Tag Archives: mental health

Life’s Hard, So Be Nice and Eat Cake

I decided to bake my way through the Great British Baking Show (GBBS for short) and write about it. Don’t know much about GBBS? No worries. Check out my first blog in this series to learn more about the show and about why I decided to do this, for better or for worse (so far, mostly worse).

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This isn’t a baking post, because this was never a baking blog.

Not really anyway.

This whole time I’ve been writing about Baked Alaskas and sugar cookie sculptures, that wasn’t really what I was talking about. That wasn’t really my focus.

I was just writing about things that could inject a little joy into what has been a really painful time for me.

And if that joy happened to come in the form of buttercream or dark chocolate, hell, I’d take it and run with it and write about it as much as I could. I would take all the joy I could get because, for me, it’s been in short supply.

We have this thing in Nebraska where we don’t like to complain about anything. Ever. No matter how bad something is. No matter how much it hurts. No matter how much we hurt.

By and large, we’re a grin and bear it sort of people. Maybe it’s a holdover from our rough and tough pioneer days or something. I don’t know. Or, maybe it’s a politeness thing. We don’t want to appear ungrateful or make people uncomfortable.

And I can see the benefit in this approach sometimes. But other times, it sucks. It really sucks. Because when things go wrong for you in this type of culture you’re not supposed to say anything. You’re supposed to keep yourself to yourself. You’re supposed to keep up appearances.

But, for me at least, that approach always just leaves me feeling more alone.

And when someone’s having a hard time, the last thing they need is to feel alone in it. Feeling alone has never made anyone feel better.

So, at the risk of making people uncomfortable, or appearing ungrateful, I’m going to do something different – I’m going to tell the truth.

I’m not okay. I am not fine.

And I haven’t been for a really long time.

It started in the summer of 2015.

I had this weird pain in my groin and pelvis. (Sorry, if either of these words weird you out, but also, not sorry, because they’re just body parts. Get over it.)

So, I went to doctor as one does in these situations. There, I was predictably poked and prodded and tested and drugged and ultrasounded and all the things people have done to them when something’s wrong.

And eventually, after more doctors’ visits than I’d ever had before in one  year, they told me I had an ovarian cyst.

So I had surgery to take that out. But, shocker! it turns out the surgery was unnecessary because the cyst was already gone when they went in to operate. It had been there for months and then disappeared in the few short days between my ultrasound and my surgery.

But, that, it turns out, was just the beginning of this shit show.

Because my pain – it wasn’t better.

It felt like I was being stabbed in the groin with a burning pin for MONTHS – then YEARS at a time.

On top of that, I felt like all the muscles and nerves on the right side of my lower body were being twisted and twisted around a screwdriver. Always. Every day. For years.

The pain should have been unbearable, but it wasn’t. Because there I was each day bearing it for days that turned into weeks, weeks that turned into months and months that turned into years.

The pain made it impossible for me to work in a regular office. I was distracted. I couldn’t focus. The growing anxiety I had about the pain only made it worse. I felt guilty because I was unable to perform my work the way I wanted to.

I quit my job. I went home to focus on healing.

I felt that if I gave this problem my full focus, my full attention, I’d be able to solve it sooner. Feel better sooner.

“Sooner” took a hell of a lot longer than I thought it would. 

I threw myself into every regime or exercise or suggestion that was thrown at me by a growing collection of doctors and specialists.

Over the course of the past three years, I’ve seen more doctors and health care professionals than I had seen in the rest of my life combined. (I’d been really, really lucky up to that point. See, I swear, I’m still grateful.)

Some of it helped a little. But not all the way. Something was still wrong.

And the part that was still wrong held me back. Over the course of those three years, I missed things. I couldn’t do the things I wanted to. I couldn’t even do the things I didn’t want to do.

I missed vacations, working out, regular work. (Seriously, I missed work. Like I desperately wanted to have a “case of the Mondays.” I wanted to be bored in a meeting. I wanted to be staring at a cubicle wall. You’d be surprised what you can miss.)

But, I found a way to work from home – to do a bit of writing and editing for money and much more writing and editing for no money at all.

I had good days and bad days, but every day I hurt.

That had never happened to me before. I never knew how exhausting it is to wake up each and every day and have your first thought be “How much will I hurt today?”

That’s devastating. That’s soul-crushing. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying or a superhero. I’m neither. So, I’ll tell the truth – it sucked so much. It still sucks so much.

At times, I forget who I was before the pain.

Who I could be again.

Because in early 2018, after all this damn time, they finally found out what was wrong with me.

It took that long despite my aggressive approach to treatment. Despite my willingness to try anything, do anything to fix it, to figure it out.

It took that long.

It was my hip. My stupid hip was causing the excruciating pain in my groin.

I’m set to have surgery on it in a few weeks – to fix a misshapen bone that is putting pressure on my nerves, pinching them, causing the pain.

And I’m terrified. Not of the surgery though that’s scary too.

I’m scared because if something like this happens to you once, you start to worry that it will happen again. What’s to stop it from happening again?

And that’s where my therapist comes in, and where this blog comes in too. (I was always going to tie this back to baking. Even though it totally didn’t seem like I was going to, huh?)

Because if I learned anything from Sometimes I Bake Mistakes, it’s that, in life, and baking, sometimes things fall apart.

Even if you follow all the rules. Even if you try your best. Even if you do everything you’re supposed to. Things still may not turn out the way you want them to – the way you hoped they would.  And though, that sucks, it’s not the end of the story. Things can still be salvaged. Still be saved.

A semi-melted Baked Alaska is still just ice cream and meringue and cake. It’s still beautiful and worthy of love even if it’s not perfectly put together, even if it’s a little battered and bruised and rough around the edges.

And the same goes for life. Things may fall apart. But you can put them back together.

Your life may not look the way you thought it would, or should.  But that doesn’t mean you should lose hope.

Because, you take what you learned, your mistakes, your melted ice cream, your fear and your pain and you learn from them.

And then you let them go and so you can move on.

You will have good days and you will have bad days. But neither of them will last forever. It may last way the hell longer than you want it to, but it won’t last forever.

Also, know that you’re not alone. I hear you. I get you. I see you. I understand. You will get through this, kid, whatever your “this” is.

Until then, remember this advice I stole from the British author, Caitlin Moran: “The world is difficult and we are all breakable. So just be kind and eat cake.”

Okay…so…I added the “and eat cake” part. But, you get the idea.

Until, next time, I wish you better days and buttercream.

Love, Ash

P.S. I’m going to be taking a break from the blog for a bit as I recover. But, I hope to hit the ground running, or, possibly, limping again soon.

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