Settling Into My Bones

Screen Shot 2020-02-18 at 2.07.11 PMI used to wonder what it would be like to go to the beach and not be stressed and horribly self-conscious in my bathing suit. Thin women had mysterious lives with thigh gaps and delicate wrists (and clearly marked ankles!). What was it like to go shopping, to be able to happily try things on—and have them fit!?

These seemed like things I’d never understand. I thought my misery came from my weight, so therefore thin women must enjoy life and have far more peace about themselves. And I spent a foolish amount of time feeling frustrated at myself that I’d never know what that peace was like. Because it was obviously my own fault.

I wish so much that I hadn’t wasted so much time and energy worrying about my imperfections as though my weight was all that mattered. As if that was the true measure of my worth—an idea I somehow had no will to fight against after years of bulimia and anorexia as a teen and young-adult. The notion was ingrained into my bones. And solidified after decades of doing things “right” through self- discipline and exercise that never did a blasted thing to budge the waistline, except in the wrong direction. It didn’t matter how much I counted calories, how hard I worked out, I was a “failure”.

The Wizards of Smart said: Just cut calories and move more.

Well, I did. And it didn’t help.

The Wizards of Smart replied: Obviously you’re not doing enough. Try harder.

As someone who deals with body perception problems and obsessive tendencies, this really didn’t help me heal (or lose weight).

The more I tried, the more I failed. And the less I liked myself.

It took an actual health scare to push me into the right direction. Well, more like shove. I was, in a word, desperate. I couldn’t face the “C” word again, which was being mentioned quite a bit. I felt like utter crap. And you could say, in my desperate search I stumbled onto therapeutic ketosis for cellular repair.

Yes, in my sideways search for cancer prevention and healing, I found myself losing weight. A LOT of weight, very quickly. Even as I worriedly raised my calories from 800 a day to 1700 for metabolic health, I just kept shrinking.

This is why I’ll always say, Ketosis cured me of far more than just autoimmune disease, carpal tunnel, digestive agony, and incessant heart palpitations. It forced me to eat. A LOT. I wasn’t allowed to punish myself or “count calories” (other than to raise them), I was nudged into discovering a healthier relationship with my food.

But this weight loss showed me an even more important thing: my mind was still as broken as it had been in my years of struggling with an eating disorder.

Because even after weight loss there were plenty of things that didn’t scream perfect or “sexy”. I’ve had four children, after all, all C-Sections. I’ve had a thoracotomy as well as an arterial chest port inserted, leaving several large keloid scars on my chest. And now I can add a good amount of loose skin and stretch marks to my list of things to squint at.

Revelation: it was never the weight. It was my vision. After losing more than 70lbs I was still picking a fight with my reflection.

Our silly brainwashed selves can always find flaws.

So, a couple of months ago I had this “Yikes” moment, I guess you could call it. I’d reached my “goal weight” and had been maintaining it for several weeks when I found myself complaining to my husband about a pinch of fat. As usual.

And he said: “Isn’t it ever going to be enough?”

Yikes.

I’d officially lost sight of the truth. It hit me like lightning, I’d gotten so used to being mean to myself, years and years of it, I couldn’t see right. At all. I knew all of this but somehow it just shook me.

Since then I’ve given myself a new goal over the last two months: to focus solely on kindness and clarity of mind.

I wanted to know: What does it feel like to be truly comfortable in my skin?

Because I’ve never known that feeling. I am hoping, however, that I’m now getting a glimpse as I only allow positive thoughts when I look into the mirror. I don’t count calories or steps. I focus on enjoying my weird love of food and food-science, and enjoy how strong I feel, how much energy I have, how much clearer my mind feels. On the calm that’s taking over.

And I’m happy. I’m settling into the bones.

What a relief. 🌷🍃

My Story – Deciding to Live

10iAcawThis may seem like a simple concept: Decide to Live. Well, of course, I want to live. I certainly don’t want to die. How dramatic, Rachel.

But there’s a vast difference between embracing Life and simply taking oxygen into your lungs and converting it to CO2. An ocean of difference.

It took me a long time to get to the place where I actually understood that. Like, clearly understood it in my deepest parts.

When I was a struggling teen, I couldn’t see any reason why life was worth choosing. I couldn’t see anything but the dark cloud of depression smothering me, I couldn’t feel anything but the thorns of my life slicing into me over and over.

And I got this very clear notion: I was going to die before I was 30. I was sure of it. I wrote it down. I took it on, I accepted it into my heart.

I would die young. Of cancer.

The thought came back to me over and over through the years, especially in the good seasons where life felt right. The idea would pop into my head like a tiny goblin and take me by the throat. Some days I bravely rolled my eyes at the voice. But, really, I always had it in the back of my head, that Death had its claws in me and there was really nothing I could do about it.

You can imagine what my brain did when the doctor told me I had a tumor in my chest on the morning of my 33rd birthday (literally, worst present ever). I actually joked with someone, “Well, it’s a bit late, but it got me.”

It’s so strange now, writing this. I can hardly believe how deep into the weeds I’d let my spirit go. I was so blind.

Even through my journey of chemo and surgeries and sleepless nights doubled over in agony, I knew I was giving in. Yes, I had glimpses of what embracing Life might mean, what it might feel like if I let myself believe I could live. But the sicker I got, the harder it was to work up the courage to fight, to believe I was going to make it through the gauntlet.

In the end, as always, it was my husband, my children, that gently tugged me through the healing process, my husband’s endless faith in God’s healing hand that held me steady, the tears he shed with me the day I had to finally shave my head, the small words of kindness and love. It was another person’s love for me that taught me I deserved more than death.

And in the end, after nearly two years of cancer turmoil, I was given the report: Officially in Remission.

*queue dramatic music*

And yet . . .

I felt . . . oddly numb.

I wasn’t overjoyed. I wasn’t relieved. I wasn’t sure what I was.

I’d been stripped down to the barest of bones, raw and naked—I had nothing left in me by the end of the torture. And I was left feeling as if there’d been some sort of mistake.

So many ups and downs, preparing myself to die, to leave my children behind without a mother, my husband behind without his wife. I was so sure I wasn’t going to make it. I had completely lost myself along the way. I’d lost my sense of a future. I didn’t think I’d have one.

Suddenly, I did.

People said words like: You’re here for a reason. God has a plan for your life. It’s amazing! It’s a miracle!

I smiled. I nodded.

But not one single part of me believed that.

Why did I live when so many people, good amazing beautiful people, didn’t make it? Why me?! It just wasn’t right. I wasn’t worth God’s trouble. Besides, I was more than happy to go and be with Him in truth, I had been since I was fifteen. What was taking so long, anyway?

There are moments in life when everything flips upside down and you realize things about yourself. The truth basically knocks you on your ass.

Because, as I was internally saying all this negative stuff to myself, pretending on the outside to be so excited to have “survived,” I found myself at a table, casually eating dinner with publishing people I didn’t know very well, talking about how I was in remission (explaining my bald head). They ooh-ed and ah-ed and said how great it was, how strong I was.

As always, feeling uncomfortable with people praising me for doing nothing, I found myself shrugging and casually saying, “I don’t know why God loves me so much,” without thinking about it.

One of the people took issue with that, snapping, “God loves everyone, you’re not special. People die of cancer all the time and God loved them too.”

I stared at her, stunned. I understood her sticking point, and I knew she just meant to say God loved everyone. Which I agree with, obviously. But I was baffled. Because what I heard was: You’re not special. I was so caught off guard by her anger that I just nodded in agreement and apologized, saying that I wasn’t trying to imply I was somehow magical.

But, oh man. That moment weighed me down for weeks. Months, really.

Because she’d basically said exactly what I truly believed, but couldn’t say out loud. I wasn’t special. There was no real reason why I was there and someone else wasn’t. It was probably a mistake.

Something about that being said so bluntly, my words being conflated and my internal fears being spit right back at me as a reprimand, made me finally hear how horrible an idea it really was. Yes, God loves everyone. Of course. But he also loves me.

Just because one person dies, doesn’t mean that I deserved to die as well.

I couldn’t shake it anymore. It crashed over me like wave after that, the truth: I was still here for a reason. I wasn’t going to live to die well. I was going to Live. And that little goblin in my head. That demon called Cancer. It could kiss my ass.

Sure, what I was here for may not be ground-breaking to the planet, or even to anyone but me and my little family—but the details didn’t matter. I didn’t need to know why I was being given a second chance, I just needed to accept it. It was enough that I was brought through the struggle. That I learned so much about myself. I was saved from something huge. Something horrible.

And that didn’t mean I needed to feel guilty because I escaped the horror another soul couldn’t.

What it really meant was, if I truly understood the pain of what others had lost, I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. I needed to grasp the value of what had been so graciously handed to me.

Life.

And for once, I needed to live it to the fullest.

 

 

 

 

 

Why We Breathe

IMG_5283It’s #WorldCancerDay. A day of remembering, of giving, and for me a day of prayer. I don’t talk a lot publicly about my cancer struggles, or my health.

Truthfully, it’s not a comfortable subject for me. There are things I’m still working through.

But now, here in this little corner of the web, I’ll be examining it more closely, examining myself, my journey, and really looking at how illness changed me, how it changed my view on health, and what it means to truly Live.

Does what we go through matter?

Do we even matter?

The obvious answer would appear to be: YES, OF COURSE!

But do I really believe that? Do I live my life like that? Do I see other people through that lens on a daily basis?

It’s been a rough/exciting/crazy/terrifying/confusing year. And I’ve been asking myself these questions through it all.

In December 2018 I was living in the fog, just going through the motions, stressing about useless stuff. And then I got a punch to the gut as the doctor said the word that every cancer survivor dreads:

Tumor.

That single word started me on this new weird path of healing, both inside and out. And I’m still not done. I’m not going to be able to say today: “Hurrah, the tumor’s gone!” and then tell you how I found The Cure for all that ails me (though, I do love that band). Because the bastard’s still there, tucked inside my liver with two tiny friends. I can feel it even as I type this. It’s beyond strange.

But I was healed this year. From so many other things, physical and mental. And I can’t sit here and say, “Well, that’s that!” and move on as if life is the same. As if I’m the same. Because I’m not. And my journey to health is far from over. The last thing I want to do is take it all for granted and find myself in the fog and stress again.

What I’m hoping is that through some of these pages I can hold myself accountable to this new challenge I’ve found myself facing, continuing to grow. Maybe I’ll spark an idea in your head that will help you in your own journey. Or maybe I can be an encouragement—or you’ll get a good laugh, realizing how crazy I am, therefore feeling so much better about your own mental health. 🙂

And so, it begins.

Past is prologue. Every story circles back to the beginning. Here’s a peek at mine.

  1. My Story: Deciding to Live
  2. My Story: Choosing Laughter
  3. My Story: Stumbling Into Healing

* There will be more links added here as I write them.

 

A New Beginning

Screen Shot 2020-01-01 at 6.18.16 PMWhen February comes around, this space will become a bit different. A week from today I’ll be hitting a new milestone in my life, having been one year on this newest health journey, and I really want to help others by talking about my own struggles.

No, it’s not going to be yet another blog about Keto—though I’m happy to answer questions about what helped me. But we’re all different and unique and health is not usually a one-size-fits-all scenario.

Mostly I’m going to be chatting about finding balance. Both inside and out. And what it means to be human and overcome the stranger days we all go through.

Issues this blog with cover:

  1. self-acceptance
  2. struggling with anorexia and body dysmorphia as an adult
  3. using food, movement, and meditation to heal
  4. seeing through the chaos of the media, into the deeper issues of what it means to be human.

What I will NOT be talking about:

  1. diet promotion or sales
  2. political issues (other than as it relates to food)

I will likely become a bit personal in this space, using my own journey and struggles to hopefully help others through their own. It’s not meant to make me feel good about my life, or for you to feel bad about yours. I’m hoping it will simply be an encouragement and place for us all to feel less alone.

See you next Sunday!

Blessings,

That Rachel~

 

DARKNESS SAVAGE – A Poem

I can’t believe how fast the time has flown! It’s been eight months since DARKNESS FAIR released and already DARKNESS SAVAGE is flying out into the world in juts a few more days. This will be the final installment in Aidan’s story, and hopefully wrap things up for him in a way that satisfies all the readers’ expectations.

For a bit of a jump on things on this first week in October, I thought I’d give you this first peek at where the story might be going. And if you’ve read up until now, you’ll know each of the stories begins with a poem to reveal a piece of the story puzzle from another perspective. So, here’s…

Darkness Savage, a poem

ds_poem_grafic

Release Day ~ Darkness Fair

MARKS-DarknessFair-Cover-FINALI’ve rambled on before about how ill-equipped I felt to write a sequel. Well, I did it! And now I’m feeling ill-equipped to write a trilogy…lol. But in the midst of finishing DARKNESS SAVAGE and considering what’s next in the journey, I get to see that sequel fly off into the hands of readers.

Putting a book out there for the world to pick apart is a test of both patience and pride, it’s as invigorating as it is terrifying. And I’m loving the ride.

And DARKNESS BRUTAL is only $2 for Kindle and $5 for paper right now, btw!

You can grab DARKNESS FAIR here. And preorder DARKNESS SAVAGE here.