I Remember

I Remember

This day is emblazoned within my mind. I would learn so much within a forty-eight hour span of time, and I would be permanently changed. But no one tells you that when you’re a child. No. They try to keep you “innocent”. Except in my family. My mother decided I was not going to be lied to or be told nonsensical stories. I’ve been treated like an adult, with free thoughts and a free spirit, my entire life. There’s much to be said for this methodology because, even today, people do try to shield their children from many things. There’s no perfect way to be a parent. Did you just shake your head? You can disagree. That’s fine.

There are so many moments in life, but as someone with extreme intuition, this one still gets me.

I remember a full day of fun, spent with my mother, brother, and Grandparents. I remember exactly where we were, and that we had been in a specific store just minutes before the tension began. I remember feeling confused when some form of visibly silent arguing began, which is when my mother and her parents would switch languages in front of my brother and I. My brother probably doesn’t have any recollection of this, but I do. Whenever another language was spoken around me, I paid attention. I still do.

I remember my mother becoming frustrated, bordering on furious. The plans had changed and she was hurt, trying to rein in her temper. She was trying to put on a brave face in front of her children, but I felt the shift in emotions immediately. Once again, my Great-Aunt and Great-Uncle would get their way, and my mother was not pleased. She was not manipulative and didn’t appreciate manipulative people. She was never fake by nature, but in those final moments, she was putting on a show.

Me, always questioning everything, precisely as she taught me, demanded to know what was going on. “Where are they going? Why are they leaving? I have to say goodbye to Grandpa.” At that point in my life, my entire world revolved around my mother, Grandfather, Aunt (my mother’s sister), and brother.

My mother, of the softly spoken everything, of her calm, easy-going nature, would reply with a tone better suited for a teenager that arrived home at four a.m. drunk, without a phone call. “You don’t need to say goodbye. You’ll see him tomorrow.” I remember trying to get one final hug and kiss, and being forcibly taken away from him. I was angry. He and my Grandmother waved, promising me tomorrow. Tomorrow didn’t happen the way any of them expected, I am sure.

It was extremely early in the morning. Ever the night owl, I left the room I shared with my younger brother to find out what was going on. I remember facing my Grandmother, her always stoic expression conveying something was wrong. I had never seen her so quiet, so sad, so lost.

“Where is Grandpa?” I demanded. You rarely saw one Grandparent without the other, even though my Grandfather was the predominant force between the two. She looked up at me with a blatantly sad expression on her normally expressionless face. “He’s gone.” was the answer I received.

Gone. What did that mean to me? It made no sense. “Then we have to go and find him.” was my reply. I was adamant. I knew he would not leave without me, without talking to me, without saying goodbye. The fiercest part of me knew that he would never leave by choice. Never. She shook her head and waited for my mother to explain to me that the single most important man in my life was “in heaven”.

I quickly learned that NO ONE understood this concept. They would look at me sadly, point up to the sky, and tell me my Grandfather had “gone to heaven”. I did not believe them. I had already extensively searched the clouds and he was not there. Because they all pointed up, I believed he had gone to a castle in the clouds. He would always study the sky with me and show me things, so this made sense in my mind at the time.

I remember his funeral. The entire chapel was filled beyond capacity. People were huddled in to make additional room. Hundreds of people had come to pay their respects. My Grandfather was beloved, respected, admired. I remember looking at all the people, so many of them strangers to me, and everyone looked back at me sadly.

I remember the cemetery. The line of cars was unreal. Again, a testament to this great man. I remember my Great-Aunt Minnie and Great-Uncle Charlie wanting to dote on me from the funeral home to the burial site. I remember my cousins, Gloria and Lenny, trying to lighten the mood in the car. Lenny was known for his sense of humor. My Aunt Minnie tried distracting me with cookies. I was not to be distracted, though. I was this man’s only Granddaughter and I knew I had a purpose on this day. After all, I fought to be there. No one thought I should be “subjected to death”. I’d heard this stated quite a bit in the previous day, and knowing myself, I was paying exceptional attention to who said what and how they said it. I’ve always been a keen observer.

My mother sat down with me and explained everything and asked what I wanted to do. I remember her friend Ellen saying “Don’t you want to stay home and play with me and your baby brother?” I remember looking up at her coldly and saying “No. He is MY Grandfather and I AM GOING.” My mother actually stared at me, shocked by the tone of voice I had used. Before that moment, I had always been described as the “little girl with the ancient eyes”, even as a baby, but in that moment my mother knew I was the fierce warrior she had prayed for. There would be no further argument. I had stood my ground.

Cemeteries are for the living. It’s how we remember those we’ve lost and try to honor them. There is nothing more final than seeing someone’s name and the dates of their birth and death etched into granite or marble. Is it bizarre that my Grandparents’ headstone is the same as my parents’ stone? Not really. I remember asking my mother what she wanted for my father and she said “Just bury us together. Get one stone. Something similar to the one for my Mom and Dad, okay?” Her only concession was that her side have a specific design. I custom-designed that stone with the help of someone who does that sort of work. The final result was startling, same as it was to see my Grandparents’ names etched in finality.

After my Grandfather’s death, I remember heated discussions. My Great-Aunt, my Grandfather’s only sister, asked my Grandmother if she could still go on her vacation, despite the traditional 3-7 days where Jews sit Shiva. My Grandmother acquiesced, as she always did in situations such as this. My mother didn’t speak to my Great-Aunt for YEARS after the fact, and my own anger would become part of the mix as I got older and heard the entire story. If, G-d forbid, anything ever happened to my brother, I would not be on a plane the day after his funeral to go anywhere. I would never show his life such disrespect. It’s nonnegotiable. How the hell does someone claim to be in mourning and then get on a plane to go anywhere to enjoy themselves?! I will forever feel haunted by that move. In reverse, I can assure you my Grandfather would not have done something so despicable.

My Grandmother never spoke about it. She had friends, family, tons of well-wishers, and her children and grandchildren by her side. She became a prominent, front-and-center Grandmother in the wake of my Grandfather’s death, whereas she was very much in the background most of the time before his passing. There was NOTHING she did not do for us, take care of, or handle if my father refused. If my brother or I ever needed something, it did not matter what it is, she was there. She went to all of my gymnastic competitions, every drama performance, every Glee club performance, every Graduation. If it was during the day and my parents had to work, she was the face we saw in every crowd. She loved us, she helped raise us, and she was always right across the street. With her, we would get extra time before cancer came and took her from us. The insidiousness of that disease, coming along and taking someone who stayed out of the sun (I always remember her being under an umbrella or sitting in the shade.), never smoked, rarely drank, was devastating. It just goes to show you that no one is immune.

For roughly the next three years, after things had settled down, I would openly discuss suicide, a word that had NEVER been used in my home or in my life. My family did not discuss such things, EVER. My parents would stare at each other in dismay, and I know what they were thinking. “Where did she get that word from?” I had never been exposed to it, but it was constant. I was determined to be wherever my Grandfather REALLY was, and I made this clear. Every time I would talk about it, my brother would become hysterical, clutching me and telling my parents “She’s my sister. She can’t leave. Don’t let her leave me.” His face would turn red and he’d cry himself into an asthma attack at times. We were incredibly adult for kids, I now realize, but back then, I thought all people had similar family lives and discussions. They did not. They do not.

It’s important to discuss loss, grief, death, and every aspect of mental health with your children. I have suffered the majority of my life because my mother was afraid for me and my father was in denial. But as someone recently said to me “You could have harmed yourself so many times by now, and you’re still here. You’re still in one piece.” Only, I’m not truly in “one piece”. I’m very much a broken, pretty mess, but people only focus on the visual on front of them. They are sitting across from someone who is dressed appropriately, someone who is clean, hair done, makeup on, and they think that someplace, somewhere, I have it all “together”. Sometimes I do, but mostly, I do not. I don’t pretend. I am as imperfect as the amethyst I wear around my neck nearly all the time, except during a Full Moon.

To this day, I still suffer. I still hurt, wondering how different life might have been if he had lived another ten or fifteen years. I miss him terribly. But most importantly, I remember. I remember it all.

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

“The tears I feel today
I’ll wait to shed tomorrow.
Though I’ll not sleep this night
Nor find surcease from sorrow.
My eyes must keep their sight:
I dare not be tear-blinded.
I must be free to talk
Not choked with grief, clear-minded.
My mouth cannot betray
The anguish that I know.
Yes, I’ll keep my tears til later:
But my grief will never go.”
Anne McCaffrey

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Dazed, Confused, and Out Of Sorts

I’m running out of ways to describe my current state of mind. Earlier this week I had a different sense of self, and then I came home to discover I had lost my house key and the remote for the alarm. Thankfully, they were found and brought to “Lost & Found”. I received a return call the following morning letting me know they were safe and sound, and that I could come and get them, which I did on Thursday. You cannot imagine how stupid I felt in the moment, especially considering my history. I have had a set of house keys since I was eleven years old. I still have keys for every place I’ve ever lived, except my last place of residence where I tossed the keys onto the front lawn on the final day of moving. That was my way of shedding myself of the negativity of a horrible experience that is still haunting and affecting me on a daily basis. It wasn’t an exact science, but in the moment, I didn’t want to physically be carrying around a physical memory filled with pain.

I don’t normally lose something I tend to keep my eye on. That error made me so upset, and it made me question myself for days. It was an enormous “What the fuck is wrong with you?” moment, at least for me. I know many people will say I am human, no one is perfect, and/or shit happens, etc., but I take my responsibilities seriously. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know me at all.

Despite that incident, I had an extremely productive neurology consult with a new doctor. I waited nearly six months to see her, and I was definitely feeling iffy walking into the situation. After going through all of the standard questions, a quick baseline test, and doing a neuro history to rule out what I have and haven’t tried, she immediately discussed the treatment method with me that she feels I am the best candidate for. I was relieved to hear someone cut through all the bullshit and go straight to precisely what I have wanted to do migraine-wise for the past six years. I have a three to six month wait, but she feels it will be worth it, and I am hopeful. It’s by no means a cure; I will still get migraines, but after my first year of treatment, I shouldn’t be getting daily migraines any more, or migraines that last for weeks at a time. In less than three years, I have had eighty migraine-free days. That isn’t even two straight months without searing pain. To be taken seriously right out of the gate and have someone treat me with such respect was truly a bit of a shock. As I’ve likely said before, my faith and trust in the medical community is basically nonexistent. In the past year, I have met three good doctors and maybe one or two decent medical professionals, but everyone else has been a medical failure, and for me, even one medical failure is one too many.

When I explained the appointment to my brother and told him how it went, he asked me what I am supposed to do for my migraines for the next three to six months. His exact words were “What are you supposed to do in the meantime? Chew Excedrin?” It was a valid question, and it reminded me that I had not asked for an abortive, so I will call ASAP and see if my doctor is willing to get Relpax approved until the new treatment begins. Thus far, my insurance company has been very on the ball with nearly all of the things I’ve needed, so I hope this won’t become a battle. I honestly can’t handle another moment where I have to battle anyone or anything. I am mostly a basket case (which is truly nothing to joke about) on Promethazine. As it turns out, stress really DOES affect us far more than we realize.

I have seen myself decline in a dramatic way over the past year. I have never felt more “off” or out of touch with myself than I am now. Being chronically ill isn’t fun, nor is it glamorous. It is a daily battle just to get out of bed. This is something people don’t seem to realize, unless it’s happening to them.

I am having a difficult time wrapping my mind around the fact that it is June. I rarely say “I want to go back to this month and start over.”, but I have definitely been feeling like this quite a bit lately. The heat waves and then 30-40 degree drops in temperature have taken their toll on me. But from here on out, I expect this to be a disturbingly hot summer and I am stressed with the thought of trying to navigate through it. I don’t want to deal with being sick, dehydrated, and isolated. There’s not much I can really do about any of these things, but the knowledge that it’s all headed my way is genuinely too much for me.

I am trying to keep up with everything here and still live my daily life. The truth is, my daily life is exceedingly dull and unhappy. I lack the ability to be fake and pretend it’s something it isn’t. So while I am clearly not writing as much as I would like, I am still doing the best I can. I thank everyone who has stuck with me all these years, for better or worse. Having an outlet for my thoughts is important to me.

Hopefully I will be able to write more this summer. I can’t make any promises, but I can try my best.  Here’s hoping I achieve more than heatstroke over the next few months.

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Sorting It Out

I hope everyone had a restful weekend. I’d like to welcome the new subscribers who have come on board in the last few weeks. 🙂 I’m glad you find me interesting enough to follow me on my journey. Please feel free to message me and/or leave comments. I always reply.

Today was hard for me. It was the anniversary of my mother’s funeral. I still have her eulogy typed up, and every so often I go back and read it. Mostly to remind myself where I was in that moment and how far I have come since that day.

I tried hard not to think about it, but by six o’clock in the evening my stomach became ill and my current nine day long migraine intensified. The only thing I could do was turn off my computer, set it aside, take my current migraine medication, which isn’t much, and lie down with a cold pillow over my head. If you know me, you know how much I LOATHE being sick. Suffering from a long list of chronic illnesses doesn’t mean I enjoy it. These are things I never asked for and would not wish upon anyone else. I do my best to navigate each of these things, but I also have to prioritize my health as opposed to forcing it to the back burner. I neglected aspects of myself for a long time and as a result, I am sicker today than I ever was before.

I know constantly having to fight for my rights, advocate for my health and proper treatment, and always feel like there is no certainty, just battles, isn’t helping matters. People often read my posts and get offended when I say “I don’t have much of a support system.” I wasn’t aware I was invalidating people who are, predominantly, quite vacant in my life. If all you do is call me when it suits you, text on occasion, message me here and there, and ask me questions about things of no real importance to me, I don’t consider you a part of my daily “support system”. If you feel invalidated by that statement, the issue lies with you, not with me. There are plenty of people who I have offered support to and have received the equivalent of a slap in the face in response, so excuse me if I don’t deem these people “supportive”. My assessment is quite accurate.

Standing by someone while they sort through their health and unhappy situations means you don’t ever intentionally trigger their anxiety, anger, or emotional suffering. If you never say a kind thing to another person, you certainly aren’t bettering their life in any way.

I was raised by two women, my mother and Grandmother. My Grandmother would always turn to my brother and I and say “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” My mother’s version was different. She always encouraged me to speak my truth. I was five when she told me “The truth is more respected than dishonesty. If someone chooses not to believe the truth, and they try to discredit you, at least you know you’ve told the truth, regardless of what they are choosing to believe.” Those were profound words for a young girl, but she always encouraged me to use my voice, and not allow others to attempt to rob that power from me. Having lost both of them, I know they are each in the unique position of being able to see how people treat me, to hear the conversations and comments, and to know precisely who is and is not doing their best. I am far from perfect, but I am doing the best I can.

My Grandmother was such a strong believer in family. After she passed away, I quickly saw through all the things she tried to keep in tact. Her belief in the “family unit” stemmed from how she was raised, but in truth, there was no “family” at all. There was this immense illusion. My mothers’ side of the family chooses to have nothing to do with me, and the feelings I have in regard to their behavior are things I don’t always verbalize. I try not to think about it too much because I am justified in my anger. I have zero respect for a lack of decency, lack of common sense, and basic humanity. The same is true for my fathers’ family. I witnessed so much growing up, always wondering why my Grandmother held tight to the idea of this “family” dynamic. I watched how it became nothing and continued to become less and less the day of her funeral. Losing both of my parents put everything into perspective for me.

I don’t doubt that certain people have feelings for me, but do I believe those are feelings of love? Rarely. I know my brother loves me in his own way. He steps up at times when I am not expecting it. I know that other family members love me in their own way, too, but I often feel excluded and dismissed. I often feel set aside as a person with no thoughts, no feelings, and no validity. If one more person has the audacity to say “Are you ever positive about anything?”, I will probably lose my temper.

I have never had anyone who truly knows me or anyone who follows my work deem me a “negative person”. I am my most authentic self when I am writing and speaking. I am the same way in every aspect of my life. And yet, I’ve noticed snide remarks of late that question my genuine authenticity. I have walked away before saying “Go fuck yourself.”, because I will not engage with someone who is intentionally looking for a fight and/or being an asshole. I have walked away before saying “You’re clearly projecting if you’re questioning MY authenticity. I question YOURS, but I’m classy enough to keep my mouth shut.”

Love, loyalty, authenticity, and all my friendships and relationships are some of the most important things in my life. In this, I am a supreme perfectionist who is honest about her imperfections. Someone told me last week “I can see that authenticity is very important to you, and I respect that.” When one person chooses not to see it, and everyone else sees it immediately, it is much easier to cope with one person trying to take a pot shot, as opposed to thousands of people viewing you negatively.

I am going through a lot, but I’m still the same person. I am working on myself, and I am doing the best I can. If you don’t know every single thing in my heart, you have zero right to judge me.

This week I move on to other battles. I am hoping for some downtime at some point to be able to find a sense of calm. I have a consult with a new neurologist next week, so I am hoping there’s a positive outcome there, especially since I’ve waited nearly six months to be seen. Fingers crossed for some good news.

Wishing you all a wonderful week ahead… Li

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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I’m Still Processing

Hey, everyone. 🙂 It’s been a rough time for me. Unfortunately my “rough time” is on a never-ending loop. No one is more tired of it than I am.

During all of this chaos and pain, I haven’t had “Writers Block”, but I have certainly had “Writer needs a break.” and “Writer needs a fucking vacation.” Unfortunately, the devil is in the details and any kind of break isn’t in the cards.

For me, one of the most crucial things about being a writer is choosing your subject matter. Do I want to write about people dying? Not so much. Do I want to write about Kate Middleton giving birth? No. Do I care about every single thing going on in the world? No, I don’t. That doesn’t make me a bad person, it simply means my priorities are different. My brain has an insanely fast processing system for certain types of information (I’m not kidding. Even when I’m asleep, I feel like I haven’t ever been “powered down”.), and sometimes I want silence. Okay, more often than not, I genuinely want silence. Inner peace is more difficult to achieve than one realizes.

I had a horrible experience last week that I do want to talk about, but in fairness to myself, I am still processing everything so that when I do speak up and speak out, people will understand why I am doing it. It’s important to call certain things into question and raise awareness. When it comes to mental health, any form of chronic pain, and migraines, I am NOT going to be silent about my experiences. These are small medical communities full of daily sufferers who aren’t being taken seriously. They are being cast out and demoralized by the very people they turn to for help. It’s disgusting. I refuse to be someone who doesn’t use the power of her position and voice to help others to the best of my ability.

Initially I was quite embarrassed over the incident. I do plan on talking about it, probably in my next major post. In the midst of having to feel ashamed and embarrassed, I thought “What if this happened to someone who wasn’t as smart or as strong as I am? What if this happened to someone who couldn’t advocate for themselves and go home at the end of this?” It’s been slightly over a week, and my mind is still in shock that I went through it and came out the other side. I know my behavior was in check, and I know I didn’t lose my temper until things escalated, so I shouldn’t be embarrassed at all. It’s important to explain and share it. I would hate for any of you to have gone through this. I had a few minutes where I was angry and afraid, and then this deeper part of me responded. Sometimes I forget that I’m a knock down, drag-you-by-your-hair, lay you out on the ground, make you cry for your mother, FIGHTER. Sometimes I need to be reminded of that. Of course, I’d like to be reminded without the outrageous drama. This will all make sense soon, I promise.

To those of you who have reached out to me over these last few weeks via social media, or by phone or text, please know how much your thoughts, kindness, compassion, and words mean to me. When friends and readers come to you with support, those are some of the best moments in life. Cherish them.

I think part of why I felt overwhelmed by the support I received is because I don’t ever assume my words or thoughts are making a difference for someone else. To then hear how my experiences, struggles, humor, and grace under pressure have helped someone get through their own battles, well, it puts a lot into perspective for me.

For the most part, I write something and I click publish. I might look at it once or twice after the fact, but I don’t usually go back. I put it out into the universe to be read, and I go on with my life. There’s only so much self-promotion I am willing to do. I don’t respect anyone who shoves their work down your throat, so I refuse to be anything like that.

More and more, people are coming back to me, sometimes months later, to thank me for speaking up, for sharing my very real thoughts, and for inspiring them. I am only egotistical to a small degree in that I am proud of the things I put my name on, and I’m the first person who has to laugh at my jokes and weirdness. When someone calls me and they’re genuinely hurting and upset, but by the end of the call they are laughing hysterically, I realize I have a gift that helps people. Perhaps G-d really does work in mysterious ways. 😉 I am a firm believer that people are drawn to you for specific reasons. Anyone drawn to me is either looking for strength, loyalty, a genuine ear, a genuine friend, or all of the above. Because in the beginning, we are all just words. You have no idea how that will transition into real life, but anyone who has ever met me and become a bigger part of my life will tell you I am consistently the same person. I can be hysterically funny and make you feel better, I can completely have your back, I will take your secrets to the grave, and/or I can be detached. I don’t think a single one of my true friends has ever witnessed the detached side of me. I am well aware that I’m rare. I have had to accept my rarity throughout the course of my life, but I feel like the right people come into your life and they stay. Anyone with an agenda, who doesn’t get what they want, is going to leave. It’s difficult to know what someone wants when they’re “new”. I suspect anyone who first meets me is meeting the cool, detached person who isn’t about to kiss anyone’s ass or try too hard for anything. I’m not looking to impress anyone. I am not starving for attention or friendship. I would rather have one genuine friend than one hundred “friends” coming into my life with an agenda. I can spot bullshit immediately.

In the midst of the ordeal I am still processing, I was asked “What do you think your purpose in life is?” I think we can all safely agree that is an exceedingly DEEP question to ask anyone. Like anyone else, I am still discovering my path, navigating my talents, and taking things one minute at a time. I will almost certainly spend more time wondering about purpose, and seeking it out. For many people this is defined by their roles in life. Mine is not. It’s a little bit like when someone says “You’re obviously a great Mom because you have cats.” The look on my face when people say this to me is always one of “Where the hell did that come from?” One thing has nothing to do with the other, and the analogy is kind of disturbing to me. It’s highly possible for a woman to be great at something and not have it likened to anything other than “You are great at this.” As human-beings, we wear many hats, but those hats should not be all that defines us.

I often find myself in situations where I feel appointed as the chief “slayer of demons”. While some people might say I don’t have to take on that responsibility, I will take on that which is of deep importance to me. If something could become a much bigger incident, I am more likely to see the bigger picture and get on board quickly, as opposed to backing down.

As a Scorpio, my sign is ruled by Mars and Pluto. Only one other sign in the zodiac has the same ruling planets. I’ve always found it interesting that Mars, which falls in line with the Roman God of War, would be attached to me. The way other people describe me is much the way astrologers and astronomers describe Mars. Combined with the constant regeneration of Pluto, it makes an awful lot of sense to me. Whether you believe in this sort of thing or not, I always notice how much these things tend to influence us. For many, it is without any knowledge whatsoever. I much prefer to be knowledgeable.

This incident is an enormous demon, and will probably not be the last one I have to slay in my lifetime. Not for a single second did I hesitate about retaliating. So while I navigate all the legalities and take a stand, I hope others will understand that I’m not only doing it for myself, I am doing it for everyone and anyone who is too afraid to speak up, or for those who fear backlash and/or repercussions.

I’ve been reminded of who I am. It’s taking a little time to mentally process all I’ve experienced and the knowledge that followed. I am determined to keep my head fully in this battle, and I know I will get there.

Wishing you all an empowering weekend and a fierce Full Moon ahead. 🙂

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Fighting Your Internal Dialogue

Hello everyone! I hope you’re all doing well. I’m not going to lie; today was a rough one. 😦

I made an appointment sometime last month to meet with a spine specialist (read: anesthesiologist). My new doctor had asked me to meet with the in-house substance abuse doctor as well, so she could prescribe the one controlled substance I take, until I find a new doctor who would then take the prescribing duties on full-time. She said “You only have to meet her once.” I don’t know what my face looked like when she dropped that bombshell on me, but she tried to reassure me that this is merely procedure. I was okay with that. However, after today I can tell you that once was ENOUGH. I physically had to keep myself in my seat, choose my words carefully, and fight my own body so I wouldn’t lean over her desk and punch her in the face. Yeah, it was one of THOSE days. I am going to be seeing red for a while.

My day started out stressful. I didn’t get a lot of sleep, and I’d fasted for blood work, so I was functioning on next to nothing. No amount of water makes up for the fact that you feel weak and dizzy by the time you get to the lab, because at that point it had been well over twelve hours and if I don’t eat, I will inevitably get a migraine.

I arrived at my first appointment of the day; the spine specialist. I’d read his reviews in advance and was very mixed going into this appointment, but decided to keep an open mind and hear him out. I am happy to report that he was one of the nicest doctors I’ve ever met. How often do I say that? Almost never.

He took notes, did a physical examination of my spine, was very careful with my neck because the range of motion is poor, and he agreed that I definitely have weakness on the left side of my body. Before he made any decisions he turned to me and said “Do you WANT an MRI?” He told me “I will never order a test or force a treatment on you that you don’t agree with.” I thought my jaw might hit the floor from the kind, respectful treatment, but I remained in check. We agreed on the MRI, and he even ordered an open MRI so I won’t have to deal with any potential claustrophobia, which I experienced during my last few MRIs. Generally, I am not claustrophobic at all, but I felt he should know about it, just in case. He then said “Go when you’re ready, they’ll send me the results, and we’ll follow-up then.” Non-aggressive, highly respectful, and extremely laid back. I walked out and said “The doctor was LOVELY.” I don’t usually say things like that, but in this case, it was true.

We did talk about injections, which I am against, and he said “There might be some medications we could try again at different doses.” and he even said he might refer me out, depending on the results of the updated MRI. He doesn’t think an epidural in my neck would help with the pain that travels down my spine, into my left arm and leg. He believes they are two separate issues, but is wondering if I have a narrowing of my spine, which is highly possible. I remember my mother having it, but I shouldn’t have it this young. He looked at my x-ray results and explained that where the technician said, in the reports, that I had a muscle spasm or a shadow in my spine in two different areas, it was likely just my body’s natural response to being in so much pain for so long. He said it was probably residual tension, as opposed to an actual spasm. I inquired about a steroid pack, because so many people have suggested this to me, and he said he doesn’t think they would help because I’ve suffered for so long, or he would have prescribed it immediately.

I left his office feeling positive, mostly because the appointment went well and I was treated like a human-being, which is always a shock. Because I had a little less than two hours to kill in between appointments, I went downstairs to the lab. That took longer than my consult with the doctor, but I was already there and it wasn’t that big a deal. Four vials of blood and I was out of there. Most of the tests are similar to what I had done last May, except this time, my doctor will be calling me with the results because she actually gives a damn about her patients. I am concerned about one of the tests, but here’s hoping it’s normal. I will say the lab tech did a great job, because I don’t have a bruise the size of my hand on my left forearm. I still bruised right away, but it’s small enough that I’m not concerned. I’ll use some Arnica on it until it heals. The last one took a long time to heal and it was hideous.

When the “substance abuse” doctor was ready to see me, I immediately knew where things were headed. Doctors really ought to be more careful with their approach to patients they’ve never met and do not know. One day, behavior like hers will result in someone taking action. That may seem sad, but it’s the truth. I am not going to sugar-coat this woman’s behavior.

I was drug-tested for the first time in my life, and told to leave the test in a public restroom. Yeah, because that seems smart! I was outraged by this. As anyone who has ever had a urinalysis knows, those things are not sealed. Anyone could have gone into that bathroom after me and done G-d knows what with the test. This is a test that they bill approximately $1100-$1700 to the insurance company for, which is INSANE because you can buy them over-the-counter at Walgreens. Because I had fasted for the lab work, and had already gone to the bathroom ahead of seeing her, there wasn’t much for her to work with, providing they don’t call me tomorrow to tell me my test is missing or needs to be redone. Downstairs, in the lab, they had to call a woman who’d been there earlier in the morning to say she needed to come back and have hers redone. The entire office heard this phone call, there was nothing private about this person’s medical information, and that’s a blatant violation. Whatever did or didn’t happen with her test is an epic screw-up from where I’m sitting. If they fucked up mine, I REFUSE to go back there for a drug test. They can bite me. I’m surprised she didn’t also ask for a cheek swab, a hair sample, and DNA. DO NOT read this and say “Lisa, she’s just doing her job.” There is a correct way to do this job, and that does not involve making law-abiding citizens feel like they’re doing something wrong by following a doctor’s instructions where a prescription is concerned.

When I returned to her office, she had no idea why I was there, asked if we’d met before, couldn’t find my file, and then proceeded with a list of questions my own mother (G-d Rest and Bless Her Soul) would not have asked me in a million years.

I was asked approximately six times if I use marijuana or cocaine. I’m sitting there trying not to roll my eyes as I give her the same answer each time; NO. Is this person forgetful or fucking testing me? I don’t care, because the answer is no, and the drug test will prove it.

To my face I was, once again, told I was an addict. I’m not, and because I have known addicts and been around addiction, I do know the difference. I can spot it in other people. I have responsibly taken medication that I assure you, is the ONLY reason I did not knock this bitch out. That and learning how to rein my temper in slowly.

It’s one thing to be doing your job with the questions, that’s fine, but it’s a whole other ballgame when you ask me to relive the worst trauma of my life because you don’t understand why I have a specific diagnosis (to which I nearly said “Talk to the fucking treating physician! Don’t repeat that question again.”), repeatedly ask the same fucking questions as if the answer is suddenly going to change, and demand to know where my doctor’s notes are. I cannot see what you’re looking at behind the desk/computer, so my answer was very nearly “Beats the shit out of me!” Instead I said “I can’t access them, either. Your guess is as good as mine. Would you like his phone number?” When I give someone professional, cold answers, it is a WARNING. Apparently, this woman did not see the red fucking flag waved in front of her face, and kept pushing.

“Do you drink coffee?” she suddenly asks me. I live a mostly caffeine-free life because of my migraines, but for the past few weeks I have been drinking coffee at all hours. Maybe a cup a day, sometimes two, but I’m not sucking down gallons of the stuff. She should take the psychoanalysis to the local Starbucks, because rest assured, caffeine is not an “addiction” for me. It’s something I’m drinking because I like the taste. I don’t have it behind me in an IV.

“Do you smoke?” No. “Do you drink alcohol?” No. “Is there a reason you don’t drink alcohol?” Mind you, the spine specialist asked me these questions earlier in the day, except when I replied no, each time, he said “That’s great.” and only when I said I don’t drink did he ask if there was a specific reason for that, and quickly asked if I was pregnant. Light, calm tone, no rudeness or insinuations. Not from her, though. She’s a first class bitch, in all caps.

She aggressively pushed every last button I had, until I thought about the one person on this planet who keeps me calm and grounded, and I told myself “This office is small and you could strangle her and/or rip her fucking throat out in less than thirty seconds, but it’s not worth it. Let it go.” When you’re fighting with your internal dialogue, it’s not always a good thing. My creative process on murder astounds me. I’m only half-kidding, but no one needs to worry.

I had already answered her questions regarding my diagnosis of Complex-PTSD and where it potentially stems from, so when she asked where my parents lived, that was IT. I knew she was intentionally trying to break me, because she desperately wanted to know if I am an addict. She has reached the point where she cannot tell the difference between a patient and an addict, two very different beasts. I should have informed her that there is an immense difference between patients and addicts, and that I don’t appreciate her aggressive behavior, but I knew she would go back to my doctor and say I was a combative addict, or whatever she chooses to say in order to appease herself.

When she told me it wouldn’t take 2-3 years for me to be taken off this medication, I nearly laughed in her face. My doctor told me it WOULD take 2-3 years to safely take me off of this medication in order to put me on something else, something safer. He was concerned about seizures and other side effects that I have only been made aware of in the past four or five years, and he felt that I wasn’t ready to begin tapering because of all that I am going through, both health-wise and emotionally. He’s right, and I stand by what he said to me. Here she is though, suddenly telling me I can be detoxed off of this quickly (NOT true. Yanking me off this medication could kill me, and it does kill people when it’s not done properly.) and that forty or fifty years from now, this medication MIGHT  cause dementia. I wanted to say “I probably won’t live that long and quite frankly, I am NOT going to worry about what ‘could cause dementia or ‘might cause dementia’. Are you SURE you went to medical school?” I know people who take medication to improve their quality of life and that’s all this medication does for me, albeit not that well any more. From a medical perspective, it IS a high dose, but I’ve always been responsible with how I take it.

In June, my doctor asked me to start taking smaller doses, whenever possible, and I have done that. I am two months behind on my prescription and I still have enough medication for a few weeks. Instead of seeing this as a responsible thing, which is exactly what it is, this bitch took issue with that because she cannot understand what he said to me, because she can’t find his notes, and why I am being responsible and discerning with it. This didn’t sit right with her majesty.

She finally told me she will talk to my doctors and “figure something out”. She had about a hundred case files on her desk and as she desperately searched for mine, there wasn’t one. I suspect it’s because I am NOT a red flag to my doctor, who was a sweetheart to me and said she has no problem prescribing it, so long as this other doctor approves me. I don’t know if she will.

When I got home, I had to contact one of my doctors who she said she wanted to speak to. She does not have authorization to do so, because I didn’t sign a consent form, but I wanted this doctor to know, just in case. I didn’t want her to be side-swiped by this woman. She is the physical embodiment of a drive-by shooting, with all the subtly.

When she complained about the doctor who left, and not having his notes and diagnoses, I told her “This is where he works now. I’m sure you can find him.” She suddenly decided I need a “case manager” to get me in to see someone. Here’s a fact; I am NOT special. There is a LONG waiting list to be seen by so many specialists, and no one is going to move me up the list “just because”. I called before Thanksgiving to get an appointment with a migraine specialist and just last week, they told me I could be seen…at the end of May. I’m lucky they didn’t say “in 2019” after they said May. So, despite it being something I’d normally bitch about, I simply took the appointment and the receptionist promised she’d call me if there were any cancellations so I could get in sooner, after apologizing for twenty minutes because no one ever returned my call. The doctor has a five star rating which is the highest you can give a doctor, so I hope she’ll be able to help me.

Chronic pain patients put up with a LOT of crap. For me, this was unnecessary drama that raised my blood pressure to the point of a migraine. The sad thing is, I would have received more kindness, compassion, and far better treatment if I had walked in with track marks and an active addiction that was visible. Instead, I walked in with flawless makeup (It’s force of habit, I’m not trying to impress any one.), dressed like a normal person, and once again, I was judged for that. It’s NOT acceptable and it’s NOT okay.

When I told a family member that I wanted to talk to my primary care doctor about how this woman treated me, I received a lecture about how it’s “her job to ask questions like that, it’s all a form”. Yes, it’s her job to determine who is an addict and who is not, but no matter what I did, this woman was determined to find fault with me. I was waiting for Homeland Security to be on hand as I left for a fucking cavity search! I’ve never had anyone tell me, after a medical appointment, to “Just leave, go out.” I wouldn’t talk to a dog like that!

I don’t want to live in a society where patients are treated like dirt for taking necessary prescription medication, which means they’re smart enough to know something is wrong and seek treatment for whatever ails them, and addicts are being accommodated for choosing to use street drugs. The message this sends to patients is a horrible one, indeed. If I didn’t suffer terribly every single day of my life, I would throw all the prescriptions I have in the trash. We ALL would. Pharmaceutical companies would be out of business, or would have to look for other ways to make money. What would happen to pharmacies if, suddenly, we were all healthy? It’s an amazing idea, for a dystopian novel. In the real world, illness exists. No one asks for it.

When a doctor is annoyed because you don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs of any kind, that is your sign that something is wrong with them. It’s not you. Every other doctor I’ve met has noted those things as positive. Not her, because she is determined that everyone she meets is an addict of some kind. As she judgmentally sips her tea.

To make sure it wasn’t my imagination, I went and read her reviews. She has a one and a half star rating, which is basically unheard of, but I am glad I saw it because it validated me. The review that is posted, before my own, states that “She should have her medical license revoked because she is a real piece of shit.”, and that was merely the end of the lengthy review that was a mere glimpse at my own interaction with her. This person states they were repeatedly asked the same questions I was, and that they were also threatened by her. To add insult to injury, this is an award-winning doctor! I have NO idea how that’s even possible, but if she fucks with my medication and my health, she is just another doctor whose unprofessional, aggressive behavior is something I will happily report to the state licensing board. She seems incredibly overworked and I’d like to provide her with a permanent vacation.

There are great doctors out there, and I will always honor one with a great review and my full respect, but there are also bottom feeders that make you sick to your stomach. I encourage you to read reviews whenever possible, and I encourage you to write reviews, for the good and the bad. More often than not, it’s the doctor, NOT you.

Patients with chronic illnesses are still PATIENTS. We don’t deserve to be treated like garbage simply because a doctor assumes we’re all secretly addicts. I am shaking my head tonight, knowing in my heart that I didn’t do anything wrong.

Stay safe, smart, and warm, my lovely readers. And if you’ve ever experienced anything like this, I want you to know I stand behind you, and with you. 

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Works In Progress

The start of each new year is often the same; full of diets, gym memberships, promises to work more, or work less; promises in general are a big thing, and most of these “resolutions” are temporary. They last a week or a month, sometimes two, but very rarely become a new way of living for anyone. This is precisely why I don’t make them. Life is hard enough without adding additional pressure, and if anyone puts too much pressure on herself, it’s me.

I believe each year adds a certain amount of growth to us as human beings. If you’re on the more enlightened side, there might be significant growth each year. Overall, we do change at different rates.

My commitment this year is completion. Complete projects, put them out into the universe, and let the chips fall where they may. I also want to grow and expand a different side of my life because I grow restless without creativity and fresh ideas. I hate feeling stagnant.

I have a lot of writing in progress, and that makes me happy as a writer. To have ideas and be able to put them into words is a gift not everyone is given, so I don’t take it for granted. I have a lot of insanely creative ideas for the other side of my life, and I’m really excited about the potential there.

More than anything, I want this year to be successful. There are different levels, and with each level comes a new set of responsibilities. I take this all seriously, so I want to remain committed to my two priorities; writing and furthering my creative talents. One comes naturally to me, and the other needs some fine-tuning, but remains doable. It would be nice to have more support as I move forward on these things, but I’ve found that I will do what I feel is right with or without someone agreeing with my motivation. I don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why I am doing something, and if they need one in order to be supportive, I probably don’t need them in my life.

I have always found that as I grow, there will be people along the way who choose to grow with me, and stick by my side. There will also be many who will be left in the dust, and I’ve learned to be okay with that. I think it comes back to the quote about a reason, a season, or a lifetime. When people choose you, there’s generally a reason for their decision. The flighty and flaky need not apply, because I’m no one’s “season”. Sometimes you think you’ve found a friend who is going to be there for you come hell or high water, but you soon discover that they aren’t half as committed as they claimed to be. It’s sad, really. I’ve lost a handful of friends who could not keep up with my growth or who chose not to, for whatever reason, because I was never given one. I don’t think about it much, because I’m too busy to do anything but keep moving forward.

Of late, I’ve watched many of my relationships become stronger while others have slowed down or become silent. It’s okay. I have to learn not to take it all to heart, and to go with the flow. I cannot expect other people to be like me, that’s not realistic. Of course, I am a firm believer that everyone deserves to have at least one solid friend in their life. Unless they’re up on war crimes.

I am feeling more than a little claustrophobic at the moment from all the snow, but I have to say it’s been a productive day for me on the writing front. I have to give myself some credit there. Originally I made myself commit to one thousand words a day. Today I decided to re-commit and increase that to fifteen hundred words. Why not? After all, that’s how you take a “work in progress” and turn it into to a completed project. When the words and ideas flow, allow yourself to create. I have found myself writing many new scenes and being so proud of myself for allowing everything to come together organically. No one else is going to be your best cheerleader, so you have to learn to enjoy the small victories, as well as the larger ones. Or maybe that’s just my life, who knows for sure.

I have a long period of time ahead of me to focus on writing, reading, and research. I feel blessed to be able to do it all, because there are always occasional days where life is simply too dark and the last thing I want to do is what I need to be doing. I give myself those breaks where I’m focusing on my health and taking each day as it comes. I won’t lie; it’s not anywhere near as easy as it sounds.

Today has had its highs and lows, like most days, really. For now, I really want to focus on the highs by banishing negative people and thoughts from my presence. If you aren’t coming to me with love, respect, or tranquility, I am going to have to ask you to piss off.

I am making new rules regarding my life after enduring unnecessary hatred, hostility, jealousy, and other negative components for way too long. In life, sometimes we have to rise above everything and shut down that which does not help us grow. Hateful, jealous, angry people have no place in my world. Some people are about to be surprised by my decision to put them in their place and let them know I am stronger than their abuse. When someone is hurting you, they rarely, if ever, see themselves as an abuser. They will deny everything they’ve said to you, even though you know full well you’re not deaf or stupid. It’s enough to make you question your sanity, and that’s exactly what they want. They want you to think you’re crazy. They want you to be hurt while they deny their part in having said something hurtful, offensive, or cruel. That, my friends, is the other person in denial, NOT you. Acknowledge it for what it is and start cutting ties.

I have a pair of scissors to find. Have a great weekend, everyone. 🙂

copyright © 2018 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Peaks, Valleys, and Being Named

It’s disconcerting to be sitting here several years into this platform, and feel less sure of its direction than I did when I started out.

‘Poison In Lethal Doses’ was my decision to walk away from something that no longer suited me personally or served a greater purpose, and allowed me to return to my roots. It is, without question, one of the best decisions I ever made. It’s important to feel rooted in one’s self, without ego. A lot has changed from the first post to now, but I feel as though I’ve grown in leaps and bounds as a writer.

Last month, I was named “An Inspirational Writer of 2017”. I have no idea what I did to earn this acknowledgement of my efforts, as my readers don’t get to see 90% of the work I do. I have never promoted any of my works in progress because I’m not going to promote anything until it is published. It’s a strict rule of mine. but I couldn’t help but be completely overwhelmed, and emotional, to be declared an “inspirational writer”. That declaration makes me want to ask questions.

I have always felt that the smartest writers are sometimes silent; taking on causes they can truly get behind in their work, and I find peace in being silent when it’s important for me to do so. No one will ever accuse me of not using my voice for good, or say I haven’t advocated for change. It’s always obvious to me when someone is trying too hard, and over-compensating in ways I, personally, find unattractive. I have to stick to my guns and I have to stick to what’s important to me. I cannot bounce around like a heavily caffeinated Bobble head, with an over-inflated ego, desperately seeking out the approval of others. That’s not me.

Over the summer, one of the greatest compliments given to me was “You TRULY know yourself.” I loved the observation and comment SO MUCH because it is the absolute true. I know a lot of people feel lost, confused, hopeless, etc., and I’m human, so I’ve certainly felt those emotions, but for someone to say I “TRULY know myself” made me feel good. It helped set the tone for the final half of the year where I’ve likely felt a wide array of different things each day, and I openly admit, little of it was positive.

My mind is always at work, and sometimes it’s a curse, but mostly, it’s a blessing. What is the creative mind like? Anxious, because the creative mind is pulled in many different directions each day, wanting to complete the tasks it comes up with. The creative mind, one that is natural and not forced, is committed to creativity and expression. The creative mind, depending on its specific genre, wants to create something each day, even if no one else sees it. Printed paper is my canvas of choice, but so is a notebook and pen.

I inherited my creativity from generations of people who were unable to follow their dreams. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately; how much talent I come from. My parents were both talented photographers who were unable to do more than pursue it as a hobby. Whenever I snap a photo now, I am reminded to follow through on it, even if the photo isn’t perfect. My mother played two instruments, passing her love of music down to her children. My father didn’t sing, but he had a knack for hearing something once and being able to duplicate the melody. A few years ago, I noticed my brother does it, too.

I am a trained singer because a teacher called my mother one day and said “Did you know your daughter can sing?” Obviously she’d heard me sing before, but she’d never heard me be loud about it. There was a time when I tried to blend in, so as not to stand out. Gymnastics, singing, and writing changed all of that for me, slowly, but surely. They were outlets that said “Go out there and shine.”

Earlier this year, I found myself annoyed when I dumbed myself down in order to deal with my health. But at the beginning of this month, I saw a new doctor and not only did I not dumb myself down, but I was treated with kindness and compassion. I was listened to. I now have referrals to follow-up on, which I’ve physically been unable to do, thus far. I keep saying “I’ll call tomorrow.” I haven’t been feeling well. I’ve been in tremendous amounts of pain, feeling weak, often unable to get out of bed for more than a few hours at a time, but after doing a little research I felt comfortable enough to tell myself that it’s okay. I knew this would be an emotionally harsh month for me, but I made it to that appointment, and I will make phone calls for a spine specialist, a new neurologist, and another physician at the hospital where my new doctor is affiliated. I’m not happy that the Fibromyalgia pain was not addressed, but it was one appointment. The next time I go in to meet with one of her colleagues, I think I will see if I can get in to see her, too. I’d feel better if we discussed it and came up with an action plan. Because while my neck and back hurt like hell, and my migraines are definitely a serious issue, I worry that the Fibromyalgia may have caused permanent nerve damage. I desperately want to find some measure of relief for this.

2018 will have its challenges, I am sure. If I can deal with my health, finish the novel I worked on the majority of this year where I set personal records for myself during NaNoWriMo, and go back to writing dark urban fantasy, I think it will help me a lot.

I’ve never set out to inspire others by being myself, but if I have inadvertently inspired you through something I’ve written or said, then it’s the icing on the cake. I thank you for the comments you’ve left me throughout this year, and the e-mails you’ve sent my way. I thank you for acknowledging me, and I tip my hat to those who’ve remained on this journey with me.

There’s so much more to come. Of this, I have no doubts.

copyright © 2017 Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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