This is going to be a short post. I just got back from a few days camping with wonderful friends on the shore of Lake Michigan. This has been planned for a year. Our group, we fondly call the Wander Woman, started the hiking/camping trips July 2018 when we did a week-long trip to South and North Manitou Islands in Lake Michigan. My friend, Lisa, reminded me that she noticed my constant massaging during that trip. It wouldn’t be until November of that year that I fully understood that there was something very wrong with me.
I’ve been planning and working towards my goal of spending the week with them. We were to camp in Canada at Lake Superior Provincial Park. However, the border between Canada and the United States is still closed due to COVID-19. So, instead, we chose a closer state park in that we could drive to. Not everyone who had originally planned to join us could come: some due to family commitments, one due to the death of her mom (non-virus related), some due to not feeling comfortable in doing so.
We agreed to be logically safe and trusted that our Wander Woman cohort had been safe prior to camping. The park was not crowded at all and so we had no issues out on the trails, at the camp, using the restrooms, or on the beach. We chose to wear masks only inside public places (the restrooms).
I am so energized after these past few days. Wonderful conversation with my friends that ignited my imagination and funny bone, as well as a few shared tears, met with empathy and love. The photos will be the rest of my description of the joy that is currently bursting in my heart.
I can’t thank my friends enough for helping me get back my courage to stay in a tent after a day of hiking and swimming. I have gotten my courage back to do this more often with my husband. I even talked my daughter into doing a short trip with me soon. My soul is nourished and my passion blazing again.
My blog is ONE-year old now. I have learned a lot from doing it. I’ve made friends from across the country and the world. I’ve learned from other bloggers how to live well with a chronic condition as well as how to blog better. It, too, ignites my imagination and gives me a purpose that makes me happy.
So, when I found out that I was nominated for two WEGO HEALTH Awards, I felt that this passion was also recognized by those who have watched my blog grow and those who I have hopefully helped in some way. It’s such a wonderful, supportive group that I have found through blogging.
If you are interested in endorsing me via the link below (just being nominated is really amazing), I humbly thank you. In my post for the end of this next week, I will be sharing out those who have most impacted my wellness journey, so that you, too, can learn from them (and endorse their nominations for WEGO AWARDS) if you should feel led.
I appreciate this time in my life that I am able to live my life fully (filling it with purpose and passion) alongside good friends and my family despite living with Fibromyalgia. I hope that I can help you find that for yourself as well as you journey through this life.
Thank you for visiting my blog today. I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays. However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through as planned. Thank you for your understanding.
Fibromyalgia has given me a gift. It has pushed me to reflect, evolve, and break up a solid foundation of untruths I’ve lived by. Trauma happens to all of us, at least that is what I’m finding as I share my story. We all have things we need to work through. Some do it sooner than others.
Childhood Trauma is being found to be linked to the development of Fibromyalgia. “’I think what we’re starting to appreciate is that when you have traumatic experiences as a young person, it rewires you. And the way in which you interpret physical symptoms is changed forever,’ said Steve Passik, PhD, a psychologist and Vice President of Research and Advocacy for MillenniumHealth.”
One way I have always gone through life is by playing the “mother figure”. From a very young age, I remember peers and elders saying things like “Katie is the mom of this group” and “you’re an old soul”. I remember being 10 years old, my mom cemented to the couch again. I didn’t know why. Six years later, she would be committed to Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital (and spend the rest of her life in the State’s care) for Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder.
Cultivating a Caretaker Persona
When she was on the couch for days on end, I would “cook” meals, do the dishes, rub her feet and scratch her back. My younger sister and I would stay out of her sight as much as possible. When she was manic, it was a crapshoot. She could be a lot of fun, bringing us to get ice cream or buying us things we liked. However, she could also be violent. Not so much physically to us, although there was some of that, what she’d do a lot screaming and breaking of things. It was scary. As an elementary student, I’d befriend those I saw as outsiders. I’d see it my role to help them. In 5th grade, one of my friends was Joey. He had six or so siblings. He’d come to school dirty and wearing raggedy clothes and shoes with holes. I made sure to protect him at recess (bullies saw his petite frame as easy pickings) and brought from home anything I thought he could use. My home life was not much above his financially, but my mom did obtain decent clothes (generally garage sales and donations) for my sister and me, so I felt I could help him, too. This mother-figure that made sure to take care of those around me continued into college, my marriage and family, and into my profession as a teacher (both to my students and colleagues). I’ve begun to realize that this role has served me. Yes, I did it to help others, but I also received what I wanted. Maybe it was a distraction from dealing with my own wounds, helping someone with theirs. Maybe it was to get the love and appreciation from the one I helped. Maybe it was to get the praises of those around me. Maybe it was to be needed. Probably, it was all of these. Still, it led to me ignoring my own needs- physically and emotionally. I would regularly get through a day of teaching, realizing that I had not had anything to eat or drink all day.
Learning I’d Been Living a Lie
This realization comes through writing. Often my hand flows without me knowing what’s going to come out. It’s as if an invisible spirit has taken my fingers over and I sit and watch as the words fly out. Often what I write is very close to the first draft’s version. When I read it, I come to understand a new insight about myself. There was little to no forethought about what gushed out. Many times I cry as I read it to myself-the knowing becomes so raw.
Below is a poem that brought me an understanding of one of the falsehoods I had lived by.
Sitting by the Fire on a Starry Night
By Katie Clark
I am looking for the light. What sparks? What ignites? Too long have I hidden in the dark; fanning your fire. I too need to burn; burn bright and strong. I too need to know that who I am counts. That just me, not what I’ve done for you, Actually has meaning and worth.
It’s not your fault. I wanted with all my heart to give you my-
But now, I will sit here, staring up at the stars calling out from the blackness. Striking my flint against the steel of my thigh.
My sparks fly out onto the carefully cultivated tinder.
The sparks glimmer and glow orange, going out before I can give it breath.
I strike again, showers of promise shine down on the awaiting fodder. I don’t hesitate. I blow gently, timidly at first, hoping that my fire will burn strong and vibrant.
You come and sit next to me, reminding me of all the oxygen I gave to you to hold. You pass it back to me. I blow with a giddiness that encircles those embers and brings it to flame.
“I will get you sticks,” you say. I’ve only brought logs, and they’re not ready to ignite.
Your offering brings my fire alight and bright. “Now,” you nudge, “add your first log. I think it’s strong enough.”
It Was Complicated
The relationship I had with my mom was complicated at best. I was so angry, disgusted, and ashamed with her nearly all my life. Yet, I respected her, loved her deeply, and thought she was amazing. After her suicide in May 1991 when I was 27 years old, 5 months after my son was born, I went through many stages of emotion: anger, judgment, love, inconsolable grief, forgiveness, and shame. This poem poured out of me after listening to a speaker talk of forgiveness.
By Katie Clark
You defied them. They said you were mentally ill. You said you had hypoglycemia- drinking raw eggs like Rocky. They put you in a hospital. Outwitting your opponent
with your 120 IQ.
They put you in a home and told you not to smoke.
You went to your best friend’s house and bummed a carton of cigarettes.
They let you get your own studio apartment. You said, screw this, I don’t live because you say. So you, let the blood run out Soaking into the shag carpet.
A Desperate Obsession
About three months after my diagnosis with Fibromyalgia, I began to massage myself, relentlessly. The more I massaged, the more I needed to and more places that seemed to need it. My massaging was not gentle. I would poke and press as hard as I could take directly onto an aching muscle: calves, thighs, feet, thumbs, neck, chest, shoulders, upper arms, lower arms, armpits…This began to happen when I was reading, sitting as a passenger as my husband drove, when I was out for drinks with friends, while I was teaching….It began to be an obsession. Again, after some reading about Complex Trauma(childhood exposure to multiple traumatic events—often of an invasive, interpersonal nature—and the wide-ranging, long-term effects of this exposure), I sat down to write and this came out.
By Katie Clark
Sitting across from him, I watch his question mark gaze
follow my own fingers kneading my arm like bread dough.
Deep within the fibers of my body is an aching-
the famished maw of need.
In the shower, I see purple and brown
finger painted bruises on my calves,
thighs, forearms…chest from
kneading the angry gnawing
with no respite.
From foot to skull, silent shouts seep.
Bone to muscle to flesh-
exposing the desperate deprivation,
demanding to be satisfied.
How funny it is coming to love her-
pain and all.
To understand that she is just asking
for what she has needed all along.
Fibromyalgia has forced me to look inward. I’m grateful in many ways. I am coming to know myself. I plan to live FULLY as myself from this time on.
What have you learned about yourself as you deal with chronic illness or issues life has brought you? What benefits have you reaped as you wade through these obstacles?
Thank you for visiting my blog today.
I am committing to posting once a week on Fridays.
However, as you know, my new normal means that sometimes
I have to listen to my body and am not able to follow through