Write Hard and Clear About What Hurts :: Part One

DenaJanuary 20, 2017

Write Hard and Clear About What Hurts // livelovesimple.com

The past three weeks of my life have been good. I am healthier and happier than I’ve been in a very long time. But rewind to the twelve months that came before this, and it was a completely different story.

A year ago, my life took a difficult & unexpected — but necessary — turn. My entire life got flipped over on its head. I will write about that eventually; but right now, I’m going to write about the consequences that followed.

* *

When my life got turned upside down, it was a perfect storm of disaster.

My stress levels were completely out of control for so many reasons that I can’t even start to explain. Again, I’ll write about it in the future.

Marina was still breastfeeding and she was waking up, on-average, every 45 minutes throughout the night to comfort nurse. Indeed, there was a solid three-month stretch where I didn’t sleep for more than 45-minutes straight. I was dangerously sleep-deprived.

To cope with the stress, I started drinking more than usual. Alcohol was a quick, easy way to forget about my problems and my pain, even for a little while.

Exercise and nutrition went completely to the wayside. As exhausted as I was, exercise was an impossibility. As far as my diet went, I did whatever was easiest, with no regard for the consequences. At that point, I simply didn’t have the emotional capacity to care.

There was my perfect storm. Stress. No sleep. Too much alcohol. Poor nutrition. No exercise.

It is no small wonder that eventually, I fell apart.

It all came to a head one morning when I found myself lying in the emergency room of an unfamiliar hospital, paralyzed by fear, waiting for a series of test results to tell me “what was wrong with me.” Because as crazy as it sounds, I was so lost in the mess, that I really didn’t know.

* *

That was a hell of an introduction. So what happened next?

My hormone levels were out of control. I had gained nearly thirty pounds quickly. I had developed a large cyst in my left ovary and, most terrifying of all, my body was showing early signs of cancer.

It was a nightmare. I was so scared. I feel compelled to write that it was one of the lowest points of my life, but the truth is that the past few years have been filled with so many incredibly low points that they all blur together. I can’t be sure which point was really the lowest. There were so many.

My head and my heart have been completely shattered. I found myself in impossible situations and I had to claw my way out. There had been so much darkness and fear for so long.

As difficult as it was to hear those things from my doctor, I’d already been through so much that I wasn’t really surprised or hurt. The best word to describe what I felt then was: numbness. I felt very numb. I was so lost and ready to resign myself to whatever fate would take me.

Yet, when I came so close to giving in, somehow I grabbed onto the strength I had left and decided to fight back.

During those darkest of days, I had a conversation with my sister. I was completely down and out, I felt that I had no strength left. But she said something to me that I will never forget. She said that when it came to my children, I was the strongest person that she knew. I was fearless. And that I should take my strength from my role as a mother and if I couldn’t fight for myself, then I had to fight for them.

And so I did.

* *

I had a lot of false starts. I would gain some momentum toward turning things around, but then I would fall back. I would have a good week, followed by a terrible week.

My health was still on the rocks. I would get my diet right, exercise, cut back on drinking, and feel in control. But then as quickly as I gained the control I would lose it again. I would double-down on unhealthy habits, destroy my progress, and feel more discouraged than ever.

I prayed a lot. I prayed and I prayed.

And then one day, things actually started to turn around. This time, I knew that things were going to get better. I was going to make sure of it.

Slowly, slowly, some good news started coming into my life. While there were only promises, I held tight to the hope that those promises held — and I’m still holding on.

In order to regain control, I had to make enormous changes and I had to cut out all of the things in my life that were not critically necessary. I had to focus exclusively on my health and my children. I had to let go of every single other thing. I am still in that space and I will be for a long time yet.

As far as my health, it seems that things have stabilized in a way. A little over a month ago, I was asked to do a campaign with Jenny Craig which I’ll write a lot more about very soon. The Jenny Program has absolutely changed my relationship with food for the better. I’ve also started exercising regularly again and it feels amazing.

Marina finally started sleeping through the night about six months ago, and while sleep is still touch-and-go with two toddlers, it’s way better than it was before. I’ve stopped desperately using food and alcohol as a crutch to cope with my pain.

I will continue to have follow-up tests done to monitor the cyst and my health. Right now, there are no immediate threats. I’m hopeful that getting back to my healthy, active lifestyle will allow my body to heal itself in time.

* *

It’s all very much a “work-in-progress.” When I look back over the course of my life, I could have never imagined that I would have wound up here at this point. I had a vision of what my life would be, and it turned out nothing like I expected. But ultimately, looking back, I can see how necessary all of these challenges have been. Now that I am finally on the right path, I’m just going to keep going.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again. ♥ This. Always, always this.

Comments (6)

  • Gillian

    January 20, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    I was so happy to see that you had a new post up and as usual your honesty and passion is just so raw and beautiful. I love how open you are and I’m sending you so much love. It can be very comforting for me to read your words and to know that I am not the only one with growing pains. Please keep up updated and know that you can always reach out to me if you need to. You are SO strong. <3

    1. Dena

      January 20, 2017 at 7:52 pm

      Thank you so much, love. You inspire me always and I am so grateful to call you my friend. xo

  • Katherine

    January 23, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    A big hug to you, Dena!!!!! Your inner strength and commitment shine through in this post.

    I had a similar health thing happen not so long ago, and ended up in surgery for the cyst. Since then, like you, I’ve been working on changes. Wishing you a happy, healthy 2017!

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  • Mckenzie

    August 18, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Beautifully said. I’m so happy to hear about the changes you have made. You are doing something so wonderful for your body that will keep you healthy and cancer free. It’s so great you realized the importance of diet this so early on. Once cancer becomes stage 4 like mine was it’s much more complex. Healing my body from cancer has opened my eyes to the importance of loving yourself first. Eating is our biggest form of self respect. When you love your body you feed it healthy food and in return you remain disease free. -McKenzie Stepe

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