I’ve been faking it for so long; trying to hold on, trying to get by

Since the post about the Garth concert last year, I’ve been evaluating my life, and attempting to make changes. In early December, I had an appointment with my doctor and we decided to change the antidepressant I was taking. While it was helping to a degree, the medication I’d been on didn’t seem to have the same impact any more in fighting the depression. So far, the new medication does seem to be more effective – I am more upbeat than I had been, even when in pain.

I don’t make New Years Resolutions, but I did decide to set a bit of a goal for myself this year. Since I have the new meds, I wanted to challenge my depression and AvPD by attempting to be social at least once a week. Interaction with my mom or coworkers doesn’t count, since that was already part of my normal day-to-day before creating the goal. So far? I’d have to say I’m doing pretty well.

Thanks to Ingress, I have more opportunities to run into people outside of work. Some weeks, my goal has been met by bumping into another player while I’m out playing and chatting for a couple of minutes. Other times, I’ve worked up the courage to join my teammates when they are having a game night. When Emily came down to visit mid-January, we had an entire day that was full of social events. She had come down to see one of her favorite bands, Marianas Trench (she’d introduced me to their music before her trip, and I’m definitely a convert after seeing them perform!). In addition to the concert itself, we had VIP meet & greet passes; plus we won entry to a special private performance at a local radio station, which also had another meet and greet. That lead to an entire day of making small talk with strangers, and being out of my current comfort zone… and it was very much worth it! Having my best friend there with me made a difference, too. It’s a lot easier to be social when you have a highly familiar person there with you.

I am noticing what seems to be a correlation between the amount of socializing I do and how much my fibromyalgia pain flares ups. The larger the gathering, the more physical pain I am in the next day. I’m not about to let that stop my attempts being social, but I am going to keep tracking pain levels vs interactions. If there is a consistent pattern of increased pain after I’m social, I plan on talking about that with my rheumatologist in hopes that we can find a way to prevent that from happening, or at least lessen the impact. Because I want to be more social, dammit. I want to improve my health – both physical and mental health.

I want to have fun again, to bring more happiness into my life. I want to be able to visit Emily (it’s been too damn long since I’ve been up to Toronto), and I want to be able to go on vacation again. When I’m on vacation – I want to be able to do things again, instead of having to carefully plan around what places rent wheelchairs or motorized mobility scooters. At a gathering on Saturday night, I got to talking with people about Vancouver and I realised it’s been 5 years since Emily & I last visited there. While I was a lot more mobile back then, there were still things I didn’t get to do that I would have enjoyed. When we were in Ucluelet, Emily took a hike along the Wild Pacific Trail, and I drove to the Amphitrite Lighthouse to pick her up. I know I missed some amazingly beautiful scenery by not being able to make the hike with her. These days, there’s no way at all I could handle a hike along the trails, much less the stairs or boardwalk to our gorgeous cabins at Terrace Beach.

However, I’m getting off track now and it’s decidedly past my bed time. I’ll blame the pain killers for that last part. While most people get knocked out by painkillers, they wake me up/keep me alert. I had a high-level pain day today (well, yesterday now), that seemed to correlate to the gathering on Saturday evening. But, increased pain or not, I’m glad I went. There were times I had to fight the urge to bolt when I was overwhelmed by all the sensory input, but I think I did quite well by staying until things were just starting to break up. Considering most of the folks there were of the newer to my social circle variety as opposed to longer-term friends like my Bronzer buds, I’m very pleased with how well I did.

Eight weeks into the year, and I’ve managed to be social at least once a week. Not bad. Not bad at all. With any luck, I can make it another 8 weeks. Then another, and another. I don’t think this little experiment of mine will cure my AvPD, but maybe it can give me another tool to help fight back against it.

We call them fools who have to dance within the flame

Music is something so powerful in my life. It provides a soundtrack for the years I’ve lived. It envelopes memories and brings them back to life with that very first note. It gives voice to emotions I can’t find another way to express. I’ve never been a musician – I just don’t have the talent – but I’ve always loved music with a passion. It’s one constant friend, always there to depend on.

While recorded music is deeply entwined in my life – the power of a live performance is even more intense. You’re there while the chords are being played, the notes and words are sung; you’re there as the tapestry of sound is being woven and brought to life. The connection is stronger and can touch you deeper in your soul.

Last week’s Garth concert was the 17th time I’ve seen him perform, and close to my 400th concert overall. I was enjoying the show: getting lost in the crowd, in the chills created by roughly 21,000 singing along at the top of their lungs. My camera battery died on me half way through the show, my back-up battery was MIA – but that was alright. There are a few songs I wish I’d been able to get on video, but not having to worry about the camera just let me get lost in the music that much more.

While my body wasn’t happy with the demands of standing for that long; my spirit felt truly alive for the first time in years, soaring with the music. In the midst of “Standing Outside The Fire”, it truly hit me how much life has changed over the last 17 years since I last saw him perform – and not for the better.

Back then – when I was constantly going to concerts – that song fit me fairly well. For me, it was “not enough just to stand outside the fire”. I was full of passion and life and energy. If I had a chance to travel halfway across the country for a concert on a whim – I took it. I remember more than once getting up at 4am to drive back to Dallas and go straight to work after a concert, or even earlier to catch a flight back home before going to the office. There were times I would work all day, hit the road for a show as soon as work was over, then get home at 5:30am, and sleep for about 45 minutes before I had to get up and go right back to work. I might have been tired those days – but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Then life got in the way. More accurately, one of the most screwed up relationships I’ve ever had messed me up beyond belief. It’s easiest to just refer to them as “the ex”, as attempting to explain the convoluted relationship is extremely difficult. Basically, though, it boils down to mental and emotional abuse, effectively breaking my spirit. When I discovered the lies and betrayal and that whole… disaster of a relationship imploded, it left me untrusting, scared, and paranoid. It threw my depression into overdrive, and also amplified my Avoidant Personality Disorder. It’s been … roughly 12 years since I got out of that situation and people still scare me. I am always second guessing people’s motives, retreating deeper into my shell if they seem to show too much interest in me. Social situations are a nightmare to me, leaving me uncomfortable and making me want to bolt.

Back to the Garth show – I got close to tears at one point during “Standing Outside The Fire”. Reflecting on what was then and where I am now made me miss the past. I might have been burned, but now I want to be healed, to dance in the flames again. I want that life back. I want to feel that fire. I want to take chances. I want to live.

“There is this love that is burning deep in my soul
Constantly yearning to get out of control
Wanting to fly, higher and higher
I can’t abide, standing outside the fire

Standing outside the fire
Standing outside the fire
Life is not tried; it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire”

God blessed Texas with his own hand, brought down angels from the promised land

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years since I was sitting on a fence at legendary Southfork Ranch, Ewing Mansion in the background; lucky enough to be an extra in the video for “God Blessed Texas” by Little Texas. It seems like it was maybe just 3-5 years ago – a bit further back than feeling like “it was just yesterday”, but still much closer than 20 years ago.

It was a gorgeous day in the mid-90°s, plenty of sunshine without being too hot. I was near Dealey Plaza Park in downtown Dallas, waiting to meet a friend, and then the two of us were going to head to the Fort Worth Zoo. While I was waiting for her, the country station I was listening to mentioned that Little Texas was at South Fork Ranch filming a video, and that they needed more people to be in the crowd, so to “come on down!”. I was frustrated, because I definitely wanted to go, but I already had plans for the day. A few minutes later, my friend paged me and after finding a pay phone to call her back, she let me know she wasn’t going to be able to make it. Talk about luck! I called another friend of mine, told her about the video shoot, and asked if she wanted to go with me — of course she was interested! I drove home, changed into more appropriate attire (thankfully I was working at a western wear store at the time, so I actually had “appropriate attire”), picked up my friend and headed up to Southfork.

By the time we got there, they had finished up shooting under the Southfork gate, and were getting set up in the field in front of the mansion while the band had lunch inside the mansion. My friend and I were directed to the fence just behind the make-shift stage, and told to sit there. From there, it standard video filming. They play the song, everyone performing/clapping/playing their part, then do it all over again to get more film from different angles. We spent a few hours out on that fence before we were released, and I loved every second of it.

When the video aired a month or two later, I was very happy to be able to spot myself multiple times in the background of shots. I was wearing some very bright turquoise Rockies at the shoot, and they made it very easy to find me.

It may be 20 years later, but this is still a very treasured memory; my one tiny claim to “fame”.

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