There’s A What in My Where?

I wasn’t planning on writing about this, because I am honestly just so tired of talking about it, but with the texts, phone calls, and love I’ve received and not always “physically” (texting/calling back) responded to, I wanted to send you all a quick update.

I’m sitting by myself for the first time in a month and a half. No puppy to look after, no friends to laugh with, no roommate to annoy, no mom to nag me and simultaneously clean and make dinner.

~Talk about some much needed reflection time.~

The week before Super Bowl Sunday, I was sick. I thought I caught a stomach bug going around the school. I was planning to go up to Orlando that weekend for the festivities but felt like crap so I stayed home, as soon as the Super Bowl started – I realized just how horrible I felt. I took myself to urgent care and had tests done and was sent home saying I had an upset tummy (no duh), and had a lab order for an ultrasound of my abdomen just to double check my appendix and gallbladder at my convenience.

That evening things got worse, I was in more pain and I was getting worried. I called my PCP in Orlando’s after hours line, and the doctor on call told me to go to the ER, because it sounded like I had a bleeding ulcer.

Being the stubborn person that I am, and also not wanting to go alone to the ER, I decided to wait to see if I get sick again. Sure enough I did, so off I went.

There wasn’t a long wait, but it was long enough to send me back to the last time I was at the ER…for Andy. The metal detectors and certain smells, so triggering. I wonder when things won’t be so triggering…anyway…

Thankfully they got me in quickly, but they didn’t have a room for me. I was in the middle of the hallway. On a hospital bed. By myself. On Superbowl Sunday. (Cue the tiny violins) My medical team was awesome and let me watch the halftime show on one of the nurse’s iPhones though. The little things, ya know?

Long story short….they ran a bunch of tests and poked me too many times, finally got me a room and both of my doctors came in somberly and asked the nurse to leave the room. My heart dropped.

“We found something. You have a 4cm tumor in your right ovary.”

A WHAT? IN MY WHERE? BUT I’M BY MYSELF. DON’T TELL ME THIS. YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’VE BEEN THROUGH THE PAST 12 MONTHS…WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME THIS? 

They gave me instructions to follow up with an OBGYN and sent me home.

Fast-forward through all of the insanity that includes me making more phone calls and decisions within 1 month than I have in my entire life, and here I am.

I had surgery last Tuesday, March 6th. Surgery was very successful, although the tumor was >7cm (think tennis ball/baseball sized). Since it was so large, I could not have it done non-invasively. I was in the hospital for 3 days and 2 nights, I came home for a few days and then I went to Orlando for a few days. My mom and I drove down today for my follow up and…….

Today I found out my pathology report came back and said everything is good and my tumor was BENIGN!!!

So the next steps are healing and following up with the fertility doctor.

All of this craziness has put a lot of things in perspective for me. I’m really excited to start doing the things I really want to do and not wait around. I’m really grateful for the gift of my health and the support of my family and friends. And I’m really proud of myself for getting all of this taken care of, scheduled, coordinated, and OVER WITH!

Hopefully this concludes the absolutely horrible, frustrating, painful, emotionally draining year that we’ve been dealt.

I’m feeling more positive today, but this has been one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever dealt with in my life. “Frustrating” is the only word I know to use to describe it all.

Onwards & upwards! I can’t wait to share with you all about my plans and goals for the near future.

Thank you to everyone who has been praying and sending well wishes. I love you all.

Here’s to a happy, positive, HEALTHY life.

Peace out, tumor! Blaming the duck lips on the pain pills. 😛

xoxo

It’s OKAY To Have A Moment

The past few weeks I’ve been in my head a lot more than usual. I don’t really know how to describe what that means unless you get that way too, but I’ll try. When I “get in my head” that usually means for me that I overthink every word said to me, every situation, every. little. thing. I’m a sensitive person by my own admission, but during those times I get so hyper-sensitive I even annoy myself. I’ll assume the worst case-scenario for everything going in my life and get very narrowed in and unable to see the big picture. I’ll feel an unrelenting anxiety that I literally feel like my head is going to explode. Negative thoughts, negative emotions, a heightened sense of unstable feelings. Sounds great, right?

It all came to a head when I was in Savannah, GA for the weekend with some friends. I just felt so uneasy about my relationships and what I’m doing and where I’m at in life. I drank too much, and BOOM – panic. Do you know how uncomfortable it is to be on the verge of a full blown panic attack hours from home and (trying) to keep it together in front of everyone? I won’t say I handled it well, but after FINALLY getting myself to eat something the next day (popcorn to be exact), I was able to handle the journey back and somewhat collect myself.

I’ve been an anxious person for as long as I can remember, always worrying. If you read my blogs  then you know my anxiety spiked drastically with my brothers most recent attempt in November 2015. After his passing, I wondered if my anxiety would just go away – my biggest fear happened…so what else is there to worry about? Cue me feeling like a complete idiot 9 months later. Now I just worry about everyone else that I love deciding they don’t want to be here either. I am struggling so much with my friendships because I’m so insanely terrified that every meaningful relationship I have is just going to abruptly end and leave me heartbroken. I’m SLOOOOOWLY comprehending that just because Andy and I’s relationship ended, the ONE relationship that was supposed to last forever, doesn’t mean that every other meaningful relationship is going to just be snatched away from me as well. It’s so frustrating typing that because I am so aware of how absolutely ridiculous it sounds that everyone I love is just going to stop loving me back and leave me, but I’d be lying if I said those weren’t my thoughts. It happened once – in the most tragic way – what’s stopping it from happening again?

One of the most frustrating things for me right now is knowing and understanding what’s logical but not yet being able to believe it.

Luckily, two days ago I felt myself feeling relief and having more clarity. But then this morning I had a moment. I cried and admitted things to my bestie/roommate that I couldn’t believe I was saying. Selfish, narrowed minded thoughts that I’m ashamed of. But you know what? IT’S OKAY TO HAVE A MOMENT. It was a horrible start to my day, but I let myself feel it, I let myself cry, and then I turned it around. I felt okay. I knew I was going to be okay. Really deep down in my heart and in the depths of my mind I know I am going to be just fine. I will continue to build meaningful relationships and I won’t lose everyone I love. And if I do, then that relationship just wasn’t meant to be.

I give myself little mantras to remember for the day/week/month and this week’s is:

“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

 

Life is not linear, nor is it black and white.

Love who you can,
Love while you can,
And I’m fairly certain life will love you back.

 

Give yourself a moment, “lean into the suck” as my dad says, and remember that each day is a new chance to find joy.

XOXO,
Sam

Neurofeedback

I FEEL HOPEFUL.
I FEEL EMPOWERED.
I FEEL PROGRESS.
I FEEL RELIEF.

I have been in therapy for my anxiety (and now grief) for about 2 years on and off now. When I made the move to South Florida, I also left my therapist. My therapist and I had a great relationship, she “got” me, she too suffered with anxiety and it felt great to talk to someone who could relate and give me concrete advice and coping skills. She was also my brother’s therapist which created a very unique bond for us after his passing. So once I moved here, we tried to keep having sessions through telecommunication but it was just not the same for me. After a few months of struggling, I decided to reach out and find a new therapist.

Once I got to my new therapist, I was NOT looking forward to telling someone my life story. I felt extraordinarily anxious about starting this process with someone new. My struggles in middle school, my anxiety since then, my brother, the loss of my brother, and now my own struggles with depression. Sucks to put it all out there in an hour long meet and greet sharing everything you’ve struggled with and what you’re still struggling with. We clicked though, and she told me about Neurofeedback. I asked 1 million questions and even asked for a quick demo and I was FASCINATED. I came home and did hours and hours of research. Why had I never heard of this before?! To be honest, I was little angry because this could’ve helped my brother! But, let’s not go there…This is about my healing from this point forward.

I spoke with my parents and we decided I’d give it a try. My new therapist said it takes 5-8 sessions to see significant improvement and 20 sessions to have lasting results. Seems like a lot, right? I thought so too. But I will be going twice a week for the first few times to get my brain used to the program. I had my third session today and I have already started feeling results. I am sleeping better, not having as frequent nightmares, my depression isn’t as debilitating, but my anxiety hasn’t subsided yet. I do have to say my mind-set has changed a lot over the last week and a half since learning about Neurofeedback. I feel so hopeful and realize that I don’t have to be sad or anxious and that I can fix this. I can do this. I don’t deserve to be sad and worried all the time. I did nothing wrong and won’t continue to let myself be self-deprecating.

In a nutshell, Neurofeedback allows your brain to see itself. It holds up a mirror to your brain and shows it the parts that need to be fixed. According to the program I am using, called “BrainPaint”, “In the case of EEG biofeedback, software gives visual and audio feedback to provide an experience to the brain of enhanced function, specifically to improve its regulation of thoughts, feelings, and focus. As with everything we learn, a beneficial lesson makes a lasting impression”. When I read that I seriously wanted to slap myself. It makes total sense. If your brain doesn’t know what it’s doing wrong, how can it fix itself? Medication is a bandage that I personally don’t want to wear forever, and my practical mind knows what’s right and wrong, but for some reason my brain won’t allow me to experience life the right way anymore. As much as I believe in psycho-therapy (aka “Talk Therapy”), I don’t feel talking about what has happened will be beneficial any longer. I get myself all worked up and force myself to relive and think deeply about all the things that are “wrong” with me. What good does that do? I typically leave feeling worse. So I have decided to give Neurofeedback a whirl.

The most common applications Neurofeedback is used for are:
Depression
Insomnia
Anxiety
ADD/ADHD
PTSD
Addiction
Increased Energy
Relationships
Fears

I was given a few days to decide on the 4 areas that are lowering my quality of life the most, for me it is: PTSD/Trauma (which includes nightmares & consistent daily flashbacks), Sleeplessness, Anxiety, and Depression. My therapist then asked me 90 questions to give the program specifics about what I am needing to work on. I was then hooked up with sensors on my earlobes and different areas of my scalp. One question I had was if anything was going into my brain, like waves or shocks or anything…the answer is a big ole NO! The sensors simply pick up the electrical activity coming from your brain. For me personally, the first part of my sessions each time is an “eyes closed” portion, which is by far the hardest part. Basically the program prompts me to be in my subconscious and think about a happy time or moment for 1 minute, and then I am supposed to let my subconscious drift wherever it may. I am not supposed to guide it back to positive thoughts or different thoughts. This is to help me process and heal my PTSD symptoms. The first time I did this my therapist asked me if there’s anything I’d like to process after I opened my eyes and I said no. She then showed me on the screen where my brain waves changed and she could see me having unpleasant thoughts in real time. WHAT! EVEN!

Next, you watch morphing fractal images created from your brain activity as well as listen to sounds that your brain waves are creating. It is broken up into 2 minute chunks with a 20 second rest in between. You will need the break… trust me! The first couple of sessions were difficult to get my brain to focus but today’s 3rd session was much easier for me for some reason. Your brain activity is being monitored the entire time and there are check systems to be sure you are getting the full effect of the treatment. It’s like a workout for your brain and boy am I tired afterwards! It’s insane how taxing this treatment is, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

The fact that there is a program out there that is clinically proven to help “fix your brain” is incredible to me. I asked my therapist why this isn’t a more prominent option for treatment. She basically said it’s because psychiatrists make their money off of writing prescriptions because people want a quick fix. I have absolutely no judgement for that, as I am on anti-depressants and a heavy antihistamine to help me fall back asleep quickly when I wake up frequently during the night. But I much rather fix the root of the problem than to keep taking a medication for the rest of my life. Of course this is just a personal choice after watching my brother go through medications after medication and finding no relief.

I have only gone through three treatments so far but I am hell bent on the idea that this is going to help me and fix me, but it will take work. Helping yourself isn’t about just walking into a therapists’ office, it’s about holding yourself accountable and making the changes you want to see happen within yourself. Your mindset is more than half the battle. It is much easier said than done to be open and hopeful that you will get better.

Recovering from a tragedy or struggle is not an easy choice, it is hard work. Sitting in your own sadness can become disgustingly comfortable. It is the HARDER choice to challenge yourself to overcome your obstacles.

What is the alternative to this hard road? Giving up? Well, I refuse to sink. Andy wouldn’t want me to go down with him. As much as I miss him with every ounce of my being and want to lie in bed and do nothing by cry most days, I know he would want me to rise up and be who I am supposed to be. This is a huge step in my healing but just a small fragment of who I will become. I miss my person, every second of every day. But I love him a thousand times more. This is for you, Andy bear, but this even more for ME.

Love, Sister

Tear Down The House – The Avett Brothers

I remember crying over you,
and I don’t mean like a couple of tears and I’m blue.
I’m talking about collapsing and screaming at the moon,
but I’m a better man for having gone through it.
Yes, I’m a better man for having gone through.

Ever since I learned how to curse.
I’ve been using those sorry old words.
But I’m talking to these children and I’m keeping it clean.
I don’t need those words to say what I mean.
No, I don’t need those words to say what I mean

Tear down the house that I grew up in.
I’ll never be the same again.
Take everything that I used to own,
and burn it in a pile

“Now the ‘Why’?”

____________________________________________
About two weeks ago, the Anxiety and Depression Associate of America (ADAA) featured three blog posts (you can read them at the links posted above) that I wrote explaining my side of the story after losing him. I spoke with the excecutive director of the ADAA shortly after Andy passed away because we raised money for their organization in lieu of flowers and the director reached out to me and thanked me for the contributions towards their programs. We (my parents and I) decided on working with the ADAA because we truly feel the research/treatment for clinical depression is just not where it needs to be. The ADAA focuses on research, outreach, treatment, and raising awareness – so we thought it was a perfect fit for what we were wanting to raise money towards.
Once I spoke with the director and told her I wanted to be involved and to help in some way, when I was ready, we decided that I would be a guest blogger for their community. Five months went by and I finally decided to send in my three writings to be shared with the internet world.
It was difficult to write.
It was difficult to submit.
It was difficult to know everyone was reading my thoughts.
It was difficult to hear the feedback (although positive).
But the most difficult part for me was knowing I was not 100% authentic. I really skimmed the edges of how painful this has all been in fear of upsetting and worrying my friends and family. I skipped the parts that would hurt too much for others to read, which defeated the whole purpose of sharing my story.
I know my words through those three blog posts will help others, but I just wish I would have been more transparent about how absolutely devastating this has all been. Yes, I shared some thoughts and details but that barely even scraped the surface. I promised myself that through these blogs I would be 100% real and honest, because people need to know. People need to know what it does when you choose this option. If I can be some sort of voice of reason for someone else, then I’ll take the risks and vulnerability that goes along with writing down your most gut wrenching struggles and thoughts.
The worst has happened, it’s all about struggling back up the mountain to “normality” and happiness at this point.
Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of me and for everyone who continues to check up on my parents. It means the world to me to know they are so well loved and cared for by their friends and neighbors.
Buckle up, ya’ll. Cause shit’s about to get real.

Xoxo, Samantha