Now that Christmas is over and we are rapidly approaching a new year, my Facebook feed is constantly asking me to look back at all that has happened in this last rotation of the earth, which for me has been…a lot. The end of 2017 and the first five months of 2018 were pretty much the worst. There was too much death, another major surgery, and most of my time spent feeling sick, exhausted, and legitimately close to a nervous breakdown.
But in the later half of 2018, things have started to turn around for me. It has now been over eight months since my last blood transfusion and/or iron infusion. To put that in perspective, for the year prior to that I was getting them as often as every week. That means my horrible surgery last March with the agonizing recovery actually worked!!!
I am no longer loosing blood at an alarming rate, I am not in pain, and it has been long enough now that I am starting to trust and dare to hope that I am healed. Now I know that my health will always be more complicated than the average person. I will have to get scans and scopes forever. And a stomach bug could easily put me in the hospital. But I might finally get a break from the near constant beat down that my body has been under for the last seven years, and that is a prayer I was not sure would ever be answered. At least not in the way I wanted.
It’s funny, but in the last few months I have gotten the same comment a lot, “You look so healthy!”
At first I wondered if they were just trying to find a kind way to say I have gained a bunch of weight. After all, I have put on a solid 40 pounds since I wrote this post a few years ago. I was reading through my half written drafts on this site (of which there are many) and one of them was called “2014 can kiss my skinny ass!” I changed the title before publishing, but you can read that post here to get an idea of where I was a few years ago at New Year’s. Spoiler alert, it was not great.
While I would no longer describe my ass as skinny, I am definitely in a better emotional and physical place.
So if they weren’t just referencing the fact that there is a bit more of me to love, what did they mean by healthy? I started listening to the other things I heard people saying about me- I have color in my cheeks, I look happier, and I have more energy. I realized that since I moved back to Dallas, I have been pretty consistently sick in one way or another, even if I was trying my best to hide it.
They only knew a Natalie who was in a constant battle with her body. Who went almost four years with barely enough blood to function. Who was fighting crippling panic attacks and depression and who just generally felt crappy a large portion of the time.
What they are seeing now IS more of me, or at least more of the me that has emerged from the shitshow of the last few years. When I wrote Scar Tissue, I said, “I think I am going to like the person who comes out on the other side.” And I do. I am discovering a me who is confident, resilient, has a compassion that comes from having lived through tremendous pain, and who is no longer controlled by anxiety and depression.
I am still grieving, which is different. I get sad because of my losses this past year. My heart hurts when I come across a shirt design like this one and think how much my brother Mark would like it, but then realize that I will never buy him a Christmas present again.
That, though, is not depression. That is the reality of dealing with the death of someone you love. That pain is the reminder that he was real and he was important and that I will probably never stop missing him. I understand now that deep grief doesn’t go away, your life grows around it and it changes into something more bearable.
Depression for me is like looking at the world through a sheet of Plexiglass, everything is distorted and feels far away. And I can gratefully say that is not how I feel these days.
I experience joy, and love, and frustration, and sadness, but they are bright and clear.
As we go into 2019 I feel a kind of hope and excitement that I haven’t been able to access for a long time. The kids are great, my husband is supportive and funny and always there for me, I have an awesome village of family and friends, my mental and physical health are the best that I can remember, and I am gearing up for Mommies In Need to expand in a way that will allow us to help exponentially more people.
So, yeah, I guess I am healthy and it feels pretty damn good. I am ready for 2019 and I can’t wait to share it with you!