Life as Amber knows it

"An adventure in the making…"


Grief is a mother fucker.

My fortieth birthday is looming over me, its arms open wide, and I? I’m going from a fast walk into a jog, then a sprint into its embrace quite happily.

I’ve been warned repeatedly that forty is a bitch. That forty sucks. That your body starts losing its firm curves and gray hair starts to appear and new hair starts to appear in places on your body where it did not exist before. You start losing your vision and hearing, body parts start creaking and aching, and you can’t stay up as late any longer.

But despite how god awful everyone has informed me that forty is going to be, I’m ready for it. After thirty-nine years on this planet and getting my ass kicked repeatedly, I’m looking forward to forty with giddiness.

I’ve never been one to cry over what’s been lost in my past. The lines around my eyes and mouth are signs of a lot of laughter. I don’t miss my twenties, and I won’t miss my thirties, mainly because they were hard to live through. I spent too much time in hospitals, too many days at funerals, too much money on therapy. Forty to me is an oasis of hope and joy and new beginnings. I’ve dreamt of forty with the same romanticism I used to hold towards dreaming of Christopher Gonzales kissing me in the eighth grade.

The last two years of my life have brought about new changes, choices, and losses, the most painful of which was my father’s death in 2014. It’s been a two year long battle with grief and hurt and a loss I thought I was prepared for, but had no idea how awful it would be. I’ve spent the last two years at a loss of creativity: where as I’ve written, it has been as a writer, not as an author. Losing my father killed my own creative spirit.

Grief is a motherfucker. Where as I used to crank out poetry without even needing inspiration, I was no longer able to find any words within me.

Mother fucker though it may be, grief eventually eases up, and for the most part, is replaced with a sweet nostalgia of times when those we loved were with us. Occasionally you get hit hard with a repeat of strength when grief first struck you. But you learn to let the waves of it wash over you, and you come out stronger on the other side.

It’s been a long road to finding my creative footing again. And it’s been a hard road. But anything worth having in this world is worth the hard work associated with it.

But for what it’s worth, I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had on my road towards creativity again. I’m grateful for the learning of who I am and what I want and need in my life. And for this new person I’ve become, because she is amazing, strong, compassionate, and more open to living than she’s been in the thirty~nine years she’s been in this world.

Much love, Dear Reader. Thank you for your continued support.

Amber Jerome~Norrgard


Do you remember the 80’s? Most specifically, at home permenants?

For the rest of my life (which should be about forty years from now, hopefully), I’m going to have a reaction to home permenants the way men react when another guy takes a hard hit in the junk: I’m going to wince and bend over a bit, hyperventilating.

If you’ve read me for any period of time, you’re aware I was without the benefit of a good mother (which is a polite way for saying “What was the state of Pennsylvania thinking giving her a child???”). And this is not so much a retelling of my heartbreaking childhood or what I learned from it, so much as its just a recounting of how I came to loathe home permanents. And how I became the parent I am.

Picture it: 1984, 1985. The world was under the impression that big ass bangs, acid wash jeans, and blue eye shadow was fabulous. I have no idea what inspired my mother to believe it was a good idea to beging giving me home permanents. Maybe it was Dallas and Victoria Principal’s tight curly locks.

But Ms Principal had a team of highly professional stylists who had years of experience under their belts. My mother had a six year old who didn’t want curly hair, and no experience with anything hair related. Yet that didn’t stop her.

There’s nothing worse than being shoved into an uncomfortable wooden kitchen chair, and being told to hold still while your mom is yanking your hair and rolling it too tightly onto curlers. And then having your head drowned in toxic smelling chemicals, with a bonus of you can’t actually wash your hair for several days because it would cause the perm to fall out (just once I wish there would have been a freak rainstorm to save my poor hair.)

Every single time, without fail, my hair turned an unnatural shade of orange. Half of it broke off. The other half that survived? It was a frizzy mess, no where near the curls I’m sure my mom had invisioned. Ever see someone who uses bleach to go blonde at home? Yep, that was me, except with orange hair that was similar to a cheeto. It was so awful that our church organist, who was a hairdresser during the week, took one look at it and told my mother to never again let which ever hairdresser had wrecked my hair to touch it. My mother’s response was to get huffy and make us start going to another church.

I swore as a small child that if ever I became a mother to daughters, I’d allow them to choose their own hair.

Flash forward to 2011: Amethyst is now seven and asks to cut her waist length hair off. I panic and tell her she can cut it when she’s eight. On the afternoon of her eighth birthday, my oldest child comes into my room with my hair scissors and reminds me of the promise I’d made her.

“Are you sure?” I asked, hoping she’d say no.

“Yes,” she said, looking at me to see how I’d respond.

“How short?” I ask her, terrified of the answer.

“To above my shoulders.”

I parted her hair down the middle, secured it in two braids, took a deep breath and reminded myself of the promise I made when I was her age. And I cut. She was so excited and happy. “Go show your father,” I said. I then went into my bedroom, shut and locked the door, buried my face in a pillow and cried.

She didn’t know I was heartbroken until today, on her sister’s eighth birthday, when Autumn reminded me of the promise I’d made to her when she was six: “You can cut your hair short on your eighth birthday.”

“You cut mine on my eighth birthday and it was fine Mom,” Amethyst reminded me this morning when I was trying to convince Autumn she wanted her hair to remain long, with little luck.

“Yeah, and I cried like a baby after,” I respond.

“Then why’d you do it?” Amethyst asked, with the implied DUH loud and clear.

“Because you wanted it. And its your hair.” And my answer reminded me of the phrase Forest for the Trees.

It’s not my hair. It’s my daughter’s hair. And sooner rather than later, life’s going to present Autumn with a choice, and she’ll have to make it, no matter what my feelings are. And I’ll support her choices, even if I myself would not make the same choice, because she’s my daughter.

We want our children to have better than we ourselves had. I had a mother who never considered my wants and more often than not tried to force me into a box that I would never fit into. I had a mother who never learned to love and appreciate me as I was and as I became, and who hated me for anything that indicated I was not hers biologically, whether it was my green eyes, porceline skin, or creative personality.

I took Autumn to my hair dresser’s salon, and Sarah wrapped my daughters waist length blonde hair into two pony tail bands, and snipped.

I wanted to throw myself on the ground and tantrum. I wanted to curl up into a ball and cry hysterically. I considered asking Sarah to put extensions in, but didn’t want to be melodramatic. Instead, I looked at my second born and asked, “Are you happy?”

“Oh yes! I love it!” That’s all I needed to hear. And all I needed to see was her bouncing around the salon, patting her hair, feeling proud at having something she wanted for herself.

I didn’t want her to get her hair cut. But it’s not my hair. And in several years, I’m not going to like her boyfriend (let’s face it, he’s probably going to be a big ol’ jerk wad), what clothing she wants to wear, how much eyeliner she’s going to put on. I’m probably not going to agree with her post high school plans. She’s going to pick a career that I myself would never pick, and she’ll raise her kids with a parenting style different from my own. She’ll paint rooms in her house pink, she’ll probably purchase a minivan, and she’ll probably own khakis and dress like a prep, or worse, like a hipster.

But that’s okay. The choices she makes, the life she makes for herself? It’s a life she’s going to be living long after I’m gone. She has to live within the life she builds for herself. My job is to guide her, to teach her compassion, kindness, how to avoid jerk guys, how to respect herself and to hold her head up high. My job is to make certain she knows that she’s loved always and unconditionally, and that I’m behind her, even if I don’t always agree with her decisions. To be a better mother than I myself had.

Happy Birthday Baby Girl. I’m so thrilled you’re in the world and can’t wait to see who you become.



On July 20, 2014, I did one of the hardest things in my life: I fought to enforce the DNR my father had put in place years before.

We live in a fairly litigious society: one little mistake can sometimes lead to a huge law suit. I understand the medical staff at the hospital my father had been taken to after his fall were trying to watch their own asses. But the reality is, had the DNR not been enacted, my father would have had at most a few more weeks of life, which would have been spent in immense pain.

I fought the doctor who argued that my father wasn’t in his right mind. I repeated my father’s final wishes, my back straight, my voice steady, my heart slamming in my chest. I had promised my father years before that if ever the time came, I would make certain he was not being kept alive when there was no chance of recovery. Anyone passing by the doorway of his hospital room would have made the assumption I was cold and hateful. The exact opposite was true: I was the daughter of a man who was ready and at peace with passing on.

The doctor finally agreed with me. My vision hazed over as I began sobbing hysterically, my legs went out, and if there hadn’t been a couch behind me, I would have slammed down to the ground.

My body didn’t slam down to the ground. But my heart slammed shut that day.

The natural order of things are that we bury our parents; the hopefully do not bury us. They care for us as infants and children, and then later (hopefully much later), we care for them.

But my final act of caring for my father, my final act of following his wishes and being strong like he raised me to be? It broke me in a significant way. It shattered my heart to have to fight for him, but to have held on would have been cruel and selfish. Letting him go was the compassionate act.

For the past two years, I’ve been going through the motions of my life. My children have gotten all of me, they’ve had a mother that has been fully present and there for them. But in all other areas of my life, I’ve done just enough to get through each day. I’ve written, but it’s been strictly related to work: ghost writing, lectures, client’s bios and blurbs. For myself? There’s been just enough to make one poetry collection, and a gathering of blog posts for an essay collection. I haven’t had the emotional or creative energy to publish any thing of my own since June of 2014. The first year of my life as a writer, I published eight books; the second I published twelve of my own. That’s a stark contrast, which is just a symptom of a larger problem: I’ve been impotent in my own creative writing because I’ve been closed down and broken for so long.

Over the past two years, I’ve been trying to heal, trying to find my balance. Some experiences I’ve had have done some good, others were just filler and ways to pass the time and attempts to quiet the storm of heartbreak. I’ve been looking for something, anything, to find my center and to relearn living. I’d take a trip, hit a baseball game, have a night of “doesn’t count” drinks and dining, long conversations, tattoos. I’ve invested in companies, found success with my own company, traveled to see friends and celebrate the important moments in their lives.

Grief, like the bastard it is, has no expiration date. There’s no one way to recover. And the reality is, my grief over losing my father will never leave me. But I’ve held onto it too hard. I haven’t accepted it, just wrapped myself in it and been too terrified to let go of it and move on. But in a twist of irony, I’ve been attempting to force myself to move on and let go of the loss.

All that does is make it continue on in ways that are too much to bear.

I recently spent several hours with someone I had just met, and most likely won’t ever see again. The conversation went from everything from music, to our jobs, to our families, to our experiences in our lives. There was a balls to the wall, all cards on the table level of honesty in our conversation, and at one point I was asked, “What is your endgame? What is it that you want for you?”  I answered with the usual For my children to be healthy and happy. And this person whom I had only just met looked deep in my eyes and said, “Everyone wants that. What is it you want?”

It’s so rare that I’ve been asked that question and forced to answer with all honesty.

This person completely bitch slapped me and slammed into my life with their questions and honest responses. They shook up those shattered pieces of my heart and miraculously, when those pieces settled again, they settled into place. There was a healing that took place, a shifting of myself that I had been unable to make on my own, that all the experiences in my desperate searching over the last two years had been unable to accomplish.

I woke up the next morning, and for the first time in two years, the first time since I lost my father, I was okay. Not completely healed, but farther down the road of healing than I’ve been able to reach on my own.

It was an awakening, a new look at life. And to this person who more likely than not I’ll not see again: Thank you for the hours of conversation and the learning you brought to my life. You’re an angel among us.

I speak often and glowingly about my OBGYN, a man who busted his ass to care for me, not only during my pregnancies, but during my fertility treatments, my cervical cancer scares, the hell of post partum depression and anxiety. He was able to help me in ways that no one else could. This recent experience I’ve had is the same. That person I spent several hours conversing with helped me in a way no one else was able to. And that is a priceless gift, having a night that changed me significantly, for the better. For the small safe space those hours of conversation afforded me.

There is still more work to do for myself, for healing my soul and moving forward. But I have finally awakened to hope, to finally having faith to move forward and onward into the best version of me I can become.


Amber Jerome~Norrgard


Dear Dad

Dear Dad:

I just survived my second Father’s Day without you. I’m surviving your birthday today without you. And the second anniversary of losing you is coming up.

About a month after you passed, I went in for my twenty-second tattoo. And Martin, the person who’s inked all but two of my tattoos was more than happy to take a tattoo gun to my back to memorialize your birth and death dates. And for the first time in all the tattoos I’ve ever had placed on my body, for the first time ever in that shop that saw me get inked and pierced to commemorate the map of my life on my body, I cried. Martin, a man who doesn’t put up with whining over pain in his shop said nothing, just stopped every now and then to hand me a paper towel to wipe my eyes and blow my nose with. And when I stood up and looked at the new art on my body, I thanked him, and he put his hand on my shoulder in support.

The kids are doing well, but they miss you. And I never understood so well the lesson that you put your children first in all things, because when they ask me about you, I have to put my public face on and not cry and tell them about you. Because even though it hurts that you’re no longer with us, I need to keep you alive for them.

So much has happened since we lost you. And the morning we lost you, Jason and I went to your house to look over your papers. You always thought ahead: everything that could have been divided equally between us had already been divided, you gave us detailed instructions into carrying out your funeral, you prepaid for the expenses associated with laying you to rest, you even stated who you wanted to be the final judge in any disputes we might have had in closing your estate (you’ll be proud to know that not ONCE did we argue over anything, we simply moved forward how you would have wanted us to, although the people who bought your house painted over all that gorgeous blonde wood in the living room with white paint which is just wrong), you kept everything we might have needed in one place in order to finish out your affairs.

I looked over your financial papers, and my heart broke. You always taught us to be careful and cautious in our spending, to plan for the future. But when I saw what you weren’t able to take with you, my heart broke. You were a simple man: you never needed fan fare and always found joy in the simple things in life. But in your final week, I’d visit you in the hospital and we had some deep discussions before the pain became too much and the medicine took over your mind. And you would tell me what you wished you’d of seen or what you wished you’d of done. You talked about experiences you didn’t have.

You taught me so much by being my parent. You taught me a final lesson in the days after your passing. I spent the first thirty-seven years of my life putting experiences off thinking I’d have more time, thinking it could wait, thinking I’d be wasting money. Sitting at the dining room table with my younger brother, I looked over what you left behind and realized how much of life you missed out on because you had concerns over being able to provide for your family.

We lost you two years ago. My life has not been the same since. There’s a hurt that hasn’t healed, and won’t heal. But there has been a shift into learning to experience life, into learning to embrace experiences and to not be afraid of taking chances and going after experiences I’ve wanted for as long as I can remember. I went to the World Series in 2014, I celebrated your birthday last year at the MLB All Star Game. I’ve sucked it up and stopped being such a wuss about flying with the help of vodka. I drove Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. I went to Wrigley Field like you and I had always planned to go to. I’ve been to the Four Corners Monument and lost my breath and been moved to tears by the sheer phenomenal beauty of the Grand Canyon. I’ve pushed myself professionally and ran my company in the black for over three years now, and I’ve began doing work that I never thought I’d be capable of. I rode to the top of Sandia Peak. I almost rode a hot air balloon but a thunderstorm kept me grounded.

It took long work hours to save up to take these trips and have these experiences. And with all of those experiences, I’ve wished I could have called you to tell you about them. But I know you were there in spirit, cheering me on and telling me to not let fear keep me from going after what I wanted in this life. You always taught us hard work will get you where you want to go. And it has: hard work got me to Chicago, Albuquerque, Carlsbad, Las Vegas, Santa Monica, Baltimore, Murfreeboro. Some of those places people know of, some of the experiences are ones that many people have had. And some of those were just for me because they involved experiences or people that are dear to me.

It’s been almost two years. You’re still very present in my life, even though you’re gone. And I guess what I’m trying to say by all this rambling is that I miss you, I love you, and I wish more than anything we could have an hour to sit down and just talk. It hurts when the kids tell me how much they miss you, and I’ve learned to hide my hurt from them because I don’t want them to feel they’re doing something wrong in talking about you; I want your memory kept alive for them as long as possible.

Happy Birthday Dad. I wish there was another meatloaf/mashed potato “cupcake” to see you blow a candle out on.


Forty Balloons

It was sunny on July 14, 1982. That I remember clearly. And what I always remember, what I’ll never forget, is that on that on that eve, my father’s fortieth birthday, he came home with…

Source: Forty Balloons

Happy Birthday Baby Girl

I prayed more during my pregnancy with Autumn than I did at any other time in my life.

Sure, I prayed during my parents divorce. I prayed during health crises in my twenties and thirties. I prayed during my dad’s last week on earth for him to finally be at peace, and I prayed for strength after he passed.

But never in my life did I pray as much as I did with my second born child.

You see, I’d suffered three miscarriages in my life, two of which were a result of the abuse I survived in my first marriage. The third? That came after twenty months of trying, of fertility drugs, of surgeries and charting and scheduled sex. And then on what would have been my due date with the baby I lost in the Summer of 2007 I found out I was pregnant. Eight days later I stood in a labor and delivery room in Plano, Texas and witnessed my nephew Tyler being born. And to this day, I say that seeing him take his first breath brought me the luck I needed to carry to full term. I got a variety of baby bathtubs for my baby shower which is fine with me! They came in use when we went on vacation or went to stay with my parents.


“I Could Never Do That”

“Well, I could never do that!”

Apply the above phrase to any hot button issue, and you’ve got a conversation I’ve unfortunately been subjected to too many times to count.

It doesn’t matter if it’s related to parenting issues, choice of profession, sex, friendships, tattoos, choice of underwear (sadly, I’m not joking about this one), politics, gun control issues, religion, body art, piercings, education, art, food choices… Name it, everyone has an opinion on what choices you make in your life.

Unless you’ve asked for their opinion, the true mistake everyone makes is thinking they have a right to weigh in on any one given issue. And this is a mistake I myself make, the most recent of which was me stating angrily, “I could never be with a person who’d tell me to give up a life long friend.”

But the reality is, unless these decisions are impacting other people in a negative manner, they need to shut the fuck up (and truly, the above example? It impacted me, because the person I made the comment to was guilty of letting his significant other control his friendships, and my friend chose to remove several long standing friendships in his life to please someone he’d been dating for a short few months).

But the reality is that at thirty~nine years old I’m tired of the peanut gallery weighing in on choices I make in my life that don’t affect them in any way, shape or form. The truth is, there are only three people that get a say in my life outside of myself, and those are my children, and they only get a say when it affects their life in a manner that’s harmful to them. And my children are my top priority. Every major decision I make in my life is related to what’s best for them: choice of profession, place to live, the car I drive, the food I prepare for dinner.

“I could never vote _______.”  “I could never give my child formula!” “I could never date someone who ____.” “I could never give up meat, that’s just stupid.” “I would never get a tattoo.” “I would never publish erotica under my real name.” “I’d never dye my hair those colors, I’m a mother for god’s sake!” “How can you own a gun? You’re a terrorist!” “How can you believe in God?” “How can you work when you’ve got small children at home, think of what that’s going to do to them!”

Good for you. You don’t have to.

The fact is this: My life is my own. The decisions I make are my decisions, and I am the one that will have to face any consequences, good or bad, that result from the decisions I make.

I recently was the target of ire from a size two surgically altered blonde with orange spray tan skin who made the mistake of commenting on the fact that at my size, I should be more careful about how much I eat. To which I responded by congratulating her on buying in to a bullshit ideal about what real beauty is. Later that evening I recounted the story to a friend and when I asked them why on earth I was the target of her bitch gun, they responded that it wasn’t that I was eating, it was that I caused them to question their own choices of giving up their comfort and happiness to be what society says is correct.

And I no longer care. I no longer care if you have a problem with the decisions I make in my life, because they’re not related to you. Our ego driven society has caused a damn shock wave of people believing their opinions hold any weight, when they do not. And I have to wonder about those who feel the need to weigh in on things that they have no business weighing in on: Do they really think their opinion on religion, politics, tattoos, hair color, career, parenting, food, gun control has any weight on the choices I make for myself? Does the group of size 2 women who all look the same in the bar I’m at with friends think I’m going to stop eating real food because they shoot me dirty looks and call me fat in a just loud enough to hear whisper when I walk by to the bathroom? Does someone I only know through Facebook think I’m going to stop carrying a gun because they don’t believe in gun ownership? Does a Stay At Home Mom think that telling me I’m wrong for returning to work (despite my reasons) is going to be reason enough for me to stop working and return to only being at home with my children? Does my friend telling me they really don’t like tattoos really think that’s going to sway my mind on decorating my body as I see fit, the body that’s mine? And does my ultra religious and ultra conservative family member truly believe that attempting to shame me for writing a genre of fiction that has sex in it is going to make me yank those books off the shelf and never again write about the carnal arts?

Give me a fucking break.

I am who I am. Whether or not the decisions I make for my life are ones that you yourself would make in yours makes no difference. I can guarantee that I won’t always agree with you on the choices you make in yours. If you’re at risk of hurting yourself badly, whether emotionally or physically, I’ll speak up, and I’d expect the same from you. But until then? Keep your fucking mouth shut about the choices I’ve made in mine unless I’ve asked you to weigh in.

“I could never do that.”

Good. Don’t do that.

But don’t judge me if I do.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

My Painful Reality

I’m fairly open about most parts of my life. To date, I’ve written about surviving a physically and emotionally abusive adoptive mother, a first marriage that was an exercise is abuse and shame and having my self worth stripped away daily. I’ve written about my struggles with infertility, post partum depression and anxiety, the decision to have a hysterectomy at the young age of thirty-three. I’ve written about being adopted and my search for my biological mother. I’ve written about losing my father, about my loss of faith and finding it again. I’ve written about body image issues and the struggle to lose weight (I even went as far as to post before and after photos of me in a bikini). And while I’ve hinted at other things going on in my life, I haven’t been open about them.

I have Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Every single day of my life is spent in physical pain.

If you’re not familiar, the symptoms of Fibromyalgia include the following (I’m quoting the fabulous WebMd for these):

“Chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms, or tightness. Moderate or severe fatigue and decreased energy. Insomnia or waking up feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep.

Stiffness upon waking or after staying in one position for too long. Difficulty remembering, concentrating, and performing simple mental tasks (“fibro fog”). Abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation alternating with diarrhea (irritable bowel syndrome). Tension or migraine headaches. Jaw and facial tenderness

Sensitivity to one or more of the following: odors, noise, bright lights, medications, certain foods, and cold. Feeling anxious or depressed. Numbness or tingling in the face, arms, hands, legs, or feet. Increase in urinary urgency or frequency (irritable bladder).

Reduced tolerance for exercise and muscle pain after exercise. A feeling of swelling (without actual swelling) in the hands and feet. Fibromyalgia symptoms may intensify depending on the time of day — morning, late afternoon, and evening tend to be the worst times. Symptoms may also get worse with fatigue, tension, inactivity, changes in the weather, cold or drafty conditions, overexertion, hormonal fluctuations (such as just before your period or during menopause), stress, depression, or other emotional factors.”

And if you’re not familiar, here’s a break down of Rheumatoid Arthritis (again, quoting WebMD):

“Rheumatoid arthritis is the second most common type of arthritis.

RA often affects the wrists, hands, knees, ankles, and feet. Usually, it’s the same joint on both sides of the body. It can also cause problems with other organs like the eyes, skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, nervous system, and digestive tract.

When you have RA, your immune system attacks your body, especially your joints, by mistake. It’s called an auto-immune disorder.

Here’s how it happens. The white blood cells of the immune system move into the joint. They release chemicals called cytokines, which attack the lining of the joint, called the synovial membrane. Thick tissue called pannus growsinside the joint.

Over time, that tissue invades and destroys cartilage and bone inside the joint. Inflammation causes fluid buildup in the joint, making it swell. Eventually, the damage makes it hard to move the joint.

RA is a lifelong disease. But there are many treatments that relieve pain and stiffness, and also slow down or stop the damage to your joints.”

I haven’t said much about it publicly. For the simple reason that I don’t want to be thought of as sick. And people mean well, but having been through multiple illnesses in my life, once you say it, once you’re open about it, you have a label placed on you.

I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia six years ago after I fell on the stairs and cracked three ribs. The ribs healed. But four months after the injury, I was still feeling pain, and it wasn’t pain related to the injury itself. It was pain that radiated throughout my body, or would be in one area of my body with no reason for it to be there. After several doctors and several out of pocket payments, I finally got a diagnosis. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis four years ago when I began having trouble closing my hands around various objects. I was unable to make a fist without having pain throb through my hands for hours after.

The first medical treatment for Fibromyalgia is a prescription of Lyrica, which is basically an anti depressant. At the time of my diagnosis, I was taking Zoloft to treat post partum depression, and the Zoloft had the same effect Lyrica would on a person: it seemed to help the pain I was feeling from the Fibromyalgia.

Six months after the first diagnosis, I found out I was pregnant with my son. It was never a question: I stopped taking the Zoloft, no way was I going to have medication coursing through my body and into that of my unborn child’s. And I suffered for it greatly. Daily, I was more exhausted than I’d been when pregnant with either of my daughters. Daily, my body ached. Do you know that feeling you get when your foot falls asleep and starts waking back up? Those pins and needles that stab into your waking muscles and make it almost impossible to take a step? On my worst days, I’d feel that all over my body, so much so clothing hurt my skin.

I resumed taking an anti depressant after my son was born, and added a second one into the mix after my hysterectomy brought on a similar type of anxiety and depression that I suffered through post partum. I stopped taking the medications when they began doing more harm than good: I gained one hundred pounds and my hair began falling out. And I was fine, for the most part, in terms of emotional health. And the weight loss I had after ditching the pills helped with the depression. I’d also began a healthier diet, and that plus exercise helped alleviate the pain I felt from both illnesses.

But life seems to like to kick me in the crotch. Due to personal issues (which I will not for various reasons talk about here), I began taking Zoloft again in August 2013. I made it eight days before being rushed to the emergency room and being treated for seratonin syndrome, a possible side effect of taking any type of anti depressant.

My life became a cycle of depression, trying a new anti depressant, and around the one week mark, a trip to the ER because my body was no longer reacting to anti depressants and I’d start going into seratonin syndrome.

Name an anti-depressant, I’ve tried it: Prozac, Wellbutrin, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, Lyrica. With exception to Prozac (with my second dose I became suicidal), every other medication? Say hello seratonin syndrome and brushing up against death.

The reality is, I’m limited in treatment options, both for my depression and my Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

And my body is declining. Unfortunately, 10% of that is my own dumbass fault. You see, the past two years? It’s been rough. I lost my father. I lost family members. Several people I love dearly are fighting to live due to various health issues (and out of respect for them, I’m not naming names). I’ve had other emotional upheavals. And sadly, I went the route of eating shit that’s not too good for me.

But that other 90%? That’s on my body, and I can’t change it. I can go the homeopathic path, and that helps somewhat. But there are still days where it’s all I can do to get up out of bed and throw together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my kiddos for lunch before I’m so wiped out I have to sit down and not move for a couple of hours to recover.

Having these two illnesses is very isolating. Because I have a hard time asking for help. And I loathe repeating myself. And they don’t get the focus that Cancer or Heart Disease or even Diabetes gets, primarily because they aren’t deadly. I won’t die from either of these illnesses. But that doesn’t mean I’m not ill. That doesn’t mean that I don’t hurt, both physically and emotionally, that doesn’t mean I’m not frustrated, that doesn’t mean that I’m not angry and devastated and heartbroken and feeling betrayed by my body. Because autoimmune disorders can be summarized into a simple statement: it’s your body attacking you.

For me, something that’s hurtful is that the people who know I have these illnesses forget that I’m sick. I can’t remember the last time someone asked me how I was feeling, or what my latest test results were. And there’s the hurt that accompanies having asked someone to help me with something physical and for whatever reason, whether its understandable or not, they don’t follow through, and as a result, it takes me a week (and sadly, sometimes longer) to recover physically from what I was told I’d have help with. There’s irritation at having people crack jokes about my dietary preferences like I’m being some ironic hipster in avoiding meat and asking me if I need help getting over it by grabbing a bacon cheeseburger. There’s people who argue with me that I’m an idiot for choosing to not eat bacon. There’s the frustration of having to explain yet again that no, I do not want to try your entree, yes I know it’s delicious, yes, I’m aware that I need to live a little, no, I don’t want it because for me to have a bite of your cheeseburger, steak, or orange beef? That one bite can result in exhaustion, full body aches, what feels like swollen joints, numbness in my hands and feet, or insomnia. Or in extreme cases, all of the above. There’s the extreme anger when someone suggests eating fast food and I decline and they suggest (usually jokingly) that I think I’m too good for fast food. That’s not the case. But grabbing a burger from Burger King, or Whataburger or Jack in the Box? I’m going to be spending the next several days in severe pain. Junk food, red meat, too much sugar, processed foods? They’re toxic to me.

Would you give a diabetic a triple chocolate fudge cake? Would you ask someone who has heart trouble to race a marathon? I’m guessing no.

And I’m guessing that your friend with Diabetes, Cancer, or Heart Disease gets the benefit of you asking them how they’re doing, an offer of “Whatever you need…” and time spent with the person to remind them they’re still valid.

That’s the thing: I’ve felt invalid for quite some time. Because I don’t look sick. Because people forget that I am sick, even when they know better. And I don’t begrudge my loved ones who are fighting for their lives against various deadly illnesses the offers of help and quality time that they get, because I want them to have whatever comfort they need while they fight for their lives.

But I’m human. And I’m sick. And I could use a little comfort. I could use offers of help that actually are help. I could use friends calling me and asking me to grab coffee or dinner or a drink and just listening to me. I could use a hug, someone’s hand to hold, kind and compassionate words to be reminded that I do matter, that I am valid, that they understand that I’m hurting and I’m struggling and I’m doing the best I can with what’s a shit situation. That they know I’m trying, even if it looks like I’m not. To be told that it’s okay that I’m afraid of what my future will be like with these two illnesses, and they don’t think less of me, they don’t think I’m weak for feeling scared. To be told that I’m loved.

I wake up every day, and I wonder how bad it’s going to be. Am I going to be able to take care of my children fully? Am I going to be able to get work done? Am I going to have to spend the day in bed because it’s too hard to walk around? And the worst fear: is it going to hurt to hug my children?

This is my painful reality. And it sucks. And I’m angry. And it’s isolating, being in this. And I try to remember the serenity prayer, because I can’t change this, I can just pray for the strength to manage it and live with it.

~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Dear World:

Dear World:

Hello, it’s me. The person you ignored. The person who you placed on the back burner until it was convenient for you to be my friend. The person you made a face at because I look different than you. I’m the classmate you made fun of because she wore long sleeve shirts on warm days to hide the welt marks on her body from her mother’s beatings. I’m the woman who overheard you say in Spanish what you’d like to do to me, with you unaware I understand the language very well. I’m the woman you and your size-two friends made fun of for being “fat”, the woman you said was a slut because I actually have curves. I’m the friend who overheard you talk repeatedly about which of my friends you’d like to fuck and which you’d like to see naked, and it minimized me and made me feel unseen. I’m the person who’s generosity you took advantage of. I’m the former employee who you passed over for a much deserved promotion because a lazy employee put out when I wouldn’t. I’m the person you made fun of for having an anxiety disorder. I’m the friend who’s birthday you forgot. I’m the friend who you blew off for the opportunity to get laid or to spend time with someone who was “cooler.”

Dear World, please start treating one another with compassion. Please stop placing those that you say matter to you on the back burner. Start making time for those you care about, and be aware of the weight your words and your actions carry.


~Amber Jerome~Norrgard

Dear Other Dude at the Playground…

Daddy Coping in Style

Dear Other Dude at the Playground on Saturday –

Remember me? I was the dad with the son wearing a pink dress.

Before he burst onto the playground, and as I parked the car, he was positively vibrating. I asked, “Now…you’re sure you want to wear your dress?”

He shouted in response, “Yes! Because I want to show everyone how beautiful I am in this beautiful dress!”

It was a big deal for him; and for me.

He hasn’t asked to wear a dress “out,” before. I didn’t fight it. Who cares, right?

Or so we’d like to think.

As you noticed, he couldn’t contain his excitement showing off the dress to the only two kids playing…your daughter and her friend. He skipped and twirled and chased them for ten minutes shouting, “Do you like my dress? I’m wearing a dress! Can I play with you? Will you play with…

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