Coping with Devastation.

We live in an uncertain world, like our ancestors before us, but we are bombarded with devasting news more than ever. I mean, cavemen and cavewomen did not know what drama was happening with the Vikings, nor did the Vikings know what Native American’s were up to. (Yes, I know that is not historically accurate, play along please).

With the development of technology and new forms of media, something is always scrolling across the computer screen, interrupting a show, binging on smartwatches; ultimately creating a world of stressed humans. Some generations are becoming numb from tragic natural and manmade events. (For more on this, please read one of my favorite bloggers, Julie Sellers, and her thoughts on this subject).

Devastation

How do you define devastation? Is it the recent hurricanes that ravaged Texas, Flordia, and the Caribbean? A loved one suffering? Women and men coming forward about sexual harassment in the workplace? Deception from someone you thought you could trust? Terrorists? Hate crimes? The Opioid Crisis? Our government? Mass shootings? Disease? A fight with a lover? A country threatening nuclear war? Whatever YOUR devastation is, whatever complexity you need to overcome each day, here are some of my thoughts on how to conquer some of those demons.

Acknowledge It. Pain, frustration, sadness, anger. They are all real, raw emotions. Allow yourself to feel them, identify them, and ultimately remind yourself, they are just feelings. (And sometimes I need a stern suggestion to feel these and to not distract myself by making to-do lists or work…or be called on my mind over matter bullshit straight out over the phone) Cry. Run. Punch a pillow. Scream into the woods. Listen to sad music (might I suggest Linkin Park’s “One More Light?”). Then, tell yourself over and over, until you believe it, that frustration will not help, no matter what the situation.

Talk About It. That same technology that informs of every scary and terrible thing in the world – use it for good. Facetime your friends who cannot come and hug you. Text your loved ones. Call family and friends. Find a chat room related to the subject and let your hands rip on the keyboard. Call and see a therapist or psychiatrist (or both), if the event or situation has you feeling broken.  Talk about the situation and your feelings. Do not let them bottle up. I tend to use dry, sarcastic humor the most when I begin to open up about things, but as my tribe listens, I shed those tears and allow my vulnerabilities to be exposed, shared, and listened to. Talk to your support, your tribe, your squad!

Ask For Help. Do not be proud. It is amazing what humans can do for one another. It may be moving someone’s belongings, it could be raising money for a charity, or even just visits to check in on you. Think about what you need and never hesitate to ask.

Treat Yourself. It does feel good to indulge when you feel so down. Now, be careful to not allow this to become your new mantra —  but an ice cream sundae, buying a pair of new shoes, letting others set up meals for you, etc. can help temporarily.

 

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Please do yourself a favor and watch Parks and Rec. If you don’t feel like a Netflix and Bingeeeee week, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZsABTmT1_M0

 

Focus on What You Can Do. Just like the men and women who may be helping you, think about what you can do to stop, prevent, provide aid to whatever may be upsetting you. It is simple and helpful to donate money (no matter the amount) to a reputable non-profit during times a crisis. If someone you know is suffering, think about how to get them help. Can you start a drive to provide necessities to humans in need? Sit and think about your situation. Do you want to start a campaign for awareness about a disease that took your loved one? Can you join groups that support you and what you are going through? When you are ready, take the time to think and focus on what you can do. As you delve into that project, allow yourself to feel emotions, let yourself breathe deep, and be proud that you are helping not only yourself but others.

Learn. In recent years, when I worked for a non-profit that worked on radical transparency, many times we were asked what did we learn (after events, if we made a mistake, at the end of a meeting). Hands down, this is THE best lesson I have applied to my life, during great moments and during times of pain. As you travel down the path of devastation, you must ask yourself, “what is this moment teaching me?” “what did I take away from this experience?” “how did this help me grow?” It will NOT be the first day you feel ruined, it will not be during the first week as you grieve, be filled with anger, or shake in fear. When you are ready and further away from the moment, question yourself. Talk with other people involved if you can and ask them. Life is a journey and we learn many lessons along the way.  Taking away a lesson from something horrible is constructive and teaches you more about life.

Pain, anger, devastation, it cannot be stopped. But, the way you cope can change how you heal from agony.

How do you help yourself in times of devastation?

#yellowitsme #positivity #progress #mindset #growthmindset #blog #wordpress #devastation #anger #cope #coping #family #focus #grit #indulge #learn #lesson #lifelesson #numb #demons #problems #recovery #sadness #sad #stressed #stress #support #supportsystem #treatyourself #treatyoself

 

 

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How to Pack for the Hospital

I do not claim to be an expert in too many things, but with all of the time I spend in hospitals (and the medical bills to pay for this area of distinguished education), I proclaim myself as having a Ph.D. in packing for lengthy hospital stays. If I could legitimately add this to my resume, I would.  My knowledge is too grand to not share, so alas, here we are.

Below is my list for a five-day stay at your local hospital explained in detail for you below.

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  1. Hairbrush and hair elastics – Feel free to leave the elastics at home if your hair isn’t long enough 😉 After an operation, your hair looks a little worse for the wear. Being able to have a caregiver gently comb it for you is one of the first nice things you can feel and appreciate. You feel ever so slightly better when you know you do not look a total mess. By the way, the doctors and nurses have seen EVERYTHING, so be creative with those hair bands or elastics, when you are ready.
  2. Hat – Sometimes there is too much pain, fatigue, or I don’t give a damn to do my hair. Hats are fun, show off your interests or personality, and are a great conversation starter to learn more about your care team! Another plus, they keep your dome warm (I always freeze in hospitals!)
  3.  Toiletries – Some hospitals provide your basics (nice!) but there isn’t anything better than to be able to you use your preferred hygiene brands and to be surrounded by your comforting routine smells. *This is not an ad, just my personal preferences.* I start by filling my toiletry bag with a snazzy colored toothbrush and some refreshing Colgate Toothpaste. Then, I plop in my sexy deodorant; don’t judge, it smells delicious and lasts for a long time – helpful when the pain meds or anesthesia has you confused. Rather than packing my whole face routine, I pack gentle face wipes. The hospital is a pretty harsh environment, filled with germs and cool, dry air, so these are perfect for a few nights. Gentle is the key! I make sure to use a moisturizer when I can and slather on Aquaphor on my lips, hands, and feet. Well, usually someone who loves me does my feet. I always pack a nail file – nothing like a hangnail snagging in the bed sheets to really annoy you!
  4. Insulated, Reusable Water Bottle – I drink like a woman who has been stranded in the desert after surgery.  I hear water is also amazing for your body, especially after trauma. I pack a stainless steel water thermos to keep ice and water in and bring my favorite YETI Tumbler for the minute to minute drinking. I also pack a reusable stainless steel straw (I won’t be able to move my neck to drink, etc.)
  5. Important Documents – While not super comforting, I always bring a file with me and let my family hold it while I am staying at the hospital. It includes my current prescription list, my allergy list, my driver’s license, insurance card, and will. While not fun to think too much about, it is all necessary and pertinent information someone from my healthcare team may need.
  6. Comforts from Home – Now, for extreme comfort, I make sure to pack some of coziest clothes from home to keep me snug and warm. Loose fitting cotton pieces, flannels, and fleeces seem to do the trick. I pack my own feather pillow and a supportive travel pillow so I can get a few hours of pain-free, sleep in comfort. The feathers support my bionic neck in the right away and the travel pillow reminds me no whipping my hair back and forth while I sleep. I will pack a cotton robe (because sometimes I do just want to be in my gown but with a little more class) and my cozy slippers. which are more supportive than the gray hospital socks!
  7. Technology – Don’t forget your phone and charger! You can FaceTime or Skype with loved ones, play games, check the news, social media it up, and when you’re ready to text people.
  8. Entertainment – More often than often I have found sleeping, following doctor’s orders and having visitors is pretty exhausting, but I do pack one book. A piece of fiction and a killer pair of headphones so I can mentally escape the hospital!
  9. Notebook & Pen – Keep this right by your bed! Anytime you need to write something down, like a question to ask the doctor on his rounds, jot it down.
  10. Your Dignity, Flexibility, and a Sense of Humor – Healthcare professionals have seen everything – embrace it. I don’t suggest streaking but don’t worry about your body being seen.  Everything may not go as you and the doctors and nurses plan. Be open to new options and roll with the punches. Definitely, pack your sense of humor! Laugh at whatever you can. It is great medicine.

#yellowitsme #positivity #progress #mindset #growthmindset #blog #wordpress #cervicalspine #ehlerdanlos #cervicalspinalfusion #pack #hospital #hospitalstay #raredisease #packforhospital #pain #chronicpain #positivethinking #recovery #grit #persistance #determination

Practice Makes Perfect

I’m biting my lip, thinking about how many times I have thought of my former post, Why Me? since last Monday.

I spent the day attempting to work from home while enduring severe neck and shoulder pain. It had worsened after the initial muscle pain from my previous surgery. My surgeon sent me for a CT Scan over the weekend and my intuition was validated when I answered his phone call on Monday afternoon.

It’s never a good sign with the Neurosurgeon calls ahead of your planned appointment.

Long story short; my fourth cervical spine fusion failed. Four screws are loosening from pressure above them and the only solution is to remove the hardware and fuse further below, into my thoracic spine.

 

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What does your spine look like?

 

His voice cracked while telling me. I felt numb. I shifted my way over to my dog and held him for a few minutes before telling my family.

So, how do I not want to curl up and avoid the world? How did I practice a growth mindset? Was I positive?

For the record, I did want to curl up and avoid everything, but curling up would be extra painful. So, I laid down. I accepted many snuggles, both human and puggle.

 

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Wrangler the Puggle, expert level snuggler.

 

I let the doctor’s words play over and over in my head, acknowledging frustration and anger. These surgeries are intense; emotionally, mentally, and of course physically. I could not believe I would have to do it over … again.

The anger became sadness and fear as I talked with my therapist, but I knew they were just feelings, natural with what was happening to my body. As I spoke more about it, I began to practice my growth mindset.

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I am unsure why this challenge has entered my life but I chose to focus on the fact that this surgery and this recovery will give many people, especially me, the opportunity to grow. All of my doctors (and yes, it is quite an amazing team) will learn more about Ehler Danlos Syndrome and the effects of hypermobility to my neck and others who may be similar. The opportunity for me to grow, to learn more about my body, to grow healthier, to grow to learn more patience and courage.

While it may be a setback to my life (I’m supposed to move! I should be at work! Pushing through pain to live is hard!),  I promised myself to prepare for the best possible recovery so I can grow and improve.

I have downloaded inspirational and motivational TED Talks, podcasts, and have my meditation app ready. My iTunes playlists are full of Lady Gaga, JayZ, Eminem, Hamilton, Linkin Park, P!nk; music to get me up and moving. Currently, I am making a list of small but attainable goals to achieve each day, such as mini walks, practicing meditation, reading, reaching out to friends, all things to stay busy and positive. I will eat healthy to promote healing (but the occasional ice cream WILL help) and will follow doctor’s orders.

I will enter surgery with good thoughts and intentions, which has been and will continue to be practiced. After all, practice makes perfect.

#yellowitsme #positivity #growthmindset #mindset #progress #blog #wordpress #cervicalspine #ehlerdanlos #cervicalspinalfusion #grateful #gratitiude #pain #chronicpain #positivethinking #recovery #grit #persistance #determination #ladygaga #jayz #eminem #hamilton #pink #p!nk #linkinpark

Why Me?

A lackadaisical summer car ride brought about the interesting question.

My Jeep weaved up and down hills, from point to A to B, as I hovered my foot above the gas and twisted the wheel with each turn; iced coffees jostling between our hands and the cupholder.

23deb1d6001296f8df417453423d5e05--monty-python-yellow-quotesWe were talking about some of my medical conditions and the impending eight level cervical spine fusion that was charging our way.

She asked, “have you ever thought, ‘why me’?”

Without a beat, I replied, “No.”

Yes, I have acknowledged painful moments in my 32 years. I have allowed myself to feel those moments with the raw emotions that tackle one’s system; devastation, fear, loneliness,  anger, and frustration. However, I never throw myself pity party, I never play the victim card. What a waste of energy.

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I have hope. I am grateful. I have faith. I have love. I have laughter.

I know the strength to remain positive in adversity is not something I was born with. My life experiences created it. It was (and is) modeled by my family, mentors, and friends.  My faith constantly reminds me that I must trust the universe.  I continue practicing the growth mindset, an idea about the brain presented by Psychologist Carol Dweck. Everyday incredible opportunities present themselves, far more than anything horrible. I chose to focus on the good.

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As Monty Python sings,

“Always look on the bright side of life/If life seems jolly rotten,/There’s something you’ve forgotten!/And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.”

#yellowitsme  #positivity #progress #mindset  #lifesjourney #blog #wordpress #grateful #mentalhealth #family #disability #inspiration #panicdisorder #ehlerdanlossyndrome #cervicalspinefusion #hypermobolity #scared #thanks #gratitude #mentalillness #growthmindset #emotions #montypython #caroldweck

 

25 Things You Don’t Know About Me!

Summer 2017 was pretty tough, but with a growth mindset, positivity, and some hard work, I am ready for some fun. Scroll below to get to know me a little bit better!

Me

  1. I pissed off Jack Nicholson. JNicMy brother and I heckled Jack at a Yankee game when we were young. He was wearing leopard loafers, sitting in front of us, minding his own business, but we were riled by the crowd taunting him for “killing animals.” He took it in stride in the beginning, but as we continued to annoy him, he methodically turned to the right and shot us his signature evil glare. YIKES! We learned not to mess with Jack again. On the plus side, his friends Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, and Chris Rock got a chuckle out of it and were very nice to us.
  2. Christmas Eve is my FAVORITE night of the year. It is still as magical as it was when I waited for Santa. ChristmasEve
  3. I eat two pieces of dark chocolate a day. Except for one week, when I tried the #Whole30.
  4. My family and I discovered I was allergic to bees on my sixth birthday (my “golden birthday”) when I was stung running around the yard. The best gift that year was my EpiPen!
  5. I have six tattoos and will probably get more. 18423_3412005374019_3466843665173679104_n
  6. My dad used to tell me, “never say never.” I would roll my eyes. Some things I have to say never to: that I would never live in Ridgefield, that I would never work at Pamby Motors, and that I would never go to SJU… OHHHH the irony! (I moved back to Ridgefield after grad school, I attended SJU for my BA and MA, and I currently work at Pamby’s. Admittedly, I have tried the opposite; “I will NEVER win the lottery…I am still waiting!)
  7. I am a compulsive organizer with everything. I won’t even let someone else wash or fold my laundry. That is Emily time!
  8. I pray, meditate, and believe in a higher spiritual power.
  9. It has been said that I have incredible handwriting. I think it’s nice.
  10. In regards to handwriting, two things: my favorite things to write are exquisite thank you notes and the only pen that is an acceptable writing instrument is a Pilot Precise V5 in black. The other colors are for doodling, obviously.
  11. I can make an awesome elephant sound. Just ask my friend’s kids.
  12. My Dad ran me over with a snow plow. He was plowing my Nana’s driveway and I was shoveling. The snow was almost up to my thighs. I moved when he wasn’t looking and the next thing I knew, I was being plowed with the snow into the snow bank. It didn’t hurt all that much, I was just very stunned.
  13. Socks. I love socks. I have a sock for every moment, every graphic, every attitude. My sock collection is hilarious, colorful, and fun. Thank you to all who gift me awesome socks and keep these feet happy!
  14. I wear sunscreen every day. SPF 15 or higher!
  15. I am ambidextrous. I prefer using my left hand for driving, coloring, brushing my teeth, and eating. My right for writing, throwing. Sometimes I rotate based on comfort. This really helps when my Ehler Danlos flares up and I dislocate hands, fingers, or arms!
  16. I have never seen The Game of Thrones.
  17. Yellow Starbursts are my favorite flavor. Not because of the color. They taste delicious!
  18. I have a reoccurring nightmare in which I am back at college and can not graduate because I have not finished my math requirements.
  19. I refuse to watch scary movies.
  20. I read a lot and I read fast. I love learning new ideas and imagining the world an author has created. I typically am reading two books at once, one is a piece of fiction and the other is a self-help, teach me something type of book. Currently, I am finishing Radical Forgiveness by Colin Tipping and The Lake House by Kate Morton.
  21.  I had dinner with Nobel Prize Winner Desmond Tutu. When I was a child, my parents often hosted dinner parties. They were friendly with our churches priests and the men would come on weekends for fun. One night, the Pastor brought a visiting priest from South Africa, Desmond Tutu. He was gracious, thoughtful, and I loved his accent. He even played with my American Girl Dolls!
  22. I can pick up objects with my toes, like a monkey.
  23. I love playing Poker. 1780735_241893689315247_466245469_n
  24. I (try to) watch Jeopardy every night. It was something I would watch with my Noni and Aunt Jess while trying to earn .25$ per correct answer. I love trivia! My family and I will often watch it together and compete.
  25. I LOVE my family.  They are everything to me. Ups, downs, challenges, fun, ridiculousness – we have been through it all and we support and love one another. My parents were strict as we grew up but showed us the ways of the world, which we navigated together. #FamilyFirst

    #yellowitsme #positivity #progress #mindset #growthmindset #blog #wordpress #trivia #ehlerdanlos  #grateful #gratitiude #positivethinking #fun #jacknicholson #yankees #newyorkyankees #christmaseve #darkchocolate #allergies #tattoos #epipen #goldenbirthday #neversaynever #organized #laundry #prayer #mediation #higherpower #spiritual #handwriting #handwrittennotes #thankyounotes #elephants #snowplowed #snowplow #sock #sockcollection #sunscreen #ambidextrous #gameofthrones #starbursts #yellow #yellowstarbursts #nightmare #scarymovies #read #books #fiction #nonfiction #nobelprize #desmondtutu #southafrica #poker #texasholdem #jeopardy #trivia #family #love #support

Learning to Fly

 

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A Robin fledgling, a baby bird who has left the nest without much experience to survive. Credit: Google Images

 

Dusk’s magical lighting fell over the manicured grounds, so at first, I thought it was a baby bat. It was on the pavement, so close to the lush lawn where its home was, but about ten feet away, struggling to fly.

I squinted, focused, and recognized the little animal as a tiny Robin, old enough to be away from the nest, full of its blue egg remnants, but small and young enough to fumble in flight.

My heart sank as I watched. It kept jumping up, launching straight up like a rocket, and then would peacefully fall back down to the ground. It would barely gain any distance towards the inviting trees and gardens, where its community was waiting and chirping for the bird.

With each attempt toward the sky, I stopped breathing, until the bird safely landed. Inch by inch, it flew up, fluttered back down. I prayed the wind would come along and help carry it over. Should I help it?  What if a car does not see it? I began the dangerous thought pattern of “what-ifs.”

As it launched itself again, I rooted for its flight to become more fruitful, for it to gain distance and length. Little by little, the determined bird made its way; up and over, up and over, up and over, to the green grass. It’s dainty legs hit the grass and like a proud mother, I teared up when it leveraged itself once more, and finally, hitting his fledgling stride, soared home.

 

The synchronicity of this little bird and his struggle overwhelmed me, but I trust the universe and look for signs when practicing mindfulness. I believe the bird was there for me, from a power higher than I can imagine, showing me I too will soar with persistence, grit, and determination. That wobbly, unstable flight represents the trauma of the past three weeks. Each flight attempt up symbolizes my struggles for the days, the hours, or the minutes that I conquered.

It was dusk for me at many of those moments; the pain, the panic, medical threats to my life and well being. With my loved ones encouraging me, chirping in and reminding me there was a beautiful spot for me to land, I endured my wobbly flight of recovery.

I can enjoy this fumbling flight now that I know soon I will be able to soar.

#yellowitsme #positivity #progress #mindset #growthmindset #blog #wordpress #cervicalspine #ehlerdanlos #cervicalspinalfusion #grateful #gratitiude #pain #chronicpain #positivethinking #recovery #grit #persistance #determination #synchronicity #learningtofly

Change that Attitude to Gratitude.

 

Just because I make surgery look good does not mean I ever want to have another one. I mean, have you seen such great IV’s, thumbs ups, and hospital robe wear? 😉 As of the past Fall, I truly believed that I was going under for my final surgery related to my naughty cervical spine. Just one last surgery. One last wake up from anesthesia. One last time spent in the hospital room, letting time heal me. One last recovery at home, with my parents alternating to care for me. One last medical leave from work. One last time to ask my family for help taking care of me and Wrangler the Puggle.  One last.

Believing in something that we have no control over (especially with this hypermobile, angry body), may have been blissfully ignorant, but it gave me a sense of light at the end of the tunnel.

Until the excruciating pain; sensations that stab, ache, and send shocks through my system, began to come back, I had hope.

I listened when the Neurosurgeon explained he had to operate again. However, I didn’t accept it. I was frustrated. Irritated. Mad. Confused. Upset. Sad. Angry. I tried my hand at my usual #positivemindset, #positivethinking, some #meditations. I let my mind wander to think, “what if this fails?”, and gave up on the hope that my pain could lessen or that my spine could stabilize. I acknowledged I was pissed and placing my mind in a danger zone – a #fixedmindset. What if this surgery wouldn’t be my last,  what if it would only perpetuate a cycle? Those gloomy thoughts did nothing for my current situation, the pain, or my impending surgery.

I allowed pessimism to enter my mind but recognized that negativity, the thought of failure, and the danger of accepting it, could lead me to a bad place. My partner (who is incredibly emotionally intelligent) suggested…or kindly demanded…that I change my (negative) attitude to gratitude and focus on all of the good going on in my life to get out of my funk.

Well, it turns out her suggestion has been working. After twelve days of being able to write out EVERYTHING that I am I thankful for each night, I have accepted next week’s operation, my spine’s condition, and I am a lot happier.

How could I not be happy when I look through my notebook? Notes about being grateful for a friend’s being promoted at work, a delicious Cold Brew Coffee, packing lunches for my Dad and me, that friend’s celebrated their 4th wedding anniversary, having a job, picking out an outfit that made me feel good?!

Towards day five of writing, something glided across the paper. “Being in less pain.” WOW.  I wish I could #gratitude my way out of surgery! As there are some skeletal and biological components that may not be able to be changed just by thought (how cool would that be?), I am thankful that I can accept this operation, go under the Doctor’s care with a #positivemindset, and be #grateful for so much during my recovery.

Have you ever kept a #gratitudejournal? Has #positivethinking helped you achieve something in your life? Let me know!

#yellowitsme  #positivity #progress #mindset #growthmindset #lifesjourney #blog #wordpress #cervicalspine #ehlerdanlos #cervicalspinalfusion #grateful #gratitiude #pain #chronicpain #positivethinking