don’t personally have to do the heavy lifting, or deal with the aftermath.

Part of what saddens me about the relationship itself is that I defended, protected, and shielded this man. I was the epitome of devoted and loyal to the Nth degree. My love was genuine, and yet I was constantly criticized, going as far as to be told that I wasn’t good enough to be introduced to his parents, who for years, he told me were dead (I’d later find out he only wished they were.), because of our differing religions. Who the hell were these people? England’s Monarchy?! How isolated and ignorant were they to think their religion was the only one that existed in this world?! This was not the first time someone had taken issue with my religion and tried to make me feel guilty for it. I was considered “not Jewish enough” by one guy’s family, and now I was being made to feel like I was somehow inappropriate and shameful.

Suddenly, after years of knowing our religions were different, it became this big issue, and we fought about it a lot. Would I be willing to convert to Roman Catholicism for him? HELL NO. Would I sign a pre-nup? Whoa, where the hell did THAT come from?! You want to marry me, you’ve asked, I’ve accepted, but now you’re afraid I suddenly want to be with you for financial gain? Seriously?! Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always taken care of myself. He knew that. I don’t expect a man to pay for my lifestyle. I’m fully capable of making my own money, buying my own clothes, jewelry, etc.  I think you should want to take care of your partner and be a provider, but relationships are give and take. I did not expect to just sit on my ass and be given anything, so I waffled back and forth on that little tidbit.

The ever present “Would you please eat?!” grated on my nerves. He’d bring me food for several years of our relationship, but not in a loving, caring, concerned way (I do like it when I’m sick and a guy has the sense to bring me soup or Italian food. There’s something very nurturing about that.), but in an extremely controlling manner. As soon as I gained about 15 pounds from this constant influx of food, I was suddenly told the exact opposite. Now I wasn’t thin enough, I was becoming the woman who he didn’t want anyone else looking at. What was so shameful about being curvy? He’d have a fit whenever we’d be somewhere and someone else would check me out. I was not the one doing the looking, yet he was suddenly paranoid that anyone who checked me out was somehow going to end up in my bed. It was eye-rollingly ridiculous.

He’d do something shitty, and I’d be “rewarded” with jewelry or flowers, sometimes both, depending on the situation. It got to a point where I began to loathe the pink & purple roses I loved so much. To this day if someone sends me roses, I cringe inside. He would promise to be somewhere I needed him to be, but was almost always off feeding his drug habit, or as I would later find out through a friend, a habit for other women.

It was demanded upon me that I be 100% faithful. That was not a problem because I’d never cheated on someone before and wasn’t about to start, but because he was the one doing all the cheating, he started having people follow me to find out what I was doing every time I left the house. Stalker much?! It was sick. It was also an excuse.

I’d had enough after confronting someone he often had tail me, and I put my foot down. I’m not big on ultimatums, but he needed to hear what his behavior was doing, that it was unhealthy and damaging, and completely unwarranted and unacceptable. It came down to this: He needed to return to rehab, fully commit to it, and he then needed to be clean & sober for a year before I would agree to marriage. It was high time for him to prove that he was worthy of me, not the other way around.

He went to rehab for a few months, coming back apologetic, and for a while things were simply tense. We talked, but clearly he was refusing to hear me. He was about to do something he’d probably been considering for quite some time, and simply hadn’t been man enough to say to my face. The ring on my finger probably made me believe a slew of lies I was actually too smart to actually buy into in the first place, but there was something slightly blinding & intoxicating about it. But the truth of the matter is, it was just plain toxic.

The problem with relationships slowly turning abusive is that, initially, we think we’re in the right relationship with the right person, until suddenly we’re not.

For years after this relationship ended I’d hear “Oh, LET IT GO!” whenever I mentioned how hurt, angry, or betrayed I felt, as if emotions could be turned off like a faucet. How could I not feel all of those things?! Saying “I love you” is not a cure all. Actions speak louder than words. His actions were atrocious.

With a ring still solidly on my finger, he married someone else, just weeks after saying we were good and moving in the right direction, that he was trying. I had to find out via an announcement his new wife was sending to friends & family. He would go on to have several children with her pretty quickly, each time choosing names we had decided on for our future offspring. That was the icing on the cake. I seriously worried about my ability to be around him in any capacity after that, so I disengaged. I made sure that whenever he’d be around, I would not be present. Hurting someone you claim to love in such a manner is vile, but to then go on living your life as if said loved one never existed is even worse. I started to think I was losing my mind. If it had not been for the fact that I knew the relationship had occurred, and exactly what I had endured, I’d have felt like I was being erased.

He & I continue to have mutual friends. I’ve stopped speaking to all, but three of them because I’m tired of hearing the lies. “He asked about you.”, “He hopes you’re all right. He just wants you to be happy.”, “He cares about you.” PLEASE! He never cared in the first place, it was a fucking game to him. No matter how many times I would ask these friends not to relay anything he said about me, it would come up in conversation, until I finally changed my phone number and said “No more.”

Not one to eat bullshit politely with a knife and fork, I have gone out of my way to avoid him since all of this went down. In truth, I have nothing to be embarrassed about. I didn’t do anything wrong, except believe in a person I shouldn’t have given the time of day to, but hey, we all make mistakes. Avoiding him is my way of remaining a healthy, non-toxic human-being. I know that eventually, at some point, we will run into one another, and I pray that I am not carrying a loaded weapon that day or wearing particularly high heels because even though people tell me I’m not a damaging, harmful person to be around, and that I’d never willingly hurt someone, I cannot promise that the desire to harm him won’t be there. Some of the rage goes away with time, but any time the relationship is mentioned or I come across something from that time period, I am flooded with everything I thought I’d already moved past. For me, that lets me know the damage runs deep. It does not, nor will it ever, mean that I care about him. I don’t. I wouldn’t spit on this man if he was on fire.

Once I no longer love/respect someone, my emotions will often turn to pity, anger (at myself & the other person involved), & my anger is a burning rage that can simmer and bubble for years until it is truly out of my system. If the anger is unjustified, it eventually dwindles and the flames put out, but if it IS justified, stay the hell out of my way. I can go from zero to bitch in about half a second.

Unfortunately, there are so many different kinds of abuse in the world, that it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint if you are the abused or the abuser. Sometimes you are simultaneously both, even if you don’t intend to be.

Writing this makes me feel a bit like I’m back in Psych class, but I’ve been revisiting certain things lately, which is why I am writing about such a personal, private matter, but if what I’m saying helps even one person get out of a toxic relationship, then that’s important and necessary.

If you’re in any kind of relationship where your words and feelings are being defined in an incorrect manner, where you are constantly insulted, and berated, it is time to take a closer look at this relationship. Thinking this person is “the best you can do”, having low, little, or no self-esteem, or coming from a “people pleasing” type of family are all potential signs you’ve probably overlooked. Most people do. When you’ve been taught that everything around you is “normal” and a part of your daily life, you stop questioning things. You begin to lose your inner voice. Once you lose your inner voice, you start to become everything the abuser has defined you as. Your thoughts, feelings, actions, everything is now completely defined by someone else. Moreover, you question yourself and promise yourself you’ll be better for them, that you will do everything right, not realizing that your life is your own, it is not owned by someone else.

Believe it or not, I am a product of abuse. Not just from the relationship I am talking about, but from my childhood. I am very forthcoming about that fact when approached, but generally I keep such things to myself. However, when a person comes to me and needs help, I am the first person to listen, and the first to say something.

For many, many years I handled the abuse (verbal, emotional, and physical) by throwing myself into my writing and my singing. One day I snapped, I’d had enough. I was 100% committed in the fact that I’d kill the other person and spend my life in jail, but I believed in my cause because I was protecting two other people. I took the brunt of everything so they wouldn’t have to. To this day, one of those people denies that 99% of the abuse ever occurred. It must be nice living in such a warped bubble of false memories, but I know what I lived, I know what I saw, and it is sad for me to see this person deny the abuse and become the abuser themselves. If you correct this person, or disagree with them, they will say YOU are abusing THEM. It’s a vicious cycle, however, I know that by standing up and saying ENOUGH, and being committed to putting a stop to it, that I did the right thing. If I hadn’t, I’d be in jail right now. Or worse.

People are often shocked to learn that I’ve been through such things. I don’t deny being strong and confident, and I don’t deny that I will say something is wrong when it is wrong, regardless of who is saying it. I will admit to being wrong on the rare occasion that I am. But I will not allow myself to live a life of abuse. I won’t allow someone to define me, to disrespect me, to use me, to tell me what I think, to tell me where to go, or tell me what I am allowed to do. When someone behaves that way around me, I am very happy to show them the door. I know I deserve better.

I look for different things in people now, and I always pay attention to my intuition. It is an immense part of who I am. If someone or something seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If something feels innately wrong, re-evaluate it and follow your instincts. Intuition will never lie to you, but the heart will. If your relationship involves young children, get out NOW. You do not want your child/children to be affected by the abuse inflicted upon their mother in front of them. I know people that have stayed in these relationships because they believed that taking their children out of the home during the formative years was the worst possible thing they could do. It’s not. The worst thing you can do is stay and allow them to think that what they’re hearing, seeing, and living is normal. If you get out early enough, you will save yourself and your child/children a fortune in therapy bills.

Once upon a time, I was a moron. It won’t happen again, because I am firmly committed to not allowing it. No one defines me, except me.

*If you need help getting out of an abusive/unhealthy relationship or are living with domestic violence and don’t know where to turn please go to any of the following organizations for assistance: http://soarinri.org/  http://leavingabuse.com/, http://www.thehotline.org/, http://www.nrcdv.org/dvam/, http://www.teendvmonth.org/, etc.

Do not be afraid to search the Internet and Yellow Pages for additional resources available to you in your area/country. If your abuser uses the same computer, always be sure to delete your browsing history to protect yourself from additional harm, or go to the library if available and search for information there.*

“Once Upon A Time”, and all material herein, unless otherwise indicated and credited to its owner(s), is copyright © 2013 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Editor’s Note: This is about two relationships that I combined into one story. It’s about a 70/30 split between the two. I was engaged to both of them. I can say in clear truth that the second person was a far better person than the first, and he did not verbally or emotionally abuse me. He simply wasn’t the right person for me because we wanted different things. He thought I wanted a lifestyle, which was not the case. I do not believe in giving up love, respect, loyalty, and fidelity for “things”. He wanted the “little woman” at home raising the kids in the amazing house, and yes, he would have been a great provider and a good father, but he didn’t realize that meant he’d have to be loyal, committed, and most importantly, faithful. I won’t settle for a half-life, no one should.

Pain: Life-Altering

Pain: Life-Altering

I’ve mentioned it in passing, and some people have picked up on it and others have not. My primary focus with this blog is to promote my writing, on whatever subject I choose to tackle on any given day, and lockeandkeyenovels.wordpress.com is the blog to promote the books I am writing. So, you get both an author’s blog by being here, and a “You can follow this author now and be able to say you knew about her work first.” blog, possibly scoring some advance reader copies along the way. Again, this one is about my writing and, to some degree, me. It’s not about me in a selfish way, but definitely in a “Lets chat about this” fashion. If sharing my experiences can also help a person along the way, fabulous.

I was officially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2004. All the doctors that should have caught and diagnosed it did not. I remember asking my primary care physician about it a year or so before I was diagnosed, and not only did he know very little about it, but he was also convinced I had “something else”. If I had been of a lower intelligence level, I might have accepted that. I might have just continued taking medicine for pain 8 times a day, and the accompanying prescribed muscle relaxers for when I really needed them. An estimated 12 million people suffer from Fibromyalgia, and possibly another 10-12 million are being incorrectly diagnosed. The word itself carries the weight of the unknown, for doctors and patients alike.

My diagnosis took an exceptionally long time to come to fruition. It was traced back to years of pain, originally attributed to “strange growing pains”. I’d be complaining and crying about the pain that always felt like it was seeping out of my bones and spreading through my body, while still under the age of 10. No one took me seriously, but it was very hard for my mother not to notice. She had me tested for arthritis and a few other things that can pop up at a young age, and more than one doctor told her I was fine, that I’d “grow out of it”. How wrong they were.

I became a gymnast at approximately age 4 and as a result, I did end up with some residual injuries that effect me to this day. One injury in particular landed me in the hospital. I was mostly a bars, floor, and beam girl. I was addicted to the parallel bars and the uneven bars. To this day, I can still remember my routines and I often find my mind doing them in my sleep. That’s how much I loved it. I was lucky, I didn’t spend a lot of time falling onto the mats beneath me, but somehow, I still ended up with some bizarre injuries, this one being amongst the worst.

My right hip and leg had damn near popped out of the socket, of their own accord mind you, because the pain I experienced for several weeks became far too much for my body to tolerate. I could barely walk, and when I was finally brought to the E.R. by my parents (No, they were not negligent, but they believed I had a charley horse, that it wasn’t anything super serious.), I had to be carried. As a result, I ended up in traction for a week, while every single test imaginable was run on me. By this time, I was completely knocked out on codeine, pain free in the moment.

I didn’t have one doctor, I had a “team”, and let me tell you that my mother nearly threw the “leader of the team” out a very high hospital window when he informed her that HE was “in charge” and would be making “all of the decisions“. She, in her infinite wisdom, informed him that she was the parent and as such, SHE and my physicians, whom she knew, were the only ones “in charge” of anything, and that it might be best for all involved, but especially him, if he left the room and never came back. We never saw him again. I’m pretty sure he went back to England, Australia, or New Zealand after the charming encounter that clearly let him know that the only thing he’d be “in charge” of, was how quickly he could escape the room, and the hospital.

I was tested for Lyme Disease because I often spent part of my summer in Boston and at the time, Massachusetts was considered a “danger zone” where ticks were concerned. Even though I was, and remain, the furthest thing from “outdoorsy” and had only been to the beach in Maine & Cape Cod, and Walden Pond, they insisted on running a full battery of tests for Lyme. The doctors were baffled beyond words when test after test came back negative. Alas, they thought they were missing something, and continued to run tests multiple times a day, requiring more blood than a TV vampire. Every test told them absolutely nothing. In the end, right before I was released on crutches, which was how I would spend the next eight weeks, I was told that an ear infection I’d had many months prior had probably never really gone away and settled into my hip, thus causing “this incident”. Are you buying that? I sure as hell didn’t. I rolled my eyes, hopped off on my crutches, and that was seemingly the end of that extremely painful ordeal, though I did have to follow up with an orthopaedic specialist for several months after all that which wasn’t fun, because he was convinced he’d find some secret message lurking inside my bones. He never found a secret message. If he had, it would have been reduced cartilage in my knee!

The next injury occurred during my final year as a competing gymnast, and as Captain, this was serious. I was on the bars, practicing a routine, and heard an extremely creepy sound come from my neck. It’s a sound you never forget, because you know it is life changing, and the second I heard it, I was terrified. In that moment, I was paralyzed from the neck up. I have no idea how I managed not to fall. I held still for maybe 90 seconds or possibly as long as 3-4 minutes in an extremely awkward position with my arms firmly in place, holding all of my body weight. My arms and shoulders never faltered, and when the paralyzation cleared itself up moments later, I did what I normally did. I shook myself off, finished the routine, and the subject never came up until many years later when the damage to my cervical spine showed on an MRI and my neurologist couldn’t imagine how I had done such damage at such a young age. He told me I was lucky I had movement of my neck at all because the nerves going in and out of my spine from the top all the way down to about C6, were being pressed on and shifting, and that’s what was causing me all the pain I had been experiencing for months. It’s the kind of pain that makes me want to come out of my skin. It limits some of the movement in my neck in terms of turning my head, and it limits some minor movement in upper body, but most of the time, unless the pain is at an all time high, I forget it’s an issue. I often have to remind myself that it’s there if it hasn’t acted up in a week or a month, providing I’m ever that lucky. I’m rarely that lucky. On an almost daily basis, this pain surfaces in some way and causes me grief.

Anyone that suffers from any form of chronic pain knows that when we’re not in pain, lets say we’re having a good hour or a good day, it actually takes us a while to realize that we’re not suffering because our bodies have become tightly programmed to handle our pain. We’re tensed up, our muscles hurt, we’re bracing ourselves, so when we’re not hurting at all, it takes a while for the body to completely relax. The only time I have a good day, or a series of good days, is when I am on vacation. The second I get on a plane, I am able to leave a lot behind, but as soon as I know I have to go home, my body goes right back into pain mode and it can take me weeks to recover from being gone for 7-14 days. It’s not a pleasant cycle. One of my doctors suggested that my pain might just be situational, but I suffered quite a bit the last time I went away, spending an entire day of my trip in bed, not able to move a whole lot, so I really don’t buy that, though I do tend to over-do it physically when I’m on vacation. I push myself more to exercise, to eat well (being away makes me realize that I do make healthy choices and that I don’t eat anywhere near as much as I imagine I do.), to walk that extra mile, because at home, it’s extremely difficult at times just to get out of bed. I have more caring support when I’m away, and I think that has a lot to do with how I feel when I get out of dodge.

No one will ever be able to tell me for certain what truly triggered the Fibromyalgia. It could have been my concussion history, which rivals that of most NHL and NFL players. I got my first one at around age 3. I have fallen on ice and done some stupid things, but my concussions were never intentional, except for the moron that smashed me in the face at a parade with some kind of beam, leaving me with a concussion and a black eye. It could have been my gymnastics injuries. It could have been mental and/or emotional trauma. It could have been two separate car accidents where I was the passenger. The doctor that told me “Your body mass produces pain.” might be right. Or, as a few suggested, it could just be that I have a hereditary predisposition for it. Where did they get that idea? From the fact that more than one person in my family suffers from migraines, as I do, and that more than one person suffers from chronic back & neck pain, as well as the fact that arthritis is in my family history.

Every doctor has a different story, and yet, none of them are specializing solely in Fibromyalgia. Many do not believe it even exists, so you often run into doctors that treat you like you’re some kind of drug addict looking for a fix, as opposed to someone who is in so much pain, you’re truly there just to be HELPED. I’ve seen doctors turn from professional to asshole in less than a second, as soon as they hear the words “Chronic Pain” or “Fibromyalgia”.

Initially when my Fibromyalgia was officially diagnosed, I was referred to a pain clinic. I’ve heard both good and bad things about such places, but my experience with “pain management” and “pain clinics” has been anything, but positive. After going back & forth with a lot of negative things from such places, I finally called a place that came highly recommended, asked if they took my insurance, and they told me they could see me…IN THREE YEARS! I was very respectful, mildly inquiring as to why the waiting list was so long, and was given a 20 minute lecture on how burn victims suffer so much more than the rest of us seeking treatment, thus, they come first, so even if I made an appointment, it could get pushed back even further if additional burn victims come to them seeking help. I’ve suffered minor burns that hurt like hell (I’m a great cook, but occasionally my common sense when reaching into the oven is incredibly scary. I don’t even realize I’m doing it half the time, because I’m so incredibly distracted with preparing a nice meal and getting it plated and on the table.). I do not, nor would I ever, denounce a burn victim’s level of pain, but when a receptionist is basically telling me “Make an appointment, but we’ll do our best to fuck you out of it.”, I find that extremely off-putting. No one who suffers from chronic pain of any kind wants to be treated as if their pain is “not as bad as you’re making it sound”. Really? Try living with it for a week, you’d be on the floor crawling over what the rest of us suffer through every single day of our lives, with strength and dignity. Yes, this topic angers me beyond words.

The next few “pain clinics” aren’t actually about helping you manage anything. They do nothing, but perform epidurals all day long. I was beyond appalled. I called my doctor and he was mortified, immediately pulling these “clinics” out of his referral list. I told him I really didn’t feel I should have an epidural, unless I absolutely needed one, and he agreed with me, saying that if I needed one during childbirth up the road, it could fail on me BIG TIME if I’d already had too many, especially if they aren’t done correctly the first time. For me, all these pain clinics were the same. No, I don’t need you to teach me biofeedback, thanks. No, I don’t need you sticking a giant needle into my spine, possibly causing more pain and more damage. Certain types of needle based treatment involving the spine can trigger migraines for me, and I suffer enough, so I don’t go looking for new forms of torture. Interestingly enough, tattoo needles do not bother me in the least. I should be studied, I know.

Currently I am between doctors and treatment for the pain. My primary care doctor dropped me as a patient, he never even bothered to say “Hey, I haven’t seen you in a while. Could you come in so we can go over your treatment plan?” Nothing, no communication whatsoever. He canceled a prescription medication for my spine that I should not have been allowed to go off of cold-turkey, and then he had a receptionist call and dismiss me as a patient. Nice, right? Professional to the Nth degree. <rolls eyes> I’m not exactly weeping over this, the man is way too young to have such a gigantic stick up his ass, and my immediate reaction was not very receptive where he was concerned. I can be terribly judgmental where doctors are concerned, especially when they are unprofessional and rude. I will find another doctor, but right now, I’ve got bigger fish to fry, incredibly huge battles in front of me, and I’m delicately paddling my way through shit’s creek. It’s not pretty. I’m doing my best, but it’s sucking the life out of me. I’ve already had a pretty horrible 7 months of agony and struggle, and just found out the other day that apparently, that will continue. The status quo really lets you know where you stand sometimes.

I hope & pray that things will get better really soon (not just for myself, but for all of us who suffer), so I can go back to focusing on my health. No one that suffers from chronic pain of any kind needs huge setbacks that pull him or her away from what is truly important. You cannot win wars if your health is failing on you. You can’t fight the battles, slay the demons, and rise up out of the ashes if you can barely move.

As a warning to everything and everyone I’m about to face, please know that I am a ruthless bitch when I have to be. I’m not going down without an epic fight. I have had enough taken from me in this life, I’m not about to allow anything else to go, not when it’s within my control to do something about it.

As a side note: To the world’s largest shipping company, I am coming for you motherfuckers. Settle up and back down, or I will use every single connection I have to do what I must. That, my friends, is the power of a pissed off woman. You don’t fuck with my family. Some people really don’t get it, and they’re usually the ones that need an unlubricated size nine up their asses.