Never Judge Someone Until You’ve Walked A Mile in Their Shoes

I flip through my memories like stacks of paper left unorganized for years. I fade away into these memories while I try to sleep, as I drive or even standing in line at the grocery store. No matter how many times I sift through those memories, I cannot tell you what I did the last time I felt my feet. Anxiety pumps the thudding of my heart with each step, every single day. Tingles no longer exist. Electric surges with every step. Pain squeezing every nerve as if my lower body were on fire and combustion repeats. Step. Step. Step. I can do this. I am a fighter. I am a pain warrior. My heart races. Step. Step. Step. Grocery shopping becomes a mission of survival. Step. Step. Step. I tell myself not to sway. I promise myself I won’t fall and embarrass my children. Step. Thud. Step. Thud. I stop.
I am unsure if the pain of my lower body or the pounding of my heart is taking the air out of my lungs, but I am dizzy and I want to vomit. I can’t vomit. I would have to walk around it and I can’t handle another step. I can’t close my eyes. I have no balance. If I close them, I will fall. I never know if I can pick myself up again.
Anxiety. Aggressive Neuropathy. Fibromyalgia. Low blood pressure. Alternating Lupus levels. Mysterious masses. Vitamin deficiencies. I see a dozen specialists. There is no week without appointments. There is no moment without pain. There is no end to new illnesses. There is no answer. There is no cure. There is another step. Always another step. It hurts.

Catch me if I fall? I promise.

At first, the anxiety was the main issue. I was in love and honestly, thought most of the spells were just what it felt like to be completely captivated and lost in another human being. The worse it got, the more I thought it was fear of getting the fairy tale- my happily ever after. The numbness set in. I was sick. Doctors began to bounce me around like a game of Pong. I wasn’t scared. I was a strong independent woman in love with a man that promised to stand by my side. This included selling most everything and moving cross country to get the best care possible.
The pain worsened. I was fainting. The numbness traveled and began to become less of an annoyance and more of a personal hell. Obviously, health takes a toll on those around you as well. Prince Charming bailed just as things turned darker and left three kids and myself homeless.
Sickness was a fleeting word before that moment. I refused to be defeated. I purchased the hottest pair of high heels I could find as inspiration to thrive and become my old self. I adopted the persona of Wonder Woman to stay strong. I wore my cape with pride and held the high heels every night, almost worshiping these inanimate objects.
I waited for Prince Charming to come back and fight my battle with me. After all, most of those princesses being saved were put in danger by the prince. He was never really saving her. He was correcting his mess. I waited. I fought to be strong and get a home for my kids and myself instead of an air mattress at my mother’s house. It is hard to get on your feet when you can’t feel them, but I did it.
I did it, then I broke. I gave up. I shut out my closest friends and family. I waited. I waited for a miracle. I waited for him. I waited to wake up and realize this was a long, horrid nightmare. I left the house as needed and nothing more. Every week came with new doctors and another diagnosis. No answers. No cure. Only hope; very little hope.

Team Jacob

My childhood friend called one day and was shocked to hear my voice instead of a generic voicemail. She never sugar coated anything. She gave me the biggest boost, kick in the butt and insult she’d ever given. She told me I was a weak Bella waiting on Edward. I ended the call in anger. I walked to the mirror and looked at my pale face and frizzy hair. It was midday and I was in pajamas. I was Bella and it made me sick. I was not weak. Edward may be Prince Charming, awaking from the nightmare or the answer. Either way, Edward was not coming and per her suggestion, the least I could do was find a Jacob to pass the time. I could handle that idea.
Here is a single mom with three kids. That is a hard push in the dating market. Let’s add the fact Prince Charming made love taste like acidic waste and I was now sick enough to be in my thirties and walking with a cane. Oh, Jacob. Carry me?

The best thing about having no balance is I am sure to fall for you.

I tried the online dating site and was very upfront about my condition. Date after date, I felt better because these guys were way more screwed up than I could ever become. I may have anxiety, depression, and a list of illnesses with an unknown cause, but these guys were from another universe. A doctor with O.C.D. showed me several photos of patients in the E.R. in horribly embarrassing accidents as I messed with the fung shui of our shared appetizer. A hipster met me in the park and spent the evening talking about gluten-free hipster food joints and finally admitted he was not gluten-free, but it was hip. I suggested we were not a match. He scratched his beard and asked if he could spank me before parting ways. Finally, a guy bluntly told me unless a man already loved me, he would not be willing to take on such medical baggage and if a guy was okay with it, he probably was not worth having in the first place.
Prince Charming. Single Mom. Three kids. Anxiety. Pain. I didn’t need to feel that again. I’ll never be able to express the pain of loving a best friend and them leaving during sickness. There was no way I would allow myself to fall into that situation again. So, I became Wonder Woman again.

Step. Step. Step. Fall.

Autumn is my favorite season. The falling leaves dance like the year is over and new growth is coming. First, you have to rake the piles of that year and make it all go away. I spent the morning prepping the kids for a day outside. I can’t do many of those anymore. I cannot be in sunlight. The yard was a blanket of leaves and I needed to see the ground before me. I traded my cane for the rake. Slower than old me, I still raked. I raked and I fell. It hurt, but the kids were watching and I was Wonder Woman. I pulled myself up by the strength of a nearby tree and raked. I fell. I could feel my knees swelling, but I stood and raked. I suppose I thought I was an autumn leaf because I fell again. I wasn’t in pain. I was in a circling pit of hell fueled by defeat, anger, insecurities and loss of identity. I looked over. The rake was broken. I didn’t give up. The damn rake gave up. I earned a glass of wine and a good cry.

Waldo, Carmen San Diego and Michelle Picarella walk into a bar.

Where am I? I am in battle. Daily. I am no hero, I know. I am not in war. I am not a martyr. Still, I battle. I know who I am. I am Michelle. Shelly, to some. I am a mother. I am a daughter. I am a friend. I am a bitch. I am a princess, a jock, an obvious fan of The Breakfast Club. I love my family. I love books. I love my life. I didn’t know life until I knew pain. True pain. I have depression, anxiety and plenty of things you could search on WebMD, but I am alive for the first time. We all fight a battle. Nobody will ever truly know our own battle. We will never know a battle other than our own. I will never judge a man after walking a mile in his shoes because I cannot even walk a mile in mine. One day, I will be okay with this fact. One day is enough for me. My daughter looks awesome in those high heels. That is enough for me. I don’t need Prince Charming. I am Wonder Woman. I pick myself up when I fall. That is enough for me. I don’t know where old me went. I don’t know where new me will end up in the end. That is enough for me.

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bethehappilyeverafterMichelle Anderson Picarella is a super single mom, author, publisher, #painwarrior, chronic illness advocate and peculiar antiques collector currently residing in the Carolinas. She is a part of Twisted Core Press and 7DS Books, former Publicity and Marketing Director for an indie Seattle publishing company and lover of all things bookish. For more information, visit –

Michelle can be found on Facebook and  Twitter

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