Monday Memoir: The Darkness Begins (Part One)

 

I thought living with a hearing disability would be difficult enough.

I was wrong.

Photo Credit: Pixabay Free Images

By the time I was twenty, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with my life.  So I pursued a degree in Physical Education with the hopes of going on to earn a masters in Exercise Science.  I wanted to work with college and professional athletes.   Being an athlete myself, I competed in cross-country, softball, as well as soccer.  Sports became my passion, and I’d wanted to make it my life.  Around this time I learned (finally) how to drive, and attained my driver’s license.

I was ready for the world.  To pursue my dreams at full speed.

Then, everything changed.

At first to me, it seemed pretty minor.  Getting around in the dark was growing more difficult.  I kept bumping into things (and people).  Stairs became more of a challenge.  Okay, so I needed glasses.  No big deal, right?

Wrong, again.

I went to see an ophthalmologist and was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa; a degenerative retinal disease which could result in complete blindness.

Being devastated was probably an understatement.

The next month my parents took me to Boston to see a RP specialist, Dr. Elliot Berson, at the Eye and Ear Infirmary.  He put me through several intensive tests over the course of two days, and confirmed that I did indeed have Usher’s Syndrome type II which meant that my deteriorating eyesight and hearing loss went together.

Lovely.

My dreams…my career aspirations…

I felt so distraught I gave up on them all.

I did, though, finish college and earned a Bachelor in Physical Education, but that was the extent of it.  I never went on.  Never moved forward.  I allowed my disabilities to destroy my confidence.   I’d withdrew within myself, and allowed everything else to vanish.

WEP – The Crossroad

Click on image to go to WEP original site

 

Here’s my entry for this Challenge:

 

The Crossroad

 

 

I believe each of us come to a crossroad at some point in life, And at that junction, each must make a decision as to which road to take.

The chosen path would set the tone for how well you’ll live your life.

Or, how poorly.

I came to such crossroad at the age of twenty-five as I sat on the bathroom floor, leaning against the toilet, with an opened medicinal bottle in hand, its content mostly emptied.

How did I get to this point?

I experienced death time and time again.  Not personally, but through people whom I cared a great deal about.

A cousin whom I considered a best friend, one who truly understood me for me.  We were born a month apart. He never treated me differently even with my hearing impairment as he was dealing with a far greater condition. Over time his body atrophied, and death paid a visit just before our fourteenth birthdays.

A grandmother, also a surrogate mother, whom I spent much of childhood with, her lungs were too weak, as my last memories were of her sitting in a chair, next to an oxygen tank, fighting for every breath.   She left this world just as I turned seventeen.

Then came the man whom I married.  His face was like an angel whose sweet disposition drew people to him.  Instead of being his help-mate, I offered only cruelty.

I could blame my behavior to recently receiving a diagnosis that I was going blind.

Also to resentment.  Anger.  Even immaturity.

But, those were just excuses.  Cop outs.

When on that fateful day, an unmarked car pulled in to the driveway, something within me sunk, and a dark void entered.

And I knew he’d gone on, and was now truly an angel.

Remorse and regrets raged as they tore my heart to pieces.  Pieces I felt could never be put back together again.

So, there I was, sitting on the floor, staring into the toilet bowl.

I was at my crossroad. 

The house was quiet.  Everyone’s asleep.  I dared not wake them.  They’ve already suffered enough.

Such stupidity!  The ultimate act of selfishness on my part.

I stood up, set the now closed bottle on the back of the toilet, and went up to our… my bed.

And lied down.

If I should wake in the morning, I promised to be a different person.

 

*Author’s Note:  Although this Challenge was geared more towards fictional pieces, I felt I had to write my story since its title spoke to me.  I’ve never shared this particular incidence in public before, and it was difficult to find the right words.  Perhaps in time the words will flow more freely.

 

 

Writing: The Zero Moment

Click on the image for the DIY MFA Book

Gabriela Pereira:

The hardest step in your creative development is the “zero moment,” the point where you go from doing nothing to doing something. The distance between the zero moment and being a newbie is far greater than the distance between newbie and pro, yet rarely does anyone celebrate this pivotal, important step.
Today, I want you to celebrate. Think back to your zero moment and do something to celebrate that incredible leap of faith. Maybe your zero moment was ages ago and you’ve forgotten all about it. Maybe you’re in that moment right now. Regardless of where you are on your writing journey, I want you to pause and celebrate that enormous first step that brought you to where you are now.

Photo Credit: Bellarmine Magazine

 

I had a handful of “aha” moments when it came to writing.  The first one came when I was a girl (shared this in my How did I become a writer post) when a friend challenged a group of us to see who could write the scariest story.  That was the moment I realized that there was a safer way to channel my imagination, and that was through writing them down on paper.

Throughout high school and most of my college years, I journaled.  It was your typical teenager’s angst and boy-crazed, and trying to figure out what I truly wanted to do with the rest of my life kinds of stuff.   Journaling was a way of dealing with frustrations and disappointments as well as perusing through all the puzzle pieces of life, and trying to see what fits and where.

When I was looking at colleges, I toyed with the idea of either Journalism or English major; but, I’d felt that I didn’t possess an aggressive enough personality for Journalism, and found the course work for English to be too dry and boring.  So, I ended up majoring in Physical Education instead since I enjoyed sports.

I’d envisioned myself working with either professional or Olympian athletes.  I received an associate degree in Physical Education, and went to an University in Virginia to pursue a B.S. in Exercise Science.  I was well on my way to attaining that particular dream.

Then Life intervened, and everything changed.

Between graduating with my A.S. degree, and heading down to the University, I was diagnosed with a progressive eye disease, Retinitis Pigmentosa.  Because I also had moderate hearing loss, the specific RP I had was Usher Syndrome.

I was slowly going blind.

This shook everything up.  So much so, I practically gave up on all of my dreams.  I stayed in college though as I didn’t know what else to do. From there, I transferred around at least four different colleges, changed my majors several times, but eventually went back to Physical Education and graduated with my Bachelor degree.

In the midst  of struggling with coming to grip with RP, and confusion about my future, I met and married Aaron.  However, with a year left of college, Aaron was in a car accident, and died.  We were married only nineteen months.

I could have dropped out of college, but didn’t.  I decided that since I was that close to graduating, and needed something to keep me busy, I finished out the last year.

Between the diagnosis, and Aaron’s death, I stopped writing altogether.   Misery became my best friend as I holed myself up in an apartment (by this time, living on social security disability).  Those were dark years.

Three years later, everything changed again.

In come Jay.  Jay and I were good friends back at the very first college I attended. Then we went our separate ways.  But, in late May of 1999, we reconnected.  Something more blossomed between us, and we were married in September (same year).  Days before our wedding day, he gave me a gift.  A beautiful leather-bound (with a picture of a cute cat on front) journal.

It was full of empty pages.  Pages that called out to me.

This was probably my true “zero moment.”  The moment when I realized I must write; not just for the sake of writing itself, but for my mind, spirit, and soul.

And, because the price was too high NOT to.

What about you?  Do you remember your zero moment?

 

 

Dusk (Arrival at the School for the Blind)

dusk in nd

 

“The pale stars were sliding into their places. The whispering of the leaves was almost hushed. All about them it was still and shadowy and sweet. It was that wonderful moment when, for lack of a visible horizon, the not yet darkened world seems infinitely greater—a moment when anything can happen, anything be believed in.”-Olivia Howard Dunbar, The Shell of Sense

(*The following is an excerpt from the journal I wrote during my week at the School for the Blind)

I decided I would journal about my week here at the School for the Blind.  Originally, I postponed the one I should have gone to back in March; but, because of anxiety issues, I opted out.  What finally enabled me to attend this particular week in June?  One, a passionate pep talk from my husband (if I don’t do this now, my anxiety would only get worse); and two, Pam’s-my Vision Specialist here at the School, gentle encouragements.

So, here I am.  Arrived at the School around 6pm.  Hubby and son left soon after I found my room.  Felt a little apprehensive so I busied myself by unpacking everything.  I was then summoned by one of the other Visual Specialists, Amy.  We sat at one of the round tables in the Common Area where she peppered me with various questions such as what are some of my goals for the coming week.  This session lasted for about 1/2 hour.   I was invited stay to have sandwiches with the others.

I couldn’t.

I’m back in my room now, in my jammies.  Have my tablet (no television in my room) so I think I’ll catch a few episodes of Bones.

I think there will be at least five other residents here with me for the week.  I’m sure I’ll be meeting them tomorrow.  I have no idea of what to expect here and that has me feeling quite nervous.  Hope I can get some sleep tonight.   I know I should have stayed to meet the others…this will keep nagging at me tonight.  Story of my life.

Should haves.  Regrets. Missed chances and opportunities.  Constantly self-sabotaging as punishment.  But, for what?

Okay, need to stop dwelling on the past.  Can’t change any of that now.

Time for Bones.

#1 Reason Why We Should Record Our Lives

This quote says it best:

“The unrecorded past is none other than our old friend, the tree in the primeval forest which fell without being heard.” –Barbara W. Tuchman

Who wants to go through this life, and then pass on without being remembered?  I don’t think anyone desires to be forgotten.  What better way to carry on your legacy than to leave a written record of your time on this world?

 

What about you?  How does this quote speak to you?

 

Writing and Mental Health

mental health

* Journal of Life-“A piece of fiction from Carrie Ann Golden; written as journal entries of a young lady struggling with mental illness/family.” –GFT Press

I wrote a short fiction for GFT Press which was published late last week.  I took various experiences from my past, and wrote them into this particular story of a young woman.  It doesn’t work for everyone, but writing can be used as a therapeutic tool while working through life challenges.

What about you?  Has writing helped you through various dark and troubling times in your life?

Life is one messed-up business

*This was a post I wrote for one of my other blogs, Whispering Shadows, and I feel compelled to share here as I’m still struggling with these same thoughts and feelings.

 

Do you ever get the feeling…no, it’s more than just a feeling, it’s almost a “knowing” or “gut instinct” about something?   You keep trying to pursue certain paths in your life that just doesn’t quite “click,” but you’re not ready to admit to this so you keep fighting against this “knowing,” keep pushing down these same paths and whenever you meet minimal success, you somehow don’t feel completely content or fulfilled.  That inner nagging is always there, telling you that these paths are not the right ones for you; but, you don’t want to listen.  You want to do what you “want” to do, not because of some inner voice from an unseen place is telling you to.  Over time, you begin to notice that the harder you fight against this “knowing” the more unsettled you begin to feel.  You start to doubt your place in this world, your unique purpose in this life (whatever that may be).  Misery and doubt begin to plague your every waking moment. You grow weary of the “whispers” that constantly follow you everywhere.

So, should I believe in destiny and fate then?  Should I give in to these inner voices and go where they tell me to go?  Would I then finally find lasting peace knowing that I’m doing what I was born to do?

Shouldn’t I be able to choose rather than have it chosen for me?

Am I really making any sense here?

Life is such a messed-up business.

3 Ways To Raise Self-Awareness (and end those destructive behaviors)

In an earlier post, Sabotaging Your Own Dream, one of the readers asked a valid question: are there specific ways of increasing one’s self-awareness?

Yes, there are.

I hunted through the world of web and found these three basic tips below to help increase self-awareness:

 

Pause:  

In a modern world that is full of distraction, noise, and chaos, we find it increasingly difficult to allocate time for ourselves in order to re-connect.   In turn, stress and negative habits build until they threaten to overwhelm us, causing us to lose sight of who we are as individuals, and of our dreams.

Studies have shown that it is essential for our mental health to be able to spend quality time with ourselves; but, how do you even begin?

The first step is take a break from your usual hectic lifestyle.  Pause. Be still.  This can mean taking a long, hot bath; or, taking your lunch to sit in your car while listening to soothing music; or even finding a closet and shutting yourself in it.  For others this could be found while going out on a leisurely walk, or gardening, or while washing the dishes.  The key is finding your “quiet” place where you can be alone with your thoughts and feelings.

Reflect:

Turn your focus to your thoughts and feelings and reflect on them.  What’s bothering you?  Are you where you want to be at this point in life?  If not, what is preventing you?  What’s holding you back?  Be honest with yourself.  Recognize and acknowledge each thought and/or feeling that surfaces. Don’t push it away. If it’s helpful, keep a notepad with you and write about these thoughts and feelings.  Don’t hold anything back.

Redirect:

Wait a day or two and then go back and review what you wrote.  Chances are you may see a pattern of behavior (overtly or not) emerging.  If it’s a negative one, it could be responsible for preventing you from realizing a particular dream.  If it is, what changes can you make to remove or convert it into a more positive behavior?  Make note of them, and then put them into action.

 

For further readings on increasing your own self-awareness, please refer to below sources:

An epic guide to developing self-awareness: how to improve your leadership skills by understanding yourself

Self-Awareness