Awareness, Life

Never Stop Believing (Part I)

Woke up bent and broken
Just to find that fate has spoken
And I call out, I call out for change…
I’ll never stop believing in me.

The Calling, “Believing”

buddha

I feel like crying today. Actually, I did cry, just now. Grabbed some tissues, tucked them in the sleeves of my sweater, and slipped away from my desk to go to the restroom and let it out as quietly as I could. Even the tissues weren’t enough, and I leaned against the counter, dabbing my eyes with those rough paper towels that is not at all like the soft comfort that you need. Splashed some water on my face, took a deep breath, forced a smile. Then I walked slowly and calmly back to the office, drank some water, picked up the phone, and got back to work.

Still, the heaviness persists.

I’m not exactly sure where this overwhelming sadness is coming from today, as for the past two weeks, I’d felt happier, lighter, than I’d been in months, due, in part, to finally getting answers to questions that have long kept me stagnant, in a sudden surge of belief in myself, in my future. And yet, a part of me knows exactly where it’s coming from. One step forward, two steps back. Patience and time and adjustments as I get better.

I’m stalling.

I’m writing all of this, explaining what I’m feeling all because I’m hesitant to put into words, put out there, what feels so personal. I debated writing about my health because there are things that I choose to disclose on this blog and things that I decidedly do not. I can be an open book — if you ask, I’ll answer in all honesty because this is my life and who I am and I’m still growing and learning and processing. But there are some things that are completely off limits when it comes to this platform.

I decided that a long, long time ago, and I’ve stuck with it, my own code of blogging, if you will. The things that affect me, personally, are fair game. I’ll talk about my flaws, my weaknesses, my mistakes; I’ll talk about my fears, my insecurities, and feeling lost because, for me, that’s how I overcome, become, and get found again.

I wasn’t so sure about this because it’s been such a long road. But it’s still my road, and as a huge advocate of awareness, maybe it will help others who were or are travelling in tangent, because it is such a common issue,though maybe not so much understood.

I’m doing it again. Stalling. But I want to fully explain and tell this story because it’s been a part of this journey as well.

Looking back, there’s a reason why my emotions hit such highs and lows, why an unsettling feeling always lay there beneath the surface, why I’ve acted out as I have. Blunt words would spill from my lips, frustration would grow into an emotional outburst of anger and tears, and I would become so ashamed of my actions and how I was treating others, knowing this wasn’t me, knowing I wouldn’t naturally be acting this way, that I would retreat and withdraw and be afraid to face anyone.

My mom would wonder what was going on, wonder what would cause such outbursts, such tears, and I would shake my head as my shoulders shook with sobs and say “I don’t know.” I didn’t know where it was coming from. And so I looked for every reason behind it. Life circumstances? Could be. Job search frustrations? Of course. Wanting everything so much, pushing myself so hard? That could do it.

But still, we knew that there was something more. I began asking questions, trying to find answers everywhere I could think of. Then, during the summer, when I started feeling physically ill, we realized that there might be something more going on than an emotional unsettling.

I began to experience dizzy spells and minor abdominal pain. I saw the doctor, who said it was just a mild virus and that it had to run its course. When I went back to them a month later for similar symptoms, I asked them to run a hormone check due to sudden hot flashes and what I began to recognize were mood swings. The tests came back negative. Another virus, they had said, though they sent me for an ultra-sound to rule out causes for the pain.

Changes occuring, opportunities arising as summer began to turn to fall. I was now freelancing part-time and being paid for it, I was involved in volunteering again, I was going back to work in a new full-time job at my old place of employment, and I was reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. I was happy. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I was moving forward, towards something, for something good. I felt like my old self — that good person full of hope and light and life.

When I went back, again, to the doctor with complaints of familiar symptoms, however, they asked me about the changes in my life, nodding at the anxiety disorder that’s listed in my file, like a label that I can’t shake. Could be stress, leading to some anxiety, they said. I know anxiety, I told my mom in frustration. And though I began to believe what they were telling me, began to believe these symptoms were all psychosomatic, that it was all in my mind, that I should just ignore it, something inside (and my mom’s refusal to accept that answer) persisted that it was something more. More pain, more tests, and back to the doctors. Though they sounded sympathetic, they referred me to a GI specialist, not sure what more they could do for me and the symptoms that kept growing worse. Stubbornly, I ignored their referral and made an appointment with my gynocologist instead.

For all of the doctors that I have silently cursed, for all of the doctors who have lacked patience and understanding, for all of the doctors throughout the years I’ve seen having had similar persistent symptoms, who shrug their shoulders and write me off with a prescription, there are those who are compassionate, who are patient, who take the time to listen and evaluate and understand what you are saying. I finally found one of those doctors, who didn’t say I was “too young,” who didn’t look at my chart and read my history to understand what was happening now.

She looked at me, and within ten minutes of explaining to her the unbearable fatigue I’ve felt for years, the persistent pain, the weight gain, the constant-mood swings, the irregularities, she said to my mom and I, “something is going on; I can just hear what you’re saying and look at you and tell there’s something up. We’re going to find out what it is.”

I looked at my mom, looked at my new doctor, and started to cry. Only, this time, there was a different emotion behind those tears. This time, there was a smile; this time, there was relief.

And while tears are being shed today, I know the reason behind it, know that maybe it’s not my fault, know that maybe that’s just the process of healing, getting better — maybe that’s always a sign of healing and getting better, no matter what journey we’re on.

Coming Soon: Part Two

Awareness

Taking A Stand: We Are Their Voice

shelterdogs by charlotte reeves

Having grown up with three dogs, it seems only natural that animal rights would develop into a passion. However, when I started volunteering at the local humane league three years ago, it was with a purpose that was much more personal. A part of me was trying to heal from the loss of two of my beloved dogs within the same year, knowing too well that the loss of the third dog — the dog that had really been mine growing up — was inevitable.

I never wrote about the loss of Sampson because, quite frankly, even thinking about it now still brings me close to tears. If you’ve ever loved and lost a dog, you know what is in my heart – gratitude at having loved an animal so dearly and a bit of lingering grief at having lost them too soon. If I had my way, dogs would live forever – fifteen years is over in the blink of an eye, but still, I know, the love that they create in your life is without measure, without an end.

I got lucky.

I was with all of my dogs when they passed away, and, frankly, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I took their losses harder than that of either of my grandparents, and it took me a long, long time to reconcile the anger and the guilt I felt for that. But I will forever feel blessed for having been with them, loving them, until those last moments that are forever ingrained in my memory.

But still, it’s not enough.

I have a deep respect for so many other causes and contribute as much as I can when I can, cheering on friends who fight to end poverty and hunger in third world-countries, helping to bring books to inspire and educate villages, fundraising to support research to find a cure for diseases that have just as much of a personal impact.

But this is the cause that fuels me, the one I’ve been trying to dedicate myself to for the past few months and even years, since the day I first walked through the door of the local humane league.

It was my way to give back and be around the animals I love so dearly while easing the pain of those losses I had recently faced. But what I received was worth much more than I could ever give. I found Riley, who has been my greatest joy and helped relieve the grief of Sam’s passing. While my other dogs were family dogs, Riley became my child, my little boy, my sole responsibility. Chewed sneakers, missing socks, and emergency trips to the vet and I’ve still never been more grateful for the day that voice inside of me whispered that this dog had found a home with me. Or, more accurately, that I had found a home with him.

Love a dog and you’ll experience love in one of the purest forms. Which is why when I hear about cruelty to animals in any form, it’s more than just a passing phase of sympathy and anger — it’s a call to action, a chance to make a change. Inhumane treatment of any living creature is inexcusable, but cruelty to the innocent goes far beyond that.

We’ve become a society where we look the other way, where we turn the channel and then plead ignorance, where we lament after the fact, where sympathy and compassion follow the crime rather than working to prevent it.

But compassion doesn’t have a time frame. Action happens now.

Thousands of animals are brought into the shelters as strays or given up because a family won’t or can’t provide for them. Hundreds more never know what it’s like to have a family, as a cramped, wire cage is all they have ever known. There are people who work tirelessly to make sure these dogs are saved from a lifetime of abandonment, of loneliness, of mistreatment, who make it their goal to provide not only a shelter, but a home, not only basic care, but love.

A Voice for the Voiceless

I don’t do this often, but today I’m asking for your help. Hundreds of shelters across the United States are in dire need of help to care for the very animals they are trying to save. Operating such a facility and caring for the animals takes a tremendous amount of financial resources in order to provide them with the proper shelter, food, comfort, and veterinary care.

Beginning today, a widget is placed on both twenty(or)something and Typescript that welcomes donations to the ASPCA. If you’re unable to provide a monetary donation, there are other ways to help:

Your local SPCA or humane league always welcomes volunteers to help with fundraising, legislation, community development and awareness, and direct animal care. Gifts-in-kind — anything from food to treats to toys to blankets, sheets, and old towels — can provide the animals with a little piece of comfort as they wait for their forever family.

Everything you do makes a difference in the world. Anything you can do can make a difference for these animals. Please help me spread the word as we find a forever home for our forever friends.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Pedigree, ASPCA, or HSUS. “We Are Their Voice” is a TM of the ASPCA.

Awareness

Where The Red Fern Grows

A couple of weeks ago, a kennel owner in my state shot and killed 80 dogs because, according to a local news article, he didn’t want to surrender his animals to a rescue shelter. This prompted their community to organize a candlelight vigil where, according to the same article, people gathered and brought biscuits in memory of the slain dogs.

I hadn’t heard about this until this past Sunday where there was a front page article in the paper entitled “Too many tears for animals, not enough for kids?” Apparently, many were outraged that this vigil took place, arguing that people are wrongly caring more for animals than for children and that rarely do you see this kind of community support when similar horrors happen to human beings.

I stared at this article for a good five minutes after reading it, incredulous that people could have this kind of reaction. Really? Is this really what we’re fighting about now? In a world where there is war and rising poverty and neglect and crime, are we really going to take sides about which group of suffering we care about more? Does this even make sense anymore?

I’m an animal lover — I get all fuzzy inside whenever my mom sends me a cute video, I root for the animals in movies à la Daylight and Twister, and I cry at the Pedigree dog commercials. While I sympathize with and care for people, I empathize more with animals because that’s what moves me. So what.

I don’t think we ever know why things affect us like they do, or why we react and relate so strongly to something over another. But it doesn’t have to be this great divide — it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Parents don’t favor one kid over another, they love each one differently, independently. So why can’t we apply the same practice when it comes to compassion? Why do people insist that we care more for one than the other? Empathy has many forms, and if something, anything, moves you as a cause, then that should be applauded, not reprimanded.

Personally, my love for animals is a huge part of who I am. But general compassion is also a large part of me, and I will never for one second ignore one form of suffering for the other; I will stand up for what I believe in, but I will never choose a side or insist that one group deserves more than another. To say that having compassion for one cancels out compassion for another is mind-numbing and completely eliminates the purpose.

And I think that’s what angers me the most — the fact that people believe that we should care about one more than the other, that we need to take sides, that there even needs to be this divide. That’s not what compassion is supposed to be about. We should be better than that.