To Tell the Truth

I’ve been sitting on this post for a few months, writing when I felt the urge. It seems fitting to share this today, which I just learned is the International Day of Happiness, because I am the least happy I have ever felt in my life and I don’t know what to do about it. Admitting that is difficult, because I know my friends and family will want to help me, make things better, do something to make me happy. The reasons for my unhappiness are complex and there are no easy fixes. Trust me, if there were, I would have done them by now.

This has been building since I lost more physical independence after my femur fracture in 2016. That catastrophic event took away my ability to independently drive my van, and increased the number of personal care hours I require. It also caused me to change how I use the bathroom, limiting my ability to pee freely as I described in this post. OK – to be fair, I’ve never been able to pee freely. But, until I broke my leg I was not limited to the use of three bathrooms on the planet.

The loss of independent transportation required me to move – twice – in the past eighteen months. I have been using my local paratransit system for most of my travel to and from work and events. Paratransit is a shared ride system, which means you are not guaranteed a direct ride from your pick up location to your destination. There have been days that I am picked up at my house (which is 15.9 miles from my office) to ride around for two hours, picking up and dropping off other passengers until I am dropped off at work. On average, I spend two and a half hours every day on the bus to travel my 32 mile round-trip commute. This is time I don’t get to write, volunteer, read, work, or just relax.

Last September, my friend and former college roommate Chris surprised me with a phone call. We hadn’t spoken since the start of summer, but our friendship is one where we can pick up exactly where we left off even if it has been months since the last conversation. We we played catch up and traded stories, I admitted that the past several months had been stressful. My exact words were something like, “I’m not really doing well and feel like I’m barely keeping it together most days.”

Chris was quiet for a moment, then responded, “Well, I wouldn’t have known that from your Facebook posts! You’re so busy, and always writing about volunteering with Rotary.”

The truth? I hate being negative all the time. So I don’t share all the crap I’m dealing with on social media.

I am not alone in this. According to a survey conducted in Great Britain, only 1 in 5 people are truthful in how they portray themselves on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. According to the marketing company Custard, who performed the survey:

When asked how people’s lives differ online, 31% of respondent said that their social page is “pretty accurate, just with all the boring bits removed” and 14% said that their profile makes it look like they have a “much more active social life.” The survey also showed that men are more likely to lie about their lives through social networking sites, with nearly half (43%) of men polled admitting to fabricating facts.

I don’t feel like I’m lying on social media. I am not making up the things I share publicly. In my case, I choose to try to keep complaints to a minimum on Facebook. I am consciously not sharing most of the daily stress that is causing me to slip further into a pit of unhappiness. At least, I try my best to keep the negativity to a minimum.

But I’m struggling. Right now, finding positivity is a chore I force myself to complete each day.

It used to be my natural way of operating. I am an optimist. I see the glass half full. I believe things could always be worse. Yet, recently I don’t feel up to the challenge of maintaining optimism.

I have withdrawn from friends and family who care. I text instead of calling because it requires less energy. Until last week, I hadn’t sent a birthday card to anyone in at least two years. At a time when I should be surrounding myself with other positive people because I’m an extrovert who gets energized in social situations, I am hibernating.

I am not writing as often and when I do it’s not my best work. Writing helps me process what is happening in my world. It is a way for me to maintain balance and emotional stamina. A glance at my blog statistics shows I only posted 55 times in 2017. That may seem like a good number. But when you compare it to 2015, the year before the femur fracture, it pales to the 164 posts I shared.

Before any of you start sending me notes reminding me that you love me and that life is not all bad, I need to tell you something. I KNOW this is temporary. I KNOW what is happening in my life is not the worst thing in the world that could happen. I KNOW there will (eventually) come a day when my new wheelchair doesn’t make me cry in pain. I KNOW I will (someday) get that new wheelchair accessible van with the high tech driving controls which will enable me to participate in my community at will. I KNOW there are millions of disabled people who would love to have the difficulties I am facing right now – people who don’t have accessible housing, access to paratransit, full-time employment, adequate personal care assistance. I KNOW I am speaking from a world of privilege they do not have and would gladly take in a heartbeat.

Knowing those things does not make the challenges I’m facing less real or less of a barrier in my life.

Last week I attended a book reading at my local independent living center. During the community discussion after the reading, someone mentioned the anger disabled people feel – anger that is not acknowledged or validated. Often, well-meaning people will listen to me vent in frustrated anger and respond by saying, “Well, at least it’s not this (insert awful thing here)” or “It could be worse! You could have (insert other disability or illness here).”

Those comments don’t help me feel less angry. They don’t acknowledge that here and now, I am living with levels of fear, anger, and unhappiness which threaten to burst out at inappropriate times. They don’t validate my feelings of discouragement at having to battle and navigate a bureaucratic system which is supposed to be helping me but has not produced anything meaningfully helpful in 18 months (I’m talking about you ACCES-VR).

So, today, on this International Day of Happiness, even a gratitude list doesn’t make me feel happy. I debated whether or not to share this post and eventually decided perhaps there was someone else who is not happy today who could benefit from knowing she is not alone. I edited, deleting swear words and prepared myself for the reaction it will bring.

Tomorrow I’ll be better. That’s the way it’s been for over 2 years. This too shall pass. Periods of happiness can be found, just not for me today.

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19 thoughts on “To Tell the Truth

  1. You don’t need to be a cup of sunshine for everybody else all the time! I don’t know how to help your particular situation but I think you need time – whatever unspecified amount of time needed, to be determined ONLY by you – to feel what you’re feeling and somehow adjust to your changed reality. There’s grieving going on and that’s just messy business. I wish EVERYTHING gets better for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Kyle. I know time is necessary, but I feel like enough time has passed for the bureaucracy to move forward. I forget how much linlon that always takes. ACCES-VR and I don’t see eye to eye. They think 2 years is a perfectly acceptable length of time. I don’t think a new van should take that long.

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  2. Dee, being honest, brutally honest, is the only way things change. I lived my social media lie for five years while married to a drug addict. I didn’t want to burden people with my loneliness and frustration, so I chose the very best parts of my life, my kids and my work, to share with the public.

    I hope by verbalizing your thoughts, it takes some of the power away from the things that get you down. You are entitled to your feelings, and it is important to observe them, honor them, and learn from them.

    “This too shall pass” is what my mom and I say to each other when one of us is struggling. I hope during this dark time you will find an ember of hope you can fan into a flame.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Other Denise – you have been such an inspiration to me in my writing and sharing journey. I thought of you as I was writing a setmese of this because of a post you shared. It gave me strength to keep going. Thank you for your kindness and support. This will pass, and I will make it. ImI allowed to say it sucks along the way. 🙂

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  3. So proud that you are admitting this-we all have to face changes and the new normal changes everything. Very sorry this isn’t happening sooner for you-I have my prayers out to those special angels asking them if they can move things along for you-sometimes it takes a long time to deal with stuff thrown into our lives for no good reason. I think several people can relate. You know you are loved, right.

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  4. Denise, knowing things sometimes doesn’t help with the living with them. You know this too shall pass, but sometimes it just seems like it will ALWAYS be this way. It won’t. Your body has had to heal from the fall and your mind has to heal from the ending of what was to the what will be. So sorry for all the pain. Pain makes everything worse. But, on a cheerier note, we who know you love you loads and send you a heaping helping of laughter. Why did the chicken cross the road? To see if the car would miss him. Okay, really rotten, but couldn’t end it with because he wanted to get to the other side.

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  5. I am sorry that things have been so hard for you. I know we’re not supposed to try and make you feel better. Anyway, if I could send you hugs or some of those chickens Stella mentioned, I would. In the meantime, I respect how openly you shared and long for the day when things are better for you.

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    • I would love hugs – or chickens! The words of encouragement from friends and fellow writers have helped. Today is another day. The sun is shining. I still have a job, and an apartment. And a back up chair that (for now) works so I don’t have to be in pain. There are reasons for gratitude, and your support is one of those reasons.

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  6. I respect and admire your complete honesty. It surely helps far more than the relentless grind of ‘positive thinking’ etc etc. Of course you and we count our blessings but that doesn’t mean we don’t experience feelings that are ‘supposed to be’ negative and that we can’t / shouldn’t express them. I believe the ‘commandment’ to always be positive is harmful. I hope expressing them and sharing them helps you to feel better. And I hope everything works out well. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Valerie. Expressing things DID help if only because then others know what is really going on. Eventually I will have the stamina and energy to write about the entire process of trying to get a new van. I think it will be eye-opening for those who do not know what is involved.

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  7. Yep yep yep and amen! Show me someone who is always happy and I’ll show you a liar. I’m with Valerie – it isn’t healthy to deny/not express negative emotions, although I try to avoid doing it on social media too. I won’t try to fix you (you aren’t broken, the system is) but I’d send you a new van if I could. This piece has the me too factor and you inspired me to grab a notebook and pen and get busy writing,

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    • Yes – get writing! I’m glad I could inspire that activity. I don’t expect you to send me a new van. Although, if you did find a Dodge Grand Caravan with high tech driving controls, I wouldn’t complain. Especially if it”s red.

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