Wake up. Kick ass. Be kind. Repeat.
January 15, 2022 Email to my Brother
I'm sending you some more information I've written about herpes. I certainly don't expect you to read anything I send you. But it may be helpful in getting a clearer picture of what I'm dealing with in my life and how I'm turning something that's very negative on the face of it into a positive, because I am extending myself to help others through their process of coming to terms with this difficult, highly stigmatized condition. I'm also writing about my process, and providing diligently researched and factually attributed information about the disease. Information is power. Breaking down the components of herpes and how it affects your health and your life into easily digestible scientific terms goes a long way towards counteracting the highly emotional response to the diagnosis. And that's invaluable stuff. Potentially lifesaving stuff.
Make no mistake, however, I am devastated by the herpes diagnosis. Devastated. I'm better every day, but it's still hard as fuck. I could go down the route of believing I'm being punished, but I don't believe that's how God works. I'm simply reaping the consequences of my choices. That's how life is. Every choice we make has outcomes and we must deal with those outcomes. Most often the outcomes are positive, and sometimes they are negative. When they are negative, we have a choice of reactions. Do we blame people, blame God, believe God is punishing us, turn our hate inward and punish ourselves? Although it would be easiest for me to fall into those patterns of self-abuse and self-hate, at this point in my life, I patently reject that approach. Learning from the past, changing behavior, and moving forward is intelligent and healthy. And that's what I'm doing.
I've only felt good about the person I am the last few years, since I broke it off with Jeff, primarily, although I continued to have some bad years after that dealing with the most severe bipolar symptoms of my life.
It's only recently, since last June, actually, when you and mom talked to Dr. Ryan. Dr. Ryan told me at my appointment the following day you had told her I was doing a good job and mom had concurred. When she told me that, I burst into tears. That was the breakthrough.
I cannot tell you the amount of self-hate I had continuously put on me, thinking I was an evil abusive horrible failure of a caregiver to our mother. At that moment, when Dr. Ryan confirmed for me that you and mom had said I was doing a good job, I began to see the truth of who I am. I'm not perfect, I could always do better. But I finally realized and embraced the truth; every minute of every day, I'm bringing the very best of me.
I used to need outside confirmation of that, specifically from you. I didn't get it from you. Now I do, occasionally, but I wish it was more often. I've asked you for it, told you how much it would mean to get recognition from you more often. But maybe it's not in you. Maybe you're still so angry with me you just can't. Or maybe you're just not made that way, it isn't comfortable for you to say those things. I get it. I encourage YOU to do YOU. That's all you can do. Am I going to fail or fall to pieces if I don't get more validation from you? No. Absolutely not.
I have a network of supportive friends, with my primary champion being Jayne, who are always cheering me on, validating me, loving me, accepting me - all of me - the good the bad and everything in between. I am blessed. I have enough.
What will make the situation untenable, however, is if every time you do something that hurts me, even unintentionally, and I express that hurt, you assume I've not changed, that I'm back to being the evil, manipulative, angry, bitter, dangerous person I used to be. I mean, I was never all bad, but yes, I was bad. And I was bad to you. I directed a lot of wrath towards you. I don't know why, exactly, other than it was misdirected anger, probably anger I would have turned on myself. But I was doing plenty of self-harm at the same time I was lashing out at you. I clearly see the way I handled my communication with you was unacceptable. I take full responsibility for that. And yet, I am asking for grace.
All I can do is apologize for my behavior, which I have done now, over and over. At some point, repeatedly saying I'm sorry for past behaviors becomes a form of self-abuse and adds to the notion I am a worthless piece of shit. I won't allow that anymore. I won't allow myself to relive all the places I've failed and relive the shame and guilt of that all over again. If I can't get a hold of, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus", I'm telling God I don't believe what he says, I don't trust what he says, and I reject his forgiveness. Nothing good can come from that. And I simply will not do that to myself anymore. At this point, all I can do is make the changes I want and need to make within myself, and walk it out, trusting my character speaks for itself.
I've said I'm sorry again and again. It's out of my mouth and into the world and into your ears and if you accept it great. If you reject it, you have every right, I don't blame you one bit! You have a right to hold on to the pain of having been wronged. And you may never have a peace about what has transpired between us in the past. And that's OK. It has to be. You are walking out your process just like I am, just like we all are.
We disagree on some really really important stuff, but that's pretty inconsequential. We don't live together. It's not critical we agree on political issues or are that we are in complete alignment theologically. We respect one another's disparate opinions, or at least I respect yours. There's no obligation you respect mine. It's how you choose to deal with the places we are different that matters. You don't need to approve of me, I don't need you to approve of me, and none of that need interfere with our common goal to ensure mom's needs are met in this last bit of time we have with her.
What I do need, what I cannot be successful without, is our continued collaboration in meeting mom's needs. We've had it! We've had it! Since I came back from Louisville in August, it's been pretty smooth sailing. And I've been overjoyed at the progress we've made, together. We've been able to talk, we've been able share opinions and come to meaningful agreements and effective strategies for dealing with mom's health, her medical treatment, and ways in which we can communicate and teach her important self-care. All of that has improved the quality of life for all three of us.
The symbiotic relationship we have enjoyed the last six months has turned it all around for me. All of it. I no longer entertain the fantasy I can walk away; I no longer have the need to. I no longer feel like the dirtiest slimiest goose shit infested pond scum (that's no exaggeration). I no longer feel like I'd be better off dead (that's no exaggeration).
I have reason to live, now. I know things with mom are good. Not perfect. But good. I accept that she'll never be grateful for the things I do for her, that she may no longer have the ability to even see what I do on her behalf. But it doesn't matter anymore. Because the things I do for her aren't for her at all, they're for me.
Does she hurt my heart? Piss me off? Make me crazy? Make me frustrated? Annoy me? Yes. All those things and frequently, many many times every single day. Do I hold it against her? No. Not really. I tell her I wish she'd be nicer. But it's not in her anymore. She's angry, her body is failing her, her mind is failing her, she's pissed. I get it. And my heart breaks for her.
All I can do, really, is ask her what she wants for dinner, and make it for her, just like she likes. All I can do, really, is ask her what she wants to drink. If she says tea, I make her tea, with 1/2 teaspoon of MiraLAX. All I can do is make her comfortable, and meet her needs by performing these ridiculously miniscule acts of love.
But the little things I do are really quite big, significant things. I have great satisfaction in knowing I serve her well. Not perfectly. But I do serve her well. Certainly, to the best of my ability.
I Persevere. And life goes on.