The Phone Call

Last week, Wednesday actually, I had my yearly mammogram. At 45, I have been quite vigilant in making sure I have one done.

I go to a local clinic, well renowned for their screening and diagnostics. All they do is mammograms and bone density. They are a beautiful, well run and exceedingly polite. They know their stuff.

Thursday morning while at work, my cell phone rang with an unfamiliar number. I don’t usually answer calls from numbers I don’t know, but something in me told me to answer it,

It was a sweet sounding girl from the clinic. Calling to let me know that my mammogram was abnormal and I needed to come back in for further testing and to see the doctor. My stomach immediately clenched into knots and the overwhelming urge to vomit shook me.

I bumbled my way through the conversation, asking why. She replied their were some significant changes on my right side compared from last year and I needed more testing.

She gave me a date 10 days away, at their main office location. A much larger, more sophisticated facility. I wrote the appointment in my date book and hung up and sat their for a minute.

My first instinct was to text my ex-husband. As much as I dislike what he has done and who he has become, he has a doctorate in nursing practice and is a family nurse practitioner. He’s always been straight forward about medical things. And, honestly, it is a deep connection we still share that makes him the person i tend to want to talk to first when bad things happen. Probably not the most healthy thing for me, but it what it is and I have come to accept it as a part of who I am.

He was his typical ‘wait and see what the tests show’. But then I had to ask him, for whatever reason, ‘If this turns out bad, will you stand by me?’ I am not sure what I truly meant, I just needed some kind of reassurance I wasn’t alone. His immediate response was ‘of course’. Bear in behind, he is ‘engaged’ and has a 3 year old autistic kid who takes up all of his time. So I replied ‘will you hold my hand and rub my shoulders and tell me stupid stories so I laugh?” He replied he would. And promised.

After that I texted my sister. She herself a breast cancer warrior. I didn’t know her when she had it, but I knew her now. And I know she is one tough cookie.

She was calming and reassuring and said we were in it together should anything turn out to be the worst. I knew she was without a doubt 100% there for me, with me and on my side.

A little while later I left my office and wandered to the other end of the building. Working in a school, the building is largely empty save for a couple of us secretaries and the maintenance guys,

Two of my fellow secretaries and friends were I. The hall working on a bulletin board. I leaned up against the wall and told them about the call. I don’t know why. I just needed to talk. They both expressed concern and sympathy and shared stories of their own scares. I felt marginally better as I wandered back down to my office.

I could help but think about how I was going to survive the next 10 days with fear and anxiety building in me with every beat of my heart.

I had to call the clinic back. Ask for a sooner appointment, for there was no way I would survive 10 days with this anxiety. So they got me an appointment for tomorrow. Monday.

So as is it here and write this, my appointment is 12 hours away. I feel surprising calm on the surface as I try to shove all those fears and worst case scenarios out of my mind.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings. But whatever it is. I’m ready to face it.

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It Doesn’t Mean I Am Weak

There are so many terrible things going on in the world. Mass shootings, accidents, domestic violence, suicides and just plain old meanness. It’s everywhere. Ever news show, every website. We are bombarded with the constant blaring of ‘BREAKING NEWS’ coming from all directions. It is so easy to become numb to it all. To let it wash over you, ignored. It’s such a common thing, it’s not out of the ordinary to people anymore. Twenty people get shot and we mourn for a week. Then we are on to the next terrible thing.

I suppose the apathy that some people display is safety mechanism. If they don’t acknowledge it, they can’t feel it. With the attitude that it didn’t happen to them, so they feel bad for a few minutes and then move on.

I’m not that kind of person. When something tragic happens, I feel it. In my soul. That overwhelming sadness. Not only for the people who have lost their lives or been injured, but for our bleeding world.

I had children in kindergarten and first grade when 9/11 happened. The pure terror of those days still lives in me. Seeing on the news, wondering if we were at war and wanting nothing more than to get my babies and hide them away from it all. But the world goes around, and live goes on.

So I learned to live with the fact that my babies had active shooter drills in school. That they were made aware of the outside threats in the real world and how to defend themselves should it happen to them. The idea of my littles hiding under their desk or in the corner of their classroom, when they weren’t even big enough to walk to the bus stop by themselves. It alters your world view and your reality.

I tried to stay on top of the news, so I would know what was going on in the world. Frankly, it has gotten too depressing. Almost to traumatic to watch. I won’t watch it when my 4 year old granddaughter is in the room, because even if she isn’t listening, she might look up and see some terrible image and ask my ‘why?’.

It isn’t a Democrat or Republican problem, or a left vs right issue. It’s a people issue. It’s what people have become so immune. What is no longer shocking must be acceptable in some way. Politicizing tragedies has become the norm.

The impact of all these tragedies has a ripple effect. One person is killed or injured, and it effects everyone around them. Friends, family, co-workers. A community mourns.

Feeling the sorrow of these tragedies, near and far, doesn’t make me weak. It makes me human. And people have lost their humanity. And that’s the problem. When the people as a whole are no longer bothered by the events, when the horror of it all becomes the norm, then we are a people lost. The price of indifference is dooming us all to a world disturbed, disrupted and broken.

I’m not really sure where I am going with this. Just babbling. Trying to make sense of this world we live in.

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Nightmares Aplenty

So I have been without my anti-anxiety pill for 3 days now. My doctor never sent my refill that I requested over a week go. I feel OK during the day, my anxiety is a little raised, but I’m managing. During the day. At night, well….that’s a different story.

Sleep has always eluded me. I’ve tried many different over the counter and prescription medications. I a finally on a regimen that at least helps me fall asleep, but not necessarily sleep through the night. I have sleep apnea and starting using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine about a year ago. I thought that this, surely, would help me sleep. It does. But not all the way through the night. I know now that one little trick that did help, was that little green anxiety pill.

Having been without it, my nights are full of what seem like hours long nightmares. Heart pounding, shaking, nightmares. That I actually mostly remember. It makes for a long night when you are awake every 15 minutes. According to my FitBit, I was awake 19 times over night, for a total of 88 minutes. Over an hour of what should be sleep time, I spent awake, awoken by a jarring nightmare. All were nightmares about my job. A job I actually like. I dreamt I came back from vacation and they had moved everyone around and I was confused and no one would explain anything to me. I had more than one dream where I walked in on all the staff sitting around talking about how much they hated me. That, for me, is a ‘trigger’ to my depression. The fear of rejection, of not fitting in, of people failing to be genuine.

I have learned over the past few years that things are never as they seem. What looks good on the service, can be something awful. These dreams are bringing up all those feelings. Feelings I hate having. Where one side of your mind tells you the truth and the other lies, and you have to decide which one to believe. That’s where the anxiety comes in. Making a wrong choice. Envisioning terrible things in my future.

I came back to work today after a week long vacation at my sisters. It was amazing. And relaxing. And renewing. But, because of how I’m wired, my heart was pounding and I was in near tears walking into work. The nightmares cling to me like spider webs. Irritating, gross and dirty.

I had hoped someday I’d be nearly normal again. At 45 and a half, I think I’m who I am going to be. Accepting that these feelings are just a natural part of how my brain functions is hard.

I need to work on self care. Rest when I need to. Cry when I need to. Tune out when I need to. It’s not easy in today’s world.

What I would give for eight full hours of sleep…… until then, I’ll just be awake throughout the night, tossing and turning, hopeful that I can avoid the nightmares that chase me.

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Sometimes, It Just Clicks

For a while now, I have been feeling lost. Not sure who I was or where I was going. Quietly existing, watching the world go by. I have battled ‘major depressive disorder’ (as the doctor calls it) for longer than I can remember. I think it started out as postpartum depression after my daughter was born in 1994 and I just never rebounded.

I have ups and downs. Not so bad now. The handful of medicines I take everyday help to keep me pretty level. But sometimes, tears slip out and fall down my cheek. Tears of sorrow, pain and emptiness. It happens when your world is pulled out from underneath you. You can forgive. You can try to move on. But there is always going to be that little spot deep in your heart that remains an open sore. It starts to heal over and little and then something rips it open. A song, a memory, a dream.

I did have a realization. As I selfishly wondered where I belonged and what I was supposed to be doing. I just need to keep doing what I have been doing. Being here for my kids and my grandkids. They are my roots. Everything I do every day is for them. As I was bemoaning to myself that I didn’t have a purpose, it clicked. My purpose is to be the best mom and grandmother I can be. (Ok, so I prefer to be called GiGi).

My kids saw me through my dark times. They saw me come out on top. Battered, bruised and fierce. They see me now, living my life.

My grandkids will remember who I am now, not who I was. They know that GiGi is silly and lets them watch goofy Youtube videos. My granddaughter, who is starting pre-K at the big school this year, always looks at me with pure love. There is never any doubt in her little mind that she is not adored to the moon and back.

THIS is where I belong. The grand matriarch of my branch of the family tree. All that time wondering what was my purpose and where I belonged? The answer was right here, where I am. A mom and a GiGi. Knowing that I am loved and needed by those little people is all the purpose I need.

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She Saved My Life

My granddaughter, my firstborn grandchild, was born 4 years ago on the 26th of this month. I was in the room when my daughter brought her into the world. My daughter was a warrior throughout, giving birth 3 weeks early with no pain meds. It was a relatively quick labor given it was her first time.

We knew she was going to have a girl. We painted the nursery pink, bought pink everyone and anxiously awaited her arrival. She was tiny and prune faced and beautiful.

When they laid her on her mother’s chest, chest immediately stopped crying and just looked around the room with alarmingly open eyes for a freshly hatched little one. She didn’t whimper, she didn’t cry. She just watched. She had dark swirls of hair and her little ears were pointed and for a moment I was convinced she was a fairy.

She was born six weeks after one of the worst times of my life. My grandmother died in January and I thought I was going to wither up and blow away. The pain I felt took my breath away. I was still in deep mourning when baby Rae was born. It was like the taking a deep breath after being under water too long. I started to feel alive again.

We brought her home a few days later. The next day, we noticed a huge abscess under her arm. It was nasty and green. It was terrifying. We took her to the pediatrician and she was diagnosed with MRSA. A sometimes fatal infection in those with immature immune systems. She was given a giant shot of a strong antibiotic and ordered to return the next day. The site was greatly improved, she got another giant shot and she was good to go. Another huge sigh of relief.

The next day, my world fell apart. My marriage imploded in spectacular fashion. What I thought was a pretty rock solid relationship turned to dust in a matter of seconds. The only person I had to talk to was my daughter, postpartum, trying to learn to breast feed and become a mom and I dump my feelings on her. She lived with us at the time, so she would have figured out something was going on when I threw all of her father’s clothes onto the back desk into the snow.

I was destroyed. My mind almost immediately went to that place where you think ending it is the only option to relieve the pain you are in. One thing stopped me dead in my tracks. Sweet baby Rae.

I would get her out of her crib in the early morning hours after that day and bring her into my bed to snuggle. Just holding that new life, that new promise, helped mend my shattered heart. Every little grasp of my finger, every little sigh of contentment when she was asleep patched me back together. Piece by piece.

She has been my savior these past four years. Keeping me from going into the dark places my mind likes to dwell. Knowing that I have kindergarten graduations to see, Christmas concerts and ballet recitals I can’t miss, keeps me sane. It keeps me here. It keeps me present.

When I hear her squeal ‘GiGi!’ with absolute love and excitement, my heart swells with love. And gratitude. To a little girls who will never know how she saved her grandmother’s life.

Happy Birthday, sweet Raegen. I love you to the moon and back.

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Being Me

I never in a million years would have thought I’d be a middle-aged twice divorced single woman. After my first marriage ended (thankfully…what a nightmare), I met my second husband not long after. He was fresh off a divorce and he was as damaged as I was, more so in some respects. During his first marriage, he had lost a 7 year old son awaiting and heart and lung transplant. A horrible situation for anyone. Be he seemed soft, and gentle and non-threatening. Exactly what I needed. After dating for nearly 5 years, we decided to make it official. I thought that was it. I was with the person I thought was my soul mate. And he was, for a long time. Then….he wasn’t. And I know now that it’s OK. People change. Different things become important. Wants and need change. It was only after I decided to spread my wings and do something for myself (I became an EMT and started working with the local volunteer agency), that is when things got a little strained. I didn’t see it at the time. I was so wrapped up in my new life outside the house, I didn’t realize my marriage was failing. Fast. The main reason? I liked who I was outside the house, I liked the independence and freedom to be me. And my husband, well, his disliked that the control he had over me was minimized while I was gone 3 nights a week doing something I loved.

I have suffered from depression since the birth of my first child. It has gotten progressively worse over the years. Different meds, therapy, more different meds. It all works for a little while. Then it doesn’t. My marriage implosion threw me into a downward spiral. I tried to kill myself a couple of times. Half heartedly. I withdrew into myself. I threw myself into my EMT work. My schedule was work, home, ambulance, hospital, home. Repeat. It offered a kind of comfortable numbness that I needed. But after a year, even that wasn’t making me happy. I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want to do anything. And that is how it went for another 2 years.

Then I realized, I was going to be OK. Things had gone wrong. Somethings were bad. But I was alive. I was upright.

I have learned to like who I am. I like having the whole bed to myself. I like being who I want to be with no apologies. Do I need to get out in live more? I do. I’m getting there.

I am almost ready to try to meet someone new. It will happen sooner or later. And I’m OK with it, even if it doesn’t, that’s OK to.

I better. I’m almost whole. I’m me.

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Bottoms Up

Wow, it’s been a whole year since my last post. I always plan on doing one at least monthly and well, life. What can ya do?

Since last year, not much has changed, but so much has. Bad things happened. Things I thought might surely kill me. But they didn’t. And here I am. Nowhere to go but up. And that isn’t a bad place to be.

I’ve taken time to collect myself, learn to respect myself and grow up. And become the woman I knew I could be. I thought myself weak, until my 20-year-old son told me I was the strongest woman he knew. That said a lot to me. It woke me up. Someone was watching me battle not just what life was throwing at me, but my inner demons as well. And he was impressed.

I’m OK now. And that is something I haven’t been in….I don’t know when. I am whole. I have the love of an amazing family. A roof over my head, food on my table. I could choose to look at the bad and get angry. But why? What does it solve? Nothing.

Will I ever date again? Find love? I dunno. Maybe. Maybe not. I’m ok with it either way. I like sleeping in the middle of my bed, enjoying the freedom to stretch out and relax. Not delegated to one side or the other. The whole damn thing is mine. And it’s nice.

Sometimes, I miss having that one person who always has your back. The person who wants to hear everything about your day. But, it’s something I can live without. And I will. If the universe sees in its wisdom to send me someone, I will welcome them with open arms and a full heart.

Until them, buttoms up. Your coffee is getting cold.

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