Monday, December 21, 2015

Anxiety and Depression

A day in my head when my depression and anxiety are at their strongest. Please note that this is only a small portion of what I experience daily, and it is only my experience and what I describe may not be the experience of others with these disorders. This is only being written to give you an idea of what it can be like from my perspective.  Trigger Warning!!!! I do describe what I go through in a panic attack, as well as situations that bring an attack on for me. This may trigger those that suffer with anxiety, so read with caution please!

The alarm goes off at 8am even if it is a day off. The alarm is set to go off everyday at 8am to help me get out of bed, because I really want to just sleep. I want to curl up under the covers, and be tiny, and small, and insignificant. As soon as that alarm goes off though I have to force myself to move. I have to fight the fears that creep into my head about interacting with people, the fears that something will happen that will be to overwhelming to handle, or the fears that I won't be able to get through the day without a breakdown of some kind. I force my feet to hit the floor though, I force myself to move. Some days the depression and anxiety win and I'll sleep in till noon, or I won't get out of bed at all. Other days I know I have to fight them, because I can't let them win everyday.

Getting dressed I'll change three or four times before deciding on an outfit. "Is this work appropriate?", "Am I too casual, or too dressed up?", "Did I gain weight, or is this shirt supposed to be this tight?", "Can I wear red even though I'm not in a power position at work or will that upset someone?", "If the weather is going to be so hot this afternoon is it better to dress for that, or dress for the colder weather it is now since I'll be inside when it's hottest?" These are not just questions, I'm not just worrying. It's fear. If I later go to work and someone comments on how dressed up I am I'll panic, and that could be the beginning of a panic attack for me. "Does that mean she just liked what I was wearing today, or that I'm to dressed up for this job? If she thinks I'm to dressed up does she think that I'm trying to move up into another position there? Is she worried I'm trying to take her job? I'm on her list of bad employees now because she thinks I'm trying to take her job. She's going to fire me the first chance I screw up and then how am I going to pay my bills. If I can't pay my rent I'll have to sell my stuff. If I sell everything and can't get a new job I'm going to be homeless on the street." And this is how a panic attack begins all over what I choose to wear that day.

Breakfast is another battle with myself. "Don't eat that, it's bad for you and people already think you're fat.", "You'll have bad breath, and offend people, all day if you eat that breakfast burrito with onions in it.", "You need to cut down on your coffee intake, it'll stain your teeth and make you jittery." I'll finally decide on something. Normally coffee and something I can carry and eat in the car with me because I've spent too much time deciding what to eat to have time to actually eat it before I leave.

Driving to work, more panicking because of other drivers on the road. "You've already been in 6 car accidents, what will people think if you end up in another one?", "Did that guy behind me leave enough room to stop without hitting me?", "Am I going to be late for work because of this traffic?"

At work my day becomes a combination of anxiety and depression depending on the day and the situations. Often feelings of inadequacy rule the emotions though. "They don't think I'm good enough to do this job.", "They're probably regretting having hired me in the first place.", "I'm never going to be able to do this project they way that they are going to want it done. I'm just not good enough to be doing this." Throughout the day these feelings build, until it is time to go home. I've gotten really rather good at hiding my emotions at work so I don't have a breakdown there. This is unfortunately good and bad. Good because I don't breakdown there for all to see, bad because I'm bottling up those feelings and fears to explode at a later time.

The drive home from work is often the same as the drive to work was, with the same fears. Once home I'll often find bills that need to be paid with money I don't have. Or housework that needs to be done that I just don't have the energy for. Often there is something else at home that makes me breakdown in some way. Either collapsing on the couch or bed and crying before falling asleep (which I shouldn't do because the depression also gives me insomnia too, but do anyways.), or having a panic attack depending on which mental disorder is ruling my brain that day.

If it's a panic attack normally my body tightens, think about having a Charlie horse in your entire body, it's kind of like that. Once my body starts to tighten my panic gets worse, only fueling the attack into another stage, difficulty breathing. Breathing becomes difficult, like when you were a kid and you were crying so hard you couldn't breathe. My body forgets the simple acts of inhaling and exhaling, for me it's normally forgetting to exhale. If I was standing, I most likely can no longer and will fall to the ground. My muscles will have given out meaning my legs can no longer hold me, and my fingers and toes tighten and curl up into claw like appendages. It often feels like someone has wrapped themselves around me and I'm smothering, unable to fight the person off. I'll feel nauseated, and will try to vomit in an effort to ease the pain, but I'm unable to control my stomach muscles. My head will pound, and I'll hear the blood rushing through my ears, making it difficult for me to hear anyone who may be around trying to help me. Eventually after what feels like an eternity, and a lot of concentration on inhaling and exhaling, the attack will subside. I say subside because I'm still just balancing on the edge of another attack. It will be hours before I don't have to concentrate on breathing, or containing the bile to my stomach. Often I'll need to remain seated on the floor, or wherever the attack took place, because my muscles are shaky and unable to move. Often my entire body is shaking, and will be for hours.

Normally it is after these attacks I physically can feel my depression taking over. Often I'll go straight to bed after and not force myself out of bed the next day. I'll sleep, lay on the couch, not eat, and have no ambition to even get dressed. There have been times I have thought of taking my own life, and times I have acted on those thoughts. (Never Stop Feeling) Socializing isn't even a thought, and if it is it quickly is pushed away. Thoughts of seeing other people cause worry about what they think and only brings on the beginnings of another panic attack. I isolate, and for me it is both comforting, and horrifying.

For me, I have found that therapy is the best way for me to control those disorders. Activity such as running daily help me control them. Keeping my environment clean, organized, and controlled helps me. Medications have also been an option, and will always be an option. Anxiety and depression for me are real. I have chemical imbalances in my brain that make thoughts you may think are irrational and silly, very rational and true for me. There are times I am able to go back and look at a situation and see that it isn't me thinking one way, it's my anxiety and depression. Then there are the times that it is so real for me, I can't discern between rational thought, and irrational. Those are the times I rely on others to help me see, and the times I rely on medications to help balance me again.

It's difficult to explain how and why my brain takes what many deal with daily, and makes it into something so much more than what it is. I know this is why it is difficult for many people to understand what exactly it is I am going through, and how to help. The biggest thing I can say is if you are reading this, and trying to understand, you are helping. If you find me, or someone else, in the midst of a panic attack and say in the heat of the moment, "I'm here," you're helping. If you haven't seen or heard from me for a few days and you call me to see if I'm okay, you're helping. We all go through times of sadness, and anxiety. Some of us just can't "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps" and "suck it up" like someone else can. Would you tell someone who has cancer, "suck it up, we all have times we don't feel well but have to push through it."? People have told me that before when I was depressed, and trust me, it makes things worse.

This blog post was not written to generalize anxiety and depression, only to describe a bit of how I personally struggle with them. This post was also not written to gain sympathy for myself either (seriously if you give me sympathy, I'll probably punch you!). This post was written because I felt the need to share with those that read it something they may not understand if they have never experienced it themselves. I know that even within my own family they didn't understand what a panic attack was like for me until they witnessed me having one. And even then it was still difficult for them to understand. Because mental disorders happen "in your head" it can be hard to understand. If someone breaks their arm, we can see a cast and an x-ray even if we can't see the broken bone from outside the skin. There are no x-rays or casts for mental disorders, so we often forget that they are just as real as broken bones. I know that there will always be a stigma with mental illness, there will always be people that don't understand because they can't see it. For me though, I know it's real, and I will continue to share my story in hopes that it may change the mind of someone who has difficulty believing it. That's why I wrote this blog post.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Kevin Breel

I could not have said this any better than 19 year old Kevin Breel did. This is why I share my story, this is the first step, this is how we break a stigma. <3

Monday, May 11, 2015

Raising Your Expectations of Men

There are about a million and one things I should be doing rather than writing this, but here I sit at my computer, typing this blog out rather than the work I should be doing. Something is eating at me though. I recently posted this video on my personal Facebook page:

The post I made was simple enough, this video with my only comment being an emoji heart. Several hours later I saw a friend had reposted the video with this as her comment, "I think Meghan Trainor, and anyone who loves this song, need to be more realistic about men." Now I know this person has been burned in her past relationships, but SERIOUSLY?!?!?

Please don't get me wrong, my upset isn't over the fact that she doesn't agree with my taste in music, my upset isn't even over the fact that she feels the way she does. My upset is over the fact that as a woman I can't believe that we lower our standards for men, rather than expecting them to live up to them!

Yes, when I was little I would dream of a man on a white horse coming in and fighting dragons to save me. He would be brave, strong, and do anything he could to keep me safe because he couldn't imagine a world without me. As I grew up though, I realized dragon's didn't really exist, and therefore no one needed to protect me from them. But I also discovered that I didn't need someone to save me. This didn't change the fact though that I wanted someone in my life with the qualities that man on the white horse possessed though. To this day I still hope to find a man who is chivalrous, who doesn't HAVE to save me but wants to help save me, who understand that some battles I will need to fight alone and will stand by me and support me as I do, and who can't picture his life without me. Is this a fairytale? Maybe to some. But why?

I've been asked by many people why I don't date all that much, why I'm so picky, and why I think anyone will ever live up to my standards. To be honest, I wonder all this myself sometimes too. But I also realize that here I am, a woman of 32 years old who has watched relationships come together and fall apart more times than she can count because someone thought they could settle for a partner who didn't meet an expectation. Or they could change someone to meet an expectation. So for me, I'm picky because I refuse to do that. I think at this point in time I'm a strong, independent, self sufficient individual, so I don't need a man to help me with those things. I don't lower my standards, because if I do what does that say about me? What does that say to the man I'm with that he doesn't want to live up his potential because he doesn't have to? What does that say about the female population as a whole?

Ladies if we don't expect men to step up to be something more, why are they going to? Yes, I expect and hope that the man I'm with one day will bring me flowers for no reason. Help around the house. Won't be offended if I pay for dinner once and a while because our relationship is a partnership. I want to be a team with someone, not be two people who only do what one of them says all the time. I want to spoil him, and have him spoil me. I want to talk about a problem with him and have his response be "Is there something I can do to help?" and not "that sucks. So I'm hanging out with the guys next week." And I don't think wanting these things makes me unrealistic, or crazy. I also don't think that because I expect these things I'll be lonely for the rest of my life as a result. One day, even if I'm 90, I'll meet someone who will be everything I'm looking for.

Women, it's time to change the way we not only think about men, but the way we think about ourselves. Believe in yourself enough that you deserve someone that is going to live up to your standards, rather than lowering them because it's the best you're going to get. Love yourself first, and someone will love you enough to be who you know they can be.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

It's Wedding Season

It's wedding season. Every year, as the Spring hits, I begin hearing about weddings, and attending weddings, and getting invites, and just in general till about November hearing about love.  To be honest this video perfectly describes how I feel a lot of the time, lol.

I have mixed feelings when it comes to weddings and marriage. Yes I'm the guest that is crying during the ceremony. But not really for why you would think. I am honestly happy for the couple. Whether it is family, or friends I normally couldn't be more happy that they found the person who they love. But I normally am crying because I'm beginning to feel like I will never have that for myself. I'm watching something that will never happen for me. And that is both difficult, and sobering to swallow at such a happy event.

Now before anyone begins with the, "Liza there is someone out there for you, give it time!" and the "Stop being so down on yourself." hear me out.

I'm a 32 year old, independent, headstrong, guarded woman.  I don't say these things as a negative about myself, but they are important things to know about me.  In my experience most men want to be with a woman they can protect, that need them, and that they can save in some way.  There is a very small percentage of men I've found that can handle someone who doesn't need them for those things. Men that truly want a companion, and a TRUE partner seem to be rare in my opinion.  The thing is, this is the type of man I want...the type of man that I need to find. I will never want or need someone to "save me", but I do want and need someone to HELP ME save myself.

Yesterday I attended a wedding of two friends that truly have this type of relationship.  The pastor of the ceremony even spoke of how the turning point of their relationship for them was when they made the conscious decision to start making decisions together rather than separately. To me, that was the moment the waterworks began, simply because I know it's rare for someone to find a love like that.

I'm not saying this won't ever happen for me, but what I am saying is that I am not a person that is going to settle for any relationship that is anything less than that.  That's the hard thing. Knowing that I will not be okay with any relationship that is less than that, means that it may be a very long time before that happens, or it may never happen.  That's why weddings create these mixed emotions for me, because I know how rare true love is, and when someone you know really finds it, it's a reminder for yourself that no matter how long you search, you may never find it. Even when you are one of the last single people in your circle of friends.  True love, really is a rare thing, should be cherished, and searched for, and held onto when found.

So wedding season is upon me again, and I'm being reminded of all these things again, and I'm having so many emotions about it this year in particular. But hey, maybe next year I'm be talking about my own wedding. You never know when true love will find you, so even though I'm a bit sad at weddings of those that have truly found that one true love we all dream of, I can't stay upset, because if I do, I may miss my one chance to meet my own one love. <3

Monday, February 23, 2015


I don't watch award shows. With the exception of the Tony awards I rarely even know when they are on. So this morning when I work up and saw everything about The Academy Awards I was surprised to see quite a bit of talk about suicide.

I've made it no secret on this blog that I am a suicide attempt survivor, I've studied Psychology, I've worked in mental health, and I'm a mental health advocate in many ways.  I had figured at first all the talk was as a result of Robin Williams death, but I was stunned to find out that much of the discussion was as a result of the Best Documentary winner "Crisis Hotline:Veterans Press 1" and the acceptance speech of Best Adapted Screenplay winner Graham Moore, for the film The Imitation Game. Both acceptance speeches talked about suicide and how it's time to break the silence. Graham Moore bravely even spoke about his own suicide attempt, "I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I'm standing here," he said. "I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along."  To my amazement, everything I have seen and read about these speeches and winners has been positive.  I say to my amazement because I know firsthand that there is still a very big stigma associated with mental health, and especially suicide.

I don't keep it a secret to friends and family I struggle with my own mental health, and have attempted suicide in the past.  I also don't really bring it up in day to day conversation either.  So even though I know people know, and I know that they know, we don't mention it.  I was having a discussion with a friend I'd only known a short time a few months back, he didn't know about my attempts so he was wondering why I was so passionate about my job and why I did it.  I was working for a non-profit organization that went to high schools and taught business skills to help students build a business to combat the root cause of suicide in their own school community. It really was unique program because it wasn't just a let's talk about our feelings type of program, but a lets go out and address it type of program that I was able to see was having a bigger positive affect on students. In any case this friend asked me about this job.  Our discussion went something like this.

Him, "I just don't understand why anyone would want to kill themselves."
Me, "You do know I've attempted suicide...a few times actually." 
Long awkward silence.
Him, "How?"
Me, "How did I try to die? Like what did I do?"
Him, "Yeah."

It was at that point I realized why the questions had really began. I shared with him anyways the different methods I'd used to try and kill myself, and a little bit about why I'd tried. But I knew there was something else, someone in his past had either attempted, or died by suicide.

Normally when you share that you're an attempt survivor there are two responses from people. The sympathy, "I'm so sorry you felt that way/" and the why, "but why did you feel that way?"  There's really nothing to say to the sympathetic response, and it can often be difficult to respond to the why because even you yourself may not fully understand why you did. That's why I always told the kids I worked with when they shared their attempt stories with me "thank you". Thank you for trusting me with this highly personal experience, thank you for feeling comfortable enough to share this with me, thank you for being brave and sharing, and thank you for still being here right now because I'm so grateful to have met you. When the first response from someone is about the how it happened, normally there is a personal connection, normally there's still a stigma about suicide with them.

This friend later shared with me that he did in fact have a close connection to another suicide attempt survivor, and that after having had her in his life he swore he would never again be involved with someone who struggled with suicidal ideations at any time in their life. It broke my heart to hear that, because what he failed to realize in making that statement was that not only was he not willing to be involved with me and rejecting me, but he was someone who believed that this was a weakness in a person, that they could help having those feelings in some way.  This friend and I have since parted ways, partially as a result of this.

It was great that at the Oscars last night suicide and mental health were talked about, but there is still a long ways to go before the stigma is erased. People who struggle with mental health are not weak, they are no different than someone who breaks their arm. They are sick and hurting.

I've be an advocate for mental health and suicide awareness for some time now, and I've been blessed that this is the first first-hand experience I've had with a negative stigma. It was a wake up call to me, and I now understand why so many never share their own hurting. For this one person, there have been so many others that have embraced me and my story, so I'm not going to stop sharing as a result of this.  I do want to say though that I hope one day I can share even more openly than I do now, and no one would look down on me as a result. That's what I'm hoping for, that's what I'm trying to do for future generations, and that's why I continue to talk about it, whether or not I lose friends as a result or not.

Friday, January 30, 2015

You're Beautiful

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Well that’s what we’re taught at least.  We’re all beautiful in our own ways. If we really believed this though, we wouldn’t feel the need to have surgeries to fix things about ourselves we don’t like.  We wouldn’t buy beauty magazines showing us the most recent trends in fashion, or telling us how to lose those last five pounds. And we really wouldn’t feel the need to put others appearances down, to make us feel better in some small way.

When I was in middle school I have two distinct memories of being teased about my appearance.  The first involved some boys putting small pieces of paper in my hair with words like “Fatty”, “Wide Load”, and “Big Girl” written on them.  Even in middle school I was larger than most kids, already wearing adult women’s plus sizes.  Until I began this journey several years ago this is the age when I last remember my weight and being on a scale.  I was at a friend’s sleepover birthday party, and being girls of even 11 or so we cared about things like how much we weighed. So we got on the scale and talked about how much we were overweight and wished we were like the other girls.  I didn’t want to get on the scale, so I quickly jumped on and off.  The scale read 260, but one of the girls thought it read 160 to which I was told that wasn’t that bad. I knew how much I really weighed though.  So the names the boys called me on those papers sent me home in tears that day.

The other memory I have of being teased in middle school was going to the girls bathroom in 6th grade and having an 8th grader block the door as I tried to leave saying, “You’re a boy, why are you in here?” I had a short bowl haircut at the time, not the best choice for me at that age, but with hair as thick as mine was, and as curly as it was at the time it was the best my mom could think to have done with it.  This girl finally let me leave, but I didn’t get my hair cut again from that day till I graduated high school.  And sadly that isn’t an exaggeration.

When I left grade school and began college, I gained a bit more self-confidence about my image, and began to really believe how beautiful I was.  I still had a tough time when it came to buying clothes, and seeing me as feminine, but I was learning, and coming into my own.  So for about ten years I began to no longer care what others thought, I really was beautiful in my own way.  My weight didn’t matter, my hair didn’t matter, and the fact that I never wore makeup didn’t matter.  I was finally comfortable with who I was.  When I began this journey I was slipping in my feelings about myself, which is why I began to take care of myself better than I had been, and have been for the past 4 years or so.

2015 has gotten off to a rough start for me though, and it’s becoming hard to again say, “Screw what others think, I’m my own beautiful person.”  My hair has been the topic of conversation again since I’ve kept it short for many years now.  I’ve moved past the bowl haircut, but it is a shorter pixie style.  Over the holiday’s I had my hair cut again, family and friends expressed that they thought I should let it grow out. I prefer it short though, and since it’s my head I decided to cut it.

Recently a male friend told me though he didn’t like my hair, “it makes you look like a dyke and it confuses men.” This pissed me off, and not just because of the derogatory name he used.  Honestly, get over it. A haircut doesn’t define your sexuality, if you personally prefer women with long hair; spend time with women with long hair. I’m keeping mine how it is.  But then at a restaurant my mother and I stopped at as we moved me back to Kentucky (story for another day), a woman in the restroom washing her hands next to me looked at me for a bit before deciding to wash her hands and mumbling under her breath “I guess THAT is a girl.”  Really, the boobs didn’t give it away for you lady?

I feel like recently because I choose not to conform to more traditional ideas of beauty I’m not only being told I’m not beautiful, but also my sexuality is coming into question too.  And by the way, it is perfectly okay that at 32 I’m not married, and that doesn’t make me gay!!

Ideas of beauty change over time, people change over time, trends change, and we don’t have to follow them.  We don’t have to change over time if we don’t want to.  Most of us do, but for those of us who choose not to it can be hard when we are so far out of the ideas.  Apparently that’s where I fall right now.  I’m not going to change my hair, style, physical appearance, or anything else about myself just because a few people don’t like who I am.  Just remember, no matter how tough someone looks, their armor can only take so many hits before it breaks and your words and actions take a greater toll on that person.

Just to give you an idea of how physical beauty trends have changed over time, I saw this video and really liked it.  Trends change drastically, so be who you are because YOU like that person, not because others do or don’t. <3

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The God Question

I grew up going to church.  Although my mother became a minister a few years back, she has been a church musician, and choir director since she was a teen.  Both my parents worked for the national offices of our denomination.  And my mother is now the minister of a small church, while my father is a church business administrator at another church not far away.

To say religion and faith are a big part of my life is an understatement.  The funny thing is that for many years now I have called myself spiritual, but not religious.  I believe in a God, but I haven't found a religion that depicts God in the way I feel.  You see personally, I'm beginning to wonder if the closer you get to religion, the further you get from God.

Around 1999 I began to question my faith.  I was 16, and like many teenagers I was trying to find out who I was, and where I belonged in this world.  My parents were loving and accepting of my faith exploration. A bit more than they had been about my fashion exploration several years earlier when I dyed my hair with Kool-Aid and wore all black. (Story for another day, lol.)  But the fact was that my parents allowed me to ask questions, buy books about faiths they knew little about, and even when they didn't like the one I chose, they accepted my weekly change of faith.  That same year though my entire life was turned upside down when just before Christmas, my mother became very sick.

Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is a rare blood clotting disorder causing small clots to form in blood vessels throughout the body.  My mother was diagnosed with TTP the day before Winter Break my Junior year of high school, on December 18, 1999.  At the time the fatality rate for TTP was around 80%, and because of how rare it was few doctors knew how to treat it, or diagnosis it.  By pure dumb luck though, my mother happened to go to a local hospital that was one of only a few in the US at the time that was familiar with the disorder and equipped to treat it.  Within hours of getting to the hospital, she was being treated using plasma exchange.  This didn't guarantee recovery, but it definitely was a good thing.

My mother went through treatments of plasma exchange daily, as well as going on chemotherapy, steroids, and basically any treatment they thought might get her body to stop clotting, and return to normal. Daily blood test results gave the entire family anxiety. Were her numbers any better, showing that the disorder wasn't winning? Or were the numbers dropping, making everyone nervous she may never leave the hospital?  Christmas was spent opening gifts at my sister's house, with my mom on the phone from her hospital room because her blood numbers weren't good enough to get a day away from the sterile four walls of the hospital.  New Years Eve, ringing in the new millennium, was spent in much the same way.  For over a month my mom fought for her life, and I spent every day trying to make sense of what was happening.

The night my father took my mom to the hospital, I saw a woman I had never seen before.  My mom was pale...REALLY pale.  She was in and out of consciousness, vomiting, and when she spoke she didn't make much sense.  Her body was shutting down, and she was literally dying in front of me.  Our parents are superheros, they're always there for us, and even when they get sick, they still take care of you. As a kid, your parents are invincible, and nothing can stop them.  You never expect to see your parent so vulnerable, and when you do it's horrifying as a child.  That night I prayed.  I didn't care if it was a Christian God, or a Jewish God, or a Muslim God, or a "Higher Power".  The name and label didn't matter.  At that moment I needed the comfort of knowing that I wasn't alone, it was alright to be scared, and at a time when I felt entirely helpless, it gave me a purpose.

The days I spent at the hospital after school were often spent in the hospital chapel.  A small room with stained glass doors, six pews, and a cross hanging on the wall at the front of the room.  Although a message outside the room stated the chapel was non-denominational, a hospital with a Christian denomination in it's name was going to be a little bias.  I spent many days sitting in that chapel, not necessarily praying, but just trying to find God in everything that was happening.

Although many of the days I spent visiting my mother meld together in my memory, two days stand out, my birthday and the day after.  I had been picked up after school by my father and we had gone straight to the hospital.  They had been speaking with my mother about removing her spleen in a last ditch, hail Marry attempt to get her blood numbers to even out and hopefully send her into remission.  A surgery that can be seen as routine, had high risks for my mother in her condition.  Because of the blood clotting issues the disorder caused, and the high levels of blood thinners she'd been on for a month, it was very possible she could bleed out and die in surgery.  This also wasn't a sure thing, and if it didn't work she would most likely be in the hospital for the rest of her life, dependent on plasma exchange to keep her from clotting and dying.

They had wanted to do the surgery on January 20th, but my mother refused because that was my birthday.  She had lost her father at 17 to cancer, and hated that I was going through a similar pain at the same age.  So reluctantly the doctors agreed to move the surgery to the 21st as long as her blood numbers seemed to be in a safe range.  My birthday was bittersweet, with surgery happening the next day.  When my sister got off work and arrived at the hospital that night I opened gifts, even one my sister had shopped to find from my mother.  Comedy and Tragedy mask earrings, I still have to this day.  That night as we readied to leave, I hugged my mom, kissed her and told her I would see her the next day.  I didn't sleep well, and when my alarm went off for school, rather than getting ready to go take English tests, learn about the invasion of Pearl Harbor, or the square root of 93, I got ready to say goodbye to my mother.  Because it very well could have been the last time I saw her.

That morning before they took her into surgery my mom hugged me, still unsure if she wanted to go through with the surgery.  All night I had been praying, and my prayer had been selfish, but at 17 years old there was a lot I still needed my mom for.  So I prayed that my mom would be all right, that she would survive the surgery, and things would go back to normal.  That morning was emotional, and as I hugged my mom she asked me if I thought she should go through with it.  I knew I couldn't answer that, so I answered in the only way I could through my tears.  "I just want my mom back."  The same prayer I'd been saying all night.

She did go through with surgery, her blood numbers returned to normal and remained that way, and 42 days after she had entered the hospital as a practically lifeless individual, she came home.  Ten years later, she got to stop going back for blood tests, and they considered her in remission.

During this time a lot happened, I had to grow up rather quickly. I realized my parents are not the superheroes we all think they are.  And my faith faltered.  You would think the fact that my mother survived such a grim outlook, would mean that my faith would be stronger than ever.  The fact was that I had a difficult time understanding why God would have my family go through such a difficult time.  Since then I've found myself asking that question a lot.  When a good friend who was only in his twenties died from cancer.  When my grandmother passed away unexpectedly and quickly.  When a friend lost her child.

There have been so many times I've found myself asking "What kind of God allows this pain to happen?!"  I don't have an answer, and I still falter in my faith and ask "why" often.  I never expect to get an answer, and I'm all right with that.  For me, quite often, simply asking the question brings me peace.

Someone once explained to me their belief when I shared my faith question with them.  They said that God has granted us free will, but with free will comes pain and hurt that we can't always prevent or control.  It doesn't mean God wanted us to have that pain and hurt, but by giving us our free will that meant those things couldn't always be avoided.  The important thing to remember was that when we hurt, and we are sad, so is God.  At the same time, when we are happy, and we celebrate so is God.  If we ask God how such pain could happen, we also can't forget to ask God how such happiness happened.  And we need to remember to thank God for both, because we were given both with our free will.