The hardest part about living with a chronic illness is living with a chronic illness.
Meaning, I have to be aware of my triggers, the things that make me sick, at all times. Excess busyness, excess activity, excess inflammatory foods and alcohol… all those things are difficult to escape in December… but they take a toll on me in ways most people don’t have to worry about.
I go big. I love parties. I love people. I love LIVING life. Until it all becomes too much, and I crash.
This last week I felt a crash. Minimal crash compared to the destructive collisions of the past. I have an excellent support system, I am self-aware, and I am learning to communicate when I need help. So to be clear, I am OKAY. But I knew something was off. I thought I was getting sick. My chest felt tight like I couldn’t breathe, my body felt heavy, and I couldn’t get through my typical yoga practice without taking multiple child poses to rest. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to read my new nutrition book (big sign something was off). I was negative with my husband and my kids, who I love more than the world.
I taught public school for 11 years, and every spring we received a special training in “active monitoring.” Nobody looks forward to active monitoring. It is the job teachers take on during the end of year state assessments. All certified teachers must stay on their feet during the majority of the test, walking up and down the aisles, making sure nobody is looking at another test, or marking in another section, or eating, or ANYTHING that would cause them to get marked up as a “state testing irregularity.” I dreaded these days every year, because I knew if I lost focus for one second, something could happen and I would get marked up and have my state teaching certificate questioned or revoked or torn up or SOMETHING horrible would happen.
Living with a mental illness requires active monitoring. Much like how I used to roam the aisles of my classroom, eyes alert for any misconduct or twitch of movement, I constantly roam my brain and my body for signs of disorder.
Last weekend I spent time with a group of girls who have known me longer than anyone else besides my own family. We talked for hours and hours, laughing and sharing stories, erasing years and distance. It was refreshing and healing.
The final morning I found our senior yearbook, from all the way back in 1999. Flipping through it, I noticed something. Page after page, a familiar face kept popping up at me. My own. Every activity, every party, every event. The more pictures I saw, the more I cringed. The inward narrative started.
“Ugh, why did you have to do so much?”
“Why were you always a camera hog?”
“You must have been so annoying!”
“Why are you always That Girl?”
Insecurities surfaced with the old narrative. Yes, it was clear that I lived with a deep need to find my worth in my activity and my achievements. We went to a small private school, so plenty of opportunities for over-involvement existed. Still, it hurt to watch it unfold in this book, as I know I STILL so often act out of a craving for approval and acceptance. Continue reading “I’m That Girl”→
The day started like any other. Kids woke up, ate breakfast, fought a bit, then we headed to the gym (free childcare!) to get some energy out. It’s 500 degrees outside right now and I needed me time. I came home with a recharged battery, but that’s when it all hit the fan.
The soon-to-be-freshman talked back one too many times, so I took away her EVERYTHING. No phone, no technology, no (gasp) music. The 4 year old and 21 month old decided that was a great time to start terrorizing each other. One thing after another. All. Day. Long.
By the afternoon, I was done. My yoga breaths failed me, and my emotional capability to deal with ANY MORE nonsense plummeted. I needed a way to cope, to self-soothe. I could raid my pantry, I could tune everyone out and hop on my phone to scroll other people’s lives that looked so much more fulfilling, or… I could open up some wine. Continue reading “Wine Not?”→
This little girl didn’t know that in 10 years she would wish for death. She loved her family, her new siblings, and Jesus, too. Much like the Tom Petty song, she was about to take a free fall – down the path of a broken brain.
She was a preacher’s daughter with a genetic disposition to mental illness. Add on to that various health issues like chronic ear infections, asthma, allergy shots, antibiotics and steroids… and a budding sugar addiction, due to poor gut health. She was all energy and filled with curiosity, wanting to know the how and why of everything. So one day, when the darkness closed in, she would questions why she couldn’t just pray it away.