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Evolving, Slowly

I’ll start out today by apologizing that its been an embarrassingly long time since I’ve allowed myself the opportunity to sit and write. School has been kicking my butt, hard. I am absolutely thrilled though, that in a few days (10), my semester is over (not that I’m counting) ((10 days, 2 hours and 28 minutes)). After spending 6.5 years fumbling around in college, I’m leaving this spring semester with my first degree – Associate in Sciences, Health Sciences. Apparently, if you keep coming back to it, take enough science and math courses, you eventually get some kind of degree out of it. Conveniently, I needed all of these classes for Nursing school, which I’m starting in the fall!

Fret not, I won’t be discussing my personal Corona stance; my brain is exhausted, I have read too much, witnessed too much, and I am not up to discussing it beyond my best friends and therapist.

Today is April 26 – 3 years to the day that my life went from average to unimaginable. I once had a friend tell me “I don’t ‘do’ dates. I just don’t ‘celebrate’ them, and then they won’t bother me. I just ‘forget’ about them.” Convenient, right? Just set my brain to “delete.” Sunshine of the spotless mind, I’ll just never recall the day my husband killed himself! I can’t believe I never thought of that! Purposely forgetting wreaks havoc on the brain. Ask me how I’m still dealing with the mental fallout from three decades of “purposely forgetting.” If I sound a tad bitter… well, I won’t deny it. One of the things I want most for my friends is to EXPERIENCE and PROCESS their emotions. Stuffing things down in dark chasms of your soul does nothing but guarantee that they will surface at the most inopportune moment.

So, I want to use this unfortunate anniversary to really talk about PTSD here. No, not like a veteran who hears a firework and is instantly transported back to a warzone. I’m talking about post-traumatic stress as it pertains to a lot more people than you might think. Trigger is such an overused word. Its used to mock sensitive people. Its used especially to mock people who think that a person should be prioritized over money. Its overused to warn people to turn away if they’re sensitive to topics or that they might find offensive.

But here’s what it means for me: out of no where, I might have a sensory experience (one or more combined of the five senses) that transports my brain somewhere. You might be familiar with the experience, but hopefully good ones. For example, smelling a campfire takes you back to an idyllic summer with friends. Baking cookies, back to grandma’s kitchen. A certain flower takes you back to your favorite aunt’s garden. If you aren’t acquainted with the dark side of these memories, let me demonstrate: I once bought him a jacket. Just a simple windbreaker, but it was very distinct; navy blue with yellow trim. Nautica. I don’t even know where that jacket ended up. I didn’t have to handle it. About a year later, Nicky and I were grocery shopping and I stopped dead in my tracks: standing about 10 feet from me was an older gentleman, approximately the same build, but in no other way similar to him at all, except he was wearing “the jacket.” I was instantly sweating, the room was spinning, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think straight or logically, at all. It took me a few moments to ground myself and regain focus. It wasn’t him; he couldn’t hurt me, he wasn’t alive anymore.

Let’s take another less sensory-related example. Trust is quite possibly the most difficult thing for me to genuinely do. Sure, I can gab with a friend about “personal” topics. But over time, I have learned to never trust anyone with all of the information. Loose lips sink ships, right? Every. Single. Person. I have ever trusted with every part of me has betrayed me. I learned that my sensitive soul was never to be entrusted to anyone, because no one would care for it. I learned too late, as usual. Now, its taking hours and hours of therapy, self-work, and self-care, to make use of this damage. Note, I call it “make use” not “undo.” Just like blogging and sharing my trials is therapeutic, in the hopes that someone will read this and begin to help themselves similarly, there is no part of my lessons I want to “undo.” I could do without the pain, without the deeply seeded, sharp triggers, but they have propelled me into a wildly self-sufficient badass that I never thought I could be.

Having been essentially “single” for three years, I have discovered this painful truth about myself: I have virtually zero idea how to just exist in a relationship. I’d say “anymore,” but I don’t think I knew how to do it effectively before. Thus far in these three years, the longest I shared time with anyone was 6-8 months, and we’d see each other one, two times per week? Everyone is busy. Somehow I always get entangled with either a) the busiest of busy people or, b) the person who lives at least an hour away, or c) both. None of those things help you to actually learn someone. And even so, I am still trying to wrap my head around the concept of “one day, someone will love me so much, that they will not only love me wildly and unconditionally, but will also love, tolerate and want to help raise my wild animal of a child!? When you’re entangled with a biological parent of your child, its pretty natural to just say “it’s your obligation” because, well, it is. But perusing excuses for men who can barely care for themselves, expecting them to be able to handle a child who is chaos-embodied and an overtly and undeniably, opinionated, driven, responsible, overthinking, never-take-your-foot-off-the-gas, Gemini… wow. All I can say is, I never thought that I was offering much. I have learned that, despite my harrowing flaws and struggles, most parties I have dated just were not evolved within themselves enough to cherish everything “Jess.”

Then I find myself stressing bizarrely over things that have not yet materialized. What is it like to be with someone who supports me constantly? What is it like to never fear that my partner will never leave me with no home, no income, and a shit ton of questions? What is it like to *live* with someone?? Is that weird? I’ve lived with my son; I lived with my husband; my husband and his parents; my husband, his parents, his kids; my husband and his kids; my husband, his kids, and our son, and finally my husband and our son; and yet I’m sitting here after three short years going WHAT IS IT LIKE TO HAVE SOMEONE WHO COMES HOME TO YOU EVERY DAY, or vice versa? And simultaneously wonder WTF is wrong with me, that this is suddenly so foreign, that it terrifies me that I will have to adapt. Its not that my habits are so horribly offensive. I have never been able to depend on someone to care for me in the way that every single person deserves. Mentally, physically, emotionally.

I’m about to enter nursing school; obviously, I’m no freeloader. I’ll have a beautifully stable career, no matter where I go. I always know that if the bottom falls out, ya girl got herself, you know? But how do I trust someone with the rest of it. The sticky, black, dense hurt. The tangled triggers that send me recklessly over the edge, overthinking, trying to fill in blanks that I obviously need the other person to fill in for me, but my brain can’t wait for. For now, I struggle to stop myself when the swirling, drowning, temptation to come unglued happens. I notice it sooner, but I still find myself consumed with catastrophic thoughts and questions. Its improving. I catch myself sooner. I know when I need to work something out. The most we can ask of ourselves as we sort out trauma and heal is to allow ourselves grace and pray that we are presented with the right people to handle it with us. And that seems to be constantly evolving, but I am thankful. The right people have found me, and I am grateful. Everything has changed and it has been much akin to a violent car wreck, but it has put me on a path I wanted, but never thought was attainable. Three years later, I’m still echoing prior years; I am grateful, and I know I’m headed exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Much Love & Light,
~Jess

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Redefine it

I have heard “it needs to be redefined” so many times in the last few months, I could scream. Let me explain. Ever do something you love, lets say bowling, with someone who you really care about, and then you break up, or they die, or some other catastrophic event, and then bowling is dead to you? Or you traveled somewhere with someone, and when they aren’t around anymore, you couldn’t even consider returning, even though you still love the place?

This is where redefining comes in. For me, a metric crap ton of things have been ruined. And I am simply exhausted by the expectation that I’ve placed on myself, that I can’t enjoy stuff anymore, simply because I enjoyed it with someone prior. Its silly, at the end of the day. There’s no reason why I couldn’t continue to do things.

Many of you know my story. I am a widow of two and a half years; my husband and I were together for over 6 years total, so we shared many things in our time together. When he chose to take his own life in April of 2017, I was lost. My life had been completely directed for so many years, I barely knew where to begin. I say “directed” because manipulated, dictated, held hostage, don’t feel genuine to me. In reality, though, they would be the best descriptors. I was manipulated into staying. I. Was. Stuck. I’ll bet that someone is reading this and shaking their head, “yes I know how that feels.” Check out my most recent post on narcissists, if you’d think you might be stuck with one, too.

Long story short, I was diagnosed with PTSD, finally diagnosed with anxiety, and regained the “depression” tag. I was mad as hell! Mad at myself for “allowing” it. I was more mad that I was left here, not only picking up the pieces of our life together in their entirety, but now I had to put my own head back together and find the woman I had never become. Slowly, I’ve been purging things that make me feel less than, and redefining things for myself that I’ve loved, but need to re-embrace.

Well, today, 10/19, is our 5th anniversary.

One of the things that has been in my closet, driving me slowly nuts, at least for the last two and a half years, if not since the day I wore it, was my wedding dress. We had a small ceremony, small, calm reception; it was exactly what we wanted. I had very few friends and had invited literally anyone who I was close with at the time. This dress, as many women will relate, bears an intense amount of weight; emotional, often physical, and in my world, headspace (and closet space). I’ve been talking about doing a “Trash the Dress” photo shoot forever now, but it felt disingenuous. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I wanted to value the fact that it wasn’t ALL bad. I wanted to honor the part of myself that was willingly a part of that life. More than anything, I didn’t want to be a gross American who just wastes the most expensive garment I’ll ever own (sorry Gucci). The energy imbued in this dress was overwhelming and I absolutely could not bring myself to do anything with it, except hide it in the back of my closet, while all that negativity and sadness was attached to it.

I came up with the “in between” option; I decided to gather my best girlfriends and do a ritualistic cleanse of my dress. One of the most powerful parts of the process is the mental release, of course. Not just entering icy cold waters of Jordan Creek, splashing the frigid water over my head, and dipping into the water, while the chilly autumn breeze is already nipping at my bare shoulders. Telling all that negative energy to beat it; it serves no purpose to me anymore. With my best girls (not all of them, of course, but close), my strength when I can’t pick myself up, some who have been there for me for years, but have taken on even more critical roles in the last few, some who have just blessed my life for the first time more recently, but have been vital to my success and stability, we cleansed the dress, the moment, the date, of all of the heavy, toxic, unnecessary weight.

I recommend this process to anyone who is struggling; redefine it. How is that negative energy serving you? If it isn’t, stop carrying it around. It’s heavy, isn’t it? Its not necessarily an overnight process. Not everyone can just dip into a frigid creek and have the same symbolic experience. Maybe you haven’t reached that point. This is a finality for me; I’ve worked a long time to get to this point – it didn’t happen overnight. Its been a lot of tears, a lot of thinking, even more beating myself up for things I can’t control. I have given myself the permission to let it go. And I think that everyone deserves that, and some incredible friends too. Stop letting these things control your life. You deserve peace, just like everyone else. Give yourself that grace.

“Grudges are for those who insist that they are owed something; forgiveness, however, is for those who are substantial enough to move on”

Criss Jami

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Much Love ~ Jess

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Is it Over Yet?

Depression and anxiety have spanked me this year.  I have always dealt with my anxiety.  What that really means for me is, its just manifested in “non-traditional” ways, like being short with people, having very narrow focus, retaining ridiculous amounts of stress, avoiding a wide variety of situations, and being extraordinarily moody for no apparent reason.  Basically, I’ve just lived with it and not acknowledged it.  You know, very positively!

Now my struggle with it is far more visceral. I can’t sit still.  I can’t move either.  Sometimes I can’t catch my breath.  Thoughts race – even the most ridiculous things seem true, imminent.  Thoughts feel thick, like wading through a tub of coconut oil.  There’s too many thoughts, but I can’t escape them.  I feel like I’m on the brink of complete collapse sometimes.  When I can gather enough clarity, I take a few pumps of oil and I can start feeling freer in 15 minutes or so.  Its as though I line everything up, like little toy soldiers on a wall and I can start flicking them off the wall, one by one, every wild, racing, over-the-top thought and fear.

Since I was in high school, depression has floated in and out of my life.  When I sought treatment the first time, someone close to me said “I just can’t understand what you could possibly have to be sad about.”  And that’s when I stopped constructively dealing with depression.  Sometimes I’ve anticipated the lows, and other times, I have been blindsided.  I’ve picked up, carried on, and dealt with it.  Its what we expect people to do!  Quietly, privately, and with as little emotion as possible.  No mess, no fussing, no drama.  That’s what I thought I was accomplishing after Matt abruptly passed.  I was dealing like a champ.  I was pushing forward, growing, kicking ass.  In reality, I was definitely surviving, if not even thriving, but I was completely failing to heal the hurt.Introvert inclusion

I have trust issues.  There.  I said it.  I find myself not trusting people about the DUMBEST stuff.  There are a million reasons running through my head why anyone isn’t doing what they claimed.  It isn’t even based in reality!  I was trained, systematically, over a long relationship, that I wasn’t worthy of the truth.  I wasn’t worthy of being included.  I wasn’t important enough to anyone. I wasn’t worthy of my own husband telling me what he’s actually doing.  Its a daily struggle of insecurity.  Who is excluding me from stuff?  Why didn’t I get invited to something?

The more I have been sorting out, the more I realize.   And the more I wonder.  I wonder why I gave so much trust to someone who repeatedly broke it.  I wonder why I believed someone who routinely fed me stories.  I wonder why I wasn’t valuable enough to get the truth.  But I also realize that this wasn’t my shortcoming.  I did what I was supposed to do.  I trusted the person who was supposed to take care of me and my son.

I’ve been talking with close friends lately about my purpose and what I want from life.  One of my greatest aspirations in life is to be a wife and mother – explains a lot about why I was so eager to please someone who would have pushed me off a cliff if it suited him.  I’ve felt this since I was young.  I feel for me personally (NOT everyone!), there is no greater calling than to have a fulfilling relationship and raise good humans.  That in turn gives me the framework to then achieve professionally and otherwise.  And don’t worry, I don’t think my value rests solely with a marriage.  Its just something I find extremely valuable personally, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

What I want to bring to you, dear friend, is the awareness about yourself.  If you’re struggling similarly to myself, the first step is getting help.  Get perspective.  I don’t mean from your goofy friend with all the opinions. There are some easy things (from an implementation standpoint, anyway) that you can do that will help you get on the right path.

  • A therapist is a great neutral sounding board.  It might take a few tries to find someone that you’re comfortable with. That friend with all the opinions might be eager to listen, but they might not always have time to carefully consider your concerns – after all, they aren’t paid to listen to you.  They might also have ulterior motives.  God forbid they do not have your best interests at heart or don’t care who they share your personal business with.  It will only compound the problem to know that someone is speaking about your issues with others.  Find someone who is truly neutral.
  • If consistently visiting a therapist is out of your budget (I know it can get expensive!) look into some self help books and/or workbooks.  You don’t even need to pick something deeply self-exploratory.  Start with something that doesn’t feel too inflammatory and work your way up (just don’t let yourself off the hook before you get there).
  • Start journaling. Good old fashioned pen and paper, not on your phone or computer.   Take 10 minutes each day.  If you’re really committed, spend 10 minutes when you first wake up, writing about things you’re grateful for, and 10 minutes before you go to bed, brain dumping, so you can go to sleep with a blank slate.  Ten minutes is just a guideline – it gives you a set window of time to commit to the process.
  • Really want to go all in?  Start doing guided meditation.  Use YouTube videos like this one to help you.
  • Figure out if you would like or if you feel you need medication.  I weighed the options medications to help with anxiety and depression and I couldn’t balance the weight of not being lucid against the potential benefits.  Of course, I’m a huge advocate for hemp oil because of its lack of negative side effects and overall health benefits.  The hemp and cannabis plants are extraordinary in their benefits to humans and even pets; get good stuff in your body, however you choose to consume it.  There are tons of things to look at when you’re looking for a brand of oil (I’ll explore it in another post), but you can get the best here.

Accepting that you’re going to have good days, you’re going to have bad days,  and its all just part of life, is the first huge step to working through things.  Explore your reactions to things and situations.  Analyze why you’re reacting to things a certain way.

~The only thing we control in this world is how we react to things~

Read that until you understand it.  You can’t control what anyone else does; you can only control your reaction to the situation.  Stop letting other people’s stupidity send you over the edge.  Stop letting someone else’s inconsistency, arrogance, ignorance, selfishness, lies, jealously, etc etc control how you feel!

This is all just the tip of the iceberg, but its a great start.  Much love & light to you today!

Want more on the topic?  Drop your comments and questions below!

~ Jess

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The First Year

It will soon be a year since everything changed.  One year since the person I thought was my husband left this world.  One year since my life ended up in a blender, and came out a beautiful smoothie.

I don’t regret things in my life.  Its not how I live.  I make choices based on calculated, conscious decisions, and then accept the consequence.  A year ago, a choice was made that altered mine and Nicholas’s life dramatically, and like I always say, it was a blessing in disguise.

In the early afternoon of April 26, 2017, the state police came to my home to inform me that they found my husband in his vehicle up in Warren County.  The room spun; I couldn’t breathe.  I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t speak.

I will eternally be grateful to the people who rushed to my side.  Alicia, who probably broke more than a few laws racing to me.  Sandi, who sat with me while I took wild phone calls that brought more mind-blowing information each time it rang.  Renee, who set up a GoFundMe that allowed Nicholas and I to find a place to live and stay on our feet while we were reeling.  Kelsey and Kyleen, who connected us with more help than I could have imagined.  Tina, for reaching out and being a voice of reason, even when I didn’t want to hear it.  My parents, for forgiving the grudges and being there for us.  Every single person who sent food, clothes and supplies for Nicholas, even stuff for me.  Even the people I don’t talk to anymore, for one reason for another.  I am grateful.

I’m sure each passing year will get easier and less confusing.  I didn’t expect to be “alone” this year though, and its making it a little more challenging for me to navigate.  My emotions have already bubbled up a few times, and we are still a bit away from the anniversary.  Keeping busy and focused are my only options right now.

Screenshot_20180411-162142Nicholas has come further than I could have ever imagined.  We have a secure, stable home; stable income; I don’t feel threatened that life is off-kilter and unpredictable this year.  Last year, I didn’t know if we’d have a place to live or food to eat each month.  Last year, I was stressed that health insurance was a question.  I’m stable.  That’s what matters.  I have a blossoming business.  I have a greater desire to be creative and continue growing personally.

 

There’s a knot in my throat, but I know it means we’re alive and making it.

-Jess