Finding Me

I had typed out a whole other post but when I write I want it to feel right. And if it doesn’t, I either just save it to share (or not) later when the time is right or start back up with something else that’s pulling on my heart. This re-occurring theme keeps popping up at this time in my grief. I keep asking myself who am I? Usually when people ask about who you are you tell them what you do for a living or your marital or parental status. But think about it, does that tell anyone WHO YOU ARE? Am I the jobless widow? Gosh I sure hope that isn’t my identity (even though sometimes I feel like that’s all I am).

The first thing that pops into my head that is absolutely one of my pet peeves is when parents hide behind their kids. Almost like their kids are the dictators of who they are, what they do, when they do it, etc (don’t get me wrong, to a certain degree I understand). Ok before all you parents freak out on me and say I don’t have kids (trust me I wish I did), don’t miss the point, don’t get defensive. If that was your initial reaction, you are probably doing exactly what I’m talking about. Nothing drives me more insane than when people bring their kids to a party/event etc and suddenly become the world’s top helicopter parents to avoid adult conversation/interaction. Stop avoiding the awkward adult stuff that the rest of us are dealing with without the distraction of kids. Your kids do NOT define you. They are part of you – big difference. You were someone before you had them. Don’t lose sight of that.

So now that I’ve ticked off all the parents, the same goes for married people. Yes you are “one” when you get married – but you are still an individual person. Only now you operate under the conditions of “how does my individual decisions effect us?” I hope you get what I’m trying to say, just like with the kid thing, WHO ARE YOU outside of this? What’s at the foundation here? While losing Paul is the absolute biggest tragedy I will probably ever face, I have to check myself and say to myself that I was someone before I was his wife. I am someone that isn’t defined by relationship with someone else. I am my own ME. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the many different “hats” we wear, and that’s just it, they are hats. You take one off and put on another given the situation.

Ok hopefully I’ve established what I’m talking about when I say who are you, so I want you to genuinely ask yourself that. WHO ARE YOU? WHAT MAKES YOU YOU? What do you enjoy? What are your goals? We can all for the most part say we enjoy family time and vacation. I’m asking you to dig down deep here. My friends and I at Honey Lake call this “real talk” because we can’t do the small talk. For me, the answers to these questions are tough – they aren’t jumping right out at me. For example, I almost feel pressured to say “I am beautiful” because as a Christian woman I’m supposed to know that I’m more precious than rubies right? Well help me Lord, that ain’t my first response, not something I believe 100%.

Looking at this through the lens of our careers, I often describe myself before losing Paul as doing what I was “supposed” to be doing. I was working a full time job I had ZERO passion for because the money was good, working from home was convenient, no weekends or holidays sure was nice for RN life. Who’s really happy they have to go to work every day anyways? It’s just a common nuisance for us all. WRONG. If anyone thinks I’m going to go work and do a job that I’m not even slightly passionate about or interested in again, they are absolutely off their rocker. Life is too short to not live out my passion in my everyday life. Which brings me back to who am I and what drives me? You should absolutely consider this when you think about your career – you spend too much time at a job not to.

What inspired me to sit down and write this was being alone at home, scrolling through social media seeing couple after couple together whether it be for V-day or what they did this weekend. And the truth is, I shouldn’t be sitting here alone. Paul should be here…but he’s not. While I struggle with loneliness, I’m asking myself how do I survive this? How do I be me without him and find joy again? How do I be content in this season? I want to argue that God made us relational and that I won’t be alone forever, but it doesn’t feel like in this moment that that is true. I need to be able to handle aloneness without going to the dark place in my mind that tells me I shouldn’t stay on this earth anymore. So believe me when I say, this post was just as much for me as it was you. Let’s do some soul searching and get back to who we really are, chasing our passions, and not just being something because our society says it’s who we ought to be.

P.S. I applied for a job at Home Depot because I love the smell of the store. I wouldn’t be passionate about it, but it’s simply just something to get me out of the house and “back in the game.” So if you see me rocking an orange apron, that’s really the truth behind it. LOL

Baggage Claim

With the wonderful Valentine’s Day approaching (rolling my eyes) and also my wedding anniversary, it seems like the topic of love is consistently running through my head. In a way, this post is an extension to my last about “Why I’m Open to Love After Loss.” After losing Paul, I feel like my life has been under a microscope – everyone wants to see what “the widow” or how “the widow” is doing. Every decision comes with the thought, “how is this going to be perceived?” The magnitude of already suffering from being a people pleaser, always looking for the approval of others, has intensified immensely. So naturally when you talk about being open to moving forward in the realm of love – it feels even more so that all eyes are on you. People say there is no timeline to grief – no timeline to moving forward with your life – so why am I hearing that “it’s only been 14 months”…like you think you know if I’m ok or not ok to love again? Why am I explaining my “timetable” to anyone? So I want to address the baggage that I’m carrying and why it looks scary/intimidating but it also comes with compartments full of things you would never expect (good stuff).

I’ve recently explained to many people close to me that being a widow, let alone police widow, that you feel like the untouchable – the one with the scarlet letter in a sense. Like you are so far damaged, way too sad and depressing (because I post sad things about my deceased husband)…or in the police world that it’s viewed as disrespectful to my husband to pursue me with good intentions. And I want to just say right now that all of that is 100% BS coming from the widow herself. Since when did our jobs define our life to the point we don’t pursue love? Like I always say, life is too short and LOVE HAS NO LIMITS. That was a side rant you got for free. πŸ™‚ BUT ANYWAYS, the truth is – I am sad, I am depressed, I am damaged. My question is does that define me? Is that who I am? Are there other people that haven’t lost a spouse that you would say are sad, depressed, damaged? YEP absofreakinglutely. I personally view these as excuses. And you truly don’t KNOW me if that is your only perception.

So here’s the deal with baggage – it is truly what crap you wanna deal or not deal with. You will never, ever meet a person that hasn’t had negative life experiences that have made them be a certain way. Maybe you’ve been cheated on and you don’t trust anyone. Maybe someone made you believe they loved you but their actions didn’t show it – and now your heart is so hard and calloused because of it. Maybe you’re divorced and scared to put yourself out there because you are afraid to fail, again. Being someone that believes real, true love exists can I just say don’t give up. Someone will pick up that baggage and carry it with you. It’s kinda like people saying they will have kids when they reach a certain financial status…ummm if you wait until you have enough money to afford kids, you’re never gonna have them. Just sayin. So why are we waiting to be a whole, complete person with no baggage before we take the plunge in finding love again? I think about Jesus and his love for us when I say this. How many of us can stand before him whole and worthy of his love? None. So I’m asking why are we expecting our human selves to be “fixed” and perfect before pursuing earthly love?

I don’t like using the word baggage for my widow stuff for the simple fact that it sounds negative but it’s purely for illustration purposes. What I want to say about the baggage I’m carrying…it is HEAVY. It is big. It is at times debilitating. It is carrying someone’s legacy and trying so hard not to screw that up. BUT it is beautiful. It is pure love. It is the ability to love someone who isn’t here but also the ability to love someone new with a full heart knowing love is indeed very precious. It is a GIFT. It’s appreciating the moments most take for granted. It’s putting your person ahead of everything every single time because you don’t know what tomorrow holds. It’s forgiving faster. It’s not getting caught up in the little petty things. It’s maximizing your time spent together. It’s saying “I love you” every day and always kissing you goodnight. Don’t mistake this as me saying I’m glad I am a widow that now has a new perspective on life – I wish I wasn’t one. But I would be totally missing the point if I didn’t embrace the new lens through which I see life and love because of what I’ve been through. So while it’s hard for me to feel like the widow with the scarlet letter, I know the special man that God has for me next will appreciate my new eyewear.

P.S. The next man I love is one lucky son of a gun. Period.

KEEP IT REAL

Why I’m Open to Love After Loss

I always talk about feeling something so deep that it’s just part of my DNA. And the part today I’m talking about is my ability to love someone else after losing Paul. Ever since I started dating my high school boyfriend around the age of 14-15, like many teens, I fell hard and fast. Thought I was gonna marry the person, have a house with a white picket fence, 3 kids, minivan, smiling faces, golden retriever, blah blah blah. But life has its way of smacking us right between the eyes right? And there’s a reason there’s a saying “young and dumb.”

In my life, I’ve truly loved 3 people. And when I love, I love HARD. I’ve always been a person that knows exactly what I want when it comes to the realm of love. Have I settled before? Yes. Have I stayed in something far longer than I knew I should’ve because I was comfortable…hopeful things would change? YES. Did I think I had it right and chose to do it MY way instead of getting out of the way for God to do his thing? ABSOLUTELY. To this day, I still suffer repercussions (unfortunately) from the hurts (partially induced on myself) from staying in one particular relationship. It led me to feelings of “what’s wrong with me? Why am I not good enough? I’m not skinny enough, etc…” All this negative self talk over years has still left me at times asking the same questions – yes even after being married to the love of my life who changed the way I felt about me, who made me feel like I was worthy of love.

After I FINALLY left a 7.5 year relationship and after many people (even strangers) were praying for my husband to find me, 3 weeks later, he came onto the scene. And life was NEVER and will NEVER be the same. When I finally met Paul, it all made sense. Every single heart break was worth it. They say “when you know, you know” and I KNEW IT. With everything in me. After our first date, I remember telling my mom “if this isn’t my husband I’m gonna be mad!” When I look back at this time of my life, I am so incredibly thankful and blessed that I had the honor of being a wife to a man that showed me true, unconditional love. Paul made me a priority, over everything, every time. He told me how beautiful I was almost daily. He valued our time together just as much as I did. I recently read through our texts and it was his late weekend night and he said, “…I hate you have to go see people and family alone.” I know in my heart he just wanted to be with me – and I wanted nothing more than to be with him.

As I read that text now, I know Paul doesn’t want me doing things alone – living this life alone. I know he saw in me something I never saw in myself – worthy of being loved. Really truly loved. I often think if he can see me from heaven how his heart would break knowing how alone and sad I am most of the time. I know he doesn’t want that for me. I’m sure he will be grateful for the man that comes along to love me like he did – just a broken soul that loves so deep, that will never let go.

For anyone that’s never experienced a love like this or doesn’t believe it exists, I’m here to tell you I’m living proof. It only took 3 weeks for God to show me after I got out of the way. I’m not saying it will happen this quick for you and I understand feeling like you’re praying for something that seems it will never happen. That’s how I feel now. Honestly, I feel like a spectator to everyone else’s dreams coming true while I’m picking up the pieces to a shattered picture of what I thought my life was going to be at this point. But Paul made me believe in genuine, unselfish love, and I’ll never stop believing because of him.

If you’re married and reading this, consider yourself blessed even if it’s not the greatest of times. You may say you can’t imagine what it’s like living without your spouse – the truth is you can but it hurts so bad to think about it. Live each moment in gratitude with each other. Even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t want to. Take the trip, spend the money, dance in the rain, be spontaneous, DATE YOUR SPOUSE. Don’t waste time. Life is so short and you think you’ll always have time but you never know…

RIP Beautiful Soul, One Who’s Mind Never Lets Go

I walked in the door last night after looking at an ER bill from when I went on December 15th, the day before it would’ve been Paul’s 30th birthday. Insurance denied because it wasn’t in network – I can’t go to the closest one to me because that’s where he died. As soon as I open the door, the dogs go crazy spilling the dog bowl of food everywhere and I think “this is chaos.” My mind immediately thinks that this is the same spot Paul collapsed and that day was of course chaos – and my life has been just that ever since. Everything gets amplified when you suffer such traumatic, tragic loss – what seems little to the average person can seem astronomical and create such huge emotion to the person who’s experienced devastating loss. I fought like hell to keep myself together last night – that’s not dramatic, it’s the truth.

I saw my nieces again last night and Paisley, who’s 6, was telling me “this is the last time I’m going to see you” and Courtney (my sister) explained to me that the look on Paisley’s face is one she gets when she’s getting ready to get super sad. I told her that it was ok, that she’s only going to be gone for a couple days. Her words and the look on her face are what went through my mind as I sat in the bath tub contemplating suicide. On one hand, I thought about how I was going to die and on the other I’m thinking why did she tell me bye with such sadness? Did God know I was gonna need that to remind me to hold on? In my mind I feel like this was a saving grace for me in a very dark moment.

I wish I could say that contemplating suicide is rare for me, but it’s not. My faith has always kept me here for the simple fact of the unknown – would I make it to heaven if I took my life? I can’t risk that. I’ve been told that it’s a matter of the heart when you decide to take your life. I cannot risk if God would show mercy on me for making such a decision.

I get really tired of hearing things like “it would be selfish,” just pray and draw close to Jesus, the only joy in this life is through Christ, pray pray pray. I HAVE BEGGED and pleaded with God. I have begged for healing from depression and anxiety for 3.5 years and when I finally started to get better at the end of October 2017, my husband was taken 2 months later. I don’t doubt the existence of God and the price that was paid on the cross – I’m just asking because I’m human, are you listening God? Do you see me?

I think about people who have committed suicide and what people say about them. “They were a soul too beautiful for this world.” I question if this is why I’m not ok – I know my heart is good, I know I’m a beautiful person from the inside out. Why am I not ok like everyone else SEEMS to be? Oh but don’t compare to everyone else. I don’t hear anyone else being this brutally honest? Are we all just feeding ourselves all this positive BS to make ourselves feel better??

Perhaps all this is the price of me being an over thinker, never being able to live in the moment without trying to figure out what needs to be done for the future. All I know is I’d rather be the poorest person on this planet, walking miles a day for clean water if it meant having my husband to walk beside me to go get it. In a world I know nothing about, I know my love for Paul is so big and deep and the pain of losing him is equally so.

 

What I Really Want to Say

Being a widow, completely 100% sucks.

If you don’t like the Golden Girls, I don’t like you.

There is more to me than the physical appearance – I know because my husband said so.

Halloween oreos taste different than original double stuf.

Stop saying there isn’t a timeline for grief and then expect someone to be ok after 12 months.

Newsflash for dating in 2019 – stop having sex on the first date and maybe things will actually work out? Just a thought.

Black is the new black.

I do love hanging out with my dogs more than you.

Death isn’t that awkward, you are.

Stop rubbernecking….seriously, stop it.

Stop slowing down when someone is pulled over on the OPPOSITE side of the concrete median – they are not gonna ramp the median to come get you SMH.

Don’t say “aw you’re just a baby” – I’ve had more unfortunate life experiences than most 29 year olds.

It IS possible to have friends of the opposite sex.

When a couple breaks up and they both immediately have a replacement but single people can’t even get a decent date?

The world runs on greed.

Intermittent fasting is fancy for “I’m just gonna eat these calories later.”

I prefer action movies over romantic…I see you Mark Wahlberg.

Sometimes you just need to sit next to someone and say “man I feel ya, this sucks” instead of giving a pep talk.

Don’t ever stay sitting down when the song “Yeah” by Usher comes on. I don’t.

Ladies: Always choose the black leggings…every time.

Sometimes just shut up and listen.

Dudes…ya’ll just need to stop being so gross.

Being in the worst pain and wanting to be held while you cry but you can’t – that’s widow pain.

I don’t always let kids win the games, screw the “everyone gets an award mentality.”

I tell my nieces all the time they are BEAUTIFUL.

I wear my wedding set whenever I want.

I’m a Golden Girl trapped in a Sex and the City kind of world.

P.S. Blondes DO have more fun!

 

The Heart of the Matter

Ever wish you didn’t have a big heart? Feeling like you want to be there for any and everyone and you keep having the unrealistic expectation that the same will be done for you? The people pleaser in me thrives and DIES by it. Here’s what I’ve learned about my addiction to fixing…

  1. YOU CANNOT FIX EVERYONE/THEIR PROBLEMS. I believe this was part of why I became a nurse. I had the genuine, deep rooted in my DNA, drive to help people. I wanted to save everyone! What I realized is that I was taking every single problem as a personal mission – wow no wonder I was always disappointed when I couldn’t complete it. I do this in my personal life often. The saying, “you can’t help others unless they are willing to help themselves” is one of the truest statements I’ve ever heard. Let me say this to those of you trying to “fix” people in your life…IT IS NOT YOUR JOB. You will continuously be disappointed at your efforts because this was a job not created for you. Take a deep breath and let that burden be lifted.
  2. FOCUSING ON YOURSELF/PROBLEMS/LIFE IS NOT SELFISH. How in the world can you help someone if you are a total mess yourself? I wrestle with that because NEWS FLASH, we are all a mess in some capacity. We are all struggling through something in this life whether it’s something people know about or an internal battle. I used to watch Dr. Phil religiously, and he would often say “I’m going to take you out of the game [of life].” Sometimes you have to take a break from all your responsibilities and focus on getting yourself in a better mental state so you can come back refreshed with a new perspective to take on your issues, etc. Like I’ve said before, self care isn’t selfish, it’s smart. Acknowledge your limits – don’t let others continue to drink from your well and leave you deprived. You are the only one that knows your limitations and YOU control what/who gets your energy. It is ok to say no…read that again, IT IS OK TO SAY NO…and more than once.
  3. FOCUS ON YOUR INNER CIRCLE. I want to say on the other hand that WE WILL NEVER HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER, EVER. So, don’t mistake this as you’re completely off the hook for helping anyone ever again in this life (not that my fellow people pleasers would actually believe that anyways) – I believe we have to embrace that helping each other through is a big part of our purpose here. Life is so hard, and if you haven’t experienced the waves of life that bring you to your knees yet, brace yourself because it’s coming. I read in the book “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Niequist about focusing on our inner circle (your spouse, children, very best friends). Next circle is extended family and good friends, and the outer is colleagues and people you know but not as well. The goal is to disappoint the inner circle as rarely as possible and understand that it’s ok not to give the outer circles the same attention you would the inner – you are allowed to disappoint that circle at the cost of your inner. I look at it like this…you will continually bite off more than you can chew when you take on with your whole heart helping every single person in all your circles. Start with the inner – and you’ll soon realize that the anxiety/pressure is lessened and guess what? You are actually setting a more ATTAINABLE, SUSTAINABLE expectation for yourself.

The only person who did/can take on the burdens of this world is Jesus Christ. While it’s great to become more like Him, know that again the pressure is off for you – He has already overcome it all. So please stop trying to carry it all, for everyone. Give it to Him. It took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t the only “lifeline” – I was really a very poor one, and it was quite egotistical for me to even think that in the first place. Often times prayer is all I have to give and that is one of the greatest things I could ever offer.

Keep It Real

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: Why We Battle the Diagnosis

Ever since I learned about what PTSD was, it was portrayed to me that this was a diagnosis for only a certain group of people. You know who I’m talking about right? Yes, those who are or have been a part of the military. It makes perfect sense of course as they have seen the unthinkable, literally been in a fight for their lives at some point or another. And I’ve wrestled with the idea of being placed in the same category as these heroic men and women. But here’s the thing that I want to say in general about traumas: WE ALL EXPERIENCE THEM. No they may not be in combat, but we all have “traumas” in our lives. Just like you wouldn’t compare someone else’s grief to another, you cannot compare someone else’s trauma to another. I want to share my personal trauma that led to my diagnosis…and why accepting it has helped put me on a path to healing.

What led to my diagnosis of PTSD was the unexpected, tragic death of my husband Paul. On December 20th of 2017, he collapsed in our home, and I performed CPR. I remember the look on Paul’s face as he was fighting for air, the call to 9-1-1, the firefighters and EMT’s flooding my house, the sirens and lights from the ambulance while we were en route to the hospital, the stretcher he was laying lifeless on, the doctor saying “we’ve done everything we can,” laying next to him and feeling no heartbeat in his chest, seeing him blue and feeling his coldness through his hair after being embalmed on Christmas Day before being transferred to Scottsville for visitation, seeing his body in a casket, kissing him for the last time before the casket was officially closed. Talk about horrific memories that are forever etched into my mind.

As I am nearing 13 months out from that day, I still experience symptoms of PTSD. I will go through periods where I require prescription medicine to sleep, the lights/sirens of a fire truck or ambulance give me flashbacks, hospitals and doctor visits give me extreme anxiety, the images of my husband dying or dead replay over and over in my mind (so many times because I still cannot comprehend that he isn’t here). I have trouble focusing on certain tasks – I’ve just now gotten to the point where I can read some of a book or finish TV shows because my attention/concentration was completely disrupted. Some days I get full of rage that seems to come from nowhere, hatred for others actions or hatred for myself. And when I say rage, it’s the seeing red, wanting to demolish everything in my house without caring kind of feeling – loss of complete control. Because PTSD makes me feel just that – like I’m no longer in control. The negative, intrusive thoughts from that day come without warning, taking me back to a period in time I wish I could forget.

Someone asked me when I got back from Honey Lake Clinic what has helped me deal with PTSD. Here are a couple things that have helped:

1. Journaling – probably one of the biggest things. When I start to have negative thoughts, I stop what I’m doing, grab my journal and write it all out. It doesn’t have to be in fancy sentences with perfect punctuation etc. The important thing is to acknowledge that your thoughts are getting intense and to STOP what you are doing and journal right away. Sometimes I’ve turned on some of my worship or sad (I know that sounds weird) music to also help in my writing. It’s truly whatever works for you. Sometimes I journal in silence so I’m not distracted by the music.

2. Prayer – I almost put faith to include reading my bible but that doesn’t really help me in these moments, sounds good tho. πŸ™‚ But I do pray – I ask God please let these images leave me. Help me remember those happy memories of Paul. Let me dream about Paul and let it be good (not the nightmares I sometimes have). I beg for help. I don’t put this in fancy words either. I talk to God like I’m talking to my friends, shoot I even talk to Paul and have him put in a good word for me to the Lord just to give a little extra assurance He gets the message.

3. Belly breathing – this is the kind of breathing that makes you feel fat but makes you feel better…for real! Google 4-7-8 breathing. Warning: this can make you sleepy so make sure you are sitting or laying down! It helps calm your system and of course I forgot the exact science but I promise it works.

4. Grounding – I’ve had out of body experiences with PTSD. It’s that feeling where you know you are there in the room but you feel like you aren’t really there. This has made me feel like I’m going to pass out or something, it’s a complete mind f*ck. To help with this, you focus on things like “ok I feel my toes touching the floor” or you tap your fingers one by one on your leg. It helps bring you back into reality, sorta like the pinching yourself like yes I really am here alive and breathing in this room.

5. Run away – yep you read that correctly. On 12/30/18, I did just that. I woke up with absolute rage, self hatred, heart and mind racing, I had to get the heck out of my house. I’ve done this a few times in the last year and I’m fortunate enough to be able to do so. Getting out of my normal environment, away from all the anxiety inducing things, taking a social media break, and just relaxing helps me tremendously. There’s a different kind of peace that comes in changing scenery for a few days.

Living with PTSD is a battle itself as my trauma has changed every single cell in my body. I’m still learning to be kind to myself in those moments where it hits me with full force. I also feel it’s important to educate those around you about why you are the way you are, what doesn’t help when you are being triggered, and what they can do to help in this journey (although so many times I don’t know the answer to this).

Keep Fighting and Keep It Real…