JOURNALING THROUGH COLLAGE: A Healing With The Arts Project

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The following is my final project for the course, Healing With The Arts, through Coursera, in conjunction with the University Of Florida. 

In our current world, so much of our content is now found on electronic devices. Very rarely can one be found reading a “real” book, or the newspaper, or thumbing thru a magazine. Many can now be found with an electronic device attached to one hand so much so that it is as if it has become an extension of that hand, eyes diverted looking only at the screen with an occasional head lift to take a look at their surroundings. It’s a sad state that many have found themselves lost in. What was supposed to make our lives “better,” I believe has made the state of our lives sadder, worse, lonelier. We interact more with others via text message, rather than by voice. Rarely do people write any more as handwriting is no longer taken seriously in schools.

I sit and ponder the state of our society, of our world. So many individuals are “lost” and feel disconnected. With the increased use of electronics, I wonder how many individuals are walking around with untapped potential, untapped creativity? When I asked a few of my friends, colleagues, and even a few patients how they were releasing their creativity, I wasn’t surprised to hear many of them reply, “What are you talking about? I barely have time to cook, let alone eat, and you’re asking me what I’m doing to be creative? Seriously?” I was serious when I asked them the question, and when I replied that they appeared to have time to scroll through their FaceBook or InstaGram feeds, that they had time to Tweet on Twitter for hours – HOURS – but no time to pen their thoughts down in a journal, or to do the things they once loved because their electronics had taken over the precious hours of their day, they had no response except to look at me dumbfounded.

I cannot say that I have not fallen prey to my own electronics. I will be honest and tell you that I have found that hours have passed as I mindlessly scrolled through meaningless FaceBook posts. As an Emergency Room Nurse, I have noticed an increase in the number of patients who come into the ER complaining of anxiety and depression. Many cannot pinpoint the cause of their anxiety, most times it’s generally, “I just don’t know. I just don’t feel right. I don’t feel like myself.” I can relate, and I know that the cause of my own anxiety, although not as severe as my patients, was related to the fact that I wasn’t doing much creatively. There was a time where I journaled feverently. I remember the feeling of writing and being able to purge on paper, and ultimately finding the answers to my “big” questions as I wrote.

Over the last year, I was fortunate enough to see where my life was lacking. Where I was sporadically journaling, I began to make an effort to journal at least three times a week, or more when I felt it was needed. I enrolled myself in an art class where I found that where I once felt inept and would have never considered myself an “artist,” I was actually flourishing. It was through this untapped and unused creativity that I found my anxiety lessened and eventually disappeared. I began painting more, journaling more, and looking for other creative outlets.

I have always been a person who loves words. I love books and I love writing.  I’m one of those people who feels that written words speak to me. I feel at times that they are hidden messages that come to me in my time of need. For years, I collected quotes or sayings, cutting out of magazines words that spoke to me. I never really did much with my clippings except tucking them in my journal or saving them first in an envelope, then in a box. Then I began taping them to the pages of my journal and what eventually transpired for me was a journal that told my own stories. Seeing the words made them come alive in my head. What began as just me looking for a way to save the words that I found to keep them from becoming lost or destroyed, became a journal filled with words that told stories.

I chose this project for my final because I believe that we all have a story to tell, but at times can’t find the words to tell it. I believe that when we can sit and become mindless, thumbing through old magazines, cutting with scissors, and using glue and construction paper that it can transport us to a time when we were once children. I believe that we can remember what it felt like to have no worries, laughing with our friends, and feel carefree. I believe that it is in this time that the messages that we need to see will appear. I know that there are no accidents, that the things we need to see or hear, or that need to happen will appear when we are ready and when we need them to appear. I believe that the words and pictures when placed on the construction paper or on the journal will let you see what you need to see.

For my final project, I present to you my journal. The journal that I have kept with the words and pictures that speak to me, that tell stories. It only matters to me what they mean or say. I am the only one that can put meaning to the messages because what others may see will not necessarily be what they see. My journal was put together without my inner critic whispering in my ear. It was an effort to not feel as if I were going to be judged as this is a huge fear for me. It was put together without me thinking about what others may think of my work. I know that if I put it together thinking of what others may think that it would not be what is. I believe that my journal is my authentic, higher-self speaking to me letting me know that I’m okay. Besides, I believe that journals are personal and are not truly meant for public viewing.

Journaling can be cathartic. I find that being able to purge what lies within me allows me more space for more creativity and positivity to seep into and penetrate in the spaces of what was previously emptied. Journaling, written or via collage, has changed me in ways that I feel has allowed me to grow enormously, and I believe that if it can do this for me, I can only imagine what it could do for our world as a collective. It would require the one journaling to give up the use of their electronic devices, for one, to free up their hands to use scissors or a pen, and to free up that part of their mind that craves the use of creativity. I believe that this form of journaling an excellent tool for growth and transformation as it allows for purging what plagues one’s mind, for visioning for the future, for dream building, and for spirit to speak when one is looking for answers to the questions that their soul asks.

To do this exercise, it it not necessary that one spend much money. Requirements:

  •  Plain, unlined journal of any size – preferably a 5×8″ or larger.
  • Old magazines.
  • Scissors, Glue. Tape.
  • Imagination.

There are NO rules when it comes to journaling via collage. Some individuals will find that by setting an intention prior to starting, that they are able to gain clarity on an issue troubling them, or a question that they have been asking. This is not necessary.  Many times what emerges is a what the one needs to see or hear at the time. It can provide clarity. Other times, one can use this form of journaling to dream build or vision build. It has been said that when you hold the vision by constantly bringing it into the forefront of your thoughts, that you can make it come true. Other times, you just need to purge your thoughts and you’ll find that once you are able to get what’s eating you on the inside, out, that you’ll feel much relieved, you’ll find a sense of calm and peace. What you may want to do with that piece that allowed you to purge is to take it outside and release it into the Universe by burning it and letting it go.

From the old magazines, cut out any words or pictures that appeal to you. You may find that many words and pictures appeal to you and that’s okay. If you find that there are many objects, you may want to consider using a poster board for your project.

Taking the objects that you cut out, place them in any order or manner that you wish onto your journal, or poster board. You can place them in any place that you choose, again there are no rules. Place them in a manner that is visually appealing to YOU.

The following photographs are actual photographs of my own collage journal.

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Simple, plain unlined journal.
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Vision board!
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“I Believe In You”

image“I believe in you.”

Such a simple statement. Four words, five syllables. When you’re down and out, it’s a statement that can transform your outlook and propel you throughout the entire day. It’s the one statement that I longed to hear my entire life from my own parents, but never did. I believe that had I heard it come out of their mouths once – just ONE time – I would be a totally different person than the one I am today. Instead, I had to learn to believe in myself.

A Registered Nurse for more than half of my life, I have always been in the business of helping others, but I could never help myself. It took several years and lots of soul searching until I slayed a huge demon of insecurity and self-doubt and came to the realization that I needed to heed the advice and encouragement that I freely gave to others which was: “I believe in you. Believe in yourself.”

I became my own cheerleader and learned to believe in myself and realized that I have the power to make my life and the lives of those around me that much better. I know what it feels like to be lost, to feel alone, to feel hurt and broken, to live in regret. I know what it feels like to wish that you could change things that can’t be changed, and what it feels like to smile when you’re in so much pain. I believe that we all have the power to change and to heal ourselves.

That being said, let me tell you a little bit about me. I’m Row., your every day, above average, extraordinary gal. Registered Nurse for 25 years, with my primary focus being in Emergency Nursing for the last 16 years. I have a strong interest in Wholistic Medicine – focusing on the whole person: mind/body/spirit. Reiki Master since 1997. Fitness Enthusiast having been a runner since birth as I hit the ground running once I exited the womb (so they say). I’ve run several marathons and half-marathons. I have a Black Belt in Krav Maga, and hold a CrossFit Level 1 Cert. And I am Catalyst Life Coach. Why be a Life Coach? Because we often think and believe that we are helpless, and that we’re all alone, but we’re neither. I believe that we are all here to help one another, and that we are not meant to go through life alone. I believe that we’re all here on Earth for different purposes, that we’re all different, not meant to be the same, but that we’re ALL destined for greatness. I also believe that there is more to life than just “this” – we just need to help each other see our greatness and to point the direction towards happiness.

If I somehow resonate with you, I invite you to come S.T.A.T. with me. As a Nurse Athlete, my niche revolves around healing life while doing life.

Strengthen. Working on making stronger one’s health and overall well-being. Getting back to baseline, figuring out why you’re “sick.” Learning that pain and illness doesn’t just show up in our lives for no reason, it’s usually a sign that something in our lives needs to change. This may also include strengthening your body thru fitness. Whether you’re just beginning or getting back into the game. There is healing in movement and exercise, and they can be catalysts for positive changes as they can/will affect every aspect of your life.

Transform. This means finding YOU. Your real self. Looking at thought patterns to get unstuck. Saying “Yes!” to life and coming out of your shell while being kind to yourself, and realizing that everything that you have always desired has always been within you.

And

Transcend. Rising above your own expectations. Realizing that there’s more to life than, as they say, working to pay the bills and then die. Realizing that regardless of your age, you CAN start NOW and add more life to your years.

Find me at The Angry Therapist’s website here.

Obliterated

Obliterated.

Yep, I’m sure that that’s the word that the orthopedic doctor told me when I saw him on Thursday. I believe his exact words were, “You obliterated your ACL.” I couldn’t tell you exactly what he said afterwards because I blacked out after I heard “obliterated.” Not blacked out in the sense that I passed out, but more like I was not able to focus or make out any words for a few seconds afterwards.

I didn’t understand. To obliterate something is to make it gone, disappear … And, yes, he did say that it was gone. My ACL was gone. Not visible in my MRI. He showed me. I looked. Then I looked again. Couldn’t see it.

My encounter with the orthopedist was not a favorable one. He kind of pissed me off in that he was not optimistic with my care. When I asked him what my options were he went on to tell me that it was “not common practice to reconstruct ACLs in 40 year olds.” He went on to suggest that I “might want to consider getting a custom brace instead.” Being that I was totally caught off guard by the fact that he told me my ACL was obliterated, I was not able to think of questions that I wanted to ask, and I had a whole slew of questions. I was quick witted enough to give him a snarky remark when, during my examination, he told me that my lateral knee pain was not consistent with an ACL issue. Um, you just told me that my ACL was obliterated and the MRI report also states that my iliotibial band (IT) was torn. The IT band runs lateral to my knee so, um, duh!

I was disappointed that the appointment was not going the way I was picturing it would be going. I did ask for an orthopedic surgery consult. I asked him to have an orthopedic surgeon look at my MRI to get his opinion. I also asked for a Physical Therapy consult. And I asked for a hinged knee brace to prevent my knee from moving laterally (side to side) since that most of my pain was with lateral movement.

I left frustrated. And by the time I got home I was ready to shed more tears. I briefly recapped my appointment to my husband who was just as dumbfounded as I was. I wish that he would’ve come with me, but I honestly didn’t believe that the news would be as devastating as it was. I shed my tears then picked myself up, took a deep breath and remembered that I would not let it get me bitter. I know better, therefore, I will do better, be better.

I have yet to talk to an orthopedic surgeon. I have yet to figure out what to do. I can’t weigh my options out yet as I don’t know what all of my options are. So until then … No news is good news. Until then it’s #KneeBraceChronicles2Point0.

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#KneeBraceChronicles2Point0

Bitter Or Better? My Choice

imageThey say that you have two choices when faced with a crazy blow that life will sometimes deal you. You can either get bitter and assign blame, pout, get nasty, angry, and stay stuck. Or, you can get better and take responsibility, make a plan of action to rectify/change the situation, and move forward.

What happens is most people initially do get bitter. We’re angry. We ask, “Why?” We look for people to blame. If you stay in this mentality, the situation doesn’t really change. In fact, it may get worse. You could really dig yourself into a hole, or fall into an abyss that’s really hard to climb out of. I know, because I’ve been there and it wasn’t that long ago.

Three years ago, this month, March 28, 2013 to be exact, I blew my left knee out in a freak misstep when performing a move that was shoulder to overhead. I had not lifted that weight before so it was slightly difficult. Initially, I blamed my trainer who told me that the weight was “light” and that I could do it. I didn’t think I could, but I did do it once, so I believed I could do it again. Well, what resulted was me misstepping or landing incorrectly, and the way my foot planted tweaked my knee enough that it completely tore my left meniscus and severely bruised my ACL. I don’t believe that I ever really “healed” from that experience. What do I mean? Well, I know that my knee healed. I had surgery, and they removed my meniscus and I eventually went on to recover and get back to baseline, but my mind never really recovered.

imageI lost my shit when this happened. I seriously Lost. My. Shit. I was angry. I was depressed. I couldn’t function. I made the mistake of stopping all exercise as suggested by my orthopedist. It made sense because I could not truly bear weight on my left leg, couldn’t squat, blah, blah, blah. This lack of movement proved to be detrimental to my mental health. (You can read about it here.)

I think about how low I fell last time, metaphorically speaking, and I can tell you that I was NOT in a good place. I became very irritable. I gained weight that I have not yet been able to shed. I lost my fitness. And, worst of all, I became suicidal. Seriously, I wanted to die. I just wanted to die. I had become someone that I didn’t recognize. I was lost and frustrated. And even after my knee was repaired, I tried to make my way back into my fitness game, but it was far from the same. Where I once was running 25 miles/week, lifting weights 4-5 times a week, and even kickboxing 2-3 times a week, I was no longer able to workout as I had been. I believed that I would just get right back onto that horse, and what happened was that horse quickly bucked me off and laughed at me right in the face.

imageThis time is a little different because I know what to expect. My plan is to NOT fall into that same abyss that I fell into the last time I injured myself. How do I know it’s different? What am I going to do that’s different? Well …

It’s only been 4 days since I re-injured my knee. I was fatigued during the workout, so when it came time to squat clean 135lbs, I was already tired. I should have passed on attempting to lift it, but on a good day when I’m not fatigued, I can do it. I should have listened to my gut, but, I didn’t. I let my head and my ego get the best of me and I knew that I wanted to try. I only tried once and that was all that it took. It took me down immediately with my knee buckling inward.

I did not try to hide, mask, or pooh-pooh my injury. I cried out in agony, something that I would have never had done in the past. I let others help me. Someone got me ice. My trainer aced wrapped my knee. Last time, I did not seek medical attention. I had an appointment with my Physical Therapist the next day, and he was the one who convinced me to seek medical attention. I was naive in thinking that I would be able to fix and heal myself. This time, I knew what to expect, so I brought myself to the ER and requested an x-ray, then requested an MRI and an orthopedic consult. I had my MRI yesterday. I also immediately started working on the surrounding muscles of my knee by using a muscle stimulator. Along with compression, ice, and the use of my hinged brace has made a huge difference. I really haven’t had much pain. If anything, it’s 3 out of 10 on a 0-10 pain scale, and that’s really only when my knee is unstable and moves laterally. Something that I have already done this time that I never did last time, I reached out to my trainer and explained the consequences I may have if I limit or stop my movement. I asked for workouts that would instead focus on my core and upper body and cardiovascular exercise that would not require the “stabilization” or movement of my lower body, more specifically, my left knee.

I take full responsibility for what happened. I know the risks and benefits of doing the things that I love. I would not be me if I sat back and watched others do the things that I love and did not participate in the activity myself. Quite frankly, I am tired of people telling me, “You know you’re not a youngster anymore. You really should be careful. Maybe you should find another hobby.” Are you kidding me? I know exactly how old I am. And I know what I’m doing. I am doing what I need to do to feel alive, to feel happy, and to live my life. I don’t owe anyone any explanations at all. Like I said, I take full responsibility, and I will continue doing things that I love, that make ME happy, and that make ME feel alive. I’ve watched the video of what/how it happened. It serves me no purpose to keep rehashing and reliving it over and over again. What’s done is done. I can only learn from what’s happened and move forward.

So you can see, I have chosen to not become bitter this time around. I’ve already had my cry in my last blog post. I choose to see it as another learning opportunity. You see, things will continue to happen in your life until you understand the lesson that it is trying to teach you. I cannot yet tell you what the lesson is that I am to learn from all of this. I can tell you that I am open. I know that in order to figure out what’s happening to me on the outside, to understand why this lesson is being brought forth to me again, I must turn inward. I need to seek the answers within myself because the answers are inside of me.

I am different this time around. I am more open and vulnerable this time around, and I am also showing more of my vulnerability without shame. I am attempting to remain calm as I ask others for help, or when I tell my story, and not feel humiliated. I know that people are talking about me, saying things like I was stupid to even attempt that, but that’s their opinion. It’s not the truth. I was not being reckless, I was putting myself out there and doing something that not many women my age do.

I will not fall into the abyss this time around. I have a plan and have already began to institute it and illicit the help of those who love me.

So … Bitter or Better? I say BETTER. My attitude and my outlook are both different this time around. More optimistic, and realistic. I believe that things WILL get better. I believe that I WILL once again be restored and made whole. I believe that I WILL once again run, jump, lift. I believe that I WILL figure it out and healing IS already taking place within me.  Things CAN and WILL only get better from here on out.

Stay tuned.

 

The Voice I Need To Hear

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Top: Talking to the bar. Bottom: The exact point where my knee buckled.

It happened AGAIN. I tweaked my knee while attempting to lift/pull a weight during a clean and jerk. I was fatigued, and it was my last weight in a clean and jerk ladder. In actuality, it should’ve been “easy,” but like I said, I was already fatigued, really tired because it was the last part of a very long, taxing workout. But … it was not to be.

I should’ve known better. I should’ve let it go, but I wanted to lift that weight. I wanted one lift. ONE. I had enough time. I am strong enough to do it – when not fatigued. I thought I could do it once. So … I let my ego get the best of me and my left knee buckled. Yes, it’s the same injured one. Didn’t matter that I had a knee sleeve on. It was painful physically, but more than that, it was painful mentally.

I laid on the floor for a few minutes, writhing in pain, and not once did I hear my husband ask me if I was okay. Not once. The voice I needed to hear most was silent.

It’s not that he doesn’t love me. I even believe that he thought maybe I’d just get up. But it’s always been like that – he just doesn’t talk, not like that. Not when I need him the most. I got my own self up. But it got me thinking that when I need him, he may be there physically, but it’s as if he’s not there because he says nothing. I don’t know what it is. It would almost be better if he were not there.

I should be used to it, and I am to an extent, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t hurtful. It hurts a lot. When I was delivering our children, not once was there encouragement. When I went in for surgery, not once did he say, “You’re gonna be okay.” When I’m afraid or anxious, it’s always the same, we don’t really talk about it. He’ll ask, but it’s almost half-hearted and not sincere. When running races, there is never any clapping or cheering from him. When I need him to talk to the kids, he says he does, but I’m not entirely sure that he really does. So, it’s not new, but maybe I’m just tired of it. I’ve put up with it long enough. I’ve never said a word. I probably won’t say anything. I know that he can’t read my mind. I know that if I want anything to change, I’ll have to say something or I’ll just have to suck it up and shut up.

I’m tired of hearing from others that I should know better than to try and lift weight like that. That I’m not a youngster anymore and that I should be more careful. To that I will say, this is MY life. I know exactly how old I am. I also know the risks that I take when I do the things that I do. I choose to do the things that I do because they are things I need to do. I don’t owe anyone any explanations. I don’t have to justify my choices or my behavior. It’s MY life, plain and simple. So for those who are belittling my choices, Fuck You. I wil not apologize for that.

To my silent husband, may you never know the hurt that you have instilled within me. May you know that I understand that this is how you are. I get it. It doesn’t change that it’s hurtful, and that I am hurt. And just because I don’t say anything about it, doesn’t mean that what you’re doing, what you have done is okay. It’s NOT okay. What this says to me is that you don’t care enough about me to ask, that you’re assumption that I’m okay is far from the truth. Your actions speak much louder than words. Your voice is the voice I need to hear the most, and it’s the one I never hear at all.

Maybe I shouldn’t push “publish” yet, because, well, just because maybe I’m just reacting. More like overreacting. Most would say it’s my own fault, and maybe it is. I let it get this far, but know that it’s not without trying. I can’t make him talk. I can’t make him change. I feel like a little kid again, waiting for my parents to take care of me. Waiting for my mom or dad to say something that would make the hurt a little less. Wishing that they cared enough to notice that I hurt. It’s where I learned to tolerate physical pain. It’s where I learned to just keep my mouth shut.

Physically, I know I’ll be okay. My knee will heal, just like every other wound I’ve encountered. It will heal, and the scar will remind me of how unimportant it was to anyone else, how it didn’t matter to anyone else. But it matters to me. I care. And it’s MY voice that matters to me because I care about ME. I’ve always cared about ME. I’ve always been the one to take care of me, and I will continue to be the one to do what I need to do to get ahead, to move forward, to heal. For now, my tears free fall, silent, like a salve onto the wounds of my body, and deep within to soothe the depths of my soul. Take care of you, Row.

You need you more than you need them, trust me.

I Got Me

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I saw this on my FB feed and it took me back to when I was 8! I wish I knew who to give credit for this pic. I really love the caption.

When I think back to my childhood – mainly from the age of 4 to probably 8 – I have NO memories of being randomly hugged, or rocked to sleep, or even being tended to when I was hurt or sick. What I remember is being left to my own devices.  I remember being chastised for crying. I remember the feeling of needing to be held so badly, but there was no one … NO ONE.

What I remember, what I learned was that *I* rocked myself to sleep. *I* was the one who picked myself up. *I* wiped away my own tears. *I* bandaged myself up when I was hurt. *I* soothed my own broken heart.

Me.

Just me.

Even though I’m WAAAAY older now, I’m still triggered by so many things, so many memories. Even as I write this out, I can feel the tears welling up, and the heartache in my chest. I remember my 4 year old self crying for attention, but receiving none. I remember myself as an 8 year old, having had enough, and just wanting it to end. It’s so visceral and it feels so real. And it’s painful. Very painful. So I remind my small, 4 and 8 year old selves, that it’s okay, that we’re okay … I got them. I’ve always had them.

It’s always been me.

I got me.

The Law Of The Garbage Truck

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Today is garbage day in our neighborhood and when I saw the garbage truck it reminded me of a story I heard awhile ago. It’s called “The Law Of The Garbage Truck.” I’m not sure who wrote it, but it goes something like this …

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.

My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches!

The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us!

My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, really friendly. So I asked, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!” This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck.” He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage (frustration, anger, and disappointment, etc.). As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you.

Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life’s too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so… love the people who treat you right & pray for the ones who don’t. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

Remember, it’s not about you. Keep your lid on tight and have a blessed, garbage-free day.

He Wasn’t Ready


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Not long ago, I was talking to a patient who has a cardiac (heart attack/MI) and diabetes history about healthy lifestyle changes – how he could cure his diabetes and improve his cardiac function with diet, exercise, better choices, etc. He told me how he “couldn’t be eating salads all the time and how he can’t exercise because he has some kind of nerve problem in his feet from his diabetes,” yada yada … He had an excuse and smart alec retort for everything I suggested. He was seething and you literally could see the smoke coming out of his ears as he said to me, “You know what, Nurse? Just shut up. Seriously, just shut the fuck up!” It was so disheartening to me that he would not hear me out let alone take any responsibility for his health, instead blaming his current chest pain on the malfunctioning of the stents that the cardiologist put in. I was even more sad that you could see the look of defeat on his poor wife’s face. I could see this wasn’t going anywhere. He wasn’t ready. So, I let it go and went about caring for him without causing more discomfort.

Here’s the thing … I didn’t want to let it go. I became a nurse because I wanted to help people heal. I would NOT be doing a good job as a nurse if I didn’t talk about healthy lifestyle choices with you. There are so many things patients can do to help themselves heal. Instead many refuse to listen and choose to leave the fate of their health and lives in the hands of doctors. I can help you, but you have to seriously want to be helped to truly heal. You have to be ready. I get that. I understand that we can only meet people where they are not where we want and hope for them to be.

Our healthcare system is now all about disease management. I could go on and on, but won’t. If you don’t like my advice, fine, what you do with it is your business. Please don’t yell at me though when I am only trying to help you. When you’re ready, I’ll be here.

 

Vulnerable

I never thought or believed that “I” would be this anxious person, however, there have been a few things that have occurred in the last year or so that have cause me to question myself and place doubt in my head.

I have always bragged that, “Row. doesn’t cry.” I know what that sounds like, even sitting here typing it sounds so absurd to me. I am just not one to show my vulnerability. It’s so hard for me to be real and to show that side of myself to the world.  It’s painful. Very painful. I don’t like it. It’s such an uncomfortable feeling.

I believe that what is happening is that I am starting to emerge; my REAL self is wanting to come out as it has been stifled for so long, and I am being forced to show my vulnerability, my realness, my raw, real self for all the world to see.

The focus of my worry has changed. Last year, my son went off to college and I thought I was going to die. When my daughter had her first seizure, I thought I was going to die. When my youngest boy was having some issues, I felt his pain and angst. When my oldest boy calls me anxious and frustrated, I also feel his anxiety. When my children call me and tell me bad news, it makes me crazy. When my husband is sick, I worry. I love my children and my husband more than anything. Everyday, I can be heard muttering prayers to God and the various Saints to ask them for protection, and to thank them for blessing me.

It worries me that my anxiety level is heightened at times. I know that this is normal. I know that I can’t save the world. It’s weird though that even thought I know these things, that I still feel so … lost. No, the anxiety lies in the fact that I do not have control over everything. That I can’t keep everyone safe and at home with me. Life happens, I understand that. It’s just so hard for me to cry, even to my husband who loves me dearly. I don’t like the palpitations, the racing thoughts, the feeling of suffocation. The feeling is fleeting, but seriously, if I were not a nurse, I would have truly believed that I was having a heart attack or, worse, believed that I was dying. Thank God that I am a nurse though, and that I am able to recognize the symptoms and work through it. Movement helps. Meditations helps. Prayer helps.

This “rawness” is so uncomfortable for me. I know that I am not immune to the problems of the world. But it is just so uncomfortable, so painful. I know that life happens. I am going to go with this feeling. I am going to accept all that is being placed before me and I am going to see where it takes me. It’s weird that I can talk to people and counsel them, but it’s just not supposed to happen to me, you know.

I am vulnerable. I am human. There, I said it. I am human. Surprise, surprise. I have my share of problems and life’s issues, I just don’t share all of my craziness with the world. I don’t like to verbalize my problems. I just don’t think that it’s appropriate to share my drama with the world. I keep my drama to myself. I write. I pray. I meditate.

Everything is okay. Everyone is okay. All is well. It’s just my perception of things. Fear is a mental game. It has power over me that overwhelms me at times, but once I realized that I have power over my thoughts and fears, once I can harness this and truly understand this then my fears will have no real power over me.

I know that when all is said and done, when I come out of every event that is thrown my way, I know that I am not the same person that I was before I experienced it.  I’m usually stronger, wiser, and ready for new growth. I just have to get through it. I will get through it, and I will be better because of the events that I experience. Maybe my purpose for this is to use my story to encourage others.

All is well. And, yes, world, Row. is HUMAN.

Breathe, Row. Just breathe.

Strong Girl Stand Down

IMG_4862I’m not a fan of vulnerability or feeling raw. I shouldn’t say that I’m not a fan, I meant that I don’t do those things well. I work so hard to put on this facade that I’m this strong, tough girl and that I don’t need anyone, that I don’t do crying. It’s so obvious when I am angry or upset regardless of how hard I try to hide it and carry on. The implosion is bad enough, but the explosion  … The explosion is often so violent and nerve wracking that I am not always sure what to do with myself.

Where does it come from? I know exactly where it comes from. It comes from being a child who was always so berated and put down and told not to cry – ever. It stems from being punished as a child countless times, then being punished again for crying. It originates from having a mother that was always stressed out because my father was in the Navy and for nine months out of the year for at least 18 out of the 25 years my father was in the Navy she was basically a single mother raising four children on her own.

As an adult, I can see now that my mother had no outlet. She had no out. She was tired and frustrated and she couldn’t deal with the energy and issues that I had. As the oldest I was expected to help, and to behave. I didn’t have the kind of mother that one could go to and just bullshit with or talk to about their problems about. I was expected to keep my mouth shut, obey the rules, no crying, no emotional outbursts, no drama. I can remember crying, only to be beaten and berated for crying, then slapped to give me something to cry about. She didn’t need my emotional drama. But I needed a mother.

Those experiences taught me quickly to keep my mouth shut.  I learned that crying gets you nothing and it also gets you no where even faster. I can remember being told, “You’re so ugly when you cry.” When I needed to be held, I felt unworthy. When you’re four years old, that says a lot. What your four year old ear hears, what your four year old brain, and consequently your adult brain translates it to is: You’re not beautiful enough to be held; Figure it out for yourself; Shut the fuck up; Stop  crying, it’s not going to get you anywhere; You’re bothering me. To be teased and called a crybaby.

IMG_2362So you stop crying. You keep your tears held in in public. You cry your tears in the shower, or into your pillow late at night. You put on this brave face, this brave facade and tell everyone that you’re okay, that you don’t need help. You build a wall around you that is hard to penetrate. You lie to yourself to the point where you don’t really know what the truth is anymore. You don’t trust easily. You don’t dare let your guard down. You’re jaded and cynical of those that can cry so easily. You laugh when you hear that crying is a display of strength because all you’ve known is that it is a source of weakness.

IMG_2346That broken child turned into a broken woman. That’s all there is to it. I don’t care to show my weaknesses, my vulnerability, my “soft” side. I cannot because it’s uncomfortable.  It makes me feel weak. It makes me feel unloveable. The rawness is so viscerally painful that at times is unbearable.

My husband knows that I am not as strong as I let people believe I am. He knows, but he also knows to leave it alone. I only share this side of me with him, and only on the rarest of occasions. So with him, I am also not 100%. I’ve been “strong” for so long that for me to display my vulnerability is unlike me, so it’s hard for him to get close to me because it’s scary.

I’m learning. I’m working hard to let people in. I know that in life we are not meant to go at it alone. I know that, yet I am not able to let people in to help me.  I get so frustrated when I’m angry at times that what ends up happening is that I cry, and that’s soooooo NOT what I want to happen.

Vulnerability and the ability to cry is a sign of strength. Completely opposite of what I learned as a child. Where I learned that crying was a display of weakness as a child, I know now that crying actually has the ability to heal. Being vulnerable was to leave yourself open to attack by those that were supposed to love you. Where I learned that I did not have a safe container to house myself in, or soft spot to land as a child, I am learning to fix that container, and that people are willing to provide you with a soft space to land that is safe.

IMG_3073IMG_3853I would tell my four year old self that it’s okay. Cry if you need to, but don’t hold it in. It’s okay, I’m here and you’re gonna be okay. I would tell my four year old self that you’re strong, that crying does not signify any weakness, that it means you’re human and you’re real. I would tell my four year old self that beauty is found in tears, that a hard, straight line on ones lips should never be found on the face of a four year old. A four year old should not ever look hardened, downtrodden, unhappy. Just be. Tears, tantrums, and all. Just be. Cry. Let it out and just cry. Strong girl stand down and let those tears flow. And I would hold that four year old as she did.

To be lachrymose is to be able to let your tears flow easily. For me, it will take some time. It will take a lot of time. So have patience with me as I learn. Just have patience and let me figure this whole thing out.IMG_2109