From “Fuck You” to “Thank You Cancer”

Standard

Six months sober, and divorced… A few days after my final goodbye to my four year old son, I hit my knees.

the second cocktail of chemo drugs caused a reaction and hair loss

 No, I wasn’t praying.. I was in so much pain that my body collapsed into a ball without much thought.  One minute I was texting “sweet dreams” and by the time she responded I wrote back “I think I’m going to the hospital”.  I felt like I was going to DIE; like a gremlin and the monster from the Alien were doing the monster mash right there in my gut.  I panicked, not only because of the pain but because I lived alone.  What if I got worse before I could alert help? One of my fears of being alone coming to life.  I called my friend asking her if she could please take me to the hospital.  She asked what’s wrong and I told her “please just come quickly.” I debated calling an ambulance but I didn’t want the attention of the street.. My self consciousness still winning, even in an emergency.

  By the time she arrived I had slithered down the 18 stairs from my raised house and was sitting balled up on the bottom step counting the hour long milliseconds that it took for her to arrive.  Once at the hospital, it took 45 minutes to be seen, and another 30 to get any kind of pain relief.  They wanted to do testing first.  I can’t say I blame them, I’d hit every emergency room in the area in pain at one point or another, seeking pain medicine to get high. In the moment tho, I hated every last one of them.  Restraining myself from punching holes in the wall felt impossible.  Laying waiting in our little cubical of the ER, I felt the mess starting to kick in.  The edge of the cliff began to get distant, and the doctor came and asked my friend to step outside.  She returned in tears, the doctor behind her looking somewhat apprehensive.  They told me they had found a tumor… A 19cm tumor wrapped around my left ovary and Fallopian tube.  It was the size of a 5 month pregnancy.  I remember the doctor looking at me like I was crazy.  “You didn’t have any symptoms before now?” He asked.  I thought about it and told him that I did have an increase in pain but I assumed it was because I was sober, and I could actually feel pain now, or maybe because I had started walking and my body was adjusting.

Pictures from the initial surgery

A symptom of PTSD is unmanaged dissociation.  Everyone does it on some level whether it’s entering auto pilot while driving,  and you end up wherever you are going but you don’t remember getting there.  That’s the mild side of the unmanaged dissociation spectrum.  Extreme sides of the spectrum are cases are dissociative identity disorder or DID (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) where the psyche completely splits into separate identities to perform various roles to the host.  There are many stops along the way of that spectrum, and I fall in at about the 60-70 range.  If you want to know more on this feel free to ask!  The point is,  my ability to separate from the feeling of physical pain was so fine tuned that the magnitude of the symptoms weren’t registering.  There was a disconnect.

  So, back to my story.. It’ll be a miracle if this blog actually tells the story I opened it to tell!
  From there I was rushed into surgery, the tumor was removed, along with my ovary and Fallopian tube.  A week later I found out that it was indeed cancerous.  Another fear.. Both my gran and my mother were killed by cancer on my mothers side, and my dads mother was also killed by that monster, and now it had me.  I won’t go into all the specifics.. Maybe another blog piece, but that was where my faith really began.

It wasn’t in a foxhole prayer, “God, please save me… ” it was real faith.. It was where I stopped bartering with the “if there’s a God” and started accepting the current moment exactly as it was.  I had been working on my third step in AA, “we made a decision to turn our will and our life, over to the care of God as we understood him” and I was almost all in.. The only reservation I had about staying sober was “if I lose my son I’m getting fucked up” and then I’d lost my son, and stayed sober.

Truth be told, I was secretly in love with another recovering alcoholic and I wanted to prove how committed I was to sobriety.  She had so many years sober, and I had only months.  I thought if I could tackle these monsters of reasons to drink, without drinking, we could bypass the “sober for a year rule”.

  I fought, every day, well almost every day.  There were some days when I couldn’t fight, and I had to lay in bed and just rest.  I remember feeling so much anxiety and panic when I would try to lay down and rest.  This video pretty much depicts that part of the fight (i record and document everything because my memory isn’t too great, and i lose time a lot… a big part of my recovery has been trying to piece together and accept that these things will happen, but looking for ways that i can take care of myself to make them less intrusive)

I was so scared that while I was resting, the cancer was taking over. No imagined it to be like a black cloud that I’d dispersed with my light of my sun, but crept back over when I wasn’t looking.  If I stopped, my body would get weak and I’d lose the fight.. And that just wasn’t an option.  Most breakdowns actually served their purpose in bouncing me back for the next round…

I spent many manic nights awake.  I began painting.  I didn’t want to watch tv, and so I started painting and found that I could paint! I had no idea.  I was pretty amazing at it too!!

Painted from a photo of Chicago that I found online
My secret love challenged me to try spray painting after seeing a video of the NYC spray paint artist..


Time lapse Video of 48 hours of learning to spray paint… not bad!

I gladly accepted the challenge, and within 24 hours I was spray painting my way to a masterpiece. 🙂 I remember selling some of those to my friends on Facebook, helping to generate some money towards the mounting costs of prescriptions and co pays.  I delivered pizza part time for Papa Johns in the evenings, and worked the back drive thru window of McDonalds with my AA sponsor and good friend in the mornings.
Having fun on the job 😉
  I bounced between photography and painting when I didn’t have the energy to walk.  In finding the gift of artwork, I saw a reason for being sick.  I would’ve never known I could paint if I hadn’t slowed down.  I remember how I felt the first time I realized that.  I’m crying again now just remembering how intense that feeling of trust in the universe was.  I remember telling the universe that it could’ve been a little more subtle than the big C, but then I thought about all of the times that I could’ve slowed down, and should’ve slowed down, and I didn’t.  Always running running running because I didn’t want to feel, and if I slowed down or stopped then the feelings would come flooding thru me at an overwhelming rate and I didn’t know how to adjust the faucet.  It was stuck wide open and I couldn’t handle all of that so I ran, staying busy.  It’s why I got fucked up to begin with. Thank you cancer.
a dresser from my sons room that became a painting project
  Four surgeries, and five chemos into the fight I began researching what could I do to improve my chances.  I asked questions on Facebook, and you guys responded with juice recipes, plant based diets.. And so I tried it.  I remember I couldn’t eat much at the time, but I kept telling myself “if I’m going to force myself to eat something, it’s going to be something that will help kick this bitchs’ ass! And I’d add a spoonful of peanut butter to a very green leafy disgusting  cocktail, blend it up and drink up.  I remember making music videos and joining the happy days fb group where my newsfeed filled up with all of these reasons people were happy that day.  That’s where I met a lot of you guys!  There was something about knowing people were watching, or at least feeling like they were, that grounded me.  I didn’t want you to see the real me.  I didn’t want you to see the crazy me, so I attempted to hide it, failing miserably with those I got close to, but it served its purpose.  I kept striving to improve, to be a better person, to show all of you how amazing I really am.. Because I didn’t feel it.. And you guys would tell me I am, and for a moment I would feel it… And as a true addict, it felt good so I wanted more.

 I began a bucket list which I named the “remember when list” because it was a list of things I would one day sit on my front porch telling stories of “remember when” to what I’d hope to be, my love.. Sitting next to me, saying “yes dear” 🙂 – that fantasy pushed me.  It set a tone inside of me and I wrote that list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime!! As that list grew, I realized that I didn’t have time to have a job.. Not in the traditional sense.  I started thinking of ways I could make money without actually going to work, and reading nomad blogs, learning how to travel as cheap as possible.  Again the faith came in, as I thought about everything I had already survived, and I saw how each individual storm in my life created a piece of evidence that I would be okay, no matter what.  Dealing with mental illness, never actually killing myself despite many years of feeling that was my only safe place to live mentally… Katrina.. Being homeless.. Heartbreaks.. I had survived  many storms, it’s what I do! In that I found strength and courage.  I saved links, and took notes, learning and forming the vague outline of how I could actually start working on some of these bucket list ideas.  Sure.. I couldn’t go backpacking Europe that day, laying in bed feeling sick as a dog, hurting, and generally wanting to die on some level.. But I could start studying.. Figure out what id need to do.. What equipment would I need? I’d only been camping twice.  I started looking on craigslist, and reading more and more.

What could I sell to generate money? I started painting sand dollars, and furniture, and whatever else came my way.  I sat out on Saturdays at the farmers market, hoping to sell a piece.  I went to galleries and talked to the managers, showing my portfolio.. I read blogs on how photographers make money with their pictures.. And the majority of the money is in portrait photography.. It wasn’t something I felt I was good enough for, having seen others work.  I didn’t have the money for the equipment I really needed, but I took my Panasonic LUMIX camera and did the best I could.. Watching YouTube videos on how to edit portrait pictures.  Touch ups etc.  I had the eye, I just didn’t have the knowledge, but I learned!

Adorable little girl and her mother that responded to a FB ad

I posted questions in fb photography groups, and they came back with all the answers to help me improve.  It provided the money to travel some more, but I didn’t care for it enough to pursue it further.

I took on a couple of website gigs, rehashing skills from my earlier years, and hustled flipping a broke down car.

Changing out the brake calipers – gotta trust the Universe to learn this on YouTube!

There’s never an easy answer to “how do you afford to travel” I just do whatever the moment presents itself with, and I am always provided for.  The Universe takes care of me as long as I allow it to.  I never thought I’d be a paid blogger.. $5-$12 a day, but it’s something! Every little something adds up and creates opportunity for more experience, and with more experience comes more opportunity.  It’s an amazing circle of life.

  Now my hope is to use my blog to not only record doing all this with mental illness.. (Which I really want to write about the transition from traveling to home.. I definitely need a better plan for reentry.  The last few days have been rough and I feel very spacey, ungrounded), but not only that and frugal traveling, but I’ve been writing the story of the travels from a first hand perspective as if the reader is the one traveling.  Once the story is written I want to record it and put pictures and videos to it so that the viewer or reader feels as if they are really traveling the world.

Then I want to donate it to everyone fighting a terminal illness, so that they can dissociate into the story and maybe get a little relief from the reality of the pain and treatment that they are going thru.  I hope it inspires them to fight, to really see the world, or whatever their bucket list things are, and if that’s no longer an option, I hope I get to help fulfill at least one of them by having this experience to share.

  Having said that..
I’d like you help me out by clicking on all the ads you see on this page, clicking back to the blog between each one.  I get paid per reader and per ad click.. And that helps fund this adventure.
I’d also like you to shared story if you believe in me and want to be a part of it!
And lastly, there is a box to subscribe to the blog, if you want notifications of new posts to the blog.
With that.. I hope you enjoyed my story.. It’s what got me to where I am today.. This year I have seen 22 states in the USA.. Fallen in love with traveling, seen my nephew for the first time, seen my first concert, mastered camping, backpacked four cities, opened an Airbnb of my own, become a paid blogger, met sooo many amazing new people, and next month I am leaving to backpack Europe! It’s wild!  If this is a dream, I never want to wake up.  Thank you Cancer!
“It’s a perfect day for a perfect day!”
Advertisements

Once Upon a Subway 

Standard

​”So many people and no one talks?” I muttered, on a packed subway train in NYC.  
He was about 55, dressed in a suit, and slid over to let two women sit down.  “What’s that?” He asked, nodding towards the tattoo on my arm. 

 “A monster coming out” I told him.  

“Is it you?” He asked…

I nodded, “it was when I got it, but not anymore” I felt the shame come over me, as I always do, when anyone points out my mess of tattoos.  He saw the flight tag still attached to my backpack and asked where I was from.  He shared his experience with New Orleans, and talked about his brother dying and how he still cries.  He said I had something but he didn’t know what.. I just talked in return and told him his brother has moved on to another amazing life and how I believe if he lets go of the “should” that he “should still be here”.. He will experience knowing he is .. Just in a different light.  He told me about a time that he almost drowned, and how peaceful he felt in that moment, and then his brother pulled him up out of the water.  I told him about how I’d spent years suicidal, trying to die, and then had to fight cancer.  I told him how I’m now traveling on blind faith.  I never know fully how I will make it from place to place, but I know I’ll survive.. I always do.  
We got off at the same stop, 157th street.  The stairs had two exits so we took separate ones.  I wished I had taken his picture.  At the top, he rounded the corner and called “Storme.. How are you funding your travels?” So I told him artwork., frugal living and faith” he handed me $40 and said “thank you, you are beautiful” he didn’t want his picture taken, but his name was Jim.  I thanked him. 
He told me “have some

Fun with that while you’re in NY” and I told him I wanted to see the last Yankee game of the season against the Red Sox.  He said he is a sox fan so I agreed not to root ☺️

Thank you Jim.  It is you who is beautiful, I just listened, and in listening to a complete stranger open up without being asked to, I felt so completely filled with human love.  So thank you.  I wish I could tell you that in person.

Mental health tools – blogging

Standard

Well it’s been a while since I wrote a blog, and it’s been a while since I was panic free. Courtney even responded on a post I made about having anxiety for hours, “when’s the last time you blogged or did some artwork” but I was so caught up that I didn’t really hear the message. I had just written in my notebook that morning trying to ease the anxiety and it hasn’t helped.. But it had, it just wasn’t at the level that blogging helps me when I’m practicing it every day. It’s like exercise for my brain, and just like the stationary bike sucks on the first day after not getting on for three months.. Writing is the same. These tools only work for me when they’re part of my daily life. Doh!
Ok.. So what’s going on in my world? 
Well, I’m currently writing from a commune in chicamauga, Georgia. It’s an abandoned elementary school on the Alabama/Georgia/Tennessee state lines. It’s 10 minutes from Chattanooga, which is an amazingly beautiful town. Last night we went to the river walk to watch the sunset. I can’t tell you how big my smile is that I can write “we” .. Third year in a row that I’ve made a New Years resolution and it’s become realized.  
  So Yupp.. I’ve been traveling.. When I got back from Greece on March 16th, Amber went home, back to New Orleans and I stayed in Conroe, Texas at my besties house.. Courtney (the one with the bad ass food truck Falacos – if you’re anywhere near Houston, YOU WANT THESE BALLS IN YOUR MOUTH!!) and Benny (the artist behind the badass wall murals and famous peeps paintings that y’all see me posting) .. I have so much love for these guys.. Definitely on the inside of my circle, and have been a rock of support in walking with me thru this recovery journey. So I wanted to stay and visit before heading home from Greece.. and a friend came to visit for Courts birthday.. Introducing Kate.. Now, I wasn’t expecting to meet someone in that moment.. I was jet lagged, working on little sleep, and attempting to be present for the day at the food truck.. But something about listening to Courtney tell me about her friend that was coming over had captured my attention. I wanted to know more .. And after meeting her.. I really wanted to know more… and now I’m in Chattanooga Tennessee, with Kate.. And Athena (who I adopted the day after meeting Kate) and here we are .. A happy lil family road tripping!
  So .. New Years I made a resolution that I wanted to manifest a wife. Kind of a weird one isn’t it.. But in that moment, I asked God to present that person in my life, and I made the decision to really focus my energy into envisioning what that person would look like .. I don’t mean physically.. I mean, what qualities would I want.. Ability to travel, ability to be patient wit my panic stricken ass.. Someone I felt safe with, and could talk to without fear… Someone secure.. That wouldn’t get jealous or possessive and not be ok with me traveling alone still. There has been quite a process of really picturing the role that this person would play in my life, and learning myself enough to know the role I can offer to play in theirs. I’d love to be Casanova every day for them, but in reality.. There are some days that I just can’t be that.. There are some days when I need to just be by myself.. I’m learning how to be open and honest during panic instead of acting like I’m ok. I’m learning how to ask for my needs to be met.. Because I never wanted to bother anyone before .. I didn’t wanna be a burden, and I felt like I was on my mental days.  
  I have to say, God delivered when he introduced me to Kate. This road trip is showing me how true that is. 
So.. Where else have I been since Greece?? 
Miami, home, Pensacola, Orlando, Cincinnati, Ohio, Galveston Texas, and now the smokey mountains… And I’m supposed to be staying home for my therapy. Oops! Truth is .. My anxiety is better when I’m on the road and distracted by life, and falling in love with the new places.. 


Having said that, it’s time to get dressed and check out Rock City! I’m so excited.. And now my anxiety is down so I can get dressed and start this day! She’s so patient.. Just sitting in the chair across from me.. Athena on her lap.. Taking care of her own affairs. She’s amazing. 😍

Allowing emotion – Rage

Standard

Raging 
My head is vibrating. I can feel the tornado inside of me whirling up strong and stronger. I keep having flashes of destroying everything in my path.. Throwing the paintings from the walls.. Smashing the tv.. Punching things and just swinging uncontrollably .. Whats the point of it all??? What’s the point in experiencing all that “awesome stuff” if I can’t feel it.. If I can’t remember it.. If the fucking pictures on the walls could just have easily been bought at the store? What’s the point of wasting hours and hours painting ?? Who cares if I can paint or not? Who cares if I can write? Who cares if I can adopt all these amazing fucking tools and share them with others??? What does it matter, if sitting here in MY living room, in MY house.. I still feel this. I still feel everything. It still fucking hurts. I’m still alone. I’m still fighting with myself every moment just to get up and take a shower.. It’s a fucking shower.. I still feel black hole depressed. I still don’t wanna leave the house, but wanna run far and wide. I still can’t escape the tape player of reasons why I am feeling hurt. It’s just gotten longer. New things added to it.  


I feel so sorry for myself.. How pathetic is that? Millions of people out there trying to survive.. Literally.. They may not survive today.. And I feel sorry for myself. Raging inside my mind, and nothing but a tear rolling down my cheek to show it. So afraid to allow myself to physically feel anger. So afraid to allow myself to ever get close to that line where anger turns rage. I just keep stuffing it back down. I need a healthy outlet. An outlet for anger. Something physical.. But I’m so tired before I ever move… And all I want to do is sleep. 

Intercepting panic and morphing it into pride 101

Standard

Damnit … I was supposed to go the whole time home without a panic attack ://////
Wtf? I wasn’t even doing anything. What was I doing? Wrapping the painting for Michele.. Ohh .. And thinking of how far I’ve come since I first started seeing her almost ten years ago. I’m remembering the panic attacks that brought me there. So technically this isn’t happening.. Technically this is a memory.. Of how I felt then.. That was a good try…
Ok fuck .. Breathe .. Stop trying to rush thru this to get back to what you were doing… Chill out .. Focus.. Walk thru it .. Stop running … No running!! :))) Courtney 🙂 here and now… That’s it .. Plug into another feeling physiologically … Omg .. Of course!!! Why else would I be so in tune with describing emotions on a physiological level .. So that I can slip in and out of them ? Maybe ..
Ok so I’m feeling panicked.. Chest is pounding.. Stretch it out by breathing .. Sit up straight .. But we need a new feeling … Instead of trying to fight it back down to “calm” which is the largest span to cross .. How about a feeling like happy .. Or excited .. Hmm excited is too close to anxiety .. I want my body to actually feel different.. Ok love … What does love feel like.. Grans kitchen .. That hug from behind when she came to check on my progress mixing the cake.. Being tucked in at night .. Having my back washed.. The warm towels out of the dryer .. Ok that feeling is too emotional .. I’m missing all those things .. Ok .. Happy thoughts … Umm .. Victory!!! The time I bowled a 299 in an adult junior competition with my dad .. That feeling of making him proud … :))) Yupp there we go .. Full Chest.. Standing tall.. Kinda embarrassed to be that focus of attention .. But fuck it! 11 strikes in a row!!! You’re a bowler .. A damn good bowler.. Let it shine!
Ok .. Let’s see if we are grounded .. Cos Adele is on and that shit sure doesn’t help calm the storm lmao .. Ahh Adele .. I love you .. Always adding your two scents on this journey … Not this time tho …
and I’m out the bathroom .. Time Check 9:47 .. Started at 9:33 … 14 minutes!! Woooohoooooooo under the 15 minute adrenaline dump time zone!!!!

I find it so fascinating when I go back and read what I write when i am in the midst of the storm.  This one I happened to read for the first time in therapy later that afternoon after a very exhausting morning of panic.  I felt better when I left, having gained some insight about where to go with it.. but it didn’t stop further panic attacks once I got back home.  Luckily I have a ton of homework from her to work on, so that’ll be fun <- note the sarcasm.

Yesterday seemed like a day where a lot of people seemed to be struggling.  I had to step back at one point and just take care of myself.  I wish I could plug my brain in and just let everyone check out the tools they need in the moments that they are needed, but it doesn’t work that way.  Not yet anyway.. I am sure that will be possible one day.

Over the next 8 weeks, I will be facing the monsters inside of me once again.  Thankfully I have already cleaned, swept and mopped my closet once, so this time won’t be so bad.  On a good note.. I have a whole lotta pictures and footage of my travels that i’ll also be unpacking, and working on when taking mental breaks.. maybe even some artwork.. who knows?

For everyone who asks me how to get from where I was to where I am (because it’s usually when I am flying high on life that they wanna know) it’s time to tune in.  Lemme know you’re tuned in and wanna know.. I’m undecided at the moment about just how much I wanna share publicly.. preferably all of it so that it can help others.. but not exactly sure yet.

Goals: complete abstinence from self harm, binge eating, dissociation, panic attacks

Ok.. time to stop avoiding!

 

The Happiest We

Standard

I want YOU to love you
I don’t want you to need me to

Because I want to want to love and

Not feel obligated just to save you
I can’t know how to love you unless you show me

Spend time with you where you allow me to see

All the tiny cells of you and your soul

How else could I know which piece has fallen, when you don’t feel whole?
I want you to appreciate what it is to truly miss me

To be able to live our unique lives, sometimes separately 

With trust, loyalty and love

We’d sometimes find it tough,

But never slip into stale familiarity 
I want you to be YOU 

To do what you and your heart wants to do

To embrace your dreams

And create your legacy

To shine as bright as bright can be!
I want these things for you

Because I love these things about me,

And if we both have these things, 

Well, we would be the happiest “we”
– cre8ivflame

If it made you smile, give it a share 🙂

To hyper vigilant and beyond!!! 

Standard

In my world…

So I left the house for the first time today besides going to work and being sent home. I’m at the pier in long beach and there’s one man in his truck in the parking lot. The lot is under construction and I assume he is a worker .. A construction worker so of course I am paralyzed. I’m on the pier freezing my ass off scared to go to my car because he may see me. Now there is another car near my car and idk who is in it so I’m really panicking. That car is leaving so must be drugs now I’m really not going in there. I can’t breath I can’t calm down my chest in pounding and I’m fuckin cold. I keep trying to convince myself to walk walk fast towards the sand and pace but panic of I try to step tht way. Panic means freeze body locks up and doesn’t have any auto pilot. Every thought movement breath is an active process and feels confusing like ummm idk I forgot. Now I’m panicking bc I need to move to warm up but there’s another car and a man walking with a hoodie and gloves. I know he’s going to hurt me and I can’t deal with that. I won’t survive it this time bc I don’t have it in me. I can’t do this again. 
In your world…

Two guys met at the beach for a chat.. You probably didn’t even notice