Two Roads.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both And be one traveler, long I stood And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other, as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear; Though as for that the passing there Had worn them really about the same, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back. I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. -Robert Frost

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Your flaws are perfect for the heart that's meant to love you...

I don't care what anyone says, or how the movies and pop song portray it; there is nothing poetic or romantic about unrequited love and heartbreak.
There is nothing poetic about the pain in your chest that threatens to suffocate you.
There is nothing romantic about the tear stained cheeks and pillows.
There is nothing poetic about wrapping your head around the why's and why not's.
There is nothing romantic about the silent text messages and phone calls.
There is nothing poetic about the anxiety filled sleepless nights.
There is nothing romantic about the hurtful things that were said on both sides.
There is nothing poetic about picking the pieces up each day to keep walking through life.
There is nothing romantic about the physical pain the emotional pain has cause.
There is nothing poetic about learning to put aside the lost dreams and future plans.
There is nothing romantic about a song or a scent triggering a happy memory only to be reminded that it is just that...a memory.
There is nothing poetic about games.
There is nothing romantic about apathy.
There is nothing poetic about starting over unnecessarily.
There is nothing romantic about broken promises.
There is nothing poetic about betrayal.
There is nothing romantic about anything that calls into question your strength and resolve.
There is nothing poetic about scars.
There is nothing romantic about pain.

But it is a part of life. One that we work tirelessly to avoid only to have it laid at our doorsteps more often than we would like. We try to find meaning it all of it and often question if it was all a waste. I am starting to learn that while the pain and heartbreak was never God's intention He can use it to refine my own character if I let him. It is a trying and uncomfortable process. It may not be romantic or poetic, but sometimes it is inevitable and necessary to learn how to walk through it. Glorifying the negative aspects of these situations is something we need to stop doing, especially as women. Because it isn't okay, but we will be okay.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

To my younger self...

If I could mail a letter to my younger self today here is what I would say:

My precious Nicole,

I know you think you are very wise now, but trust me, you have a lot of growing up to do. Life is not going to turn out how you expect at all. You are going to fail a lot. I know right now you are determined to make life turn out a certain kind of way, but just a heads up it is going to be a lot messier than you think. You are going to see some amazing places, meet some amazing people and do some amazing things and none of it is going to fit into any sort of plan. And that is more than ok.
You are also going to experience some very proper and legitimate heartbreak and aches. This is going to make you doubt your self-worth. Don't. This is going to be easier said than done.
There is going to be more than one occasion where it feels like the world is crashing down around you, but you are going to be ok. Usually, these types of letters are written when something great has been achieved, but it is actually being written while you are sitting in a metaphorical pile of rubble.
So far, you have survived all of your bad days. They are going to leave some scars, but do not be afraid to wear them with pride. They are badges of honor that something bigger than you tried to take you down and failed. I know it doesn't feel like it, but again, everything is going to be ok.
You are worthy of love in the midst of your mess because you, my young and mighty warrior, are going to fight some brutal battles. I do not know why you have to go through them but are going to go through them.
Learn to lean on those that love you, really love you. Not everyone is going to stick around and it has nothing to do with you despite what they say. Everyone is fighting their own battles. Let it hurt, learn to grieve and then stand up and move forward. You were born for greatness. Those that are meant to be apart of your journey will be there. Trust the seasons of your life.
This next bit is going to be hard to hear: trust God. You are going to get mad at Him, but He loves you. You will eventually hit a point where you realize that without Him, you can only get so far on your own. And you are going to be stubborn about it unfortunately.
Give yourself a break now and again. You have always been so hard on yourself. Dad leaving was not your fault. Stop trying to prove your worth all the time.
You are more than enough.
You are beautiful.
You are loved.
Just breathe.
...And don't stop writing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My Lupus Journey...So Far

I have debated sharing my story publicly. I wondered how the message would be received, but then I realized that a lot of people with Lupus struggle like I do explaining the gravity of what we go through on a daily basis. That is what most people forget. That this is a daily battle. It doesn't end just because we are having a better day than yesterday. And we struggle to explain to our family and friends the frustrations we have to reconcile within ourselves.
Maybe, if I share this, it will help someone else feel not so alone on their journey. My goal is remission. Although I have yet to experience remission in the six years since my diagnosis, I am hopeful, and diligent in my journey to get there. I know it is a long process and an often frustrating one. I am battling against my own physical body and I believe a spiritual one as well, but I am strong even on days I do not feel strong. This is my Lupus far...
In January 2010 I returned from a trip to Uganda, Africa. Two days later I woke up burning with fever and immediately went to the hospital knowing I had malaria. Because the United States is not equipped to handle malaria (no it isn’t contagious, yes I am fine) I was quarantined and had a million tests run. Because of the amount of tests, some came back with some anomalies. They referred to a rheumatologist. I didn't know why. I didn't have arthritis. After a battery of tests from them as well, I was in fact diagnosed in February with SLE (Lupus). I wasn’t given a lot of explanation just handed a stack of prescriptions and sent home with follow-up appointments every 4 weeks. I didn't tell a lot of a lot of people because I didn't really know what to tell them. All I knew was I had a disease and there was no cure. It all made sense, though.
I had had these symptoms that had gone unexplained for years. Aching joints, headaches, a bout of mono that lasted almost a year, a rare form of asthma, constant kidney infections, constant and extreme fatigue, "head colds" that lasted months, chest colds that also lasted it all made sense. At least it wasn't all in my head. At least I wasn't crazy.
Unable to get my symptoms under control after my diagnosis they started me on chemotherapy treatments, which lasted for six months. It was a rough year, to say the least. I went from being an Air Force Academy Prep and college athlete to barely being able to walk.
In 2012 my lungs took a turn for the worst and I was admitted to the ICU. I was on such high doses of prednisone to control the massive inflammation that they also had to put me on insulin to control my blood sugar. Because I was bed ridden I was also put on blood thinners which caused severe nose bleeds that would soak my bed sheets. When I was finally released, I was on 19 prescription medications.
I have been in near kidney failure twice since I was diagnosed and I am currently fighting with my kidneys now. Before I even get out of bed in the morning I take several medications to get my day started. When my joints are stiff, getting out of bed in the morning is the most exhausting thing I will do all day. This also makes me more prone to injury. As an athlete, this is incredibly frustrating and something I don't think I will ever really get used to the changes. Last year I injured my back doing what I love the most, playing volleyball. The injury was so severe I couldn't walk and even after a month of rehab I still had to use two walking canes to stay mobile. Now, when I play volleyball I often have to use a professional back brace.
For me, Lupus affects my lungs, my joints, eyes, and my kidneys. My photo-sensitivity has drastically increased as time goes on and I also suffer from debilitating migraines. These migraines cause vision problems, nausea and memory loss. The medicine for them also has extreme side effects. I work with a rheumatologist, a nephrologist, neurologist, a primary care, pulmonologist, and a chiropractor to keep everything functioning.
Lupus affects everyone differently, which makes it very difficult to diagnose. The stigma of “but you don’t look sick” even begins to fool you. They estimate that while I was diagnosed in 2010, my lupus initially flared in 2003 when I went to military school and possibly as early as 2001 when I suffered a concussion from a wakeboarding accident in high school. Since my diagnosis, I have been working towards remission.
Lupus is also a very misunderstood disease and sharing this information is scary. For those who know me well, know I am stubborn and fiercely independent. The last thing I want to be known as or labeled as is “the sick girl”. I work hard to stay healthy.
I started a new diet recently. It is a specifically tailored keto diet (pretty much no carbs) to help with my migraines. It isn’t a diet to lose weight. It isn’t for vanity. It is for survival, so when someone makes fun of me for it or does something like eat a cookie in my face while laughing, it isn’t funny. This is my life. This is my survival. I am beginning to realize that people just don't understand what Lupus even is. And unless it touches their daily life it is a sad story they can brush by with a look of sympathy. But I am literally just trying to make it to the next 5 years, the next 10 years and eventually that will add up to a lifetime. It is that serious. I am living in a body that for whatever reason wants to kill itself.
Some days I feel strong, other days I feel angry and some days I am tired. I seem to go through the stages of grief with each new issue that arises because while it is all Lupus related, it all needs to be dealt with in its own right as well. I have good days and bad days. It is frustrating when you think you are going to have a good day and then by lunch somehow all your spoons are gone (google: spoon theory). When people find out I have Lupus they are generally surprised. I try to keep it that way. This disease does not define me and it never will. My goal is remission. Each day I diligently work towards that goal. My body fights against me, but I was born with a purpose.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The definition of worth

As women, we are under constant attack. Our beauty is questioned and we find ourselves constantly evaluating and then reevaluating how valuable we are and what price we can actually put on our worth. We are taught that one day someone will come along and love us the way we should be loved, but what they don't teach us is how to maintain our value while it is constantly being challenged along the way.
 Commitment is a scary thing, but a lot of things in life are scary. It doesn't stop us from taking that leap of faith. Pictures in magazines, porn, fitness videos, etc always trap women in their own heads. We stand alone and quietly in front of mirrors, mentally altering the imperfections that we associate with what MUST be the reasons why we are so un-loveable.
Every night that passes without a phone call or some other form of affirmation, we start down the checklist of things we did wrong, things we should have done better. We emotionally strain ourselves to somehow become what that other person wants. We don't really know what they want, we just know that since there is a lack of commitment there must be something we can do better. If only we were in better shape, had a bigger ass and smaller arms; maybe if we were more beautiful and desirable, less needy, less emotional...then....just then, maybe he will show up at our door, take us in his arms and proclaim his undying love for us.
It never happens and it never will. And so continues the vicious cycle of sleepless nights of wondering, why?
I too am guilty of hoping, wishing, waiting for something deep down I know has a slim to zero chance of coming to fruition. When you give 100% of who you are to someone and it isn't reciprocated you find your love tank getting lower and lower. You wonder how much longer you can go before it is completely empty. When it is empty then what? A complete devaluation of self? Everyone hopes for the fantasy of finding someone who is willing to take on the world by your side...the reality is something entirely different.
Not only are you taking on the world by yourself, but you start giving so much of yourself to those you love that pieces of your armor begin to weaken. You try to only rest, collapsing on your knees, bloodied and bruised, when no one is looking. Your heart aches and you forgot long ago that love is supposed to be a safe place.
There is no advice for in the meantime other than pray, work on yourself, learn to be alone....blah blah blah. You don't want to and try everything you can to stop it from happening, but you wake up one day and find that each tear and small heartbreak have created bricks that you have carefully and cautiously started to place around your heart. You don't want the wall, but self-preservation can only hold out for so long. The pain becomes too great and the tears become too many. You wonder if your heart can ever be put back together. You just want to be held so tightly that all the pieces stick back together. There are splinters in your bleeding hands for all the times you've tried to put it together on your own, but now, you are just....tired. Just want to be worth loving. I will fight for love...but I shouldn't have to compete.