If you had met me 10 years ago, you would have seen a energetic, positive, driven, passionate, perfectionists who had it all figured out. At home or work, I was polished, put together and had a to-do list a mile long (with LOTS of check marks). If I couldn’t figure out a solution, then I would search endlessly till I found one. I was confident. Not in a cocky or off-putting sort of way. But I knew who I WAS, I felt good in my skin.
Then, in walks years of chronic pain, failure, infertility, depression, and defeat. In an instant my confidence and self-esteem diminished. I begin not being ME. The person I had known for 30 years. It was an awful feeling. Besides all the terrible effects of being in constant pain and living from one migraine attack to the next, I now felt unworthy of anything in this world. Which is a very lonely place to be. You being to question EVERYTHING about who you are. Your choices. Friends. Faith. It was a horrendously lonely place to be. NO one in your life understands; unless they too have dealt with a chronic condition. Many sympathize, but the number who understand is less than you could imagine.
As a born researcher, I immediately tried to figure out WHO I was, but kept coming back with NOTHING. MORE defeat. MORE frustration. I tried pushing the feelings down, but then they would manifest into more headaches, more pain. Over time, I begin to despise my body and everything it had done to me. At one point, I was so very low that I felt like not being here anymore”. THAT my friends, is when I knew, I needed help. I recognized that my confidence was SHOT and I needed to figure out HOW can I get back to ME.
But what is ME now? I certainly am NOT the person I was 10 years ago? I have a few more gray hairs, and pounds, I’m a MOM; something that I NEVER thought I would have the privilege to say. And I manage daily chronic migraines and pain. ME is not ME anymore…at first this was a HARD pill to swallow. I remember looking in the mirror at one point during the past year, and thinking, I have NO idea who I am. And it was SCARY. Recently during a therapy session; my sweet, kind therapist asked me, “what do you mean when you say you don’t feel like you”?. I was at a loss for words, I could not even articulate what I was feeling, I’m pretty sure I said something like, “you know, like ME”. Her response, was, perfect; “Well”, she said, “lets find YOU again”. In that moment, I knew she was correct. I had been looking at this ENTIRELY wrong. Instead of focusing on the negative of ,”I’m lost and don’t know who I am”, let’s look at this from the positive perspective; “I’ve been through SOME VERY BIG life challenges, BUT, that’s OK”. At some point in everyone’s life you will be faced with a life challenge that knocks you off of your chair, and makes you take a good long look at your life. This, had been my first (of many) BIG life challenges; and I plan on taking it on head first.
It has taken me nearly SIX, LONG PAINFUL years to get to this point, but friends, I am here to tell you; it IS possible and IS achievable. YES, chronic pain SUCKS. YES, going through years of INFERTILITY SUCKED…but you know what, I am a MUCH better version of myself. I have a deep compassion for others who suffer from chronic conditions and those who have walked the long lonely infertility road. This is a softer version of me. One that, YES will have to sometimes spend days (or a week) in bed crippled by my pain. BUT, I also have seen what it is like to be at the bottom, and know I DO NOT want to be there anymore, so how can I keep myself and my confidence in the “positive zone”. I have put together a list of my confidence keeping things that have been helping ME, find the NEW ME:
- NO NEGATIVITY- This one is tough, and will take SOME time. I am still working on this. Whenever I feel a negative thought enter my mind, I try hard to squish it and find a positive look. YES, I still have down days and have to work through them, but now that I know that my confidence is low and needs to be built back to its NEW level. Old ME is gone, and THAT is OK!
- Journaling- I’ve always been a journaler, but through all my trials and tribulations I have found that journaling can take a negative, panic filled day into something positive. This is now my outlet for any negativity. I also try to note in my journal when I am having a negative day and some list some ways I can squash that thinking.
- DAILY Self-Care- Every. Single. Day. I do ONE thing that takes care of me. At this point in my journey, I am still managing 3-4 migraines a week, so self-care is CRITICAL for my survival (have I mentioned I also have an 18 month old son- who requires A good amount of my time and energy, so it is vital to my mental health).
- Therapy/counseling- Over the years, I have seen therapists at all points in my pain journey. But seeing a therapists, I have found, is a great way to get a third party perspective on you. It helps me to rephrase my way of thinking and often can get me on the right track. I am blessed with insurance coverage that allows me to do this. If you are not, there are many apps, and sometimes even free or reduced mental health counseling within your community. Therapy helped me realize how close I was to giving up, and just letting go. I am forever thankful for all my therapists over the years that have helped me navigate this life challenge.
- COMMUNITY- THIS is huge. Until, recently, I did not have this part. Yes, I had friends and family who tried DESPERATELY to understand what I was going through. But, you need people in your tribe who GET IT. Chronic pain and migraines is TOUGH. So whatever it is you are struggling with, FIND your tribe. For me, social media has connected me with people all over the world, who lift me up and I am blessed to call friends and fellow warriors.
At the end of the day, KEEP FIGHTING..I know I am. EVERY SINGLE DAY. I recognize that it will take a bit of work to get my confidence and self-esteem back, but, this is not a race! I will get there!