Ups and Downs

Hey everyone,

It’s been awhile since I posted. I last said I was going into surgery to fix a problem than had been ignored for over 20 years.

I am happy to say, my surgery went well. Once they opened up my back, it was very clear why I have had bouts of paralysis for years and things were much more dire than imaging simply made it show. I was lucky to end up with an extremely talented neurosurgeon, who fixed what he could, but will probably have a couple more surgeries to completely remedy the problem. I’m ok with it if it means I’m going to continue to walk for a very long time.

So posting has been hard as I’ve been on lots of pain medicine, which has caused me not to trust my instincts and live with some bad decisions. Pain medicine is necessary when you go through major surgery, but not fun as I hate not feeling like I’m in control of my life.

I had someone volunteer to come care for me, and I believe she had really great intentions, and I appreciate what she could do for me, but I also realized some things were not quite right, which led to a low.

I was so excited about understanding how important connecting with others was in my last post. Well, today left me hating people, the world, and feeling used, and like I’m only good enough for what I can give others. For once, I wish someone would offer to take care of me, because they truly wanted to, not because they needed an escape, money, I’m a better option, etc. All my life, I’ve had to ask others for help, only to be disappointed that it wasn’t really about helping me, it was more about what I could do for them. This, sadly, was the case once again. As I said, I believe her intentions were good, but I realized that this person and so many in my past don’t really care about helping me, they are first and foremost helping them self, and my needs are very secondary, if on the list at all.

I hate being looked at as an opportunity. I wish someone would care for me without asking for money or needing a place to live or just getting something out of me. It reinforces so much of my trauma patterns in my head that I’m only good enough if I’m the one giving to others.

Leaving the hospital, I could barely walk. I needed someone to basically do everything for me without having to take care of someone else’s financial and emotional needs. Unfortunately, this is what happened. Instead of my healing, I was the one doing the caretaking. It really is my fault in a lot of ways. I knew this would happen on some level and should have asked someone else, or I should have gone to skilled nursing where they would have taken care of me and only me, and I wouldn’t have had to worry about taking care of another person.

It was such a low. In fact, I was feeling so so so low. I began to question if anyone truly cared about me or loved me just for me?? I feel like people see me and see money or see that I have nice things and that I’m buying a house, so I’m a way out to bigger and better things for them. The truth is, I have these things as I buy NOTHING. I never go out. I never eat at a restaurant. I only buy things on super cheap clearance. I follow my budget strictly. I have nice things because I work super hard at saving to not buy frivolous things or “impulse” buys so I can have what I really want. I’m not rich. I’m not a millionaire. I am a woman who is a single mom supporting myself and my son on basically a disability income.

I was low and my self esteem went into the depths of the toilet having these realizations about myself. I then reached out on facebook for needing help packing up my house to move in a couple weeks as I’m restricted from doing anything for a couple months with the back surgery. I ended up as the hours went by, people began to offer. People began to offer who were using their only day off to help ME!! When I asked what they wanted in return, it was simply nothing but to know they could help me and to see me! They didn’t want money! They didn’t want an escape! They didn’t even want a place to live! All they wanted was to help with no alternative motive that wasn’t going to be thrown in last minute. This was the high. The high is that people do love me for just me, not for what I can offer them tangibly. People simply wanted to help as it was the right thing to do.

I have honestly been so confused the past week since coming home from the hospital as to why things were happening the way they were. I couldn’t figure out why I needed help with so many things, but the person helping wasn’t doing it, except to ask for more and more money and just eat me out of house and home with the promise of helping in a couple weeks??!! I was so confused as I thought helping was about helping, not about being an ATM machine.

I know when I have helped others in the past, I didn’t expect anything in return. I helped for the sheer joy of helping others. As I have reiterated, I’m sure the person helping me wasn’t completely intentional in all of this, but the fact it happened, was pretty heartbreaking and made me feel low and useless and unworthy. I know her part wasn’t about me. I’m sure her own patterns of operating in this world affected her decision making.

The good that came out of it is that I realized I’m better than being used by anyone. I will continue to help others without anything in return, and I will expect others to help me for the same reasons. Having things be conditional or strings attached just reminds me way too much of my dysfunctional family.

Do I still love and care about the person that was helping me with all these conditions? Absolutely, but it was also an excellent reminder that I need to set boundaries with people, especially when they are doing things that are wrong to me and making me feel bad. I set a boundary today! I asked her to leave for awhile! I am super proud of myself as anyone with trauma knows that setting boundaries is hard. We HATE setting them as we get afraid people will get mad or won’t like us anymore. My new way of thinking is that boundaries make ME feel good regardless of how the other person feels. I honestly enjoyed a peaceful evening for the first time in a week. It was relaxing to only have to care for my needs and my sons. We are both in sync with each other and each of our physical and emotional needs are not overwhelming and so important to to me.

So, don’t allow yourself to be walked all over. No one is a door mat no matter how nice the person may appear. If you get an uneasy feeling in your gut, trust it. I know trauma makes it so we don’t trust any signals our body gives us, and it took me a week to figure out that my gut was giving me huge red flags and warnings. I set my boundary though. It made me extremely uncomfortable at first, but look! I had a peaceful evening again. Peaceful enough that I could gather my thoughts to post on my blog, which is hugely important to me.

So go for it! Set some boundaries. Boundaries, ironically will give you your own freedom and will keep you safe!

Love

Lizzie

Connection…It finally Connected

(Feeling strong with the help of people all over the world. Thank you!!)

I know I’ve talked about connection and needing to have people in your life, but this final week has sealed so much for me.

I used to think doing it alone and “figuring it out myself” was the way. I had a pathological independence. I truly believed that if you leaned on others, they would just disappoint you. Pretty much everyone until recently really did disappoint me. The thing I’m trying to figure out is that I probably set myself up for disappointment and it wasn’t all their fault. Truth is, my own self hatred made me allow myself to only know disappointment and people who couldn’t truly help.

Since my legs went numb and totally weak 8 days ago, all I’m doing is relying on others. I realize they’re limits of what they can offer, and I have to make sure my part is clear too in being precise in my needs. Needs, what are those? Those are those things you want to say, but hold back for fear of looking stupid. What’s stupid is that we don’t ask, so we never receive. People can say no and still love you. People can negotiate to what they are capable of and still care. No does not equal rejection. Often no means boundaries and for those traumatized people such as me, I need super clear boundaries!!

I don’t know exactly what I’m trying to convey, but being in a hospital where I can’t even get to the bathroom alone for a week now has taught me that sharing my burdens of my pain is absolutely freeing. I can ride on the backs of so many people who are helping me from the CNAs to my neurosurgeon to friends in close proximity to friends around the country and world. I guess I’m feeling lucky and strong and more grateful than ever to have figured this out.

So I head into surgery to hopefully fix a problem that I haven’t gotten validation for for over 20 years. Surgery is scary, but I know I have an entire team fighting for me.

Best of all, I’m fighting for me. I have tons to do yet, whether I’m walking or not!

You keep fighting for you too!

Love

Lizzie

Taking Charge When You Have NO Control

(Forcing my useless legs into yoga positions to feel like I have the slightest bit of control in an uncontrollable situation)

Yesterday, I shared that I was having spinal cord surgery today, well due to miscommunication, it didn’t happen. I don’t know when it will happen, if it will happen, what’s going to happen… I just don’t know.

I found myself becoming overwhelmed with fear. A dear friend/angel said that of course I’m scared. People with PTSD have huge fears about situations they can’t control and are unknown, especially when it comes to their bodies.

I spent much of my day in lots of fear, much physical pain, and plenty of isolating myself. I then got some strength to advocate for myself to get some answers about what is going to happen as everything from staying in the hospital to going to skilled nursing to home health has been discussed while we wait for the neurosurgeon to have some time to do my surgery. I don’t have answers yet, but I was glad that my friend/angel normalized my intense fears. I was starting to go crazy.

I never used my voice before. If something was happening that was confusing or unjust to me, I just kept quiet. I didn’t want to make anyone upset or uncomfortable and I surely didn’t want anyone to be mad at me. I see the ridiculousness in those thoughts now. This is MY health and MY body and if I don’t use my voice, I will just sit here and know nothing adding to fear and anxiety.

I’ve been very still for over 6 days now as these darn legs don’t work. I’m in tremendous pain still, so I forced my legs manually into some yoga positions to get a bit of a stretch and honestly to just feel like I can take charge of my situation.

Use your voice! You were given one, and I definitely want to hear what you have to say!!

Love

Lizzie

The Anxiety Leaves My Body with the Tears

(This is the view from my hospital room. The amazing changes in the colors of the sky made me cry. Tissue anyone??)

Have a major anxiety problem? Been diagnosed with GAD and tried every medication on the psychiatrist’s docket without it easing? Me too, but then I started to get in touch with my feelings.

It’s a tremendously hard thing to do as those feelings from the past wanted to stay inside and hide forever. I figured out though that I had a constant spinning in my body, and I often trembled and was nauseous and anxiety made me so sick that I had to call into work often. It was an out of control nightmare.

People told me to breathe and meditate and do yoga. I began to do those things, and it was helpful, but always that spinning ball of energy inside.

You know what no one told me to do to get rid of anxiety? Actually go through it. Cry a lot and often and about everything. I had to start carrying lots of Kleenex in my car and purse as the tears felt endless.

One day, I was overcome with calm after so many tears. I then knew the anxiety came out with the tears. While breathing and yoga and meditation are very helpful, they just give you a break. Those feelings of sorrow or hope or heartbreak or grief or whatever is stuck spinning inside will continue until it comes out.

I’m in a highly stressful and anxiety producing situation. I’ve been in the hospital for days now as my legs no longer work. I had to make a decision today to go with major surgery on my spinal cord or not walk or intermittently be able to walk. I was starting to get the spinning feeling as my surgery is complicated by my other health issues, so I cried as I’m very sorrowful as my surgery comes with a very lengthy recovery. I want to be running and traveling and having it easy as it was just a few weeks ago.

People won’t think you’re weird for crying in public. In fact, I’ve received huge love from strangers for crying in public. It makes you look real. Today, a nurse came in while I was crying and gave me a smile, a tissue, and a “let it out!”

So please feel the feelings no matter how painful. If you need someone to cry with, email me and we can figure out a way to cry together!

Love

Lizzie

Bittersweet Times

These are such bittersweet times for me. I’m going on my 3rd night in the hospital without an end in sight. My physical body has just collapsed from such a hard life. I highly recommend the book, “the body keeps the score” by Bessel van der Kolk if you are dealing with PTSD and any kind of chronic illness. He gives an explanation of the connection.

I say bittersweet as I keep feeling so alone, yet a new person sends a message or shows up in person or offers to do something for me that I could never figure out, like help me make medical decisions

You have to understand, I have spent my entire life believing that people are nothing but disappointment and will only leave in the end. My reality is that as I open up to accept people want to help, and I get specific in my needs, the most loving group keep showing up in my life. Not everyone can be everything to you, but having a variety of people means that my needs do get met. Can you imagine that if you ask for what you need very specifically that 9 times out of 10, people come through??!! I never asked for what I needed before, so I got nothing, and then I felt like the world hated me. It wasn’t true. The world didn’t hate me. I hated me.

I don’t know what will happen with my health or if I’ll make it through the major surgery being proposed due to my immune system issues, but all I can do is try to keep my light inside burning a few moments longer.

So bittersweet as it took my being so sick physically to learn true love also equals asking for what you need.

I challenge you today to ask one person for something you need. It can be simple or complex, buy you choose, and I hope they come through!!

Love

Lizzie

Why?

(My son’s eye as I won’t post an actual picture of him. This was actually him being cute with a room service plate top last week. It was completely random that I have his eye)

Sorry for the cut and paste. I was trying to post from my phone without luck. I wanted everyone to see this and remember “why”! Why do you continue when it’s hard?

I’m in the hospital currently working hard at trying to get my numb legs to work again among other things. I had to really reflect for myself. I hope it benefits you too.

Love

Lizzie

Just go take a walk…

First, I want to acknowledge that today is a holiday and for many, holidays are hard. I’m alone today and instead of dwelling on the fact that I’m not with my son enjoying the festivities of the day, I’m going to keep it a bit light.

I used to get so mad when people who I felt understood nothing of the serious anxiety and depression I was experiencing would say, “just go take a walk. Fresh air will help”. I wanted to roll my eyes and yell at their lack of understanding, but would be complicit and thank them for the advice that was just so absolutely insightful.

Taking a walk will not cure your depression or anxiety, but getting out and getting gentle exercise and leaving the confines of prison (how I felt about my house those days I could never get out), is one piece of healing that is composed of a complex matrix we must all figure out on how we heal.

Most people I have found with trauma, PTSD, introversion, or anything not completely normal think dogs are better than people. I’m going to write about the benefits of taking a walk from how it affects my dog, Napoleon.

A bit of background on my sweet little guy is that he spent at least 3.5 years of his 5 years in a shelter, to be rescued just before his scheduled execution. I adopted Napoleon from a local rescue organization. It’s said he’s a chihuahua, but everyone says he looks like a min pin. I don’t know, I just love him. Napoleon is extremely insecure and has to be on a human at all times to the point it gets a bit annoying. He is always laying on me or my son or the tiny amount of humans he has let in his circle. He also loves to snuggle to the bottom of the bed underneath the covers and stay there if I’m too mobile for him to lay on. I think it’s his sulking place.

When I come around jingling the leash, I swear Napoleon rolls his eyes at me and will try to hide deeper under the covers. I can hear him thinking “mom, I can’t face the world”. As Napoleon is a dog, he doesn’t get much choice in his life, so he walks anyway, and usually because I need to. Napoleon will often park himself and make himself as heavy as possible to not go outside once the leash is attached. He’s not so great at it is seeing as he only weighs 9 pounds and even in my weakened state, I can overpower his unwillingness. Please remember, my dog has serious trauma, which is why I’m taking the time to bloviate about this.

The sweetest thing happens once we actually get out the door, my sulky, dependent dog turns into a master of the universe. His confidence grows with every rock and bush he lifts his leg on. He wags his tail as he sees the other dogs out in the world. He will happily give the leash a little tug in hopes of chasing a nearby bird or squirrel. He just turns into pure joy! The transformation of “just taking a walk” makes Napoleon come out of his shell, and he loves being out in the world.

Upon return of home, he again tries to become very heavy to not have to go back in. Napoleon loves being out. Getting Napoleon to get out isn’t easy. I think his anxiety sky rockets when he hears the leash. I can’t force all of you to take a walk or get a breath of fresh air, but just ponder for a moment the reluctance Napoleon has EVERY time and how he also loves it EVERY time.

So I encourage you to “just go take a walk”, but I also encourage you to eat healthy, get good therapy, talk to supportive people, engage in all kinds of good self care, and if you are lucky to have a pet, spend lots of time with them. I can’t tell you what will make that heavy cloud that weighs you down lift, but it’s complex, and it’s work. Work at it though. The life you can live will be incredible.

Love

Lizzie