On the 12th day Guest Blogger Nina Kavanagh of FIXLIPS shares “How To Write Love Notes…To Yourself” ♥
Close up of my present situation:
Bundled up in a hospital bed dosed up on Valium, right arm elevated at a 45-degree angle and stabilized from both sides. Half of my face is droopy from the nerve block, and I’m pretty sure I am regretting several hangovers that are completely unrelated to my current state. All in all, I am pretty much a 100% match to the person your logic tells you (or at least should be telling you) not to take any advice from. So just keep going about your day, all right. Walk away slowly and don’t make any sudden movements. I am the creepy dude in the candy truck with bunnies at home – you know the one, your mother should have warned you about me. If not, fire her; she’s not doing her job.
If you haven’t noticed, anesthesia does weird things with the head. Flying pegacorns are real, people! (I just included “pegacorn” into my spell check dictionary. Definition of winning at life, okay. Get on my level.) I probably should have been careful doing that lift last week in ballet, since I am definitely not coordinated enough for that type of magic. Alas, that is why I am in the hospital. Shoulder injury and all…
As I type arduously with my left hand, I am painfully aware that the nurse is giving me the crazy eye from across the room. It is without a doubt deserved. Apparently I tried to get up and dance while waking up, something I’m not sure if I remember. I do a lot of uncalled-for dancing in the dumbest of situations, so it sounds like me. Not all that out of character, I don’t think.
Growing up, I always thought I had such a firm grasp on who I was. Predictable thought was followed by predictable action, in a perfectly outlined box of the person I allowed myself to be. Perfectly content with the thought of knowing everything there was to know about me, I allowed myself to create a set of dimensions for my character, my dreams and aspirations, what I expected out of life. It was all or nothing, do it perfectly or don’t do it at all. I held on to the thought that by “optimizing” who I was, I would be happy.
Naturally, as a weird, lanky teenager with bushy hair and skin so reflective your best friend could touch up her keychain candy-flavored Lip Smackers in it, you never think that a big train might just roll through town and run you over, 80s-slasher-film-style. Not that it happened exactly like that, but the visual was necessary. I was an odd kid, with a rock collection, and I wanted a dictionary for Christmas one year, and simply put, one year all my plans just went to proverbial bull feces, as they sometimes just do.
As we grow up, we only learn gradually to not sweat the small things. We all remember moments in high school, or even further back, that make us cringe inwardly and make us want to go hide our head in shame all over again. Back then, many of these occurrences were, frankly put, a big deal. Our hair color, choice of optional or inviting friends into our lives (and parties, let’s be honest) are some of the first decisions we make as soon-to-be adults and are immensely important for developing who we are. I went crazy with hair dye sold in tubs, tried to jam as many bio labs into my schedule as possible, and, well, parties were terrifying until I discovered tequila years afterwards, but that’s another story.
I thought I was normal, well adjusted, capable, even. I thought I could take on the world, and that I had it all figured out. Turns out, I didn’t, and it sent me nose-diving into some bottomless pit of abysmal terror.
I am a drama queen. Get over it.
A few weeks into my senior year, I was diagnosed with a massive ovarian tumor. I will never forget the ultrasound picture – black, nothing but black. The doctor thought it was malfunctioning, and tried another one. Blacker – it spanned my entire abdomen, had grown into the crevices around my organs and was slowly but surely cutting them off. My diaphragm was partly crushed, my right kidney dislodged and the ovaries themselves were severely inflamed. I was wheeled into surgery the next morning.
My surgeon was amazing, and I was lucky. The surgery worked – I didn’t lose my baby-making machinery or my kidney. A blood scan and a cortisol stress test revealed I have late onset congenital adrenal hyperplasia, sub-clinical Addison’s disease and PCOS, a very common ovarian syndrome. This was something I could manage, something I could keep under control. Nowadays, my body, with the proper medication, behaves the way I want it to, and it won’t fail me.
What I didn’t see coming was that I would, in my eyes, fail myself. I vividly remember the night before the surgery, crying hysterically in the bathroom. At the time, I couldn’t fathom why I was so scared – the cancer test had shown up negative, my surgeon said he could remove it, I would be back on my feet in a few weeks. I would be alright – only I wasn’t. As a paramedic, I had seen so many people much worse off be the most calm, patient, courteous human beings, and here I was, a freaked out mess tangled in IVs. Mostly, I was disappointed in myself, for not pulling myself together and putting on my big-girl pants.
Back then, I think I failed to recognize that sometimes, falling apart is not just all right, but necessary. Occasionally, there are things we just have to get out of our systems. Throwing things can be cathartic, and letting other people see us at our weakest moments is what makes those important few so valuable to us. Presenting your groomed, perfectly mannered self is easy. Showing others, who you are when you are terrified, sad, or livid, is extremely difficult.
Even more challenging is showing yourself who you are, and what you become, when you feel threatened, mistreated, disappointed, jealous, ugly, untalented, hateful, and undeserving. Our concept of love, in relation to other people, is not conditional. We want to be loved for who we are, not for what we can bring to the table. Why is it then that we allow our love and understanding for ourselves to be based on what we have achieved, what we can do and what we look like?
Recognizing these negative traits in ourselves can be dangerous. It spins a web around your self-perception, telling vile tales of your self-worth, your character, and your faith in yourself. The voice in your head will spin lies that would make Regina George wallow in admiration. But three years ago, when I started to spiral, I missed an opportunity. I missed the chance to get to know me at my worst, to find out how I can deal with being sick, how I can deal with what felt like a betrayal by my own body. I neglected my own state of mind because I was angry for being scared, for letting this make me want to reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life. I felt mislead into believing that I am strong, that I am smart and capable of overcoming hurdles. And back then, I truly thought that was it. I was done, exhausted, tired. I was not willing to grant myself the love and acceptance I needed and deserved.
Over the last little while, my life has changed drastically. I have moved over oceans and continents, worked a full-time job, tried to be a rock star, fallen in love (with some more or less interesting characters, let’s leave it at that) and I am now doing something that makes me proud. Back in the rut, I couldn’t see myself ever living. I was surviving, plain and simple. I saw the drugs I had to take on a daily basis as a curse, not as a gift. I was stuck on the fact that I had disappointed myself – until one day, in a very uneventful, non dramatic way, it hit me.
I am strong because I was scared, I am smart because I didn’t have it all planned out, and I am deserving because I am, and I don’t need any other reason than that.
I have vowed to love myself unconditionally, to allow myself to cry, to do stupid things, to make out with the hot guy when I really shouldn’t, to skip a lecture, to cut out toxic people, to admit that I am wrong sometimes and there is nothing I can do about it. I have vowed to love, with no boundaries on who I might be, no box to fill, no idea of what I might turn out as. I am who I am, and that is, for the first time, just fine with me.
That is why, ladies, this Valentine’s Day, you can find me at the library because exams suck, and I really have to get back to studying once these drugs wear off. I’m pretty cool when my brain isn’t slowly being fried by multivariates, I promise.
(Check me out at Fixlips, my usual ranting box. Big mouth warning included. Cheers!)