This feels like I’m about to start a grade-school essay, but here we go. My name is Kelsey and I’m now 35! (holy smokes how did that happen) and I live in Toronto, Canada. I’m a writer (pretty much everything from this blog to screenplays, and yes I’m even currently writing a self-help book). I’ve done some filmmaking in the past, but now I’m doing my Master of Arts in Counselling Psychology, because I am passionate about helping others.
My entire life I have been a positive, upbeat person. My mother often refers to her and I as having “happy chips” in our brains. I would definitely say that I got most of my positive attitude from my parents, my mother especially. As my parents often said when I was young (and truthfully still say now), “attitude is everything.” In other words, if you’re positive, good things will happen, and if you’re negative those things you want, won’t come true. There is some truth to their words, though as life brings on new challenges for us all, sometimes having a positive attitude doesn’t save you from heartache.
In elementary and high school, I was also that dorky, creative, and possibly slightly weird kid. I grew up in Winnipeg, Canada, and graduated high school with a record number of credits (43 to be exact. Graduation requirements were 28 at the time). I did well in school, in almost every subject, but especially the arts, of which I took a million classes. After graduation, I received an entrance scholarship to Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. I packed up my things, and headed off. In retrospect, I wasn’t quite ready to live on my own or be so far from my family but it did give me the initial drive to do things on my own, take risks, and move to where I wanted to be. After two years at SFU, I was sexually assaulted by a friend of a friend. My grades plummeted and I returned to Winnipeg and took a break from school.
Upon this return I realized I was bisexual and began dating a woman that I would spend the next eight years of my life with. I started to work at Best Buy (a company I continue to work at to this day). I moved up the ranks from Supervisor to Assistant Manager, hopping between the two Winnipeg stores and winning a national contest. My girlfriend and I got married (and honeymooned in Paris), and I went back to school part time at the University of Manitoba, intent on finishing my degree in film studies. And I did! In 2012 my management position at Best Buy was combined with another managers and they offered me a choice – supervisor again or buyout. Since this was the second time that happened to me (the first time I took the supervisor position), I decided that it was time to go. What fuelled this decision? I had just graduated with my film studies degree, and I wanted to head down to Los Angeles.
L.A. My dream. The place I wanted to live (and still want to). This decision I made on my own caused a fight with my wife. It wasn’t the first fight, and it wouldn’t be the last, nor would it be the worst. In the end, she decided that we might as well go. We loved it. It was an incredible experience. I took a workshop with the former NBC VP of script development on TV pilot writing and met some incredibly talented writers through it. When my “six month vacation” was up, we headed up to Vancouver to see what was cooking in film there. Nothing. It was the dark times for Vancouver film. After a few months we returned to Winnipeg and I returned to a sales senior position at Best Buy. I tried to give my wife what she wanted at the time, to have a simple life in Winnipeg near her family. But I was unhappy and needed to be more creative than the city would allow me too. So after a year and a bit, I made another decision. I wanted to move to Toronto.
You may think I’m selfish. And quite possibly I am. This caused yet another fight, that I suppose I won because we made the move. Unfortunately after two months in Toronto, my wife wanted to separate. It was time. We weren’t in love anymore. I felt free, living on my own for the first time. I was already thirty and had spent my entire twenties married. I took the dog, and she moved back to Winnipeg. And then, I did something awesome, I self-funded (with some help from my parents, my uncle, and a friend) a web series. I wrote, directed and made a ton of friends. I had already worked on an independent feature film in Toronto, so I had an idea of what to do (and what not to do). I was on a high.
What Happened Next
Pain. And more pain. Well, technically this pain that was consuming my body slowly, getting a little worse as time went on, started months early. I had called in sick to work quite a few times just because I couldn’t stand for 8 hours as my hips hurt. I found it a little easier on set because I had so much adrenaline pumping. My work though, decided to flag my sick calls and suddenly I had to take care of what was happening. I tried a walk-in in Toronto – go to your family doctor was the response. I didn’t have a local one so I flew back to Winnipeg to my doc. He ran tests and came back with the conclusion that I didn’t have anything scary like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis but I did have gout. Take these pills and you’ll be as good as new. (We will learn shortly that the gout diagnosis is actually impossible).
I also started to date another woman after I made my web series. A local lawyer, who had yet to find a law job. A beautiful, intelligent woman whom I connected with immediately. Yes, I’m bisexual, but I have had more long term relationships with women than with men, take that how you’d like. She instantly became supportive, and a fun person to be around. After a month of causally dating we decided to be exclusive (my idea, but she readily agreed) and the “I love yous” came shortly after. So I balanced the good and the bad in my life. Well, I started to cling to the good, as the pain got worse and worse.
Eventually, I managed to get myself a referral to a rheumatologist at Sunnybrook Hospital. She laughed at the gout diagnosis as women stop having their periods when they have gout, and I was not having that problem. She ran a bunch of tests and tentatively diagnosed with lupus. I had a few symptoms but not as many as they usually need to make the diagnosis. It was a little bold but I went with it. The anxiety started not long after my diagnosis. So now I had chronic pain, and anxiety, and a bunch of new medications. An additional diagnosis of fibromyalgia, as it and lupus are often found together.
In the meantime, I began to cling more and more to my girlfriend as she was the happy and stable thing in my life. I was writing less and less often. Too much pain and not enough inspiration or positive energy to do it. My girlfriend became annoyed, and we had been living together for a few months at this point, with my clinginess. She didn’t understand that I was having anxiety over the constant pain I was in. For the record, I hadn’t told her because I was certain she would leave me. What happened to Kelsey? It was like I disappeared into the pain, and not even trying to come out the other side.
The lupus diagnosis was half taken back. It’s probably lupus, but we need to wait for more symptoms to be sure. More test and more tests. My lupus diagnosis was eventually downgraded to fibromyalgia, because well, no new symptoms to report. My girlfriend eventually broke up with me and I moved out. Honestly I think it was a lack of understanding on her part, and a lack of me trying to get ahold on my symptoms – both physical and mental – that broke us up. I certainly didn’t want the relationship to end, but you can’t change how someone else feels.
Why I started this blog
In November 2016 I began collecting a broader health team. In addition to my rheumatologist, and new, local family doctor, I added a naturopath, physiotherapist, psychotherapist, and registered massage therapist. I was also added to the wait list to see a pain specialist (though, to date, I actually have not been able to see one). As a therapeutic way to deal with my situation, I started a blog called True Tales of Life and Lupus. What it ended up being was a way for me to vent about all the things I was going through. Therapeutic for sure, but not what I really wanted to write about… not anymore at any rate.
After a few months with all my specialists, my amazing naturopath had enough and scolded me one day, saying that I needed to show myself some love. Not that I wasn’t doing certain things – bubble baths, and seeing all these health care professionals – but I needed to do more. I started listening to self love podcasts, meditating more frequently, slowly changing things in my diet, going to places alone that I would never have gone alone before. And doing all this despite the physical pain I was in. It certainly began to lessen my emotional pain. I could see much more clearly than I could before. Every day it’s a little better, and every day I learn a little bit more on how to fight off pain, i.e., Jane (or John – not excluding any men here) versus pain.
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