This past week I asked via my Instastories if I should share a bit of my book here and I got a definite bunch of YES’s, which is so fun and so scary at the same time. Here’s the deal, I decided to write a book last Fall and spent October, November and December writing a little bit each day. My goal was a certain word count per day and with the exception of one day, I did it. The day I hit my word count goal felt amazing.
My intention behind this book was to write a bit of a memoir, but I mostly wanted to focus on how I have grown into myself and the journey to get there (and I am still on that journey, there is no end to that!) I want other women and girls to know the HOW and WHY behind how I’ve grown through anxiety and disordered eating, people pleasing and perfectionism. My story is the story of so many of you I have learned. I know I am not the only one, all of the women I speak to on a daily basis, both in person and online, we all struggle. We see it in ourselves, or friends, and our daughters. I want to help other women feel better and make better choices for themselves. I work daily on my self-worth and also instilling it in my kids. I wish I knew this stuff 30 years ago, but I truly believe everything happens in the timing it is meant for. I hope what I have written in my book empowers others to look deeper into themselves, beyond the labels society and family puts on us, and enable them to live for themselves first. YOU are important and YOU matter.
This week instead of 3 things to think about (don’t worry, I’ll bring it back next week!) I wanted to share a bit of what I have written. I have thought really hard at what to include here and still wish I could just send you all the whole thing b/c I want it all out there, but I’ll stick to a small bit.
“You’ve failed the stroke test, you need to go to the ER right now.”
I sat in a small room in an Urgent Care near my house with my husband as the doctor on duty spoke these words to me. The night at dinner I had become overwhelmed with symptoms that felt like something was terribly wrong with me. Dizziness, numbness, feeling like the world was spinning around me, it has been scary to feel like I was essentially dying. I got up from the table and barely made it to the couch before collapsing. I had never felt anything like it. In the doctors office I was still dizzy, my arm was numb, and I failed the simple balance and strength tests they put you through to determine if you might be having a stroke. I felt like I was outside of my body, like my head was floating above me and my ears were stuffed full or cotton. I couldn’t walk straight or sit without swaying when my eyes were closed. The doctor left the room and we called our neighbor, who had grabbed our kids after dinner when I found I couldn’t stand up anymore. Things felt surreal as we called to tell them we wouldn’t be right home, my husband passing the phone to me as he became too overwhelmed to speak. I can count on one hand how many times I have seen him cry in the twenty years I have known him, and I think at that moment I realized how serious this was. He had watched me do the tests and fail them, and as a a former EMT he understood the gravity of it all, even if the doctor stayed calm and decided that I needed immediate medical care. Watching him lose it was my first hint that something could really be wrong.
We drove to the hospital where we checked in and waited for care, the ER full of crying babies and disgruntled patients. We sat on a bench for hours waiting, in the humid, Alabama heat, watching the word go by and people come in and out. Time felt like it slowed down while we waited, and watching people come and go became our only entertainment. I was called in intermittedly for tests, an EKG,another stroke test, and found that since I wasn’t in danger of dying within the hour, we were kept waiting. If you’ve ever been to the ER, for yourself or a sick child, you know it is a waiting game. Hospitals are understaffed and overworked, getting seen is not a speedy process unless you are in true danger of dying. It is not a place to be if you are in a hurry or in pain or scared. We sat, for hours into the night, as I spoke affirmations to myself in my head over and over again to help escape the fear. “Everything is always working out for you,” I whispered. “I am healthy and free if illness.” Over and over, whenever my mind would think ‘what if?’ I’d repeat these to myself.
I was admitted into the hospital in the middle of the night, hooked up to an IV and looked at by multiple people. At that point we were both almost delirious with exhaustion, sitting together in a small room in the ER, me in a hospital gown and my husband next to me. Some of my symptoms had gone away, but I was still numb in one arm and very dizzy. Doctors and nurses came in an out, and the possibility that I was having a stroke became less likely. With that came more questions, though. What exactly was wrong with me? Around 3am a doctor poked his head in the door and told us that I needed to stay for more tests. We asked, “If you don’t think this is a stroke, what do you think is wrong” He looked at us quickly, barely standing in the door, said “We need to test you for MS, “ and walked out. My husband and I looked at each other stunned, neither of us even thinking of this possibility. We were shocked, with how cavalier the doctor was in dropping this bombshell and leaving, and with the idea that something so serious could be a possibility. Until that moment I hadn’t realized fully how seriously something could be wrong with me. I am by nature a positive person, someone who believes good things will happen and can handle a lot of what life throws at me. Sometimes it is naivety, I admit, and often I think it is a way that I protect myself. I like believing that all will be well, because the alternative is unimaginable. If I let myself I can worry to the point of extreme anxiety, something I thought I had let go of. This became a new test for me, a test of my resilience and ability to stay calm in the midst of a personal hurricane.
The next 18 hours were filled with every test that could possibly be done. I was brought to a room for a couple hours of broken sleep before was scheduled for an MRI at dawn. I had sent my husband home so he could sleep a bit at home and thenget the kids from the neighbors who had graciously cared for them all night. I wasn’t sure what was going on with me, but it was really important to me that they felt safe and okay, and that they could be with my husband. If they were okay, I was okay. It was a small bit of control for me.
My morning was filled with a few things I had always feared, mainly the closed MRI’s that created panic at the thought of being trapped. I again went to my mantras. “Everything is always working out for me. All is well.” I was strapped down and couldn’t move a muscle for the 40 minutes or so I was in there, so I repeated these over and over when I’d start to imagine how trapped I was. The tech’s in charge were true lifesavers. I wore headphones with a choice of music, and they lay a towel over your eyes if you want (which I chose.) I knew if I opened my eyes during it and saw only an inch of space above my face I would panic. I spent the whole time thinking of my mantras and just trying to stay calm. I’m not religious by any means, but I do believe in guardian angels and spirit guides and just remember asking for help to stay calm. I had always been healthy and strong and being in a situation where I wasn’t sure of my health was something I hadn’t seen coming. I was truly in a situation that felt surreal.
The rest of the day was a blur of so many test to help determine what could possibly have caused the symptoms I had experienced the night before, but nothing serious was found. Luckily. Yet there were still questions. I felt slightly better, but no one could guess why I had had the symptoms I had had the previous night and where they came from. My husband and kids came and hung out with me that day and I was discharged late that afternoon with the directions to ‘rest more’ and had appointments for more tests and visits to a neurologist. I didn’t know then that this was the beginning of a journey that would basically break me down to my core and rebuild me again.
I’ll stop there as there is so much more to add and this is already long. I go in depth into my childhood and adult years in my book and also the things I have learned along the way with self help and therapy. It has been cathartic to write and as I edit it now I find that it has brought me a lot of joy to put together in the hopes that it could help others like me someday when it publishes.
Now I just need to keep editing and find an agent!