Blast from the past (1992 to be exact)…

My 3-year-old self blows the birthday candles.

My 29-year-old self is going to blow the birthday candles on Friday.

Last 20s!

Being 29 is definitely better than being 3, and 9, and 19 (oh, definitely better than that!). Things have started working out, getting to know more things about myself, put some more things inside my nutshell/Mary Poppins bag.

I have lived through some stuff, good and bad, survived everything, to reach this moment.

Celebrating the last age with a “2” in front, feels like an end of an era sometimes; decades passing definitely remind you of time and how precious it is.

But the thing is that there comes a point when you have what you need (as a mind/memories/stamina,etc), to handle time, and life. And this age feels so much like it!

I have reached a point in my journey where I feel more comfortable than ever. And thinking of that, thinking this way, makes feel so grateful!

So, let the birthday week begin!

“Opened my eyes to black” (a poem)

About two years ago, my untreated OCD caused me a period of depression. During that time, I was part of a theater group and we were preparing a performance where we had to work with one poem each.

I tried to work with some, but eventually I wrote one (it’s one of the things I do after all)….

*The original was in Greek, so I translated it, even though I believe poetry loses a little of its “soul” when translated.

Living with OCD (no.11)

Living with OCD, and in general with anxiety, is practically a constant road trip. It goes on and on, with its stops, its ups, and downs. There are the days you feel like you can rule the world, and the other days, when you feel like…not doing much basically.

But let’s get a little more personal.

I have managed to live in balance with my OCD, we have become some kind of friends. I have created a couple of comfort zones (some psychical, some not) and I test my limits almost every day.

Except… the days that I like to call “the break days”!

The days are the ones that I’m not in the best shape/mood. In these days I feel like the only thing that I want is to stay inside my comfort zone(s). For example, stay home, work from there, maybe treat myself to something nice, or pamper myself with a movie and some extra self care.

In the past I would think of these days as “lost”, time that I didn’t take advantage of. But not anymore.

I have learned that listening to the needs that your body and mind have, what they “tell” you, is as important as doing things. Keeping yourself in the best condition possible is crucial for your mental health, your psychical health and for getting things done basically! If you keep pushing your limits, without setting limits to protect yourself, eventually you’re gonna crush. And the truth is that those crushes are damaging.

Plus, I think of these breaks, as a reward on their own. I’m doing what I have to do in life, I have managed difficult situations when I had to, I’m really working with myself and my issues, so why shouldn’t I cut myself some slack and make stop from the road trip that’s called OCD/anxiety/life?

A special installation

This is an installation by Gilles Barbier, called “The Drunkard”.

I remember that when I first saw it, it hit too close to home. In my eyes, it seemed like a perfect realization of the mess that anxiety creates inside your head, or the blast inside the mind of a multitasker like myself.

And still, until this moment, I think about it in this way!

The body language of the man, the tornado that his thoughts create and how he’s so small in comparison to all the thoughts, and anxieties, and responsibilities, and maybe even the fast tempo of life, or the “demons” that keep taunting him from inside out.

If you think of it this way, that blast of objects on the upper (and main) part of the installation are quite similar to the mess that lives in everybody’s head sometimes, right?!

The thing called cancer (no. 4)

This one is about the aftermath of a cancer diagnosis /treatment /survival. And from the point of view of the caretaker of the patient.

So, about one and a half years ago my mama was diagnosed with esophagus cancer. I still remember the moment I learned about it. And I still remember almost every moment after that, for the next months.

I was her main caretaker (brother and father were helping, but I did the hard stuff, the chemos, and the surgery and the recovery – and oh boy, the recovery was the hardest!). And there were friends who helped as well and I’m extremely grateful to them, forever.

And now, I think it’s finally time to talk a bit about what being the caretaker of a cancer patient is all about and how is the aftermath of the whole experience. It takes time to be ready for it.

First of all, it’s fucking hard. I was in survival mode, therw were things to be done and I had to do them. So I did, even if sometimes they were coming on the way of my OCD (yes, I was dealing with anxiety even before the diagnosis, all the cancer thing, of course, it wasn’t the most helpful, but I managed to make things happen).

Losing my mama used to be my worst fear. A fear that was sitting right next to me for months and months….

Taking care of my mama totally turned the tables and the balance in our relationship. I stopped being the kid and I became some kind of mother to her.

All the hospital visits, the treatments, everything during this period of time, can’t do much food to anyone. There are scars created.

High anxiety levels, lack of good sleep, a lot of pressure, a lot of work to be done, while in the meantime you try to face and deal with so many things, fears, thoughts, feelings.

The less people that are involved in the caretaking of a patient, the worst thins are for the caretaker(s). Much more things to be done, much more responsibility to be taken.

There are many mental states that a cancer patient goes through, and I’m not the right person to talk about it, I haven’t been through them after all. But I can talk about the mental states that a caretaker goes through. I did and I suppose some people will identify with them. It’s a one-way, constant survival mode. You have a never ending to do list. I remember having just some glimpses of my body and mind breaking down, but I couldn’t afford to give those glimpses too much space. Life was going on! And all those other times that I was planning a break for myself, my mind couldn’t practically go into any other calming mode.

Usually, being the caretaker means putting yourself second. Because you need to, and because your body and mind don’t really have enough stamina to care for a heavily ill person and pay the same attention to a second person. (Occasional help from other helps a lot in these situations).

Being the caretaker, also means being some kind of therapist/ life coach. Dealing with an illness like cancer is an emotional roller-coaster for the patient, and you have to be there for emotional support and inspiration as well! Personally, I had to support psychologically my mother, myself and a few people around (well, now that I’m writing about it I don’t know how myself and my mental health survived that…).

And there are a lot of “no’s”, and rejections, and denial coming from the patient. You have to deal with all of them, and cut them some slack (or a lot of it) because they’re going through some kind of hell.

And you have to be positive, for the patient, for yourself, for everything and everyone.

Fourteen hours of surgery and two weeks in the hospital, and two to three months at home after that. And a couple of months with monthly chemo before that, and many more.

The best picture you can take is this one:

And time passes.

And mama won.

And the big truth that takes quite some time to digest. Apart from all the emotions and thoughts that the patient goes through after the storm, there’s a great deal of aftermath for the caretaker as well.

It takes months to figure things out, to get rid of the pressure, to calm down. I don’t think you can be the person you used to be. It’s a life-changing experience. With a huge amount of aftermath to deal with.

I’ ve been in treatment (meds and therapy) before all the cancer thing, for my OCD and anxiety (and some suicidal thoughts too), and I still am. I take the best care I could ever take of myself. But there is still a part of me that deals with the great care I took of my mama.

And here’s a holiday photo of her back to work and me visiting: