Thankful for Healing

On this Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for the healing in my body this year.  The year isn’t over, nor is the healing, but it’s still something to be thankful for!

I’m at a touch over 3 months post spinal fusion.  My spine is held together by 6 screws and 3 rods, plus cages in the disk space between vertebrae L4-L5, and L5-S1.  Oh, and bone matter.  The goal is that everything will be held together by solid bone, and the titanium of course.  I will see my surgeon again next week, and expect a good report from him.

I’ve been in physical therapy for 6 weeks now.  Danielle is finally back, and she has been working me hard!  We have a couple areas of focus:  my hips and pelvis, and my upper back.  She wants increased movement and flexibility in my upper spine so I’m doing a lot of stretching and rotation work in my shoulders and upper rib cage, rotating from the bottom of my rib cage to look over my shoulders, and reach across my chest.   My hips and glutes are working as well to give me stability in my pelvis to support my sacrum and low back.  During my PT sessions, Danielle has me working on the Pilates reformer – doing a lot of squats in various positions to work specific muscles both in my hips and glutes, but also in my lower abs.  We are working on the flexibility of my low back (those muscles got VERY tight after surgery) while keeping my spine itself in a neutral position, but also stretching my hamstrings and hips.  Everything has been very tight because of years of chronic pain and moving in “defensive and protective” mode.  So I’m doing lots of stretches each day, as well as muscle building activities.  Danielle has also been working on helping the nerves to heal by loosening their paths as well as stretching them.  I have a series of “neural flossing” stretches and movements that are working like a charm.  Nerves heal so slowly, but I am noticing changes in my symptoms, so I know what I’m doing is helping!  Also, Danielle has been great about helping me modify and get comfortable in different yoga poses to help me get back into regular routines.  Best of all, she’s given me confidence to start really pushing my healing forward.

I’ve kind of turned the corner from being in a very protective healing mode and being extremely careful, almost fearful, about doing something to put my surgery in jeopardy – to pushing hard and moving much more.  My stamina is increasing, both muscular and cardio.  I can walk comfortably for a lot longer – it’s not just one slow gentle walk to the driveway, but 3 trips back and forth at a quick pace.  I’m noticing more muscle strength in the muscle groups we’ve been working on, but still need to focus on really engaging the RIGHT muscles to do the exercises, not what my body has been compensating with for years.  I laughed when Danielle said I have some really bossy muscles that need to take a back seat to the ones who are supposed to be working.  I won’t see her next week, but I will continue with my home exercises and yoga practices for hip and sacrum stability.  I have scheduled once a week check ins with her through the end of the year.  I’m doing much better – but I’m not “back to normal” yet, so therapy with guided exercises will help me get there.  Re-training muscles is hard work, in case you were wondering!

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year, but I really am thankful for the body God gave me and how resilient it is.  I pray you each have blessings abounding that you are also giving thanks for.

Image result for Thanksgiving scriptures

 

Thoughts on Courage

Websters says Courage is mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

Wikipedia says Courage (also called bravery or valor) is the choice and willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation. It goes on to say that physical courage is bravery in the face of physical pain, hardship, death or threat of death, while moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, discouragement, or personal loss.

Urban Dictionary says that Courage is the ability to confront pain, fear, humiliation, or anything else a person would naturally stay away from. Can be divided into Mental and Physical courage. Mental Courage encompasses threats, attacks, and discomfort of the mind. Physical Courage is pain, hardship, torture, and death.

So there seem to be 2 categories, right?  Mental and Physical.  Makes sense, I guess.  With both mental and physical courage, it is the ability/choice/willingness to confront something.  Just do it according to Nike.  Get ‘R Done if you ask Larry.  I think it’s pretty clear in my mind about physical courage.  You just take a deep breath and do it – trusting the outcome you are conditioned for.  Rip the band aid off – knowing it will rip the hairs out, but quickly.  Jump in the pool, knowing the water will be cool and refreshing.  Stumble through the dark to flip the light switch.  To me physical courage is bravery, but talking about mental courage – that’s a different animal all together in my mind.  Mental courage is the strength it takes to be brave, the faith it takes to believe, and the willingness to see it through.

Courage is obviously a buzz word in my life.  I have it tattooed on my arm.  I used it in naming my blog.  I use it as a brand for my Courageous project with the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation. It’s a word I easily identify with, and in many ways it’s how I approach my life.  Websters says courage is the mental strength to venture and persevere.  If you had asked me about courage a few years ago, I might not have given it much thought.  I probably wouldn’t have thought that my actions or choices could be viewed as courageous.  I wouldn’t have felt like I could be an inspiration to anyone, or that people would think I was brave and strong.  I was pretty comfortable with myself and my life, but I hadn’t found my niche. I was quietly searching – but for what, I didn’t know.   Always curious (it’s a sign of intelligence they say!), I was wandering around the internet when I found the Beautiful You MRKH pages.  I started reading, and I started making connections, and I was inspired by the bravery and the strength of these women who were publicly talking about MRKH.  The more I read, the more I started to comment – and as I did, I could instantly see the effect of sharing my experiences helped.  I grew more comfortable talking about my own journey, and naturally I began really digging back through my own history.  As I reflected on my own life, and the choices I have made all along – I recognized my own strength, resilience, and the way I faced each challenge was saturated with courage.    The courage to be strong and brave – without knowing the outcome.

I have the courage to talk openly about MRKH and it’s roll in my life.  I will answer any honest question, even the embarrassing ones.  I will use terms that might make you blush, but I do this  knowing that knowledge is power.  I will tell you that I talk so openly in an effort to educate, but more importantly to reduce the shame many women feel when they receive their diagnosis.  I want to empower and celebrate women with MRKH.

MRKH shaped my own life, in many ways I don’t even fully understand all the implications it has, as they seem to change as the years go by.   As a teen, MRKH made me feel like an outsider, a freak.  I never got initiated into the world of periods and staining white pants, needing a pad or a tampon in my purse.  And then there is the whole stretch your vagina in order to be able to have sex…yeah, not one of my friends could have related to that!  That was a quiet and personal shameful journey I had to take completely on my own.  As a young woman, MRKH made me a medical oddity, a freak.  I had to jump through all kinds of hoops just to join the Army – not to mention exploring options for starting a family.  It came to a point where I pretty much just put MRKH on a shelf, and refused to give it any attention at all – because it was just too painful – but putting it on a shelf didn’t solve anything.  In fact, the avoidance tactic just made things worse in the long run.

As I have said many times, when I do take the time to sit back and reflect on my life, I see that I really did have a lot of strength and resilience.  I got through a whole slew of challenges with just blind faith…wait, that’s Courage.

The word courage evokes quite an image for me.  I see strength, honor, dignity.  I see brave men and women fighting in our armed forces.  I see brave men and women fleeing war-torn countries.  I see people taking a stand for what they believe in.  I see proud hard working people achieving their dreams of a better life for themselves and their families.

I will leave you with my all-time favorite courage quote from the incomparable Amelia Earhart:

Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace. 

 

Social Media Woes

The past couple of weeks, months really, social media has been a virtual minefield!  Be it the great political divide, or the latest sports team winning or losing, or the announcement of yet another famous person who has died…it’s all been there on social media – the good, the bad, and certainly the ugly.

I generally try to self-moderate what I post on social media – not something everyone does.  I’m a professional, and 99% of what I post on social media I post publicly.  I use the rule of thumb that if I wouldn’t want my grandmother to know it, I shouldn’t post it.  At some point I know that my employer might “look me up”, and so I don’t gripe about my job or the people I work with.  In that same light, my neighbors and community members might look me up – so I don’t post about the funny or annoying things I see or overhear from my property.  I’m also a business owner – actually 2 businesses – and so my customers might look me up, and so I don’t post anything negative about my “competitors”.  If you follow me on Facebook, then you know that I post and share darn near anything related to coffee, many posts about positive, uplifting, empowering sentiments, cute animals, lovely pictures of things in nature, and sometimes things that are just plain hilarious.  I post pictures of my own animals, my family, and my tattoos.  I post a lot of information about MRKH.  And I post about God and prayer.

Remember, my rule of thumb is “would I want my grandmother to know about it”.  Does she know about my tattoos, MRKH, and my belief in God?  Sure, she does.  Yet, somehow…on social media, those are controversial somehow.  They make some people uncomfortable.

I get how tattoos are not for everyone, and the fact that I have ANY tattoos in the first place surprises some people.  Some might even go so far as to say that I’ve violated some sacred rule by getting a tattoo – your body is a temple and all that.  Don’t get me started about piercings! Both are personal expressions, and choices I’ve deliberately made.  Ok, fine, so you don’t like tattoos or piercings, does that mean that now you don’t like ME?  Apparently, for some, yes.

I totally understand how my talk of MRKH can make people uncomfortable.  After all, I talk about “private parts” in public (gasp!).  I use anatomically correct names like vagina, uterus, ovaries, kidneys in regular conversations.  If people start asking questions I go so far as to talk about vaginal dilation, vaginal depth, and sexual intercourse.  Yep, I talk about all those things in public while I’m talking about MRKH, and it makes people uncomfortable – but I also talk about raising awareness, reducing shame, educating our medical providers, and empowering women.

In the past few months, I’ve also posted more openly about my faith – God, Prayer, Forgiveness, and even posted pictures of my own Baptism.  Apparently this also makes people uncomfortable.

I will not apologize for posting things that might make you feel uncomfortable, although it makes me sad to see that some of the people I enjoy seeing in my news feed have now disappeared through the use of the “unfriend” button.  In fact, I find it rather ironic actually.  I self moderate, and intentionally don’t post things I think are likely to stir up an argument.

I don’t post about politics – it’s a topic I dislike discussing.  I’ll not tell you how I voted, or how I feel about the outcome of the elections.  I’ll not forward on memes making fun of or showing blatant disrespect for any politician.  I probably won’t even like a post…even if I find it hilarious or spot on accurate…if I think it will associate me one way or the other to a side of a debate I don’t want to have.  Don’t get me wrong, I have my opinions – I just don’t use social media as an outlet to debate them.

Here are the things I will tell you, knowing full well you may disagree with me on any of them, and THAT’S OK with me!

  • I am a Christian, and believe that Jesus died for me on that cross, and someday he will come back for me.
  • I believe in equal rights for all humans, genders, races, cultures, religions, and sexual orientations.
  • I believe in marriage and the commitment and fidelity it implies – no matter who you love.
  • I believe in the right to have an abortion if you feel justified.
  • I believe that couples who struggle with any form of infertility should have access to treatments including IVF, Surrogacy, and Transplants when medically necessary – and it shouldn’t cost the proverbial arm and a leg for it!
  • I believe our country needs quality, comprehensive, and accessible healthcare for everyone regardless of income level.
  • I believe our country needs quality, comprehensive, and accessible education for everyone regardless of income level.
  • I believe in responsible gun ownership, and the ability to both protect and provide for yourself and your family.
  • I believe everyone should be conscientious stewards of our planet and our natural resources.
  • I believe everyone is entitled to their opinions, and their right to share them publicly if they choose to do so.

Bottom line, I am a strong and independent woman.  I self identify as a happily married, tattooed and pierced, heterosexual woman, a Christian, a gun owner, an Army veteran, an MRKH warrior, a business owner, a coffee and wine lover, an animal lover, and an advocate for others just like – or very different – from me!

Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in – just do it with dignity, respect, and love.  Wouldn’t our world be a better place if we all did it this way?