This Too Shall Pass

Truth be told, I stay away from social media when my mental health goes for shit and, right now, it’s pretty brutal. I have been unable to get through a single day in the last two weeks without having a mini mental breakdown or losing my shit about something.

The Lyme struggle is real—not only physically (EVERY. FUCKING. DAY.), but also mentally…especially mentally. Right now I am in a downward spiral of extremely irrational irritation mixed with uncontrollable manic episodes.

Even LSD microdosing isn’t helping with this level of Jo Is Crazy AF.

It ain’t pretty.

I am not a pleasant person to be around at the moment.

I can’t even stand myself and I have always been able to take myself, even at my worst.

It’s actually that bad.

The only thing that keeps me somewhat chill and borderline happy for any length of time is hanging with my animals, by myself.

The rub here is that I know this will pass and that my treatment will progress. I’ll look back and think, “Phew. That was a doozy! So happy I weathered that shitstorm and I am feeling so much better.”

I know this, intrinsically, and yet, here I am slogging through the shit.

Despite knowing that everything passes and that every shitstorm can be weathered, we still have to feel our way through it WHILE it’s happening. We still have to ride the rollercoaster of bullshit irrationality and seemingly endless sadness in order to learn and grow and strengthen.

This is the entire point of life.

But sometimes—HOLY SHITSNACKS!—life sucks a giant bag of douche nozzles.

Right now, at this stage of my Lyme treatment, my psyche is in two pieces:

One side is rational and clinical. It sits back, observing the other side’s batshit crazy temper tantrums and full-on bullshit crying fits and says shit like, “Oooph. Jo must be killing off some serious bacteria and their toxic waste must be coursing through her system right now. She’s having a rough go of this one. It’s tough for her to stay happy and positive when her body hurts so much and she’s so frustrated and irrationally angry about stupid shit. It’s hard to watch her fall apart when she’s such a strong gal and she’s already made it through so much. Too bad she can’t accept that it’s okay to have crazy shit days like this and that, in the long run, it’s good for her because it gets it out rather than bottling it up.”

My crazy side just says shit like, “AHHHHHHHHHH! I AM SO ANNOYED BY EVERYTHING!”

My rational side sees my crazy side and gets a good giggle out of it, but in the meantime, my crazy side wreaks havoc on my attitude and relationships.

This, too, is something I have heard about Lyme time and again, but it doesn’t make the process easier. It doesn’t make me easily forgive myself when I lose my shit on Greg or others. It doesn’t help me work on self-love when I’m berating myself for not being able to be happy and cheerful and see the upside.

To put it bluntly, it fucking sucks and I feel like I’m flailing like a dandelion seed in the wind—never knowing where I’ll touch down next or if I’ll ruin a perfectly good lawn with my infectious and prolifically invasive roots.

For now, though, I’m sharing my crazy because I know so many others out there are going through similar shit and struggling with themselves. Maybe not because of Lyme Disease, but from other issues that beat you down regularly.

Take heart, kids! This, too, shall pass, and when it does, I’ll still be here, writing about it and high-fiving you for riding out your latest shitstorm too.

Buckle down. You got this!

Lyme Rage & Juxtaposition

Life with Lyme Disease is a constant juxtaposition with moments of pure joy mixed in with pure agony. Lyme Rage is a side effect of treament and it can really knock us on our asses.

Life. It’s all about juxtaposition.

Moments of pure joy filling up my heart while sadness simultaneously tries to empty it. This has been my daily lately—actually, since last October when the Lyme flared up and I started struggling healthwise again—but especially in the past three weeks since the Lyme treatments have really started kicking in.

HOLY TOXIC WASTE DUMP OF EMOTION, BATMAN!

As I’ve finally started to feel a shift in some of my symptoms (less overall skin pain and a reduction in joint pain), I’ve also started to become progressively crazier. I mean, ha ha, I’m always slightly crazy and I definitely have a temper sometimes, but I’m talking CRAZY. As the treatment is killing off massive swaths of bacteria and they are emptying into my system to be flushed out, I am turning into a full-on psycho.

For example, Greg and I were building the back fence last weekend and I tripped over some tomato cages that fell over while I was walking by them and I LOST MY SHIT. I threw down my tools, picked up the cages and LAUNCHED them across the yard with all my strength. If I’d had a sledgehammer handy, I probably would have smashed them into flat, unrecognizable lumps of wire. I may have also let out a guttural screech of pure stabby frustration as well.

Then I calmly picked up my tools and went back to work. What in the actual fuck?

Then, after a week of watching my orange fluffball, OJ, fight for his life after contracting some unknown illness, I lost my shit on my dad without meaning to. The conversation started out fine, we chatted for a bit and then he told me he would be dropping his cat off soon because he and my stepmama were going out of town. I told him that I couldn’t take Roger Flatface because OJ was too sick and it would be too much right now, to which my dad replied, “What did he do to himself now?”

This is where the anger sparked a little. He didn’t even offer sympathy or express concern for the cat, he just acted annoyed, like it was my fault the cat was sick. So I told him that OJ had just stopped eating and drinking and I’d had him back and forth to the vet all week trying to figure out what was going on with him. To which he then said, “Why don’t you just put the cat down and get another one.”

Again, spark spark, sparkity spark spark. I think my face actually started twitching at this point. Caveat: This is my dad. He may actually feel compassion and sympathy, but I’ve seldom seen it because, for whatever reason, he simply does not show it to me. His way with me is to be gruff or disapproving and to offer advice that he thinks will solve the issue. Most of the time I just roll with it and let him say whatever he feels like he needs to say, even though it is usually kind of hurtful and often makes me feel like I’m completely failing at life. Also, I know my dad loves me and I know he means well, so I usually just roll with it.

At this point though, I was starting to feel extremely agitated that my dad would be so callous and just tell me to basically discard one of my kids and replace him with a new model. I’m positive he didn’t see it that way, but I sure as shit did. I told him that I wasn’t going to kill my cat just because he was sick and also pointed out that he wouldn’t do that to his pets either. And, again, for whatever reason and because dad is dad, he got pissed off, told me I couldn’t afford to pay for all these vet visits and then he hung up on me. (Ironically, my eldest brother who has Schizophrenia gets angry and hangs up on my dad ALL THE TIME and dad gets really annoyed by it, but apparently, it’s totally acceptable for dad to do it to people.)

Normally, when my dad says or does things that are extremely hurtful, I let it go. It may annoy me, but it doesn’t make me see red or feel the need to retaliate. As Greg always tells me, “Water off a duck’s back.”

This particular day, however, my body was flushing hot with all the dead bacteria flowing through me and I was completely exhausted. In my head, I thought, “Oh well. There I go doing the wrong thing again by trying to save my furchild with medical attention. What a disappointment I am.”

And then I simply snapped. If I were observing from across the room, I would have seen the top of my head explode with such force it hit the ceiling and my face would have turned a pretty shade of vermillion.

In less than 30 seconds, my thoughts turned extremely dark and spiralled down the shithole. These aren’t even thoughts I normally entertain, so it was just SO out of character. I have been to A LOT of counselling over the years to deal with my shit and I have learned many techniques to calm myself down, let shit go, and keep moving forward (even before my daughter died I had been to many counselling sessions). No. This is a whole different ballgame—one I have no idea how to play. This is Lyme Rage and, from what I hear from so many people, it’s a giant mind fuck. It takes your brain to places that you would never normally even go and on this day, it was instant and overwhelming. It drowned me in a wave of bullshit.

…How DARE he tell me to kill one of my children. The only fucking children I will ever have. How DARE he get pissed off at me because I won’t watch his fucking cat and I’ve been trying to save my cat’s life with medical treatment. Who the FUCK does he think he is, always trying to dictate my life and telling me what to do with my money? Always making me feel like I’m a giant fucking disappointment who has never accomplished anything or done anything in my life worthy of his acceptance or respect? Where the fuck was he when I was growing up? Oh, that’s right, he was ignoring me and tending to his other four children. Me he simply left behind to be raised by a crazy person. In his eyes, I’m the shitty child. I’ve always been the shitty child. I’m the child who always fucks up everything and has never been worthy of his love. That’s why he left when I was five. That’s why he’s always telling me how proud he is of my sister and how she always finishes things she puts her mind to (even though HE never finishes anything and almost never follows through with the plans he makes). My sister who basically lived at home, when she wasn’t away at school, until she was nearly 30 and has never struggled for money or food or to keep a roof over her head. Proud of the sister who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and has no clue what real struggle is like while my dad left me to be raised by a woman who was shitty with money and taught me nothing about living out in the real world, had mental issues, and yelled at me all the fucking time. Not proud of the daughter who got straight As all through school, has two degrees, has fought her way through a lot of death and loss and still manages to keep smiling and loving through all of it. Nope, I’m somehow a burden, a disappointment and an asshole because I refuse to give up on a cat I love more than life…Why do I even let this bother me? Why does his opinion even matter? Why am I always hanging around, seeking his praise when I know it will never come, never has. Fuck this. I’m done. I’m done with allowing myself to be hurt by his words and actions. I’m done with letting him dictate to me or tell me what’s best. He is mean. He is judgemental. He kicks me when I’m down because he doesn’t know how to love. I don’t need this in my life. It is hurting me. It is slowing down my healing. Enough is enough…

And then…I picked up my phone and spewed out a bunch of nasty words, calling my dad out on being cold and cruel and heartless, telling him that I am done with him and telling him to stay out of my life.

Even though my gut was SCREAMING at me to let it go, to walk away, to just take a deep breath and it would pass…I hit SEND.

I HIT SEND. Jesus H. Christ. I HIT SEND.

And then I just sat there wondering what the hell was happening to me, breathing heavily, torrents of tears pouring down my face, gasping for breath, staring at my phone.

For 10 minutes I stayed this way, sobbing, feeling my heart rip open and simultaneously feeling totally justified and like a complete asshole. It didn’t matter that Rational Jo knew that dad did the best he could when we were kids and did what he felt he had to do. It didn’t matter that Rational Jo had already been to counselling for years to deal with all the hurt and resentment she’d felt surrounding her parents and her mom’s death. It didn’t matter that Rational Jo LOVES her siblings and is much too intelligent to blame any of them for any of her shit. It didn’t matter that Rational Jo knew her dad loves her and would never intentionally hurt her feelings or deliberately set out to make her feel like a loser. None of it mattered because Rational Jo wasn’t even present. Rational Jo was pinned into a corner by a thick wall of zombie Lyme bacteria while the rest of the zombie army was penetrating her brain, tapdancing all over her sensibilities.

10 minutes of all-consuming, completely irrational rage and then, like a switch was flicked, back to totally calm and rational.

I was filled with regret, but too tired and too “Johnson Proud” (we have a thing with stubborn pride in our genes that is tough to admit to ourselves…) to do anything about it. I could have picked up the phone, profusely apologized to my Pops and explained what had happened and how much I’ve been struggling with the side effects of treatment, but I just sat there. I could have called him and told him how much I love and appreciate him for all the good things he does and says, but I just sat there. For another hour.
Eventually, I got up and got on with my day and just shoved the episode out of my mind to deal with another day.

Incidentally, I did end up apologizing, after losing sleep for a couple nights and agonizing over all of it. But, really, hurtful words are just that and sometimes even an apology—no matter how sincere—really sounds empty when the words were cruel. So I really have no idea if he will forgive me or not and I’m totally fine if he doesn’t because I’ve forgiven myself. I’ve also forgiven him for his hurtful words. They don’t matter anyway. Kitty has made a full recovery and it was worth every penny.

The point of all this, though, isn’t my baggage or the struggles that relationships go through, it’s about juxtaposition and the fact that there is always going to be a yin and yang flow to life. We are on this earthly plane to learn and grow and we do that with periods of struggle and bliss and everything in between. We are also human and we ALL fuck up, we ALL do shitty things that we regret, we ALL bring light and joy into the world, and we ALL have the capacity to accept this, accept our shit, work to improve ourselves and keep moving forward.

The past two weeks have been a constant juxtaposition for me—fighting the massive bacterial bitch that is Lyme disease, nursing a sick cat back from the brink, and adopting a small bundle of Meximutt craziness who fills my heart with ecstatic joy. I’ve had moments that bring me to tears, both from sheer happiness and utter frustration. Moments that make me belly laugh, both from genuine mirth and stark irony. And moments of quiet, euphoric stillness that remind me that we have to drop in and relish those good times so we have something to boost us and get us through the shitty ones.

Surrender Is The Key To Happiness

Jo Johnson writing on her living room floor, pen in hand, contemplating life.

Creature of habit.
Even though I am not a planner, I am definitely a creature of habit in the mornings. If I vary from my usual routine, I just can’t get my shit together and my productivity and purpose plummet drastically.
I do the same thing every morning, in the same order and
if I stray from that routine, even a little bit, I’m fuckered. I never realized how habitual I was nor how much I depended on my routine until my Lyme symptoms became so debilitating that they bounced me out of it and I was constantly flailing, scrambling to get shit done, and feeling quite lost and despondent about it.
It’s taken me months to accept that I can only expect to be my usual energetic, productive, intelligent self around 50% of the time right now. 🤷🏻‍♀️I take heart that on the days when I DO feel good, I speed around like a hummingbird, crossing tasks off my list, writing up a storm, getting outdoors to ride or hike or whatever else I feel up for.
My point, once again, is that surrendering is the only way to find true happiness. The moment we start rebelling against our circumstances, hating them, longing for something different, we up our anxiety level, trigger sadness and depression, and actually take ourselves farther from where we want to be.
If we struggle against our circumstances and refuse to accept them, we make it harder to deal with them because we take ourselves out of the present, out of the moment. The trick is to BE here, in the moment, looking at it and saying, “Okay, self, this is happening right now and we can handle it.”
Capiche? On the days when I wake up with too much pain to function or a brain too stupid to think properly, I surrender. I accept. I find ways to do whatever I can and stay relaxed and rested so that my body will heal and I don’t waste time stressing that I’m not at my best or lamenting that I won’t cross much off my list.
Having that mindset makes those days much easier than spending the day pissed off that I can’t function.

Haters Gonna Hate. A word about accepting this and moving on.

Last week, “someone” made a comment on my blog claiming that I exaggerate aspects of my life (namely my roller derby “career” and my “retirement” from professional photography) and advising me to be more honest with my clients about my writing and editing abilities. The comment was, of course, “anonymous” and tied to a fake Gmail address. When I saw the comment, I was surprised by it, but I immediately replied with a message of my own, thanking them for visiting my blog and congratulating them for having the courage to message me from behind the anonymity of their keyboard and screen. #keyboardwarriors #amiright

At first, I assumed that this person wasn’t someone I knew, but as I mulled over their comment, curiosity took hold of me and I wondered why someone I didn’t know would so personally and publicly attack me. My gut tweaked, so I asked a techy friend of mine to trace the IP address attached to the comment. I wasn’t surprised when the IP traced back to an address in Kamloops—one I recognized. Someone I DO know. [People just don’t realize how difficult it is to truly be anonymous these days. I mean, if you’re gonna say nasty shit about people on a public site without having the balls to show your face or name, at least use a VPN…details, details…]

Having discovered who sent the message and being both a bit shocked and also flabbergasted as to why this person would feel the need to throw shade on me, I still did nothing. My curiosity had been satisfied and, even knowing who it was, I still didn’t feel the need to react to it.

And then I sat back and had a huge A-ha moment about my progress in controlling my reactions. Five years ago, I would have lost my shit and felt an immediate need to defend myself and prove my worth or my truth or whatever else. Now, I recognize the futility of that kind of behaviour. There is simply no need to hang onto somebody else’s bullshit. It’s none of my GD business.

My point is this:

In life, you are always going to run into people who throw negative vibes like poisoned spears at your heart. Let them. Your shield is the knowledge that you have the choice to either let that spear pierce and infect you or bounce off you harmlessly because your skin is bullshit proof.

Everything Happens For A Reason – Jo Johnson Writer

Writing prompt from the weekend. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Admittedly, at first, 64,000 thoughts came to mind, but after 30-45 seconds, only one remained: nothing.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Even if I could, I wouldn’t change anything. Not the deaths of my babies nor anyone else I’ve lost. None of the struggles, the triumphs, nor the challenges. The fact is, every moment of my life—the good, the bad, and the three-ringed shitshow moments—have shaped me and grown me into who I am.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

And I love who I am. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I love all of my light and my shadow, my ever-present sense of humour, and the way I feel too much about certain things and nothing about others. I love my strength and resilience and my vulnerability. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

As much as life has hurt at times, it has always been balanced by periods of growth, usually followed by joy. It’s been a perfect balance and I wouldn’t change any of it.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

The Dragonfly is my Spirit Animal

When I was a little girl, my mom told me that when a dragonfly lands on us it is always one of our deceased loved ones or spirit guides checking in and letting us know they’re around and watching over us. I grew up obsessed with dragonflies—always wondering who was stopping in to say hello when one perched delicately on my hand or shoulder. It wasn’t until I was regularly swarmed by dragonflies after my mom’s death that her story and my obsession really started to wake me up. After a few years of dragonflies following me around and landing on me all the time, I finally figured out that my energy changes with their visits.

After my daughter Cora died, a little blue beauty landed on my leg and hung out for hours through periods of ugly sobbing and total numbness. Lightly perched on my knee, it would look at me, turning its head from side to side like a dog who is trying to figure out what its human is saying. When my sobs shook me too hard, it would flutter up and land on a different part of my body, always looking at me, turning its head. It even rode around on my dog Juno for a little while. On some level, I knew that the moment was significant and that I should pay attention, but I was too exhausted from grief to acknowledge it. Months later, when some of the haze of grief cleared, I remembered the little blue dragonfly and finally recognized it as the first sign Cora had sent me to let me know she was still with me.

Now, nearly nine years after losing Cora (and 20 years after losing my mom), I always recognize the significance of dragonflies. I giggle when they only land on me and follow me, even though there are other people around. I recognize that my vibe jumps instantly when I even see a dragonfly flit by, let alone when one lands on me.

Yesterday while I was outside in the yard, attempting to finish up the ties on our new chain link fence and cursing the pain and lack of strength in my fingers and wrists, I had a quick visit. It’s very early in the season, but a small red dragonfly flew by my face and landed briefly on my gloved hand. The shift was instantaneous. The pain in my joints lessened, my frustration with my body’s limitations right now eased, and I felt sunshine fill my darkest places again.

Believe what you will, but I am 159.6% convinced that dragonflies are my spirit animal…bug…spirit bug? LOL

Consciously Disconnecting

Yesterday, I listened to Dr. Adam Alter’s Calm Masterclass on Social Media & Screen Addiction. I cannot recommend it to ya’ll enough. It will open your peepers wide, even if you think you are already quite savvy about screen addiction.

The doc covered a lot of info in three short classes, but my biggest takeaway was that we don’t allow ourselves to be bored anymore. If we have a lull in activity, such as when we’re riding in an elevator or waiting for an appointment, we pick up our phones. Boredom is the gateway to creativity. When our brains relax and begin to wander, we generate ideas and solve problems. In this way, meditation is incredibly beneficial to us because it leads to regeneration of ideas and inspiration. It allows us to be mindfully “bored” and gives our brains a much-needed technology rest, which leads to an increase in creativity and innovation.

Since I’ve been using the Calm App to meditate nearly every day, I have grown quite conscious of this boredom trap, but I still have to fight the urge to pick up my phone when I have a lull in activity. The thing that stops me from doing it is looking around and seeing 95% of people on their phones or knowing that my brain needs to refresh to be as creative as possible. Plus, walking into a room and seeing nearly everyone on devices disturbs me, especially when I see entire families glued to their screens while out for dinner together. Screen time is killing our ability to form communities and forge strong relationships. More connected while also more distant than ever before.

Listening to the doc explain how screen time removes our creativity, I was startled to realize that I have begun to struggle while writing. Where I used to be able to spit out original, descriptive language naturally and quickly, I have become sluggish and lazy. Can’t think of something unique? No worries, just throw in something boring and predictable. Can’t think of a suitable word? No prob, just fire up thesaurus.com and choose one. It’s so easy to “cheat” when we have unlimited access to technology that can take the thought process out of everything we do.

All of this has inspired me to change up my patterns. I tried to cut off my screen time, cold turkey, last year, and it did not work—the addiction and convenience were too strong to resist. So this time, I’m trying Dr. Alter’s approach. I’ve set up time slots for screen time and I’m going to do my best to stick to them. When I’m writing, I’ll be shutting off internet access and my phone to focus on writing and using my own brilliant brain (because I know it’s still in there, somewhere).

Lastly, and perhaps BEST of all, I’ve set aside an hour each day to grab a journal and brainstorm words in an attempt to revive my formerly extensive vocabulary. I did it this morning and it was SO DANG FUN!!! I chose the word “miffed” and then wrote down every synonym that came to mind. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I still have many words lurking in the depths of my lazy-ass brain.

What do you do to cut down on screen time and resist the addiction?