Darkness.

Disclaimer: This isn’t a fun and happy post, so feel free to skip if you wish. It’s been a challenging week and writing is how I process things, so here’s the raw and honest version of where I’m at.

I took the test quietly one morning. When the three minutes were up, I looked at it. “Wait, are those two lines?!” I thought. I ran to the store and picked up some more. Positive. I was so excited.

I waited a couple of days, not telling anyone. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Maybe I had only imagined the second line. Finally, I took a few more tests, different brands. All positive. I put together a gift for my husband and gave it to him. When he realized what it meant, he was so excited. 

We told just a few friends, being cautious about who knew because it was still super early. We asked for their prayers. They were so excited.

The excitement was mixed with anxiety as I wondered if things were too good to be true. The common theme in my life is having my dreams just within reach…and then having everything come crashing down. I was waiting for the other shoe to drop as it had too many times before.

I called my doctor, who said I didn’t need any additional bloodwork to confirm the pregnancy. I think a dozen positives were enough confirmation for her. I scheduled an appointment and counted the days until we would see the baby on the ultrasound.

I woke up each morning with nausea. That had become my new normal. I embraced it because I knew there was a reason for it. Mark made fun of me for my odd food choices and we started making plans for the future. We talked about baby names and nursery decorations and how we’d tell our family the exciting news. We were so excited.

Then one day, things just weren’t right. I called the nurse. She said not to worry. She told me I was probably fine. I went to work. Things only got worse. I already knew some of the signs from my endless google searches. I panicked and had my husband take me to the hospital.

On the way to the ER, I couldn’t stop crying. I sobbed as I said, “if God wants to give us this baby, great. And if not…He is still good.” It was so difficult to say those words. I just wanted everything to be okay. I wanted our perfect plan and crazy dreams to come true.

Hours passed. Tests and exams and blood work. Words from the doctors were slow and careful. “Miscarriage is something that happens a lot more than you’d think,” one said. “I’m very sorry,” whispered the other. Everything stopped. We tried to keep it together, but we were sad. No, we were mad.

We are sad and we are mad. And as much as I try to brush it off because I don’t feel like I should be allowed to grieve the loss of someone I only knew for a short time, I can’t quite let it go. Not yet. So I’m letting myself feel. I’m allowing the tears and the screams and the questions to God. Because loss is loss, no matter how early. We are now left to grieve over the hopes and plans and dreams that we had for this child. For our family.

It’s honestly hard to see the good in all of this right now. The pain and darkness are still so strong. The tears are still flowing. But I believe that one day we’ll see it. We’ll see how this brokenness led to beauty. God is still good, even when our circumstances are not.

Right now, it hurts. Every post from my pregnant friends and every baby photo on Facebook reminds me of the loss. I’m angry. I’m bitter. I’m sad. I’m mad. I’m jealous. I know that it’s important to work through these emotions. I know that soon enough, the strength of the sadness will fade away. So for now, my husband and I are holding each other close as we walk through this darkness, anxiously awaiting the better days that are ahead. Because I know they’re coming.

[I’m so thankful for my amazing husband and our incredible support system during this time. Miscarriage isn’t something you can really understand until you go through it, which makes it feel especially lonely. We are grateful for those who have admitted that they don’t understand our pain but are still willing to sit with us in our grief. ]

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Color The World Orange

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Even the trees were supporting CRPS awareness today with their orange leaves.

Today is Color The World Orange Day. It’s a day that was created to help spread awareness of RSD/CRPS, an excruciating condition that I’ve dealt with since age 12. On the first Monday in November, people are encouraged to wear orange to support those with CRPS and spread awareness of this nightmare of a disorder.

I woke up this morning and saw dozens of posts on social media about Color The World Orange. Several of my friends on Facebook and elsewhere also have CRPS, so I saw photos of their orange clothing captioned with snippets of their stories. My parents even posted about it. If I’m honest, this year, I was hesitant to join in.

You see, CRPS is a touchy subject for me. It doesn’t just affect you physically. While you’re dealing with the feeling of being burned alive (for real, that’s no exaggeration), you also face mental and emotional issues. From the time that I was diagnosed, this condition flipped my world upside down. I’ve had emotional scars from people calling me a faker or telling me I’d never walk, never live a full life, and never fully recover. I went through a period of dark depression when I was repeatedly told that my life would always include pain and crutches, and I seriously contemplated ending it all. I’ve had to overcome so many fears. Even now that I’m mostly pain-free (Praise Jesus), I often wake up wondering if something bad will happen, or if I’ll still be in remission at the end of the day. Posting about CRPS is hard because it forces me to confront those memories and fears that I’ve tried to push aside.

A lot of people know me as the amputee girl, the girl with a missing leg. People at work, people in my community…they didn’t know me before the surgery. They don’t know all the heartache and pain and trauma that occurred before I said goodbye to my right leg. Even people who read my blog mostly know me as an amputee, so posting about CRPS sometimes causes confusion. I did not have my leg amputated to help with my CRPS, I had the surgery as a life-saving measure to get rid of an infection. I feel like sometimes when I talk about CRPS, people try to connect the two, so there’s some clarification.

It’s easy for me to talk about amputation. I could blab all day about that topic. But CRPS? As soon as I hear those familiar letters, I feel a tightening in my chest. But maybe that’s even more of a reason for me to talk about it. To remind myself that I’m not where I was. To show support for my fellow RSDers out there. To spread awareness and encourage others to learn that this is a very real condition that affects so many people. Maybe my silence is only making things worse.

After thinking long and hard, I decided to throw on my “In the Fight to Win Against RSD” sweatshirt and I wore it on a walk downtown with my husband. I usually try to not even look at that piece of clothing because it brings back so much, but I chose to fight against the fear. I chose to prove to myself that I am indeed a Warrior. Only God knows what’s ahead for me in the CRPS department (let’s pray it’s lifelong remission), but today, I walked without crutches and I enjoyed the wind on my face and the leaves falling on my arms. The things that once caused such intense pain now bring so much joy. I am so thankful. CRPS, I may never be able to erase you from my past, but I won’t let you control my future.

{Thank you to the many people who have supported me in this battle. If you haven’t heard of RSD/CRPS before, I’d encourage you to take a moment to learn about the signs and symptoms and read about how to support those dealing with it. If you want something more personal to read, here’s a post I wrote a while ago about a day in the life with RSD/CRPS. Early diagnosis and treatment are key, and you never know who you’d help by being informed about this nasty condition.}

 

 

 

Talking to Kids About Limb Loss

“Mom, did you know that she is missing part of her leg?!”

One of the kids at work made this comment to her mom as I was helping them with samples. I was wearing pants, so it wasn’t obvious, but she had noticed my prosthetic leg a while back on a day that I was wearing shorts. I rolled up my pant leg and showed the mom, who later told me how embarrassed she was that her daughter would point out something like that.

I assured the girl’s mom that I have no problem with comments and questions. I’ve gotten plenty of them, from both kids and adults, and I’m always happy to talk about my limb loss. She asked how she could talk to her daughters about the topic when they went home. Since I can’t have one-on-one conversations with everyone (although if you want to, just shoot me an email), here are some things that I’d recommend when talking to kids about limb loss.

First of all, don’t avoid the conversation. If your kid asks about why that girl looks different, don’t automatically try to switch the subject or shut down their question. Chances are, that girl can hear you, and avoiding the subject will only make things worse. Refusing to acknowledge or explain differences reinforces the idea that people who are different are weird or should be avoided. Kids learn from our reactions.

Secondly, questions are usually okay. Ask the person if your child can talk to them and maybe ask some questions. Most of the time, they’ll be more than willing to provide answers. If they say no, then you can talk to your kids about how some people just look different, but different doesn’t mean bad. I’ve talked to several kids at work who have come up with the most interesting questions about my leg. Even though it’s hard for me to explain exactly what happened, I usually tell them that my old leg was very sick and didn’t work, so my doctor gave me a new one. I’ve had questions about how my leg stays on, whether or not the foot part is real, and if I wear my leg while I sleep. Kids like to know things.

Remember that we’re all human. People may look different, but that doesn’t change who we are as people. Would you make a big deal over someone with a cast on their leg? Or maybe pink hair? The presence of a prosthesis or the absence of a limb shouldn’t change your perception of someone as a person. Remind kids that despite any outward differences, we are all people who deserve respect.

It’s hard to put all of my thoughts into a post (actually, I’ve written several posts on the topic), and I fully realize that my opinion on this subject may differ from someone else’s. But I think we can all agree that limb loss shouldn’t be such a taboo topic, and responding with avoidance or fear isn’t going to help anything.

I am an amputee. I’m aware of this fact, and so are the people around me. I don’t try to hide it, and I’m totally cool with people acknowledging my leg. It’s part of me. It doesn’t change who I am as a person. Questions are always welcomed, especially if they help educate people and show them that limb loss isn’t something to be feared.

Thank you to the kids of the world who are unafraid to ask questions, and to the parents who allow their kids to learn about people who are different. You rock.

5 Years

Five years ago, I jumped in a pond and experienced life on two (real) feet for the very last time.

Never would I have imagined all the chaos and adventure that followed.

I still have a hard time believing that the accident occurred five whole years ago, or that I’m coming up on my three year ampuversary. What?! I don’t think about these anniversaries as much as I used to, and only realized it was the 5-year mark when I looked at the calendar and saw that it’s Labor Day weekend.

It’s difficult for me to think about the 2+ years between the pond jump and the amputation. I think I’ve tried to block them out, hoping to never experience them again. The pain, hopelessness and days of wondering if I’d ever get better were unbearable. Still, I am thankful for the people who helped keep me going, and even though I don’t wish to relive them, I think those darker years made me appreciate the little things more.

The combination of a forceful jump and a shallow pond led to my amputation, which opened the door to so much life. Step by step, moment by moment, I have been re-discovering who I am and all that this world has to offer.

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My husband and I recently celebrated our one year anniversary. The year went by fast, and we experienced a lot of changes during that time. We were able to get two days off work in a row together, so we decided to make the most of it and go on a hiking trip. We booked a cabin in the woods and explored caves, waterfalls, and more. Every time I climbed over a fallen tree or zigzagged through narrow pathways and twisted roots, I marveled at my body’s ability to do such things. I went from picking out wheelchairs five years ago to walking over log bridges in the river and climbing up steep hills in the woods five days ago. What a miracle.

In this busy season of life, I’ll admit that I do sometimes take things for granted. I just expect to wake up with a functioning body and the ability to do whatever I want. It’s not until I stop and reflect that I shift my perspective and remember that I am so very blessed to be where I am today. I am thankful that my life looks nothing like it did five years ago, and I look forward to what’s ahead. Here’s to more adventure, surprises, and laughter. Thanks for joining me on this journey ❤

Time Out

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I used to hate it when my parents put me in “time out” as a kid. Sitting and doing nothing felt like torture when all I wanted to do was play. Now, I dream of sitting and doing nothing, even for just a few minutes.

This week, I had to force myself to take some time out. Working every day, in addition to other commitments and responsibilities, was really starting to wear me out. I was grumpy and stressed and frustrated. Mark and I had a rare day off together, so I made a plan. “Let’s go to the beach,” I said, determined to make it happen.

Even though there are some decent beaches nearby, I wanted to get away from our side of the state. We decided to drive three hours west and visit one of my favorite beach towns. As soon as I saw the lighthouse and the sparkling water, I felt a sense of peace that I hadn’t experienced in a while.

Mark and I made the most of our “daycation.” We visited the little shops in town (I won’t mention how many times we went to the candy store), ate a real dinner (as opposed to the snacks we usually eat for dinner while working), and splashed around in the cool Lake Michigan water. We put our phones away and focused on enjoying each other’s company rather than worrying about everything that needed to be done back home.

Driving 3 hours each way to spend the day at the beach might not make sense to many people, but for us, it was worth it. Instead of spending my day off catching up on grocery shopping and housework like I typically do, I was intentional about making this a day of self-care. I don’t like being unproductive, but I realized that a day of relaxation can sometimes be more productive than a day of hard work.

We don’t usually have the time to go to the beach for a day, but on our way home from our mini getaway, Mark and I talked about other ways to take time out for ourselves during the week. Going for walks downtown, taking time to write, and spending an hour reading a good book are some things that help me relax. Dishes, laundry and vacuuming will occasionally just have to wait.

How are you practicing self-care this week? If anyone has any advice on how to balance responsibilities and relaxation, feel free to let me know. For now, I’m taking things one day at a time and learning to recognize when I need to stop everything and give myself a time out.

Movie Night!

One of my favorite things to do at the end of a long day is to have movie night with my husband. This is something that we’ve gotten into the habit of doing on the nights when we get home from work at a decent time. We love movie night so much that we even created our own little theater in our living room! Mark set up a projector so that our movies fill the wall, and we always move the couch so that it’s in just the perfect spot. I like how movie night allows us to be together without really having to do anything or go anywhere.

I was recently introduced to the family-friendly streaming website Pure Flix, and we teamed up to share some of my movie night essentials. I was happy to come up with these ideas for movie night fun, so here they are!

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Since Mark and I have different tastes in movies, we take turns choosing what to watch. Sometimes he has to watch chick flicks or documentaries, and other times I’m stuck watching some superhero movie. I checked out Pure Flix and liked how there are several genres of movies and shows, and they’re suitable for all ages. I don’t like getting to the middle of a movie and realizing that it’s full of garbage that we shouldn’t be watching, so  Pure Flix is helpful to filter out those distasteful films.

Snacks are always a part of our movie night. Since we don’t get home until after midnight, we’re usually hungry from skipping dinner at work. I like to brew a nice cup of tea and make a huge bowl of kettle corn to share. Sometimes I even mix some Reese’s pieces into the kettle corn! Snacks give me that extra boost to stay awake and help me to at least make it through the first five minutes without falling asleep!

Once we pick our movie and grab our snacks, I cuddle up with my fuzzy blanket and we each find our spots on the couch. Once we press play, we put our phones and other distractions away, start munching on our food, and enjoy the show!

Help us choose some future movie night ideas! What are your favorite movies???

Surviving or Thriving?

IMG_1619.JPG“I want to thrive, not just survive.”

I remember someone telling me that during a particularly difficult season of life. I hadn’t really thought about the difference between those two words before then, but that sentence has stuck with me for many years.

The dictionary defines surviving as “continuing to live or exist.” It’s a pretty dull definition that doesn’t hold much hope. Surviving is when you are able to keep yourself alive, but it doesn’t go much further than that.

Thriving, on the other hand, is defined as “prospering or flourishing.” This sounds bright and open. It is full of hope and possibility. This is what I am aiming for. Thriving.

During the first couple of months of marriage, we were definitely in survival mode. Maybe that’s not “normal” for newlyweds who are supposed to be all starry-eyed and blissful, but it’s the truth. I had to adjust to life in a new city. My husband Mark and I hardly saw each other because of our opposite work schedules. Even when we started working at the same place, we were tired from working late every day and went into autopilot mode of waking up, going to work, and repeating. We were trying to get things done and simply survive.

Now, only 9 months into this whole marriage thing, we are still learning and growing a lot each day. Personally, I’ve grown in many ways. I’m more familiar with where we live, I’ve made connections with people, and I’ve gotten better at going outside of my comfort zone. I left the pizza place that Mark and I worked at together and now manage a frozen yogurt shop, which is conveniently right next door and owned by the same wonderful people. Our schedules are full and if you ask me how life is going, I’ll likely say “busy,” but I think I’m slowly creeping out of survival mode and making baby steps toward thriving.

I’ve learned that in order to get out of survival mode, I have to be intentional. I have to plan out my time, make room for myself and others, and find little moments of happiness along the way. I have to be present. I have to choose to gently set aside the to-do lists and pause the never-ending thoughts in my mind in order to intentionally be in the moment. Instead of simply letting each day pass by and run into the next, I have to pause and reflect. I have to think about the highs and lows of the day, along with things that I could work on. Time goes so fast that it’s easy to close my eyes and push through without even noticing all the amazing moments along the way.

Life comes in waves, and it seems like it changes as soon as I finally feel like I have a grip on things. I’m sure this won’t be the last time that we find ourselves in survival mode, but I’m hoping that with each experience, I learn a little bit more and adapt a little bit better. Sometimes we have to do what we can to survive, but we can’t stay in that place forever. My goal is to spend more of my life thriving than simply surviving, and I’m doing what I can each day to make that happen.

 

 

 

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It’s been a crazy few months around here. Christmas, school, work…life has been busy and full and difficult and wonderful. It’s not often that I find time to pause and reflect, but I’m thankful for those rare quiet moments when I can sit by my crackling candles to think and type and dream.

For a while now, I’ve struggled with the idea that I’m not doing enough with my life. I know how that may seem strange, given the fact that I just went off about how busy I’ve been…but I feel like I’m not really helping people. I’m not putting a degree to use. I’m not out in the world, doing awesome things and changing lives like some of my friends and the people I follow on social media. I don’t have a fancy job title or any noteworthy accomplishments. I feel like because I’m not doing anything that can be posted about on Instagram or placed on an impressive resume, I’m not doing anything productive at all.

In the midst of my internal wars and doubts, I remind myself that maybe I don’t have to have a fancy degree on the wall or an official title. Maybe I don’t have to actively be doing anything to make a difference. Maybe just being is enough. Thinking about interactions that I’ve had with others, many memorable conversations and situations where I’ve felt valued were times when other people were just being themselves. Doing their jobs, offering a listening ear, or even just smiling. Sometimes, just being there for someone is what they need. And even though I may not have an impressive title or a cool degree or superhero skills, being there is something that I can do.

My life is nothing like I would have imagined it to be at this point. Don’t get me wrong–I’m happy with where I’m at, but it’s just so different than I planned. I’m turning 23 next week. My original plan was to have my Master’s Degree by now and to be working in the medical field. Instead, I don’t even have a bachelor’s degree (um, yeah, thanks to my lovely school for telling me I graduated and then changing their mind) and I spend most days working at a pizza place (which is something I said I’d never do, but I actually love). I’m not actively saving lives or helping people function better or doing anything earth-shattering. I have to believe that I am where I’m at for a reason, though. Even if it’s not time to go out and be someone, maybe I can still make a difference by just being and living and remaining open to the possibilities.

Maybe we don’t need titles in order to make an impact. Maybe just being is enough.

 

 

 

 

Thankful & Grateful

img_0243In early November of 2014, I remember standing in my bathroom, sobbing, and saying “all I want for Christmas is a new leg.” My leg was literally dying and the skin on my foot was breaking down rapidly. Gross, yes. Also excruciating.

Christmas came early that year, and somehow I got exactly what I wanted. Two years ago yesterday, Dr. Hero saved my life and chopped of my leg. It was the scariest and most wonderful day ever as I finally felt freedom from the years of living with a failing limb.

As I reflect on the past two years, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by gratitude. On this ampuversary, I remember the fact that this life is such a gift. I feel like I received a second chance at living when I had my amputation. Without surgery, I would have died. Even if I didn’t have my amputation and my life was somehow spared, I would have been struggling to survive each day as I had been for the two years prior. I am so thankful for that life-changing day.

Life since the amputation has been a mix of highs and lows. I suppose that’s how life in general is, and nothing will really change that. Even in the tougher moments, I have to remind myself that it is wonderful to be alive. Although there has been a lot of pain, especially this year, I wouldn’t trade where I am today for the world.

I’ve been trying to decide the biggest way in which my amputation has changed my life. I think the shift in perspective would probably make the top of the list. I’m more aware of what matters and what doesn’t. I’m more intentional with my time, my actions, and my relationships. I have gotten way out of my comfort zone and I’ve realized that sometimes it really pays off to take risks. And I’m more thankful than ever for each day.

I’ve been busy living a very full life these past few months, which is why my blog posts have been few and far between. As much as I’d love to have more time to write, I’m okay with the infrequency. I am extremely grateful that my days no longer consist of sitting on the couch, staring at my computer for hours on end and waiting to go to sleep. I’m thankful for the things that fill my schedule because they show that instead of simply surviving, I’m actually living.

Thank you to my friends, family, and blog readers for all of your love and support during the past two (+) years. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the many amazing people that I’m blessed to have in my life. For you, and for life, and I am so very thankful and grateful ❤

Bittersweet

There are some days when the sun is out and everything is lovely. Days when I’m filled with genuine joy and I’m thrilled to be alive.
…And then there are days when it’s pouring rain and I’m standing in my kitchen, crying over apple crisp and wondering what I’m even doing here.
It happens.

The point of this example is not that I have some weird emotional attachment to apple crisp…although I suppose I do, as it brings back bittersweet memories. The point is to say that sometimes, things just aren’t okay. Life is messy, people are imperfect, and we have feelings for a reason.

I recently got married, so I feel like I’m not allowed to say that anything is wrong, and rather, I’m supposed to give people this image that I have some sort of “newlywed bliss” where my whole entire life is wonderful. I mean, I am a total realist and I completely expected things to be how they are right now, so those thoughts aren’t coming from my own expectations. But still, there’s a mental barrier that’s been holding me back.

I guess it’s just the whole “fairytale” thing that movies and society lie to us about that’s preventing me from being real. I have this idea that people think that my life should be blissful and sweet all of the time because I’m a newlywed, so I feel like openly telling the world that things aren’t perfect is like complaining that my happily ever after isn’t always happy. Y’all. Life after a wedding is still. Life. And even fairytales have least one “bad guy” & a fair amount of struggle. So there.

If I’m truly being honest, the past few months have been bittersweet. Heavy on the bitter, lighter on the sweet. Aside from my wonderful marriage (which is one of the few things that is going well and does make me happy), life has been hard. Several people (mostly family) who I thought would always be there for me have abruptly disappeared from my life for unknown reasons. Things have happened in other areas that have been out of my control. My emotions have been all over the place, and it has often been hard to push past the darkness and focus on the positive. It’s been a season of pain, loss, and disappointment. Sometimes I am not okay, life is not okay, and admitting that all is okay.

Well, here is the part where I’m tempted to delete everything that I just wrote and instead upload a happy, polished post. I  want to simply tell myself to think about all of life’s happy moments and completely ignore the pressing pain. But that’s not real, and that’s not the point of this blog. So I’ll leave it as is, trusting that you will read my words not as though I’m whining and complaining (trust me, I know things could be so. much worse.), but instead, read them for the raw reality that they are. Honest words that express the fact that life isn’t perfect, and we don’t have to hide away or pretend that our struggles don’t exist just because they’re not as bad as so-and-so’s, or just because we “should” be happy all the time.

It’s easy to wear masks and pretend that everything is wonderful. Social media, especially, allows us to be as fake as we want, showing our friends (and strangers) our best, edited, and enhanced side. We aren’t as comfortable with showing the messiness, letting people into the darkness, and admitting that we aren’t always perfect. But I think that in order to have connection with others, some aspect of vulnerability is important. Because we’re all broken. But when we choose to open up and let the light in through those painful cracks, we realize that we’re not alone.

It’s okay to admit that you’re not okay.
This is where the healing begins.