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.

Be quiet…

One of my goals for myself this year was to learn how to be quiet. I have a need to fill the silence with anything. Music, my voice, TV, anything that can cut the silence. The silence was always uncomfortable for me. It made the thoughts in my head that I was trying to ignore oh so loud. My anxiety would take over. With this constant need to fill the void that I felt silence created, I missed out on so much.

So, I decided that I would slow down and accept silence. I would practice the art of being quiet. I started being quite more when around my family. Not because I didn’t want to talk to them, but because I wanted to really hear them. You’d be surprised what you can learn about someone when you sit in silence with them. Or when you shut up and actually listen to someone other than yourself talk.

I didn’t explain this goal to anyone. I decided it was something I was doing for myself, and it was better left unsaid. When I got back from my trip to Hawaii with my sister’s family, she asked my mom if I had fun because I was quiet. This broke my heart a little. My sister thought I didn’t have fun because I was actually quiet for a change 🤦🏻‍♀️. I was so quiet because I wanted to be genuinely in these moments with them. I tried to soak in every little detail. The experience, the scenery (which will leave you speechless anyway), and all those little moments with them that I’ll never get again. I was quiet and present. I loved every second of that trip with them, but my seemingly sudden behavior change had my sister confused.

This year has been the perfect year to start the practice of being quiet. As we all know, this year has been a shit show. All of the unknown, drastic changes to normal everyday life, and forced quality time with your loved ones, known as quarantine, I honed my ability to be silent. I’ve finally mastered the art of comfortable silence. I no longer feel a need to fill a void.

This morning I wasn’t able to fall back asleep after being woken up. Most mornings, it’s easy for me to slip back into slumber, but today not so much. I laid in bed. The only noises were coming from my fan and Eleanor with her labored breathing. Staring at my ceiling, I was overwhelmed by the stillness. The stillness I tend to miss because even when being quiet, I’m usually moving or active in some way. I eventually moved myself out to my back patio. Sitting here now, I’ve listened to birds and neighbors awaken. I’ve watched the sun slowly creep into the sky. I’ve heard Eleanor and Herschey hunt for lizards. I’ve felt the air go from crisp and slightly cool to humid and warm. I soaked in all of this because I woke up with the weight of the world on my shoulders. I was lying in bed this morning, and the shock of yesterday had finally disappeared. My indifference was gone and an overwhelming heaviness was sitting in my chest. I felt the need to sit in silence and observe. I feel the need to be quiet more than ever now. The need to soak in every second of the next 5 1/2 weeks.

Being truthful…

Virginia Woolf once said, “If you do not tell the truth about yourself, you cannot tell it about other people.” When I write, that is what I try to do. I try to tell my truth. I try to make sure that when I tell my story, I try to be unapologetically truthful. I talk about things we all try to keep hidden, anxiety, depression, mental health awareness, etc.. I try not to be redundant in my writing, and I try my hardest to be relatable. To let others know that they’re not alone. We all have heavy stuff we carry.

My life has been filled with heaviness. Heaviness that I have a hard time sharing with others. Heaviness that eats away at me. Writing has been my way to lift some of that weight. To be able to talk about it. To be able to grow as a person. The last couple of weeks have been profoundly heavy on me.

The saying when times get tough, you find out who your friends are, is true. Over the past few years, I’ve let go of people who showed me they were only surface friends. In the last six weeks, I’ve learned a few more hard lessons with friends. People whom I would’ve bent over backward for proved themselves not to do the same. I’m aware that we’re all at ages now where we are adults and have our own busy lives, but part of being an adult and a friend is knowing when to be there for someone else. Those of you that have been there that have genuinely cared to know the real answer to “how are you” and those of you that have shown up; I can not thank you enough. You’ve helped me open my eyes to who is more than a surface friend. I’m finally at peace with my circle becoming smaller.

The last six weeks weren’t just about opening my eyes with my relationships in my life. There was a great deal of reflection about my life. I’ve repeatedly been told my options are limited and I’m complicated. I’ve come to have a love-hate relationship with this complexity. I love that everything about me is complex. I’m a light, bubbly person, but once you get to know me, you see that there is much more beneath all of that. As my best friend, Madison, told me last night, “there’s so much concealed under your outgoing, upbeat personality.” She’s not wrong and what she said sat with me all night. I love the complexity of my being in that sense but hate it in the medical sense. Being complicated in the medical world is not a hidden beauty. It’s messy, and no one wants to be messy. It’s caused me to be filled with fear. I live every day with fear. Fear of the unknown because the unknown in this situation usually points to death.

People are always saying things about how quickly life can change and how we need to live in the moment. How often do you find someone doing that? I feel as if we only think about life that way when something terrible happens. In the last few weeks, I’ve repeatedly told myself that if it doesn’t bring me happiness or serve me in a positive manner that I need to cut it out. But we rarely take our own advice, do we? It wasn’t until I spent a Tuesday morning with my friend Lilly that it all came full circle. Everyone needs a Lilly in their life, and for those of you that know her, aren’t we lucky. She has provided me with an endless amount of entertainment, a safe space, and a love like no other. Sometimes we view things differently, and one of us has to adjust our outlook to overcome the disconnect, and that, my friends, is a healthy friendship. So, we’re sitting on her couch on a Tuesday afternoon after having a good morning. I’m getting ready to leave for a doctor’s appointment, and she can visibly see the fear on my face. For some reason, just to have her acknowledge that she can not begin to comprehend my fear, but has genuinely tried to, as well as how much she sits with it because she loves me, was precisely what I needed to hear. I felt seen at that moment. I had someone look me in the eye and hold back their pain to tell me that they didn’t understand mine, but they tried to, and she wasn’t going to give me advice but that she supported me in whatever choice I made. This was exactly what I had needed at that moment, and Lilly tends to always deliver in those moments of need. I found myself reflecting on our conversation the whole way to Pensacola, reflecting on how I needed to take my own advice, how I needed to remove things that no longer positively serve me. I need to do what makes me happy and stop caring if others understand what that looks like because I have people other than my family, like Lilly and Madison, who will always support me. I have friends that are genuine.

So now I’m at another turning point in my life. I’m lying in a hospital starting a new medication that has the potential to help me or severely cause damage. I’m discussing possibly having another surgery. With all of this unknown and all of the potential life-changing things that can happen, I’m trying to remind myself that I need to take my own advice. I’m no longer going to sit at tables where I might be the topic of discussion when I get up. I’m going to stop caring about what my happiness looks like to others. I’m going to continue sharing my truth even if others don’t understand why. I’m going to try to continue to share my heaviness and make sure others know they’re not alone. I’m going to try and live unapologetically.