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How Grief and Health Challenges Have Pushed Me to Become My Own Hero

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It’s 5 a.m. and I have had the cumulative sleep of close to three hours. I was in the middle of my ritual of taking my meds, stretching and skimming through The Mighty for articles I hadn’t read before, when I came across a few articles about fibro and work. I’m fortunate that I can still work, even though it is part-time.

While I didn’t disclose my illness at the time I was hired, my coworkers have been understanding since they found out. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to work for the company I do. I run on the physics law that “an object in motion tends to stay in motion.”

I still get asked why I’m always tired, if my lack of sleep is self-imposed or if my kids are keeping me up, or I get asked why I come to work feeling like crap and if I’m sick. Occasionally, I get teased about them staying away from me because they don’t want what I have. But all I really have to do is tell them it’s a fibro thing, and we move on.

The company has been a blessing in my life beyond my limitations and illness. Until recently I had a partner in life. When he passed away unexpectedly my supervisor and coworkers jumped in and covered for me without being asked, and everyone was concerned when I went back to work “so quickly.” If I can’t make it through the day, or even one of my stores on my route, someone is happy to step up and help out. They don’t care if it’s grief– or fibro-related. While there isn’t usually more than one of us at a time in any one place, my company has been amazing about having someone there if I flare-up mid-shift.

A week ago, however, I was in an extra low place emotionally. I was back to sad and angry on the grief cycle when one of my kids walked past the coffee table and knocked a book mark onto the floor. “Be the hero of your own story.” It got me thinking, was I being my own hero? Was I being my kids’ hero? Of course, it set off a fresh rush of tears – How could I be my own hero? If I lost my ability to work, what would I do? Fibromyalgia is notoriously difficult to get disability for, and I would still have to wait for years to be accepted if I did manage to get it.

While cruising a popular social media site I saw the answer, freelance writing. I have always wanted to write a novel, why not start with freelance work? I registered with a site that helps writers find pieces to pitch for. But I needed something more, because my tablet with its keyboard wasn’t enough. A computer. I needed one, so I ordered one. I couldn’t afford it, but I bought the cheapest one with the most memory I could afford. It isn’t much, but later when I can afford a better one, it will be great for the kids’ homework.

Then, on the day it was supposed to arrive, I had a phone appointment with my pain specialist shrink. We talked about my husband and everything that was happening, fair and unfair, when he expressed his concern for me. I had been spending the last 10 years of my life caring for a man with some pretty hefty chronic issues and for my children who also have chronic issues of their own. He was afraid that I would lose myself in grief. “It’s a brave new world for you, so to speak. I’m worried that you won’t explore it.” So I told him my plan, that the laptop was arriving today and that, while I continued with my current job, I would go into freelance writing. At the same time I would also work on my own things. It’s a little extra money while I chase my dreams and write the books that I had pitched to my husband for years, but never written. My psych was excited for me, if I had always wanted to write then I should do it! I sent him a link to my post for The Mighty that I had written and submitted a while ago.

So, here I sit, on my brand-new not even 24 hours out of the box laptop, writing on three hours of sleep and no coffee yet. I have written posts for The Mighty that I haven’t sent in. They might be submitted, they might not. I haven’t done any editing on them yet because I write and then wait until I have forgotten what is in it before I edit. It allows me to see it as if I’m reading it for the first time. It’s my process for my personal pieces. Assigned pieces are different, deadlines speed up my process, and I’m alright with that.

Several teachers from college have samples of my stories and essays that they asked to keep and use for demonstration purposes in other classes. I think I will go back and ask them for copies for myself, as my school computer has been toast for six or seven years now. Those assignments may be a good start to a portfolio.

It really is a brave new world. I want to be the hero, not only of my own story, but for my kids too. I want to be my dream, and not just live it.

My back aches, and my head hurts. My youngest is obsessed with my writing and wants to be a writer too. She has eczema and allergies to just about everything under the sun. If I don’t do this, with my fibromyalgia, migraines, IBS, Raynaud’s, thyroid issues and others that I can’t remember at this moment, how do I expect her to have the courage to live her own dreams despite her obstacles? Or for her Deaf brother to follow his obsession with anything that has a loud engine and goes fast? Or my oldest to chase the viola and his love for music while dealing with ADHD/ADD? If I won’t be my hero, how will they learn to be their own heroes?

So many of my dreams have come to crash around my feet it’s hard to remember that I can be my hero. My knees gave out in Air Force basic training, I went through an abusive relationship that left me emotionally scarred, my brain gave out in college while I fought for a diagnosis that ended with fibromyalgia, my husband and best friend passed in his sleep from a heart condition no one saw.

My life has been rough.

I will soldier on, I will be the hero of myself.

Getty Image by Koldunov

Originally published: July 20, 2018
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