When you deal with the loss of a parent at a young age your world gets shaken. You wonder and wander as to where you fit in, who to get close to, who to lean on. In a period of a few years I watched the family unit I knew, the one that was my safe circle, almost disappear as we lost other family members to death and mental illness.
I grew up with big family gatherings at the major holidays – Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Even when we moved out of state, we always flew back to be with my mom’s family. It brings me great joy to think of those times, the chaos, the smells, and the food. Hard to believe those memories stuck strongly even though by the time I was 11 or 12 they had gone away because of my mom’s failing health which took a toll mentally and physically on more than just my mom.
I was barely 13 when my mom passed. I was vulnerable especially emotionally. I am pretty sure that when I look back it took me 16+ years after her passing to build my own emotional worth, to stop trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be. I wasn’t authentic to myself, for 16 years I was simply trying to stay connected to the people I had left even if it left me miserable and unhappy.
Depending on who you ask, one day I had an awakening, others say I snapped, but for me it was the start of authenticity. It was a day that I realized it was ok to be a loner and not feel like I had to change myself to fit into the family I was born into.
I lost friends and family members when I decided to find myself, not the self everyone thought I should be. But you know what was strange, in the years that have followed I have re-found happiness and confidence. A few friends and family have come back into my life, a small few never left, and some will remain as past chapters in my life. However, those that I have met during these years, or the few I remained close to throughout this journey are stable rocks of friendship and family. Those that may not always agree with me, but love me for who I am and let me show up just as me.
If I had never started the journey of finding my personal authenticity, I would have never made it through my health journey – of that I am certain. In order to embrace all that has been a piece of my health puzzle I had to throw out the norms of who we as a culture are ingrained to always implicitly trust. Whether it was doctors, parents and family, government leaders, you name it, we as a culture teach our kids to respect and trust what these people say as if it were doctorine, and it is hard to break that cycle.
At the end of the day, no matter how much school you went through or what title is on your business card, we are all human. Being human means making mistakes and a lot of times as humans we put self before others. Not all humans are created equal and thus not all humans holding professions that we seek to find answers from are equal either.
There are good doctors and bad, helpful family advice and hurtful. Finding my authenticity let me hear and trust my internal gut. A gauge that when I tune into I can feel whether something is right for me or not. Being authentic has also let me explore non-main stream ideas without feeling like I am wrong for going outside the box.
Your personal journey and your health journey is doubtful to be all puppy dogs and rainbows. Friends and family will probably bombard you with their ideas and thoughts on what you should do. You will find many who do not understand your journey or decisions. Finding your tribe that will walk with you during this time will save your sanity and lift you up so that you can get to the other side. What still amazes me is once you start and if you are open, the people you need will often rise to the surface.
I ran across some quotes this morning by Daniell Koepke and found much solace in her writing for those facing either their personal or health journey.
I will end with this quote by Daniell Koepke which resonated with me today:
Being strong doesn’t mean hiding your pain. It doesn’t mean forgoing help when you’re struggling. It doesn’t mean denying yourself things that feel good for the sake of practicing self-control. It doesn’t mean refusing to show sadness and vulnerability. And it doesn’t mean carrying the burdens of life all by yourself. Anything that prevents your healing and stifles your growth does not correspond with strength. Being strong means refusing to tolerate people and things that wound your soul. It means practicing self-care when you’re hurting. It means honoring your feelings by actually allowing yourself to feel and express them. It means treating yourself with compassion and kindness, even when you feel like you don’t deserve any. It means doing what makes you happy and being with people who make you feel good, regardless of outside judgements. It means asking for help when the weight of the world has become too much. It means giving yourself permission to get your needs met by setting boundaries and using your voice. It means forgiving yourself on the days that you’re struggling and can’t be brave. It means challenging the voice telling you that you’re inadequate and worthless and reminding yourself, repeatedly, that you are enough.
You are enough!