Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Gaining Perspective

As I ran the streets of my neighborhood whistling and calling my dog's name, the worst possible scenario kept playing over and over.  It was 8:30pm on a Sunday night, and somehow our front door was open and Koa was no where to be found.  I enlisted the help of anyone I saw outside, and once he was found I sat back and reflected on what just happened.  With wet hair, shorts and a t-shirt (which are strictly for sleeping in) I was approaching strangers that were walking their dogs, watering their plants, or just walking to their car.  These people didn't run from me, even though I probably looked mentally disturbed, but instead grabbed their flashlights and got in their cars to start canvassing the neighborhood...for someone they didn't know.

We have only lived in this neighborhood for a couple months, and I've spent the last 2 months being a hermit while I recover from neck surgery.  In all honesty, I have spent the last 2 years being pretty miserable.  Living with chronic pain is not just physically taxing, but emotionally as well.  I kept pushing myself to maintain the same level of function, even though my condition continued to worsen.  My handful of muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, Tylenol, and growing number of acid reflux medications became the norm and I didn't see any other way of dealing with it because I couldn't afford to slow down.

Our move to AZ last year was a much needed gut check.  I wasn't working as a nurse, since we would only be there for 5-6 months, and I took some time to re-evaluate my health.  When I had a Nurse Practitioner tell me I had to stop exercising, I was forced to put things into perspective.  I had to slow down.  My last 2 digits on my Left hand had been numb or tingling for over 2 years, and I was now using Lidocaine patches to deal with the worsening muscle spasms.  I hadn't been able to pick up my children in over 2 years, I was dropping things, and the pain was becoming unbearable.  For the last 4 years I've had my own cervical traction machine at home to help alleviate the pressure from the bulging, turned herniated, discs in my neck.  Narcotics have never been an option for me because I had already decided if it got to that point, then medication was no longer helping.

Once we got to TX, I immediately went in to see my NP and ask for a referral for a neck surgeon.  He listened and easily agreed that I had exhausted all other resources.  My surgeon ordered a new MRI which revealed that my herniated discs had now ruptured.  I was completely out of options.  February 1st I had 2 discs removed from my neck, cadaver bone put in place, and C5-C7 fused with a plate and 6 screws.  This required wearing a very sexy neck brace for 8 weeks, and fully embracing "we are  Super Woman until we can't fly." (Sharon W.)

My amazing MIL came to take care of me and the boys since my Sexy Beast would be gone for my first 4 weeks post-op, and I had to embrace my limits.  I kept trying to wean myself off the muscle relaxers and pain killers too early, and my Surgeon scolded me and told me that there is a reason it is a FOUR month recovery.  Every time I went too far, my body was quick to tell me, and eventually I
learned to listen.

After almost 10 weeks, I am finally without my neck brace, and starting to smile again.  The pain is intermittent and I understand that recovery takes time, and I can't rush it!

I took the boys to Dallas to visit family for the weekend, and when I got home I was offended that my Sexy Beast didn't shower me with love and hugs and tell me how much he missed me.  I now realize how I've been treating him.  I haven't been affectionate or doting or even fun to be around, so WHY on Earth was I expecting him to treat me any differently than I had been treating him.

So, I am making a renewed effort to put forth the attitude and love that I want back.  I want to be the neighbor that will help you look for your dog!  I want to be the mom at the park that looks like she is fun to talk to!  I want to be the person in the grocery store that SMILES at you and brightens your day.

I am hanging up my Mean Mug face and am determined to be the change I want to see!  I want to apologize to my family and friends that have had to endure my poor attitude.  I am eternally grateful you've stood by me because I wouldn't have gotten through it without you!

Monday, January 11, 2016

For a Season or a Lifetime?

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting with one of the amazing Army Wives I've met in my travels.  We first became friends 5 years ago while our husbands attended the same school, and there was an instant connection.  I was stationed 4 hours away, and she was stationed at the same post as this school.  The boys were 6 months old and seeing her smiling face made the journey worth it.  We've stayed in contact throughout this time apart and now I feel truly blessed that we are finally at the same duty station!

We made plans to have her family over for dinner, and Cooper started referring to it as "The Feast."  This then evolved into a costume party for the kids, and even involving the boys in picking the menu.  After a few hours of great conversation, and watching the kids run and play together, I walked them through the door and reveled in the amount of joy I felt.  I was truly blessed to have such an amazing person in my life, and especially so close.

Moving to Texas also brought us within 3 hours of my mom and 2 sisters, as well as another friend just 3 hours in the opposite direction.  Can I really be this lucky?

The military offers the unique opportunity to interact with more people than most families that live in the same town/state their entire lives.  It is then that you form friendships and bonds that may be simply for a season or, if you're lucky, for a lifetime.

My friend and I had discussed how we've lost contact with some of the friends before being an Army Wife due to a lack of relatable issues.  I agreed and remembered people I couldn't seem to life without during Nursing School, but then once we graduated the interaction seemed less vital to my survival.  This isn't saying those relationships aren't as important (because I would not have survived without their help), but as we grow and change, so do our needs.
I am so thankful for the friends I have made in my life because they:
  • kept me sane in High School
  • helped me navigate Army Life
  • built my confidence and gave me support in the absence of my Sexy Beast
  • would sing along to my internal jukebox and bring a smile to my face
  • consume copious amounts of caffeine while studying into the wee hours of the morning
  • would watch me grow and support my decisions
  • wouldn't hesitate to drop a truth bomb when necessary
  • would assist me in conquering things I didn't know I was capable of
  • often lended a supportive ear
  • set a great example and gave me a desire to emulate their passion.
Whether you believe everything happens for a reason or not, I am grateful.  It would've been hard to survive my crazy life if it without the innumerable people that I've been blessed to meet.  Each and every person has made an impact, assisting me in the journey to become the best Mary I can be.