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. 🙂 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…

 

Poppin’ Bottles

Let me paint this picture for you…It’s a beautiful summer evening, I believe in July, and I’m sitting on the back deck at my house journaling and listening to music. Accompanying me in my grief and loneliness was my favorite Moscato wine. Man it went down way too easy, every sip numbing the pain eating away at my soul…or was it? It didn’t take long for that buzz to turn into the full blown feeling of drunkenness and for that pain to become so alive you could almost physically see it. I’m texting those I know will answer me – letting them know “yeah I’m ok just drunk, feeling good.” Good went to absolute shit quick…

At the time, I had possession of Paul’s off duty gun that I requested back from my brother in law who I reassured I was “good” to have it in my house. As I’m sitting on the deck with the sun fading to dark, my thoughts became the same. With the tears flowing effortlessly, the pain of losing the love of my life overtaking any other feeling, my mind went straight to the loaded glock sitting in my closet. Just the thought of the gun was propelling me towards it – my mind saying you can end this RIGHT NOW. Man what an amazing thought. All of this would be over. By the grace of God, I used what brain cells were still rationally thinking and called someone to come over ASAP to disarm it. And so here I am today telling this story because so many need to hear it. Not because it’s about me, not because it is so freakin sad and I want your sympathy, but because we have people doing this every single day – many not making it out alive. I thank God I’m able to share these following thoughts with you.

When I look back, I ask myself how many times alcohol has done me a favor in this life? Sure I’ve had fun while drinking, dancing the night away with friends. It’s been nice to sit down at dinner with girlfriends and have a few drinks. This is not the kind of “poppin bottles” I’m talking about. I want to talk about the kind no one wants to admit – people turn a blind eye to – they rationalize it’s acceptance. You’ve heard it but many times has it been a passive, non-serious conversation…I’m talking about COPING and SELF-MEDICATING.

Rough days at work or your daily hatred for your job driving you to pick up a cold one…or 2…or 6? The pain of losing a loved one? The life you always pictured now completely wiped out? The marriage that’s failing? The divorce that has gotten ugly or the one you didn’t ask for? Your kids that won’t listen, that don’t want anything to do with you? Loneliness, self hate, the voice in your head saying there’s no other way out? That one thing that you have failed at time and time again you feel you will never beat? Chronic illness? Tragedy? WHAT IS IT YOU ARE RUNNING FROM???

Gosh how many times do we want to run away from the emotions that don’t feel good to experience? Think about it. Why does the term “liquid courage” exist? You know “a drunk man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts.” What would happen in this society if we checked our motive for drinking, put down the bottle, and had an honest conversation with ourselves and/or others? STOP RUNNING FROM EMOTIONS BY DRINKING – they will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS come back and find you the next time. And most likely, they will be amplified because they were never processed the first time aroud.

I’ve struggled with self-medicating with alcohol a few times in my life – mostly during times of great heartache and stress. Ever heard that “sin takes you farther than you wanna go, costs you more than you wanna pay, keeps you longer than you wanna stay?” It rings so true over the history of my life in my times of drunkenness. Do I live with regrets from decisions I made, things I said/did in those moments? Absolutely. I’ve had to make the change to be sober at various points in my life because I knew I was drinking for all the wrong reasons. So I just want you to be honest with yourself and ask the question, “why am I drinking?” And if your answer is to cope with your life, what are you going to do to change it?

P.S. Because this was so heavy I have something funny. I am NOT a beer drinker. I was told it is an acquired taste…think how silly that sounds. My response has always been “so if I eat cow shit long enough, I’ll like it?” HA so ridiculous!!

 

KEEP IT REAL

 

 

What Anxiety Really is…and What it’s Not

Whew I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been angered/offended or felt downright crazy after hearing people’s interpretation of what they think anxiety is or what’s really “wrong” with people who claim to have it. Or maybe what’s worse, a sermon addressing anxiety and depression…dear baby Jesus help me if I hear the scriptures “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” or “don’t be anxious for anything” ONE. MORE. TIME. Let me make sure you feel the passion in this disclaimer…I LOVE JESUS, I’m grateful for the truth (word of God), worship music – I simply wouldn’t still be on this earth without my faith in Christ. But I am human, I’m not Jesus Christ and because of that I can say let me be real about this. I pride myself on saying those things that people are really thinking but too afraid to say out loud. “I’m a Christian, I can’t say that.” Umm yeah you can! A relationship with Christ should be honest – I mean He already knows what you’re thinking anyways! Don’t we expect honesty in our relationships with others? So why are we not honest with the One who created us, the One who created relationships? Why are we not honest with ourselves? I promise we will get to anxiety (I’m actually showing you exactly what it looks like in these words…squirrel, squirrel, squirrel!).

I’ve struggled with anxiety since childhood. Did I know that until I was 28 years old? Nope. I remember being on the bus as a child and hating every single moment. It was such a long ride, the country music was irritating, it was hot, my blood was boiling with hatred for it. I got physically sick every year when the county tourney for basketball came around because guess what? I was ANXIOUS. I remember from a very early age feeling like I had to perform very well both academically and in sports. Was this expectation innate or influenced by my peers/environment? I’d say both. Being hard on myself is without a doubt in my DNA. I can’t talk about anxiety without bringing up a pair of black shoes I had to wear to school one day in the 3rd grade. They were too big, and they were at the forefront of my mind the entire day. I kept thinking – I’m sure everyone knows my family isn’t wealthy that’s why I’m wearing these shoes that don’t fit, I look so stupid, I hate myself, I can’t wait to take these off and never wear them ever again. Can you imagine a 3rd grader saying this to their little heart? My 29 year old heart breaks for that little girl. I was never abused as a child, never made fun of (until I was older), all my basic needs met, I felt loved by my parents. So why did I feel this way? ANXIETY!!!!

Fast forward to 29 years old and being in essentially the pits of hell in regards to depression, grief, anxiety, PTSD for the last year. One of my biggest feelings as a result of having anxiety is “I am crazy.” And I feel alone and isolated as a result. My brain never stops. It is constantly going, even in my dreams…or should I say nightmares at times. I look at “normal” people just coasting through life wishing I could be them. Wishing I could just LIVE. Here are examples of anxiety in my life:

SELF: I need to go work out and lose weight/be healthier, but I can’t bring myself to make it to gym. What if people watch me and I’m doing a machine wrong? What if they hear me heavy breathing over their ear buds because I’m so out of shape? What if I have butt or boob sweat (people you know it’s real!)? What if they see everything jiggling (because God knows I feel it)? I know I’m an “all or nothing” mentality – I’ll either become addicted to it or it will fizzle out after a week. What’s the point?

Work: What is my next career path? I’m a failure because I can’t be a nurse anymore. What if I never find happiness in my work? Am I doing the work God has called me to do?

Becoming a wife again and becoming a mom: Will someone ever love me like Paul? Will someone ever be able to accept my love/heartbreak/trauma/bad and sad days related to my first husband? Can they accept my face is on a headstone already? Will I ever be whole enough to love like I did the first time? Will I ever be able to live freely without the fear of losing love again if I find it? This brings me to tears…hits me in all the feels. Will I be able to carry a child considering I have endometriosis and a blood clotting disorder? Or if I stay single can I handle being a foster parent or adopting a child by myself? Oh how my heart longs to be a mom…

Mental self: Will I ever have mental peace? Will I ever be ok? Will I always depend on medication to have some normalcy? Why me? How much more money will I need to invest in getting myself better/healthier/whole? Am I just weak?

Social media: Should I post or no? Maybe I post too much. People don’t wanna hear what I have to say. So and so didn’t like my post maybe they think I’m dumb. Constantly checking IG and FB. Comparison comparison comparison. I’m almost 30 and no where near where everyone else my age is.

I encourage you if you have anxiety to write your anxiety out. What keeps you up at night? What do your thoughts obsess about? What activities or things does your anxiety keep you from doing? I believe it could be a step towards healing. One thing I want to say that a counselor told me was anxiety, or any mental illness for that matter, is not your MIND it is your BRAIN. If people could talk themselves out of it, they would. We wouldn’t have people committing suicide if it was simply CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS. That’s why I personally think cognitive behavioral therapy is absolute BS. Would you tell someone with a broken leg that if they just think about their bones being fused back together it will be healed? Please you have lost your mind. Why would we suggest the same for a chemical imbalance of your brain?? Think your way out of it? Uhhh that’s kinda what got me here in the first place ain’t it?

I could go on and on because mental illness is something I’m highly passionate about. I personally find comfort in not suffering in silence. It helps me feel less isolated and more normal. Of everything I’ve learned, you do what is BEST for you. You are the only person who knows best what that means. Self care isn’t selfish, it is SMART.

P.S. This message was brought to you after therapy and valium 🙂 Keep it real people!