Friday Feels: July

Man, life gets crazy sometimes huh? I've had so much going on in my life in the last few months, I'm honestly starting to feel a little like I'm in a pit of quicksand.

I told my therapist, and her being her typical spectacular self, her response was to remind me that I've got a rope, tied to a strong oak. I told her I was tired - tired of fighting, tired of struggling, tired of always expecting the other shoe to drop and always being right about there being another shoe. She told me to hold on, and the conversation really did make me think of the way a trapped person would battle to escape quicksand, a little at a time - with such small movements it might feel like there's no hope of ever accomplishing the goal.

It put me in mind of a song I've been wholeheartedly loving lately (Casting Crowns, "Just Be Held"), which in turned took the symbolism of the various challenges in my life as quicksand to a new level. The conversation reminded me to keep a hopeful hold on the rope of my faith in possibility and the idea that consistent effort pays off. It reminded me to keep my eye on the oak my hope is tied to - the God who created me, who knew this day would come, who has already worked out the plan for tomorrow.

In turn, the encouragement gave me the strength to keep trying, to keep thinking, keep planning. To keep making the small, nearly invisible movements that WILL work out, even if I'm tired. To keep working my way up, to keep trying to pull myself free.

But there's also a time to rest. A time to be held, as the song says, which is part of why I so love my Friday Feels blog series - because it gives me space to see my feelings honestly, to process them with courage even when they're terrifying, to learn new, better ways to cope with them. And yes, it gives me space to pray.

With all that said, let's get right into it. I can't wait to see what my favorite random emotion generator pulls out of the hat for us this month ...

1. Accepting:
Living with PTSD and the impact of chronic depression and anxiety has been hard over the years - and as those invisible illnesses become visible in lack of sleep, elevated blood pressures, GERD, and other chronic pain, I've been on a journey in the last several years of accepting that my health is not what I would want. My body is not what I would want.

I'm 34 years old, and I am crippled by chronic pain and debilitating PTSD symptoms. There's so much I want to do ... that I can't do, either because I don't have the emotional energy or because my body simply won't comply. Some days, even sitting upright to write is a constant struggle.

Now that I know more about why my health is the way it is ... now that I know more about why I've suffered through some of the things that have so traumatized me over the years ... now that I have a name for my chronic pain, for my IBS, for my weakened right leg, my ugly, increasingly deformed right foot ... now that I have a better understanding of what's probably the cause of my unusual headaches ... now that I can see a little more clearly into my future healthwise ...

I am accepting "disabled" as a label. I am living with multiple illnesses, all of which complicate my life in so many ways I sometimes struggle just to explain it. I'm still giving everything I have to my life, to my writing, to my family, to my goals ... but I'm also learning to accept that I don't always have as much to give as I wish I did.

2. Enthusiastic:
In our society, we're in a place where we don't know whether to shun labels or to collect them. We don't want to be labeled as anything we might feel is bad (labels like retarded, for example), and yet we adorn ourselves so proudly with other labels (such as bisexual or transgender). It's easy to get mixed up in that too ... trying to put a label on something can sometimes cheapen it in some ways.

But when it comes to labeling a health problem, especially one that has been for so long hiding under the surface of ignorance and misinformation ... it changes everything. I have a diagnosis now, but I still don't know the extent of the damage done by the lack of ongoing treatment. I still don't know what will need to be done in order to treat my issues and improve my health and quality of life.

I have four MRIs coming up next week, and while there's a part of me that's downright petrified of the process and the implications of all the scary possibilities, I'm also completely ecstatic to be moving forward in answering so many long-unanswered questions. I'm excited to be taking these steps ... and I intend to take them with as much enthusiasm as I can muster.

3. Hopeless:
I got some really discouraging news recently - it threw me off my game for a minute, sent me straight to my therapist's office. I needed coaching, I needed a place to vent, to cry, to unload my fears and unleash my injuries. I needed to be safe for a while so I that I could open myself up to feeling stuck and scared and hopeless. I needed that moment when I broke down, when the words that have been rattling around in my mind for too long finally slipped over the end of my tongue.

And I needed the kindness and the honesty and the intensity of the encouragement that followed that moment.

4. Optimistic:
Optimism is why I went to my therapist in the moment that I was struggling. I wanted to go home and crawl into bed and just disengage. I wanted to just ... stop trying so hard. So I called, made an appointment, mustered my courage, and went to work through it.

There's something about that sense of validation, something about the patience of sitting in a quiet room with someone patient enough to just let me feel and experience from my own perspective, in my own way. Not to tell me that I'm always right or that I'm perfect or that I know everything, but just to see me for who I am and believe in my experience as real and valuable and true. Not to nod or applaud or anything like that ... just to be accepting and encouraging.

Going to my therapist helped me give myself permission to feel what I felt in that moment, to admit it and see it and call it what it was. And climbing that barrier? It helped me look back at all the other ones I've made it over. It gave me the strength to finish the day.

5. Powerless:
There's a lot in my life that feels beyond my control right now, a lot of things I'm waiting for - not because I'm holding back or because I'm intending to slow the process, but simply because change takes time and sometimes it doesn't go at the pace we want.

I know I've said it already, but it bears repeating here: I hate that there's so much I want to do, so much I'm ready to accept and take on, so much I'm ready to change and embrace ... and yet, so many areas of my life are currently marked with a big, huge, red-inked, immovable, "WAIT."

6. Strong:
Through everything I've been juggling this year in general and this summer so far specifically, I've found a new admiration for what my mother has suffered through during the years of her life. I've found a new inspiration in her strength, and new strength of my own.

She is an abuse survivor - so am I. She is a person with chronic illness - so am I. She is familiar with struggle, with hunger, with heartbreak, with homelessness - and so am I.

But she is strong - impossibly strong, undeniably resilient. She's flawed and broken and damaged ... but in her will to survive anyway, she's everything Undaunted is supposed to mean.

And so am I.

7. Terrified:
With so much going on in so many areas of my life, there's a lot up in the air - and the lack of control is terrifying for me. I can't fix what's outside of my control, and I can't change things that are out of my hands. But some things in my life ... well, they're urgent.

I know I compared things to quicksand earlier, but when I'm exploring fear and terror in my life lately, I can best describe it this way: my life feels like a bomb, a new kind of bomb I've never encountered before. And I'm supposed to defuse it, but I don't know how because it's new, and I don't know how much time I have to do it before it blows. There's no timer, just a fuse that shortens at varying levels and unpredictable speeds.

But if it blows because I failed to figure it out? Yeah, that's terrifying.

8. Torn:
Earlier this month, my aunt lost her battle with renal cancer; the final decline coincided with a major break that had my mother in the hospital for several days for the third time this summer.

I missed my aunt's funeral; it broke my heart to know that I had the opportunity to go, but I couldn't because I was afraid to be that far from my mom while she was in the state she was in. I couldn't go to Florida while my mom was in a hospital bed in Tennessee.

I know I made the right choice. I know I did what my aunt would have wanted me to do. I know she would have understood.

But I wish I could have seen her face one last time, even if she wasn't behind it anymore.

9. Warm:
This has been a hard year in a lot of ways, but it has also been rich with growth and inspiration. One of my best friendships has grown and developed into something I never would have expected or hoped for (love you, Lauren!!), another has been an outright blessing from God (thanks for being amazing, Amanda!), and the steady dependability of another has given me comfort despite so much change (always so thankful for you, Dana!!).

I'm grateful every day for the people who have come into my life in a loving way, and even more grateful for those who have been able to love me despite my flaws. These are the people who give me strength and will and endurance. They are the source of my determination to keep trying, the fount of my ability to believe in myself, and the confirmation of my faith in the good in this world.

And really, what's warmer than that?

10. Worried:
Well, y'all know me well enough by now, don't ya? If you've been following this blog for very long, you'll know how much I worry. And the wild thing about my life as it is is that I don't tend to worry about useless or insignificant things very often. I worry about real things that are coming into play, things that are confirmed, not just suspected:
  • My mother's health is failing. Her major organ systems are all in trouble, her balance is shot, her cognition is suffering. Death has been a long journey for her, with health problems, psychological issues, traumatic experiences, and good old-fashioned struggle all coming into play. She's been close to death since the blood clot that nearly killed her when I was a child ... but now? Now she's frail, fragile, broken, misshapen. Weak. I know we don't have much longer with her - and I worry about how to handle it when it's time. How does one lose their mother? And more importantly, how do I coach my children through it?
  • My health is complicated by a serious lifelong illness, and though I didn't know the name of it until just recently, I've been living with it since birth. It has been slowly getting worse, slowly causing more damage - some of which is specifically because since I didn't know what it was, I wasn't able to make sure it was treated properly. And I worry because at least one surgical correction is most certainly in my future. I don't know how soon it will have to be or how long I'll be able to put it off ... but in the meantime, I'm still a single mom with two kids. How do I take care of them if I'm in the hospital? How do I care for them when I go home? How will I support them during that time, when even sitting up to write literally might not be possible?
  • My oldest daughter is currently undergoing the long process of seeking diagnosis for her own chronic, come-and-go illness. This could take years to figure out - but in the meantime, her lack of a specific name for her illness doesn't negate the reality of her symptoms. She's doing alright with it ... but me? Well, I'm her mother. I worry.
  • My youngest has complicated health issues of her own, many of which aren't remarkably serious - but there are just. So. Many. Issues. I worry about how to juggle them all, how to best mitigate her symptoms, how to help her learn to vocalize and advocate for herself when she's struggling, how to teach her the importance of not internalizing everything. So, I worry.
  • On top of those things, there are other real issues like the problems with my car, typical single-mom concerns, the move I'm still working on, the stressors of regular daily life. And yeah, I worry.

And that's it - Friday Feel for July. It's funny how 3 and 4 were opposites, and then 5 and 6 were opposites too, huh? Like a little back-and-forth - what a fun way to challenge myself to counter my initial reactions to some of the things I've been dealing with lately! It's interesting to see the ways in which my family's current health developments featured here, too.

So tell me, have you been dealing with similar feelings this summer? If so, what's got you feeling that way? Let's chat in the comments!

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