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Abnormal, painful, heavy and/or irregular menstruation.

Intense abdominal pain and cramping outside of period.

Fatigue, bloating, nausea.

These are the vague symptoms you will find if you Google endometriosis.

Endometriosis occurs when the endometrium tissue lining the uterus is found around the organs, pelvis and other areas of the body instead of being shed during monthly menses. This causes scar tissue, chronic debilitating pain, mood swings, anxiety, depression, infertility, body image issues just to name a few symptoms.  No one brings up night sweats, blood clots, or nausea. How about chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat and dizziness. I bet you didn’t know that knee pain, back pain, certain food intolerances, and vitamin deficiencies are also associated with endometriosis.

Many women (including myself) suffer in silence and the usual timeframe for diagnosis is 10 years, as it is difficult to detect. Endometriosis is incurable. 

No one tells you how it happens, about the days you will cry because you are in intense pain or how many times you will have to call in “sick” to work with no real explanation of what the heck is going on with you. I am constantly faced with physical pains that I can’t control even with the strongest painkillers.

I can date my symptoms back ten years ago.  I was only thirteen and had to make an appointment with a gynecologist. While I won’t mention this well-known doctor’s name, she brushed it off saying, “It was just a part of becoming a woman.”‘ Uh, yikes ok. 

So I went on accepting this as my truth. Accepting the days of sitting in class pretending I felt okay that extended well into my working years. Calling in sick makes me feel guilty because my boss or co-workers don’t always understand what I’m going through and I often think I’m letting them down.

As the years went by, sometimes I would mention it here and there to doctors and they would act nonchalant as if living with this pain and discomfort was something I could get by with.

The final straw was when my previous doctor told me I was ovulating and it would pass. When I insisted differently, she suggested we change my birth control. Not only would this wreak hormonal havoc on my body, but I also knew it wasn’t the answer. So I stood up for myself. I said no.

I kicked her to the curb and demanded she refer me elsewhere.

I couldn’t do it anymore.

So after countless dollars spent on wasted doctor’s appointments, I saw a leading physician specializing in endometriosis. She suggested I have a laparoscopic procedure because she was sure I had endo.

I was overwhelmed. After I stopped ugly crying, I realized I was relieved. Finally. Vindication. Confirmation. I am believed.

I told a select few people.

What will you do? Make sure you do it. Are you going to do it? I don’t think you’ll do it. Please do it. Have you tried yoga? Have you considered meditation? Have you tried not eating dairy? How about nutrition? Medication is bad for the body and you’re an addict. All those chemicals. You can’t take that. What are you going to take instead? Can you have babies? Are you infertile? You should have a baby. You should start having babies. Why aren’t you having babies? Are you better? We can’t wait for you to feel better —to get back to normal.

Normal is now tiredness. Exhaustion. It’s being slow. It’s feeling slow. Withdrawn. Feeling sick. I am sick. Always keeping it secret. F. Feeling small. Thinking about it. Thinking about pain. Always thinking about my body. Your body. Assessing every twinge, every tug, every pull, every ache. Waiting. Holding your breath and counting. Waiting for it to stop. To get worse. To come back again.

Two months ago today, I was first diagnosed and had a laparoscopy. My endo is so severe it caused organs to shift and tilt.

I am now faced with the harsh truth that the physical pain is paired with the emotional pain of the possibility of not being able to carry a child, my first surgery will probably not be my last and I am on a medication that has kicked my body into early menopause.

While the road ahead is difficult, I know had I not been an advocate for myself while sitting in a small cold exam room with nothing but a gown the quality of a cheap paper towel, I would still be suffering in silence.

Fortunately, I have learned the capacity of my strength and fortitude due to this disease.

If you’re a woman suffering from chronic, mystery pain that doctors are just shrugging their shoulders at, I hope you are inspired to be an advocate for yourself as well.

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Cry Pretty

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I’m a crier. Oh lawd, I am being so serious.

Everyone shows emotions differently, but that’s okay. You may call your best friend when you’re stressed. You may hit the gym for a good sweat session. You might pour your favorite glass of Cabernet and grab the container of Ben & Jerry’s out of the freezer while carefully trying not to spill either on your white couch (this is a talent ok, trust me). You might eat Hot Cheetos knowing how terrible they are for you. You might do all of the above (guilty).

You may cry. There’s really no wrong or right way to do it.

But hold on.

Why am I even talking about this?

I’ve been feeling like a basket case of emotions lately and I’m seriously considering investing in a good waterproof mascara. I’m a crier. I feel better when I cry! I don’t always have a meltdown or anything.  Just a frustrated tear after feeling defeated, a happy glisten at my eyes because I heard some fantastic news, or a hysterical, tears streaming down the cheeks because I’m laughing with the person I love at our favorite television show.

Now sometimes I do have a breakdown. Like full-on, ugly tears, expensive mascara running breakdown. If I feel comfortable enough to do this around you, you’re stuck with me for life!

Heck, I cry at weddings. At funerals. At baptisms even. Then I look around and realize no one else is crying. I’ve even apologized for crying before! Used to, I figured okay Ang, you’ll grow out of this. You’ll be an adult.  Younger Ang didn’t know what being an adult was like.

In essence, a whole lot of stuff where the tears are justified. And so are the glasses of wine.

Nine months ago, my life was a lot different. I had a different job, lived in a completely different city, had different friends, and so much more.

Fast forward to now and things are like day and night kind of different. Between then and now I’ve cried plenty of tears (and gained a few pounds).

One day at my current job, I broke the streak. I cried over something that happened that I felt was going to be the end of the world.

One day I sat on my bathroom floor crying until I made myself sick. It felt like the end of the world.

One day I let myself be vulnerable and ugly cry in front of someone I love deeply. It felt like the end of the world.

Spoiler alert! It wasn’t the end of the world.

It’s ok to be a real, functioning human who had some pretty heavy stuff happening.

Lock ‘em up is what many of us do. We press them down, stifle our feelings, suppress any emotional expression. We tell our friends to do the same. Chill. Relax. Put on your game face. Try to be cool no matter what is happening in your life.

Many of us have the impression that emotions are bad. Some were raised in families where people didn’t express much emotion. No one ever said it was wrong to cry or to get too excited about something. But then again, no one ever did.

When we suppress our emotions, it weighs us down. It’s as if we are lugging around a heavy bag with us wherever we go. We all know what happens if we have to carry that bag for an extended period of time: The longer we carry it, the heavier it feels.

So it is with an overwhelmed soul. The longer we bear it, the heavier it feels.

Friends, let it go today. Call a friend, make time for a workout, pour your favorite glass.

Have emotions and don’t ever be ashamed of them.

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I Hope I Call You

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This day holds a different gravity for all. I was in Birmingham waiting for my grandmother who was receiving chemotherapy at the time. Just a child who didn’t understand the impact of what I was watching on the television. The majority of us can recall where we were sitting when we heard.

Regardless of where we were that day, the resounding truth remains the same – in one single moment, your life may never be the same. 

What a day it is to honor those who lived and loved and fight for our freedom. My heart hurts at those still affected by the tragedies of this day. But what also hurts is the fact that sometimes, almost always, it takes a tragedy like this to remind us to cherish and enjoy every single moment. To really take in the air running through my lungs as I write this. To remind me to take a harder look at the smile lines on the face of the person I love, because it might be the last time I ever see them light up with laughter again. To cherish a kiss, to bask in the feeling as I snuggle with my nieces or to close my eyes and taste the warmth of my favorite cup of coffee.

The photo I included in this post, gets me every single time. Chills. I hope and pray Brian loved and prized Jules every second up until this moment. That the life they lived together with their family was full of nothing but precious memories for her to remember after he was gone. That they lived a life so full that it gave hope to everyone around them.

I sit back and think, am I taking even one second of my life for granted? Of course I am. We all do.

Ask yourself, “Am I living the life I love?”

If not, something has to give. It’s difficult to realize you aren’t living the best life possible. But boy, does it feel good when you take the steps to turn that around. When you take the steps to find your spark again and shine like you were meant to. It feels great when you sit back and soak in the moments and the people around you like never before because it feels like life couldn’t get any better.

Today and every day moving forward, I have to remember to make the best decisions based on my heart and what makes my cup full. I want to live my life to the fullest with the ones I treasure as long as I am here in the flesh.

Make that call. Send that text. Let them know how important they are to you.

You never know what tomorrow brings.

 

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Don’t Ya Wanna Be Happy?

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As I realize we are already almost in August, I sit back and think about the days of the past few months. Sometimes we have really amazing days, most days seem to be just okay and of course, we have those days where nothing seems to be in our favor.

I’ve had a TON of those days lately. Even when I try to proclaim the day and change my mindset, it seems I just can’t change the pattern of my days lately.

I got tired of being the same. Of things not changing. So instead of staying stuck in how I feel, I have decided to get out of the WAY for the next 6 months. To allow Jesus to move in my life and take me down the roads I need to be on.  But I know this will only truly work if deep down I WANT to be happy and joyful.

Some people are satisfied with constantly having mediocre days and be consistently pessimistic. You KNOW those people. Someone is coming to your mind right now. Once I caught on to the fact that nothing could change until I understood I had to step out of the way and allow Him to do the work.

A few things I need to remember as I embark on my next 6 months that I thought you might find helpful as well:

  1. You are NEVER too far away. Stop listening to the voice that says you’re too far gone because that is a lie. The Lord wants nothing more than for you to come running to him!
  2. Invite others in. Having a group of girls who know you and can consistently push you towards Christ is the biggest blessing and a crucial part of one’s walk.
  3. This sounds elementary and maybe old school and boring, but I’ve seen it in my own life and countless others. The main way to grow in your faith is to study the word of God daily. Not just a devotional. The actual bible. It is life-giving, transformative, and so much more than a collection of old stories you’ve grown up knowing by heart. I’m working on Without Rival by Lisa Bevere and the Unshakeable devotional currently.

 

A BIG part of this journey is remembering that every single day won’t be PEACHY. That there are days that will still get the best of me. But that’s okay. Because I will be fine in the end.

 

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The Thief of Joy

 

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More than 80% of women…

believe they’re not good enough.
feel they don’t measure up in some way.
are sure they fall short when it comes to their looks, success in business and relationships.

80% of us!

Yep. I am one of them. As a young woman, the comparison game is real. From real life to scrolling through my Instagram feed there’s always someone who appears happier than me, skinnier than me or more successful in their career than me.

Even the most confident of us still play the comparison game in our minds.

You have to let go of both “more than” and “less than” in order to be free. Easier said than done right?

We’re all here for a reason, we’re each moving along on our journeys with perfect timing, and you are meant to make a difference in this world like only you can.

When your ex starts a dating a girl that is just “so much prettier than you” (not possible), your boss mentions how the person before you did a better job, or you try on your new swimsuit and it doesn’t fit on you quite like the size 0 model online, remember you value simply because you exist.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

There are days that this could not feel further from the truth for me. Days I wake up and feel incomplete, crushed by the world and my own insecurities. I’ve found myself in those moments, where I believe I’m simply falling behind everyone else who appears to have it all figured out.

Why is it so easy for me to silence the inner knowing that I’m actually capable and great?

Because I’m human. And I’m pretty sure you are, too!

These ideas, that’s all they are CRAZY ideas, are ruining our lives.

Everyday we have a choice:

Will I make choices in my life from “not good enough” and “she’s better than me”?

When you’re struggling the most with shame and self-doubt, try to remember that you’re not alone, and that no matter what television ads, and your old high school bullies, and the mean voices in your head may say, you are enough as you are. Right now.

I am so much more than what they allowed themselves to see. I am more than they could see. And I’m probably more than they could handle. I am so much more than what I have been conditioned to believe. I am enough.

You are enough. You are a thousand times enough.

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The B Word

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As many of you know, I recently entered the world of non-profit work. I have been with this organization for two whole months now. Time goes by quickly when you’ve got work to do and lives to change.

In the communications industry, people tend to shy away from nonprofit work. They tend to only focus on the amount of work, but never the impact of our work. As a staff of four amazing women currently, the workload can be intense as we set out to improve the quality of life for all children in the state of Alabama. But at the end of every day, I know the work I put in is for the greater good — and for that very reason it is all worth it.

In the organization I work in, we try not to say the word busy. We instead are diligently working, actively engaged in our work, engrossed in the issues our children are facing or just plain HUSTLIN’.

So, for the past two months, I have been trying to shy away from the word busy. We are so caught up in this lifestyle of being busy, heck, we even make it seem glamorous. We get so busy we don’t have time for the things that matter most — loved ones, our relationship with God, self care and a good night’s sleep.

Maybe you’re a type-A overachiever. Or maybe you inevitably end up with a to-do list that won’t end. These days, just about all of us accept our busyness with combination of pride and exhaustion.

Busyness brings worry. The more I worry, the less I look at Jesus and more and more at my situation. Instead of saying “God, I have a lot on my plate right now and I could use your strength to help me get through today,” I rely on my strength. Worldly strength that tends to get me nowhere but burnt out, tired and falling asleep on my laptop in bed (who am I kidding, I do this always).

Busy can beat upon us like a drum. When those closest to us have stopped asking for our time, it’s because they know we are too busy for them. That’s crushing to the heart. We all need “waiting” time, whether we think we do or not. Waiting time is when we say adamantly, “It can wait!” and we step back and do what is really important.

I’m here to remind you (and myself) not to get caught up in the kind of busy that edges out intentional living. Sometimes your busiest, hardest-working, least-restful periods of your life are not your most purposeful, or even most productive.

I know deep within my heart that being overloaded is a way for the enemy to distract me from those most precious to me. The storm that rages inside me is shouting, “Slow Down!” and demands my attention. But if I heed that call, the Creator of peace will shower me with a peace that surpasses all understanding if I just trust him. The fragrance of grace and mercy will overflow in me when I come to peace with being less busy.

One thing I have to remember on a daily basis is that wait is not an ugly word and “busy” is not a spiritual gift. After all, God says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Isn’t being still waiting? When you have a personality like mine, it’s hard to be still, but it is only during those moments alone with God that I can truly feel a peace that surpasses all understanding. Busy is the enemy of joy. Busy steals precious time. Busy robs my blessings.

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New Year, New Me?

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As 2017 comes quickly to a close, (no really, where did this year even go?), and I begin to think about 2018 and my goals and dreams for the year, the things I want to happen, the relationships I want to flourish, the tasks I want to cross of my list, God is telling me to slow down. He’s telling me to slow down because a year from now I’ll be sitting here writing the same thing. Wondering where the year has gone while I look back on photos of the memories this year holds.

You see, it is so easy to get caught up in the list making, the telling God what you want or need to happen, the thoughts that sound something like, “If only this could happen in 2018, I will be truly happy.”

Trust me, I did it about five minutes ago. I know where you’re coming from. This year has been a year of change and learning. Learning a lot about myself. Learning that the joys in this life come from the people you share the simple, small things with. Joy doesn’t come from getting a new home or a big raise. It comes within the day to day moments spent drinking your favorite coffee or seeing your sweet baby take their first steps.

God is telling me “I bless you far more than you dare to ask.” See God has a good sense of humor. As I write my monthly goals, budgets, and to-do lists for the upcoming year, He’s laughing because he knows He already has every single item already checked off the list. God is telling me He’s going to bless me with things I couldn’t even fathom to scribble in my 2018 planner. Things and people and moments I will never know I needed until God places them in my life. All my worries and concerns are already taken care of for the next year, God has already worked them out before they even settled into my heart.

Now I’m not saying anyone is in the wrong for planning what you want to achieve in the next year or setting resolutions-nope, not at all. But I am telling you God has spoken peace over every single thing already.

This year has brought some amazing things my way-most importantly some amazing people that bring my life so much joy and laughter. I get caught up in stress and boy do I forget to cherish them and all they do for my life. I don’t give them, or God, enough credit for the impact they’ve made on my life.

Friends, instead of spending your last few days of this year huddled over the budget sheets and color coded lists, worrying about how to become the “new you,” relax and relish in all that God has done for you this year-both big and small. All the times you felt like you were never going to see the other side of that dark hole, but here you are, on the other side. See God doesn’t need or want there to be a new you, He loves us just as we are.

Sit back, because God has your back and He’s going to bless you far more than you could ever imagine in 2018. Don’t dread the start of a new year, be thrilled to tackle it with God by your side.  I am so excited to see what He has in store for myself and each of you.

 

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