The end of the year has become synonymous with Instagram’s ‘Top Nine’. Your Top nine most liked photos of the year. It is a fun and quick way for a year in review. I, being the social media nerd that I am, do it every year. As usual, my Top Nine popped up some of my favorite pictures of my favorite people and moments.
Cancer free scan posts, tenth wedding anniversary, puppy Elsa, garbage worker kindness and body love – what’s not to love?! But photos can’t show the real messiness that is life.
This year, my family and I moved once again. This move was an exciting one and while we miss our St. Simon’s family, we love our new Florida family and friends. Overall, the year has been filled with a beautifully chaos-filled routine.
2015 and 2016 left me craving and searching for the elusive normalcy that I prayed for when Marjorie was sick. I panicked at every threat to our normal routine – hurricanes, sickness, etc.
2017 taught me that normalcy isn’t something you can have forever and always. There will always be something that throws off your day or your big plans (shout out to the norovirus outbreak of January 2017 that kept me from meeting my bestie Brene Brown). Something will always come along and take it away and that is okay. Normalcy comes back, maybe in a new form but it returns, nonetheless.
My biggest experience of 2017 will never be seen in a picture. Working through my symptoms of grief, trauma and PTSD cannot be photographed. My swirling thoughts and heart attack anxiety cannot be posted or accurately portrayed onto social media.
It is fitting that I end 2017 with a panic attack. Today, Marjorie came out of her room about 30-minutes after I put her down for nap. I thought she was coming out to delay nap (per usual), but I was wrong. She was soaked in blood. Jordan bent down to her in shock and I quickly went into ‘mom mode’.
“Get me wipes and a towel…Come here baby…Momma’s got you. It’s okay. It is just a nosebleed.”
But cool and collected exterior reaction did not mirror my whirling panic within. As I wiped the blood away, my disturbing thoughts went into high gear.
My mind went back to memories from the PICU to every moment in between. The brain is such a crazy thing. All I wanted to do was clean up my baby from a nose bleed and somehow my brain catapults me back to the worst fear and terror a parent can experience.
Because of the intense trauma work I’ve done this year (and continue to do), I now have the tools to not let a simple nosebleed take me back to a dark place.
I laid with Marjorie for a while, making sure the bleeding had stopped and she went back to sleep. But let’s be honest, I was selfishly laying for my own heart. Just being next to her or Manning, in moments of panic and anxiety help ease me out of them.
Cuddling my babies, stroking their soft blonde hair and kissing their soft cheeks, help my heart (and head) to know that I am safe and so are they. I cannot predict tomorrow, but for right now, in this moment, we are okay.
After I cuddled and journaled, I flipped back a few pages in my journal. I came across a journal written in October. I was really struggling day to day to stay present and not wrapped up in a paralyzing blanket of anxiety.
I had just wrapped up my week in North Carolina. Despite being gone a week, I was dreading the trip home. I desperately wanted to see my babies, but I was terrified to return to therapy. The trauma and grief work were too much, I felt. For the first time, in a really long time, I felt like I couldn’t do it – I couldn’t overcome this, a familiar feeling from my days spent in my eating disorder.
I felt stuck, like I couldn’t let go. But I didn’t know what I was needing to let go of. I wanted to label it. I wanted to wrap it up in a box and use my label maker to put a neat label on it. Problem solved. Crisis over.
Sigh. Why can’t life work like that? My label maker solves so many problems in the clutter of my house. Why can’t it solve the never ending clutter in my head?
That day, I wanted to run. Run anywhere except home. The emotions and healing from it all were too much. Or so I thought.
There is a special place in Raleigh called Umstead Park. I find myself there every trip. I don’t hike (never have enough time), I simply drive in and sit on a bench or on crunchy leaves by a creek. I’ve been doing this since I was in treatment seven years ago.
On this day, I was way early for my flight and I saw the Umstead Park exit. My brain was in overdrive so I detoured to one of my happy places.
I found a small open area with two rows of benches. I sat on the front row and balled up on bench. I looked up to the October sun peeking through the trees and suddenly began crying. Like really, really crying. I did not care as people passed by me. I ignored them and began praying.
“God give me the courage. Give me the courage to let go. Courage to heal.”
And He did.
Journal entry from October 18, 2017
“Homeward bound from another incredible trip to Raleigh. It was a nice break from anxiety and therapy. I find myself dreading the trip home – even though I am so ready to see my babies. Why can’t I let go – or better yet, what is it that I need to let go of? Marjorie’s birth? Cancer? I don’t know. As the day would go, I found myself in Umstead park, sitting on a bench, crying, telling myself “Just let go”. Praying to God to give me courage. It is too much though. It is too much to feel. Too much hurt. I am so scared to let go because if I do, then what is next? More cancer? Car crash? I march on with this fear that swallows me whole. How do I continue when I am existing in a broken shell deathly afraid of what is to come?
I can’t let this go. I can’t let go of the images or my broken heart. I just can’t because then what is next? What is the process of letting go? How do I do this? Where do I begin?
My therapy session the next week was a big turning point. I started feeling major relief from my crippling anxiety. And, like recovery, I notice the change in simple ways: walking with the kids in a parking lot, playing in the yard without massive fear that we will be run over, being able to concentrate and read through an entire article and simply being present in my life.
I still haven’t answered a single question asked in my journal. I don’t know what I let go of or what I am in the process of letting go of. I don’t know where I began. All I know is that I began. And that is all any of us can do. There is no perfect way to begin. You simply just begin. You take a deep breath and jump!
I’m not big on new year’s resolutions. I think every day is a great day for a new start – sometimes it is every minute. I’m not resolving to be better or do better this year. I’m already doing the best I can every day. But maybe my theme for 2018 is to continue to let go, trust the journey and enjoy the ride – even when it is bumpy.
2017 was one hell of a ride – most of it very unexpected. I sit here on New Year’s Eve in my yoga pants and a sweatshirt. Glasses on, no make up and no plans for tonight other than ring in the new year (i.e. be in bed at 9pm) with my favorite people on this planet – my picture perfect New Year’s Eve, especially the 9pm bedtime part.
Happy New Year everyone. May 2018 bring you peace and may you find the courage to let go and find peace within yourself.
Sending peace and light today, tomorrow and throughout 2018,