Well let's just start by saying I am totally into bling! If it has glitter on it or sparkles, I am immediately drawn to it and it lifts my heart! Hence the boots. My magic boots. I chose to wear them today as I went to the breast center with my husband, to have four needle biopsies done on my left breast. It was a special occasion, and I needed to wear my magic boots.
I call it the robe room, where you go in to change your top and bra for a nice cushy robe. Where we used to live, we just had the useless paper gowns with the plastic ties. Those were so fun. Not so much. The robes they give you here make you feel as though you are at the spa, and not about to have your breasts flattened like a pancake. Being well endowed usually entails having to take two or three more pictures, which is always fun. Sarcasm included on purpose, yes.
This day, I was going in after 2 consecutive mammograms showed 4 suspicious areas in my left breast. They had to take a needle biopsy of each of the areas. I mentioned being well-endowed, it took 4 shots of the numbing agent to numb the large expanse. Some may be jealous, I find it tedious.
What's different about my run of the mill biopsy is that I also, as you know if you have followed on my website or blogs, suffer from many forms of mental illness. We will list them for reiteration and the fun of it. The number one badass Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Bipolar 2, Major Depressive Disorder, Panic Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder ( OCD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. So, when they call you back for two extra mammograms after over 50 years of having pretty much no problem, and then they tell you that within the past year 4 suspicious areas have grown, all your bells and whistles go off.
I had as my agenda today. There were three things I wanted to accomplish. Not to split with my BPD and go into “black mind”, not to have a full-blown panic attack, not to fall into deep depression. Three things I managed to accomplish quite amazingly! And let's not forget my magic shoes!
When those of us that suffer from multiple mental disorders are infused with information that we might also have a major form of physical disorder, it can wreak havoc and trigger every symptom we have. I really wanted to prove to myself and my husband that I would not do that today. That I would allow my wise mind to take over (search DBT Training for definition), I would not allow panic and anxiety to rule my day and I would not dissociate ( block out my mind), or have an unnecessary fight with my husband, daughter or son-in-law.
I have also suffered from a flu bug, complete with fever and hacking cough and upper respiratory infection this past week. Then I bit down on a popcorn kernel which split my tooth open causing a large gaping hole and what's left of my tooth to the bone. At the same point, I started my part time job this past Sunday evening at the boutique and worked a flawless shift for 6 hours, then came down with the flu the next day and had to cancel my next shift.
It's the little things, the in between things and the big things that those of us with mental disorders have to face on a daily basis just like you do. What I want to share is that our mind goes to very scary places during times like this and we take those that we love with us.
They should know the results by 3 p.m. tomorrow whether or not I have cancer in my breast. I have chosen to sleep on the couch, because there is no way I can sleep right now and also because my coughing and crying will certainly keep my husband up and he has to work his job tomorrow. Although I want to be near him in the bed for safety and protection, I am choosing my “big girl panties” to stay out here in the living room so that he can sleep.
I asked God why? Why, after the life I've had thus far, littered with turmoil and tribulation mentally and physically and now this? It is not a pity party, it is a real question. I know God has my back and always has. I never would have made it this far without him. My question is why another test, why another BIG test? After all I listened when He said and I stepped down from my 25 year career with Mary Kay, moved from Florida to Indiana in my mid-fifties, have mostly made it through winter, and have come out with my story and finished the draft of my book about it “Searching For Grey”.
I do the best I can to participate and not isolate. I am speaking truth to people about what it's like to suffer from mental illness. That walk alone takes everything I have. Until this. I don't know the answer. Benign or cancer? Does it matter? What matters is now and how I handle myself as I go through the test. That is what God wants to see from me, I feel.
I had my dear friend with stage 4 cancer encouraging me and sending me a beautiful gift of a silver bracelet with a butterfly and the semicolon symbol in the middle of the butterfly of the butterfly to represent the “let's stay” suicide movement. It brings tears to my eyes when I think that she knows she has limited time with us and will be going to see Jesus soon and yet she takes that time to minister to me. Such a privilege, such an honor. We had lunch last week and I still want to write about her and how she has touched me but I don’t have the courage yet. It hit me at the deepest of my deep to realize what this woman battles every single day like I do. I love you my friend and I told you I would get the butterfly tattooed on my shoulder when you left us so that you would be with me always.
A greeter that works the front door with me at Church and passes out the bulletins, a beautiful young lady who is newly pregnant, I felt I could share my upcoming event with. I knew she would be one to pray. Today she left me a beautiful purple violet plant, along with a card. It's so touched my heart for her to reach out, one who barely knows me, yet attempted to find the perfect words to say in a situation like this. The effort she spent and Love Of Christ she showed me brought tears to my eyes. She wrote in the card, “calm Alice in her worries, knowing these don't add wisdom but rather stress to the situation. Help her not to turn away from you Lord during these fragile moments, but rather towards you for grace and strength. Comfort her in seeking you as she places all her concerns in Your Loving Hands, in Jesus name we pray amen.” it let me know that I had to act in stability today.
I got up on time, ate breakfast and took my medication and showered. I then blared YouTube on my speakers with 1980s rock and roll and pretended I could sing. I had laid out my clothes the night before and I chose my magic boots. Glitter dust makes a girl happy at times such as this. I was confident to remain stable and not take my husband down the rabbit hole with me. So I sucked it up and went in like a baller and had them lay me on the table with my breast in the Flat Stanley machine, shoved down a hole, clamped tight as heck, sticking needle after needle in me while I practiced my deep breathing. The doctor was from New Jersey and decided it was a great thing to distract me with how awesome the bagels are in New Jersey, after I clearly told him I am a native New Yorker. Does he not understand? Then he thinks it's funny to tell me I have purple in my hair. Yes, I put it there on purpose, but I played along and acted like I didn't know and could he help me take it out. He seemed to get a big laugh out of that. All the while the nurse kept patting my back, as though trying to burp a baby. Lady you don't want to hear me burp!
There were times when I felt the anxiety start to envelope me, when I felt the blackness of depression start to whisper in my ear, you have cancer, you're going to die, you will never finish what God gave you to do or see your grandchildren. I took more deep breaths. I called on Lord Jesus. I tried to stay present in the moment, as uncomfortable as it was, and take in everything that was going on around me.
After the doctor left, the nurse started to open up to me about her 12 year old daughter who wanted a new $1,500 laptop for her birthday. What did I think about it and do I think she's too young? Heck yeah. I don't even know if I had an Etch A Sketch at that age. (Google it.) So anyway we began to discuss it and I find out her real baby daddy and her are separated. The stepfather wants to take over and give the child everything she wants to buy her love and affection. So the mother battles that in addition to a mother in law who wants to spoil the child because it is their only grandchild. I got out of my Flat Stanley mind and into the mind of this woman, burdened, in her 30s and trying to save her 12 year old from going the wrong way. She had to have a very hard conversation with her 12 year old daughter tonight and she need courage to do so. I was there to give it to her.
I proceeded to tell her about my son-in-law, the fabulous pastor over at Crossroads Christian Church, and that they even had Saturday services, which is the night that I work and volunteer. I told her about the awesome youth group he has and is in charge of. Would you like to join us for a service? She told me she had tried God before and it didn't work for her, but maybe her daughter could find something. I left giving her my name and contact info for the church and services.
So there you have it. No matter what my results tomorrow, I was to be there for that nurse, to help her and give her hope and speak from experience having a 27 year old daughter now who is thriving and doing above-average for her age and always has. Not because of me, heck no, because my husband and I relied on the Lord to raise her.
I took off my robe, after another mandatory mammogram which felt just great after all I've been through the past hour and a half... and put on my street clothes and my happy face. Then I put on my magic boots. I set out to the waiting room where my husband of over 30 years diligently waited again for his wife to emerge. Not knowing what to expect of me or what condition I would be in mentally. I surprised him by smiling, taking his arm and asking if we could have lunch at Cracker Barrel restaurant. I was a good girl, I had remained intact mentally insofar as my stability goes.
Tonight is when the tears came. It wasn't a flood, it was a whimper. Another question up to my Lord, why? Did I not have enough on my plate? Silence. Not peace, but strength was given to me instead. That worries me. But it is what shall be.
Sharing this with you is to allow those of you with mental illness to realize that we can go through the trials and tribulations that “regular” people go through and not have a meltdown. It is possible and I proved it today. So I will take this moment to be proud of my accomplishment. My answer should come sometime mid-afternoon tomorrow. I will know if it is benign or cancer. Then I will deal again with the process.
I may not be perfect, depending on the answer, but sleeping out on the couch tonight and allowing my husband to have rest and restoration shows that I can put others first over my insurmountable needs to be affirmed, babysat and comforted 24/7. I don't know if he even gets it. He is so used to doing the dance of neediness and intervention that he was one big question mark walking away from me tonight to go to bed alone quietly.
So I will savor my small victory in keeping it together today. Like they say in Alcoholics Anonymous that my mother used to attend all the time, “one day at a time”. I believe those of us that are challenged in our brains every single day and fight to remain stable can do it. Go get yourself a pair of magic boots. I promise they work!
With you on the Journey, Alice