Rampaging emotions.

My stomach is in knots; rumbling, grumbling, and issuing painful shots of electricity through my sternum.  Stress and anxiety can cause extensive discomfort, and they become precursors to horribly debilitating anxiety attacks.  Add into the mix that I  eat a considerable amount of food when distressed, and you can glimpse into my digestive freewheeling and its reactive nausea.  Yet, I cannot seem to stop shoveling spaghetti, with marinara sauce and a delicate sprinkling of parmesan cheese, into my mouth.  With the speed I have hoover-d the pasta, it is no small wonder that I have not run to the bathroom and witnessed the Italian feast in reverse.

My gullet craves more exotic fare.  Sweet potato rolls, yellow curry, jasmine rice with vegetables galore, whole burritos filled with black beans, cheese, and guacamole, with small additions of sour cream, fajita seared vegetables, and shredded romaine.  These things have danced through my head the way sugar-plum fairies leap across the stage in the Nutcracker, leaving me craving an unquantifiable amount of food.  If an elephant can eat so many pounds a day and sustain, imagine me with tusks of ivory and gray, weathered skin, or at least I desire their dedication to pounds and pounds of food.

Anxiety is an odd and obnoxious emotion.  It does nothing but create a dull ache within my muscles from being perpetually flexed, my breath shortens and I find it hard to sustain deep, calming in-takes of air.  I just wish I could by-pass anxious.  I would not find myself curled up in a ball, holding my stomach, moaning at the pain the spaghetti baby is causing in my abdomen.

I am angry.  Why did this happen to Dave?  He never smoked, never drank or did drugs, he eats healthy, exercised, so how come those who abuse their body (and I include myself in this representation) are living and flaunting their destruction while a man who wanted nothing more than to be a father and grandfather dies before his time?  How come the universe unjustly deals these cards in a perpetual game of blackjack (hit me, hit me… FUCK!)?  He played the safe cards, but apparently the house won.  And the stakes are so high.

Even in this ocean of words, there is a deep residing fear.  Dave is the backbone, the strength of his family, the heart, the center; he is a man who is loved by anyone who meets him because he emanates something wholly caring.  He is an eternal and perpetual father-figure, a caring man with a guiding hand who loves his family fiercely.  I just wish I was there to help hold his hand, take some of his burden, whisper one last time, “Dave, I love you, you will always be my family.”

And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.

There are times in a person’s life where it dawns on them that maybe they are cracked.  Maybe there really is truth when someone looks at you after you say something or do something and state the little phrase: “You are crazy.”  I used to get so offended by that comment.  My paternal grandmother does have mental health issues, and as you have been able to read thus far in my blog, so do I.  Depression is one of the largest diagnosed diseases in the United States.  I would bet that one in every five people are diagnosed or being treated.  This includes depression in its many forms (i.e. major depressive disorder, bipolar I and bipolar II, etc.).  Today feels like a cracked day.  One of those days where it would be so much easier to just lay down in bed and cry until your muscles hurt from the sheer force of the tears.  It would be such a great relief to let out all the pent-up stress and emotion.  But here I sit, with it contained in my chest, feeling slightly ashamed.

I went out grocery shopping and on the way home I called Jonathan up and for a good fifteen minutes yelled into the phone until all he said was, “Stephanie, you need to take care of yourself first and foremost.”  All I responded was, “I wish I could.  Sorry I called.  I shouldn’t have.  It’s still easiest to talk… well, yell… at you.  Sorry about that.  It was out of line, though thank you for letting me continue and not hanging up on me.”  We said our goodbyes after that.  I need to find a different outlet.  I feel like I have made vast improvements in releasing my emotions, both negative and positive, but for the most part I am still stuck in a rut.  I had a certain way of handling (or, better described as NOT handling) things for six years.  I feel like I am coming out of a cocoon still when I have to deal with certain stresses and emotions.  I unfortunately am turning things inward again.  Despite some people believing I am outspoken, I actually fear confrontation more than anything.  Unless I am the one confronting.  And that only happens when I am pressed past the point of no return and I see nothing but a red blinking light à la Perry Cox in Scrubs.  At that point it is yelling and if someone tries to respond they get a withering glare and possibly my back.  Or a kick in the shins depending on how childish I am feeling.  Okay, not really.  I don’t kick in the shins.  But I have been known to throw a chair, a massive candle, the garbage… I know, NOT good.

Emotional and mental growth is an ever constant battle.  Intriguing that the first word that came to mind was battle and not just left it as “ever constant,” which it is.  There are days where it feels easy, but then there are days where to put a smile on my face, to operate and move through the day and talk with people is difficult.  It would be easier to sit in my room surrounded by the things that I love.  It reminds me of a Simon & Garfunkel song, one that is my favorite and one that I consider an anthem of sorts: I Am a Rock.  I remember the first time I heard the song I immediately felt a kinship with the words.  They spoke to me on such a deep and profound level, even though I was relatively young then.  I also remember my dad having a similar reaction (not on initial listen, but any time he heard the song).  It was like it spoke to him in such a way that I glimpsed into his psyche.  To kind of understand that comment you have to know that my dad is not always the most forthcoming with how he feels.  He often is a stone wall, never really showing emotion.  It’s not that he doesn’t have emotion, it’s that I know while growing up, his mother always held disdain for showing it.  My grandma encouraged my dad and his sister to contain themselves and never complain, but never praise, anything.  So being able to glimpse at a small pleasure or see kinship and acknowledgment register in his eyes was surreal and wonderful.  I believe that a level of my appreciation for the song also stems from those windows my father allowed when relating to the lyrics.

And here they are:  “A winter’s day, in a deep and dark December.  I am alone gazing from my window to the streets below on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.  I am a rock, I am an island.  I’ve built walls, a fortress deep and mighty that none may penetrate.  I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain, it’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.  I am a rock, I am an island.  Don’t talk of love, well I’ve heard the words before, it’s sleeping in my memory and I won’t disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.  If I never loved I never would have cried.  I am a rock, I am an island.  I have my books and my poetry to protect me.  I am shielded in my armor, hiding in my room, safe within my womb, I touch no one and no one touches me.  I am a rock, I am an island.  And a rock can feel no pain.  And an island never cries.”

It’s just been one of those days.

Who needs a gall bladder anyways?

Here I sit.  There my mom sits.  We are two peas in a pod trying to make it by.  My mom is a gimp at her hip.  She has been in pretty much perpetual pain for over two weeks.  I have taken care of her, and then yesterday my turn came.  We had gone out to her chiropractor appointment, drove through our nearest Starbucks, and then went to Jimmy Johns to chow down on what was my sole meal of the day.  When we got back to the house, my mom went into the bathroom, I took the boys – my sister and her boyfriend’s two puppies – out for a small walk and when I came back in, sat down at the kitchen island to begin tap, tap, tapping away on a new blog post.  Turns out within thirty seconds of sitting down, it felt like my lungs had collapsed or that someone was squeezing my ribcage to a breaking point.  When I tried to suck in a breath, I felt the air going in, but could not benefit from it.  There is this moment in the book The Name of the Wind where the main character, Kvothe, tries to trick his teacher by “calling the wind.”  In trying to make it look like he has, he bound his breath to the air outside, and when he blew a breath out, it looked like he controlled the wind.  But when he tried to breathe in, he was incapable.  That was the first thought that went through my head (yes, I am a literary bug, a book-worm if you will).  Desperately trying to pull a breath in as it felt like someone was crushing my ribs.  The second image I can come up with is what I imagine a victim of a boa constrictor goes through.  Each time I sucked in a breath, it felt like the tightening of my muscles and rib cage sucked in further.

I tried standing up with the thought that maybe my sitting position was causing this (mind you, this all happened in about a fifteen second time period so far) and when I stood, I started seeing black dots and fell to my knees.  At this point I managed to get out the words, “Oh shit,” although it hurt to even talk.  I tried standing again and managed to make my way to the stairs, where I crawled up them.  As this is passing, I begin to feel like an anxiety attack is starting (which, when you stop being able to bring in breath, you let me know if you don’t go into shock).  I sweat profusely, turn white as a sheet, almost black out and fall down the stairs I was attempting to go up (I also felt like I was going to throw up hot blood, hence the progression to the upstairs bathroom).  When I crawled the final few steps and made it to the landing the inability to breathe was at a “beyond scary” point.  I checked my pulse, while mentally talking myself down from the ledge that are my panic attacks, and notice that my heartbeat has become frighteningly shallow, and rather than the beat speeding up, has dwindle to almost non-existent.  Going into shock can do this.  It can cause cardiac arrest.  At this point I was desperately trying to pull myself out of the panic and concentrate on breathing.  Getting the oxygen in.  I manage to calm myself enough that I can call out to my mom.

Now, my mom has not been able to climb stairs.  It sets off the pain in her leg to the point of unbearable.  It precipitates the attacks that have caused us to take her to the hospital.  But as soon as I called, she came.  Love is a strong force.  She manages to make it up the stairs, sees me and goes, “We need to get to you the ER.”  I said, “Call 911.  Just call.”  “Do you think we can wait for Aunt Barbara?”  “CALL 911, I can’t breathe.  I CANNOT BREATHE.”  She calls.  The episode calmed down enough that I was able to move down the stairs and walk out to the ambulance.  Once in the ambulance a second episode occurred and the EMTs told me I turned almost blue.

Once we got to the ER, they drew blood and did almost every test in the book to rule out heart attack (EKG), pneumonia, fractured ribs, lung deflation (x-rays), and then we had to request an ultrasound because my mom said my descriptions sounded like the gall bladder attacks she used to have.  While waiting for these tests, they gave me Ativan believing that I was in the midst of a panic attack (although I told them I know how mine track, hadn’t had one in months and months, and I have developed the art of making sure they don’t inflict too much pain; I also told them that given the fact I couldn’t breathe, obviously panic and anxiety were going to play a part in the pain making diagnosis harder to decipher, but this was definitely NOT a panic attack).  Even after the Ativan, I had another attack, not being able to bring breathe in.  They were operating with the thought I was hyperventilating and could not understand why I was still turning white and blue with a high dose of an anti-anxiety medication in my system and going through hyperventilation exercises.

When I finally got my ultrasound, the technician seemed concerned with the area around liver and gall bladder.  He took many pictures and then sent me back to the ER.  The doctor came in about twenty minutes later to tell me the results of the ultrasound where he states I have a polyp and possible gall stone, that my gall bladder had constricted considerably and that there was a (for the non-technical term) sludge in my gall bladder that can precipitate further development of stones (so in laymen’s terms: a GALL BLADDER ATTACK).  However, he then released me with a prescription for Ativan and diagnosed it as a panic attack for the records.  I have never had a gall bladder attack (though my mom, my dad, my paternal grandmother all have suffered, so I am predisposed), so this is something that seems important, in my eyes, to diagnose so that I can work on maintaining a healthy diet and learn preventive measures.  But rather, the doctor decides to latch on to the singular idea that I am a twenty-five year old who is on Lexapro for depression, so the only PLAUSIBLE explanation is a panic attack.  The last two experiences my family has had with this hospital, it has been beyond reprehensible.

So here we are.  Two peas in a pod.  Gimpy and limpy, painful and sore.  And the best part: I have to refine my diet yet again.  I am a vegetarian.  I cannot eat gluten.  And now I have to remove even more from my diet to make sure I do not have repeat attacks.  The worst loss: coffee.  Those who know me know of my obsession with a fine cup of coffee, a jug, not just a cup of it, and a good book.  That is the most devastating news.  I also desperately want a referral to a nutritionalist because with so many limitations, I am afraid I will not get what I need.  One more thing in the books.

I have a killer playlist for the rapture.

I am having an up and down week.  It’s not fun.  It’s like living on an emotional roller coaster… from hell.  Speaking of “from hell,” I hope everyone is having a wonderful rapture.  I wonder how many Jesus look-alikes are out today scaring the shit out of people.  Or how many people decided this could be a second Halloween and painted themselves up like zombies.  If you feel like you need education on how to survive the rapture, you should watch Zombieland.  There are some amazing rules to follow in there.  And don’t forget to search for the Twinkies.  And Bill Murray.  He’s not a zombie.  DO NOT SHOOT.

I usually don’t lead these entries with as many one liners as this one, but I am desperately trying to ease my mind and make light of certain situations.  I am anxious and emotional because my mom is in the emergency room.  For the past week (and longer, though it’s been particularly bad this week) she has had this pain at the top of her leg/groin area.  She will get these immensely painful electric shocks that wake her from sleep or cause her to turn ashen and begin sweating.  She asked my aunt about these pains, and me, because both of us have had similar things.  My aunt and I suggested that she get it looked at because it sounded like what happened to the both of us when diagnosed with ovarian cysts and growths.  My mom is usually calm headed and casual when it comes to health concerns in herself.  When she gets sick, she gets sick, but she rarely sees doctors or goes to the ER because she always believes it’s nothing, that she’ll get through it, that time is the best medicine.  So, with her going to not only a doctor, but now the emergency room, it’s causing my heart to beat faster and worry prickles up my arms and legs.

Not too long ago a family friend received the diagnosis of ovarian cancer, and I know that my mom has thought about that.  She told me as much last night.  If it is a growth, the pain may be a pinched nerve, or irritation from its movement.  I know when I had my first ovarian surgery, I had a very similar pain and that was what caused me to seek medical attention.  It was far worse than anything I had ever experienced.  My sister thought it might be a hernia, because it felt better when I pushed the area and there was a small lump.  However, we came to find out that the pain was referred from a massive cyst (they found something like six different tissue samples) on my left ovary.  It was my first real scare that I could have cancer.  They could not identify all the samples, nor could they explain why it occurred.  A year later I had another surgery to remove another growth on the same ovary.  It ruptured as they were taking it out and I lost 85%-90% of the left ovary.  And half my chances of having viable ovum for when I decided it was the right time to have kids.  Ce la vie… but at least it was not cancer.  I always have to remind myself to state the silver lining.  It is the tangible bit of hope in every negative situation, and it is what can propel us forward towards better understanding and positive thinking.

It is really unsettling to have these roller coaster highs and lows.  It keeps me perpetually off-balance.  I wish I had a better understanding of the underlying causes so that maybe, just maybe, I could enact preventive measures.  Though, there is a part of me that realizes that life is just that way.  And I want to live.  I don’t want a perpetual state of fear and anxiety, walking around waiting for the next massive hole.  The other day I was thinking about how much I wanted to just fly, but it felt like someone had clipped my wings.  And it’s true.  I feel grounded, chained, like someone has a gilded cage around me.  And I use gilded because that’s what it is.  I know I am lucky.  I know I have the best parents who have supported me through this difficult time.  I have opportunities in front of me and the possibility to begin again when others would be shit out of luck.  But with those possibilities also come obligations.  In the seat I am in, the grass truly does look greener on the other side.  And that’s not good.  How can I change my view?  How can I begin to work positive thinking into my every day?  Into my every moment?  I thought I was doing good, I thought I was kicking ass, and then this week, as you have read, took its toll on me.  No small wonder that the rapture ends this week.  And it’s beyond awesome that next week begins with my favorite holiday in the world: LADY GAGA’S “BORN THIS WAY” DROPS!  Holler!  (See, looking for the positive…)

Blood and nightmares.

I have thought a lot about the future.  What it holds for me and what it has the potential to hold.  There are endless possibilities that exist.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and every choice has a thousand different outcomes.  The question then becomes how we make the decisions.  What molds us?  What influences us?  Do we live constantly wishing to do as others want us to, or do we follow our own passions and pray to God that the path we chose ends in happiness and not complete sorrow.  There are times, though, that I find myself wishing I could know the outcome ahead of time.  I have been hurt so many times that it is a scary thought to take a blind step.  But at the same time, the opportunity to take those blind step is exhilarating.  Now it is my decision to focus on the glass being half full or half empty.

This forum is definitely a difficult thing to manage.  It is an online journal and available for the world to see (lest I change the settings, but then the question becomes why use a public forum to begin with, why not just write in a paper journal or type in a Word document, but I think the answer lies in the necessity to share these ever-present issues and try to find commonality and compassion, a connection in a sea of anonymity).  To discuss certain personal issues becomes a matter of choice at what you want the world to know versus what you think should stay secreted away.  One phrase I have come away with after reading countless memoirs on drug addiction (my addiction, as I read more about drugs than I have ever experienced using them) is that we are only as sick as our secrets.  And if that is the case, I cannot imagine a healthy person anywhere.  We all have things we feel ashamed of, we all have issues, whether superficial or bone deep, and we are all attempting to figure out how to navigate through the murky waters and find what is best for us.  Facing demons is scary, but they stay demons, growing larger and more frightening, unless confrontation occurs.  I feel the utmost respect for people who have looked themselves in the eye and admitted to their problems and began the first steps towards a type of recovery.  Emotionally, physically, mentally, those steps are what makes the person stronger.  I want that strength.

The last couple of months have been difficult for me.  I have had to experience some of the most emotionally demanding issues and even though I have come away walking, I feel wounded inside and out.  No physical bruises or cuts and scrapes exist, but I sure as hell feel the emotional toll and wonder if I have the strength to continue moving forward and not give up and take the easy way out.  Which is to just stop.  To freeze.  To fall into a routine just as detrimental, if not more so, than the life I had lived up until weeks ago.  I went back on antidepressants.  I began them when I was in high school and weaned myself off during my freshman year of college.  I developed various coping skills that allowed for me to funnel my negativity and emotional pain into different avenues and use it to move forward.  I feel like I have lost those skills and I definitely feel like I lost sight of what my life meant to me.  I lost sight of the myriad of options available to me and allowed for someone to dictate my life, my mood, and even converge on my goals, pushing them back until it felt like they no longer existed.  The crossroads are laying before me again and I want nothing more than to move forward and make a positive decision, but I feel frozen, terrified, like no matter the decision I make, it will be the wrong one.  But what do we ever learn if we do not make the mistakes?

I am not sure what people think when they hear “antidepressants.”  I know when I was younger I always feared telling anyone I was on them because of the backlash and social stigma often associated with them.  The truth, though, is that some phenomenal amount of people use them.  We are a highly medicated society.  And yet, there is still a stigma involved in having mental health issues.  A psychiatrist diagnosed me with major depressive disorder.  I am almost positive that I have bipolar II disorder, where the waves of mania and depression are not as fiercely swinging to and fro, but dominated by longer periods of depression with shorter moments of mania.  I have never really discussed it with anyone until recently when I went into my psychiatrist’s office after months of a painful break-up with my fiancé and expressed the wish to go back on a mood stabilizer.  There were moments in the past six to eight months where I could not function.  I was so paralyzed with negativity that I could not even make decisions.  I would not eat, starving myself and consuming ounces of vodka because it numbed the pain enough that I could actually think and not just feel the insane pain deep within my chest.  When the difficult decision to split finally surfaced and the actions that preceded it came more to light, it was a relief because it felt like I could begin taking the small steps towards a recovery.  Apparently my mind did not think the same thing.

When I got home from California I would alternate between these moments of intense highs and below the surface lows.  I would be ecstatic nearing on insanity, filled with energy and emotion and then find myself contemplating the joy in dying from a terminal illness, praying nightly that God would take it out of my hands and just curse me.  I still have those moments, where death seems like a close friend who I want to acquaint with, while also getting as giggly as a school girl.  With the antidepressants, the intense lows become manageable.  I am able to wake up, shower, get dressed and go about activities with relative normality.  But the lows are beginning to break through the drugs.  The weight in my chest is becoming stronger and the black hole is opening more regularly.  One of the new symptoms I developed, in moments of extreme stress and emotion, I have dissociative episodes.  It’s this odd sensation of being connected to your body but not comprehending what is happening.  Many people relate dissociation to multiple personality disorders and schizophrenia (which, frighteningly run in my family), but I have not had anything like that.  I am not hearing voices or talking to people who do not exist (hopefully), but I have the distinct impression at times that I am outside my self.  It’s like watching your life from the third person.  I know I am writing and I can feel my fingers move across the keyboard, but my mental capacity of the situation falls horribly short.  It’s like I cannot fuse my mind and my body.  It’s terrifying.

I am reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which I love, but he discusses this concept within the text about the Heart of Stone (I believe that’s the name).  It is an ability needed to perform sympathy, or in laymen’s terms, magic.  What needs to happen is this inner calm in which separation of mind and body happens so that you become unflappable.  The purpose in the book is so that you can have multiple parts of your brain working simultaneously.  I imagine that kind of control exists, but that’s the thing, it’s a control.  It’s active.  My separation comes sporadically and unintentionally creating this odd dichotomy of acknowledgment and comprehension and having no comprehension.  It’s a sense of chaos personified because it is witnessing yourself as if you were outside of yourself.  Can you imagine that?

And here I sit, writing this all out and letting the emotions flow into me.  This day I started on a positive note and it has slowly beaten me down.  I am not sure what the poison was or how it seeped into me, but it did.  I can feel the blackness and I can feel it physically as it spreads through my chest and limbs.  It’s like when you are imbibing and you can begin to feel a buzz slowly radiate out in your limbs.  It’s like that, except it’s not a pleasant numbing sensation, but a painful weight and burning scratches.  It feels like there are nails under my skin and they are dragging, peeling the fragile layers apart.  My chest feels heavy and the backs of my eyes burn because there are tears sitting there wanting desperately to flow forth.  I don’t want it though.  I want to push forward, through it all, and I want the pendulum to swing back to happiness and smiles, but it’s not.  I am sinking, slowly, painfully conscious, into a darkness.  And the darkness scares me.  I have had dreams, nay, nightmares, lately.  They involve Jonathan, my ex.  The world begins shaking beneath my feet.  It’s like an earthquake, but it’s not, because it feels like it’s internal, too, like my body is giving out, failing.  I look up and Jonathan has blood everywhere.  There are gashes on his head and the blood is coming fiercely, streaking down his face and running into his eyes giving him the look of someone who is crying red.  His middle is also covered in blood, though I cannot see a wound.  His shirt is sticking to his abdomen and it is completely soaked and his arms have scrapes and the skin looks flayed from the muscle.  He just cries out in pain and then everything goes completely black.  There is a darkness so intense that I feel like I am blind.  Nothing is penetrating it; the world is in complete pitch black.  And then he begins crying.  It’s this echo that tears through me, and I feel his sobs in my chest.  I begin crying and panicking and I begin reaching my arms out hoping to grasp something, anything, so I can find my way to him and help him.  He has wounds and I need to help him, but I cannot see anything.  I have woken up for three nights in a row, and from one nap, sweating profusely (soaked my clothes), with tears in my eyes, hyperventilating, shouting his name.  After every nightmare I text him and ask after his safety, tell him to not go into the darkness.  He has witnessed these moments where I seem to speak poetically and somewhat prophetically, asking him for no clear reason to act safe or do something.  He helps to reestablish a sense of time and space, reminding me I am in the here and now and not some dream world.  The nightmares have been so real, though, that I wake up with the salty, sweet, coppery smell of blood in my nose.  It scares me.

I had a similar dream when I first moved to Davis.  I was in the dark, unable to see.  I would feel this searing pain and look down and my hands would be clutching my belly, like where a baby bump would be, and there would be all this blood.  The pain would not be there anymore, just all this blood.  And I would get the impression that someone was there watching, waiting in the shadows.  It was an oppressive feeling that would wake me up and I had the unsettling feeling that someone was in the room watching me.  I would look around, wild-eyed and scared, and obviously find no one there.  I would close my eyes to try to sleep and all I would see was my arm and someone taking a knife and piercing skin and tearing the layers off, revealing glistening muscle underneath.  It repulsed me and I oftentimes would not sleep because of this.  It got so bad that I began taking over the counter sleeping pills.  At first they did their job, dropping me off into sleep, but then they began to fail.  I would wake with the same nightmare, be unable to relax, and so I would take more.  At one point in December I was taking upwards of ten sleeping pills throughout the evening and still not sleeping.  By the time I left Davis in March I was abusing sleeping pills throughout the day and night just hoping to numb my mind and pain long enough to drift out of reality for some time.  My life for the last six to eight months has been one disastrous decision or action after another, and it has affected so many people and loved ones that I feel ashamed to even admit it.  We are only as sick as our secrets, though, right?  Now that it is no longer a secret, I want to move forward.

I still crave them.  Just like I crave alcohol more than I would like to admit.  It’s so easy to allow something else to fill the holes.  There is a quote, and I forget who says it, that states that someone should tell alcoholics that you should not drink to drown sorrows because sorrows know how to swim.  And no truer or finer words exist.  We all run away from our problems and we always fail to see they follow us.  What begins with us has to end with us, so we can no more escape our problems then deny breath.  Either way, it will kill us.  Turn around and face the problem, look in the mirror and recognize that there is strength beneath the surface and that with loved ones and help you can accomplish anything as long as you want to and as long as you are willing to put in the hard work.