It’s been a minute since I’ve posted something on this blog. I apologize for my absence, but life has been full. Well, it’s been mostly full, and partially lazy. Full in the sense that my youngest was in the hospital with RSV around the time of my last post at the same time my family was in town, then we headed down to Southern California to attend my BFF’s wedding, and then we returned home to prepare for two separate milestone birthdays for my two eldest. Lazy in the sense that I have managed to make my daily naps a priority. My two youngest will only allow this to happen for so much longer, so I feel a duty to myself to embrace any opportunity to sleep. When I haven’t been sleeping, nor tending to my kiddos, I’ve been wondering what I could do for myself to feel more fulfilled in my daily life. Continue reading
Loss of Mom
Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 4 of 5)
Welcome back for Part 4 of my Mental Illness Awareness Series. Today I am sharing the final portion of the manuscript, which you can get background information on at the beginning of my Part 1 post. As explained in Part 2, this was originally written for women with Christian beliefs, particularly Latter-day Saint women. My hope is that you will find this post helpful regardless of your religious background.
I have not made any changes to the original manuscript, which was completed two years ago, making my battle with mental illness close to ten years now. It’s hard to believe I have struggled with this for so long, but each year I have greater insight. I look forward to sharing my current feelings next week, as a follow-up to this final portion of the manuscript. Continue reading
Mental Illness Awareness Series (Part 2 of 5)
Today I am sharing part two of my Mental Illness Awareness Series, which is the continuation of my journey with mental illness. Background information can be found in my previous post from this series. The short story is that the following is taken from my portion of an unpublished manuscript that was designed to bring increased understanding of mental illness. Continue reading
Serve, Love, and Uplift!
As previously mentioned, our family is in the process of moving. I spent three hours last night trying to pack and clean my kitchen. I felt like I should have had more boxes to show for it, after all the work I put into it. Speaking of work, I experienced firsthand the blessings of working to combat worry, as mentioned in It’s Time for Work. I learned that my mind couldn’t even contemplate complex ideas, as it was already preoccupied with playing high-stakes Tetris, where each box had an ultimate goal of being perfectly packed. I’ve resolved that the lack of boxes was due to my expert level Tetris skills. I digress. Can you even digress when you’ve only begun? I wanted to talk about packing kitchens, but not as it pertains to Tetris. Let’s move on, shall we?
I guess you can have some additional thoughts, beyond the task at hand, when you’re working. Because I started to get nostalgic over the menial task of packing a kitchen. I realized that packing a kitchen has sentimental value to me. I began to recall all the kitchens I had packed and unpacked in my adult life. The kitchen was my most dreaded packing task and, I confess, I left it for last. I left it for last because I knew my mom would come in and handle it. Because that’s what mom’s do, right? At least, that’s what my mom did. I have never been good in the kitchen even when it’s in working order. So, it makes sense that I’m not much of a kitchen person when it comes to packing either. My mom, however, was a kitchen packer, and a darn good one at that.
But then my kitchen packer, and best friend, passed away. Even more tough is that she passed away in the home where we lived together, along with my husband and daughter. So, while she was there for the unpacking and placement of our kitchen, she was not there when it was time to move on. She may have been there in Spirit, but she certainly wasn’t pulling her weight in the matter of kitchen packing. Wasn’t she aware that I still needed her? I’m making light of it here, but the thought that struck me last night was that we take for granted the simple things that make a difference in someone’s life. I wonder if I ever properly thanked my mom for packing the kitchen that was inevitably left for her to handle?
I can’t say that I remember who helped me pack that first move without my mom. I admit that I have very little recollection of the first six months after her passing. My only guess is that I was placed on some sort of auto-pilot setting for my protection. Unless there is a picture or video of an event to show for the Spring of 2008-Winter of 2008, it’s lost in the database that is my brain. It’s difficult to think of that, as that also happens to be the first 6 months, or so, of my daughter’s life. But, that’s all for another post on another day.
Continuing on with the exciting topic of kitchen packing, I take you now to the second move without my mom around. It was December of 2009 and we were moving into our very own condo. The only problem is that I had recently had my tonsils removed, then during the recovery of the tonsillectomy, I threw out my back so badly that I had to be taken by ambulance to the ER. Again, a fascinating story for another day. So, with this move, I had to rely virtually 100% on the help of others. I think I had 5 women from church come and pack up my kitchen. I remember feeling both helpless and grateful for their kindness and service.
On this particular move, the unpacking had as much meaning to me as the packing did. As my Nana, my maternal grandmother, helped me unpack my kitchen, while my grandfather and Aunt painted my girls’ bedroom. It was particularly special to me, as my grandparents weren’t customarily hands on when it came to my personal life. They were always loving and supportive, but my relationship was largely based on my family visiting them. So, this service from my Nana has always been dear to my heart. It is the only time I recall working side by side with my grandmother. It made me feel closer to her, and, strangely, my late mother as well.
About three years later, it was time to pack up that same kitchen. I had lots of help from friends and family this time, but I mostly remember my sister-in-law’s presence. She was astonished at the lack of packing I had done thus far for my upcoming out-of-state-move. Oops. She gave me a firm, but loving, reprimand of, “EVERYTHING goes in a box.” I can’t be certain how many times I heard that line that evening, but I will never forget it. As simple as it sounds, that really is the best packing advice I have ever been given. It makes for the easiest loading and unloading process you can imagine.
Now, we’ve come back full circle to this move. Here I am, again, packing up a kitchen. I haven’t left it for last, because my mom will not show up and handle it, as she always did. Though, if it worked that way, I would gladly halt all of my packing efforts this very instant. No, this time the packing has alternated between my husband and I, as the other often has the task of keeping the kiddos occupied. And, as I spent those three hours packing alone last night, I couldn’t help but be filled with sadness over the loss of my mom and gratitude for all the people who have given service in her place over the many years now.
It’s not just about the packing and unpacking of the kitchen, it’s about the gratitude I have for being a recipient of countless acts of service. I feel like sometimes we shortchange ourselves on the impact that we make in another person’s life by serving them. I’m certain that the women who have helped me pack or unpack my kitchen are completely unaware of the significance that their act of service had on my life. I’ve heard it said that you can never replace your mother. I know it to be true. But, what I’ve also learned is that it’s something pretty beautiful when multiple people step in and help where a mother might have before. I’m talking about the women in my life, old and young, who have been a sounding board, who have helped with my kids, who have offered a compliment when I felt like I was utterly defeated in my role as a mother, the list goes on and on. I suppose I should not be gender specific, as I have also had many men, my father included, serve our family in numerous ways. It just happens that I tend to be surrounded by more women in my role as an at-home mom, and have been lovingly served by those same women.
I realize this post is probably self-serving, which is ironic based on the message I’m trying to convey, but I just felt like sending out a general “thank you” into the universe. Thank you for all of the service that my family has received through the years. And thank you, whoever is reading, for every little act of kindness you have done in your own life. I thank you, on behalf of every recipient of your kind deeds, and tell you that your service has made an impact for good, even if it did not seem appreciated. Sadly, some people are not mindful of the blessings they’ve received through the hands of another. May I never fall into that category. May people always know of my gratitude, from something as simple as a text offering packing supplies to something as wonderful as Tupperware being returned with a $20 gift card inside to your kids favorite fast food, which I might add both happened today. Even cooler, I didn’t need to get the packing supplies offered from one person, because I had already been given more than enough packing materials from another kind friend. These good deeds do not go unnoticed in my world.
May you be blessed with the ability to see all the acts of kindness that have been done on your behalf. And, when possible, take the time to share your gratitude. When you’re done doing that, go out and be the good you want to see in the world! Serve, love, and uplift! That’s what this whole scatter-brained post is about! It’s about the overwhelming gratitude I have for the people who have served, loved, and uplifted me; and the motivation it gives me to go out and do the same!
It’s Time for Work!
I strive to be as open and honest about my bouts with depression and anxiety, in hopes that my candidness may help someone else who feels they are suffering alone. Even though the rational side of me is well aware that others suffer similarly, there are times when I feel isolated in my struggle with mental illness. Fortunately, I am not enduring a drastic low right now. However, my anxiety has been a constant battle as of late. The most common anxiety indicator for me is chest pain. It’s hard to describe the physical feeling, as the chest pain manifests differently depending on what type of stress I’m trying to cope with. For instance, the chest pain that comes from a large grocery bill when I know money is tight, is different from the pain that comes from feeling overwhelmed emotionally with personal matters. With an upcoming move, it seems I’m having to endure both types. Moves are expensive and emotionally draining, am I right? This is why I need to rely on this quote I found by the late Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley, which reads, “The best antidote for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The best cure for weariness is to help someone even more tired.” Reading this made me think, “it’s time for work!”
I realize that I’ve discussed anxiety and not worry, but many feel they go hand in hand. I look at worry as anxiety’s intern. Worry is more controlled than anxiety. Worry feels like something I can reason with and overcome. Anxiety feels like this beast that takes over me. While worry seems more manageable than anxiety, my guess is that they can both be eradicated with work. So, that’s what I’m going to do: work. Thankfully, I have plenty of opportunities to work, as boxes don’t pack themselves.
While, I don’t feel like I’m struggling with despair, I have still witnessed the great blessings that come from forgetting myself and serving others. I’ve also noticed, being the wife of an ER Nurse, that my burdens seem to pale in comparison when I hear what others are enduring at the hospital. There is always someone who is in greater need of comfort and service. My desire is to increase my efforts to work and serve, and realize that those efforts will only bring about good.
And in those moments, when the days work is done but my mind does not seem to agree, I will try a little trick I discovered the last time I struggled greatly with anxiety. Instead of thinking of all the “what ifs,” I will focus my mind on positive memories. At these times, I like to recall memories of my mom. I look at the memories as real and solid. The future is made up of unknowns and the memories are fact. Sometimes, the best way to stop fretting, is to remind yourself of all the goodness that has been your reality thus far in life.
With that being said, it’s time for work!
Our Parents’ Children
I was reading a book called Defending Jacob by William Landay for book club last month and I came across this line that read, “At some point as adults we cease to be our parents’ children and we become our children’s parents instead.” I wrote it down because I know that it rings true in my life. However, this past weekend, on Mother’s Day, I realized how much I still wanted to be “our parents’ children.”
This Mother’s Day was particularly rough for some reason. I did my best to hold it together. A couple tears were shed here and there in the morning. Then, we went on a little walk as a family with my dad and step-mom in the afternoon. It was then, as I was hugging my dad goodbye, that I lost it. I didn’t want to let my daddy go. It was Mother’s Day and I wanted to be on the kid end of the day. I wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day as a daughter. Thankfully, I was able to hang on to my dad for a bit and cry while my husband took the kids and got them in the car.
Prior to losing my mother, I believed that the pain and emptiness of losing a loved one was due solely to their being gone. I’ve learned that you also end up mourning the role you played in the relationship. I am no longer a daughter to a mom, but fortunately, I still get to be a daughter to a dad. I had never given it much thought until I stumbled upon a book that dealt with grieving. Sadly, I have no recollection of the title or author. What I do remember is that both of the author’s parents had passed away. She spoke to the fact that she was no longer someone’s daughter. I remember standing in the middle of the book store and thinking, “Thank goodness I still get to be a daughter to my dad.” I’m not ready to stop being a parents’ child.
Being a daughter means different things in different families. I played a large role in my mom’s life, as she had not remarried and we had always been particularly close. I did my best to be there for her whenever she needed me. I made her my priority. I don’t say this to boast, but just to express how much my role as a daughter to my mom made up my identity as a whole. Though my relationship with my dad is a strong and healthy one, he remarried after my parents’ divorce and my role as his daughter is less involved. So, while I am still a daughter to my dad, I continue to struggle with understanding the missing piece of me that was devoted to my role as a daughter to my mom.
But, as the quote says, “At some point…we cease to be our parents’ children and we become our children’s parents instead.” That’s certainly the case for me. My role as daughter, whether to my mom or my dad, has taken backseat to my role as parent. It’s a demanding role, that doesn’t leave much room for lack of responsibility and vulnerability. As a mom, I am called upon to be the strong one when my kids face trials or heartbreak. I am the one that is meant to offer comfort. I am the one that is supposed to have my act together. While I am grateful for my role as a mom, I have not lost my desire to be a daughter still.
Sometimes, I just want to be the kid. This past Mother’s Day was one of those days. I wanted to have my dad hug me, tell me he loves me, and assure me that it’s gonna be alright. And he did, as he has done several times in my life.
Our role as a child or a parent is a huge part of our identity. I think my reason for sharing this topic today has more to do with me processing that concept than it is me trying to provide some sort of inspiration. As I mentioned, in losing my mom, I was misled in thinking that my pain came only from the loss of her. When she passed away, I also lost a part of me. Acknowledging that fact and allowing me to mourn that loss, helps me to heal. Thankfully, I still get to be a daughter to my Dad. It’s not just that I still have my Dad around, though that’s a blessing as well, but that I still get to be “our parents’ children.” I can still cry into the shoulder of a parent who has known me all of my life and has watched me grow through all of my trials. I hope that I can be for my kids, what my parents have been for me. As true has Landay’s quote feels, I think I’ve decided I don’t want to cease being “our parents’ children;” I want to be both! I suppose it’s a good thing that I believe in eternal families, as it provides me the opportunity to be both the child and the parent without end.
There are holiday seasons and seasons of the year, but starting April 20 of each year a different sort of “season” begins for me. I have yet to give it an official name. It lasts roughly three weeks. This “season” was not even in existence prior to 2008. The catalyst for this “season,” let’s call it Mom Season for lack of a better name, was April 20, 2008 – the day my mom passed away.
Now, why would Mom Season begin as soon as my mom passed? Well, for one reason, I had to carry on as a mom without a mom. Two days after my mom’s passing, I still had to put on a smiling face to celebrate my eldest daughter’s second birthday even though my heart had broken in ways I could never have understood previously. Three days after my daughter’s birthday, I attended my mother’s funeral where I lead the procession of men carrying my mom’s casket and gave a talk about my mom. Two weeks and a day after the funeral, I went to the hospital for preterm labor for the fifth time during that pregnancy. This fifth time left me stuck in the hospital for 4 days on bed rest. In that four days time, when I wasn’t completely doped up on magnesium, I spent several hours lying their alone aching over the loss of my mom. Then two weeks and three days after the passing of my mom, our second daughter was born 6 weeks early and taken off to the NICU before I even had a chance to hold her. I remember sitting there alone after delivering her, my husband and daughter off in the NICU, and wanting so badly to call my mom and tell her the news of her granddaughter’s arrival. Of course, my mom knew the news already. Two days after her birth, I had to be discharged from the hospital leaving my daughter in the NICU. This day also happened to be, what should have been, my mom’s 56th birthday. Two days following my discharge from the hospital was Mother’s Day. It was my very first Mother’s Day without my mom and I spent it with my time split between holding our premature daughter in the NICU and snuggling with my two-year-old daughter at home. Mother’s Day marks the end of Mom Season for me.
I thought it would just be that year where the whole three week period would be an emotional roller coaster. I didn’t expect to feel such contrasting emotions around the first year anniversary nor every other anniversary since. It wasn’t that I didn’t expect to remember each of these significant dates, I guess I just thought I would be better at separating them. It’s just tough. It’s this period of time where I get to focus on the blessing of two beautiful daughters being born into our family, but I also can’t ignore the emptiness I still feel over the loss of my mom. Why her death date, her birth date, and Mother’s Day all have to fall so close, I’m not sure I understand. A part of me has felt that maybe it was a tender mercy from Heavenly Father to have such tough times juxtaposed next to two joyous occasions. A tangible reminder of the circle of life? A purpose for moving forward when my life, as I knew it at the time, seemed so bleak? I try to look at it that way, but it’s hard not to feel like the wounds have been reopened when I face these dates at the same time commercials and e-mails advertise how I should “Get Mom Something Special This Year.”
This post has no real message, it is more a cathartic exercise to help me sort out the difficult feelings I face each year during Mom Season. Today, being April 21, I sit between mourning my mom’s loss all over again and celebrating the beautiful daughter that I, with my husband, have the privilege of raising. When it comes to the loss of my mom, I rarely spend too much time thinking about the “could have been” moments in life, as those thoughts tend to beget more sorrow in me. Rather, I think of the “one day” moments. One day, I will be back with my mom. One day, I will feel her embrace again. One day, she and I will replay the countless inside jokes we had together. One day, I will dance with her again. One day, I will watch her interact with her grandchildren and watch her face fill up with joy as she revels at how incredibly beautiful and funny they are to be around. One day, I will hear her laughter again and I will laugh too, because that’s the affect that her laughter had on all those who knew her One day, I will talk with her about all the things I’ve learned as a mom that I never understood as a child. One day, Mom Season will not be something I have to process. One day, it will just be an eternal life where I can live with my mom and as a mom simultaneously.
Worthy of Love and Belonging
Last Thursday, I had one of those moments with my eldest that reminded me that I had Enrolled in Parenting 505. A simple task that I had given my daughter to do turned into a yelling match for some reason I still don’t understand. I ended up embarrassed by my own role in the argument and hurt by the words that my daughter yelled at me. It wasn’t pretty. We didn’t end on a bad note, but the sting of my hurt stuck with me and I went to my room and cried, once she had gone to bed. It’s moments like these that I wish I could will my mom to be alive so that I could call her and be comforted. Thankfully, I had the forethought to reach out to another mom who is always good about reminding me of my worth and how we’re all imperfect people trying to do our best. However, I still somehow managed to forget her words of encouragement as the evening passed and I went to bed with a series of self-loathing thoughts and tear-stained cheeks. A few days later, I was reminded of something I read in one of my favorite books, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown, “If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe we are worthy of love and belonging.”
I don’t know how one grows to feel unworthy of love and belonging. I don’t think there is some statistic that ties such a thing to something like “being breast fed versus bottle fed” and, if there was, I wouldn’t believe it anyway. You can’t isolate feelings of unworthiness down to one source, so I see no point in trying to figure it out. But, sadly, I am a victim of believing myself unworthy of love and belonging. I can say with certainty that these feelings were felt long before any diagnosis of depression or Bipolar II Disorder. Before you go worrying about me, I know in theory I am worthy of being loved and accepted. Most of us know that in theory, right? Also, I don’t want people worrying that I grew up without “I love you” and support from my family, because I did have all of that. Again, I don’t know the source of these feelings, but the fact is that I somehow have deemed myself unworthy of love and belonging.
The scariest part of coming to terms with how I feel about myself is realizing that, based on our last argument, my daughter appears to be having a similar view of herself. My daughter was able to articulate herself in such a way that I knew the source of her words had to do with her feeling unworthy of love and belonging. While I don’t go blaming my parents for my feelings of unworthiness, I certainly blame myself for my daughter feeling this way. I don’t know if that’s unfair or justified for me to do so, but if my eight-year-old feels like less than enough, then I cannot separate myself from that. Now the question is, what do I do with the knowledge that my daughter and I are facing a similar struggle of believing we are unworthy of love and belonging?
There are several points that Brown makes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, but I think a big one for my eldest daughter and myself is that we confuse guilt and shame. If I boldly reprimand my daughter, her instant response is to cry out, “I’m a bad person!” or “I’m the worst kid ever!” Mind you, I have said nothing about her character in my disciplining nor any such thing about her being a bad person or child. I merely pointed out that she didn’t listen or that she made a bad choice. She is the one that turns it into, “I’m a bad person.” I am quick to correct her about the difference between shame (I am bad) versus guilt (I did something bad). The interesting part is that I find it so absurd that she takes my disciplining and turns it into a five-alarm situation of self-loathing. But, guess what? I do that too. I don’t cry out with wailing and gnashing of teeth, but I sure as heck go to my room and tell myself what a horrible person I am for yelling at my daughter. Then to make sure I really give myself the proper punishment, I begin to tell myself all the other aspects of life that I am horrible at. I am a horrible wife, because I don’t prepare dinner. I am a horrible at-home Mom, because my children watch too much TV. I am a horrible friend, because I don’t serve others enough. I am horrible with finances, because I like to eat out. You get the idea. I’m really good at this self-loathing thing. Well, well, well, looky there! I just gave myself a compliment. At least we know I’m good at something – shaming myself.
Here’s the best part – I just had this epiphany of the similarities between my daughter and I while I was typing this post. That’s how blind I’ve been to hers and my struggle. I recall my therapist trying to teach me the difference between shame and guilt years ago, because she saw that my confusion between the two was having a damaging affect. I didn’t understand how I was mixing the two up in my daily life nor did I grasp the negative affect it was having on my emotional wellbeing, until now. I understood the difference in theory, but I did not understand their difference in practice. Does that even make sense? It’s the same thing with feeling worthy. I logically understand that, as a person, I am worthy, but I don’t feel worthy. Just like I get the difference in the definitions between guilt and shame, but I don’t recognize when I am mixing the two up in my daily life. I honestly did not get it until this very moment. ::mind blown:: I am behaving in the same absurd manner as my daughter is when she takes my discipline and turns it into believing that she’s a bad person. I throw the same fit. I just do it in a more controlled manner and somehow I’ve convinced myself that that is okay. Oh my gosh! I now get why my husband gets so frustrated with me when I share my self-loathing with him. He sees how absurd it is for me to believe myself a bad person for having made a mistake in a particular moment. He knows better.
So, is confusion between shame and guilt the only cause of feeling unworthy? No. But it certainly doesn’t help my situation if I’m turning my mistakes into a blanket statement of me being an awful person. It’s no wonder I feel unworthy of such love and belonging. Woah. This is a lot to process. I guess the first step would be to catch myself in the action and teach myself to separate shame and guilt. My husband is always good about stopping me in my tracks when my self-loathing begins, but he’s not always with me. He simply says one line, “Put the phone down,” to get me to stop speaking negatively about myself. His line is in reference to the fact that he once told me that my self-loathing is like having Satan on speed dial, calling him up, listening intently as he whispers all these terrible things about me, and then foolishly believing him. So when I get going on my laundry list of reasons why I am “less than,” my husband quickly tells me to, “Put the phone down.” It works every time. I can be redirected, because in theory I know I am worth being loved. The breakdown occurs when I’m alone with my thoughts, I pull up my speed dial, and suddenly Satan and I are catching up on old times.
I know that I am loved and accepted. I’d like to believe that my daughter knows she is as well, as I try to show her often and tell her regularly. However, she and I both seem to have some miscommunication between what we know and what we feel. As a mother to this special little girl, I’ve struggled greatly with knowing how to raise her when I feel like I haven’t even figured myself out. How do you teach a child about self-esteem when you seem to have so little regard for your own? How do you teach a child about healthy living, when you struggle with proper diet and exercise? I don’t know the answers to these questions. My only hope is that open communication with her about my weaknesses and imperfections will help her to realize we are all imperfect individuals, but we are also beautiful and incredible people trying to do our best. Perfection and worth are exclusive of one another. I do not have to be perfect to be worthy of love and belonging. The sooner I can learn to separate the two, the sooner I can help my daughter on her path. We are all worthy of love and belonging, when we believe that in practice, and not just theory, we will free ourselves up to fully experience those same beautiful emotions.
Because of Him
All that being said, it was hard this week to recognize the blessings that come from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I suppose my load just felt too heavy to bear. Sadly, I spent a good portion of Wednesday focusing on all the things I had been “robbed” of by the premature passing of my Mom. I found myself experiencing feelings of anger and resentment all over again. I subconsciously made the decision to focus on all the “have nots” in my life and began to feel sorry for myself. I think what it comes down to is that the depth of my heartache was too heavy to bear…alone. That was my problem. I was trying to do it alone. I needed to give my burdens to the Lord and open my heart up to those with whom He has placed in my life as a tender mercy. Even though night was falling by the time I opened up to my husband, and then to my friends, my day was growing brighter; my load was lighter.
That is the message of Easter, is it not? It is a message of life and light, mercy and hope. Without my knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I imagine I would spend more of my days feeling the desperation and loneliness that I felt this past Wednesday. While those feelings are reasonable to feel from time to time, I don’t recommend soaking in them, as I did. All it led to was a whole lot of crying. I couldn’t help but think of Marjorie Hinckley’s quote the following morning when I awoke with swollen, burning eyes and a terrible headache, “The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.” So today, even as I managed to do the actual morning of my Mom’s passing, I will choose to laugh. May your Easter, and your life, be filled with the mercy and hope that comes through our Savior. And may you know, as I do, that because of Him no goodbye will last forever.
Don’t Waste Time with Worry
As I have shared previously in my posts (Stroke of Luck, The Truthiness About Strength, and Living Cheerfully Amidst Trials), I recently suffered from a stroke, which led to a serendipitous find of a tumor in my optic nerve. The tumor is currently deemed as stable, thankfully. What I had not previously shared is that the tumor’s location is indicative of a tumor disorder called Neurfibromatosis Type 1 (NF-1). The long and short of it is that it causes a person to get tumors along the nervous system. The spectrum of the tumor disorder ranges from a benign tumor that creates no pain to cancer and chemotherapy treatments. I handled all that news okay. It wasn’t until I put together the pieces that my daughter is showing the starting signs of this disorder and it is deemed much more dangerous for kids, that I became heartbroken. However, I’m not here to discuss the battle that my daughter may or may not face. What I wanted to share was some uplifting insight I had regarding events tied to this knowledge of hers and my health situation.
To understand my insight, you need to know that there is the potential for me to become blind and that my daughter may battle cancer before she’s eleven years-old. Those are our worst-case scenarios right now and neither are pleasant. That being said, I am currently not blind and my daughter currently does not have cancer. Right now we just have the possibility of such an outcome. Now, I have two options. Option #1- I sit here and worry about the possibility of the worst-case-scenario outcomes and hypothesize how long before things start to deteriorate in each of our bodies. In essence, I worry senselessly but try to pawn it off as though I’m just preparing myself for the future. Option #2 – I let my worry go and embrace the able body and mind that she and I currently have. In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m opting for the latter. I was having this discussion with a friend of mine and she shared with me this awesome quote by Michael J. Fox that speaks to this matter, “Don’t spend a lot of time imagining the worst-case scenario. It rarely goes down as you imagine it will, and if by some fluke it does, you will have lived it twice.” This quote from a man who has suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for over twenty years and still continues his role as an actor and, now, an advocate for the disease. Proof that we can’t let our worst-case scenarios keep us from living to our full potential.
This came to my mind again yesterday, as I drove my daughter three hours to the closest pediatric specialists available. My daughter has become terrified of doctors ever since she underwent her second eye surgery two years ago. As a result, my husband and I did tell her that they might need to do some tests, but we did not tell her that the tests would include them drawing her blood. We didn’t see the point in having her worry about it for days. I finally told her in the lab waiting room and as soon as her name was called she went into panic mode. I physically dragged her into the lab, fought to get her jacket off, braced her down in my arms, and stayed strong while she yelled at me, “MOM! LET ME GO!” Once the needle was in and she realized that it wasn’t that bad, she immediately calmed down and said, “Sorry; I was scared. It was my first time.” I had tried so desperately to explain to her that she was making it worse by freaking out and that it wasn’t nearly as bad as she thought it would be, but she just couldn’t believe me. I even tried to reference the last time she freaked out at the doctors when her eyes needed to be dilated. I reminded her that her tantrum then didn’t change the fact the dilation was going to happen, just as this blood draw was going to happen regardless. She could either go about it calmly or freak out and make it worse. Unfortunately, she chose the latter, but she assures me she will not freak out next time.
These events served as a confirmation that I don’t want to waste time worrying about the worst-case scenario. I fell into this trap before when I was mourning my mom’s death while she was still alive. I was wasting time fretting about how I wouldn’t survive once she was gone, instead of enjoying all the beautiful time that I still had left with her. I’m thankful that I learned this lesson then, so that it could prepare me for the situation I currently find myself in now, where it would be so easy to cry over the possibility of me going blind and not see the life I currently live before me (pun intended). My goal is to somehow instill this same lesson in my children’s hearts and hopefully save them some angst down the line.
This way of thinking has proved freeing for me. I worry about the future from time to time, just as the next person, but somewhere along the way, I learned to embrace the present as well. Right now, my daughter does not have cancer and I can see the world around me and that is a glorious feeling. And if, by chance, she does get cancer and I do go blind, at least I can take comfort in knowing that I didn’t waste the time leading up to those events. Plus, I will hopefully have gained a better understanding of the power of a positive attitude and use that strength in whatever battle me or my loved ones will have to face.