I’ve truly never understood the phrase love/hate-relationship more than after experiencing this year, 2020. In the worst ways my faith was tested. Everything I knew had changed drastically at what felt like all the same time. In the beginning of this year I was hopeless. I’d lost myself completely. I lost my young cousin to suicide. I left the longest consistent relationship I had ever been in and it was no wonder my physical health was struggling because my mental health was at an all time low and I’m not even sure to this day how I let it get so deep. Deep enough to change my world, but I see now that might not have necessarily been the worst thing to happen. I was crying everyday and I’d let myself go in every possible way. Understandably no one wanted to be around me. I didn’t even want to be around myself. I felt dark. I felt ugly. I felt like a fire truck came and hosed down all the light I had inside until I was dark and had nothing to offer anyone. January/February I was still working but didn’t feel purposeful anymore which I’ve learned is a very important piece of the puzzle. In order to be of service to others in any way shape or form you have to realize your worth and purpose. I’d lost mine and so going to work even though I was surrounded by lovely new people everyday still felt worthless. I didn’t feel like I was helping anyone because my spirit was so low.
In comes March and coronavirus hits and just when I think things can’t possibly get worse I’m now quarantined, no work to distract my mind, living in this new unknown fear of a deadly pandemic and I can’t leave the house. From March to at least May.. maybe June, I literally did not leave the house. I’m getting packages I bought delivered to the house, wiping them down with bleach wipes and letting them sit 24 hours before opening. I’m truly starting to think, being so severely “immunocompromised,” is life ever going to be the same for me? Because if not, I really don’t know how much longer I can live like this. I’m doing treatments for cancer, and in just this short time since the new year started I’ve been diagnosed with new obstacles that are keeping me from any sort of positivity. I’m in pain. Bone necrosis (the death of bone) is spreading fast and we’re talking about knee and hip replacements at 29. I’m only in the house but can’t get around without a walker or crutches. I’m weak. I’m sad. I’m tired and not just sleepy tired, I mean my soul is tired. I’m coming off a fresh unwanted heartbreak, family tragedy, health in despair and now what feels like a permanent quarantine due to a deadly pandemic.
It would’ve been so easy to give up. And then I remember.. one day after receiving two brand new lungs. Two respiratory therapists come into my room literally 24 hours after having my thoracic cavity broken open and sewn back together and they tell me, “Alright, it’s time to walk.” Walk? Like get up and use my legs? I laughed. I’m in my twenties and I need a good 2 days rest after a hangover. There is no way after 24 hours of a double lung transplant am I even entertaining the thought of sitting up in this bed let alone getting out of it. Those RT’s, they don’t take no for an answer. I’m forever thankful for that. I remembered that just a few weeks prior to this, professionals expected me dead. My doctors at the University of Penn and my second opinion team at John’s Hopkins estimated very little time left for me to live… and there I was, after a successful transplant from a selfless organ donor, with the OPPORTUNITY to walk. They helped me up out of bed… 7 chest tubes hanging out from inside me. I’m hooked up to IVs and breathing machines and oxygen and I place my hands on this metal assist that looks like a walker with two respiratory therapists on each side of me and I place one foot in front of the other leaning all this sore painful weight on the walker, and bam, I am walking the hall of the ICU 24 hrs after life saving surgery. And that memory jolts something inside me.
The first few weeks of quarantine were unexplainable. Uncertain. Unknown. How long is this going to last? I miss my friends. My family. I have so much I want to keep my mind distracted from but how is that possible stuck inside these same four walls with so little to do? With no where to go? I wake up, shower, eat, nap, repeat. I know this isn’t healthy but I’m tired. I’m lazy to the idea of anything that could pull me up from this rut because honestly, I’m starting to get comfortable here. I’m getting high everyday…(prescribed, but still a bad habit), to escape reality but when it wears off I just need double the dose or accept the sober reality that I’m wasting a lot of time here. I worked so hard for these days. If that girl who took her first walk saw her future self in this rut, she truly just wouldn’t allow it. And so, I didn’t.
It took months. Back and forth with healing and growing. Good days. Dreadful days. Still shooting unanswered texts to my ex for I don’t even know what reason honestly. I guess the comfort of some kind of past connection that would just pull me backwards.. Lots of bumps. Lots of tests, but this time I decided I was going to break this pattern by changing my response… by staying consistent.
My first step was downloading this app called The Fabulous. It allows you to set the most simple reminders to yourself each day and rewards you with a little star and the feeling of accomplishment for doing these simple things… things I’d stopped doing and lost interest for during the beginning of the year. Yes, embarrassingly, things like making sure to drink water, brush your teeth, take a shower, eat a meal. I started adding more things to my daily list until I had a solid morning, afternoon and nighttime ROUTINE. I looked forward to that feeling of accomplishment and even though some days were nearly impossible, I stuck with it.
Then, I realized I needed to do something, anything to make me feel a sense of purpose. For over ten years I’ve been a volunteer at Camilla Hall Nursing Home where I receive my deepest rewards of purpose and meaning, but they’re not accepting volunteers during the virus. I’m not working so I can’t interact with others and this soul of mine that feeds off of spreading love and light has never felt so isolated. I get an idea. I go to Amazon and buy a “make your own card kit.” I can’t be the only one craving human interaction right now and the act of GIVING always fills my cup far more than receiving. Couple days later my card kit is in the mail and I’ve got my hot glue gun out. I spend my days intricately creating these beautiful homemade “thinking of you” cards with ribbons and rhinestones and lettering and lace. I’m sending them to everyone I miss. Tons of friends, family, people I think might be struggling. This leads me to an ever bigger idea. I talk to my dear friend and woman who took over my Volunteer Coordinator position at the hospice. She has Mothers on hospice and Veterans and Fathers who all would benefit from cards for Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s Day, etc. she drops off some supplies and now I’m creating and writing letters to hospice patients.. my true passion.
Each of these things light a fire in me and give me the strength to continue healing, continue growing.
One of the biggest changes I credit my present well-being to, I see one of my friends post about a Meditiation group she’s part of. I’ve been doing work to help others and as much as I receive from that, I’ve never done work solely on myself. I used to think that was selfish until I realized I can’t TRULY help anyone or offer any of my gifts if I don’t work on myself too.
I sign up. Everything changed.
I spent over an hour a day and still do practicing mindful, guided Meditiation. My guides have a specific method and the first level is letting go of our lived life. This doesn’t mean erasing memories. This means taking the “images” of our lives experiences up until present and letting go of all the illusion and emotional attachments to those images. It’s not easy. Sometimes they melt away easily and sometimes you have to force these images out to make room for peace and clarity. When I started my Meditiation practice, I visioned this humongous mountain of memories and pain and relationships and people and mistakes I’ve made and regrets I’ve held and all of these emotions and I visioned them as a big big mountain. I used to get mad during meditation. Frustrated. Because no matter how long I focused or tried some things just would not budge. My mentor said, what if we try just moving some rocks every day? It will take its time, but just a rock a day will undoubtedly make that mountain smaller. And so each and everyday, whether it be a massive chunk or a little pebble, I’m showing up. I’m being present at the foot of my mountain and guess what? It’s not so big anymore.
I took it further. I stuck with Meditiation and started my journey from just being religious and faithful to being spiritual. I started slow with crystal work and journaling… getting outside and feeling the energy of Mother Nature and the magic of our earth. I kept up with daily Meditiation and retreats with like-minded spirits. Soul searching. Writing. Reading. Healing. Self love. Self care. Digging deeper. Meeting regularly with nutritionists and changing my diet not for weight purposes but for better nutrition. The pandemic lightened up for a bit and I allowed myself the feeling of safely connecting with people places and things so much more presently than ever before. I found importance and purpose in the power of the present and realized how much time and energy I’d been spending before during the present, consumed with patterns of the past and worries of the future.
I started a more wholistic approach to health and wellness and although I know the importance and power of today’s medicine, there’s nothing quite like a soulful breathwork session. During nausea spells and hospital stays I was prescribed powerful drugs with side effects like compazine and zofran and then quickly experimented and figured out for myself that peppermint & ginger essential oils gave me the same relief. I started an all natural cbd regimen and my knee replacement has been postponed for SIX months because the pain has decreased so significantly. I’m officially off opioids. I sleep better. I’m refreshed. I’m healthy.
It’s now the end of November and although this has been the most painful year of my life, I’ve also never learned so much about life or myself. I even, bravely, allowed myself a mountain getaway, plant medicine journey, that I may or may not write about one day, but I came home with an entirely new view on this beautiful life and also gained an extremely secure and proud sense of self. My soul feels warm and inviting. Bright. Soft. Yellow. Welcoming. Friendly. Like home.
I don’t feel so dark anymore. I worked hard for that.
I use the term “fell into” loosely because I’m a firm believer now more than ever that the universe controls it all, but I’ve even “fell into” an entirely new career which I’ve seemed to manifest simply through doing something that comes natural and easy to me. I was trying to obtain something I could do from both home and in the hospital and no sooner, after offering to run a friends business Instagram, requests started flooding in with local businesses asking me to run their social media platforms as well. To date, I have my hands full with six businesses.
This month I had a routine transplant follow up — my mind and spirit have been healing so beautifully that there was no doubt in my mind that my body wouldn’t follow along. I wound up having the best number lung functions I’ve had in years. Years. This only contributes to my new thinking that the body, mind and soul are so extremely connected.
This year isn’t over and if I’m lucky, I’ll face more hurdles that prepare me for a higher self and strength. I’m writing this because at one point in the beginning of this year, I almost gave up. It seems the lower I allowed myself to get, the higher I set myself up to be. I want anyone who had the patience to read this whole thing to know your fire doesn’t burn out until YOU say so. I wanted so badly to allow that fire inside me to burn out but it just wouldn’t, and I didn’t have it in me to put it out myself knowing that healing IS, WAS and ALWAYS WILL BE possible if you put the work in.
I no longer put energy toward the people, places and things that don’t serve me. I don’t see it as selfish anymore, but instead, necessary. I give of myself in every way I can because that’s what fills my cup, but I remember at the same time that giving TO myself is just as important. I wish this for you and anyone struggling this year, or ever.
My door is always open.
Keep that fire burning and spread your light EVERYWHERE.