Landing in Gratitude instead of Fear.

The night of my accident I felt fear in a way that I hope to never experience again. It overtook me and was the only feeling I had resonating through my bones. Or maybe that was just my screams? Either way, I find now that my everyday fears which I think of as “little fears” have inhibited me from moving forward. 

Having a chronic condition of PTSD, a chronic illness of thyroid and iron issues, combined with meningitis recovery means that I am always looking over my shoulder to see what’s next. My life has been inundated with so very many odd and difficult experiences. It seems only fitting that perhaps next year another one will grace me with its presence and I again will earn my title as a Survivor. 

I have difficulty shaking off this notion that the next time something crazy happens to someone, it will probably be me. 

I am tired of it. I’ve paid my dues. Mono, Shingles, Major car accident leading to PTSD, viral meningitis, iron overload, thyroid disorders. Doesn’t my body deserve a break? It’s so easy to fall into the why me, isn’t it? Think about what you’ve been through. Doesn’t it feel right to say that? 

It was a conversation last week that started to change my thinking… There I was, sitting in lunch with some new colleagues and the conversation of birthdays led to age and graduation years. I proudly shared that I was 30. My new colleague snapped her head so fast around I wasn’t sure what she would do next. She was shocked and convinced that I was much older. Thinking I would take offense, she apologized immediately, but she didn’t need to. This is the second time I’ve had a new colleague think I was at least 10 years older and I didn’t  mind one bit. You know why? It’s because in that moment I realized everything I’ve been through has allowed me to become wise beyond my years. I have crammed in so much life in these 30 that I feel like I am already 60 or more. Here I am just starting my 30s and I have more wisdom than I would without all of those crazy experiences and illnesses.Little did I know that I was sitting on this bit of gratitude underneath all of my frustration and fear. And while I still am working through my little and big fears, I am starting to realize there is a path forward even if I cannot see it just yet.

My hope is that as I approach Thanksgiving, I can land in gratitude. Because of my life experiences, I am a more informed and aware individual and with that information I can live a richer and more satisfying life. 

 So I guess I’ll say what I said to my colleague when she thought I was older…That’s a good thing and I’ll take it! 

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Alone.

The first time I saw the movie Benjamin Button, I cried. If you didn’t like it, I wouldn’t fault you. It’s not for everyone.

I felt connected to it for its truthisms spread within the story and the fact that it came out soon after my Grandfather’s passing.

One of the moments of clarity came when Benjamin himself said, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone.”

I had never really thought about it before. I was born into a family with kids already in it. We lived in a small ranch style house. I was rarely in a room or place without someone else. Alone didn’t resonate with me until much later in life, but he’s right. When it comes down to it, we are brains trapped inside the walls of our own skull. We experience and perceive life on our own and each day we do our best to connect with each other.

However, there are moments in life where we realize yes, we experience life alone. As much as we try to connect, we are alone.

My car accident was alone. I survived, I lived, but in that moment between knowing whether I’d live or die, I was alone and I felt it.

In my situation right now… I am alone. I know of many women with miscarriages, infertility, loss of child, and much more. These are terrible tragedies. These women are living out nightmares.

I am not in a nightmare, but I am sad. I am living a life alone. I don’t know if anyone waiting to start a family because their thyroid just can’t cut it. I don’t know if anyone traveling to doctor’s appointments and being told that if I were to get pregnant right now, my baby would be at risk for brain and nervous system problems.

I am alone. I’m sure someone out there in this great big world might be going through something similar, but maybe they speak a different language. Maybe they don’t have WordPress. Maybe they will never know and they will remain alone.

So I keep sharing, I keep trying, I reach out and hope that someday, I’ll be able to provide support and console those going through the same thing to make them feel a little less alone.

“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”

The Waiting Place.

“Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come,

or a plane to go or the mail to come,

or the rain to go or the phone to ring,

or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No

or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.”

Dr. Seuss had it right. In his book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” he harnesses many of the truths about our ordinary lives, one of them being the waiting. 

For a year and a half, I have been waiting for my health to return to “normal.” I’m  not sure normal exists anymore, at least not in the same way that it did before. Since having viral meningitis, I have to do daily things just to manage the symptoms and lingering problems that come with it. Stretching, slowing myself down, taking time to check my spelling which I never used to have to do, entering in every little detail into my calendar just in case my brain forgets, forgiving myself for forgetting things, which Will happen, the list goes on and on. 

 But these all seem like small tasks when it comes to the bigger issue at hand. I’ve been waiting for my body to return to normal not just so I can feel better, but so I can finally get pregnant.

This year I turn 30. It’s a landmark birthday for me and one that I’m very happy. Since my car accident, I’ve been celebrating Each birthday as a little victory. It’s amazing to be able to look back and say, “wow! I am still here and got to live another year on this beautiful planet!” But, since as long as I can remember, I always imagined that I would have a child by the time I was 30 years old. It didn’t seem unattainable when I was younger. I met the love of my life at 18, we got engaged when I was 23, married at 24, I got a job when I was young and have built a career. Last year, we spent our first year in our new home.  It seemed like we had everything lined up and ready to go. But, my health stopped everything. 

For my 30th birthday party, my husband went through some of my old childhood things for a game he made.He found a lot of diaries and journals and told me afterwards that he felt like he got to know me even better than he already did. The one thing that surprised him the most was how often I wrote about having kids and how often I mentioned that I wanted them when I was still young. I guess you could say 30 is still young, but I feel like an old soul trapped in a body that doesn’t always work and it’s heartbreaking.

My friends, my colleagues, the people I see every day share with me their joy of having a child, of being pregnant, of moving onto the next step. I am elated for them and overjoyed when they share their news, yet there still part of me that feels utterly destroyed at my inability to do the same. It has nothing to do with their joy, it has everything to do with my own failings. I hide it well. I still go to the baby showers, I still stay in touch and ask how they’re doing, I asked them how they’re feeling. It’s the right thing to do. I know that from my car accident. But sometimes I wish they could understand without feeling guilty what it’s like to sit here waiting to hear the cry of a baby and yearning to fill a bedroom with furniture, little clothes, and a rocking chair.

I’m waiting. Still waiting. Someday I won’t be, I pray. I’ve gotten good test results this week. It’s starting to look more promising. And I can only hope that Dr. Seuss got it right again when he ends that page… 
“NO that’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape 

all that waiting and staying. 

You’ll find the bright places 

Where boom bands are playing!” 

Porch Sitting.

It was on this porch just a year ago that I sat staring at the lawn and birds with unfocused vision and thoughts. I could barely think, but I knew in my heart that this was a place of rest. Sitting on a bench, looking out at the birds and flowers, listening to the wind chimes, and spotting a hummingbird on the feeder above my head every so often. This was a place of rest, peace, and hope. Despite my inability to communicate with the world around me and despite my inability to comprehend what was happening each day, I knew I could stay here. I truly believe that peace and tranquility helped heal my brain. 

It was so comforting to not have to interact and be fearful of making a mistake with words, names, or sentence structure. It was so comforting to be at rest knowing my mind didn’t have to work to remember things, my lips didn’t have to form words. 

My viral meningitis so often made me feel as though I was a prisoner inside of my own mind. Yet, in this beauty, I could look out through the bars and enjoy the scene around me. I was trapped inside and yet I could feel as though the world around me was trying to cheer me up. 

Most of my friends and family didn’t know how sick I was. Viral meningitis is funny like that. You can’t see the brain damage it has done. You can’t imagine how much it has taken from the person. The medicine didn’t help either. It took away the pain, yes, but, it also took away my emotions and my ability to process them. The illness took memories that I’ll never get back, it took my ability to do math quickly in my head, it took spelling, vocabulary, processing, word pronunciation, and most of all…

It took time. Time away from being me. Time away from fulfilling goals and dreams for the last year. Time away from being with friends and family. 

I’m still not quite sure they really understand how sick I was and how much it still impacts me. If you want to know what it is like, you really have to take the time to ask and understand. That’s difficult for us as humans. It’s much harder to listen to someone struggle to come up with the right words to explain how much pain they are in and how badly they feel than to just say, “hope your day is going well!” It’s much harder to drive to visit and sit on a porch with someone while they sit and stare at nothing and come up with things to say. Humans struggle with that. 

It just reminds me. When someone is sick, do something. When they are ill, be with them and make yourself uncomfortable even just for a little while so they can feel your presence and know that you have their back. 

I know many people felt like they did enough when I was sick. I never felt that way. I always wanted them to come over and sit with me on the porch. I  always wanted them to send a card or text or call. Something to check in with me. 

I only advocate that you consider Doing the same for your friends and family so in their times of need, they will be comforted by both nature and you. 

Someday.

Someday I’ll be a mom, but not today.

Someday, I’ll be rid of my major health concerns and issues. not today.

Today, I am a 29 year-old on her way to being 30 with no chance of having a baby before then.

Some women face fertility issues, my heat breaks for them. Some women have complications during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. I cannot imagine how they must feel.

I am at a different stop. I am playing the waitings game. I’m sure others have been here before. I’m sure others are here now, but I just don’t know it. Maybe it’s due to a medical issue, a lack of partner, a lack of financial stability. There must be others like me.

And while I am finally opening up to family members after suffering for almost a year with this heavy heart, I know that my situation is not as dismal as many other women.

Still, my heart aches. My soul wonders. Will I ever be a mom?

A voice answers. Yes, give it time.

Trust me.

Fear of the Unknown.

Today was supposed to be amazing. I can’t deny that it started off that way. I woke up to the birds singing for the first time and the flowers finally opened in my garden.

I drove to work and things were stressful, but still manageable until the end of the day, but even that seems small now.

My doctor’s appointment today was going to give me hope, more goals, positive reinforcement, and mark my acheievement in this battle against meningitis, thyroid issues, iron levels, and the malaise that comes with all of that.

Instead, my doctor informed me that there may be even more going on here. I have to go and get checked by another specialist.

Immediately, I felt that wave come over me. The one I knew so well this summer and its name is Fear.

It’s not that I am not used to this shit by now, it’s that I am just as terrified about having a tumor/cancer/life changing diagnosis as I was before.

I just want to get on with my life and instead I am sitting here facing the fear of the unknown … yet again.

If you are feeling the same way, know that I am here for you and I can relate. I may not completely understand your situation, but I can at least offer my empathy and acknowledge your own fears.

Those feelings you have are valid. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You’ll get through it and you can still be optomistic while also being scared/terrified/overwhelmed.

That’s the amazing thing about being human.

We have the capacity to feel more than one feeling at a time and as uncomfortable as that can be. It’s all there and it shows us how alive we really are.

That Accident…

Well, today is the day! Two years ago I survived my car crash with a semi. I should have died that night. I thought I was going to die and then, didn’t.

I knew today would be filled with recovery, anxiety, and a little bit of pain. What I didn’t expect was the anger and resentment.

Someone that I care about a lot referred to my crash as “That accident years ago…”

Years ago?

It has only been two. This phrase makes it seem like it’s a story in a book, sitting on a shelf collecting dust.  This year is the first time I can even say years as a plural word.

I instantly felt a pang of anger and also realized how little this person understood what life has been like since then.

Every month, I think of the day when it is the 25th. Every week, I think of it when it is Wednesday.  Every time there’s a movie or show with a car crash, I re-live it. Every car ride, I grip the wheel and pray it doesn’t happen again. Every time I hear glass break, or a bag of chips crunch, I am there: sitting in the car, swerving all over, and screaming.

This may may have been two years ago, but sometimes in my mind it was last month, last week, yesterday!

I guess this is just a reminder that there really are a lot of people that just don’t get it.

People with PTSD relive their pain and horror over and over again. They don’t always feel like it was that long ago. They may still live it every day.

So, if you know someone who has it, be patient with us, be forgiving, mark down the Anniversary on your calendar and don’t take it lightly. For some of us, today just marks another day that we survived.

 

Afraid.

Tomorrow I drive by the accident site. Just like I do every Wednesday. This time, though, it will be different. This time, it will be a Wednesday, just like the Wednesday 2 years ago when I was hit by that semi.

It’s funny how I don’t really think about the driver that much, but in a night like tonight where I am filled with anxiety about the next day I wonder: Do they know I am alive? Do they ever think about that night? Do they ever feel guilty or worried because of what happened? I guess I’ll never know.

I am afraid…

of driving tomorrow

of getting sick again

of wrecking my car and not being alive to tell the story

if having it all happen again

of being alone

of dying

how can I not be? That nice almost killed me but instead it changed my life forever.

Please Se take this fear away. It feels like a rock in my stomach. Take it away. Let me live without the weight of fear looming around.

Two Years.

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Next Saturday marks two years since I survived my car accident. As I have recovered from the crash, I’ve realized the process of getting back to or finding a new normal is a gradual one. Each day I feel a little bit better and while some days, I take five steps back, there are other days I can look back on now and remember springing ahead in my recovery.

One of those days was the one-year anniversary of the accident. March 25, 2016.

While I spent the day with family and tried my best to stay calm and away from cars, I also handed out little CARe packages. Each had a first aid kit, light, whistle, and ice pack to make any unexpected experience a little better.

This was no simple task as it was difficult for me to even walk down the shopping aisle of these items without my heart racing. Once I handed them off, however, I felt a great sense of relief. I was alive and had been for a whole year after that awful night.

This year, I am giving out another CARe package. A seatbelt cutter/glass hammer. I ordered so many of them, but wanted to be able to spread a bit more love this year.

I set them up in the dining room so I can look at them and get used to them over the next week before they are given away.

Here’s hoping again, March 25th, will be another day where I move away from the accident and walk closer to recovery.