Friday Feels: January 2019

When I wrote my last Friday Feels post, I mentioned my maternal grandmother still being alive. I talked about being discouraged because chronic illness sucks especially when it's painful, and I talked about how depressing it was to think that with the longevity of my grandmothers, I would likely be looking at a solid 50 more years of dealing with my health as it is before I'm finished with this life.

Ten days later, my family's matriarch took her last breath at 83 years old, having listened all the way through her favorite Alan Jackson CD one last time. She was just a month short of her 84th birthday - and in losing her, I'm reminded of the perspective she would have had were she in my position.

She had been a single mother many times, had raised a large family, including taking an active role in the lives of all her grandchildren. She survived domestic abuse, the turn of a century, and a tumultuous life of change that whipped from heartache to triumph so consistently it was a wonder such a petite little woman could handle it all. But she was a spitfire - and so am I.

With her death, I felt a revival of her spirit washing over the members of my family, and with that revival, I found a new hope for renewal in my life.

All that to say this: I've been really messed up with grief these last few weeks, but now that I'm back and we're starting a fresh new year, I'm ready to keep moving forward - just like my Grandmother always did.

So, without further ado, let's begin this new year with an exploration of my most recent emotional happenings; Friday Feels is (and will probably always be) my favorite series on this blog, and I'm so happy to be writing it so early in the year! After checking in with the random emotion generator, here's what we're looking at this time:

1. Affectionate:
The last couple of months have been overloaded with stress, and in many ways this isn't unusual for me; the holiday season is always a little challenging as I face the busyness, the crowds, the added obligations, and the stress of doing all of it as a mom with disabilities and an extremely limited budget. But this last season was doubly difficult as my family lost our matriarch and then the shock of it had my mother hospitalized through most of December.

I had days when I could barely cope - when I struggled to even keep a straight face, let alone paint on a smiling one. But I was incredibly proud to see the way my children handled themselves, being supportive as we attended my Grandmother's funeral, taking interest in the eulogy I wrote for her, making the effort to be on their best behavior as they were shuttled from one hospital room to another despite juggling their own stresses. Several times, Josephine caught me unguarded enough to realize I was struggling, and came up to wrap me in a hug, reassuring me that things would work themselves out eventually.

I knew that, but having my teenager take the time to notice the feelings of others makes me feel like in a life full of mistakes, I'm doing something right. The fact that my youngest has often done the same thing provides a delightful encouragement; my kids are not always easy and our life is often quite stressful, but in the little moments like those, when I'm faced with how amazing these little women are, I feel like everything is worth it.

2. Comfortable:
Do you guys have super-long-term friendships in your lives? Your spouse, your bestie, your favorite cousin? Maybe even an aunt, uncle, parent, or mentor?

You know, those people who know pretty much everything about you? The ones that know all your weird quirks but love you despite them? The people who perhaps even love you because of those quirks? The ones who can go six months without speaking much, and then show up again as if they'd never left, right on time to provide steady encouragement, a strong tower to lean on, a soft place to fall?

I love it that my life has people like that in it. Not many, I'll admit, but here's how I look at it: I'd rather have four beautiful quarters than one hundred tarnished pennies. 2018 was incredibly difficult for me as I came out with the severity of my health issues, more about my diagnoses and the way they impact my life and mental health, and tidbits about life after splitting from my kids's dad and how it has impacted my daughters and I.

The thing is, it wasn't all bad though, and while I'm incredibly thankful to have people I can be comfortable enough to be down with without being shamed or lectured, I'm also blessed to finally have people in my life who genuinely celebrate with me when I'm up without needing to steal my thunder or minimize my baby steps.

Comfort is answering that one person's texts even when you're so depressed you've even gotten sick of your own pessimism - knowing that person will not only understand, but will take the time to come into the dark and shine a light on you. Comfort is knowing exactly who to call when you're desperate, trusting that they will be right there for you because they always have. Comfort is letting go of insecurity - because with the right people, it simply ceases to exist.

My support network is by far the biggest blessing I'll take from the struggle that was 2018.

3. Frustrated:
Some of the things I spent 2018 working on behind the scenes of my life have finally started to play out, but most of these things have been frustratingly slow - from certain changes in the finance department to our plans to move and set up a fresh new living space for our family.

My being impatient didn't exactly make the last year any easier; I'm one of those people who decides what they want and then I want it now. But each goal requires multiple steps to be accomplished, each step has taken frustratingly long periods of time, and most of these steps require input from other people.

Still, progress was made in 2018 in some big ways, and while 2018 was about momentum, 2019 promises to be a year of amazing renewal indeed.

4. Humiliated:
Like I mentioned before, the holiday season was particularly challenging for me this year - I had thought this past Christmas would look entirely different: with my girls and I in our new place, with the anticipated changes already accomplished (or at least closer to being accomplished than they are right now), with a different feel and mood and process.

But with my Grandmother's funeral being too far away to risk driving my rattletrap van, I had to count on my family to help me make sure the girls and I could be there. I had to bend more than I wanted to, and they had to give more than they really had time for ... but it worked well and I was thankful to not miss out.

Then with my mother being in the hospital on the other side of town for pretty much all of December, I drove about four times as much as usual, which set me on edge because I don't trust my van, cost me a small fortune I couldn't afford to spend in gas, mileage, and on-the-go foods and drinks for the girls and I, and consistently sapped what little energy I might have had otherwise. When I started receiving cash gifts in the mail from certain friends as the holiday season wore on, I was grateful for the support - but also utterly humiliated by how much I needed it.

5. Heartbroken:
Losing my grandmother was a huge deal for my family - she was a beloved woman of strength and dignity, and our family as a whole admired her greatly. Her absence is painfully obvious to everyone who loved her ...

Especially my mother. My mom has been incredibly sickly for most of my life, especially in recent years as long-term health problems have begun to overpower her long history of medical interventions, but now with the loss of her sister last summer followed by the loss of her mother this past Thanksgiving, she's taken quite a downturn in both mental and physical health. Watching her struggle so mightily to keep going despite her grief and a long life of traumatic experience has been difficult to say the least - and yet, I'm inspired by her strength all the same.

6. Jubilant:
In the midst of everything else, my plans for moving are still on and still slowly progressing. I spent much of last year looking at options, weighing pros and cons of various paths, planning ways to make moving both exciting for my family and productive when it comes to writing. I did a lot of brainstorming, a lot of thinking, a lot of praying. And I took steps as often as possible to move these plans forward.  Now, big things are in the works and as the pieces finally begin to fall into place, I'm increasingly jubilant at the prospect of watching these plans come together.

7. Low:
On the other side of the jubilant thrill of looking forward to the kind of clean fresh start some people only ever dream of, there's a certain tinge of shame and sadness riding the wave of emotion as well. With the stress of the changes to come, the pressure of juggling so many things, and the emotional effort of staying the kind of me I want to be despite frequent provocation, it's really no wonder I'm seeing such a resurgence in my PTSD symptoms - which have obviously had a great impact on my ability to function not only here but in multiple other areas of my life.

Still ... I had been doing so well, and to have everything crumble in my hands after trying so hard to build things up again? To have it all fall by the wayside, to have to start up again from so little?

It's horribly shaming, depressing, demoralizing.

But this is life with PTSD. It's the cycle of doing well and then having periods of not-so-well, often triggered or exacerbated by stressful situations and circumstances. Those of you still here backing me up, supporting me, reaching out to encourage me ... it means the world to me, and I'm so grateful.

8. Peaceful:
Reminding myself to hold faith in what's to come has given me immeasurable peace even in the midst of so much recent struggle. I can look back on the timing of the last year and so clearly see God's hand in everything, and I'm amazed. I look at the way things have unfolded, the things that are coming together in my life, the way my support network and friend base has changed, and I'm stunned by the richness of my own surroundings. I can only believe that more great things are coming this year - and I'm so looking forward to sharing it all with you as soon as I can.

9. Pleased:
One of the things that made last year so incredibly stressful for me was a drastic, somewhat-unexpected but entirely-overdue change in my personal living dynamic. Moving the girls and I is an incredibly stressful prospect for a list of reasons I won't entirely go into here, but it's also wildly exciting.

Still, it was extremely pleasing to see 2018 bring some great answers in the way of affordability and trustworthy, dependable provision - which has all but erased so many of my fears and anxieties regarding the plan to move. Now that I can look at this change either my largest source of stress and fear removed, I'm even more excited than ever.

Plus I'm super proud of myself for mustering what it took to be able to take such necessary steps.

10. Threatened:
My personal life is actually pretty strange and complicated, and while so much of it somehow seems to work in perfect harmony, I am also hyperaware of how fragile certain aspects of my life really are - which is another reason my PTSD-related symptoms are often so hard to manage.

Living with legitimate PTSD is like living your entire life unable to get out of the fight/flight/freeze response; it's like living your entire life in the center of an African savannah, being hunted by lions and having nowhere safe to take refuge. And it doesn't matter how safe you want to feel or how safe you may actually be ... it's easy to find threats around every corner.

Sometimes it's hard to tell which ones are real and which are created by the instances and circumstances behind the traumas leading to the diagnosis ... other times it's depressingly easy because the fact is, you don't have to be in the middle of the savannah to feel hunted, you don't have to be surrounded by lions to get devoured by the spiritually blood-thirsty, and sometimes it's the unspoken threats which can be most dangerous to navigate.

Despite it all, I like to think I've done well at trying to stay positive and take each day as they come these last few weeks. I've been pretty disappointed in my own inability to keep up to my own standard of performance, but I've also been more than a little proud of how I've handled myself in light of everything I've been facing. Honestly though, what I'm most looking forward to is watching this new year unfold with hope and grace. I'm excited that as things begin to really work themselves out I'll be able to share more openly about what's happening and what my plans are - and I hope you'll be around to follow along! 

In the meantime, what have you been feeling lately?

If you liked this post (or if you missed me during the hiatus of the last few weeks), drop a comment below to tell me what you missed most, what you'd like to see in future posts, and what you think of this year's focus word. I'd love your feedback and the chance to interact with you! It would also be great if you could share the link to this post with your friends - it helps me connect with new readers, bringing new exposure to the Undaunted Army and what we hope to accomplish together as a group.

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