When Chronic Illness Kills A Relationship

The end
15 years…gone.


One of the most painful things I can think of is the end of a relationship that was once full of love and happiness. It feels even worse that the cause of death here was my chronic illness.

Or rather, his inability to deal with my illness once things got tougher.

What is it like to become single while sick and disabled after 15 years, most of which were happy and healthy and in a happy and healthy relationship?

It’s like the bottom has fallen out of your world.

It’s like everything you knew, trusted, and believed in was yanked from under you and you don’t understand why suddenly you’re not enough any more.

It’s like seeing it coming but trying to fix it when there’s nothing you can do.

You can’t get well and stop the stress you’re both under financially and emotionally. You can’t break through your partner’s belief that any health issue can be conquered or fixed if you keep going like always. You can’t convince them your invisible, incurable chronic illness imposes real physical limits or that you’re at or past them when you look like nothing is wrong with you. You can’t explain why your grief over everything changing won’t heal when they won’t accept that you won’t get better.

It feels like being alone before you ever realize that you really are, because you can’t put your finger on the real issue…which is that as much as you may love each other, your partner can’t handle your illness and being your sole support, because they feel they can’t communicate their stress to you.

It feels like being punished for something you can’t control, and communication between you breaking down until it’s too late.

It feels like resentment, both directed at you and that you have for being resented.

It feels like trying to tell your partner that you understand…but you don’t. You may understand why your illness caused stress, but you will never understand why they could allow it to make them give up on you – on you together.

It feels like trying to tell your adult children without making them feel like they have to choose a “side.”

It conversely and perhaps irrationally feels like hurt because some of your children don’t take your side automatically, even though you’re trying to avoid making them feel like they should and you know it’s wrong.

It feels like not wanting to burden your family and friends, but not being able to do it alone either physically or financially.

It feels like being lost in a world you don’t know the rules to, if any exist.

It feels like fear and uncertainty are your new best friends who won’t leave you even for a moment.

It feels like longing for things back, even if they weren’t good for you.

It feels like heartbreak.

It feels like the end.

It feels like crying every night and having more flares because your stress affects your physical symptomatic levels.

It feels like being unable to explain that without others assuming it’s stress making you ill rather than exacerbating your existing illness.

It feels like feeling unlovable because of your illness.

It feels like every guilty thought you’ve had about how your illness is hurting your family is true in the worst possible way.

It feels like being lost.

It feels like strong moments when you think you did the right and necessary thing for you.

It feels like the rest of your moments being spent wondering if you did the right thing for you.

It feels like wishing they’d want you back.

It feels like wanting them to want you back so YOU can be the one to walk away from them.

It feels like wishing you’d never met if this is how it ends.

It feels like you’re a yo-yo ride of emotions.

It feels like having to lose the pets you raised and adore because you can’t take them to your new place…because you don’t have one.

It feels like as much a betrayal and trust-breaker as infidelity.

It feels like telling yourself not to even get interested in anyone because you can’t stand the reaction of mere aquaintances when you drop the Chronic Illness Bomb, much less that of someone you really like.

It feels like losing hope of a remotely normal life.

It feels like finding a new version of you as you discover who you are without them.

It feels more like,moving away than moving on or forward.

If it gets better you can’t see it yet, and in that, it feels like any breakup.

If it gets better, I’ll let you know.

– Selena



Don’t Tell Me How To Feel About My Trauma

I think I can hate the experiences just fine. Acknowledging that they shaped me for better or worse is something altogether different in my opinion.

Being abused, molested, sexually assaulted, losing my best friend at 9 to an abusive foster mother who beat her to death, losing my niece, having a chronic illness, raising kids with mental health issues – I hate those things and that they ever touched me and those I love.
I hate them with a passion.

Did they shape me?


But so did the neighbors who tried to help an abused kid, the Spanish and world geography teacher who gave a shy, picked on teenager a safe space in his classroom during lunch and tried to draw me out on the home abuse he suspected, the 6th grade science teacher who would later protect me from an abusive boyfriend in the mall, the supervisor at work who helped me when my ex threatened to kidnap my kid, the unconditional love and support of my mom and sisters, and the support of my chronic illness family.

Those people are the ones who turned my hurts into strengths, not the events themselves.

They are what made me and helped me make myself.

Don’t tell me how to feel about my trauma.

And don’t let anyone tell you how you feel about yours is wrong.

Be well, or as well as you can,


An Open Letter About Suicidality

My sisters and I a few years ago.


When I was 19, I took 60 sleeping pills. I made a quick stop at a friend’s bridal shower, then went home to die.

I didn’t. Not because I got scared…but because my then bf was horrified at the thought he might be blamed and called 911, because I was pretty far out by then.

The EMTs that night were the true heroes who gave their all to keep me here. I remember them the most through the fog of lights and noise, especially the woman who talked to me the whole time I faded in and out. “Stay with me! Come on, sweetie, just stay!”

I wanted to tell her no. I wanted to tell her that even when I was breathing, I wasn’t alive; that this life and each breath I took was loaded with too much pain to stay.

But I couldn’t. Her face was the last thing I remember.

I woke up in ICU. It was a day and a half later. I was confused. There were tubes everywhere. I wanted to talk, but one was in my throat.

The first thing that registered was my little sisters, sitting across the room with tear tracks down their faces. They were the first to realize I was awake, and Daphne jumped up, dumping Diana on the floor.

Then my mom, bawling so hard it hurt to look at her…at any of them.
My father was there. I tried very hard to ignore him. He was one reason I didn’t want to be alive. He was trying to act happy…but I could see the anger underneath. He wasn’t angry so much that I’d scared them, but that I’d embarrassed him by this and by what secrets I might tell.
He was relieved that I didn’t. I didn’t mention him at all, I think, and that made his act easier for him.

My attention wasn’t for him anyway.

I don’t remember what was said. I remember my sore, scratchy throat. I remember the nurse who removed the tube telling me it was there because I’d fought them getting the charcoal down, and that if I wouldn’t fight more, she’d leave it out. I had no intent of agreeing, but I did anyway.

I remember the fear and hurt on my sisters’ faces, and the relief that I was alive. I remember the way it hurt more than anything I’d ever felt to see that.

I remember us all crying. I remember wishing I hadn’t woken up or survived. That wasn’t in my plans.
I remember telling them I was sorry, and I was. Sorry I’d hurt them. Sorry I’d lived.

See, the biggest, most awful, scary, ugly truth about a suicide attempt is that sometimes (often) we aren’t glad we survived.
Sometimes not at first, and maybe for some, I suspect not ever.
And I was not at first.

More than anything, though, I was scared to try again. To not succeed again and to see that look in my sisters’ faces that still haunted them for a while when they didn’t realize it….that would be unbearable. To see that pain in my mom’s eyes again…
Those things haunted me and followed me like ghosts as I slowly learned to live.

I promised myself I would never, ever be the cause of those things again.

For 29 years, I’ve kept that promise.

It hasn’t always been easy, though. You’d think it was, right?

And that’s the other big scary truth about suicide attempts.
People who attempt may be (or become) glad we survived. Sometimes it creeps up on us slowly, like it did me, and we realize one day that we are actually okay…maybe happy…maybe grateful…with being alive.
Probably some are immediately grateful.

But we will almost certainly struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts again. We are at greater risk of dying by suicide, sometimes years later.
We will very likely need help, be it counseling, medication for depression, or both.

I won’t lie.
I won’t tell you it’s easy.
I won’t tell you I’ve never struggled or don’t sometimes still struggle.
I won’t tell you it will get better – sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes we don’t get a happily ever after. Sometimes it isn’t a ‘temporary problem’ that will resolve itself.

I will tell you that you’ll never know if you don’t hang on.
I will tell you that it can be infinitely worth it.
I will tell you that each day you win, you are braver than you know, struggle or not.

I will ask you this: Please stay with me.

I wish I could tell that EMT thank you and that I’d pass on her plea.

– Selena

First Drug For Chronic Migraine Approved in US

#DownTheRabbitHole #migraine #Chronicillness #ChronicMigraine #CGRP #migrainenews


Sigh. I’ve been remiss on posting about this because I don’t want my personal feelings about it to dampen hopes.

Personally, the estimated reduction doesn’t sound any different than botox promotions…and what they promote is always the more optimistic result.

No thanks. I prefer to know my realistic probabilities as being daily chronic for so long (yeah, the length of constant pain does reduce the probability of improvement, sorry to say).
No offense intended to anyone who isn’t daily – I know it’s just as disruptive and plain miserable when you have distinct separate attacks with days between or whatever your particular migraine hell is.

I’m just saying I wish there were more result ranges mentioned up front. Because quite frankly, sometimes that tiny improvement isn’t close to worth the price tag or side effects.

I do know one person who was actually in the trials and it DID dramatically help her pain.



Though it DID help her pain, she learned something surprising that I did while on botox – the other symptoms we don’t usually think about or focus on so much still exist and still are disabling.

This is not an abortive – it will not stop an attack. And as a preventive, it may not be worth it for people like me.

One more side note from a post by a friend:
“In one study, patients given Aimovig saw their migraine days cut from eight to four a month, on average. Those who got dummy shots had a reduction of two. Each patient group had similar minor side effects, mostly colds and respiratory infections.”
I don’t know about you guys, but this makes me a bit leery. Having fibro, my colds last longer and can get really bad. I realize it’s just a side effect, but it makes me nervous and being sick to have less migraines isn’t appealing to me.”

Comorbidities, anyone? Was this not considered at all? If so, that is downright criminal in its own right, because the number of people with comorbid conditions is incredible.
There are very few I know with zero comorbidities.

And that’s not even getting into price.

I’ve been an advocate too long to find something that doesn’t treat the entire disease exciting, I suppose, because I’m too aware that pain is NOT the only reason many are disabled by migraine.

My main hope for this? That migraineurs, doctors, and researchers finally get past migraine = headache because of this.
Until then we will NEVER have attempts at a more complete solution or be taken as seriously as we should.

– Selena

It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To



On April 24th, I turned 48 (almost half a century *gasp*) to very little fanfare.

Actually…to no fanfare. Fanfare is too loud, I was too nauseous for cake, and my Migremlins were screaming enough, thanks.

Sure, my family texted (proof that they know or I’ve drilled into them that phone calls hurt) birthday wishes. And Facebook friends galore posted well-wishes also…but here at home…it was forgotten. And that hurt.

I have chronic illnesses, not a lack of emotion.

So if I want to cry over my nonParty on my Unbirthday, I think I get a free pass to.


And like the girl said, “You would cry too, if it happened to you.”

(Also because my feelings are valid and matter, no matter who says otherwise.)

Be well, or as well as you can,


The Invisible Me

Depression and chronic illness/pain go hand in hand. Chronic back pain and chronic migraine are found to be highly correlated with significantly increased risk of suicide. But depression on its own is certainly no joke. It can be all-consuming and is accompanied by increased risk of suicide and other mental health issues.

How often have you tried to stay strong and appear like you’re handling things…while falling apart inside or when you’re alone and no one can see?

Depression loves to use our insecurities and fears against us, to whisper in our ear that no one cares or that we should be able to “get over it” or through it like anyone else.

It makes us believe we’re alone, even though millions of others like us are going through the struggle as well.

For National Poetry Month, I’m posting some of my poetry related to chronic illnesses/pain/migraine, domestic violence, and mental health.

Poetry has been an outlet/therapy/love for me for as long as I can remember, anything that deeply affected me emotionally has always been a part of that, but chronic illness and pain – physical suffering – affect our emotions and mental state much more than people not living with them realize.

These aren’t the only posts I’ll be making, but I hope that durimg this month of sharing, there’s something in poetic form you can relate to as well.

Be well, or as well as you can,


Never Forget, You Are A Warrior.

Chronic illness warriors
We often don’t feel like it, but surviving every day with a chronic illness, chronic pain, and/or a mental illness makes us warriors…even if all we did was survive. ❤

For National Poetry Month, I’ll be posting some of my poetry related to chronic illnesses/pain/migraine, domestic violence, and mental health.

Poetry has been an outlet/therapy/love for me for as long as I can remember, anything that deeply affected me emotionally has always been a part of that, but chronic illness and pain – physical suffering – affect our emotions and mental state much more than people not living with them realize.

I hope that durimg this month of sharing, there’s something you can relate to.

Be well, or as well as you can,


“Feelings” Are Just As Miserable (And Important) As Physical Symptoms

Chronic illness mental health
Chronic illness feelings suck…then add some mental illness feelings and *BOOM* you’ve got a combined mess.

No, I can’t “just think positive” or change how I feel…and I don’t have to.

Neither do you.

Feelings themselves aren’t inherently good or bad–they just ARE. And they’re normal, even the ‘negative’ ones. Even the ones that aren’t quite rational.

It’s what you do with them that matters.

People are uncomfortable with negative emotions. We don’t like seeing people we care about struggle or suffer; we’re full of nice sounding platitudes intended to bring comfort. The trouble is, we don’t always stop to think about whether we’re trying to comfort or help them feel better for us or for them.

If your offered comfort, help, or advice is given or urged upon someone because it hurts you to see them hurt or because you are uncomfortable with negative or strong emotional (and/or physical) suffering–it isn’t for their sake, whether you believe it will help or not.

Your intentions may be the best and the kindest; I honestly believe most people’s are. And in the moment, most of us will smile or say thank you for caring, and will try to protect you and ourselves by not voicing any emotional struggle again. We will put on the appearance of coping as well as we can and cry our tears or vent our anger into our pillows instead so we aren’t imposing or having to feel your discomfort atop our own.

And the more people we get the message from that our feelings are somehow wrong or inappropriate, the more we hold them back or try to bury them.

Yes, positivity has its place, and it does often help to a degree (big or small depends on the person and situation), but it isn’t a fix-all…and it won’t eradicate other feelings. Nor will burying them like rotting garbage.

All it does is make them feel more wrong, and more like there’s something wrong with us because we can’t seem to get rid of the stench.

Some things, despite our best intentions, have to be borne or traveled through. There’s no way around them, and they can’t be buried deep enough–we can always smell them even when you can’t. They exist regardless. And they can be part of an illness (mental or physical), partner to it, or become one of their own.

They can start to fester like an infected wound that slapping a bandaid over won’t cure; they have to be voiced to be lanced, and sometimes that’s all it takes to start the healing.

Others are more difficult, and some never completely heal–they need regular maintenance and treatment and may flare up again. These are usually the ones that can be the most difficult and the most uncomfortable for us and others to look at and hear about. They’re often a symptom of a larger problem or the result of a situation, and not dealing with them in a healthy way can impede or halt our progress and well-being.

But like any problem or illness, you’ve got to be aware of what needs treated, and every symptom matters. Even the ones we don’t talk about. Especially those.

We need to stop being afraid to tell each other it’s okay to feel, and to listening to how others feel even when it makes us unsure what to say or do, no matter how we feel about it.

It’s okay to not know how to react or what to say, and IT’S OKAY TO TELL SOMEONE YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY OR HOW TO REACT. Most of us would 100% rather hear that than have our feelings dismissed or feel invalidated by the response of a pithy platitude.

In the end, it’s not always about who REALLY gets it, but about the fact someone tried or is willing to sit in that painful place with us without trying to fix or silence it.

Be well, or as well as you can,


Remembering–Mourning the Loss of an Advocate: Amy Bleuel

(This post was originally written on 3/31/2017, a few days after the loss of Amy Bleuel . It seems fitting to me to repost it in remembrance of her.)

Suicide Prevention Advocates--Sometimes we're in the battle for ourselves, too.


My heart has been heavy the past few days since the report of mental health advocate Amy Bleuel’s death was released.

For those who don’t know who Amy was, she pioneered a network of peer support via her non-profit organization, Project Semicolon, founded in 2013. Project Semicolon exploded into social media consciousness in 2015 when pictures of semicolon tattoos inspired by the Project took off and started spreading like wildfire, but I was a follower of the Project since 2014 when I came across a photo on Facebook dedicated to Semicolon Day:

Project Semicolon
(The above photo is from 2015, but the one I came across was the same or similar.)
Project Semicolon defines itself as “dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury”, and “exists to encourage, love and inspire.”[8] While they are devoted to achieving lower suicide rates in the U.S. and worldwide, they do not themselves practice psychiatry, and the staff are not trained mental health professionals.[4] Rather, they recommend contacting emergency hotlines (e.g. 9-1-1 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) or seeking mental health professionals.[9]
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. with 42,773 reported deaths in 2014.[10] (from Wikipedia)

I can’t stress enough how important the Project was to me as someone who has a past history of self harm, who has struggled with depression and anxiety, and as a suicide attempt survivor and the mother of a suicide attempt survivor.

Amy made it okay to talk about these things more openly for many and touched so many lives with a small punctuation mark. By nature, those who self harm tend to hide what they do. There are differing reasons and methods of self harm that I won’t go into here, but the nature of the stigma has prevented many from seeking help or having hope for recovery. Suicide attempts often have similar stigmas attached, and many survivors, suicide loss survivors, or those considering suicide tend to feel alone even in the mental health community. Amy gave us a place there.

As an advocate for mental health as well as chronic illness, I admired and continue to admire Amy and her message of inclusion and support.

Amy was a suicide attempt survivor who struggled with depression and trauma PTSD herself, and whose father died by suicide. As many know, survived suicide attempts increase the risk of death by suicide in an individual. Yesterday, it was indeed confirmed that Amy died by suicide.

People tend to think mental health advocates have the answers and have conquered, but we’re really still in the battle with them.

We’re navigating the same waters, but don’t necessarily have a lighthouse in sight, a life jacket, or even know how to swim in uncharted waters…we just know we’re called to help others.
Sometimes in helping others, our own self care takes a backseat; sometimes because it’s easier to focus others’ problems, sometimes because we get caught up in what we do, and other times because we just don’t see that we have that same safety net we try to be.

When an advocate dies by suicide, people wonder what will happen to those they reached out to.
Will they feel “cheated” or abandoned?
Will they lose hope and give up?

Such a loss does not invalidate the message or their work. It makes it more important.

Rest in peace, Amy Bleuel. Your story is still not over, and neither is your legacy.


My Scars Are My Triumph


I don’t know a single person that doesn’t have at least one scar.

Large or small, prominent or barely noticeable, every scar has a story attached; sometimes one we remember firsthand and sometimes one told to us because we were too young to remember.

This post is a celebration of all we’ve lived with and struggled with and survived. Our scars are our story…written in flesh or carved in our minds.

– “That’s from the time I was chasing my sister on my bike and she stepped in front of me. I swerved on the gravel and the road bit my face. I refer to it as one of her two attempts to kill me. ( Kidding about her intention, not about how I refer to it. )” – me

This could be an example of one my daughter might tell:

– “This one is from an emergency appendectomy when I was 8. I got sick from the anesthesia, so they gave me Phenergan. Turns out I have a really bad reaction to it, my mom says I was ripping out my IVs and crawling over the bed rails until they had to give me something to make me sleep.”

My friends have scar stories of their own:

– “My beautiful battle scar on my upper right arm is still with me to this day! When I was 13 I was diagnosed with stage 3 Melanoma (skin cancer). The surgeons cut away the entire cancerous section including some of my muscle. The surgery itself was 8 hours. After months of more minor surgeries, stitches, Dr appointments, rehabilitation, and treatment I was in the clear, as in remission for 5 years.” – Abby

– “My favorite scar is from a c-section at 19. Frank Breach they called her. Her adoptive parents named her Alyssa. I like that name; I love her wherever she is.” – Ericka

Not all scars are physical or visible, but are still carried with us and remembered vividly in a way that affects us years later:

– “This one is from when I went to the ER for a severe Migraine attack. The doctor decided to give me Ketamine, also known by its street name, Special K. While rubbing his hands together and bouncing on his feet, he said to me in a giddy voice, “This will be fun!”
It was not fun. The walls moved around me and started closing in on me. The clock on the wall was making circular trips all around it. My bed felt like it was on violent waves of the sea, and I held on to the rail for dear life. My right leg disappeared. I couldn’t find it. Then I felt myself fading, until my consciousness was nothing but a small speck in my chest. I thought I was going to be snuffed out for good. I screamed and screamed for help, even though I couldn’t hear myself. The nurses ignored my complaints and asked if my Migraine was better. It wasn’t. Shortly after, they came back with a second dose and said, “This will help.”
It didn’t. They left me alone for 2 hours with my hallucinations and paranoia and then sent me out the door in a wheelchair.
My Migraine was still not better.” – Brianna

– “These are from years of mental and emotional abuse from my father. They aren’t all healed even now, 20+ years later.” – me

– “This one is from my father walking out on us.” – anonymous

– “My invisible scar is from being raped.” – anonymous

Some scars are visible, but not understood…often those who carry them try to keep them hidden because of reactions based on the stigma attached, rather than compassion.

– “Are you talking about physical scars or emotional/psychological scars as well? You could write a book on my psychological/emotional alone, but the physical one would be my body. I eat my feelings so it shouldn’t surprise me that I look like I do. There are a few others from when I was cutting myself but they are hidden really well. Another thing is since I have always researched any diagnosis and/or test result is I also research the treatments so when I was cutting myself I knew where not to cut. I was mindful of being able to hide them.” – Malinda

– “These are from years of self harm–for me, it was easier to deal with the physical pain than the emotional pain. Some are hidden, some aren’t; they are the days when the only thing that mattered was the physical pain to shield and distract me from emotional anguish.” – me

– “This one is from a suicide attempt.” – anonymous

– “I never hid my self harm scars. But people pretended not to notice because it was easier than admitting to themselves I needed help.” – anonymous

– “My scars are proof that I fought my demons and survived myself. They are a reminder of my struggles I’ve conquered.” – me

Sometimes scars are something that helps us relate to others or reminders that others are fighting battles we can’t always see. No matter which they are, our scars are part of us and of our story and can be used as a source of triumph over the things we’ve come through.

May your story be a tale of triumph and compassion.