Back in 2016 I went to the theater to “Snowden”. The true story of an NSA agent who reveals illegal surveillance techniques used by our government to spy on its own citizens. There are a couple of scenes in the movie where the character suffers from seizures that had
him writhing uncontrollably on the floor. As someone who suffered from a serious seizure disorder from the age of eighteen to about twenty four. Those scenes freaked me the fuck out. So much so, that I could feel myself unexpectedly welling up with tears and feeling overwhelmed. You see, though I have experienced having seizures myself, countless times over. I had never seen one from the eye of the beholder. During the times people like my Father described the frightening scene that would unfold before them. My unresponsiveness and the sheer sense of helplessness that accompanies it. I completely roll up into a metaphorical ball of guilt and shame. Recalling how often I joked or made lite of my disorder and the challenges that came with them. Know what I put others through makes me want to take it all back.
Now, having a seizure disorder is nothing to joke about. Over the years I woke up many times with the taste of concrete or soil in my mouth. I had my share of trips to the emergency room and I can remember the crazy hallucinations that often accompanied them. Yet, over time I got to know the warning signs as well as the triggers. I learned enough to consistently question my doctors upon visits and do enough research of my own to learn that the medication/medications they were prescribing and insisted I’d have to take the rest of my life were not curtailing the frequency of my seizures while giving me a pack of side effects to add to my misery. Add to that the horror stories I reading in the medical journals my Father just happened to have lying around. Through quick browsing I learned that the long term affects of the drugs were going to do more damage than good.
Upon informing my family and doctors I would be ending the endless cycle of medication and doctors visits. I was met with closed minds, disbelief and a couple of dozen cases of “But, James.” Still, I went forward with my plans to take a more holistic approach. Seizures followed, but for once, I was taking responsibility for what was happening to me. I made changes to my diet and every day habits and before you knew it. I went from having up to three seizures a day to going years without them. No more Epilepsy Society, no more medication, no more visits to the doctor or even worse, the ER.
I’d feel remiss and somewhat irresponsible for not adding that my decisions and choices were mine and mine alone. Everyone’s case is different and no one in their right mind should refuse treatment. My story and road to recovery is mine alone. As painful as it might have been for me. I feel as if seeing something so jarring from a different viewpoint was an education, of sorts. I think it’s somewhat universal that seeing or experiencing both sides of the coin gives you better insight into the situation. I know it did for me.
In moving to Seattle, Washington from Jersey City, New Jersey. I had some fear that much of the toxicity that had become a part of my daily life for so long would follow me out west and cast a negative cloud on whatever changes I was hoping to undergo. Despite a rather grim diagnosis just months after arriving in the great northwest. I’ve manged to maintain a decidedly positive outlook. Now, by no means does change come easy. Everyone is different and their isn’t a one fix fits all remedy out there that I’ve seen or heard of.
Since being diagnosed with a chronic illness. I went through a number of emotions that included depression, anger and self blame.. Throughout, my one constant has been trying to define what truly makes me happy while sustaining a balance that can nourish and fulfill my soul. The more I’ve searched. The more I come to realize how much the little things play a major part. When listing my favorite things, music, photography and maintaining a level or creativity on a daily basis are the first things that come to mind. However, the more I search the more I’ve come to understand how much joy comes from sharing or preparing a meal with my wife, traveling and sending silly texts to my younger brother.
As we get older our priorities change as often do the things that attract our interest and show up on our shelves. The solitude and alone time I often seek and have learned to enjoy, only improve my ability to socialize. Training myself to limit the people I let into my life and not getting caught up with too much bullshit has helped tremendously in cutting down on stress, anxiety and many of the ingredients of my once toxic personality and lifestyle. While my posts do get there share of likes these days. I would love to see some of your strategies, techniques and practices for dealing with stressful situations and day to day anxiety.
We started out on our three hour journey to Leavenworth with the idea of revisiting the town and stopping for some bratwurst before exploring the surrounding areas. After a stop for breakfast at Snoqualmie’s Commonwealth restaurant for some tasty beef brisket. We made our way to our destination in Leavenworth. If you’d ever had a chance to visit the area, You would have immediately noticed the Disney like themed Bavarian setting. The town itself is a vacuum for tourists. Everything from the architectural facades to the shops and restaurants are focused on attracting tourists and their readily disposable income. Not to say that’s a bad thing, but it is definitely not something I look for when traveling. After indulging in some bratwurst at a packed outdoor spot. We hightailed it out of there and began our picturesque drive home.
On the way, we drove through some nearby towns that featured the character and warmth we always look for when traveling. Cle Elum was just one of the towns we travlled through and stopped in. I manged to take a few pictures before the sun disappeared into the night. The Chai Tea I enjoyed at Pioneer Roasting Company was enough to guarantee a return to the area. While I won’t go as far as to put a negative spin on tourism, tourists or tourist attractions. From my own experience, I always suggest exploring the areas outside of the designated areas of your trip. If you wish to learn about the area, it’s people and their unique personalities. Doing so will almost always reward you. As for Leavenworth. I’ll be cooking my own bratwurst from now on.
Truth be told, if it weren’t for the constant call of family back east. I might just stay in Washington state a bit longer. Having lived in New York and New Jersey my entire life. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to move to and live out west. And while it’s long ago been decided that we’ll soon return to either New York or New Jersey. I can’t help but wonder, what if?
Though my wife has reiterated that we, indeed, will return to that area. She, perhaps unknowingly, sends me mixed singles when I catch her looking online at lofts and condos in Portland. OR. It’s something I’ve become used to and I fully realize that she is either playfully curious or just doing it to break my balls. Maybe that’s why I’ve learned to take it all in stride and play along. Maybe that’s why I didn’t even blink an eye when leaving Olympia today and I was asked the question, “If we decided to stay in Washington and the choice
came down to living in Tacoma or Olympia. Which would you choose?” Before responding, I took a few seconds to think, choose and properly explain my choice. As a husband, you get used to being asked questions all day. So being able to quickly answer one and have enough facts and data to back it up might make you seem a lot smarter. Though delaying your answer can help give you breathing room and slightly delay the next life shattering inquiry. Which in my case usually has something to do with my hatred of Led Zeppelin, Bon Jovi or Aerosmith.
Any trip to Olympia means stopping at Old School Pizza for a sit down, slice or three and a celebration of wall to wall 80’s culture. Whether I’m hungry or not. There’s always room enough for pizza, a fountain soda and a few quarters for Pac-Man. And while I usually leave my camera packed away in the trunk of the car. I sometimes bring my phone with me in case I want to capture a moment. Today was the “in case” as I pulled out my iPhone to take a few shots of both the interior and the totally awesome Marvel Comics mural in the adjacent parking lot.
As we pushed through Tacoma and entered the last leg of our trip to Olympia. We suddenly became besieged by a thick fog the wrapped around the interstate and its surrounding areas shrinking drivers visibility from miles to a matter of feet. As we grew closer to our exit, we wondered aloud. Had we been betrayed by a weather report to boasted about sunny skies and warm temperatures. Had the recent wildfires regrouped and were gathering strength just up the road? Undaunted and with empty stomachs we soldiered on to our intended destination. When we arrived at 4th Avenue’s New Moon Cafe. We were well aware of how cold it was and even debated on how long we were willing to wait for a table to open. Being that we had both spent much of the previous night reviewing the menu and trying to predict what the other would order. I assured her that we were both in fore the long haul. Luckily, our decision to wait it out paid off as the food, service and sense of communal warmth that New Moon provides. Rewarded us with full stomachs, empty plates and ear to ear smiles. From there, we did our best to walk it off. Stopping in at Olyphant, Rainy Day Records and Ember Goods before heading to some of the area farms and our eventual trip home. This was maybe our forth or fifth trip to Olympia since moving out West. We’ve yet to tire of the food, people or atmosphere thw area provides. What makes returning to any area you’ve become familiar with is finding something new to appreciate and look forward to returning for.
Though our last several trips to Tacoma, Washington featured everything from sporadic rainfall to torrential downfall. This weekends attempt spared us of any such weather tantrums. Truth be told, I didn’t feel a drop until we walked back to our car to begin our voyage back to Seattle. During each prior trip to the area. My camera, perhaps due to the rain, never left the comfort of our cars trunk. Each time we’ve visited though, the talk of returning during dryer days to enjoy the areas personality and old world architecture.
If by any chance you find yourself in the area. Be sure to grab a bite at Alma Mater’s Honey on Fawcett Ave. Go crate digging at Hi- Voltage Records on nearby 6th Avenue. Window shopping on Antique Row and of course exploring City Hall and train station for starers. And while such sunny days may not show themselves anytime soon. During the times we’ve recently visited, all be it wet ones. We’ve seen enough to carve out a nice enough visit tht will surely endear us even more to an area we’ve come to love. Until then.