strong, but exhausted

It has (unfortunately) been a few months since I sat down to write. It was completely unintentional.

I’ve honestly just been too tired to devote my time to my small corner of the internet. It sounds like a very lame excuse, but my body and mind have been too tired to do much of anything outside of my day-to-day responsibilities.

My endometriosis has flared back up even though I had surgery a little over a year ago. It has been back with a vengeance and my symptoms continue to affect my day-to-day life. I feel out of touch with my body, I get nauseous to the point of vomiting at least once a week, and I am exceptionally tired more often than not. I feel like I am constantly cancelling plans and trying to explain to friends what’s going on. I always feel like I’m bringing everyone down when I do push myself to follow through with plans even though I am feeling bad.

Late last year I realized how terrified I was of not being able to live my life and goals to the fullest because of my health. I needed to pursue other options and I started seeking doctors out-of-state. This can be especially scary because we all know surgery in general can be expensive much less possibly going to someone outside of your insurance’s network and all the other associated costs with traveling to seek treatment.

After some thorough research, I realized how uneducated and naive I had been when it came to my first surgery and the things my then doctor told me. I soon concluded I would need an excision surgery next. The previous surgery essentially cauterized any small areas my doctor could find. This can cause many issues, but as endometriosis grows back, it grows over that burnt scar tissue, making it even more painful. Excision cuts out the endo and any other tissue under/around it that could be effected by it. Alabama actually has no endometriosis excision specialists. It feels like we are always behind.

So my next best option was a well-reviewed surgeon in Chattanooga, Tennessee! His next available appointment was a whopping five months away. While I wanted to just give up because that wait seemed unbearable, I planned a much needed birthday celebration trip around the appointment and it ended being such a wonderful time. Chattanooga is modern and progressive, but not quite as crowded as somewhere like Atlanta or Nashville. I can’t wait to be back for a multitude of reasons!

The number one reason is my scheduled surgery for May. Because this is a more intrusive procedure, I feel like I should be more nervous or fearful. But I have so much hope for a better quality of living that I can’t be anything but excited.

While I was there, I was able to visit Beast + Barrel (pictured above), a rustic-chic gastropub where I had one of the best charcuterie boards ever. I highly recommend a meal (or two there) if you are in the area.

I hope my continued chronic illness journey inspires someone else to keep pushing for a well-lived and enjoyable life. If you don’t have any type of chronic illness and you know someone with one, try to learn more about that person and what their day-to-day life is like. Just because you can’t see their illness, doesn’t make what they are going through any less than.

I will continue to keep you updated on this journey and share some fabulous outfits along the way! Keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I prepare for surgery and the recovery.

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the burden is not light

The girl in the pictures above looks happy, light, and care free. But it has taken quite some time to feel comfortable in who she is, flaws and all.

Talking about mental health and working through those issues is hard. But discussing it in the south, seems even harder.

Almost two years ago I realized my anxiety was something I couldn’t control on my own anymore. No matter how much I tried to remove stressors from my life, practice self-care, or pray about it, I just couldn’t do it on my own.

I was worrying over minute details. I was always exhausted, but couldn’t seem to find any rest in my body or my mind. Concentrating on tasks at work was hard. I became irritable over the strangest things and would allow these moods to ruin my day because they were controlling my life.

I finally decided to do something about this and sought medical help for a prescription. While it took some trial and error with different medications and took my body some time to adjust, it improved my day-to-day life tremendously. I could finally function again.

But oddly enough, I felt embarrassed I needed help. I felt ashamed every morning I pulled my little green pills out to take one. I grew up learning people who sought assistance with something like anxiety or depression basically just needed to toughen up and pray about it.

Many will say, “Oh God is just testing you, He never gives more than you can handle!” or “Your mental illness is a punishment for sinning.” I prayed and pleaded with God for so long. I felt as if something were wrong with me or I was doing something wrong and that is why I couldn’t shake the feeling of anxiety constantly overwhelming me. So why wasn’t God “fixing” me?

The prevailing culture of silence along with misguided attitudes and erroneous expectations often cause suffering believers to feel shamed, blamed and very unsupported. *raises hand*

It look me quite some time. But I finally became PROUD of myself for taking the initiative to do something. Through this journey, I have even found a therapist I love (who I should definitely visit more often.) I know some people laugh that I pay money to express my thoughts and concerns with a “stranger” every few weeks. But whew it is money well spent!

I encounter this stigma around mental health often living in the south. The idea that the disruptions in our brains can be simply solved with prayer. I have to pause and say that my faith is very strong and real and I believe in the healing powers of Jesus. But He also created modern medicine and the will and sense to utilize these resources. We get confused when we think we can’t take a prescription because it would mean we don’t trust God enough.

So friends if you are going through it or have been there before, please know you are not alone. I am so proud to see how progressive the mental health movement has become and the openness a lot of my friends and I have about needing a little extra “help.” Let’s continue that momentum and encourage others to take care of their mental health in whatever capacity they need.

Wild One

I had lunch with a girlfriend today and barely let her talk because I was venting. At the end of my lunch “therapy” session, she said, “you sound tired and burnt out.” Whew, was she right.

I know I have talked about being exhausted, stressed, and anxiety ridden in previous blog posts. But I feel like someone (and myself) needs to talk about it again.

I’ve discovered a great source of stress, exhaustion, and even depression is when I say yes to too many things. I take on too many good things, which causes me to miss my best things. It’s so hard to say no and let go of opportunities that come my way. But if I don’t learn the gift of release, I’ll wrestle with a lack of peace. I think sometimes I’m resistant to release because I fear disappointing someone.

Release brings with it the gift of peace. There are some opportunities I need to decline today. There are some things I need to say no to in this current season. There are good things I need to let go of so I can make room for the best things. When we release in peace, we signal we’re now ready to receive.

There have been many nights where I feel I can’t take much more. When I say, “God help me. It’s all too much. I’m tired and frustrated and so very worn out.” But I remember Psalm 142:3, “When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.”

I don’t know what you have to release right now. But I suspect you know.  In the violent struggle of trying to balance it all, we will miss every bit of joy each season promises to bring.

So let’s release. With release comes more peace. I see that now. I believe that now. And soon, I pray you will too.

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High High Hopes

If you didn’t know already, I love a solid black outfit. One that can be worn to work, dinner with the girls, or just on a casual shopping day. I typically don’t think I look great in a peplum style top, but this one from Rent the Runway, is super comfortable and flattering. Seriously – the fabric is stretchy but sucks you ALL in! It is great for every day wear and can be easily dressed up.

This week I ventured out to the this civil rights mural depicting Bloody Sunday and the civil rights marches in Selma beginning at the corner of Lee and Montgomery Streets. (Mural painted by Sunny Paulk.)

Sometimes in my day-to-day life in Montgomery, I forget how rich the history is running through these streets. I will run out to grab lunch and see tourists walking around downtown and I am instantly reminded of the stories and places that gave rise to a movement and created change.

Standing in front of this mural, I couldn’t help but think how great change can come from peace and hope and that the world still needs a lot of people bringing about peace and equality for all. I am inspired by the stories of those who came before me and the courage and sacrifices of each of them.

This theme of hope is rampant in our lives daily. We constantly speak in what I call “hope language”:

  • I hope I am healed.
  • I hope she isn’t mad at me.
  • I hope my prayers are answered.
  • I hope I can pay my bills this month.

The issue isn’t whether you hope, but what holds your hope. Remember these things as your attach your security, your sense of peace and rest to something every day.

  • Your hope is in something – What are you placing your hope in right now?
  • Hope is a lifestyle – You always live your hope in some way, it isn’t just something you do with your mind.
  • Most of our hopes disappoint us – When our hopes disappoint us, it is a sign we’ve put our hopes in the wrong thing.
  • There are only two places to look for hope –You rest your hope in the hands of the Creator or look to the world for hope.
  • Hope in God is sure hope – Hope placed in God is well placed and will never disappoint.

I hope this blog post inspires you as enter into a new week. Let me know you keep your hope well placed by commenting below!

To The Girls…

 

As I write this, I sit in awe of what is going on in the world around us. Women everywhere are being told they don’t matter. How they feel, does not matter. Your body does not matter. Their basic human rights, do not matter.

As a young adult, I sit and think about how I would have viewed all that is happening if I was still a young girl.

There are little girls watching the news alongside their parents in the family room. Little girls who hear a clip on the radio on the way to school. Little girls who overhear adults talking at soccer practice. Little girls who are confused and curious. After all, don’t we teach them that their bodies are precious and belong to only them from a very young age?

So what kind of message are we sending when we say you don’t matter? The decisions regarding your body are to be made by others and outside of your control.

Are we creating strong, empowered, independent, confident women when they aren’t even in control of the choices they make? Or are we creating women who will have self- esteem issues, low self-confidence, and self-hatred?

The right for women to be able to make their own decisions and control their own life paths is what is at stake. The ability of women to be accepted for who they are and plan their lives the way they want to plan their lives. Their dignity respected, their autonomy respected, their ability to make decisions for themselves about what they’re going to do but their bodies and with their futures and with their lives, and that is what is at stake and that is what was being affirmed.

This isn’t political, it’s fundamental to your dignity, to be able to decide to make decisions for yourself.

So to the little girls like me circa many years ago, who may be sitting around hearing what others are saying. Who are scolded and chastised for asking questions. Who are taught that talking about your body and the things it can do is taboo. This is for you. I hope you listen to the little voice in your head and if you can’t speak out on it now, I hope it grows into a loud and powerful roar that enables you to speak up on anything you believe in.

 

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two months

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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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