Friday Feels: August

Last night I was laying in bed, trying to figure out what I was forgetting to do. There was something nagging at me, poking just along the edge of my mind - but I couldn't get a solid hold on it. I dug through the to-do list I keep on my phone, trying to jog my mind enough to trigger whatever was bothering me to come to the forefront.

When that didn't work, I read through my goals for this quarter, and when that didn't work either I went to my calendar. Therapy appointments for both Eden and I stared up at me, but that's not unusual - we've been going every Friday afternoon for most of the summer. Seeing it reminded me that I need to change our appointment schedule once the girls are back in school, but it didn't fix the nagging.

Realizing I needed a blog post for today did though. That was what had slipped my mind. Not that it would have been a huge problem since I now check my calendars multiple times a day in an effort to not miss any of the many appointments the girls and I juggle every week, but still, it sent me into a momentary panic. What was I going to write!?!

And then it clicked. I needed a Friday blog post. Which meant it was already all figured out! Fridays are always for Friday Feels, which is my absolute favorite of all my blog series. I went to sleep smiling, anticipating the fun and the emotional relief of being able to hit up the random emotion generator and spend some time figuring myself out.

Which brings me to ...

1. Defeated:
I haven't felt defeated about a lot of things lately, but I have felt pretty defeated when it comes to the move the girls and I have been planning. Everything is taking so long to work out, and while I'm still totally excited about all the changes coming with the move, I'm also really let down by all the waiting. I've got so many things I'm looking forward to with the move - including sharing everything here with you guys - but it's all just taking so long. And in the meantime, being stuck is wearing on my emotions. It's a constant roller coaster of "when this happens, I'll ..." and "I'm so looking forward to ..." and "we're gonna do thisthing" and "I can't wait to get us thatthing." It's exhausting.

2. Humble:
On the other hand, so much of what's coming in my life is out of my control. I'm waiting for lists, waiting for approvals, waiting, waiting, waiting. I've done all the things I can do to push things forward, made all the effort I can make at this time ... and yet, I'm stuck waiting. Having so much of your life set firmly outside your control is definitely humbling - and it's hard on a "get it done" gal like me.

3. Independent:
Some of the things changing in my life in upcoming months are due to the way starting therapy for my PTSD and seeking treatment for my other health issues has allowed me to stand up and advocate for myself. It doesn't cure my problems, and it doesn't come close to erasing them ... but being able to stand up and tell my story in a way that's being heard has made a phenomenal difference in my life. Having my therapist hear me and understand me gave me the courage to see a doctor, and having that doctor hear me and validate my concerns gave me the confidence to seek further treatment. In the end I was able to find answers for issues I've been living with for over a decade.

But it took a lot for me to get there. Over the years I've been exposed to every kind of abuse in various types of relationships, and the toxicity has at times been so painfully overwhelming I wasn't sure I could bear it. Part of that abuse was in the form of such extreme gaslighting that I had begun to doubt the reality of even my most solid memories. For a while, I even had to use the scar on my back as a reminding proof to myself that my back surgery story (that I had been told all my life) was not something I made up. There were times when I would talk about things with friends or family members, testing my own memories - and even with other people remembering the same events, I doubted their reality.

Being driven to doubt myself in such a severe way was incredibly painful, and the concerns connected to the feelings evoked were at times terrifying. But my scar is proof, and it was enough proof to lead to official confirmation, official diagnosis, explanations for so many things I've endured over the course of my life. And having the confidence then to believe in that ... well, it gave me back the ability to trust in myself, in my memories, in my story.

Which gave me a renewed, restored sense of hope for my future.

4. Jubilant:
With hope comes power. Believing in myself in a stronger way than I've been able to in so long has been an incredible thrill. It gave me confidence to move forward with things I should have been doing years ago, gave me the strength to be able to process my grief over the impact my life has had on my mental well-being, gave me the strength to face and take charge of my physical health in a way I was somehow unable to before.

I've spent most of this summer being examined by various doctors, undergoing various tests. I've submitted blood and urine, shown up for physicals, CT scans, MRIs. I've sat down with the actual reports, researching the findings, trying to learn what they mean.

I've been diagnosed with PTSD for almost two years now, and in that time, I've worked hard to gain a better understanding of how it works for me, how to deal with my symptoms and maneuver my way around them. But this year was a year of big change for me - I started medications for my PTSD-related anxiety and depression issues, and I started medication for high blood pressure because when my doctor recommended that I reduce my stress I started laughing at how cute that idea was. But it all got exciting when I sought new treatment for my urological issues - and that treatment opened the door for me to finally officially be diagnosed with lipomyelomeningocele. It's a form of spina bifida, and while I did know that I was born with "a tumor" at the base of my spine, I somehow made it 34 years without knowing that's what it was.

Because of that ignorance, my spina bifida wasn't properly treated. Neither was my 11 mm chiari I malformation. And neither was the scheuermann's disease, which I had never even heard of until I was diagnosed with it last month. With the lack of proper treatment for those things, I  now also have a tethered spinal cord, degenerative disc disease, possible syringomyelia, deformities and irregularities in my musculoskeletal system, and chronic neurological pain that will never go away.

You wouldn't think that kind of thing would make someone feel jubilant ... but it has been an incredible relief to me to know the names of the things I've spent so long suffering from. It's empowering, validating. And I'm thankful.

5. Livid:
This goes back to my health, where I'm thankful that now I know what I'm dealing with, but I'm also facing the shock of being 34 years old and learning that I have a serious birth defect. And it's not like it was something no one knew about, because I actually had surgical treatment for it when I was an infant.

Which means my family knew. They knew what it was, and they didn't inform me. They knew what was wrong when I become symptomatic as a child - and instead of taking measures to inform and adequately treat the root of my problems, they just slapped a bandaid on the issue and moved on.

Granted, that's not the whole story, and my parents were both going through really hard times during those years with things apart from me - and I know that neither of them would willingly or willfully have neglected my health ... but seriously ...

No one told me I have spina bifida. No one told me I have a chiari malformation. I didn't know to tell the anesthesiologist when I had an epidural for my c-section with Josephine. I didn't know to tell them when I had a spinal for my c-section with Eden. It infuriates me that I didn't even know to be careful.

I'm not sure anything has ever made me feel as angry and betrayed as having to figure this out by myself because no one ever bothered to sit me down and inform me on what I was dealing with and how to advocate for appropriate care. I feel cheated.

6. Optimistic:
Despite my feelings about not being able to really deal knowledgeably with my health up until now (including the less-than-responsible choices I've made about health issues I did know about), I'm excited to finally be fully informed. I know what to do going forward, I know what not to do, and I know what to expect. I know the right way to treat what doesn't work with my body, and I know how to try to make certain things more bearable.

I can't fix what came before, and I can't stand in my parents' shoes. I can't pretend to know what I would have done if placed in the same position - I can only look at where I am now and where I want to go moving forward. Staying undaunted is about making the best of where you are, trying to thrive no matter what your circumstances are, and getting back up no matter how many times you're knocked down.

Finding and harnessing the information I have is a big step forward. Using it to take steps to better my life is a big step forward. And I hope that through sharing my sharing here, I can help inspire others to take their own steps too.

7. Relaxed:
This has been a hard summer with so much going on for my family, and I honestly haven't had a lot of time to sit back and breathe. I haven't had many opportunities to relax, and my spirit is showing the wear. But at the end of every day I settle in bed with my daughters close by, and I nurture my hope for the coming day. I use affirmations, I quietly celebrate the day's accomplishments (even if they're embarrassingly minute), and I try to make sure I have a good grip on my plans for the next morning.

Often, those last moments of the day are the most relaxed for me - they are when I'm too physically spent to care anymore about tasks I may not have completed, too emotionally spent to be excessively worried. In those moments, I'm exhausted enough that my anxieties settle a little, and giving myself a little positive feedback is a great way to soothe myself into sleep.

That doesn't speak to the nocturnal panic episodes that wake me several times a week, but that's another story.

8. Serene:
When serene came up on the emotion generator, I won't deny that it made me immediately think of the serenity prayer I memorized as a kid:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can - and the wisdom to know the difference."

Serenity. The acceptance that allows peace despite whatever might be happening.

I can't point to one thing here, one event or one set of circumstances that have made me feel serene this month. But what I can do is share two of my favorite ways to seek serenity when it escapes me:

  1. I listen to this song. It reminds me that I don't have to always be striving. I don't have to wear myself down, stress myself out, and push-push-push all the time in an effort to "fix" the things that are wrong in my life. Truly, all I need to do is give my best, trust my God, and just be held.
  2. I watch this video - again. I've seen it probably twenty times now, and every time I watch it I feel like God is speaking to me personally about my tendency to worry and be afraid of the things I can't change or fix. When I really need the teaching, I will often make time for a few-day marathon, during which I'll also watch the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth videos in that series.

9. Sharing:
Obviously I'm in a sharing mood just about all the time - I'm open about my story and my experiences with just about anyone who asks, and I love when I have the opportunity to share in a way that helps or encourages others. I'm like most other people, I guess, in that I want to leave this world having made some kind of difference. Not because I need to be remembered or because I want any sort of fame or recognition, but just because I don't want to have lived the hardest parts of my life without using them to help someone else push through their own. I want my challenges to nurture my compassion for others, I want my struggles to give me sympathy for the struggles of those around me.

I share because I hope that in sharing, I can empower others.

10. Uncomfortable:
Sometimes, my choice to share my story and my experience in such a public way results in certain backlash from others who are saddened, offended, or otherwise somehow injured by the way I choose to share. Sometimes my desire to empower others and advocate for myself leads to misunderstandings about my capabilities and the choices I've made in my life.

Sometimes, it's just painful to share my vulnerabilities with the world. In sharing about my abusive childhood, I've opened myself up to people who have suggested that I somehow deserved it. In sharing about abusive relationships, I've faced being blamed for being in the relationships in the first place - as if I somehow must have seen it coming and went for it anyway. Newsflash: I didn't see it coming. If I had, I would have run in the other direction. Sharing so much of my life is hard.

Now, sharing more about my mental and physical health issues ... I'm sharing about things that have disabling, sometimes even humiliating, signs and symptoms that I might rather not share with the world.

But I would have given just about anything during the years of my life to have a blog like this one to read, a friend like me to talk to, a story like mine to encourage me to keep going.

If I can be that for someone like me, then I'm willing to be uncomfortable.

What have you been feeling this month?

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