Severing The Ties That Bind

Originally published on Huffington Post

Without a doubt, I am currently fumbling through the complicated, messy and overwhelming grieving process over the loss of my mother. The past three months have been filled with unexpected waves of emotions that continue to catapult both my heart and head in a million directions. Moments of denial, fueled by longing, sometimes try to creep into defuse logical with false hope that things will go back to normal, or at least as normal as my family could muster. That her voice would be able to be heard over the phone, rambling on about the characters encountered at the food store trip with my father and the latest antics of the family dog that only will eat dinner if someone sits on the floor beside her.

 

detail-of-left-mirror-car-while-driving-on-a-rainy-day-highway_e126zjuh__S0011Driving through the streets of Philadelphia, I sobbed alone in the car navigating rush hour on my way home from work last week, smearing mascara all over my sweater while navigating rush hour traffic as ‘Knock Three Times’ blared through the car. The song was one of her 70s favorites like Joy to the World and Bad Boy Leroy Brown that served as the soundtrack to summers of my childhood. To happier times spent floating in our above ground pool, playing gin rummy with Mickey Mouse playing cards and drinking our matching margaritas, mine sans tequila. Those summers took place so long ago, before either of us had the terms bypass surgery, stents, blood thinners, disability, cognitive impairments and brain damage in our vernacular.

 

At times, thoughts tangled in unfairness and pain tend to raise my blood pressure. I try to be mindful not to venture too far down the path where there are unturned stones of unproductive feelings that will only cause me to mentally stumble. Why didn’t she fight harder to mend herself physically and mentally? How can someone who has a daughter and a husband not care enough to be there for them- in all capacities. If these questions had logical resolutions that brought any comfort, then myself and others dealing with complex emotional wounds would be all over it faster than flies on a garbage heap. But questions that tend to haunt us in the middle of the night, when there are no distractions for the grief, are more elusive than Bigfoot.

 

51Zu5zbzWDLWithout a doubt there are ebbs and flows of peacefulness that accompanies not having to anticipate the illogical but certain chaos associated with my mother. No longer does my stomach churn while driving up the street I grew up on, because I longer go there. I removed myself from participating in the emotional version of Russian Roulette-not knowing what version of my mother would be waiting for me when walking into the door or picking up the phone. And the role that guilt has played through this experiences tends to flair up when coming across stories or posts on social media. Stories focused around the heartache losing someone who was actively participating in life until fate decided to be an asshole and cut their time short, impacting their loved ones. Because their grief is accompanied by literally burying a body into the ground. Exactly where my current journey with loss and grieving differs.

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Untangling Myself from an Emotional Rock Bottom

Originally published on Elephant Journal on 1/28/2016.

 

RG-Mermaid-2Not being able to see instant gratification from a newly-incorporated healthier lifestyle can snuff out any enthusiasm for sticking with it.

But sometimes we find ourselves in situations where there is no other choice but to stick it out for the long haul, clinging to the promise of an elusive “one day.” The alternative is to continue down a path of self destruction, whether it be emotional, physical or often times both.

A person does not suddenly wake up one morning and find themselves unexpectedly at rock bottom. The trail is paved by half-hearted attempts to integrate new routines that always seem to be sidelined by discouragement, before being forgotten for tried and true habits. The cycle repeats itself indefinitely until the build up of poor choices leads to a derailment of everyday life, serving as a gut-punching S.O.S.

Hitting rock-bottom is similar to sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool and looking straight up to the surface. At the bottom of the swimming pool, there is an awareness of sound and movement whirling above, but nothing is clear enough to be understood. Although a person may be able to avoid the wave-making commotion and chaos transpiring above, it comes at the price of never being able to experience the direct warmth of the sun.

Two years ago, I had realized that years of unresolved feelings and continuous unhealthy choices had navigated me to an emotional rock-bottom. Continue reading

Finding My New Christmas Season: Trees, Ugly Sweaters, Rockettes and of Course, Cats

It’s 5 days from Christmas Day and I’m smiling. And have been for the last week everywhere I go- work meetings, doctors appointments, the grocery store. Somehow I’ve found myself being in the total opposite place I assumed I would be a month ago- filled with holiday spirit.

Honestly, I was gearing up for a mental war fare with a range of emotions with an expected battle with emotions that would leave me upset, drained and defeated by the time Santa came. You can even read about it in the piece I had published on Elite Daily earlier this month.

However it seemed that the world nor Dr. R (my therapist) would let me fall for that old trap. Maybe it’s because I’m in a strong, stable place emotionally for the first time in almost 3 years for the holiday season. Or maybe it is because I’m finally gaining confidence to start new traditions and letting go of old ones. And honestly, I think it speaks volumes to the fact that all of the self-exploration, life changes, and relationship evaluations over the past 2 years is actually paying off for the best present of all=inner peace.

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Oh, and having a cat dressed up like a reindeer doesn’t hurt either. Here are a few of the Christmas traditions and fun I’ve filled my time with over the past month:

  • 12404176_10156247093540063_327223759_nPut up a damn Christmas Tree and plugged in every night- Living in a shared house can be lonely, despite having 3 other roommates. Opposite schedules make it so that sometimes I only see one of the roommates once every few months.  With limited space and time, decorating used to be a challenge. The first Christmas I moved in, I went without my own Christmas tree which was a bad idea. Last year, I picked up a 3ft Charlie Brown tree that’s pre-lit and fits perfect on my dresser. Each night when I get home after a 10 hour day of working, the first thing I do is plug in the tree. Instantly the lights help me relax. It really has helped me remind myself that this year is full of finding my own holiday season- including my own tree! And the best part is that it goes right back in the corner of my closet in January! And after the first 2 days, Annie tries stopping to eat the branches.

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How I’ve Spent My Summer Vacation- or Lack There Of

anigif_enhanced-12676-1424726950-5It’s mid-summer, more than halfway through 2016, and my perception of time has gone out the window. Within three months of the new year, I found myself being called to rise to the occasion at my new job. An unexpected life lesson and experience allowed me to foster a whole new level of professional abilities, however it completely abandoned my path to achieve the goal of a better work/life/personal project balance.

I began to feel a self-imposed sense of guilt for shafting my own writings , despite publishing three pieces for HuffPo, xoJane, and Bustle during that 4 month period. Like a AA member who has fallen off the bandwagon, I’m back to committing to the twelve steps of life balance- which includes:

  • Being mindful to not work from 7 am-6pm every night. 
  • 2gxofvoMaking an effort to spend time doing creative writing during the week.
  • Feeding myself with healthy meals instead of ingesting food that’s convenient and liquid. 
  • Stop holding myself to self-imposed schedules and rigid to-do lists that are only upsetting to me when their not achieved.

Between dealing with the aftermath of my mom’s latest stroke, turning 26 and trying to continue to acclimate myself with my job of less than a year, other fun stuff has been happening including: Continue reading

Salt On Old Wounds

a84f27de348513453296f11820784a38Many things go over my head. Good jokes, facial expressions, body language. However I am never one to miss an opportunity of when a good, rich case of irony appears. This recent situation has been a slice of irony pie that made me laugh a little too much this evening.

It was confirmed that my mom had her fourth major stroke last week, which wasn’t confirmed until yesterday when I was able to coax her into the car for a CT scan. This wasn’t so much as surprise, because as I mentioned in my HuffPo essay her condition has gotten out of whack in recent weeks. Her speech is more slurred all the time, not just when she’s tired. Balance is non existent and there is a noticeable delay in her thought process. And she sleeps more than usual- which is a like hibernation.

But the timing is the kicker. Her episode happened during Stroke Awareness Month, and I was working on the article when my gut was giving me warning signs something was out of sync. At the the same time, for my full-time job as a communications specialist at a local rehabilitation hospital, I was profiling the incredible recovery of a gentleman who was fighting like hell to regain his life.

thread-stitches-broken-red-heart-threaded-47044972Like a perfect storm, my personal HuffPo piece was published Thursday, my work-related coverage was handed in Friday, and my mom’s stroke was confirmed Monday. Ironic that my mind has been more focused on stroke awareness month than my own birthday, which is this Friday.

It sounds silly, but seeing the bars installed in my childhood home takes my breath away. Seeing the guard rails on the bottom of the steps makes it even more evident that thing are changing. Of course things are changing- looking at my mother, watching her reluctantly use her cane and walker. But those rails and bars hit a nerve.

Thank you to everyone who has been supportive of my HuffPo article: What it’s Like being the 25 year old and Dealing with a Mother who is a Stroke Victim. Now more than usual, the wounds that have scabbed over sting right now. They will go back to only a dull ache when prodded, but for now I’m letting them be aired. Because to be on a role with the healthcare kick, it’s better to heal the right way than to give it half ass care. Dealing with the anger, confusion, and fear now will help me continue to cope- rather than letting the emotions fester up and explode down the line.

101 Things That Happened in the Last 365 Days

Facebook now has a new app that will create a short video clip about the highlights of 2014. To be frank, 2014 can kick rocks. Most of the year was spent dealing with stress, unhappiness and grief. But somewhere in the middle of the emotional roller coaster of the year, I managed to do a whole bunch of cool things. 2014 can only be summed in one cliche, corny phrase- Life Goes On. 

Here’s a 101 memorable things that I did this year. Thank you for reading my ramblings, commenting on my essays, and/or being in my life this year.  I’m still wrapping my mind over some of the shit that went down over the past 365 days, so I won’t even try to guess what 2015 will hold. 

101 Things That Happened in the Last 365 Days

 Participated in a vegan chicken wing eating contest- This was a disaster, no one warned me that seitan expands once it’s wet. But it benefited Philly Roller Girls, so it was for a good cause!

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Participated in a cupcake eating contest.It was my first large amount of sugar after clean eating for 40 days, let’s just say that night I wanted to die

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Went on an upside roller coaster- I actually tried frantically to get off the Batman Coaster but the attendant didn’t hear me so I was stuck going through with it

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Went to Six Flags- We meant to go to Belmont Beach, but the signs for the safari seemed more exciting

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Had an article go viral- I was annoyed about how much online dating sucked, and wrote an article about it one night after work. Apparently people like that kind of thing.

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Got published on Bustle

Got published on Literally Darling

Found out I was a social introvert

Took photos on Citizen Bank Park’s field before a Phillies Game 

Missed a plane transfer

Had my article and face appear on Yahoo.com

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Flew to California

Put my feet in the Pacific Ocean

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Went in a hot tub under the stars at night in California

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Had my face appear on a HuffPo email 

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Back to Basics

 

For the first time since early in my college career, I’m making a commitment to growing in my own voice. Somehow between earning a college degree, writing for publications, and entering the full-time workforce, my ability and craving to pen personal narratives fizzled.

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The Real Life Miracle on 34th Street

As seen on Huffington post, published on 12/18/2013

2013-12-18-patricebendigUntitledWe’ve all heard of the Miracle of 34th Street, and will probably see it at some point this month. We watch the film to rekindle that feeling of awe and that belief in miracles each of us experienced at Christmas at some point in our lives, before life jaded us. As much as we watch movies about Christmas miracles each holiday, few actually experience one. This past week, in the early hours of December 12. 2013, I witnessed a true Christmas miracle come true for a seven-year-old little boy — right on 34th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

For almost three years now, Weston Keeton has called the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia home. Fighting heart disease and pulmonary hypertension for most of his life, his body was wearing out. During his treatment, the Keeton family has been separated in ways that no family should ever be. His father Adam remains in Tennessee to continue working while his mother Julie has made Philadelphia her home away from home with her six other children, ranging between the ages of eight and almost two. Continue reading

Living With the Medical Elephant in the Room

As seen on Huffington Post, Published on 10/29/2012

stroke_awareness_5_poster-r88b7b8b024a54b54b8cdea6f84bf2774_wad_8byvr_324Scrolling through my Twitter newsfeed while home from work Monday afternoon, I came across a tweet saying that it was World Stroke Day. A day where people raise awareness for the devastating effects strokes have on 795,000 people annually in the United State. After the tweets — and possible Facebook posts of the day — 90 percent of people who read the post forget about the statistics they’ve read or the stories of stroke survivors featured as the faces of stroke patients. They will go about their daily activities, feeling that because they retweeted the hashtag #worldstrokeday that they helped raised awareness.

World Stroke Day is more than a hashtag or 24-hour call to action day for my family — it is our everyday life. My own mother is a multiple stroke survivor and heart attack survior at the ripe age of 54 years old, experiencing her first major stroke at age 46. I remember going on the internet at age 15 searching about how to care for a parent who recently had a stroke. Continue reading

Moving on From Being Dark and Twisty

Originally seen on Huffington Post, Published on 06/20/2012

GAtumblr_mu0fxzuM701rjj1tzo3_500During a recent conversation with a boy I’m seeing, we were discussing hair colors we previously rocked in our younger years. I made a passing comment that my jet black hair was during my “dark and twisty” phase. Taken right out of the playbook of Meredith Grey, those words resonated with me more than anything during that period.

My dark and twisty period did not occur during my teenage years, when most people go through their “punk rock” or “goth” phase. To me, those phases aren’t really dark and twisty. The only true dark thing about that is the black nail polish and wardrobe bought at Hot Topic. My self-proclaimed “dark and twisty” years took place during college. Except for the period of jet black hair, from the outside I looked the complete opposite of dark or twisted. I held a full roster on the dean’s list, interned at major companies and wrote for my school paper. By surrounding myself with a stellar exterior, it deflected any attention of how rapidly my interior was deteriorating. Continue reading