Challenges in life are inevitable. How we handle those challenges is what determines our happiness.
Life is HEAVY. We are STRONG.
Life is HEAVY. We are STRONG.
There’s a lot I have to swallow as if it’s not eating me alive every second of every day and I know I’m not the only one. The delicate balance of allowing myself to feel authentically while staying afloat. For me, it’s three major things. Three storylines that linger, three battles I am constantly fighting.
I’ll start with the fact I’ll never see my brother again. It’s been 5 years since we lost him and still the only way to move forward is to push the thought away every time it faces me. He’s really gone and there’s no easy way to accept that. But I move forward the best way I know how. I distract my mind from going there. From feeling the gravity of that pain. It’s as if I’ve trained my mind to automatically recalculate when I’m heading deep into those waters. Heavy, weighted, taken by that emotion, I’d drown in that loss if I didn’t know how to swim. While I believe in allowing ourselves the freedom to feel our feelings and work through emotions, I also believe there are certain coping mechanisms that we need to keep living. Not everything goes away after feeling it and we must eventually make the decision to limit those hard feelings once they become repetitive. This year, on the five year anniversary of my brother’s passing, I have a trip planned to not only honor him but to honor my healing. Planned joy as I prepare for inevitable struggle.
Something else I have to swallow on a daily basis, quite literally, is all the misguidance from doctors in my lifetime and the consequences that came from that. More recently with the roller coaster of diagnosing my chronic jaw pain and finding the proper solution. Thousands of dollars and years of my life spent only making my pain worse. But what is the point in dwelling in that? Especially when I’m finally on my journey to recovery. My feelings, my anger, frustration and sadness are valid. While I can work towards giving the doctors who wronged me better information for their next patients and get the word out about my experiences hoping to help others, I can’t fix the issue I have with doctors. I know they can be stubborn, greedy know-it-alls. Whether or not they’re truly trying to help, opening their mind to benefit more people is a lost cause. I have to swallow these feelings. Bury them away and somehow leave them buried. Dancing on the dirt instead of stomping. I’m working on this but for now I feel that rage. I know when I’m no longer suffering from physical pain every second of every day I will have an easier time freeing myself of this torture, until then I breathe through it and look ahead.
Then there’s all the trauma. Trauma from being suicidal and obese from ages 8-22, barely surviving each day, hating every second of my life. Trauma from teenage years locked away in mental hospitals against my will. Panic attacks, fights with my parents, locking myself in my room with a bottle of pills. Being sent to a homeless shelter at 18, rooming with a pyromaniac at the short-term unit, finding out my dog died from a pay phone while locked inside what felt like prison. The countless funerals I attended as a child, family tragedies and the rest of life’s roadblocks. Heartbreak, pain, loss, you name it. Trauma isn’t something I’m short of in my 29 years on this earth, but I’m lucky enough to have gotten through it all.
I used to walk around numb. Whatever people saw didn’t matter to me. I hated myself and I hated my life, I was simply existing until I didn’t have to anymore. Now, even after everything, I love my life. I care about my mind, my body, my soul. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone else because I know I can take care of myself. However, my strength has been something I have begun to take advantage of.
Where is the line between feeling and suffocating? How do I validate my suffering while continuing on? The answer is always one step at a time. My brother will never come back but it has become easier for me to navigate my mind towards happier moments when I start to miss him. Doctors will always misguide people but I won’t let my misguidance be for nothing. I will make a difference in the lives of those my experience can reach and relate to. My trauma slowly but surely become memories. Pieces of my past lives that make me who I am today, and for that I’m grateful.
I may not have all the answers, there may not even be any real answers, but I have faith. I have progress. I have plans to make my life and other’s lives better and I have confidence that with that I will live a sustainable and fulfilling life forever.
I have a lot of uncertainty in my life right now. With my all-consuming surgery on hold until my prosthetic joints are produced, summer plans dependent upon appointments for my braces, hotel hopping while my landlords finish renovations to my apartment, all on top of the regular stressors of living in this unpredictable world. The pressure is ON and the time to practice letting what’s out of my control go is NOW.
I’m a planner. I like to do what I can to relieve current worries and prevent future stress. Setting plans to look forward to help push me through those harder moments, and not being able to do that has obviously made things harder. This has been a difficult time for me but I’m no longer the type of person who cowers in the face of tough times. I keep my cape ironed and clean in my closet for when I need it. This is the time to buckle up. To be my strongest self. To be my own hero, lifting my spirits high so I can see over these obstacles.
I want to wake up every day with intent. Live with a purpose, stay true to my morals, grow and mature as a human being but always find moments of joy. When something is out of my control I must push it out of my mind. As homesick as I am, I must not think about being back at home until it’s time. As agonizing as chronic pain can be, I must focus on the fact that a solution is coming instead of longing for the time when it arrives. As for that unpredictable schedule, I can plan things to look forward to on a day to day basis. Adjusting expectations is usually a reliable stress reliever in uncertain times like these. Finding joy from the simplest things can get me through any situation.
As I sit here writing, I already feel lighter. Realizing how much more is in my control than I thought. It doesn’t take much for me to feel positive. I have so much to be grateful for always. So much possibility to be excited about. The warmth I feel when I think of how far I’ve come so far in my life fills me with new feelings of joy knowing the progress my current predicaments will provide me. Change and uncertainty have always been hard for me, as they are for most, but it’s those challenging times that create a sustainable life. A life that is always evolving, always interesting and meaningful. If I know I will look back on this time and appreciate the journey, I can choose to embrace that success right now.
In a new development in my journey curing my chronic pain, I’ve discovered that my pain has in fact created more pain. The inflammation from arthritis of my temporomandibular joints (TMJ) caused elongation of my styloid process on both sides of my face. In other words, I now suffer from a super rare and painful thing called Eagle Syndrome on top of my already agonizing TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder). A sharp bone that isn’t supposed to be there at all now pushes against my nerves, muscles and other bones from my ears all the way down my neck. An utterly disturbing metaphor for life that pain really can manifest more pain if not taken care of. A reminder of how important it is to acknowledge and validate pain and then work towards healing.
Whether you’re suffering from physical or emotional pain, this is your wake up call. Not only does pain unaddressed go unresolved, but it can literally create more pain and more trauma. More grueling and unnecessary mountains to climb than if the journey started at first signs of discomfort.
Pain unaddressed can be as simple as refusing to release. Pushing back on unwanted emotions. Swallowing tears or letting anger fester inside. As humans, we can only hold so much in. We must release in order to move forward. How can we fly if we are weighed down? Read more on how I suggest we Let Go.
Pain unaddressed can also be the choice to ignore our bodies need for rest. Whether that be neglecting a physical injury instead of giving it time to heal or pushing ourselves too hard when we’re exhausted and getting no sleep, our bodies are our temple. If we don’t treat our body kindly, how can we expect to feel good?
A gentle rule of thumb is if something feels wrong, there is room to improve. Side tabling pain and marking it low priority in a busy schedule will only cause more chaos down the road. A priority you most likely won’t get to choose anymore but will have to fit in, now more aggressively and time consuming than before. Take care of pain when you feel it. Our feelings guide us if we trust and follow them.
I learned early in life that sensory pleasure is a good coping tool for me. From curling up in a cozy blanket and watching a movie to lighting a candle and drawing a bath, there are so many ways to satisfy my senses. So many attainable and simple actions I can take to access wanted emotions. Our senses are our superpower.
One of the few loves I kept with me from my old life is showering. Showers have always been therapeutic to me. A place of peace and relaxation. Sensory saturation. While still a comfort, showers serve me differently now.
Old Lindsay used showers as a coping mechanism. A place to cry where no one could hear. A temporary escape from my feelings. Drowning I could turn off with a knob. A place where I didn’t have to be anyone or do anything. I could feel how I felt and express it without intrusions. Old Lindsay took sit-on-the-floor-and-cry showers, and that was what she needed.
New Lindsay doesn’t sulk long enough for that same shower fix. Now a shower is pure joy. The heat blending with the smells of my favorite soaps and shampoos. Inhaling soft steam while it tingles my skin. I surrender to the flood of water pouring down my body. Letting my worries wash away because I know I have the power to do so. Lindsay today gets excited about showering. I look forward to feeling good. Plus, the shower is also a great place to think up new blog posts. ;)
When it comes to my senses, I prioritize indulging. Furry socks, poofy blankets, Sherpa sweatshirts. I appreciate feeling cozy. When there’s a choice to please my senses, I take it.
Visually, I search for what feels vibrant. Sunsets and sunrises bring out a unique warmth. Beaming at my surroundings. Waves, mountains, clouds. New places and aesthetics bring me so much joy. Photography is my way of holding onto each of these moments. I go out and experience these visual highs and then I create my own.
Lavender, vanilla, nutmeg. I’m the girl who always has candles going. Who breathes in deep when walking through an active kitchen. I smell my lavender chai latte before that first sip, and each sip after. I go out of my way to walk by a garden, making sure to stop and take a moment with the jasmine. Scents have a way of stopping time. Pulling you into a memory or a fantasy. Captured serenity.
If you have been following along with my blog for a while, you already know I’m a foodie. One of my very favorite hobbies is trying new foods. If you’ve ever sat down with me for a meal, you know just how much I appreciate a good bite. Dramatically. Taste is another area I love to explore. I not only make time to properly enjoy my meals, but with intuitive eating, I never feel guilty about what I eat.
Using my senses allows me to slow down my surroundings. Relax my busy mind, and mouth if I’m being honest. My senses make room for meditation, easily accessible wherever I go. Whether I’m showering or simply stopping to smell the flowers, I actively choose to give in to my senses. To unlock my superpower and create more moments of joy.
This week I had a very intense doctor’s appointment that determined a lot of good and a lot of bad. I really believe, after speaking with Dr. William Hang of Face Focused, that double jaw surgery with total joint replacement CAN cure me. That chronic pain will be another notch added to my belt of battles overcome. But this upcoming year is going to be especially challenging.
Not only do I need surgery that requires 4 overnights in the hospital, 6 weeks liquid diet and 6 months of a swollen face, but I also need adult metal braces for an entire year. I’m a 28 year old, single woman trying to put myself out there, date, be active and enjoy life already masking excruciating pain every second of every day, but now with brace face?! In preparation for surgery I will wear upper and lower old school metal braces with palate expanders for 6 months until surgery and about another 6 months post surgery. I am set up to balance self consciousness about the way I look on top of debilitating physical pain. However, only one of those struggles is truly out of my control.
If I’m getting braces, I’m going all out. Make them rainbow and add some sparkles. Instead of feeling bad about the way I look and feel physically, I’m going to choose instead to feel great about the way I look. Yeah, I have adult braces and they’re awesome. They are going to cure me of something I’ve been fighting my entire life. These braces symbolize my new life. Tightly screwed into what my pain free future will feel like, confident and colorful. Just as with every other challenge I’ve overcome, I will emBRACE this journey. Do what I have to do and try my absolute best to make the rest easier on myself, not harder.
While I may be stuck with this horrendous process to a pain free life, I always have freedom with how I handle my cards. How I rearrange the deck to present a winning hand. My immediate thought was another year of my life given away to TMJ disorder. My afterthought though, a year where I can rock adult braces and inspire others to embrace whatever it is they might be insecure about. Insecurity is an illusion after all, and so is confidence. How you feel about yourself is what projects onto others. Why should I feel embarrassed about braces? They’re an accessory to my character. Just another unique quality that makes me special. Braces to me means 6 months more pain for a lifetime rid of this nightmare. A success story with a hopeful map for all of those suffering from TMJ disorder still stuck hearing it’s in their head or there’s no solution. Another story to look back on when a new challenge arises. Life is what you make it and I’m making these braces rainbow.
~My dog & the sea lion~
If y’all haven’t heard, my dog has become a viral sensation. A video, which can be viewed here, of him and our sea lion neighbor checking each other out has picked up over 2 million views on my TikTok and been reposted on other popular outlets such as Newsweek, Pubity, Complex, Dogs of Instagram, and more. While hundreds of thousands reached out to say the interaction “made their day” or “put a smile on their face,” the haters always seem to scream louder.
While it is obvious to those who know me, I would NEVER encourage anyone to approach wildlife. To HARASS any animal - or human for that matter - something these keyboard warrior “wildlife activists” need some practice with. I took the appropriate precautions, when the sea lion approached us on our property, by calling the local wildlife rescue to ask if there was something I could do. Slowly backing away with my dog until I could bring him upstairs safely, I observed the sea lion. He moved slow and his behaviors showed no signs of distress or aggression. They were two beings saying hi. Respectfully and curiously acknowledging one another’s presence. Not close enough to touch, no harm, no hindrances. Just a special moment I will remember forever.
While many people were quick - and wrong - to accuse me of “harassing wildlife” or “being a bad dog mom,” the lesson here isn’t about either of those things. The lesson here is how I can practice drowning out the haters. Release the need to defend myself to every and anyone who disagrees with me. Accepting that in life I will be misunderstood and the best thing I can do for myself is to let it go and move on. I trust who I am shines brighter than who I might be made out to be.
It was tremendously difficult for me, for many days in a row, over and over, to be pronounced a horrible person on such a public platform. Especially by people who don’t even know me. By the kinds of people who argue with complete confidence about their marine wildlife facts and laws but can’t tell the obvious difference between a seal and a sea lion. I run a business trying to inspire fulfilling lives. It would be detrimental to my reputation if people were to confuse my values.
While I still feel the need to preach how we shouldn’t attack people online, especially when we don’t know the whole story, I know that’s not my takeaway. My takeaway is how I responded. My blog discusses how I used to handle things when they didn’t work for me and how I learned to handle things so they work now. Sharing the strategies that leave me feeling fulfilled and tossing my old, unsuccessful ways behind. I was in a constant state of anxiety, fear and discomfort when I was reading those negative comments. I let them get to me. I knew nothing they were saying approached the truth, but I was terrified others might get the wrong idea. I also knew nothing I said would make a difference, so I made the decision to stop responding. Stop wasting my energy on the haters. I am free now.
The outpouring of love has truly been unbelievable. I choose to focus on that. I see strangers rallying together behind me and my dog to flush out anyone who chooses to see what happened that day as anything but what it was. The friendliest and sweetest encounter. Wholesome content to simply enjoy. How lovely to watch people purposefully flooding positivity in the comments section to “drown out” the hateful and misinformed commenters. But I forgive myself for not responding to hate with love right away. I took a moment of hesitance and caution and navigated my way back to the love, just like I did with the sea lion.
To the people who have defended me or simply watched the video without trying to make something out of nothing, thank you. Thank you for being open-minded, open-hearted and loving. Thank you for taking time to send a loving message, showing your appreciation. I respect your ability to enjoy life in such a positive manner. I owe you gratitude for inspiring me to let go and do the same.
I tend to give better advice to others than I give myself. Offer more successful problem solving suggestions than I use in my own life. But I never stopped to ask myself why. Am I too close to the problem to separate productive thoughts from those overwhelming ones? Too proud to be vulnerable enough to see situations as they truly are? I believe the barrier between solutions I offer and solutions I choose is my natural response to seek temporary satisfaction.
Whether it be relationship, family, career, lifestyle, or everyday stressors, my deep and intuitive problem solving skills seem to shine brightest for my friends or even a stranger seeking guidance than in scenarios which include myself. So why can’t I remove myself from the story when working towards my own solution? Take a step away from the problem engulfing me and allow room to think rationally. I must reorganize my thoughts, filtering out those created by my pressured, unsatisfied and worried mind.
When hoping to guide someone else’s path into a positive place, I focus on general areas of success. What do they want? What will ultimately lead them to their goals? What might hurt them more than benefit them and what might provide a “good pain” in order to achieve ultimate success? But for myself, I have a tendency to act impatiently. Naturally, options that give me temporary satisfaction excite me, even though those options would never be suggestions in good faith. So why can’t I treat myself as a person who deserves ultimate reward? Trust in my ability to do the work and have the patience to bring a positive outcome to fruition. Temporary satisfaction isn’t respecting my goals. It isn’t even “good pain.” Temporary satisfaction is more like bad arousal. The tease before a tumble. It is what manipulates my problem solving from productive to harmful. The actions that prove disrespectful to myself. Prevent me from ultimately achieving what I deserve.
I must take a step away from the situation I am in when deciding how to move forward. Recognize what choices present themselves with bows and pretty wrapping paper only to be torn apart to scraps. The gifts of success aren’t handed to me in a pretty box. Success is acquired with strength and passion. Hard work, patience and determination. I’m the one wrapping these gifts, creating them and presenting them to myself. I will attain the full reward and remain on a straighter and longer line to satisfaction if I don’t take shortcuts that derail me.
I have the answers and I have the ability to incorporate them into my life, but I must separate my toxic mind from my productive mind. I must give myself the advice I would give to someone whose life I can see without distracted eyes. Eyes that attract more sustained happiness. Solution that has a positive impact not just for a moment, but for a lifetime.
It’s simple right? All I have to do is replace negative thoughts with a positive imagination. Dream, manifest, call for what I desire. If I have a positive attitude, envision a positive life, I can create one, right? If we’re capable of thoughts, we’re capable of hope. But what if I suffer from chronic pain?
Sometimes it seems impossible. To envision a way out when life closes in. Feeling stuck, exhausted from pushing back. Walls that have proven unbreakable time and time again. Splattered with sweat, splashed with blood from the everlasting fight that is survival. I’ve been hopeful and I’ve been disappointed too many times to count. The higher the hopes, the further down I drop. Back into enclosed misery. How can I grasp hope without expectation? Maybe a positive outlook doesn’t rely on a specific event. Maybe my outcome comes from hope itself.
I was stuck in a hopeless cycle for 15 years. If you’ve read my back story, you’ll know I was suicidal from adolescence until about 22. I had no hope and no desires. I lived inside those red walls for so long, I became colorblind. Losing sight of an outside, I stopped fighting. If I hadn’t found out the medicine I was taking was the key locking me in that space, I could have stayed there forever. But it was that glimmer of hope, the possibility of a life beyond those walls, that lifted me out. It was having something to fight for. The possibility of a fulfilling life.
A LOT has happened since I found my way. They say the best views come from the toughest climbs. How far I’ve come is a meter I can rely on when things get tough. I gained the kind of strength that proves unstoppable. I find joy from each day. Satisfaction and purpose. Simply grateful to breathe outside those walls. But life hasn’t been easy since I grasped onto hope. It has, however, been a journey worth fighting for. I didn’t give up on hope when my brother died suddenly. I didn’t lose sight of creating a fulfilling life when my Papa died 3 months later or when my Dad dropped unconscious at dinner. I’ve been rattled, beat down, tested time and time again, but hope is what carries me through. My strength comes from my confidence that I will find a way forward.
Chronic pain has been my newest battle. A burden weighing down on me harder than ever the past few years. Once again, my fate feels out of my control. No matter how hard I push back, doctor after doctor, test after test, I’m left with no relief. Stuck again inside red walls.
For years I have suffered without answers, without much hope that I could find a path for recovery. I flipped to survival mode. Depression kicked in imagining a life where talking and eating became too painful, even impossible. I saw too many doctors who couldn’t help me. The idea of living in pain, adjusting and accepting that fate, is pretty hopeless whichever way you spin it. No one should have to suffer like that. It feels unfair, I get angry. Irritable and uncomfortable. But I didn’t stop fighting, because I knew what was waiting for me on the other side. I remember the power of hope. Hope provides the hammer to break down the walls that trap me.
Feeling hopeful, I turned to Reddit for more possibilities. Real people who have tried all sorts of treatments, hopeful to find any with success. That was how I found out about The Breathe Institute and Dr. Zaghi. From there I found Dr. Ratti Handa in Acton, MA who was able to start my process while I’m back East for the summer. Finally tests that provide relevant information. X-rays proving my pain. A visual representation of what I have been trying to spell out. People who understand what I’m going through and know what to do to help. With this hope, the pain doesn’t feel so consuming. There is an end to my pain in sight. A window to the room I’ve been trapped in. I can start by enjoying that view.
Pain is there to protect us. Our bodies’ way of communicating what needs attention. But pain should go away when tended to. Building strength through treatment. Providing growth. Moving past it. Keep your eyes open for a post on Myofunctional Therapy, Tongue-Ties and MY success story, because I truly believe it will be mine to tell soon. But for now, I have hope.
Written on April 10th, 2021.
Today is National Sibling’s Day. I’m not sure when every day became a holiday but I am ALL for finding things to celebrate! Of course, there will always be days that not all of us can celebrate. Mother’s Day for those who lost their mothers, Father’s Day with no father. I guess today is a holiday of loss for me. However, I had 24 years with my brother and I will continue to celebrate that forever.
Before I jump back into those 24 years and the days with my brother that stay in my memory forever, I want to take you to Sibling’s Day, 3 years ago. One year after Jeffrey’s passing. Forgetful what my social media feeds would be filled with, I was unprepared to see the world showing off their brothers and sisters. I was jealous, longing and sad.
The way I deal with grief is by reworking the thoughts that come into my head. We may not be able to control these thoughts at first, but we can meet them where they are and then adjust them with our attitude. Of course my initial response waking up to Sibling’s Day was to cry. I don’t have a brother anymore, so what once was a celebration, is now a memorial. But then something amazing happened. I had been thinking about getting a tattoo in his honor and I woke up determined to make this dream happen. The best celebration I could manage that year. In a way, to celebrate with Jeffrey again.
I put on my bathing suit, considering the side of my rib cage was my desired spot to tattoo, grabbed my headphones and headed out the door. Hitting play on my “Jeffy” playlist with a skip in my step. “Jeffy” was what I called my brother before I could pronounce my r’s, and his playlist was full of songs we used to jam to together. A collection of Blink-182, Good Charlotte, Relient K, Janet Jackson’s All For You (a 90’s kid’s classic), and every Eminem song that existed on my phone. My walk to the tattoo parlor started and finished with “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. Energy bursting through my soul with each verse. I lost myself in the music as I skipped all the way from my apartment in Santa Monica to the Ocean Front Tattoo Shop on the Venice beach boardwalk. Ocean views and a Nintendo 64 on the shelf above symbolically stared me in the face as I got marked with my brother for this Sibling’s Day and every day to come.
“Lose yourself in the music” is exactly what Jeffrey did. Literally & metaphorically. To those who knew my brother, you can probably picture him with his headphones over his ears. Drumming with his hands, COMPLETELY lost in the music. It was his passion. Dissecting lyrics, studying beats and rhythms and the artists who created them. No one was more crafty at the job than Eminem. My favorite version of Jeffrey was when he was clapping out the beats to explain Eminem’s thoughtful rhythm patterns. I remember it like yesterday. Whether we were in the car together or sitting around the gazebo with friends, his excitement was contagious. Pure appreciation for the art and genuine satisfaction while enjoying it.
Not only did my brother lose himself in music when he listened, he immersed himself in all of his passions. “He was an avid and skilled video gamer, and he possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of gritty television dramas and comedies that he shared voluminously with anyone who would listen. He had recently finished writing a dystopian fantasy, which he was looking forward to seeing made into the next Netflix blockbuster.” This quote can be found in his obituary, written by his cousins who knew him best. These passions drove my brother’s spirit and those who were lucky enough to meet him will most likely remember this quality of him best. Always thrilled to share what he had found. To challenge his theories on Reddit and discuss storylines and examinations with his friends and family. His enthusiasm poured onto those around him. Trust me, nothing could make you excited about death metal unless Jeffrey was telling you about his favorite bands. The energy flowing from a passionate person, someone who loves hard and spreads joy, is the type of influence each one of us can benefit from. The spirit we must all hold on to.
Whether today is a holiday you feel hindered from or you find yourself in a situation where outside forces seem to be working against you, my advice is to “lose yourself in the music.” Fall in love with what makes you happy, share that joy, and never let outside forces pull you away. Jeffrey reminded me of that every day he was alive and continues to remind me still with this short but meaningful quote I now carry with me permanently.
Last week I needed MRI scans of my brain, neck and spine to gather more information as to why I suffer from vertigo and chronic TMJ and neck pain. These 3 scans added to a total of 50 minutes lying completely still in a tiny, closed in and very noisy machine. Am I claustrophobic? Check. Do I have anxiety? That’s two checks! I also have pain in my body that craves constant moving and stretching. And yes, I get vertigo lying down to the point of nausea and sometimes unconsciousness. I was recommended to take something that could help relax all of this, but I chose to rely instead on my mind.
In the days leading up to my appointment, I made sure my mind was enforcing my “invitation only” rule. Keeping the door closed to whatever worries gathered outside. There was simply no use in entertaining any of them. Even imagining what the test would be like or what it may discover had no benefit to me. All I could do was show up and move forward. Whatever it may be. Follow the process and protect my mind.
I anticipated the waiting room would collect a crowd of worries I’d need to deny. It did, but I was prepared to stay focused. Internally encouraging myself, “just do your job.” As I was called back, I was asked to wait on this short and skinny ottoman no bigger than my dog’s bed. A technician went over my information with me, asked what kind of music I would like to listen to, and concluded by letting me know the machine would be the same size as the “couch” I was sitting on. My first instinct was to panic. Noting my curiosity clearly didn’t overpower my anxiety. But panicking would only hurt me more. Instead, I focused on following instructions. I could do this.
I was directed to a dressing room where I changed into scrubs and locked away my personal items. Breathing through my fears and keeping my mind focused on each individual task as I accomplished them. Then I was guided to a serious looking door that I imagined looked similar to the doors of a space ship. As I walked up to the machine, I made sure to take in as little as possible of my surroundings. The less I knew, the better. As I positioned myself onto this moving board that seemed to fit the exact size of my body, it began to feel harder to breathe. I recalled my earlier note on my anxiety overpowering my curiosity, and decided right then and there I would keep my eyes shut until I could leave. I would keep my thoughts positive, and my imagination pleasant. As the board beneath me jerked and began sliding backwards, my heart pounded with all the emotions I had been holding back. But I knew the door to my mind was unbreakable. I breathed, I listened to the music (Dave Matthews Radio, as requested) and I reminded myself I can do anything I set my mind to. My heartbeat steadied. I remembered who I am.
The first 10 or so minutes were some of the most empowering moments of my life. As I lay there with nothing to do but think, I couldn’t help but feel proud. How brave I was to rely on my own ability to motivate positive thoughts. How strong I was to overpower legitimate fears and create a space for myself to meditate. In a situation where I had only one thing in control — my mind — I was able to be my own hero. To comfort myself with affirmations. To create and play out happy thoughts. To continuously feed my confidence and encourage myself to get this job done. Instead of counting down the seconds until my hour of misery was up, I chose to breathe, practice relaxation and send away every worrisome thought that tried to enter my head. I had only one job for the next hour: sit still and relax.
Once the decision was made that this test was necessary for my healing, I chose to do what I could to make this process as easy as possible, and it worked. Pushed aside unnecessary worrying, ignored what was expendable, and focused on each task at hand. If I could face this fear of mine in a productive way, what’s stopping me from continuously choosing a path that gets things done and minimizes struggles? Another challenge taken on and another achievement added to my belt. It almost makes the hard stuff feel worth it.
The truth is, this test might uncover disappointing results. Perhaps surgery, more testing or unpleasant treatment was next. But if my ultimate goal is to be without pain, I will repeat my same process. Eliminate the challenges that aren’t necessary to healing. Life is rarely easy. But life is always what we make of it. I view challenges as opportunities. Moments to prove to myself my capabilities and chances to learn more skills moving forward. With this experience I did both. I feel stronger because of the way I handled myself and I understand more of what it takes to live a little easier. I didn’t just get the job done, I managed my emotions, learned and practiced valuable coping mechanisms, fought for my mind and my body and hey, I even got a blog post out of it!
Lindsay Greenberg, providing perspective on how to live a magical life.