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.

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.

Words from others…

I have found on a daily basis we as humans need to hear positive words. Sometimes I hear them in song lyrics. I read them in novels. Or I search the Internet for a quote that is fitting and every once in awhile someone tells them to us. We need these words. When we come across them they resonate with us and we apply them to what we have going on in our lives. They bring us hope, positivity, or clarity. Words from others have a huge impact on us. On our psyche.

Some times people say something that is exactly what you need to hear and sometimes they will say something that brings you down. I try to hold myself to the standard of being honest, even when people don’t want to hear it. I feel like a person can not have personal growth if they do not understand how they’re perceived by others. Honesty isn’t always nice. Majority of the time, true honesty, is not something we want to hear. It is something that we choose to ignore or we try to make excuses for. While others opinions of us should not define how we perceive ourselves, I believe we should take them into consideration when evaluating our behavior. We can be blinded by our rational for our behavior.

With all of that being said, holding myself to a certain standard is one thing but, I tend to hold others in my life to that standard as well. That is something I’m working on. Just because I’ve set a standard for someone I care for doesn’t mean they’ve set that same standard for themselves. That’s where all of these positive and negative words come in to play. Some people are not nice or honest. Some people aim to hurt. There is a difference in telling someone an ugly truth and personally attacking them. I’ve aimed to hurt before because I’ve been hurt. I’ve also delivered ugly truths in poor form. But I try to focus more on the positive. Positive words.

On our darkest of days all we need is something positive. We all have demons, we all struggle and we all our fighting our own fight. I’m working hard to overcome obstacles that have occurred due to circumstances beyond my control. I’m also trying to forge a new path for my life because of these circumstances. While I’m not where I want to be and I get defeated at times, these positive words help me get through.

Think about the words you say before they are spoken. Don’t be so quick to judge. Remember that the standards you’ve set are not the same as everyone else’s. And always check on your strong friend.