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What If

Admittedly, my self esteem has suffered a bit as my body has wasted away, bearing the marks and shadows of the battle I fight, adorned with tubes and equipment that allow me more days. It’s rare I find myself out in public, but when I do, I find myself self-conscious, and aware of people’s curious stares.

Friday I was wrapped in my oxygen tubing, puffing and stumbling as I rolled my red hand-me-down walker through the door of the clinic. As soon as I scooted through the threshold there was a squeal. “Cooooool! You’re amazing!!!” I looked down to see a tiny spectacled girl staring up at me with a huge grin and a look of awe painted across her face. As I eased myself into a chair in the waiting room, she planted herself directly in front of me and continued to smile and admire my equipment.

Our encounter did not end before she excitedly took my walker for a test run back and forth, back and forth across the room, and my dear friend had her sit on it and pushed her whirling in donuts while she giggled and cheered. She left the room pink-cheeked and still grinning.

What if. What if we all were brave enough to make eye contact, to give a smile and a compliment to the things that puzzle us? What if we looked upon the marks of others’ suffering and found the parts that could make us smile? I think it would be a very bright world indeed.

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Pulling the Trigger

Last weekend, someone I love took his own life. It brought a whole new rawness to the mysteries I ponder over suicide.  It brought sadness and wondering and questioning from places that did not feel very good.

In the aftermath of the unexpected suicide of our beloved actor, Robin Williams, there was this heightened awareness of the possibility that anyone, at any time, could chose to end their own life.  I appreciated that it suddenly was not the elephant in the room, and  scatterings of suicide hotline ads lined public places and television commercials. People were having conversations about how a person gets to that place. It saddened me though that it took someone so iconic to bring about that shift. It saddens me more that once the shock wore off, we went right back to our comfortable lives and forgot about the life around us that keeps being snuffed out at their own hands.

flowers marguerites destroyed dead
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

I will tell you, after working on an ambulance and in the ER for 13 years, the ones that actually do it are not the ones you think. Yes, often times the warning signs are there, but too often it is the person who never brought it up, the person who everyone thought had it all together, the person who had no reason to feel that way. Their loved ones stand in stunned disbelief. Those calls are some of the ones that haunt me the most.

One of my son’s classmates died by suicide not long ago.  The star of the team.  The boy who made everyone feel like a friend.  The boy no one expected.  What if that is exactly why he did it?  That’s a lot of pressure to maintain the status everyone looks up to.  That pushes the door wide open to feel not quite good enough.  I watched my son wrestle hard with the questions, and I didn’t know what to say.

It’s all around us.  It’s in the young boy angered by his parents’ divorce, the teenage girl struggling to fit in, the elderly man no longer visited by his family.  It’s in the movie star who seems to have it all, the business man who gives the perfect pitch, and the mother grieving the loss of her child.  It’s in the pastor’s wife, the put-together, the successful, and the disheveled.  It’s not only in the trauma, it’s also in the mundane.

Depression isn’t always because something terrible happened, sometimes it just shows up.  It’s stuffed and tucked and disguised and ignored, but remains that constant companion beneath the dull-eyed smile.  We frown upon it; frown because they must be doing something wrong, they’re not trying hard enough, or they aren’t thankful for what they have.  Wrong.  Depression can show up anytime, anywhere.  I know because I have fought it.

From bouts of post-partum depression after a few of my births, to a longer streak of hopelessness when my body was so worn, to a perfect joy-filled blessing-soaked day of wanting nothing but to cease to breathe, I realized this is not something so easily defined.

I do not know the answer.  I’m afraid no one does.  I want us to keep looking though.  Keep talking about it. Stop shaming people for seeking the help of a counselor, or for needing to take anti-depressants.  Stop entertaining your assumptions, and get out there and make people feel enough. Make them feel loved, and cared for, and seen.  Be kind.  Take the time to connect, even if it’s just for a few seconds.  I feel like none of us know when we might be the one standing between a person and their death.

adult alone anxious black and white
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

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Monday

I feel like it’s been a few days since I’ve overshared, so let me fix that! For those if you keeping track, today is Monday, the day I get to disconnect from my port and not worry about the backsplash of the shower. So today, today friends, I yanked out that needle, made my way up the stairs to my daughters’ bath tub, filled it full hot, and added a bath bomb a dear friend brought me. I then plunked myself in and soaked until I resembled an albino prune. Two years since I’ve been able to submerge myself like that. It was glorious. I hope the rest of your April Fool’s is as fulfilling as mine has already been!

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Giving it Up

This week I had a pretty hard doctor appointment that revolved around the words “severe muscle impairment,” “tracheotomy,” and “ventilator.” The same day I received an email reminding me it is nearing time for me to recertify my national Paramedic license. It was a sobering day.

For these past couple years, I have let my husband’s encouraging words and glass-half-full spirit spur me on in believing that I will walk in my Medic boots again. He was always reassuring me that we would get through this; I would get strong again and go back to the career that I love. During that time I have struggled with who I am when I’m not a paramedic or a firefighter. It became such a big part of what motivated and moved me that when it was gone I struggled with depression and wondering who I was. I still do at times.

Being a paramedic and firefighter is unlike any job on earth. To get to walk into people’s lives at the time they need you most, it’s indescribable. It was a privilege and an honor to get to show up in homes, cars, churches; all the places people have built their beautiful messy lives, and serve them at their most vulnerable moments.

I know that I am loved and cherished as I am. I know I am still me, and the people that matter the most will accept me as I am, but it has been a painful walk to slip further and further from my polished boots, the distinctive smell of bunker gear, and the smooth weight of my stethoscope around my neck. Like most folks in my line of work, I am a strong type A that likes to have everything under control. It is extremely humbling, and sometimes discouraging to see that I have lost much of that control, and have to surrender to something that controls me, rather than myself controlling it. What an important lesson in life though; one I undoubtedly needed to learn. We are not our own, and the power is not ours.

Most nights I don’t dream, but when I do it is of being back on the streets alongside my cherished partners, rushing toward the danger and the opportunity to help save a life. I know they are just dreams, but until I can’t anymore, I will keep clinging to them with a smile.

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The Long Goodbye

Today I am remembering my pastor’s wife, and sweet friend Kara, on the day she left this world for the Heaven she so joyfully believed in. She is missed, and the legacy she left behind is one of great encouragement and grace. I know I was honored to learn from her about life, family, and faith.

Today her documentary came out. I encourage you to watch it and learn what made this woman such an inspiring friend. I am still challenged by many of our conversations, and always striving to love big like she did.

Click here for a link to the trailer.

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Goodness

It has been two years since I’ve taken a shower. Until today. Well, a normal one anyway. Because of having a central line in my chest that can’t get wet, it’s been a lot of top half/bottom half showering, or sponge baths and then washing my hair. Well last week my central line was pulled, and replaced with a port that sits under my skin. It’s accessed once a week, which means Monday morning I get to pull it until it is replaced by my nurse later in the day.

Today I sat in the shower and marveled at how incredible it feels to have hot streams of water pouring over my head and down my shoulders. I washed my face and then got to rinse it off in the steaming spray. It!Was! Glorious! I may or may not have had to push my emergency button for help getting out because I overdid it a little. My bullet journal got an early update today, because I don’t even care what happens the rest of the day, this is a wonderful, excellent, outstanding, very good day.

If you can’t reach me, you know where I’ll be! Enjoy this picture of me deaccessed, sparkly clean, and oh so happy!

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Vacancy

After another night of tossing and turning, I woke this morning with my heart feeling heavy, raw. A strange, sick-butterfly feeling tumbled in my stomach. It’s funny what the heart remembers before the mind even has a chance to catch up. Today it has been five years since I was woken by the call that my little brother had unexpectedly passed away.

I suppose it still feels so raw because in the years that have passed there have been many curveballs to handle, which have left little time for the grieving process that I know is still to come. Even so, my chest squeezes tight and my eyes pool with watery thoughts as I ponder back on the special friendship I shared with my brother. There is so much I wish and need to talk to him about right now, and it’s crushing that I can’t.

I want to work on the streets again with him side by side. I want to drive to Kansas to cheer through his epic fourth of July firework extravaganzas. I want my youngest to know his Uncle Ben as he grows. All these things in a beautiful, painful tangle of joy and heartbreak and anticipation of an eternity.

The rhythm of life continues to ebb and flow, even with these hole-shaped pieces of my heart unfilled. Someday, all will be new, but while I am waiting I’ll never stop missing him here.

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