I'm going to be posting two posts today, but the other one will be kink-related, so be aware. Or beware. However you feel about that particular expression of sexuality.

I've been feeling… off… lately. I think since the Arthritis Introspective G8 Conference in Milwaukee two weeks-ish ago. Don't get me wrong, it was a great time and I made some fantastic business/advocacy connections, not to mention at least one solid friendship which I suspect will last a lifetime. I didn't learn much that was new to me, which surprised me, honestly. I didn't realize how much I already know about rheumatological diseases in general, and living with them in specific. I impressed myself, actually. lol. However, it was difficult in the sense that there were a lot of people there who do all this amazing volunteer/advocacy/professional work to support the arthritis community and raise awareness and change legislature to benefit the citizens of the arthritis community, and it left me feeling basically like a big, fat loser.

I already have a difficult time with the reality of having to leave my work at the Healing Journey, which  is my baby, having nurtured it from the ground up and having actively been a part of almost every step of its growth until a year and some change ago… whenever it was I stopped working. Two years? Yeah, I think so. Time flies, really, and I forget when I stopped doing this or that. They aren't exactly milestones that I wish to remember and celebrate. Although… maybe I ought to do just that? Maybe I should pinpoint the milestones of my disease(s) progression and find some way to look at them in an optimistic light, or at least not be totally broken over them. Have a tea party with friends for every "anniversary", or do something symbolic and meaningful to honor the tough decisions I've had to make in the past. I like that idea. I personally feel that symbols and representations are immensely powerful and can be crazy healing if used in earnestness. It goes along with my slow research and interest in paganism/nature-based "religion". I'll have to think on that and see what comes to mind.

Speaking of symbols and representations, did you notice that I got my nose pierced?! Oh, and my lobes got another hole in them as well. This ties into my "funk" in a sense, because one of my greatest gripes about my time as a super Christian is that I had to so severely curtail my personality and present an image that wasn't really me, and to me that hearkens right back to the extremely abusive and dysfunctional environments in which I was raised. I was actively told to keep the true nature of our home life a secret from the authority figures in my life, such as the school teacher at the small church school I attended from first to eighth grade. At home as well, I learned early to cultivate or feign an interest in whatever my step-dad was into, to avoid as much pain as possible and garner as much affection as he was willing to dole out. So that means that the Raiders became my football team, I loved video games and Final Fantasy VII, I watched WWF wrestling and had a favorite wrestler, though I deviated there by favoring Goldberg instead of Sting. It was a survival mechanism, in childhood as well as in adulthood. I needed an identity, acceptance, because I had so long stifled my own identity and could not accept myself. How could I? I'd been told in various ways, most non-verbal, that who I was naturally was unacceptable. Such is the nature of abuse, of the power and control wielded by the strong, abusive person or people. They efface the identity of the weaker, tell them who and what to be, becoming ever more powerful with each act of compliance. It's awful.

My teenage years, the high school years, were a reprieve. I dressed how I wanted, collected and hoarded the things I found interesting, listened to "my" music… but it left me isolated and ostracized, for the most part. I always had a few friends, but most people stayed away from me. Apparently they were afraid or intimidated because I seemed so self-confident and assured, but it was a complete facade. I did enjoy those years of relative freedom, though. It was during that time that I met my husband and we fell in love. He became the person who knew me the best; my true self. Every gory detail was open to his eyes and ears… eventually. And he accepted me. That laid the very first foundation for healing, though it was many years before any significant healing would take place.

Now, I'm recovering from my years in bible college and as a worker for my denomination in a small, backwoods area of Idaho that was more conservative than anything I'd ever seen before. I know that I was probably considered very liberal, though I was considered extremely conservative where I came from. It's funny how that superficial identity can shift from place to place, depending on the perceptions of those around you. But I'm still scared to fully express myself, because of social media and the circles I'm still friends with. I want to be "me", but I don't want to drive away or alienate my old friends whose views I understand but don't necessarily agree with. And more than anything I don't want to be evangelized. I'm not "lost". In fact, although I've felt so "blah" since the conference--something I later realized to be the product of travel exhaustion and PMS--I still feel the strength and confidence that I possess in myself keeping me afloat. I have times where I doubt myself, get down on myself, even hate myself still. It happens from time to time. But one of the things that I hated most while trying to be a Christian was having to give away my power and give the credit for my strength and my accomplishments to god. You know what I mean-- you are never actually the one who does anything, because it's god engineering the circumstances and giving you strength and telling you what to say, right? It reminds me of playing with dolls or figurines/action figures. I said what I was supposed to, but I was constantly bewildered by the fact that I was the one who worked hard and poured out my effort and strength, yet I was supposed to ignore my own willpower (because relying on your own willpower is a sin, I think) and demurely say "praise god!". It just didn't sit right with me. Again, probably because of the lifetime of abuse and domination where my power was taken away again and again and again, my accomplishments diminished and ignored.

I get that a lot of my beef with my denominations beliefs stem from my sensitivity to abusive tactics. Some might say that I'm overreacting and interpreting abuse and dysfunction where there is none, but I believe that, because of my sensitivity, I see what others may not be aware of. They may be fine with ignoring their part in things and giving all the credit to god, but I'm not. Human beings are remarkable, and capable of so much. I think that it does a disservice to humanity and our potential when our strength, our creativity, our amazing power to endure the unthinkable and come out the other side hopeful and gracious, all that is attributed to the subtle workings of a divine being who is way out of our league when it comes to that kind of stuff. What about the incredible contributions of atheists or other religions to humanity? I've been told that it's god working through them without their knowledge, but isn't that kind of invasive? If a deity is going to pop into my head and use me as a vehicle for his/her/their accomplishments, I'd kinda like to know about it. It feels like a conspiracy theory for Big Brother or something.

Anywayyyyy… moving on from that soapbox… you may have guessed this by now, but my piercings are symbolic for me of trying to be the best version of myself that I can be; my true, honest self. It's an "I've wanted this for a really long time, dammit, and I'm not going to let my fear of rejection or criticism stop me from expressing myself anymore!" statement. And you know what? I love my nose ring so much. I think it looks really attractive, and I like who I see in the mirror a little more now that I have it. I feel a little more badass, more ready to take on whatever comes to me, a little more bold and creative. I feel unstoppable, really. All that from a couple little circlets of metal. Go figure.

This feeling of uncertainty, of "blah-ness" that's been haunting me for the past five or so days has also led me to take a step back and evaluate my life. I don't want to waste away on the couch for the rest of my life, but I do recognize that I'm in a transitional phase right now. It won't always be like this, but right now I'm trying to find diagnoses and learn to manage what I already know about. It's a lot of work and time and energy, and I don't have much left over for anything else except maintaining my marriage and a few select friendships. In fact, I really need people to be proactive if they want to interact with me at this point. I'm exhausted all of the time, and I am sleeping a good deal of the 24-hour day. I spend a lot of time with my cats and snakes, too, when I'm awake. Mostly because I can do that while I'm doing other stuff, but mostly mostly because my cats follow me around and sleep next to me and take my spot if I get up for something.

I have a few bits of news that's developed recently, as well. Firstly, I was denied disability again. Everyone who knows me and has heard is more or less incensed, because they believe that I qualify without reservation, and moreover that it would be a huge benefit for me and my husband. I feel the same way. I'm really ticked off, because they claim that they carefully reviewed my records, yet the list of diseases I have is not only incomplete but one of them is totally wrong!! Nowhere in my medical records does it state that I have hyperthyroidism. I struggle with hypothyroidism, something that's given me much grief and physical suffering through the years. Uncontrolled, it is debilitating in its own right. Corey and I both agree that it's time to seek a lawyer's help. I also received a private message from an acquaintance who is a disability lawyer in a different state, and she said as much before I even discussed it with her in depth. I felt quite affirmed in kind of a silly way while Corey and I were discussing the disability ruling and our next move. I suggested that maybe I am just "being a pansy" and I'm not as sick as I think I am? Maybe I just need to suck it up and try harder? Corey looked me in the face and said, "No. You are not a wimp or a pansy. You are sick, and they're wrong." I know that if I were simply being lazy, he would call me out on it. He agrees and says that he'd tell me to go do something. lol. It was nice, though, knowing that my hubby not only agrees with me, but he understands the severity of my issues and believes that I am doing my absolute best to be "well" (or just "better") and productive. It warmed my heart.

In other news, I began physical therapy today! The great part is that she comes to my house once a week, so I don't have to arrange transportation for that as well. It's hard enough trying to find rides for all of my dr's appointments, much less the ones in other cities or states! Seriously. That is the biggest thorn in my side besides the Intractable Pain. (The pain which the good ol' disability folks didn't list among my diseases or take into consideration, apparently.) I have a chart of exercises to get through, and the repetitions are low for now. We are starting small and working up, not only because of my hypermobility, but also because of my extreme fatigue. At first, my goal is to do all of the exercises within two days. She showed me sitting variations for almost all of the 9 exercise moves, so that's a really good thing for me. Did you know that there's a sitting variation for crunches?! Yeah. I'm super freakin' thrilled, especially because I mentioned that doing sit-ups or crunches on the ground makes my hips pop during every rep and it's quite painful. I had to deal with that through years and years of high school P.E. classes, and I'd like to avoid it if at all possible… which it is!!! Joy to the world ^_^

That's about all for now. I feel that I've rambled quite enough for one night, and I still have that "other" post to do. I have a project that I'd like to get done this evening as well, so maybe I'll take a typing break and work on that for a bit. I plan to get on the internet more frequently in the near future. I have the desire, if not necessarily the drive for it. I was feeling guilty for a while, but then I just realized that this is the phase I'm in right now. I don't need the internet as a constant distraction from my raging pain, because it's being managed fairly well, and I have other things that take up the increasingly minimal hours that I'm awake. In all truthfulness, too, being online exhausts me. It's just tiring, and I'm already so tired that I don't feel like handling that extra tiredness as well. That's usually why I avoid it these days. But I'm starting to feel a hankering to participate again, to come out of my isolation a bit, and the internet is the way to do that. So I may be posting more often, lurking on Facebook a bit more, and hanging out on the kinky message boards I read more frequently. Just as I'm launching PT to strengthen my body, I think that I could use some social strengthening as well. I'll give it a go, anyway.

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