Let it

Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.”
Harvey MacKay

Monday, December 26, 2016

Dear 2016...

Dear 2016,
We started on a mountain top, in a sports bra in one degree weather, and I called you on.

 I'd survived 2014 and my shattered ankle rehab, and 20-frickin-15 with it's kidney stone, liver lesions, hobo-IUD-surprise-open-abdominal-surgery triple whammy, followed by a job change. "Let's do this," I said. Five days later you dropped me off a 16 foot ladder and giggled while I laid on the floor in a puddle of paint with a foot broken in four places, a torn shoulder labrum, and a raging case of PTSD. We said goodbye to our home of 10.5 years, but took our baggage with us. We declared war on suicidal thoughts and had some pretty deep therapy sessions together. We survived more kidney problems and hospital visits. EMDR did us up right, just in time to discover brain degeneration, early MS and early Alzheimer's symptoms, more liver issues, crescendo my Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, and find a rather surprising propensity for carving wood. 

I didn't stop climbing mountains.... even when I was falling over. I ran a trail half marathon and climbed the Tushar mountains. I stood on Lone Peak- one year older and 20 pounds heavier, but surrounded by the few friends I could still relate with and ridiculously grateful. I searched for experts that could help me and fought like hell. I learned about trauma and my brain and took care of my body. I stopped falling over. I gained a new appreciation for things like reading, driving, coordination and cognitive function. I started teaching yoga again. I ran a 30k. I made friends with my adrenals and my thyroid. I dropped that 20 pounds. My babies are growing into incredible humans, and my marriage is stronger than ever. My husband is a frickin' rockstar. I started writing a book, and turned my mountain love into a creative project that is turning into a business.

We were a hot mess, you and I, and I won't miss you when you're gone. I have outlived you.  And you taught me things I'm proud to know. Things like self-love and true connection, and fire and spit and fight. Things like humility and grace, and the deepest kinds of caring and all the right kinds of detachment. You made me so weak and so, so strong. You showed me that being brave means being scared and trying anyway. You taught me that I can't do everything, but I can do a few things really really well. You taught me that being broken just means more cracks to shine light through. You taught me that kindness matters most.  So I thank you. I know more what I'm capable of surviving from here on out. And I'll step forward into 2017, on a mountaintop, feeling like kind of a badass, with only a healthy amount of trepidation for what is to come, and enough faith to take it head on. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Those kind of days

Is it really worth all the damn effort to keep me alive?

That's the dopamine depletion talking. And acetalcholine deficiency. And autoimmune disease. And all of the other things that are slowly degenerating my brain.

I don't ask that question often, but when I do, it consumes everything.
I am generally a very functional depressed person. I go through the motions, maybe with a slight background hope that being productive will make me feel useful. Worthy. But mostly I go through them numb. Even if they don't make me feel better, they are things that need doing.

Some of my health puzzle pieces are falling into place. And when I find pieces that fit, it gives me hope. Until I get a long stretch of no pieces. Just chaos. A 5000 piece puzzle and I've got a corner, a short edge, and a small blob or two in the middle. Sometimes I find a doctor that is curious and enthusiastic enough to sit down and try to piece a few together. But it seems that eventually they lose interest. I can't blame them. I do too.

I'm not sick enough to raise the alarm system of the western medical model. I don't trust many of their treatment methods anyway. I'm definitely sick enough to not be able to cure it on my own.  It's a maddening limbo. I'm reliant on brilliant "alternative" practitioners that my insurance won't cover. I'm reliant on favors, and what little I can pay for, and piecemeal care. I'm forced to be my own advocate- which means I'm forced to rely on someone who often doesn't care, and cares far too much, and is too exhausted or anxious to even have a phone conversation much of the time. In the meantime, my symptoms come and go. Some days are good, and some bad. But find me on a bad day, and with tears jamming my throat, I'll tell you honestly- sometimes I wonder if it's worth all the damn effort.

This post is far too negative. I shouldn't even be writing it. But I'm nothing if not honest. Shoulds and shouldn'ts be damned, this is how it feels today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


I am an empath. I feel you. All of you. Buzzing in my head, aching in my chest. On a day like today when emotions are high, I can hardly contain it. You are angry, confused, happy, anxious, worried, saddened, hopeful, devastated, relieved, and tired. So tired. I woke up with the urge to write this morning and when I sat down to channel it, your wave of emotion sent me tumbling. No use. Too much. I'm sorry that you hurt so much. I want to come to each of you with a golden, shining bucket of joy and wash the pain away. It's not my place, and beyond my capabilities, but that doesn't stop my desire to relieve your tension. And after yelling at my kids when even their little voices overwhelmed my senses because I was filled to the brim with all of yours, I did the only thing that made sense. I ran it off. I went to my mountain trails and soaked in the last minutes of light as the sun sank below the horizon. I marveled so fully in the alpenglow on the mountains that I shouted out loud. I let go of all of the fear and worry for a few minutes to throw my arms wide and call to the sky. I found joy and love and gratitude. And for whatever it's worth, I sent it out to all of you. There is always hope amid your pain. This will all pass and we will take the future as it comes. You are so much! You are brilliant and adaptable, capable and kind. You are Hope. Never forget that. You are powerful. I can feel it.

Monday, October 24, 2016

We Keep On Running

My health has played roller coaster games over the past couple of weeks. Between trying to get doctors to dig deeper and not just throw pills at me or write me off, and trying to navigate alternative medicine and play all the insurance games to get the test results I need without flushing our finances down the toilet, it's been an adventure. New symptoms have come and gone and come again. I refuse to stop living, stop being all that I can be to those people that I love. I went to crew friends at the Bear 100 in awful weather and loved every second (except the four hours in the freezing rain and wind as we waited, worried, for our runners at 2 am- that sucked). I have buckled down hard on a clean and very specific diet for my needs and concentrated on controlling my hypoglycemia to slow the brain inflammation and degeneration that is occurring. My functional medicine doc believes I may at least have a lesion on my cerebellum evidenced by an end-reach tremor, the tingly numb spots on my face, and some of my symptoms dealing with coordination. I had a glutathione push after my neurological exam that was supposed to "give me my brain back" for a few days. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that also facilitates toxin release. My body freaked out. Panic attack, splitting headache, nausea and dry heaving, I could barely breathe and haven't cried that hard in months. Doc thinks my body just didn't know what to do with the rapid effects of it. It eventually passed and I did see some marked improvement in my brain function and endurance for a few days.
I started falling over that week. The first couple of times I didn't think anything of it. But when I fell into a bush while running alone in Arches National Park and gouged my shin on a branch, it started to pull at my subconscious. It didn't even hurt, that gouge, I had a glob of fat hanging out of my shin and blood trickling down my leg, and it didn't hurt. I hadn't been dizzy, I hadn't tripped, I just fell over. I kept on running, blood and all. I was happy, and the morning was magical.

Then I got lost. Somewhere in the middle of a 7 mile loop, I just lost track of the cairns and ended up down climbing a crack to a 15 foot drop. It didn't occur to me until after I risked broken bones and succeeded in climbing safely down into a wash that the old man with the hiking poles who had been coming the opposite direction on the trail hadn't possibly come from this way. It took me an extra mile of hiking and running in the wrong direction before I came to my senses and followed the wash back to the main trail. I've never been so happy to see a cairn... or a few miles later, my husband coming from the trail head to find me. My loop was 9 beautiful miles of arches and back country. I actually really loved it.

I'm learning not to get terribly distressed by my symptoms. It only makes them worse. Our family camp out was a much-needed and incredibly much enjoyed escape from daily stresses.

A few days later, while carrying a basket of laundry, I fell over again. Aaron came running in to find me laying on baskets of dirty laundry, and covered in the clean laundry I had just dumped all over myself. "Are you okay?? What happened?"
Straight faced and sober, I answered,"I just fell over."
He helped me up, worry spelled out on his face. And I knew it wasn't just a clumsy coincidence. It was my brain, my nerves.
Later that evening we talked about it. "I have every hope that we'll figure this out and it'll get better. But what if it doesn't and someday soon I can't run, and I kick myself forever for the races I was too scared to sign up for? What if my cognition and memory suffer so much that I can't finish my book? I have stuff to do!" It wasn't motivated by fear. Just matter-of-fact recognition that life needs to be lived.

I had agreed to crew Annie at the Pony Express 100 months ago. I wondered if I could handle the driving and lack of sleep. I hoped that with other crew as company to switch off with, I'd be fine. I wanted to be there for Annie. Over time the plans evolved and she would run the 50 miler in support of our friend Matt. And then two more friends joined the run party- Andrew and Danny. Annie's daughter Savana and I would be crewing 4 people. Just us two. I refused to be overwhelmed. Danny and Andrew were experienced ultra runners and would know what they needed. I knew I wouldn't be able to crew everyone as thoroughly as I like to, but I could let go of that. Game on.
Then Annie threw one of her "Let's live MORE life!" wrenches in the game.
"Hey, I think I want to run the 30k at Dugway the next day. You should run it with me!"
I really wanted to run that race again. Am I ready? Who cares? But I didn't have the cash for registration.
"What if I pay for your entry as a thank you for crewing?"
Aaron told me to go and do what would make me happy. Decision made.

In true ultra fashion, Pony Express started early and on shreds of semi-sleep. We saw our runners off at the start and repacked the cars. Then we drove a friends truck out to the hundred mile finish and doubled back to find our little pack in the early dawn. They never needed a whole lot from us. Just food here and there, and water refills, shed the clothing, that kind of thing. Matt was unsure from the start, having never attempted anything remotely like this, so we stayed withing a couple miles at all times. The day was beautiful and friends passed us throughout the day. We started up the dance party in the late morning, blasting music at our stops. And when almost everyone had passed, that is when the hours got long. The running had quickly turned to walking and the walking began to be a shuffle. Annie, Andrew and Danny took turns staying back with Matt so that the others could run a ahead and back a bit. Matt was doggedly determined in his march. We began to wonder if continuing to the finish would be healthy for Matt in the long run. He was becoming increasingly belligerent- not uncommon in ultras, but also a sign of chronic low blood sugar and imbalance. We were all willing to help and support as best we could to the finish, including Matt's son and daughter who had come out to support him. 17+ hours in, somewhere between mile 43 and 45, long after the sun set and the incredible blanket of stars spread over the sky, it was finished for Matt. His body needed to be done. His kids loaded him in the car and took him to the finish line for food and medical attention. The other three were determined to finish the 50 for Matt. 19 hours after we began, three strong runners crossed the finish line together in last place. (Danny really tried hard to cheat the other two of their DFL status.)
We downed some of Pablo's excellent barbeque with chimichurri, said goodbye to Davy Crockett, and started the long drive back to the start at 1 am. Savvy was fading fast and we all were falling asleep on the drive. She pulled over. I wondered if I could relieve her of driving duties, as my eyes refused to focus and my brain was so fuzzy. Thankfully Danny stepped in and volunteered to drive. That guy trains nights and sleep deprivation. It comes in handy! Everyone snoozed in the back while Danny and I laughed over suicidal racing rabbits and told stories to keep each other awake. We dropped Danny and Andrew at the campground and I hopped behind the wheel to fumble us,glassy-eyed at 3 am onto the military base at Dugway and to our hotel room. If I got to bed fast I could get 3 solid hours of sleep for the morning race. Annie's poor feet were blistered from too much walking and she wouldn't be running with me.
6 am. 2.5 hours of sleep. My belly woke me with horrible hot-chili-pepper-magma diarrhea. 4 times before I could leave the hotel room. Great. I downed a salad with grilled chicken for breakfast. My stomach wasn't thrilled, but I knew if I started this race on empty, I'd be out in no time.
I texted Brad in the next room to see if he could take me over to the start line. Bless his sleep-deprived soul, he did. It was cold. Hugs from Brent- I was so happy to see someone I knew. I was nervous. We were treated to a magical desert sunrise as we prepped at the start line. And all 13 of us were off.

I wanted to start off slow, and pace myself, but it was so cold that I needed to move to warm up my stiff muscles! I chatted with Nanette for a few minutes- we'd never really talked before despite being facebook friends. Then she pulled ahead of me. I would chase her for miles. Nanette ahead and Rebecca behind. Both older women with so much grit and experience. I felt blessed to be in such good company as we snapped distant pictures of each other racing into the sunrise. After a valiant effort at keeping up, the heat set in and I lost sight of Nanette. The climbs were brutally steep at times and my hammies and glutes were feeling it. Rebecca was gaining on me through the miles, and I was getting tired. We chatted a bit as she passed me. I didn't mind. I was here to finish, and to love the day. That's all I cared about. Runners from the shorter races began to pass just before we finished the first loop. I filled up on fruit and nuts at the aid stations, snacking steadily on jerky, nuts, banana chips and applesauce from my pack in between to try to keep my blood sugar steady. I refilled my water bladder at one of the water stations early in the second loop. I was feeling good. And hot. The second loop got long fast. The climbs were even more brutal the second time around and I found myself laughing and cursing at them all at once. Cheeky Bastards.

Around mile 15 the wheels started to come off. I was in new distance territory on my hardware. While I had run this race before, I hadn't done it on a reconstructed shattered ankle, or a previously broken-in-4-places foot. Random jabs of sharp pain accompanied my footsteps. I walked into the pain cave and pulled up a chair. I had been on track to beat my previous race time, but despite my best efforts, I watched that goal slip away and tried to shrug it off. My head was getting floaty and painful. I could feel that my blood sugar was off, but I couldn't quite figure out what to do to fix it. And then I ran out of water. What? How could I be out?? I had felt my pack at the last water station and it had felt pretty full! I realized with dismay that I had felt my jacket stuffed in my pack and mistaken it for a full water bladder. Rookie mistake. It was hot. My mouth was cotton, I was having dizzy spells. If I could just get another mile or so to the last water station. Another mile and a half of the steepest son-of-a-gun climbs in the race. Gah. I trudged it out. I dug the last applesauce out of my pack and used it for what little hydration it offered me. My head was throbbing. I missed my husband. I hated running. And I was doing it all anyway. I laid into that water station. Best, coldest, quenchiest water ever. I filled my pack, my hat, my shirt, my sports bra, my mouth and my belly. And then it was time to get it done."Let's kick this pig." (I talk to myself a lot during these types of things.)
I headed down the final, long, winding downhills. The last time I had done this race, it was 18.7 miles. My watch ticked well past that as my painful foot and ankle protested any hurry. The playlist that had saved my mood for so long was getting old. Finally nearing the finish, I turned it off. Turned off the pain, Turned on what little speed I had left and ran it in to the finish like my life depended on it. With a smile on my face and a fist in the air, I crossed the line. I can do hard things. So many hard things.

Jenna was there to greet me at the finish line. I was so happy to see her.
19.8 miles, 3938 Feet of vertical climb,  6:09
3rd place woman (out of a grand total of 4) 1st place in my age group (out of 2) 10th overall (Out of 13)

I picked up my sweet trophy and medal, and the awesome viking axe I had won in the raffle.

Jenna took me to the hotel to gather my things and drive home.
After a long weekend, home sounded just right.

My body may be in crisis, but if there is one thing I'm learning, it's that we just keep moving. Keep living, keep loving. Stay grateful.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Life Can't Wait

I have started so many blog posts in the past few months. I wanted to write about all the good things- the Tushars half marathon, my birthday Lone Peak summit, all of the life I have lived and loved through as I've made progress through therapy. My victories! I couldn't figure out why it didn't work. My brain would get to a certain point and be done. Can't write long. Can't read long. Can't drive long. Something is still very off with my body and brain. So I had some tests done. (I'm skimming over a lot of this because I know my brain energy is limited.) Things are off. My adrenal levels are through the roof and my thyroid levels aren't. My female hormones are whack and my brain function and coordination are sub-par. So I had some more labs drawn. we've tested blood, urine, spit... I've filled out metabolic surveys and brain function surveys.
There are concerns. And I wanted to wait until I had results to tell people, but friends and family are noticing that something is wrong, and life can't wait. All of the in-between is life too, and it must be lived. When I get my labs back and I know things for sure, I think it will all make better sense. So far there have been some scary words thrown into the mix, like "brain degeneration", and "autoimmune disease", and "tumor". They are all just possibilities right now. we don't know yet. It may be simple. It may be very complicated. We just don't know. But we will. And I can handle it. We can handle it.

Am I scared? Yes. Am I confident? Yes. I can do hard things.

I taught my first yoga class in two and a half years today. I kept waiting until I felt confident, until I had more to give, until I was done healing from my shattered ankle reconstruction, and then my abdominal surgery, and then my shoulder injury, and then my broken foot and my torn shoulder, and then PTSD, and then.... and then.
Life can't wait. Do what you can with what you have. And love. Always love the most.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Here Lies The Old Me

"... life does not subtract things, it liberates you from them. It makes you lighter so that you can fly higher and reach the fullness."- Facundo Cabral
I sat on my mat and felt my fingertips pulsating against each other as chills ran up and down my spine.
I have been mourning her loss, this former self. Like a deceased loved one, whom I would forever be incomplete without.  I have every right to miss her. She was me, and I loved her. How could I not? 
The words cracked open a stubborn sadness and allowed new breath.
I have not lost her, I have been liberated from her. 

But how? When she was so strong and sure. Have I idealized her and built her into more than she was? Maybe her time was finished, her purpose played out, her further growth impossible. She and I could not exist in the same reality. Her destruction cleared the foundation, leaving open space and freedom. Her rubble became my raw material; lowly and humbled, but crackling with massive potential. Can I just not see the magnitude of who I am and who I am becoming from the midst of the aftermath? It is exhausting to start over. I have no blueprints. No step-by-step instructions. I can only begin, scavenge for tools, and create as I go. I've no choice but to heal, and trust, and try, and see what comes anyway, so why not do so with hope, love, inspiration? Why not do so on purpose?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Not the time for snark. Be vulnerable.

On those days parts of her died, 
and she had to go on living without them. 
Time and again it happened, 
until there was none of her left.
She was frozen in time,

a ghost,
while everyone moved on around her,
leaving her to haunt herself.

    My crumpled cotton sheets rustle around my ears as I fight to block out the loneliness. I am exhausted- not from lack of sleep, but lack of rest. I haven't rested in months. Half of my family has been gone for days. Days that I filled with museum outings and trail work, cleaning and grocery shopping, library, farm stands, hair cuts and pizza parlors. My younger kids lapped up the "girl time", and I patted myself on the back for making it through, and also for drawing the line when they wanted to sleep in my room and I just couldn't. people. anymore.

Now we are all six together again. I was so excited to welcome them all home. So proud of my non-athletic teenager for gritting out 50 miles of biking. So happy not to feel alone. Alone. I am rarely ever alone. So why to I feel that way? And why when I have that much less reason to feel alone, is it now that it sets it's heavy load on my chest?  I meant to nap. But the words came, and they must be written.

My therapist says that the reason I am incapable of planning for future, whether it be daydreaming, setting goals, setting up calendar items, or even identifying what I want, is because my brain has too much it hasn't processed. It is demanding that I address first things first. We started exploring some EMDR this week. It's kind of fascinating. Like the rapid eye movements trigger a flip book of random memories and my thoughts race from one thing to the next until they land on what my brain finds relevant in the emotional timeline. Memories of being fifteen, joining a competition soccer team on top of my other recreational teams, and musicals, and choir... and showing up early to games, alone. I had worked hard and accomplished what seemed important and impressive in my family circle. The things my brothers did. And no one cared.
How do you feel when you remember this picture of yourself?
I feel irrelevant.
And how does that word, Irrelevant make you feel. I'm used to it. I don't need to be a big deal.
Now please, I need you to be vulnerable.I crumple in on myself like a paper doll and whimper like a toddler. "It really hurts."

The flutter and whir as my mental flip book moves on.
I am somewhere around three or four and my baby brother has just fallen off of the two-story playhouse roof onto his head. My mom is with him and my sister is there too and I want so badly to do something helpful as the EMTs arrive in a flurry and move him to a stretcher. The seat belts are dangling from the gurney. Marky is too small, they are barely using any of them, and all I want to do is buckle the extras so that they don't dangle. I am so small, and well-meaning... and irrelevant.

I am thirty three and facing the wrong side of the finish line at the Antelope Canyon Ultras. I was supposed to run it with Jenna. It was to be my moment of victory. I cheer another stranger through as I sit in a camp chair holding my knee crutch. There is sand in my boot. Friends are gathered here and there. Every once in a while they greet another victor across the line, crowding in to give their congratulations or get a better view to watch for a runner. I'm left staring at a line of butts.

It's a theme in my life. Logic says I am very relevant. I have family who loves me, children who need me, an amazing husband and friends who adore me. But something programmed deep in my subconscious says I don't matter. That if I slipped away, it would go unnoticed. If I disappeared, life would move on.

I think these repeated traumas have somehow pulled at that dangling string and unraveled a gaping hole in my psyche. I set goals, I trained hard. I took chances and dared greatly and a shattered bone just bigger than a golf ball leveled me. There was some ado in the first few weeks. People care. They are wonderful. But life when on swiftly as I flailed to keep up. Eventually I think I limped back to functionality with my desire burning a little hotter. I set my sights on another 50k. I charged through another 25k, hoping my finish line there would feel triumphant and instead ran sobbing into the arms of a pregnant stranger as a few random people wondered why I was crying.
Then there was pain again, and hospital again, and surgery again, and all of the tests and I was terrified, but I had my brave face on. Don't make a big deal. Don't be a big deal. Then the complete annihilation of my free will and control as I woke up in confusion to find a completely different surgery had been done with different consequences. There was my doctor who had just rifled through my guts, telling me I had almost died and shrugging it off like a joke.
Deal with it.
Oh, I dealt with it. I climbed mountains again, but this time I carried the massive load of depression and anxiety up there with me. I stared life in the face from the mountaintop, in my sports bra, in one degree weather and said, "Antelope Canyon, here I come!" So when I lay quivering in a puddle of paint with a broken foot 6 weeks from race day, I cried uncle. And as I sat at that finish line, I tattooed,"Irrelevant" across my heart as it sank into my stomach.
Victory is not for me.

Imagine one person who wants nothing but the best for you. Someone who is kind, and safe, and wise. Now picture what that person wants for you. 
Celebration. She wants celebration. She was completely aghast when there was not a massive line of well-wishers with flowers in my hospital room. She planned out a highlight reel of my victory race and she'd even picked out the music. I think she wants my victory more than I do sometimes.

There was only one section of my therapy session that didn't include a memory. The flip reel started and then just flip... flip.. flipped like the reel had run out of ideas and was missing the page it needed.
And the words over and over and over, "I have to try again. I have to try again. I have to try...."

I sat agape. I owe it to myself to try again. Giving up sounded so much easier, but I won't be doing that. I am frozen at the knowledge of how hard it will be to set this goal and achieve it. The work it will take and the obstacles I face as I figure out how to drive this reconfigured body to it's limits.

And what you've been through already hasn't been hard? You can do hard.
I can do hard. But I'm scared.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Olympic Trials

I am captivated as a young, lithe athlete rushes through the finish line and collapses to the ground. Her face speaks what my heart feels every day. She can't hear that the din of cheers is comprised of her name. It is just noise. She wraps her arms across her face, afraid to look at the score board to see if she has qualified for her dreams. You can tell she has given everything. Everything. Her gasping breath is pained. Lungs on fire, body wrecked. "Please God, please let it be enough."  But she can't look. She can't bear it if her every effort isn't enough.
Her team mate crawls down into a prone hug and breaks the news. "You are enough. You did it. I'm so proud."

I am grateful for my teammates in life. Who join me in the dirt, lift my head, and pull me close to whisper in my ear, "You are enough. I am so proud."

Thursday, July 7, 2016


Note: This entry is for therapy's sake. It's a vent. It is part of a process. I don't need random advice. I have a therapist.

 "Try to contain and shelve the feelings and memories that we have talked about today. We'll get back to them... and if that feels too stifling or numbing, write."

Well, I'm here.
. . . . . . . . . . .
"Wow. Thank you very much for opening up."
I should have told him as we met and he shook my hand that he was about to know a whole lot about me. I guess sometimes people come to therapy and resist talking about themselves? I don't know. Not me. I'm here to get stuff done.
He's young. But I'm comfortable enough with him. He listens well... I guess that comes with the territory. He thinks I'm a great candidate for EMDR.
I'll be back next week. I'm so ready to be unstuck.

One sticking point that he gleaned as obvious: A long-held notion that has been ingrained in me since I was young, the notion that I am not allowed to be great. My greatness has to lie in facilitating the greatness of others. To become great would be selfish and arrogant. I am not the heroin, not the main role, but forever a sidekick. I don't even get my own life story. I am destined to be supporting role only. Wife, mother, daughter. Always working for someone else's success. It's strange because as much as instinct wants me to resent this role of helper, I have come to love it. I love being crew chief, support, friend. And I'm damn good at it too! But the shadow of it is that I somehow grew up feeling less. This nebulous semi-belief that am not important enough to be anything noteworthy, is inextricably linked with my stuckness over the past two years. Just when I felt I was coming into my own, life cut me down. I rose again, determined to succeed only to be cut down again, and again, and again. Put into my place.

I am forever wanting to learn and train to make a real difference in the world. I wanted to be a chiropractor, a massage therapist, a dancer, a singer, an artist, a yoga instructor, an author, a midwife, a naturopath... so many things. But what was the point of all that training and experience if my role in life was going to end up being "just" mother anyway? I have been told whenever I get bold enough to want to go back for schooling in something particular, "Some of us aren't meant for greatness. Some of us are just meant to help others become great."
That's good, I guess. Don't get me wrong, I love being a wife and mom. I think it is one of the most important roles in the world. I love helping others become great, reach their goals, strive for more.
 I love it!

BUT WHAT ABOUT ME?!  Do I ever get to cross a finish line? Do I ever get to receive a certificate? Have enough training to be a voice of authority? Break a record? Win a trophy? Try for more without having my body and soul crushed before I get there?  I watch others experiencing these moments of accomplishment and feel an overwhelming sadness that these things can never be mine. Great things are not for me.

Even typing this out feels horrible and selfish a wrong. I'm whining. I'm sinning. My focus is in the wrong place. I should be more humble. And if anything ever feels off emotionally, it's my own fault. Adapt. Accept. Control myself. Deal with it. And don't forget to be grateful.

And so with trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety- all the things that are beyond conscious control, comes guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Shame. Shame. Shame.
If you feel bad it's because you failed. 

I'm failing. At being a sidekick.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


 Wednesday yoga. My escape to me. I set out breakfast, kiss the babes goodbye and pull out of the driveway. There are only two albums on the busted hard drive of my car stereo. They were there when we bought the car. The Dreaming Out Loud album from One Republic has been haunting me. It just fits right now. The morning sun streams down on grand mountain views and the nearby grasses that have gone golden in the heat of summer. The lyrics catch in my throat as the road winds down, down, and the puzzle pieces of feelings fit into place.

...Stop and stare
I think I'm moving but I go nowhere
Yeah, I know that everyone gets scared
But I've become what I can't be...
I turn up the volume and just live in it for a minute. This is me. Stop and Stare. 
...Stop and stare
You start to wonder why you're here not there
And you'd give anything to get what's fair
But fair ain't what you really need....

The lyrics swim in my head and live in my chest.
I start the song over and listen again. I pull into the parking lot. 9:11. I have 4 minutes til class starts. I sit and let the song play out.

The studio is under construction, but everyone settles into their sanctuaries and lets the growth be uncomfortable. Fitting. The theme of the class is change. Julz always knows. I don't have to say a thing. This is why I keep coming back. My needs are seen and met. Maybe it's cosmic, maybe it's coincidental. But coming here to practice makes me feel seen by the Divine if only for 75 minutes a week. 

I know you. I see you. All of you. Exactly as you are. And you are perfect. Let's work.

Julz is one of my many, many angels. She thinks she's just my yoga teacher. But she is the embodiment of Hope. Was I ever that to my students?
We sit in stillness and listen to breath. We stretch and breathe space into all of our places. We find balance in movement. We make all of the effort and sit in acceptance at the brink of our own limitations. My shoulders hurt. I honor them with different positioning and ask them to please keep trying. They do. 
My body is exhausted. Not 4 days ago I was sobbing aloud in excruciating pain, begging for mercy, retching uncontrollably, being rushed to the ER. And here I am on a yoga mat. Still. Quiet. Tired. Still just trying.

Sometimes I wish I knew how to give up. I am almost always so grateful that I don't. I don't know how.  
I'm just so tired. 

When class is over I sit in my car and answer text messages from other angels. Aaron, Jenna, Julio. I just sit as the car gets hotter in the sun, avoiding real life until I realize I need to get home and take my medicine. On the way home I have an epiphany. I think I wanted a 50k so badly through these couple of years purely for the finish line. To feel like I finished something. Accomplished something difficult of my own choosing. To feel like I earned a brief moment of recognition for my struggles. I just wanted a victory.  I pull into the garage and sit a while longer until my kids come and find me, and I'm mom again.
I get a call from an unfamiliar number as I eat my avocado salad. It's a therapist's office. We've called so many. Only one has called back. This one takes my insurance. They can't get me in with the person I wanted to see, but would I be willing to see another therapist? I've never heard of him. Okay. I'll take what I can get. I have to start somewhere.

Friday, June 24, 2016

They call me brave

They call me brave.
I submit that there is more bravery in the world than one could ever fathom. Quiet acts of survival, love, support, even stubbornness.
I live out loud because I know I can't do it on my own. I need people as much or more than they need me. I suppose the thing that makes me stand out is that I unabashedly live for connection. To reach out. To lean in. To hold tight. To sit in silent acceptance. To laugh in comfortable companionship. Yes, there is rejection, but it floats away like dandelion seeds on a river surface. It is worth dealing with rejection to have found the deep solace of an answering, "Me too."
I feel the authentically deep need of those around me. I give love because it is needed, and because I need it. I'm not even a little bit ashamed of that.
Maybe that makes me brave. Maybe I don't know any other way to be.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Body Keeps the Score

Small disclaimer: If you haven't read this blog before, it is one big mess of TMI. I have no filters. You WILL know far too much about me, should you continue. You've been warned. So ask yourself now, "Do I really want to know?" 

As the noisy, flashy, firework kind of stress in my life has diminished, it has come to light that trauma has truly left it's mark on my brain. I find myself split in two, partially detached enough to be fully aware, and partially immersed in my post traumatic reactions. I watch myself experience episodes of depression, sensory overload, anxiety, uncontrollable sobbing over nothing. There aren't many flashbacks, and it doesn't mimic the PTSD I experienced after my car accident in high school, re-living the accidents over and over. I'm beyond most of that. Though at times I am distantly haunted by scenes of blurry remembrance in the hospital, trying to process what had happened to my body, having no control and no say through the pain of being poked and wired and prodded.. Or scenes of staring at the chair legs, vaulted ceiling, and paint-spattered wall of my old family room and kitchen while my dismay at the puddle of paint that spread under me and how it would ruin the floor. They don't torture me in that same, flash-bang, terror kind of way. Unfortunately, now, it's a puzzling labyrinth of discovering how my brain and my neurology have been rewired. I have been listening to The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van der Kolk. It has been fascinating to start to understand what my body has recorded and why, what parts of my brain have shut down or lit up due to mere moments in life, and what I need to do to utilize neuroplasticity and reprogram once again. Sometimes I feel silly. Overly dramatic. There is so much worse that people have been through. I want to logically talk my brain out of having been so effected by the laundry list of repeated trauma. Shattered ankle, torn rotator cuff, kidney stones, liver lesions, near-deadly IUD and unexpected open abdominal surgery, sprained shoulder, broken foot and torn shoulder labrum. These are not child abuse or war or genocide. But there isn't any logic to it. It has rewired, and I am left to deal with the tangle. I am tempted to shut down and shut up (as if that were really possible for me), but I know that in such instances, loneliness can spell regression and even suicide. While I have experienced depression and anxiety, I haven't had even the inkling of suicidal thoughts since I was deep in teenagedom and such things were empty threats for attention. I had a dream the other morning, in my waking sleep. I was standing at the side of my neighborhood road, where cars cruise down the hill around the bend, and I just stepped out in front of one of them and it ended. It felt so good in that second. So simple. To be done. That is when I jerked awake, thinking, "Oh crap. I need professional help." And also, chuckling darkly to myself, "With my luck, I wouldn't die."  These are thoughts I want to be ashamed of and keep secret. But I won't. Secrets like that kill. And I don't want to die. Not even close. I love my life, my home, my family, this freaking wonderful, amazing planet and the incredible people that populate it. The nearest I can tell is that my brain is just finding the nearest possibility of ending the chaos. I'm tired.
I spent the weekend before last, crying. All the time. At everyone who talked to me, or looked at me. Everything was a trigger. I came home from lunch with a friend and sat in Aaron's office and sobbed, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." Over and over. I'm sorry for putting you through all of this. Thank you for staying with me. I'm sorry this mess is yours to deal with too. The only thing that took me out of it was hours of hiking and running in the pouring rain with Aaron. Forced immediate presence. Be here now, in the rain, mud, dirt, rocks, trees, sticks, ridges, waterfall. It was glorious. It's so bizarre to be so madly in love with life, and be.... malfunctioning.
Sunday afternoon, I lay in bed clinging to the promise that I have spoken out loud to my family and friends: My story isn't over yet. I would never just end it. I will always keep trying. I wore my semicolon project bracelet as a security blanket and watched myself sob into my pillow. The next day I felt normal. Actually normal. I went for an incredibly peaceful solo run. I did laundry and played with my kids and danced in the kitchen. I felt the fire of real fight inside myself for the first time in weeks. Real hope. Monday I woke up jittery and anxious, but functional. I went to Costco, where I experienced a bizarre sensory overload episode with marked immediate memory loss. In Costco. I couldn't even remember what time of day it was for a while. My head was buzzing and I had tunnel vision. Every color, every movement, every sound, took over. A separate part of me watched in puzzled fascination and gave me the advice to start grounding. Feel your toes in your shoes. Identify 5 things you can see, 5 you can hear.... Somehow I made it through checkout and out to the car where I had a full anxiety attack and cried hard. I did grounding exercises and breathed myself down for ten full minutes before I could drive myself home. And then I was fine. Exhausted, but fine.
A couple of days later, after discussing my symptoms and various traumatic experiences with my yoga instructor.... my dad, my friends, a couple of strangers... (there really is something wrong with my filters).... I narrowed in on my surgery being the main episode I am suffering most from. It won't go away. It has been a year. Why can't I get over it?? Then, standing in my closet, anemic and exhausted and packing for a trip, I had a mind-blowing realization. My period is a trigger. For over a decade I have had a regular menstrual cycle that makes me wonder how I'm alive. It is easily more than 10 times the volume qualification to be medically defined as menorrhagia, or "abnormally heavy flow".  When my surgery occurred, I went to sleep expecting my uterus to be removed along with the offending IUD, and when I woke up, confused, stitched and stapled, even that choice had not been mine. Every month, when that horror comes (and even the weeks leading up to it), my body experiences the terror of being stripped of choice and free-will all over again. My period is victimizing me. Holy crap.
I stood in my closet and sobbed.... again. Then I texted my first line of trauma brain spill- husband, sister, trauma-familiar-judgement-free-zone friends. I could hardly believe it. They all said it made perfect sense.
What are my choices now? Face the primal fear of surgery again? My every fiber wants to scream bloody-horror-film screams at the thought. Leave it be and wait til menopause, allowing the mental and emotional rape to continue month after month? Gosh, it sounds horrid calling it that, but I won't apologize for stating what I feel.
One thing is absolutely clear. I need help. I need a doctor that I can trust and feel comfortable with.... if such thing actually exists. I also need a really good therapist. And the $1400 that the hospital owes me and is refusing to pay..... and a lawyer.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Some emerging truths

I might never run an ultramarathon. I might, but I also might not. I'm starting to be okay with whichever of those it ends up being.
I'm in a weird stage of healing. It's not unfamiliar to me. It's that stage where you can finally do things, but you can only do them slowly, and partially, and for only as long as your healing body is cool with them. It's not clear how far you'll be able to push yourself in the end. In this stage, I come out of my cocoon and check out what time and stress have done to my body. Extra padding around the waist, hips and thighs, weaknesses in certain joints and muscles (most of them, really. Hypermobility Syndrome sucks). I start to really face the crumpled and damaged pieces of my psyche and spirit. And then I have to decide what to do about it. I buckle down and put it under some more stress in order to maximize my new potential. I have work to do. I have to imagine the caterpillar slightly underwhelmed when she emerges to check out her new wings... new potential for beauty and flight to higher, further places that any caterpillar could have imagined.... but her wings, they are wet and floppy. It takes time, and sun, and vulnerability, and work, and stress before she flies.
All of the things I thought I was are being redefined. The 'things I'm not' like to parade around in my head sometimes. They are noisy. I'm not as fast. Not as strong. Not as thin. Not as attractive. Not as flexible. Not as capable.
But I really like some of the things that I am.
I am more honest. More patient, More humble, More kind. More loyal. More understanding. More encouraging. More gentle. More raw.
I'm beginning to understand that life can be all of the things, all at once. Hard and amazing, Heaven and Hell, torturous, beautiful, raw, peaceful, hectic, dark and light, full and empty, loving and lonely.
I say "beginning to" because if I declare a lesson learned, another one starts. Wouldn't want to tempt fate. If you know my story, you can understand my hesitation. Life just keeps on coming.
I look back on two years ago and I'm not even remotely the same person. There are parts of her that I mourn. And that's okay. I'm really happy... and sometimes really sad too. And that's okay.
I used to point my determination at specific acts. I will run a 50k. I will get my yoga cert. I will climb this mountain, I will get down to 18% body fat. But I think for now, my goals run more along the lines of... I will love fiercely. I will stay vulnerable. I will be present. I will keep trying. I will stay hopeful.
I've been planted in this beautiful spot for healing. There is something special in the works- though I can't quite name it. Our new home, new church family, new area is exactly what I need right now.
She's gonna be great, this new me.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Not Okay

On January 6th, I stood on a 16 foot ladder, painting a new wall that was built in effort to make our house more sellable. We were frustrated, but hopeful that the new wall and a new realtor would be the change we needed to finally get out of this odd, lovely house that we grew out of 5 years ago. To pull ourselves from the mire and finally move on. It was supposed to happen.
I had been on the ladder for 20 minutes or so, in the very tippy top of the ceiling vault. Slowly, I felt the ladder begin to slip. I clung to the top of it as it scraped down the wall. "Oh, no..... oh, no! Oh no, no no! Somebody help me!" My 10 year old son ran to my aid, trying to push the bottom of the ladder and hold it in place, but the weight and momentum was already too much for him. The ladder foot hit the opposing wall corner and flipped. My arm, with an almost-healed previous shoulder sprain, caught the wall and wrenched the paint cup out of my hand. I detached from the ladder as it clattered against my shin. I landed almost upright, on both feet, but the left one was sideways. The impact sent me into immediate shock. I saw stars. I screamed. The muffled sound of my kids screaming and crying registered around me as I slid my back down the wall and I lowered myself, trembling, into a puddle of spilled paint. "No, no, no. Not again. Please. I can't do this again. I can't."
I stayed on my back, shaking uncontrollably, and consciously slowed my breathing as tunnel vision tried to take over. In broken, labored speech, I tried to talk my children out of panic. "It's okay, I'm not okay, but it's okay. Call Dad. Bring me my phone. It's okay."
My phone buzzed the moment I got hold of it. It was a text from my lawyer for the IUD case. His firm had decided not to take my case. Awesome.
Who to call? Alicia had enough on her plate. Michelle. No answer. Nicole was closest. I'd call her. No answer. Cindy. Cindy makes all the sense. She's got medical training, and she's super calm in emergencies. "Hey Cin." My voice was shaky. "I need help.... I fell off a ladder and I'm injured and laying on the floor in a puddle of paint. I think I broke my foot." She would come.
It seemed like the whole world wanted to talk business or check in the moment I was out of it. I got a myriad of texts from different people all at once. Annie, James, Greg, Aaron, Jenna. I needed to cancel the house showing. I needed to get the paint off the floor and wall before it dried there. I needed to breathe. I needed not to be injured.
Talon let Cindy in. She jumped into calm action. Checking me for head injuries, asking for juice to raise my blood sugar. We had no juice. Just leftover sparkling cider from New Year celebrations. She cracked it open and I sipped sparkling cider through a straw, still lying in paint. What a celebration.
I couldn't get over the mess I had made. Cindy finally grabbed a rag and cleaned up most of the paint just so that I would shut up and focus.
"I can't do this again, Cin. I can't."
"It's not like last time. No matter what, it's not as bad as last time. You can do this. You're probably experiencing some PTSD. You're okay."
"I have a race in 6 weeks! I can't cancel my first ultra AGAIN!!"
I called my brother to ask if I could come get checked out and get x-rays. As usual, he was willing. Cindy made calls and rearranged her schedule so that she could drive me to Salt Lake. I called Aaron and told him to meet us at Mike's office. My kids brought my old crutches to get me to the car, and an old towel to protect Cindy's car from my paint splattered clothes. Crutching to the car on a double sprained shoulder was horrid.
Cindy kept me talking, and laughing through the pain as we made our way to Mike's office. He was waiting there with his staff, and Aaron.

X-rays and adjustments. The films didn't show any breaks, but that's common for new foot injuries. Stay off it, rest, ice. Come back in if you can't weight it once the swelling goes down.
8 days later the breaks showed up. Ryan ordered a CT scan. 4 days later, on CT day, I was handed a disc and told to take it to a specialist. 5 days after that, Dr. Gorman told me surgery wouldn't help the outcome, but with breaks in 4 places, I'd be out of commission til April.

After the initial trauma faded, I felt like I had it. I could handle this well. This was peanuts compared to what I've already been through. I'm way tougher than all of this. I borrowed a peg-leg knee crutch, which made it easier to be independent and didn't exacerbate my shoulder injuries. If I just kept living, I'd be fine. Right? This was just another upgrade.

Less than 24 hrs after listing with a new agent, we got the house offer we'd been waiting for. Two days later, we went house shopping and put in an offer on a dream house. I had been so careful not to fall in love with houses before I could buy one, and finally, it was time.
The very next day... the day that we found out that our buyers backed out, a friend and fellow Wasatch Mountain Wrangler's body was found in an avalanche field. Mourning took precedence, and the house went back on the market. The dream house turned into a dream again.

The thing about upgrades is that you have to break down some stuff first. Winter with no running, no mountains, no yoga, no sunshine, and consistent low-level pain has started to take it's toll. We had the big Wrangler Formal last week and while dancing on a scooter wasn't ideal, the night with my friends, being recognized as Crew Chief of the year, laughing and dancing.... it was life-giving. I thought I could make it. Stay positive. I can do this. But my confidence was waning.

I can hardly live in my house. We have had something like 16 or 18 showings in the past 11 days. I have scoured my house on one leg and with one good arm more times than I can count. And every showing feels like a personal inspection and rejection.

My body chemistry hasn't been good or normal in a very long time, but since my abdominal surgery, my hormone balance has been worse than ever. The only real option a doc will give me is a hysterectomy. And I don't know if I can face another surgery and recovery right now. I wish I hadn't kept my uterus last May. I mitigated it as best I could, and finally conceded that I needed to attempt to do something... again. I decided to try a progesterone cream to try to balance out the estrogen dominance that causes me to lose more blood than 10 normal women do every month. The progesterone makes me angry. Really angry. Depressed. Isolated. Not okay. I stopped using it two days ago. But damage is done. My spirit is a little bit broken. I hate living in my own head. I hate that my amazing husband has to deal with me. I hate that I yell at my kids.

Friends keep asking if I'm okay. When I am with you, I am. When you are in front of me, I am. Honestly. But most of the time now, I'm not. I'm not okay. I think I will be in time.

I love you all. I love that you care. If I knew what could be done to make things better right now, I would do it. I would tell you. You can ask me all you want. But I can't tell you what you can do to help if I don't know.

As much as I want to crawl into a deep pit and disappear, I am not done. I will never stop fighting. But sometimes fighting looks like shutting down and waiting out all the things I can't control. It looks like withdrawing, and putting up walls, and hiding from the awful jealousy for those who can get out into the sun.

So if I don't answer your texts, emails and calls sometimes, if I opt out of plans, if I say I'm fine when I'm obviously not, it's because there isn't much you can do. It's because I'm deep in survival mode.  I don't want to vent anymore. I don't want to express my anger or impatience or sadness anymore, because it just makes it fresh and throws me into a new shame spiral, and drives us all mad. I don't want you to feel bad about it. I love you. And I love that you love me. You might just have to let me be a portion of myself until I can feel whole again. I'm trying. And that has to be enough.