Home

After I got out of a toxic relationship and had nowhere to go, I moved back into my mother’s house. I thought, “oh, I’ll move home and heal myself.” That whole you can’t go home again, is completely accurate. The place I grew up that was once a sanctuary for my soul felt foreign to me. I found myself desperately searching for a place that felt like home.

I soon realized that I could continue to search for “home” in a million places or people, and I would always be disappointed. That feeling of home, that sanctuary for my soul, would only be able to be found within myself. I had lost myself, and that’s why nowhere and no one felt like home.

I started the steps to finding myself again. To rediscover who I was after such a toxic relationship and life-altering events that I chose not to deal or cope with properly. I had a lot of healing to do. I put myself in therapy and began to face all the trauma that happened throughout my life. Some of that childhood trauma I had already healed from without realizing I was doing it. All of that medical trauma that my body held on to and my mind protected me from was my most significant feat. The relationship that left me with severe self-esteem and intimacy issues was a cakewalk to heal from compared to the damage living with heart disease has caused.

I started to set boundaries and work on processing the dark thoughts and emotions that came from the bad news. I began to truly understand who I was as an adult and after a lifetime of chronic medical issues. I found a sanctuary within myself. I found my sense of home. It took three-plus years and a fantastic therapist, but I was genuinely comfortable with myself. I had a strong sense of self. I was happy and content. I did not want to disturb it either. I wanted to ignore anything medical-wise that was going on because it threatened my peace. I was also against letting anyone in that could disrupt my home. I was heavily guarded and selective. Then things changed.

After multiple ER visits and failed medications, I could not ignore my health and the disturbance it was creating. While I felt like things were starting to collapse, I worked feverishly on keeping what peace I could within my home and sanctuary. I worked on what I could control. Then came along a guy. One that caught me completely off guard. Someone who had been right in front of me and I didn’t think twice about. I honestly wouldn’t have even given him a chance had he not shown he was interested in me. I was adamant on not wanting to be in a relationship.

Shortly after we started to date and moved more toward the serious side of things, my health started to implode. Heart surgery. A minor surgery but nonetheless another trauma-inducing situation. I was still guarded and working avidly on trying to let him in. Trying to be open about my mental state and my fears, but it felt like I was swimming against the current. I was trying to navigate familiar but rough waters and let someone help me swim. I only knew how to swim by myself.

Things started to calm down and return to our “normal,” and then the beeping happened. Late one night on the couch, I heard it. It’s crazy to think how a rhythmic beeping can completely derail someone, but it did derail me. Once I realized that beeping was coming from within my chest, I completely panicked. I was paralyzed with fear because no one told me what happened after the beeping. I was expecting to get shocked again, and I laid on the couch trying to prepare myself to be shocked again with tears soaking my face. That beeping lead to yet another surgery. Again a minor surgery, but it left me with more trauma. This trauma was my final push over the edge. This trauma and that damn beeping triggered my flight or fight mode. I haven’t been able to turn that flight or fight mode off since surgery. My nervous system is in a constant heightened state, causing me to be on edge ALL of the time. This is also known as PTSD.

Chronic PTSD is common when someone suffers constant medical trauma. I’d say ten surgeries in total could be considered constant medical trauma. Needless to say that my home and sanctuary I worked so hard to build has been absolutely demolished. I have been an absolute disaster since February. I have been on edge, filled with anger and rage. Things that would have never bothered me before are now setting me off. Then I have days when I can barely keep myself from falling apart. All the while, I’m trying to figure out my relationship and how to let someone else in, how to communicate what’s going on with my body and in my head. How to have a normal functioning relationship when right now nothing about me is normal and functioning. Anytime I’ve let someone, who wasn’t biologically programmed to love and care for me, see this extremely vulnerable side of me, I’ve been disappointed. As much as I loved them and wanted them there at that moment, after the surgery, when things got really tough for me, I was always let down. I was shown that it was easier to depend on myself. Creating a sense of hyper-independency.

Hyper-independence with the inability to ask for help and PTSD makes being sick and in a relationship so easy 🙄. And now my health is getting worse. Memorial Day weekend, I ended up in the ER. On my way to work, I had to pull over because my heart was going crazy, and I was so lightheaded I thought I would pass out. Then I ended up in the ER again a week later. No real answers and a ton of questions. Multiple conversations with multiple doctors later, I had an echocardiogram, wore a heart monitor, had a tilt table test, and downloaded the data from my new pacemaker. In the meantime, I had done my own research and could already tell from my symptoms what was going on. Then I got the call of, “you have decreased function in your right ventricle,” on my birthday with no further explanation. I had to wait a week for the final confirmation that my pulmonary valve was leaking again and causing all my issues, well, I think most of my issues.

Here I am, sitting in my house on my couch, three dogs and a boyfriend sleeping on me, and I’m happy. I’m happy at this moment. Happy that I have someone who is willing to be there when things are bad, to be patient with me when I’m an emotional basket case, and to ask questions to do his best to understand. I’m letting someone into a home that I no longer have. My body and my mind are out of my control. I’m once again in medical limbo. I know what’s to come, and I think that makes it worse this time. I know how bad things will get before they get better, and I know how hard the recovery is, not just the physical but the mental recovery. I’m going to have to rebuild my home, my sanctuary, and figure out life with a new valve and a new scar.

Trauma changes you. It re-wires your brain. Recognizing your trauma and working actually to heal also changes you. The amount I have changed and the person I’ve become is astonishing. Mental health is so essential for a taboo subject. Your trauma can spill over into your relationships. Identifying it so you can communicate it properly is equally important. Remember that you can look for that feeling of home in another person or different places, but you’ll never truly find it until you realize you are your home.

In the end I just want things to be simple…

It has been months since I have sat down and wrote anything for myself. I haven’t written anything outside of school or cards. Writing is one of the best outlets for me. Honestly, I have not done any of the things I typically use as an outlet in months. I have been in such a weird place. I have been in this strange survival mode, and when I finally got out of that, I was in catch-up mode. Only to go right back into survival mode and to now find myself back in catch-up mode. It’s been a vicious cycle. I tell you what, survival mode really messes with your psyche. There were points over the past four months where I felt like a stranger to myself. I felt as if I were outside of myself looking in. I did not recognize myself. It had been a few years since I was in full-on survival mode, and I had honestly forgotten how dark that could get. It sometimes felt as if I was swimming against the current, and even though I was doing everything in my power to stay afloat and fight, there was no outward progress. When things get that dark, I tend to become overly critical of myself. Who knows why? Maybe my therapist could tell me, but I re-evaluate every little thing. I judge myself for everything. I overthink EVERYTHING. I have felt distant from everyone in my life since November. I felt like I was unable to really connect with anyone at all. I’ve been in my head over-analyzing.

Feeling like you can’t connect with anyone will mess with your head too. I have all of this stuff I want to say and want to discuss, but I’m distracted. I can’t engage properly, and then I felt as if everyone could see it. There were times where I would be talking to friends, and it just felt forced. Or awkward silences while sitting with my boyfriend where I thought he was thinking to himself, “what am I doing?” I know that I only felt these things. I was the one feeling disconnected. I was the one in a dark place and lost in the aftermath of survival mode. Recognizing this doesn’t make it any easier. The depression that creeps in isn’t talked about. There is no preparation for it, even if you know it’s coming. It’s serious. So severe that I stand in front of the mirror and cry over the changes in my body. When I know, I should be patient and give myself a break, but I legitimately have no control. Or when I am feeling disconnected and behave differently, all the while knowing I am acting differently. When you’re in survival mode, nothing matters but getting through the hurdle in your way. Everything hits you after the fact. The laying in bed worrying about complications in your surgery or that what if’s that could happen aren’t mentally dealt with until it’s all said and done.

I’ve sat awake at night recently trying to process all of this. I am trying to mentally claw my way out of this darkness that is in my head. The only positive that comes from this darkness and survival mode is that when you’re overthinking and criticizing yourself, you have these moments of clarity. Or what others may refer to as spiritual shifts, epiphanies, realizations, etc., whatever you want to call it. At least for me, I prioritize things. I get a chance to see what really means something to me. I can see how I need to shake off the fluff and focus on what matters. With my surgeries and 2020 being the mess it was, I’ve had points when I shook off the excess and tried to refocus. I’m currently in a position of refocusing and slowly getting out of my depressive state, and prioritizing.

Things I thought mattered now seem so ridiculous. All the things I thought I once wanted seem like a different life. The person coming out of this darkness is one I don’t entirely recognize. I’m now a much simpler person. The thought of, “what if I don’t wake up from this surgery” or “what if while my pacemaker is out or off I go into v-fib and that’s it?” All of those kinds of thoughts change things. Over the last 15 months, I’ve realized how much I want a simple life. I want comfort and meaningful moments. I don’t need to have the nicest and newest things. I don’t need a bunch of convenient friends. I’d rather have a few close ones. I don’t need the fluff, the excess, the materialistic crap. I want a quiet life somewhere where I can have all the dogs. Go on vacation when I want to so I can continue to broaden my horizons. I want a roof over my head, food on my table, and, honestly, dirt on my hands and the soles of my feet. I want more meaning that makes sense to me. I don’t care how it looks to others. All my tears in front of the mirror over new scars or a few extra pounds need to mean something more.

My body went through hell twice in ten weeks. My mind hasn’t come out of hell in the past four months. Making the changes to get me to the place I want to be mentally will be a process. I just want a simple life that when I lay in the bed before my 11th surgery, which will inevitably happen, and I think, “what happens if this is it?” I want to be content with my answer. I want to be able to say that my life has been all I ever wanted it to be. I don’t want to have doubt or wish I would’ve done things differently. I want to be able to walk away with my mind and heart strong enough to keep the darkness out. I don’t want to lose myself and avoid my outlets. I don’t want to feel disconnected. I want to look in the mirror and not have a meltdown because I’m bouncing back from surgery. I just want simple.

What do I need…

Yesterday during my weekly therapy session, my therapist and I talked about my health. This is usually the topic of discussion and one of the main reasons I put myself in therapy. I finally opened up a little deeper yesterday. See, I have a tough time truly opening up and letting people in. I’ve got these large walls I’ve built when it comes to certain parts of me, and my health is one of them. I talk about it lightly with others because if you get too “real,” it frightens people.

I see the fear and sympathy in everyone’s eyes when I don’t talk about it lightly. When I start to talk about the heavy stuff, people rearrange their faces, so I can’t see their discomfort, but it’s all in the eyes. Your eyes reveal all the things your face isn’t saying. That’s one of the reasons I focus on someone’s eyes when I first meet them. I digress, I can see the sadness in their eyes. I can see my friends and family getting upset. When I see this, my tough exterior goes into effect, and I stop talking.

I know that those who care about me are allowed to feel a certain type of way. They’re allowed to be upset and think things are unfair. Lord knows I do. I’ve cried what I could only imagine the amount of tears that could make up a large body of water. But herein lies the problem. Majority of them are thinking about how it effects them if something happens, not how this truly effects me. The problem with this is a dynamic has been created that’s even more unfair. I always have to be the strong one. I can’t show too much emotion because it triggers fear in those that care. If I stay collected and calm about it, then it must be okay, right? Wrong! Instead, it makes it very lonely for me. Those first few moments I’m alone after these exchanges, I break down. I get in my car, get to the end of the street and sob into my steering wheel. Or I wait until I’m home, then I sit in the shower holding myself while sobbing.

I’m starting to reach the end of my rope with this dynamic. I’m finally beginning to be brutally honest. When asked if I’m okay, I’m finally admitting the answer is no. I’m talking about my health more matter of fact and not sugar coating it. Maybe this is my way of coping or maybe it’s because I’m tired of feeling so alone in this. What I’ve learned over the last 5 years, is that people don’t want to know the truth. They want a version of the truth. For years I’ve been giving everyone a version of the truth and hiding this huge part of myself.

I’ve written about how I resent my health and heart about how I never wanted it to define me and how I’ve fought so hard to be someone outside of my heart conditions. Yet they consume me. If you’re ever with me and I’m looking off into space with my mind racing, you can bet that 98% of the time, I’m thinking about my heart and all it entails. It creates fear and anxiety that is hard to describe. It eats at me from the inside out. I don’t want it to define me or be my whole life, but it is what makes me, me.

Lately, I’ve been wholly consumed, overwhelmed, and distracted by my health. Every skipped or extra beat creates panic. Anytime something feels off, my mind immediately goes to the worst-case scenario. I’ve been trying not to get my hopes up because I’m yet again in a situation where everything in my life is barreling forward except my health. So, for the last few weeks, my therapy sessions have been all about my health. Yesterday my therapist asked me what I needed from others, and I honestly couldn’t answer the question. I don’t know what I need because, on a deep level, I always deal with this on my own. I don’t let anyone help me with the deepest darkest parts of it. I get told, “you’re so strong,” but honestly, what other choice do I have?

What do I need from others? I could use a conversation with someone where I can’t see the discomfort in their eyes. I could use an emotionless discussion—one where I don’t have to sugar coat it. I want not to have to worry about how this is affecting the other person for just one conversation. I wish not to feel a level of loneliness that consumes me even in a crowd of people. I want for someone actually to understand what it’s like for me. I wish for my therapy sessions to be about the common problems of a newly 30-year-old, like dating and developing relationships, making good career choices, or nonsensical problems.

The dropping of the shoe…

Do you know when things are going too well? When it appears as if everything is falling into place, and you get that hesitant feeling—the one where you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’ve had that feeling for the past two weeks. In the last month, I’ve made some big decisions and put in motion majors changes for myself. I’ve created opportunities to better myself and further my education. I’ve created boundaries. I’ve been working on my self-confidence and my ability to say no without feeling guilty. I’ve been getting myself out of my comfort zone. I’ve been being upfront and working on honesty. I’ve been actively working on living for myself. It felt like things were FINALLY going my way. I had a tough time turning 30.

In the words of my nephew, “you act like a part of you died when you turned 30.” Well, I felt like it did. I had a preconceived notion of what 30 was supposed to be, and that’s not where I was at in life. I panicked. So, I made changes. I want my thirties to be more than my twenties ever dreamed they could be. All of these changes and all of this work I’ve been putting in seemed too good to be true. I had this foreboding feeling that the proverbial other shoe was going to drop. I kept dwelling on it and trying to place it. To figure it out ahead of time. To prepare myself. Then I had my “Ah-ha!” moment. My follow up appointment for my new medications was quickly approaching. This was it. My medication seemed to be working, and I have been the healthiest I have been in a while. I had recently had a few bad days. Days where I would wake up and feel off. It’s hard to put into words the feeling, but something about me was wrong. Those days I had some of my episodes. Brief moments where everything goes white. All of the sound disappears from the room. I get hot, and my head feels like a hot air balloon. It feels like I’m about to hit the ground, and my heart is going to burst out of my chest. Those days had diminished compared to before I started the new medications. So, I just knew this appointment was that shoe. This appointment was going to be the kink in all of my new plans.

When I brought my concerns up with others, I would get responses of, ”Think positive!” or ”you deserve for things to be going well.” I was trying to think positive, and I know I deserve for things to go well. I of all people know that I deserve for things to go my way. I’ve been the one who had to live all my bad days. So, I put out positivity into the universe. I kept telling myself this appointment was going to go fine.

The week before my appointment, I barely slept. My anxiety was through the roof. As much as I tried not to focus on the feeling of impending doom, it was all my mind would allow me to focus on. Here we are the day of the appointment and y’all the other shoe dropped. I guess I should always trust my gut, right?

Today as I sat in that room and learned that my medication was working against me, everything felt small. My heart is a complicated one, literally and figuratively. My options are incredibly limited, and there will never be a fix for me. I’ve known that there wasn’t a fix for a while, and I’ve been attempting to make my peace with it. So, today in the room, all I could think was the lyrics, “I’m not here for a long time. I’m here for a good time.” That’s right, George Strait, freaking lyrics from a George Strait song. When I used them in a joke to my mother and Nana, it wasn’t a hit. Apparently, using humor as a coping mechanism doesn’t go over well with everyone. I can’t accurately describe whatever it is I am feeling. Maybe a mix of emotions with a general sense of being overwhelmed. I resorted to retail therapy and eating my feelings this evening. Even mozzarella sticks couldn’t help subdue this. I was hoping today would put my mind at ease, and all it did was create more chaos. This chaos looks like more sleepless nights, more brooding, and more uncertainty.

Mental health…

I’ve been in my own world lately. A world filled with doctors visits, medical testing, sleep deprivation, and anxiety. I’ve been working extremely hard at not letting myself spiral down a deep dark hole of depression. When I say working extremely hard I mean doing everything humanly possible to keep myself from completely shutting everyone out and becoming 300 pounds while binge watching everything I can stream on my TV. I haven’t been the most hands on version of myself when it comes to my relationships. I have not been the most attentive friend, sister, daughter or granddaughter. The balance between keeping myself from being consumed by my anxiety and being present is a tiresome battle.

For the last several months I’ve traveled to New Orleans, Nashville and Pensacola to see doctor after doctor. Trying to find some rhyme or reason to why my heart and oxygen seem to do whatever they want. For 13 months I’ve been dealing with trying to get a handle on my tachycardia and all that comes with it. I have requested referrals to see specialist. I have tirelessly fought to find a solution. Recently I discovered my oxygen levels like to dip down a little too low. Hence my recent photos with a nasal cannula or an oxygen pack strapped across me. Also you can notice my increasingly dark circles under my eyes. All of this has been consuming. Wholly consuming. Mind, body and soul. It’s taken EVERYTHING in me to maintain my sense of humor and to keep my head above water.

To all of you I keep sending photos like this to…you are welcome!

I constantly feel like I’m treading water. I have days where getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I have days when making my bed is my biggest accomplishment. Most nights I toss and turn, stare at the ceiling, and mull over every possible scenario that the doctors could throw at me. I’ll be in a room of people and not be present. I get lost in my thoughts at times while having a conversation with someone I won’t have heard a word they said. I get tired of talking about it and feel like everyone is tired of hearing about it all. Mainly because I never have answers. I keep having to ask off of work for appointment after appointment. I’m afraid to ask off for a mental health day and I’m needing those more increasingly. Even when I am at work it’s hard to stay on task, my mind is always elsewhere.

For those of you that follow me on social media and see all of my self care posts it’s because I am struggling. It’s because I need to be reminded that depression and anxiety are normal. That I need to be told from time to time that it’s perfectly okay to not be okay. So I post it to remind myself and because I know that someone else might need to be reminded that they’re not the only one going through it.

Last time I wrote I had just been called a “ticking time bomb” by a doctor. I then waited days to hear from a team of doctors that they all agreed. That I was too complex of a case for them. I was consumed with anger and frustration. My mood has since turned into one of worry, fear, and doubt. My weight is fluctuating. I’m stressing so much my skin is breaking out. Some days I stare into the mirror and think, “what if this doctor can not do anything? What if I have only two extreme options? One that results in more side effects and ailments. Or one that could result in paralysis and relying solely on a battery to make my heart function?” What do I do then? Do I risk the extreme? Do I continue to fight and be “brave” or do I let go? Give up and live life like I am in fact a time bomb?” Do I do that whole “live life to the fullest” thing that we all say we will do? Live with no regrets. Stop waiting for my life to happen after I get well and just accept that at any moment my heart could stop beating. That my defibrillator could go off and revive me until one day it can’t. Do I risk it and fight or do I live my life until I succumb to ventricular fibrillation? Hence my aloofness as of late.

These questions are debilitating. They weigh heavy on my mind, my soul and my physical body. My sisters recently joked about why I take such long showers. They said I was contemplating life in the shower and well, they are right. I get lost in the hot water and steam. I imagine scenario after scenario and how I will handle them. But now I am doing that all the time not just in the shower. I’m fighting for answers and fighting depression. I constantly get told by friends and acquaintances how they admire my strength and grit. But I feel like such a fraud when complemented by them because I feel anything but strong. I put up a great facade of humor and strength, but I’m struggling to not cry constantly. Every time someone asks about my appointments, asks how I am doing, or every time a stranger stares at me toting around my oxygen. I needed to break my facade and show everyone that I am indeed struggling. I am fighting for my life right now. A life I want to live and I live that I have been greatly blessed in. I have a very dysfunctional family that I wouldn’t trade for the world. They’re my biggest support system and despite not always seeing eye to eye, they have NEVER let me be alone in anything I do. I’ve also managed to be blessed on the friend front. I have somehow managed to find some of the most amazing individuals who support and understand me. They check on me regularly and love me endlessly. I haven’t been the best or greatest friend lately and ultimately I know everyone will understand and accept it. Depression and anxiety are a hell of a beast.

The whole purpose of this post is to let others know that the taboo of discussing your depression and anxiety is not okay. Tell someone what you’re going through. Don’t put up a facade. I can not reiterate enough that it is OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY!!! Go to counseling and don’t be ashamed of it. When someone asks “are you okay” say no. This post was not for attention but for help. I want my words and my story to be read by someone who also has days where getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do. I want them to know that being open and honest about struggling is perfectly normal. I want my story and my words to help. I want people to know what I am actually feeling and going through. That social norms and expectations set by society and social media are not how we have to live life. That it’s okay to feel sad and to try to get help for that. That by taking care of yourself you will let others down and you don’t owe anyone an explanation when that happens. For those of you that sometimes feel like giving up, don’t. Keep pushing. Keep trying. Find your meaning. Your soul satisfying moments and relish those. Keep fighting that deep dark spiral that is depression even when you feel like you can’t. Take mental health days and don’t feel guilty. Cry in the shower or on the bathroom floor. Feel it and learn to let it go. Continue to move forward even if it’s at the pace of the tortoise not the hare.