candle lighter two plus one

{Disclaimer: Sometimes, I can’t publish except through Live Writer which always messes with the fonts, placement, etc. I do apologize as this changes the look, feel, and readability of the post.}

candle lighter two plus one

imageHard to believe that this is already the fourth time that I’ve turned my attention to the candle lighter award. Each time, the person highlighted had her own unique role within the chronic illness and health activist community; the candles lit burned brightly for different reasons and in different ways. Sunshine and Chaos’ Sunday Quotes (among her other postings) is always something to look forward to – each week quotes around an (inspiring) theme provides a candle to light and follow. A Picnic with Ants sheds light on Meniere’s disease and her day to day dealings with its spins, sounds (or lack thereof), all the while remaining true to her calling as an artist. Her companion blog, Creative to Heal, highlights her unique and special kind of artistic endeavor. Her candle reveals how creativity can merge with chronic illness to present a picture of healing. She was a finalist in the WEGO health activist blog awards. Miss Chronically Creative, (whose blog is, not surprisingly called Chronically Creative )through her soul-searing and soul-searching journey, recorded in her blog along with her special talents as an artist as a card maker (among other things) and manicurist extraordinaire, shares with her readers with her own hope and courage. She lights embellished candles that shine brightly.

I give you this brief review to highlight how even though each candle lighter has something unique to offer to the chronically ill and health activist community, their blogs and goals are intertwined. The telling of tales about of their particular illness, offering up some of the artistic talent and humo(u)r that shapes their worlds and colo(u)rs their blogs. And most importantly, all lighting candles to show the way through the shadows of chronic illness and chronic pain. They prove that the world doesn’t have to be a dark place without hope and sunshine; their unique candles offer us light to find our way home.

It is this intertwining, the concept of shared goals and melded spirits that I want to highlight in this, the 4th candle lighter award. Judy of Creativity to the Max, and Laurie of Hibernationnow became friends through the magic of the cyberverse. Their connection is both playful (follow the comments and threads about blob fish for example) and inspirational. Both deal with issues of chronic health; their activism recently hono(u)red by nominations for WEGO health activism awards.

Of Laurie (Hibernationnow), her nomination for Health Activism Hero read “Quite simply….she is my hero. She has a writing style that touches my heart. She is honest and real.” I’m sure that Laurie is a hero to many who value her writing skills, her descriptions, her imagery. How chronic illness is only the backdrop against which she writes.

Judy received two nominations: one for Health Activist Hero: “The name of the blog is Creativity to the Max, in honor of Max, the most magnificent dog. Judy shares her incredible creativity; her positive attitude about her own chronic illnesses; the art therapy she uses in a broad range of workshops; her wonderful sense of humor, her caring, compassion, understanding, and sheer whimsy. I have learned about everything from blob fish to how write a haiku to how to journal to deal with chronic pain. Creativity to the Max is worthy of a WEGO award, and Judy and Max make a very special and wonderful team.” The other, for Hilarious Health Activist stated “Judith (Judy) – Is an incredible woman! She brightens my day every time I read one of her post. She can talk about a serious subject, but still have a humorous twist on it. Some of her posts are just fun. She encourages creative expression! Her co-writer on her blog, Max, her overly creative dog! She brings a humorous touch to having fibromyalgia, heart troubles… Her Haiku’s are legendary. She is a therapist herself, and is always there to help someone in need. I’m so happy, I found her!”

Ringing endorsements of the impact and inspiration Laurie and Judy have on the health blogging community. They complement each other in how chronic health issues become intertwined in stories about life from an honest, respectful, and sometimes very funny perspective – Judy the artist with words and images; aspects of her incredible self-discovery art therapy projects she shares with the cyberverse through her blog. Laurie evokes images with words that weave tapestries; tales of love, of life, of hope. Fiction mixed with reality; real life countered with flights of fancy. Laurie is very active in several of web/blog based writing experiences/experiments such as mellow yellow monday, carry on tuesday, haiku heights and plinky prompts. And, as Judy’s nominee suggests, Judy and Max can turn out fantastic haikus based on the challenge word of the day/week.

Their comments intertwine telling stories on their own; about dealing with chronic illnesses; limitations and wide horizons; light against the shadows. Therefore, I nominate them together for the candle lighter award.

Kate Kresse, of Believe Anyway, originated the Candle Lighter Award to: . . . “light a candle in the darkness that envelopes us all at times. I want to lighten loads and light the way. I gravitate towards positive people and positive blogs. I want to start a blog award that reflects my love for the positive in the blogosphere.”

Kate asks little of the winner – I link back to her comments when my candle light award blog has been posted. If you choose, you can pass the award along to anyone you feel deserves it. You can award it as many times as you like, all that Kate asks is that you link your post back to her site if you give out the award. Simple, really; an award that doesn’t expect anything of the recipient!

imageJudy and Laurie also share a unique bond with their furry companions. While Laurie’s Callie may not compose Maxikus (Max haikus), she is the inspiration for much of Laurie’s writing and a constant and unconditional loving companion. As Laurie writes in her blog post: A Love Letter to my Dog: “I wanted to save you, to save myself. . . . You were never a dog that needed to be walked continuously you preferred to be at home, safe in our tiny house that was always filled with warmth and lots of love. . . .I love you, Callie. You are so important to our family; you always have been.”

imageJudy is Max’s human; he plays an active role in Judy’s blog through his poetry, commentary, and response to comments. Judy says of Max: dedicated to the most creative soul I know.” Max replies: “WOWf to MY world! I am proud to be the #1 healer of life altering conditions and that’s why I have this blog. My Human would be a sick puppy if it weren’t for me. I walk her, lower her blood pressure, give her lots of rewards when she does what I want her to do and make her laugh a lot. . . . Lickingly yours, LLLLLLLLLLL Max”

Each blogger has a cadre of followers/admirers often overlapping. For instance, Mo will leave a funny and/or thoughtful comment on Creativity to the Max or Hibernationnow blogs; her comments ensure smiles and encouragement. Her presence on both blogs is a welcome and welcoming experience. Her own blog, Mo is blogging . . . I think is funny, thoughtful, insightful, and informative.

I want to add the candle lighter award another category (if the rules so allow): the candle lighter comment award. Recognition of the important role comments are in keeping blogs and bloggers inspirational and a shining light against the shadows. It is that depth of emotion; the evocative feeling; the support and encouragement; the level of understanding that raise comments to a higher level. My first comment candle lighter award goes to Tammy, who despite her own chronic illnesses that literally takes her breath away from the pain and can shrink her world down to her bedroom. Yet, all the while, she is raising an incredibly beautiful and special teenage daughter, is an understanding and loving mother to an older son and his family including some incredible kiddlewinks, and now being a part-time caregiver to an older family member.

Tammy adds comments of insight, encouragement, honesty; she is a pain warrior and an incredibly strong woman who shares her emotions and experiences on her blog and through her comments on blogs such as Hibernationnow. She is active on facebook; providing uplifting quotes and images; and sharing snippets of her life, joining threads of conversation. She deserves recognition for how her comments on blogs and her actions on facebook are so inspiring and inspirational. Her blog posts are written from the heart with searing and painful honesty. Her poetry expresses her emotions and provides an outlet for her pain. Using powerful words and images, her last few blogs reflect just how much she is going. Even then, she tries to respond to comments left on her blog, and follow other blogs as well.

This 4th candle lighter award really is going to three people – interconnected through the cyberverse in ways impossible due to geography and mobility in the real world. All three light candles that create concentric circles of light; push back the shadows; and suggest promise of better days to come.



The Seven Deadly Sins (ca. 1620) - Envy
Image via Wikipedia

People tend to pick watchwords/words-to-go-by, a word or two to describe the coming year in December/January. I decided on honesty; to be honest to/about myself; and to be honest to/with other people (within reason, of course, sometimes true honesty will get you in trouble, alienate folks, and weaken friendships). And, I will warn you this is a bamble; I’m not sure my self-editor can make this less long and laborious to read.

For example, I have decided to choose my family without regard to marriage and bloodlines. Of my many in-laws, there are 2.5 I will continue to have some sort of relationship with. (.5 is because this individual has lost most of my respect, but circumstances are such that I need to continue to be civil, even if that’s not being completely honest). I’m keeping one cousin and one cousin-law; the rest of the blood-line relatives can go. Of course, I want and would love to keep my cyberverse family, if they’ll have me. I now can honestly say I have a family in a way that was impossible before.

I am honestly honoured by the blog rewards I have received such as the recent the candle lighter award, or the versatile blogger award. But, in my effort to be honest to myself and to others, I need to talk about what happened to me today. I never expected to be nominated for a WEGO blogger award: in 2011, my blog, like my life was in meltdown – virtual manic episodes of blogging to go with the real manic episodes – and health issues weren’t always the focus. As I traveled the cyberverse, I was happier to see how just many of the bloggers I follow were receiving at least one, if not multiple nominations. I was so glad that someone had written their nomination the way the nomination committee wanted them, and they were put on the list of winners. Today, I went to the nomination site, to check and see if all the names I hoped to see where there – and they were. Congratulations to all and I was glad that each blogger’s blog was going to get the respect, traffic, and honours deserved for humor, for information, for inspiration, for honesty, for advocating for others. You are all truly winners!

I know I’ve written about the evil gene that runs in my father’s family; how the gene breeds contempt and smugness, lying, cheating, and stealing. I don’t think I’ve written that in the helix of that DNA is pettiness, envy, and jealously. Today, perhaps feeling vulnerable after my first session with a psychiatrist, I let the gene whisper envy; became the lonely little girl who wasn’t asked to play jump rope and was always picked last for a team; remembered the envy towards those who were always included; who always were part of the game. Once you let part of the evil gene’s helix wrap itself around your thinking, it’s much easier for the darker demons to whisper “Remember, you’ve never been good enough at anything.” Don’t worry; I’ve gotten over the envy and am back to the original emotions of joy, happiness and satisfaction that such special people received the honours they deserved. It always takes a little longer to get over the “never quite good enough” part.

I’ve been reading blogs I wrote earlier this month, blogs about possibilities, taos of crossroads, of new directions, new paths. Yet, as much as I said I would, wearing the proper footgear, with a map and a language guide, take the well-light path; my new journey; my new direction; my new purpose, I’m still sitting on the rock at the crossroads; legs drawn up to my chest; arms holding my legs and myself together. I can see all the paths spread out: the brambly ones where I try to lose old demons and lonely little girl; the sun-dappled one, a bit overgrown, but with the potential for fairy lights. The well-worn, brightly lit path that curves gently and with promise towards a meadow full of wildflowers. Then there’s the dark path, with dead trees and overhanging branches, pools of deep dark water, with only tiny bits of light from a full moon to show the way. There’s another path now too, one that is only a blurry, vague trail, the stumbles over tree roots, the hills to climb shrouded in fog and cold mist; a path with many off-shots and possible dead ends. This path has no easy way back, no map, no trail of breadcrumbs to follow, no landforms to recognize and mark progress by.

You see I realized on Friday (reconfirmed today) that honestly I have only 2 choices right now (no matter how my battle with bipolar 2 goes). I either learn to accept that I’ll never be quite good enough “it” — for the job, the scholarship, the promotion, the team, whatever “it” is. Learn to accept this as part of who I am. Not to embrace it; but to face the fact without the usual crumbling into tears and recriminations. That these feelings of regret, guilt, and failure have always been and will continue to mark my life; are big part of who I am. Accept it this in the same way I accept I will always have chronic pain; I will always have chronic illness. To learn to live with never being quite good enough like I have with my physical (and I hope same day my mental) health issues.

My other option – fight it; to somehow let go what has been my life for 54 years. How do you let go of 54 years of not being quite good enough? How do you become good enough? What do I lack that others, the ones chosen for the team, the ones who get the promotions, who win the scholarships have? How do it get it? I’ve asked folks what it is, what I lack, but the answers vary and I become confused; but often the answer is if you’d been good enough “it” would have happened the way I wanted.

I send pixie dust to folks who I think need some magic and whimsy in their lives. Perhaps I’m hoping that will put some in mine. The trouble is, to fight 54 years of feeling you’re not good enough, you need to be strong; to be stable; to be willing to learn a whole new way of thinking, of being honest with yourself. You have to send a lot of pixie dust (sorry to the folks I owe a package of magic and whimsy; I will get my interest in doing things back.)

Folks with bipolar 2 are chronically depressed, and their manic episodes are often mixed meaning that they are depressed, irritable, and mad at the same time, but there is never the high of bipolar 1; never the feeling of power, of happiness, or control. The depression gets worse (ironically, antidepressants often don’t work for bipolar 2 folks). There are some shopping hazards (luckily mine is mostly limited to going slightly over budget with craft supplies and jewelry from dollar and discount stores being the worst culprits (4 boxes craft supplies I am donating to an art therapy program at a local woman’s shelter), but not to the level that bipolar 1 can reach. There are mental health issues on both sides of my family; uncles in my Dad’s family who were considered “off” before diagnosis like bipolar were made; my mother’s chronic depression (never acknowledged) made worse by the aftermath of the stroke and her deepening dementia.

I don’t know yet how much of my chronic depression is tied to being bipolar 2 (official mental health professional diagnosis yesterday, in case you’ve been following my trying to navigate the mental health care system). We (the doctor and I) are going to try the medication route for a month and see how I feel – will I feel less depressed (I’m pretty much rock bottom now, but antidepressants don’t work well with bipolar 2 folks). Will I feel stable; stronger; less vulnerable and always on the verge of breaking into tears? Will finally being treated for the bipolar 2 “disease” (not just the chronic depression) that has haunted my life give me the strength to do battle with the “not quite good enough?”

Trouble is, my next appointment is in a month – to see how the meds are doing, although I can call her office and leave a message, or call her cell if the meds are troublesome. We’re increasing my day meds (which might help with the depression) and changing up my night meds (so sleeping and tiredness will probably become an issue again. The stuff I was on would knock me out for 5 hours at a time, though my body slowly adjusted to it, and I did walk up during the night. I tended to have a 2 hour+ nap between hubby leaving between 7:30 and 8:00 and at least 10 o’clock (or later).

I had written that I would no longer go down that dark path; that I would leave the evil genes and evil spirits behind. That the dark side was something folks didn’t want to hear about. Not that I believe blogs always have to be upbeat, inspirational, creative, informative or funny – they can be true to the situation, especially when you are dealing with chronic illness(es) and chronic pain – the good, the bad, and the ugly. But even in the sometimes bitter, sometimes hard truth about fibromyalgia, ME, chronic pain, and other chronic illnesses, there is information, inspiration, laughter and gentle hugs.

But, if I’m going to be honest, blogging about my struggles with bipolar 2, how it explains the past and the present, means I will have to journey down that dark road at times. In addition, there is the foggy one; the one I think that will help me chose resistance or acceptance – I know something awaits me, though I can’t be sure of what.

I don’t know if or when I’ll have another manic episode. If it will be a mini-meltdown that a few tears and a determined trip to the trendy town I do my grocery shopping in will resolve, or if it will be a major one, landing me in a facility with a psychiatric ER and intake ward. Maybe the meds will do it? So, what direction do I take? Acceptance or resistance? Am I strong enough and stable enough to resist? Will I ever be? Is acceptance the easy way that will help me deal with the stresses of my mental illness, of finding a purpose, of moving on? I have no answers for these questions.

I will continue to give out the candle lighter awards; I still have several people in mind; it makes me feel good to pass it along; I hope it makes the people who receives it feel good too. These are inspiring bloggers; bloggers who, despite whatever chronic illness/chronic pain is part of their lives, still put humour, sense of possibility and perseverance; of creativity and passion into their blogs. They have lit many candles that have shone on the path, like fairy lights, others with these diseases travel.

There was a project I wanted to start: to show case the writing, the creativity, the artistic talent, the inspiration of folks with chronic illnesses/chronic pain display in their blogs. I didn’t know if it would be a website; a multi-author blog with photographs and videos. I thought it would be great if the artists illustrated the writers, and the writers added to the artistic side of things. Prose, poetry, drawings, paintings, masks, collages. Photographs, audio and video, songs, stories, and inspiration sayings. Maybe it would become an e-book, a published book, a DVD, a site that drew together the various folks who blog in the area of chronic illness(es) and chronic pain. So that with one click, you could see the art work of someone like Wendy and Judy; the realistic approach to their illnesses like Mo or sunshine and chaos, the incredible writing of Laurie; the heart-felt poems and blog entries of Tammy. (Not to leave anyone out – just using first samples that come to mind.) That’s just it: the project would make a place where creativity and inspiration overlap in so many different ways and forms. Now I know that it’s not a new idea, it’s been and being done well by sites like Chronic Babe, or the PFAM carnivals. I just thought that there are so many health-based bloggers who have so much to contribute on their own, and in conjunction, partnership, collaboration with other folks facing similar or different challenges. I seems to be the possibilities of collaboration are so many and so powerful.

I would still love to see such a project evolve. But, right now I don’t have the stability or strength to journey down that path, although I can see if faily clearly from my rock. I can’t ask anyone to follow me if I don’t have a map, let alone a plan. I hope perhaps by mentioning what my project idea was (not well described, but I wanted to get it out) that someone else will see it (or some version) as a worthwhile way to further unite the chronic illness(es)/chronic pain communities. I hope that this community will include those with mental health issues, too.

As to my path; I truly don’t know. And that is my honest (to myself and to others) answer. This crossroad is about more that finding a purpose, a path for blogging. It’s about finding a purpose and a path for my life.