Monday, January 16, 2017

A Perfect Day

Sometimes, Heavenly Father gives us the perfect day.

I had to say goodbye to my dear friend Caroline on Friday. I didn't know how I was going to do this or how the time leading up to our goodbye would go. I desperately needed Heavenly Father's help but didn't know what to say in a prayer. So I kept it simple and as I pulled up to their house quickly uttered, "Heavenly Father, help." 

From the moment I stepped into their house to my final hug with Caroline, the day was perfect. Caroline and I went to pick up the kids from a friend's house and I was greeted with hugs, smiles, and happiness! While there I noticed that my shirt was on backwards and went into the bathroom to switch it around but didn't lock the door. In came Emma and Ian - I loved it! Ms Emma had to go to the bathroom and asked for help and Ian climbed in the tub lol I got to buckle them into their car seats when we left and talk with them all the way to McDonald's where we had lunch. Both Emma and Ian wanted to sit by me (I felt so loved!) and Emma snuggled up next to me, looked up and said, "I love you, Auntie Rachel." My heart melted. At one point I had my arms around both of them and we snuggled while waiting for our food. Emma and I played a few amazing rounds of rock, paper, scissors, and I loved seeing the joy on her face when she won. We went home and while Ian took a rest, Emma and I played in my car. I got to introduce her to "doing donuts" not "eating donuts" HA! When I said "Do you want to go do donuts?" She said, "I love donuts!" I then explained what that meant and she still had a good time! We stayed at the top of her cul-de-sac and kept it under 1 MPH so she got to sit buckled up in the front seat. It was so much fun! Ian woke up and I sweetly found myself with Ian on my left leg and Emma on my right leg, snuggled up for some cuddles and TV. Caroline walked by and said, "Don't move. You're not allowed to help pack." I didn't fight that at all. I sat in that moment, soaking in how much I loved them, and let the tears fall as I experienced sadness that they would be far away. I'm so grateful for the skills I have now to not push the emotions away, but rather, let them come, and know that they won't last forever. They had a snack and then we all went out to play in my car. I asked them if they wanted to drive my car - crazy, I know, but I couldn't help it! One of my favorite memories is sitting on my Dad's lap, "driving" the car! Emma was thrilled and actually did a really good job! Ian was content to honk the horn ha! We did some more donuts and then I introduced them to the magic that is my non-automatic windows! They had a blast rolling up and down my windows. I was so happy to have their finger prints all over my windows - it'll be a long time before I wash my car. Next we went to the giant truck they had rented and I encouraged them to run around in it :) Because I'm cool like that. I loved every second of their running and giggles. All throughout the day I kept wanting to pull out my phone and record what was happening - but Heavenly Father encouraged me to just live in the moment, to be fully present, and completely enjoy them. (We later found out that there were two huge nails sticking up from the floor of the truck bed and the kids had been running around there without shoes on! I know Heavenly Father sent angels to watch over them so they didn't hurt their little feet.) They got to explore the cab of the truck and then I gave them a "treat" (hello reese's pieces) from my purse. Oh the simple joys of chocolate and peanut butter. I knew it was almost time to take them to their cousins' house and began to panic a little. The drop off was quick but filled with precious moments. Emma hasn't been into having her picture taken recently, but she happily came and gave me a tight tight hug and took a few pictures with me. She was so silly and said, "Pretend we're married and dip me!" LOL That girl is SO fantastic! I told her how much I loved her and that I would come visit soon to see her new pink room. Then Ian came too without tears and let me give him big hugs and kisses and said he wasn't going to show me his room when I came to visit but would go with me to the beach HA! Saying goodbye to Simon was so hard - I didn't have any good words to say. I'm just so grateful for his friendship, for how happy he makes my dear friend, and for the amazing dad he is to my niece and nephew. I hated saying goodbye to Caroline. I could've hugged her for days. She has been the answer to so many of my prayers. Her influence in my life has been tremendous. She IS an angel Heavenly Father sent to watch over me. Looking back on the day, it was perfect in so many ways. The kids were delightful. I needed all of those hugs and "I love you, Auntie Rachel" and reassurances that I matter to them. They are so precious to my heart and knowing I am important to them means the world to me. I needed the snuggles at McDonald's and on the couch. At one point while we were playing in my car, I had Ian climbing all over me and Emma showing me tricks and bumping into me. I felt like I was reaching my "touch" limit, and then had the thought, "This doesn't happen very often. Relax and enjoy it because you'll look back on this moment and miss it." That has proven to be true. I do miss the climbs and bumps. They translate into, "I love you." I am so happy they made it to FL safely. I'm so thankful for facetime and phone calls and texts and facebook and pictures - all of these things will help the distance be a little less painful.

Saturday night Mom and I were talking in the family room when she said, "I want to tell you how proud I am of you for getting genuine joy from other people's children. It's a very Christ-like quality to find joy in something that you could be upset about. Right now you want children and a family of your own and you could feel bitter towards Heavenly Father that you don't have those things. But instead, you are reaching out and finding joy in other people's children. It's an endearing quality." I was so touched by her words. I had never thought of my love for my friends' babies and children in this light before, but I was so thankful for my Mom's insight. I feel happy and loved when I'm with these little ones. I can't help but feel joy. I know my time to be a mommy will come. I believe it will come. And until then, I'm going to love the children Heavenly Father has put in my life.

Tonight I'm feeling especially grateful for Heavenly Father's hand in my life. He has given me so much - a perfect goodbye and lots of babies to love. My heart is full.


Monday, December 26, 2016

Flowing Slowly

Christmas was different this year. Slower. I feel like it flowed easier. Chris was in a motorcycle accident Thursday (12/22/16) and spent the night in the hospital. I know there were angels keeping him safe. He could've died. But he didn't. He is going to be ok, though the whole thing is still ridiculously scary.
I've felt stronger and more capable this year. There is a direct parallel between my awareness of limits and my ability to accomplish things. I know what I can give and how much is too much. It has been incredibly self-reinforcing for me to give myself permission to do or not do.

With Chris's accident on Friday, Mom needed help shopping for Christmas Eve and Day dinners. Becca and I did that and again, I was confident in my ability to know when enough was enough. We did a great job and all things flowed well. Christmas Eve I wanted to go shopping for a few things. I wanted to test myself and my skills - to see if I could manage my anxiety and conversion symptoms under increased stress. Truly with God's help I did amazing! 3/4ths of the way through my shopping trip at Kohl's I realized I was panicking. In the moment I was able to talk to myself, "You're going to be ok. You really are. You have your cold water in the car. You can take your anxiety medicine. Oh, you're hot. You can sit in front of the AC in the car and rest. You're doing great. You really are! Breathe. You're going to be ok because you just are." I was so happy with my ability to talk myself off the "Cliff of Panic" and back to a safe zone where I could manage my symptoms. I realized after cooling down in the car that I was hungry - so I gave myself permission to eat out. The whole experience was really very validating of all the hard work I've done in DBT over the past 3 1/2 years and reinforced to me that I have the skills to cope with life.

One of the coolest things that's happening is that I have energy after coming home from errands. Even as recently as 4 months ago, I was toast after 2 errands and had to come home to nap for 2-3 hours. Now, I'm switching to a more normal routine - I sleep better if I don't nap and I'm able to do cooking/baking/cleaning after errands if I give myself 10-15 minutes of "sit and stare chair time." How amazing is that?? For years, I honestly thought I would never be able to function without a daily nap. I didn't think I would be able to do more than 1 or 2 things in a day. I thought I would always have psychogenic seizures. Because of these thoughts my life seemed pretty doomed. I'm stunned to say that I was wrong! Promises of healing from God are happening! Not in the way or time I expected, but they are coming. I see being able to shop at 3 different stores, come home and make 3 different dishes for dinner, and clean up after dinner as a huge healing! Last year I wasn't able to do one of those things - and if you had told me, "In a year, you're going to do 7 different big things in a day!" I would've started to cry - because I thought I knew there was no way that would ever be possible.

To my joy, it has been possible! I'm so grateful for the rhythmic flow of life. Yesterday was Christmas - Chris is bed-bound for the next few weeks and Sarah got really sick. So we all "flowed" with the day. Stockings, church, breakfast for lunch, presents, naps, and we gave ourselves permission to not make Christmas dinner! It was amazing. We did that tonight - it flowed so well. I was extremely pleased with our flexibility as a family. This has been an odd Christmas in the sense that one of our loved ones was in a serious accident 3 days before Christmas. It changed everything. But we adjusted and moved slowly accordingly.

I am doing better and better at living in the moment. Being present and attentive to the here and now. Tomorrow will take care of itself and yesterday has passed. So I'll just be here for now.

I am not angry or dreading the new year like I was last year. Oh my word. I read my post in December of last year and January of this year. WoW. I look back at myself with compassion. The me then was terrified and depressed. Two horrible feelings to have together. Life had lost so much of its meaning for me. But, I kept going. I remember how sad January was. The whole month I was afraid and depressed - "afressed." But I survived it and went on to conquer 6 months of exposure therapy - launch a successful GoFundMe campaign (THANK YOU FOR DONATING!!!) - go on 5 different trips - make tons of fun crafts for Christmas gifts - and I could go on and on. There have been so many big and little things that have happened this year. Some of my favorite little things have been becoming in-tune with my body. I have been able to talk to my body calmly and compassionately. For example, a few weeks ago I had been sick for 2 weeks. I literally couldn't stop going to the bathroom. I prayed for help in understanding what was wrong and then talked to my body, "Body, I know you're hurting. I am aware that something is making you unhappy. I really want to help you get better. Please help me understand what is wrong so I can fix it for you." Later that day I was able to identify a supplement I was taking too much of, adjust the dosage and ta-da! I was better. Showing compassion to my body has been a huge step for me. This time last year I was writing about how much I hated my body. But within the last two months, a love for my body has been growing. I see myself as beautiful. I see my body as a tool to help me live my life to its fullest. When it's sick, that's feedback for me. That's my opportunity to look at it with compassion and say, "Yes, you've been working so hard, you're doing so much for me, what can I do to help you feel better and be more efficient?" I love being kind to my body. It's been a blessing to have compassion for myself.

This year, I can say with confidence, "I'm not where I was a year ago and I'm not where I'll be in a year!"

I'm going to enter 2017 with an open curiosity for life. I will not spend time worrying about issues that are out of my hand. Instead I will invest my energy in positive, uplifting thoughts and activities.

Maybe the Best really is yet to come. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

My Time to Mourn

It's hard to be ok. To smile and look the part when inside I'm crumbling. My anxiety took a hard hit this week. My mind has been frantically "rabbit-holing" all week. I hate November 18th. I thought I would have more peace or at least more acceptance this year, but it actually just sucked. It's an "anniversary" that haunts me and in its goulish voice it whispers lies that I'm too weary to negate. I've heard these lies for years and when I'm vulnerable they come crashing onto my shore, stealing away the peace I had. I could feel the episode (seizure is such a harsh word and not everyone agrees that that's what it should be called - so I'll say episode) building all week. The stress was written on my face. The increased depression effected my energy. The anxiety tried to escape as I relentlessly picked at my skin, fingers, and toes. What goes up must come down. The pressure was too much inside of my mind and body. Today it came down through multiple episodes. I hate the episodes. I hate being in my body but not being in control. And crying. And feeling scared. I feel so scared. I want it to end as soon as it begins but I have to let it run its course. There is no out. This IS the out. After I cried for a few minutes I decided to take my time in the episodes to pray. To pray for peace and calm. To pray for my body. To pray for my mind. And I pled with Heavenly Father to give me strength through Christ's Atonement to overcome this. Or to at least have the strength to carry this trial. I asked Him to give me a picture of me and Christ - something I could think of while my body is away. Into my mind came the scene of me and Christ on "My Path" - my long winding path that eventually leads home to heaven. The path rolled up and down over hills and disappeared in the distance - I couldn't see the destination, just the path. There on the right side of the road was me sitting, knees pulled to my chest, arms crossed over them, head buried in my arms, with my hair falling around my face and tears streaming from my eyes. I couldn't go on. I didn't want to go on. My Path looked much too long and difficult. So I sat. And there next to me was the Savior, left arm around my shoulders, knees bent and right arm resting on his knees, face looking off into the distance. He was there, offering his quiet understanding. He knows I'm tired. He knows I don't want to keep walking. And he understands that for this moment I'm not ready to move at all or be carried by him. I simply need to sit on "My Path" and mourn. I need to mourn the heartache from returning early from my mission 6 years ago; the disappointment from missing out on get-togethers with friends after having episodes; the fear that I'm damaged goods and no man will want to be with me or walk My Path with me; the anger over losing so much independence; the relentless thoughts that I won't make a difference in the world because I'm "sick;" the hurtful comments from doctors that I'm faking the episodes and that nothing's wrong with me; I need to mourn a loss of self - a loss of the idea of who I was, what I was going to become, how I was going to accomplish life. Everything is different. I'm different. Some days I can see the progress - I can see the good - I can see Her/Me through a loving-kind lense. And other days I want the me I grew up thinking I was going to be, back.

Monday, October 17, 2016


I see you.
I see you hurting.
I see the confusion in your creased forehead.
I feel your physical pain.
You are enjoying the floor more and more.
It does having a grounding effect.
Your plants are so lovely.
They don't all need names right now.
Just enjoy them.
Study them.
Watch them.
Tend to them.
It fills your bucket.
I know your body hurts.
I know the yeast infection is burning.
I know your not-really-fixed toe is throbbing.
And you are scared to death to go through the procedure an 8th time.
You let those tears flow.
You have a right to be sad.
You have a right to cry.
It doesn't make sense.
It just doesn't to you.
Life isn't fair - what a stupid phrase.
Hurry up and have babies so we can do something permanent.
She missed a chance to be compassionate.
She missed a chance to be understanding.
She missed a chance to comfort someone who is suffering.
It is her loss.
And one day she will look back and regret her thoughtless words.
This isn't what you wanted.
I know.
It hurts.
Reality hurts.
You can be willful.
It might be in your best interest to be willful right now.
Yes, you know God could heal you.
There is no doubt in your mind.
But, your gut tells you, he's going to let you suffer.
Not because he's mean or hates you, but because he needs you to.
You don't want to submit to his will.
You don't want to suffer.
I understand.
Because I am you.
Life is hard.
You can do hard things but you don't want to.
I get it.
You looked up and saw the moon.
Tears streamed down your face.
It is so confusing.
The body.
The mind.
Their connection.
And you feel trapped in a broken mind and body.
Will healing come?
But it might be a really long, long time before it does.
Yes, that is heartbreaking.
I hear you, body.
I hear you screaming for help.
But I don't have the tools to help you.
I'm trying.
But it's going to take time.
I wish you would be gentler on me while I learn.
If I had the knowledge and resources, I would fix you.
But it's so complicated.
No one wants to be a "medical mystery."
You want someone to look at you and go, "All these weird things make sense.
Because you have this."
And "this" would answer all your questions.
And heal all your pain.
And bring your mind back to a clear state.
You would be Whole.
Or as Whole as you can be in this fallen world.
And you'd take it.
And be grateful.
Because fresh in your memory would be the years of suffering.
The years of questions.
The years of tests.
The Years of Unknowns.
Can you see it?
Can you see the Unknowns as part of your past, not present?
For a moment.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

my roses

It just works out for some people, ya know?

They get the "fairy-tale" ending which seems perfect - is portrayed on facebook/instagram as perfect - and so I wind up thinking, "Geez, their life is perfect. My life sucks."

Part of me becomes angry - the other part jealous - but actually, it's sadness.

I've written about this before - and it's probably bordering on the "beating a dead horse" side of things - but my life is NOTHING like I imagined it would be.

I am mormon. I believe in the gospel teachings of my church - but I do not like/enjoy/believe many of the cultural aspects of my church. From super young - like 6 - I was taught that I would "grow up" - "get married" - "have kids" - and that was it. More details were added around 12 - I would "grow up" - "find a righteous man to marry in the temple" - and "have kids." 16 came with more details: "grow up" - "go to college" - "serve a mission if I wanted" - "come home and marry a man in the temple" - "have kids." And that's as far as it got me.

Well - most mormon kids go off to BYU in Utah. I thought that was what I was "supposed" to do, because that's what everyone else was doing. I got in to BYU in Utah and Idaho - but couldn't stop crying until I decided to go to UTD here in Richardson (GO COMETS!). Then I worked for a few months and decided to go on a mission. So I went - and came home sooner than anticipated because my mental health declined. After a few years at home, I moved out and was working. I wish now I had better appreciated the freedom of this time. It was not without it's problems, but I had so much of what I didn't even know I wanted. Then I became so depressed, I wanted to kill myself. And so I moved back home. I heard the term "boomerang-kids" used the other day and it broke my heart. Gosh, I don't want to be that. Looking from the outside in, I can see how it would be easy for someone to assume that's what I am. But there are so many more obstacles that have led me to being home. And as far as my love life goes, it could be compared to the Sahara - with tumble weeds and geckos.

So you see, nothing is like I thought it would be. Nothing is like I was told it would/should be. My path has been messy and ugly and hard.

And life changing.

I don't think the "me" before all of this knew her limits/needs/desires.

I have a mind of my own. I have skills that are mine. I am better able to cope with the shitty parts of life. I have a more realistic understanding of what life is.

Things got raw Tuesday and I had to dig in and use my skills. I left my darling sisters in Utah for teaching/schooling, Wednesday I attended the funeral of my sweet friend's brother - and because the emotional toll of all of this wasn't enough, my monthly visitor arrived Wednesday afternoon. Since the car wreck back in 2014, I have had terrible periods. This month has been no different. By Thursday I couldn't stop the pain or the insane amount of bleeding. I was miserable. I had been gone from work for 2 and 1/2 weeks and didn't feel like I could leave that night - so I stayed and endured pain, blood, nausea, and the puking urge. It was hell. I thought I was going to have an episode or legit pass out. My parents came and drove me home and I collapsed into bed. In my religion we can get blessings. I asked my dad to give me a blessing for the sick and afflicted. I could feel God's presence. I felt relief. And the words spoken were comforting.

One part in particular has stayed with me, "Rachel, not many people in this life suffer with their bodies the way you do. The purpose of this suffering is to bring you closer to your Father in Heaven. You will be healed. You will know the things you need to do to bring healing to your body."

God knows my suffering. It is to bring me to Him. *deep breath* Ok, I am willing to accept that. I am willing to suffer so that I may know God. This does not mean I will be happy or joyful through the process. But I will do it - with my best attitude. And my best will change from day to day.

As I was laying in bed trying to breathe through the pain, Dad asked me if there was anything he could do for me. I said, "Would you bring the flowers that are on my dresser over here to my nightstand?" He said it was an odd request but did it. Because often it's the little things that bring the most joy. Holding a sleeping baby. Standing in front of a fan on a hot day. Looking at roses.

My life is F A R from picture perfect. And every time I think I have a handle on things, something else pops up. But, that's life. Life was never meant to be easy - though I do enjoy the easier times - it was meant to be a place for learning, for growth.

And that's what I'm doing, everyday.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

as the sun goes away, i have more to give

One of my heroes is Kelly Rae Roberts. Gosh, it was after I had come home from my mission and I think before I had moved into my apartment - so roughly sometime in 2011 - I was hanging out with my dear friend, C, and as we walked out of a little store, this caught my eye:

I immediately went back in and bought it. It spoke to me. I think it was one of the first pieces that had ever spoken to me - something I connected with//believed. It has been in my home/room ever since.

She is fabulous! I love following her on Instagram because all of her posts are real and uplifting. She calls herself a "possibiltarian" - and I don't fully understand what that means to her, but to me it means things are possible! Life is possible! Dreams are possible! And I love that positivity. She is darling and I really enjoy being a part of her journey.

She is speaking at the Brave Girl Symposium this year (I am BEYOND bummed to not be going - because she is speaking and my FAVORITE author, Richard Paul Evans, is speaking too! Seriously bummed I'm not there...) and before she left she posted this question on Instagram:

Can we love our most agonizing and fearful life experiences?

Wow. What an incredible question. She is going to speak about this and answer the question - which I totally wish I could hear - but since I can't be there to hear her answer, I thought I'd answer it for myself.

Simply, yes.

If you had asked me this when I was 15 and starting college and scared to death/had daily crying jags before class/went with teal finger-tipped veins - I would've said no. Absolutely, no.

If you had asked me this when I was 18 and trying to decide which school to go to/what to major in/how to navigate my new school/trying to make friends - I would've said no. Really, no.

If you had asked me this when I was 20 and got a rejection letter for graduate school/had to quickly re-evaluate what the heck I was going to do/started working full-time - I would've said no. Just, no.

If you had asked me this when I was 21 and left for what I thought would be an 18 month mission/came home 6 months later/was having seizures - I would've said no. Ha, no.

If you had asked me this when I was on my way to inpatient (either time)/going through 6 months of testing to figure out what was "wrong"/going to weekly therapy and doing incredibly hard homework (for years and years and years) - I would've said no. HELL, NO.

These events were TOO agonizing - TOO fearful - for me to accept, let alone love.

But I have g r o w n so much this year. The skills I have been learning and practicing for 3 years is paying off as I do Prolonged Exposure Therapy and face the trauma. In the beginning, I hated the traumatic events. I was angry at them for causing me so much suffering. I didn't want to face them - I wanted to avoid them. The choice has always been mine - so really I could've continued to avoid them if I wanted. But it was time for healing. And healing has come from looking my demons in the eyes, studying them, learning about them, understanding them, and finally, letting them go so I could move forward.

At this time, I may not fully love each experience but I have compassion for them. I have increased compassion for myself. Compassion for the girl I once was who was frightened/alone and did her best to be true to herself with the limited skills she had.

And I believe compassion is the first step to love.

One day, I will look these experiences fully in the rear-view mirror and I will think, "Wow, I did it. I lived that. I survived that. I overcame that. And I am awesome for doing so."

Friends, I feel in my bones that that day is soon. (...which makes me really happy...)

I have made myself and a few friends "Personal Reassurance" shirts. I'm going to make more. And maybe one day sell them.! How cool would that be? This is my "possibiltarian" thinking - and it's because of the heroic examples of Kelly Rae and Brene Brown and the Brave Girl Club and HopeHealInspire that I believe I can be one of them - I can change my little part of the world. I can!


Monday, June 27, 2016

empty arms

man, i really had such a different picture for my life when i was younger. i thought at 18 - after weeks of crying to the lord asking what i should major in - that when the answer came back speech therapy, well, i thought my life was set. study undergrad speech for 2 years in texas. go to utah to get my master degree. date and find a spouse. get married. work and have kids. buy a home. that was it. that was the dream. oh how the path has changed. i didn't get into grad school in utah. i can count the number of dates i've had on one hand. i served a mission. my mental health took a turn for the worse and i had to get help - with serious intervention twice. i've gained weight. i do not have a spouse. i don't have children to rock to sleep or snuggle with. and sometimes, this last one breaks my heart. i'm currently going through a time when i just want to hold a baby. i want those snuggles and cuddles. i want the perfect trust that baby has in me to keep him/her safe in my arms. the baby smell brings tears to my eyes. like pretty much everything in life - having a baby is not all glamor all the time. but i long for those moments of peace, security, and calm, when that little one is in my arms, looking up at me, and loving me with all my insecurities, fat rolls, depression/anxiety, fear of failure, oh the list could go on. because that's not what he/she sees. i am more than that. and i feel pure love - god's love - radiating from these little ones. i want to be in their presence all the time. mercifully god has placed good friends in my life who are having babies and they let me come over and snuggle. it's a lonely feeling though when i walk back to my car, arms empty. one baby in particular has been my saving grace recently. he is the sweetest little boy. tears are streaming down my face as i write of his goodness and tenderness. he has the sweetest disposition and is smiley and drooly and absolutely perfect to me. i was holding him tonight and he just looked at me, with clear eyes, straight into my eyes, and i know he saw my soul. he didn't break eye contact or get distracted. he just looked at me. and reached his little hand up for me. i could've stayed in that moment forever. now i'm just crying. he is a tender mercy and a huge blessing for me. i can't imagine my sundays without him or my friday nights since he's been my date for a few. i could go on and on about how much i love him and his parents. he helps make my empty arms - my waiting period - a little less painful. and for that, i am grateful.