On Saying No, Stop, and Help

Where I live it is always windy. The buildings around here are tall, which means they break the wind in two, which means that no one leaves the premise without a nice case of motorcycle hair. Even I get to look like a live a little.

I can’t remember if I have already told you this, but I have decided to do this semester over. It wasn’t an easy decision, and it took me months of struggling to keep up before I became ready to accept the fact that it is just not possible – at least not for me. I can neither take nor give at this point, and every day is a practice in being kinder to myself and cutting myself some slack. I didn’t do this to myself. I didn’t go bungee jumping or jet skiing or river rafting or anything else that closely resembles taking a risk (or chance, depending on how you look at it, although in my case it is always risk), for I know the rules of this game, and I honestly do not mind them for the most part. Playing it safe fits my personality; or perhaps personalities are easily adaptable. Who knows who they would be without their years of molding?

Ever since I went back to school four(!) years ago, after years and years of nothing, I have had very little patience when it came to my body’s various cases of acting out. Let me give you an example. Two years ago, the night before my FINAL exam, I had an epileptic seizure and broke my hip in two places. I woke up at 4am on the floor in a puddle of vomit; confused, disoriented, and in excruciating pain coming from my hip. I managed to get myself off of the floor and get into bed, where I then lay awake until the next morning, where I talked to my grandfather, told him what happened, and then asked him if he would please come over and take me to my exam in my wheelchair, because I wouldn’t be able to walk. Not going didn’t even occur to me. Well, perhaps it did for a split second, but I was so determined to not have to deal with the hassle of having to take a sick exam that I pushed myself out the door in the most repulsive state. I can’t even imagine what I must have looked like – or perhaps even smelled like. My mind was a haze; incoherent and fuzzy. To this day, I have no idea how I got through it. How do you talk about rhetoric and presidential speeches, when you have just had a seizure and your hip is broken in two places? I guess the adrenaline from having experienced something so fucked, was stronger than the pain. I was in shock. The second after I got my grade we went straight to the hospital, and the outcome of that had so many repercussions, that my life was never the same again – but that’s another story.

I remember being so angry that this happened just then – that my body chose that particular night to go haywire. It’s no longer a “why me?”, like it was when I was little, but rather a “why now?” or “why then?”. And perhaps still a little bit why me, but who else should it be? Don’t we all have our crosses to bear? But it’s that same feeling now. WHY NOW. Despite various broken shoulders and foot fractures in the last year, I am a superwoman, who can be a super-student, as long as I have a wheelchair and a box of morphine. I can do it all. I can be it all. Or not.

There is no shame in saying no, or stop, or help. There is no shame in admitting that I can’t absorb information right now — it doesn’t sink in. I can’t read without falling asleep. Instead of fighting tooth and nail to keep up with everyone who has the advantage of being able to go to the lectures, attend the lessons, ask questions, etc, I have to give myself a kiss on the cheek and commend me for having hung in there for so long, despite having felt like hell. And then pull the plug on this semester. I believe that is the best thing for my healing process, both mentally and physically.

I have to accept that it is not all up to me. It’s like that for everyone. I have a chronic illness, and sometimes the illness is going to win the fight. Sometimes it is going to put me on bed-rest, like it has now. This – this is just the disease rearing its ugly head. But it’s a part of me and my journey (that word is used way too much) to wherever I want to go. But it is not my friend.

Copenhagen Recommendation: Baresso Coffee

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In the last couple of years, I have been receiving emails from readers, who are either planning to visit Denmark or perhaps they are even moving here(!), and therefore want to know if I have any recommendations as to what to do in Copenhagen. Copenhagen is a wonderful city, and I am really bad at helping with these types of things because I know I am not utilizing most of what the city has to offer, and that is despite of my status as a bona-fide Copenhagener. I don’t drink, I don’t go dancing, and I am afraid to visit Abercrombie and Finch because I’ve heard that it is full of topless male models, and that scares the shit out of me.

Perhaps I can get my 19-year-old sister to write a guide when it comes to those nightlife things, and I will just sit here and clutch my pearls. But some things I do know.

I have one word for you: Baresso.

You HAVE to visit Baresso.

Baresso is the Danish equivalent to Starbucks, except it tastes a million times better. And the best part is that you can’t spit without hitting a Baresso in Copenhagen, which is quite comforting for an addict like me – even though my clothing is begging me to lay off the ice blends. I don’t know about you, but I think the atmosphere in Starbucks is kind of like that of a McDonalds; it’s neither intimate nor cozy. It’s not a place I would meet up with a friend, for example. I would just get my drink and then gtfo. But despite of Baresso being a chain of coffee shops, I feel like they have managed to make it a place where you don’t mind sitting for hours. I think it’s a mix of the décor (dark wood and dark reds), the lighting, and the soothing music. Yes, every once in a while there’ll be an employee yelling that the cappuccino is done, which can be a little disruptive, but if you can look past that (and you can once you’ve tasted their drinks, YUM), you will love it. And as the menu will show, there is something for everyone.

Also, Bill Clinton went there in the 90s when he visited Copenhagen. I know what you are thinking; pix or it didn’t happen:
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As you can see, it SO did happen.

I will warn you and say that it is probably more expensive than you are used to. I read somewhere that Denmark has the most expensive café-coffee in the world, which is one of those things where I just can’t explain why. I have no idea why it has to be like that. In fact, it infuriates me just thinking about it, so maybe I should just move on.
But with this place, bucking up is worth it – at least to me.
I can especially recommend the Chai Chino Classic (chai latte) and they also have the best ice blends. I usually go with a Chaiz (a cold chai latte with whipped cream on top AND sprinkles), where Andrew swears to the Gold Mint ice blend.

But yes, in other words, Baresso is a must!

Brittany Maynard, 1984-2014

I got up very late yesterday and as a consequence didn’t feel asleep until 5am this morning. Right before falling asleep I read an article about Brittany Maynard that one of my friends had linked to on Facebook. For those of you who might not have heard of Brittany, she was a young American woman who chose to end her own life two days ago, because she was facing a painful, merciless death due to her terminal cancer, and wanted to go before she reached that state of physical suffering.

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Courtesy of Brittany Maynard

Some view it as being suicide – that she took her own life. I think that is a misconstrued, lack-of-nuance way to look at it, and yet it doesn’t surprise me that some people would think that way. Some people really fucking suck. Some people are downright stupid. If you really think about it, it should be clear that it is the cancer that took her life. She didn’t give herself a death-sentence; the cancer did. All she did was make the (what must have been an absolutely heartbreaking) choice to spare herself from those last couple of months of hell. That’s not suicide. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not suicide.

Many doctors are coming forward, claiming that there were things that could have been done to make her last time on this earth less painful. But the idea of a life with quality is subjective – it’s relative. She made a choice and I know I believe strongly in a person’s right to choose what to do with their own bodies – whether it be their uterus or something else.

Euthanasia is hard to talk about. I can see both pros and cons. It’s emotional and complicated and full of risks, and perhaps this is not the time to have opinions and treat this like just another for-or-against issue. Maybe there is more to it. Maybe you have to be in the situation to understand what a death-sentence like that feels like and the pain that goes with it.

In Denmark it’s illegal and people are forced to travel to Switzerland to get the help they need to end their life in a dignified, non-painful way, without having to ask any family members or friends to help them out. I think it’s horrible that they have to end their lives in a foreign country, when they have lived in Denmark their entire lives. That also seems wrong.

The last thing I want to say is that I truly believe one has got to be dense if they believe this was an easy decision. It not being an easy decision is something we should all be able to agree on. Right?

On being difficult and making the right decisions

A couple of nights ago I had a meltdown. We were having takeout and I started to think of something Andrew had done earlier that evening that had really bothered me, and we talked about it, and before I knew it I was crying. Crying for the first time since the day where I was admitted to the hospital and they had to lift me from one bed to another, which hurt indescribably a lot. I honestly don’t think I have cried since. But that night, I sat there in my wheelchair across the table from Andrew and wept into my nachos; feeling like everything was just going to shit – including our relationship.

After dinner we went our separate ways; he went into the office, and I went back to my bed. I was still feeling incredibly emotional, but my feelings had gone from feeling hurt to feeling an extreme guilt that I had ruined our dinner; our nice, expensive takeaway dinner, which was supposed to be special and romantic, and instead turned out to be a complete disaster.
But by reacting to whatever it was that Andrew had said or done, which I of course don’t remember now, it was like I had opened up something inside of me that I’ve been putting a lid on ever since that day I went to the hospital. My emotions were all over the place, and I  felt an enormous sense of tenderness and affection towards Andrew, who I felt like puts up with too much shit from me. The few times we have ventured out together with my wheelchair I have managed to create several miserable situations, for purely selfish reasons. I find it hard to deal with this. I find it hard to sit in the chair and be pushed around. I miss walking around and touching things, choosing where my feet should tread next. Andrew does an amazing job helping me, and I wish everyone could have someone like him in his or her life, because he steps up, you know? He’s there, and he loves you unconditionally. And that means something, especially in this day and age, where so many are so wrapped up in themselves and their own needs that they don’t want to sacrifice anything for anyone else. You never know when shit is going to hit the fan, and then it’s important to have someone, who will help you clean it up – or perhaps even offer to do it, if you are unable to. You are welcome for that image, by the way. Someone who doesn’t cry because his girlfriend’s broken pelvis got in the way of him having a great vacation, and all of the fun and games have been replaced by taking me to the bathroom and helping me get dressed.

My family often mentions how exhausting it must be for Andrew to be my aid 24/7. It is a tough job; sometimes it’s even a thankless job, because the person being helped is so wrapped up in his or her own misery that they forget to show gratitude. That would be me, sometimes. You see, I tell him with words how grateful I am all the time. At least once a day I thank him for being such big help to me, for taking care of me. But I don’t always show it. I don’t show it when I break down in a shopping mall because I can’t look at the things I want to look at and I feel like he is walking too fast, and the wheel-chair hurts. I don’t show it when I yell, “BUMP!”, when we are walking down the street (FYI, Copenhagen is not very handicap-friendly). I could give you many other examples of times where I have been shitty, but I won’t, because I am too embarrassed. I wish I could handle this thing more gracefully – that I could find it in me to always be hopeful and full of energy, to not let this situation break my spirit. But I have to be honest with you: I am at the end of my rope, and I am holding on with tooth and nails.

I know I am not myself right now. It reminds me a bit of the summer where I broke my hip, except I am not in shock. At least I don’t think I am. I feel like I see everything very clearly, despite my morphine haze and frustration. Andrew is going to London on Friday and will stay there until Wednesday next week due to a work-opportunity and also to see a friend whom he has known as long as he has known me.  I was supposed to have gone with him; we had even bought me a ticket. It would have been our first vacation together. Our first time exploring a country together that was foreign to the both of us. I felt so grown-up when we ordered those tickets, like, woah, we truly are adults now, traveling together like this. When I ordered the tickets, I didn’t get a cancellation insurance for either of us, which I think says something about the mindset I was currently in. Despite knowing that I am always in a high risk of breaking something, I was feeling so great at the time that I didn’t even imagine anything could go wrong. I don’t know what I was thinking. I always get a cancellation insurance. If there is anyone, who needs a cancellation insurance, it’s me. Luckily we were able to get the money back anyway (thanks to American Express), but it’s still one of those what the fuck things where I can’t understand what I was thinking. Like the time I chose to drink from a glass that I knew was chipped and cracked and didn’t notice the piece of glass at the bottom. If my sister hadn’t seen it, I don’t know what would have happened. I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking, and it scared the hell out of me. The fact that I could make such bad decisions, especially decisions that would have consequences of that kind of magnitude… it scared me.

I was also supposed to have gone on a cruise with my whole family. The occasion was my grandparents’ golden anniversary, and because I have the most amazing grandparents in the world, they had arranged for us all to go on a cruise around France, Spain and Italy together. A Golden Anniversary means 50 years of marriage. I just looked it up and my parents made it to Crystal before they divorced — that’s 15 years. I wonder if they knew that. Perhaps it doesn’t matter to most people, it’s just me who is suddenly interested. Andrew and I just celebrated our Tin Anniversary, except we are not married yet, and it kind of kills me to know that the timespan will be reset when we say “I do”. Tin is 10 years, and we celebrated it a sushi restaurant, where I managed to drop my full glass of coca cola zero as I was putting it down, and consequently soaked up Andrew’s pants. Happy 10 years, honey — hope you don’t mind it sticky. But back to the cruise. I was supposed to have gone, but about ten days or so before we were leaving, I decided that I just couldn’t do it. I wasn’t well enough, and I didn’t want to be a burden to everyone else, who would have to push me around. I also felt it was wiser to be close to a hospital, just in case something happened. It was the right decision, but it hurt nonetheless. To me that is often the case with these so called “right decisions” — they hurt like hell. (Don’t worry, I had bought a cancellation insurance).

I don’t expect anyone to read all of this, I just think this is what a blog is for.

I don’t wear makeup to feel good about myself; I wear it because I am not hiding anymore

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Today my Boo put me in my chair and took me for a ride. It was a beautiful day. I wore mascara for the first time in a long time, but had to ditch my plans of wearing bright red lips when I discovered that all I own is either dark red or granny beige pink. Double-you-tee-eff. So I wore granny beige pink. And you know what? Red, pink, beige pink, it doesn’t matter; it really lifts your spirits to wear any sort of color, however subdued it might be. Take it from me.

I didn’t start wearing makeup until four years ago. I used to be so unhappy with my appearance that I felt like makeup only brought into focus all of these things that I so hated about my face, which was the last thing I wanted. I wanted to be invisible – to not be judged by my unfortunate cover.

I won’t go into specifics regarding the horrible things that I told myself on a daily basis, because no one needs that in their lives, but it pains me to say that I lived with that mindset for a long time. I was bullied throughout most of my childhood, (which has fundamentally written on the slate of who I am (thank you, Dr. Phil)) and yet I don’t think anyone treated me worse than I did. So what changed? I’ll be honest with you; I had a medically necessary surgery performed, which also happened to have the wonderful side effect of (somewhat) fixing a few of the things that were bothering me the most. I think the transformation was mostly in my head. It was like I came out of that surgery a new person, who wanted to challenge herself in new ways: one of those ways being daring to put focus on my face. To me it was such a big thing when I bought my first mascara at the age of 21. I remember going down to a beauty store, saying “Hi. I’m looking for a mascara. I know nothing about makeup, I’ve never done this before. What can you recommend?”. It was like coming out of hiding in some way for me, owning who I was and what I looked like.

I am not trying to promote anything, or to say that you are not accepting/owning who you are if you don’t wear makeup. This post is about me and my journey towards coming to terms with what I look like; you know, trying to make the best of it –even highlighting the features that I like. Like my eye color, for example. I have no problems going outside without it, and I have had many days where I’ve said fuck it because I was late or just not in the mood to put it on (it’s VERY hard to put mascara on without your glasses) – in that regard I don’t feel “naked” without it or anything.

So, how do you feel about makeup? Do you use it? If so, what does it do for you?

Finding What Is (Not) Lost

Being bedridden these days, I have decided to try to make the best of it. It is easy to fall into a deep dark hole of guilt when your contribution to life around you is so minimal, but that’s when I have to remind myself that I am not just being a lazy piece of shit – I am actively working on healing and making myself feel better. Right now the formula is to not put any strain on myself what so ever. Next week, the formula will be the same, but will also include working with a physical therapist – something I am very optimistic about. It will be great to get some exercises that I can do that will actually benefit my pelvis and not strain it. The week after, I am hoping that I will be well enough to go back to university in a wheelchair.

I have always known that it was bound to happen eventually; that there would come a time where I would have to attend school in a wheelchair. But it’s still something I dread, if only because I have spent a whole year fooling myself into thinking I was just like everybody else, and now I am forced to take off my mask and show who I really am: someone who breaks her pelvis in two places because she walked too much. I think my fragility tends to scare people off, like they are afraid that I am going to break something right then and there mid-conversation. And you know, I might. You know, their (potential) concern is not exactly without merit – this disease is unpredictable as hell. I guess that’s why I need predictability in all other ways. (I also find it very hard to deal with capricious people, which is oddly (and unfortunately) enough a very common trait among many of my family members.)

I’ve decided that Andrew and I are going to do something fun this weekend. I want us to live it up a little; you know, take my catheter bag out for a spin (was that too much?), maybe wear some red lipstick. I don’t even wear lipstick normally – my lips are always too chapped to get away with it; but right now it feels like one of those little things that can make a world of difference. I want to be a person who wears red lipstick even though her pelvis is broken in two places – does that make sense? Also, Andrew and I haven’t been on a date for a long time. We don’t usually cling to the word ‘date’, but in our current situation it seems important to hold on to the proper terms. While he would never admit it, I know these last three weeks have been harder than hard on him. Our relationship has become that of a patient and a caretaker, with him holding down the fort with everything that entails, and me depending on him for most everything. He does it all without a word – like it’s the most natural thing in the world, and that makes him even more attractive to me. But we need a day on the town to remind ourselves of all the fun we usually have – you know, when I’m not broken. So that’s hopefully what we’ll do. And I’ll wear some red lipstick.

Have a great weekend!

Everyone Saw This Coming

So it has happened. I have officially become a crazy cat lady; or a bona fide fur-mama, if you will. Andrew is not crazy about this new identity of mine, but as I’ve told him, I’m in a fragile state right now and need something furry to snuggle with.

Every night they take up the whole foot of my bed so I can’t stretch my legs, and every morning I am awakened by the sound of Muffin beating up the blinds because she wants to look outside, because hello it’s morning already get the fuck up. But you know what? I love it. I love them. I love watching them from my sick bed and I love watching them up close. Each night I hold Biscuit in my arms like a baby, while Muffin is out wreaking havoc somewhere else in the apartment, and when she is done, she joins us. Stupid things, that you would ordinarily throw away gets new functions, like a microwave box or the lid to a syringe. The box becomes a fort in a game wherein they are both dangerous tigers, and the lid gets kicked around the whole place until something else catches their attention. It’s not always the store-bought toys that win our hearts.

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That’s Muffin. What a ham. She could totally be a cat model, don’t you think? (Andrew’s vomiting). 

It took me a long time to decide whether or not to acquire cats – four years, to be precise. While four years might be excessive, I don’t think it’s a decision that one should make on a whim. It is a big commitment, both practically and financially, and so it shouldn’t be taken lightly.

I have been very positively surprised by the financial aspect of it – it really doesn’t cost me that much, but then again, I did a lot of research first and have discovered that it is possible to make some great deals online, when it comes to litter, for example. The food I get is super cheap and yet it is the cream of the crop, according to various Danish tests that have been performed in recent years.

So, to those who might be looking for recommendations in this big jungle of products (NB! THIS IS NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT!) — well, I swear by the EverClean Extra Strength-litter. The main reason is that it clumps perfectly, which makes the scooping so much easier, and it also doesn’t leave any of that disgusting dust-stuff on their paws that they track around the whole house. As for cuisine, I feed them the Schnucki brand from Aldi. It’s rich on nutrition and they and their tummies seem to love it (the scooper notices these things). I get so proud when their stomach is happy, is that weird? Don’t answer that, I’m sure it’s super weird.

Anyway, Muffin and Biscuit — mommy loves you. (I can’t believe I just wrote that.)