Monday, March 27, 2017

Grief, Bloating And Narcotics

"The death of a loved one can trigger fears about your own mortality." Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross

Just when I thought I had dealt with almost every unexpected thing a person could. Why would I ever think that?

Naaahhh not me, said I until last Fall. Thought I had escaped this symptom of grief, thought I would skate on by it actually. Little did I know what the next 6 months (and it's not over), would bring the moment I had realized I had gained 15 pounds since moving to the Bay and noticed that my belly looked 5 months pregnant. Little did I know that I would be captivated, and eventually paralyzed by fear for months to come, with my own death. Not only that, but convinced I was dying of the disease my best friend had when she died, Gastroperisis. I was engulfed in this symptom, and it knocked me out.

I haven't written, or read for that matter, in 6 months. I'm not in the thick of what I went through anymore so I decided it was time to write, and share openly about my experience.
Late last summer, I noticed my weight gain since Feb. of 2015. I figured no big deal, I can handle it, afterall I knew it was because I ate anything and everything the first year and a half that we lived here, and it was fun. Croissants and Fried Chicken?! Yes please! But there was something else that was different, my belly was different. I had never experienced bloating,except for during my time of the month. This could not be that I knew. And it was more than bloating, it was straight up distention! I emailed my doctor and of course her response was, "It's really common for women over 40 to have bloating from time to time." I knew this, wasn't that! I just knew. I eat a pretty decent diet already, and I knew the foods I was eating wouldn't be doing this.

That led me frantically to a series of natural doctors, puzzle piecing, and my own research. I was in a downward spiral believing I was going to die, and riddled with chronic worry and fear. But first let me back up a bit.

I have been on a narcotic, a strong one for about a decade. It feels like a dirty little secret, but some close friends and family know. And now you do.
I started the med after my hysterectomy in 2007 on a regular basis and because I've had chronic pain for 20 years due to severe endometriosis, and especially after a slew of surgeries from 2006-2010, it was prescribed to me. Fast forward in 2013, I was at a women's retreat, and I had ran out of my pain meds. Not having them made me emotionally and physically miserable. I remember getting up to use the bathroom at 2am, and I was disoriented, but I was also stressed because I wanted to take a pain med so desperately. I literally saw a flash of light (I know this sounds weird), and I loud and clear heard God say, "3 more months my child, 3 more months....." it was God telling me and trying to guide me in the direction to get OFF the pain medication. DISCLAIMER: My body was dependent on the pain medication but I was not and am not an addict.

I ignored Him. Not for 3 months, but for 3 years.

God has already given us everything we need to do what needs to be done. We just need to find the courage to do it. Whatever IT is.

Back to last September when my bloating began. I started researching all these natural doctors--I had already been going to someone who practiced Chi Nei Tsang (visceral manipulation), weekly for chronic pain from adhesions and lots of scar tissue. But I researched other natural options because I wanted answers about why I was having such severe distention (it's awful and extremely uncomfortable). I saw a couple naturopaths, and I saw and still see a chiropractor that specializes in gut health. She is amazing BTW.
I also saw and still see a Chinese doctor and he performs acupuncture.
I decided from what I was learning from these docs to go off over 80% of sugar, I stopped drinking La Croix (I literally thought that was what was causing the bloating but I'm drinking it again since I now know that isn't why), I ate and still eat a mostly fruit and veggie diet with cheating often, limited and still limit dairy and wheat. Started Chinese medicine herbs, lots of enzyme supplements, probiotics, and other natural remedies like essential oils targeted for digestion etc. and nothing has really made a difference. Some of that has helped and continues to help on a daily basis, but I was still experiencing the symptoms.

Here is what most of the doctors, western and eastern medicine said:
Wait, what? What did you say???
"Go off your narcotics, those harsh drugs can cause gut issues..."
What??? Come again??? That's not happening.
They were convinced if I went off of them, I'd get better.

And so the fear kicks in. I know Amy, my best friend that died, was on narcotics on and off due to a car accident years ago, and then especially the last few years due to her illness. So instantly in my mind I think I have what she had...Gastroperisis, because our symptoms were very similar. (It was not confirmed that her ever being on narcotics is what caused her disease BTW). But the irony is written on the wall.
Gastroparisis is when the stomach becomes paralyzed and you're unable to digest food basically, and food sits in the stomach for more than 6 hours. I remember when she first called me years ago and told me when her symptoms started, so naturally when similar symptoms started for me I thought, "OH my gosh, I am going to die."

So, December 3, 2016 is the day I took my last pain pill. It's been almost 4 months! It was and has been a living hell. It's one of the hardest things I've ever done! It's not like I decided to go off it because I no longer had pain. It's not easy to admit any of this. It's embarrassing for me to know that others know.

The withdrawals were terrible, but what's been more awful and unbearable has been the detox symptoms. My liver is not detoxing (it's slowly starting to now), and my spleen has been compromised because of that. The liver is what filters drugs and alcohol and other substances, and mine is overloaded and backed up from all the narcotic use. That is what also has prohibited me from losing weight because the liver dysfunction creates a "holding on" reaction, so the body can't release well. It forces the body to hold onto food or fluids, so yes I'm sure the weight gain was from overeating when moving here, but not being ABLE to lose it has made me gain more. My enzyme levels are low too because my pancreas is affected because my spleen is affected. Because my digestion is so slow, food sits in my tummy longer but also my small intestine isn't able to do a proper job of breaking food down. Did you follow all of that??

For months I lay in fear in my bed as I sailed through Gilmore Girls and Gilmore Girls 2016. Intermittently asking God where He was and why He wasn't giving me clear answers as to what was really wrong with me! I barely left the apartment from Oct-Feb. I was convinced I had a blood clot in my leg, hypothyroidism, stomach cancer, cysts in my liver and kidney, kidney name it. I was overcome with fear. With my own mortality, right at my feet. Convinced this was it...I was creating a story in my head, and I figured it had to be correct!

Thing is is my symptoms are not the same as Amy's were, but similar. Thing is is I am not Amy. Meaning I don't have her body, I don't have her story. I have my own story. But I drowned in my loneliness and isolation because I was going through this alone. I didn't have a buddy I could go off of my narcotic with like one might have a "gym buddy".
Friends and family were supportive, (one of my friends texted every other day checking in on my detox symptoms). I walked this alone, and it was hard for people to relate. It was all so real (thinking I was dying),  and so scary for me.

I have also felt like God has just left me here to go through this alone, and that's also been confusing. But I've learned He doesn't always have to be teaching, showing and speaking. Sometimes I just have to go through something, and I can know and trust He's there, and I'm not alone. God tends to know when we need a word from Him, and if He's quiet, He must know, "We've got this." Meaning, we've got all we need right now.

I have had no motivation, the detox symptoms can be severe, I'm tired, I get bad headaches and the brain fog can be awful. I seem to be improving weekly but some days, even weeks are harder than others. Especially because my doctor said the reason I can't read or write right now is because all my brain energy has to go into getting well! My body has gotten use to the narcotic chemicals in my organs and system for so long, it takes quite a while for the body to resume as it should be without the drug.

Now that I've been off the pain med for almost 4 months, I am still having belly distention and digestive issues. It is beyond frustrating. But what I've learned and have to believe is that because I was on them for so long, it can take up to a YEAR for symptoms to subside. What happens is the narcotic slows down your entire digestive system. I was constipated (TMI, sorry) for years, so it's not like it happened over night! I just didn't realize what was happening. My system started slowing down years ago, and the emotional pain and trauma from grief, the move to the Bay, our house flood, the divorces of both my siblings, my daughter's motorcycle accident and other stressors, created a complete digestive monster! Digestive issues is the number one physical symptom of grief! And we are all learning in the news that the gut is the second brain! The flora in our gut causes Alzheimer's! That is why when you are studying for a test, or you are anxious or nervous about public speaking etc... we get a "nervous stomach", meaning we get cramps and well you know how the rest plays out.

I am hoping and praying that my symptoms will improve and that by 6 months they will even be a bit better. I need to trust and believe that there is nothing else wrong...some mysterious disease happening that I don't know about. I have to believe that it has been the narcotic use and emotional trauma over the last two years that has caused these digestive issues.
What's the most frustrating and maddening is that I went off the narcotic thinking I would solve the issue, and that's not how it's gone down. I keep thinking A+B=C, but it isn't happening that smoothly. What, do I want a gold star or something? An award for going off my narcotic?? Maybe...yes.

I thought I had been given enough examples and traumas in life to learn endurance and patience, but I guess new circumstances can bring that as a challenge regardless.

I'll keep eating my greens, drinking lots of lemon water (and apple cider vinegar), castor oil packs, Epsom salt baths, taking milk thistle for my liver and using essential oils, it all gets so boring LOL. My tummy doesn't even gurgle anymore and I don't fart much :(
I am finally at a place where I joined a gym, the Y, so I can slowly start exercising. I completed my first Yoga class! After 43 surgeries, 6 years of physical therapy, and finally getting off my narcotic, that is a huge accomplishment! I want to keep at getting well.

I'm so thankful for the friends and family that were so supportive of me through these last several months. And like my doctors are saying, "Something new is on the horizon for you Gina, your life is turning a new leaf, and the narcotics were holding you is the limit now!"

I'm definitely doing it all to be well so I can live life. I grab hold life of now, and I know Amy is smiling form ear to ear in complete and utter pride of her best friend.

Monday, October 17, 2016

3 Ways To Feel Better

While there are countless way we can contribute to our everyday life when it comes to “feeling better”, I have come up with 3, that I think knock it out of the park in regards to guaranteeing you’ll feel better--these are "quick fixes" overall, but over time, they become embedded, and a way of life.

I’ve struggled with mental health, depression mainly, on and off for years, since I was 15 years old. I’m now 42. Much has helped, this has been a long journey, but I wanted to produce something that was tangible, doable, and quick--- and while I encourage anyone who suffers from mental health issues to go into counseling, which I have also done, today I just want to share three somewhat simple ideas that help me maintain throughout my week.

  1. You Shine Like No One Else-
We are trying to sell our home. And I received an email from our Realtor that said, "Here is a comparison sheet for the other homes in your neighborhood that are for sale: BEWARE OF THE COMPETITION. That's a bit much, don't ya think?
My house, while it might not be the home everyone needs or wants, CAN STAND ON IT'S OWN. Sure there are houses out there that may have a lot this one doesn't, but this one has that much more that that one doesn't! I don't need to fear! My home shines like no other house can!
The world is a feisty one, and it can make you feel like you don’t have a chance. When it comes to how intellectual you are, how creative you can be, or how “good” you can be, it feels like a never ending battle. There is always someone smarter, prettier, and richer. But the thing is, whether you believe in a God or not, the truth remains that we are all extremely unique, and if we find what that special gifting is, instead of focusing on what we wish it was, then we’ll thrive. We’ll start to come alive as we learn that we too, no matter how big or small, or seen or unseen, we have something incredible to offer that no one else in the universe does! There are many similarities, but only YOU, can bring something that no one else attains, that’s pretty exciting and cool if you ask me! So find a thing, or a couple of things, that you think are unique to you, or that you are really good or passionate about, and focus on that. There is actually no need or temptation to compare ourselves to others, when we actively seek, know and accept that we have our own uniqueness and something special to offer that no one, I mean, no one else can.
Ask a friend or a family member what they think, that’s what I did when I started this journey.
    2. Perspective, Perspective, Perspective-
It’s not doubt how badly this life or ours can hurt. We’ve hurt, we’ve been hurt, it’s unfair, and sometimes our circumstances are unbearable, but somehow, we make it through, don’t we?
Usually it’s not our situations, although they can suck, that bring us down, it’s how we are looking at and approaching them. If we can gain a new perspective, learn to see it differently, then most likely it won’t feel as awful. This doesn’t mean that you don’t deal with your feelings or struggle. It means finding a new way to see, or understand it so you can cope easier. Maybe something good will come of this? Maybe you’ll have a new part of your character that you didn’t have before? Maybe you’ll learn something new in a profound way! You’d be amazed how a simple perspective shift can bring peace, contentment and joy amidst the trial!
   3. Thankful List
This sounds so cliche’, but I’m telling you, I promise, it works! If we are practicing thankfulness, we cannot be practicing complaint or worry. The two cannot occupy the same spaces, and if you feel yourself being pulled into the space of complaint or worry, start naming what you’re thankful for. If you take even 5 minutes and you thank God, or the universe, whatever works for you, it will hopefully instantly fill your heart with gladness and gratefulness.
“Thank you God (Universe), for my daughter, my son. Thank you for my husband, my wife. Thank you for my job, my health (you’re alive), my friend/s, my family, my church, my community, my practice, (yoga, buddhism, christianity, etc…), thank you for my phone, for food! Thank you for my place I live, (shelter), thank you for my pet/s. Wow, thank you! I have SO much! Thank you for all the extras I get, thank you for my car, the movies, coffee, and cake!

If we can remember thankfulness, we’ll forget complaint and worry. It always starts with an awareness, and a re-remembering, and it’s a fantastic tool, an incredibly fulfilling practice.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Essence Of Motherhood

My daughter and I reading her first acceptance letter to college.

Recently, a friend of mine on FB posted about her EPIC motherhood fail. She gave extensive detail about how her, her newborn daughter, and her toddler daughter were out to lunch, and that's when it all went down. Her infant daughter needed a diaper change, but she soon realized that the bathroom was without a changing table, (really??), she then decided to change her on her lap, and baby girl had a total blow out right then and there! Mommy then realized she left the wipes in the car, which was parked several blocks away, so she thought on her toes and proceeded to wipe her infants bottom, and this huge mess with napkins as best as she could. She mentioned how she certainly wasn't "winning" today, and that others must be staring at her! She did note how happy she was that her toddler seemed unaffected by all of this and her infant smiled the whole way through!

I strongly objected to her "motherhood fail"! I mean the pressures that society and that WE put on ourselves as mothers is so unrealistic and through the roof!
I told her that this was fantastic because she was meeting motherhood right then and there. I told her that that is the essence OF motherhood--blow outs and all! It really isn't the smooth sailing days we get that make motherhood, amen? Is it not being in the trenches, as awful, embarrassing or as tough as they can be, really where true motherhood shines? Is it not those moments or even days, that seem to make us weak, actually make us strong, and build our character up in motherhood? Is it not those moments that instill a humility in us and give us endurance to fight the good fight in motherhood? Where would we be without those moments?


Learning to drive.

I submit that it's our weakest moments, that make us the strongest.

Could the essence of motherhood be standing in the line at Target
just to look over and see our toddler on the ground kicking and screaming?
(this happened to me several times and one of the times the cart was actually on top of my daughter!)

Could the essence of motherhood be the moments that you forgot the diapers, forgot the wipes and even the pacifier, so you finagle to Griswald the situation as best as you can? Don't we gain resilience in the "making due"?

Could the essence of motherhood be in the bitchy teen, who you don't even recognize anymore? You don't know who this person looking back at you is because they've changed so much? Is there not beauty in their healthy hormones, and maturity as they are changing and growing?

Could the essence of motherhood be having 3 sick children at once, taking turns throwing up, sitting on the toilet, and being up all night with them? Is there something to be said for self-sacrificial love as you stroke their hair, and tell them, "it's gonna be ok?"

Could the essence of motherhood be right in the middle of the end of your rope?? When you seriously don't know what to do next? Is there not a time to learn a new thing? Or waiting out and becoming more patient? We can't know it all.

Could the essence of motherhood be when your 16 year old drives out of  your home drive-way for the first time all alone just after passing their drivers test, and you watch them from your kitchen window? Is letting go not worthy? Oh yes it is. Motherhood meets you the most in the letting go.

Could the essence of motherhood be in the empty nesting, the getting married and your children having children? Is this not glorious??!! Could we surrender to the every changing process of new things our way?

Could the essence of motherhood be the rewarding yet tiring job of nursing our babes, or when we have to dry up our milk supply because we are unable to nurse? Isn't the painful, lovely, self-less act of giving our bodies to our children, as challenging as it is, the pure evidence of motherhood?

Could the essence of motherhood be the screaming matches you have with your college kid, or the struggle of living with a child with a mental illness? Fighting for and with your child is the epitome of motherhood. The rawness, authenticity spurs you both on to deal with conflict, and creates a new level of trust. Advocating for your child in any way, for their health or mental health, even in the pain and suffering of THAT, that is the essence of motherhood, because it's noteworthy to love wildly. And it's inevitable that it will hurt.

Could the essence of motherhood be the unwashed dishes, the unclean or unfolded laundry? I think yes because it shows signs of life! It shows wear and tear and that is beautiful! It shows a house lived in. Spaces loved in. Rooms prayed in.

The essence of motherhood is being in the trenches of IT. It's conundrum is the epicenter of our very lives.

RELATIONSHIP, not perfection is motherhoods essence. Admitting we can't and don't have to do it all is something we all need to admit in a radical way. The trenches are the tears and the laughter. The joy and the pain. The yelling and the whispers. The agreements and disagreements. The apart and togetherness. The silence and the speaking. The loudness and the quietness. It's the happy, exciting phone calls and the scary ones. The busy and the slow. It's holding on and letting go. The clarity and the confusion. The obeying and disobeying. The exhausted and the energized. The building up and tearing down. It's when I get it right, and when I get it oh so very wrong. It's in the loving extremely well, and loving when it's terribly hard. It's in the inhaling AND exhaling. The God moments and the ungodly moments. The planned and the unplanned. The smooth and the bumpy.  Living, and dying. These are signs of LIFE. 

These are the days of motherhood, right where we are found, today, tomorrow, and in the months to come. 

Fighting the good fight in motherhood is not squeaky clean. Anything that requires effort, work and time means we get are hands greasy. We cannot fix our cars without getting grease on our hands can we? We get black grit instantly if we try to fix our cars. Why would we think we would never get poop on ourselves as Mothers? It's a sign of living life and that's a pretty, darn good sign. Keep doing that. Keep doing that motherhood thing, as dirty as you may get, keep going. MOTHERHOOD IS ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Davenport Beach, CA 2016

Thursday, July 21, 2016

When Mockery Or Name Calling Is More Natural Than Grace Or Mercy

"If we could read the secret history of your enemies, (today it's Melania Trump, right? But you can fill in your own blank...), we should find in each persons life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility." Longfellow

It's all the hype, right? The maybe soon to be First Lady's speech at the GOP? We attack her like vultures, not given a second thought about making fun of or making her the center of every joke. We're like vultures who haven't eaten in weeks.

Sidenote: it's taken me a while to write my PART 2 of the Dolphins And Baby Deer, the second half of my post about my daughter's motorcycle accident; mainly because of the tragedies that happen in early July. Those threw me off and I sort of went into prayer instantly for our nation and communities and the families that are mourning. I do want to follow through on that second blog post. I even wrote a piece regarding the state of our nation right now too, but it's such a fragile thing, I might not be quite equipped to share without offending, or stirring up something or someone. 
But when I saw the headlines the other morning about Melania Trump, I felt the urge to share about her speech situation. So I did, so I am, and here goes.

It's MUCH EASIER for us to dive in and give our opinions, create judgement and honestly, be unkind. It's MUCH HARDER to be loving, graceful and merciful. It takes something extra special to do what we are not inclined to do or what we don't feel like doing, right? Why is that? The answer is long and complex, full of a variety of reasons. But the short, simplest answer for now? We are threatened, and are not at peace. We have a root issue problem, deep within, and we spew out all over the place when we live in fear, or bitterness, or unrest. That is why we have knee-jerk reactions to things we don't like, or don't agree with. We are trying to self-sooth, self-protect in some form, sort of like we do with our loved ones when they are being beat down or ridiculed. It's our natural instinct that kicks in and says, 

"Hey, NO NO NO, this isn't right, I don't agree with this! Oh my goodness, how could this person do or say such a thing? I must revolt against it by fighting my way through." 

And out comes our negativity, cruelty (with no thought of the other person we are "against"), mockery, and judgmentalism.

It bleeds into every area of our lives. There's a good reason we react this way, (we are trying to get a need met, we do have a positive intention), but it's not a healthy one and we don't have to do it. 

We are working to protect our souls. We know what we know, think and feel. And that needs to be made clear. We think by reacting in these ways, we'll find relief. But we are fooled, because these behaviors and reactions only bring temporary, quick, put the fire out relief. But see, the fire is still going inside. It's just been snuffed for a little while. Just like any temporary high or instant gratification, enjoying the self-soothing tactic, but it doesn't last. We only feel better momentarily. Until the next thing makes our blood boil, works us up or we disagree.

It will return again and again and again, because we've never really dealt or fully dealt with the WHY behind this or that particular thing that riles us up. This doesn't just translate online with all the political madness, or different religious views. And the most important insightful question to ask is, "Why am I responding this way?" That takes courage.

I have found that asking that tough question, sometimes humiliating questions to myself, relying on the Prince of Peace Himself, Jesus, relying on God's power and love in me, not on my human strength, and counseling is how I've come to find contentment, and my gut reactions are no longer to name call, prove wrong, puff myself up, or express negatively. I ask, "Am I helping or hurting?" I never saw Jesus calling people names, mocking anyone, (He was in fact mocked Himself), or judge on person and He was GOD!

If we find the courage to look deep within the chambers of our hearts and start asking questions and wondering, "Hmmm, why does that bother me so much?" "Why am I so annoyed and worked up right now?" "Why do I feel so angry or full of rage?" "Why do I feel so opinionated and judgmental?" "Why do I feel ill-willed toward this person?"

It runs deep friends. If something gets us worked up, (and it's not always a bad thing, it can be used for good, but I'm referring to when it's not), it's important to know why it's taking such a negative toll on my soul, body, mind and spirit! There are many layers, and many questions to ask, but it will eventually reveal itself to you. And it won't be fun or easy. 

The truth, your why, will show it's face and surface and it will hurt. It will be hard. It will be shocking, enlightening, humbling, fascinating and freeing.

Most people usually don't want to deal with their hearts because they are afraid of what they might find. Most of us think we know all the answers for whatever our cities, government, friends, families, constitutions, or religions need. Truth is, only GOD and they know, not you. We are a pople who love to be right and most of the time think we are. So why bother looking internally at our hearts? What lies in there?

Let me give you a tangible example, especially in dealing with online stuff:

As a blogger, one of the struggles most of bloggers have in common is comparison toward other bloggers; the ones in our circles, where a lot of us are friends! We see the creativity or successes based on what the internet considers what their online "numbers" show (many are "successful" beyond online). We'll see someone with 50K followers and think, "I want more followers, why don't I have more?" "Why don't I and can't I have what she has?" "Why can't I do what she does?" 
I wish I had a bigger house, nicer things, a cool farm, more kids....whatever it might be. And then I start feeling ill-willed toward someone because I'm jealous, or envious. It's then hard for me to wish her success, or good things, because the ugliness in my heart takes over. 

Well if I go through a series of questions and look directly into my heart, it starts to play out like this for me: "She must be better than me overall" "I must not be good enough" "I'm not creative enough" "She has more than me" "I'm not talented" "She's happier, more peaceful and has a better life"

And then....the kicker, it gets deeper, another level:

"If I have more followers, that means I have found success, so if I don't have as many as HER OR HER OR HER, then I'm not as important or great. If I have more followers that would mean more attention for me, I'd be noticed, noteworthy, gifted, talented, and that would mean I would be more admired and loved." THIS is how it always plays out for ME. And it began at age 4 for me. But truth is I am already LOVED, ADMIRED AND NOTICED, by the ONE TRUE God! 
(There is something we call THIS=THAT language in counseling, and it basically means that I would think that my small following means I'm less great, less smart, less creative, less than. And it simply does not mean that!) Just like however you want to fill in the blanks with THIS=THAT language, it's not true for you either!

But! it's a trick again! We are fooled. It reminds me of when I was anorexic for many years. I weighed under 100 pounds and I was STILL miserable, depressed and discontented. See, it wasn't about my weight at all. Just like it's not about my blogging numbers, it's about what's wrong on a deeper level. Because sooner or later, what's "in here" will show up "out there" in some crazy ol' ways if I don't learn about what's going on inside my heart. Something hurts. There is some wound there. It's about what's going on in and through my heart and mind. The underlying issue/s in my life. My deep, deep rooted wound pain, and false belief of myself and my world, which I know now, and you will too hopefully, maybe you already do. If you peel back the layers, more and more will come to light as to WHY we think, feel and do what we do at any given moment online, or real life.

We'll know why our first gut reaction is to call out and mock Melania Trump, instead of issuing her grace and mercy FIRST. By doing this kind of "work" in our lives and in our hearts, we'll become more and more aware just how something that can seem so harmless, is actually pretty cruel, thoughtless and unloving.

Ultimately we love God, ourselves and others in the most healthy, edifying, graceful, peaceful, wise, fair way by starting to look straight into our hearts. Then I'm free. You're free. We're free.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Dolphins & Baby Deer Part 1

Bay Grape in Oakland, the beautiful wine bar we were at.

This was the last text I got from my daughter before her motorcycle accident on May 20th. I had been checking in with her throughout the day, and our last check-in point was at 5:58pm, when she texted me telling me she saw many dolphins and baby deer, and that is was beautiful! I literally said to myself at that moment, "Well, if she dies today, at least she saw something beautiful right before...." Let me give you a little background to how it unfolded.

The thursday night before her accident, her and her boyfriend were having dinner at our place, we had tacos. They were on their phones checking the weather for the next day, Friday, because they had planned on a day in Point Reyes, on his motorcycle. I was like, "I heard it's going to be blustery tomorrow, is that a good idea to go on the motorcycle in that area with high winds?" I guess my comments were too passive aggressive, at least with them both present, because I made it crystal clear and loud and clear with my daughter later that night and right away early the next morning, "PLEASE, please I'm literally begging you, don't go on the motorcycle, please honey!" Little did I know she was already on it as my texts came through.

I instantly called my husband, because a fear rushed over me, a stronger fear and worry this time. Maybe because I don't usually know when she's on it LOL, and this time I did, or because of the weather or my instinct. I had a bad feeling about it. And I was ticked that her boyfriend would still take her on it, even though he's not responsible for her, I thought he could have listened to my concerns and decided to just take a car, but no such luck. I was furious with him. So I called my husband right away and filled him in and we both prayed all day. I then, like I said earlier, did little check points with her to make sure she was safe and OK. And she was. Until she wasn't.

My husband and I went to a wine bar that night with church for a friend who was moving away, around 7p, shortly after I texted with my daughter. I had basically assumed she was OK and made it through the day because they were making their way back out of Point Reyes, so I had moved on in my thought process and prayer from the day. I was well into and happily on my second glass of wine, when I saw Kevin grab his phone and said, "HI PANGE (his nic-name for Madelynn)", in a smiling happy voice. We're always glad to hear from her! It was around 9:20pm. Anyway, he disappeared and I didn't think much of it.
Less than 5 minutes later he came into the bar, walking very focused toward me, and says, with big eyes, piercing into mine, "Gina, Madelynn's OK, but...(wait for it.....wait  take a breath....what is it????), but her and Leo were in a motorcycle accident."


I was making a scene in front of the bar, it has all glass windows at the front, and finally our pastor came out to try to calm us, me, down. I was making strangle movements with my hands in reference to her boyfriend, I was hitting my fist into my hand, and if I had more might, I probably would have tore my fingers off, one by one. I was in SHOCK. It actually HAPPENED??? What on earth??
A sidenote--when we were standing around at the wine bar, earlier in the night--I noticed my wristlet down fairly far from me where I first set it, and I thought to myself, when I looked at it, "I better grab that just in case, because my phone is in there...." and that is ultimately how I missed all the calls from the ER nurses. Finally, it was Leo's brother who called Kevin's phone, and he thank goodness, picked up. It was incredibly difficult to hear about this almost 3 hours later--more on that in Part 2.

Our pastor loaned us his car and we were in Marin within 27 minutes. I'm she we were speeding. I had to focus on my breath the whole time I was driving. Not sure how I made it to Marin General Hospital.

When we arrived, the receptionist said something about Madelynn being in surgery. I started to flip out AGAIN! SURGERY?? What are you talking about?? NOOOOOOOOO no no!
Well then that got cleared up, she was NOT in surgery, and then the nurse that brought us back to see her, said she had a contusion, a bad one, on her lung and that she may need a breathing tube, if her lung fails, I thought, WHAT??? I was a royal mess. I kept trying to keep perspective, the good counselor in me is constantly doing that--but I had emotions here! I needed to feel them, but I also knew there was a TIME AND PLACE. The thought that some parents aren't getting the "good news" that I was getting tonight, kept coming in and out of my head and I was heart broken for them. And I instantly thought about my best friend Amy that died--how her mom Sandy, I got a tiny tiny tiny glimpse of a rush of what that could possibly be like to hear that your daughter is going to die, and I felt like I was suffocating.
And I was SO angry at Leo, and feeling so regretful that Madelynn chose to go on the Motorcycle that day, especially when I was begging her not to. I know she would be afraid to see me because she knew I had a feeling about it. And she was I guess. But I was able to turn my focus and anger and frustration toward good and for her. She didn't need my "told ya so's" she didn't need my "have you learned your lessons' now?" she needed love, grace and mercy, and that is what I dug deep down moment by moment to give her, and she was grateful.

View from Marin Hospital, second floor.

Nells rarely left her side through all of this.

Home after surgery.

Flowers from friends.

My dad leaving, (he and his wife drove across country from MN to CA to bring us Madelynn's car so we'd have one to get to and from appointments. SO grateful!)

A little home PT before she starts real PT.

How desperate I got for meals to give her and make us. I was so depleted in so many ways, one night I literally handed her falafel with feta cheese sprinkled on top. She graciously took it and then 5 minutes later handed it back to me, saying it was too dry ROTFL LOL!

Madelynn cried and told us about what happened, how the accident unfolded and what she was thinking and some of the eerie feelings she had that day too. She said she actually asked Leo eariler that day, that if they crashed, how should she land!!!!!!!! I mean what??!!
She went on to tell us how sorry she was, and to not be mad at her. Goodness child! Never! Never would any of my frustrations, anger or regrets outweigh the love I have or Kevin has for you-- to not love you or show kindness to you regardless of the situation. Mercy always trumps judgement, and we are here to be merciful. We are here to love you. We are even here to love Leo (that will be in Part 2).

As she was getting settled into her room, later she told us at like two in the morning, randomly, another eerie thing, that when they were driving after seeing the dolphins and baby deer, she quickly said to herself, "Dear Jesus, I don't want to die today....." My jaw hung open as the three of us lay there in her hospital room, in disbelief of the way the day shook out. I mean I strongly believe in my whole heart that God protected her that day. They say she flew almost 50 feet!!!!!!! How do you survive that? Without the way she landed or her helmet, for sure we would not be having the same outcome and my blog post would certainly be completely different than this.

Most of you know she ended up with a broken collarbone, and has since had surgery to put a plate in her bones, a broken shoulder blade and a broken foot. They call it a Poly-break, and it's all on her right side, so she was pretty much immobile for the first 4 weeks. The contusion on her lung healed, praise God and she's recovering well, aside from some nasty athletes foot she has!

She's back to work now and is off pain meds! She's such a champion and hasn't complained hardly at all. Her next post-op is in one week, where hopefully she will be even more free, maybe even without her crutch. But for now, she is out of her brace and has a post-surgical shoe on, but no weight bearing still, so that gets old. But she's marching through the storm, and I'm humbled that I've been with her as she navigates the lightening and thunder, and some hail along the way. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way.

Ps. She's DONE with motorcycles. FOREVER.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

{Almost} 11 Months Later

I am not sure I'll be able to write a post "12 Months Later", at least not right away, so I thought while I had the thoughts, I'd better write now, at 11 months, unconventionally.

So I guess it's May and the year is 2016. I realized this, sure I realized when it was NEW YEAR'S DAY, really dawned on me the other day when I was uploading photos of our second year here in California. It dawned on me that I had not started the 2016 album, so I'd needed to do it. But it's MAY. In reality I guess that is true, but in my reality, it's still just after Christmas. It is most certainly not May and it is most certainly not almost a year since my best friend and "life partner" passed away.

I feel like for the last several months, although I've had some breakthroughs in my grieving process, and all that means is I've healed more and more, because when you experience loss you can get stuck in a certain place and not "move forward", and you end up struggling with whatever. If that makes any sense. I'll explain more later. So I have been feeling like I am just pushing through the last several months. New Year's came, it was awful with the reality of Amy not being here, Valentine's Day came, same thing (she loved that day), countless days like my birthday, her birthday, her husbands birthday, her sons birthday and on and on. Even these NATIONAL SOMETHING days can remind me of her. It is endless. But because life calls you and it's important to stay "in life", I've picked up a few projects, and that has stunted some of my grieving. Much like it probably does someone who works FT at a 9-5p, leaving them with little time to focus on healing. I actually do have the time to heal, but with projects and a few other commitments I have going on, it's prevented it a bit.

Here's where I am 11 months later:

1.TIME- Time is an odd thing. I literally am not in May of 2016. If you've experienced a significant loss, I would gather you feel the same way. I am not sure when time will catch up with me, does anyone out there know? I felt like I fully prepared for Amy's birthday, and when the day came I was able to really feel pretty good, except it felt surreal. But the week leading up to it I was fighting to not be in bed the whole week. But other dates I have felt rushed, like I haven't given them the attention that they need, or the attention myself that I need. It is tough because I get blindsided by so many things that remind me of her and I wish I could give them ALL ample attention, if that makes sense, but it's humanly impossible. But everyday there is a flood of them. I think time is standing still for me overall because it's almost like I'm still in that place with her dying. Even though clearly I am not. It's very hard to explain. I'm still "back there" but life is "up here" right now. And it keeps going and I'm trying to be in May but I'm not.

2.PRECIOUS MOMENTS-Lately I've been thinking again about the sweet tender moments I had with her during her illness. Even when her brother got married a few years ago, she wasn't able to bathe or do her hair or make-up, and I helped her. I got to her house early that day and curled her long thick hair, and I adored putting make-up on that face of hers. The face I had been touching and seeing since we were 15! What an honorable and a humble experience for both of us. I like thinking on those tender moments. There are many more, but that is the one I've been thinking of lately. There is one more too that I keep thinking of, and it's when I was massaging her back in the hospital last May. And rubbing essential oils on her shoulders and spine. I don't know how that was almost a year ago, but it was.

3.THE UNDERCURRENT- One big breakthrough I had was just last week. Grief was ruling the day and it does that. It gives no warning signs as to when it will be worse, or feel breathable. I was suffocating that day. I sprawled onto our ottoman and just let go. It was like an UNDERCURRENT, that was there for days, sometimes weeks, and you're waiting for it to take you under, and boy did I go down. A lot of times we don't 1, allow ourselves to let the undercurrent take us because we have to be present to our day and we have responsibilities, and 2, we are afraid of the undercurrent because it's so so painful. Usually when I experience this I hate it. I think it's my enemy because it hurts so bad and I want out of it desperately. But this time, after 11 long months, I finally did not wish it away. I let it be, I went with  it. I didn't call it names and beg for it to go away and leave me alone. I sat in it, felt it. I was gentle toward myself instead of being mad at being swept under, STILL 11 months later! Like I'm suppose to have it all together with grief by now, ya right.

4.ACCEPTANCE- I have a few chapters left in my main grief book, and one of them is ACCEPTANCE. I'm afraid to read it because I don't want to accept Amy's being gone, because let's face it, it's unacceptable. But maybe, just maybe the chapter will talk about accepting that grief is a part of our life now. That it isn't something to get rid of, but rather something that will always be there, although healing overtime, but it will always be. Maybe the chapter is talking about how grief becomes a part of us and it needs to be accepted and integrated into our lives. I don't know, but that is how I felt for the first time last week when the undercurrent took me. I felt like this was ME now. This was my new self, because I am different now. I look at pictures or videos from before she died, and I look and sound very different. It's very strange. It's like there is a BEFORE YOUR LOVED ONE DIED SELF and an AFTER YOUR LOVED ONE DIED SELF. And it's sad.

5.TALKING-Oh how much I still want to talk about it, but not many around me want to or know that! I stopped going to my grief support group that I had attended since July last year, because one of the members, a good pal from the group, died. I mean I could NOT and still don't believe it and I just couldn't get myself to go back to that room where we all shared together for months and months so intimately about our loved ones. I just couldn't deal with his death or the reminders of that room.
I went to a new grief group that Grief Share offers here in Oakland, but I didn't like it so much. I felt rushed and I felt like the members were telling me what to do, how to feel and how to handle things.
So not sure where I'll go from here with this. But it's important to keep talking, and because my hospice/grief counselor time is up after June 15th, I need to figure something else out! But talking keeps her memory alive, and it's part of healing!

6.REGRETS-Most people that have experienced loss end up having some regrets, some people end up having a lot. And a huge break through I had was realizing that Amy is WHOLE AND PERFECTED. She is ALL SPIRIT and she has not ONE regret or thought of MINE. She is literally perfected with her Father, and she does't view any misunderstandings, squabbles, discord, or unrest that the two of us may have ever had any more! It's all wiped away according to her. She is made new and whole, so her view is not the same as us tiny humans, who experience pain. Along with her not experiencing physical pain anymore she also no longer experiences mental or emotional pain, so her slate is wiped clean! She would never want me under the bondage of regret, and your loved one wouldn't want you to be either! She is set free, so so am I!

I am speaking at church on Mother's Day and then I have one other writing project due at the end of May, but other than that, I plan on doing a lot of grief work, and more of a focus on self-reflection and alone time. The year anniversary of her passing is June 5th, and I'll be planning that day soon.

"Should his heart break and the grief pour out, it would flow over the whole earth, it seems, and yet, no one sees it."
Anton Chekhov

"We almost feel we need to experience the world for two people." Martha Whitmore Hickman

"Our separation is temporary, not permanent." Martha Whitmore Hickman

"So in our healing from the wounds of grief, a generous amount of silence will help us rest into the depths of our own souls, and find peace." Thomas Merton

Friday, April 15, 2016

One Word Photos