#LiveAuthentic?

When I scroll through the variety of social media platforms I am a part of I often find myself feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of perfection I see thrust forward by friends and strangers alike. I find a sort of conflict deep within myself as I look at the edited and perfected images that fill my feeds. I find myself comparing myself to these posts that are somewhere being scrutinized over behind a screen. Is this the right look? Is this what I want to portray to my followers? Does this selfie look good? Does this look good in my feed? And let’s not even get started on the decision behind that witty caption. I cannot lie, before I fell ill this was me. I wanted my life to look perfect. I wanted the parts of my life I shared with others to not just look good…No, I wanted them to look perfect. I wanted my viewers to think wow, this girl really has her shit together. And at the time I thought in some bizarre way I was being “authentic.”

When I got sick and my life turned upside down and every single other way possible, I obviously had a lot of realizations about what really mattered and what truly living authenticly was. I found myself in a place where each time I posted one of these perfect photos where I felt sort of disgusting. It took me quite a while to understand that the fact that I felt unable to be honest and truthful about what I was experiencing and all the epiphanies I was having on a nearly daily basis. The truth was, I no longer cared about what I was posting as long as I was being honest and true to myself. Because at the end of the day or the end of it all looking like I had my shit together was the farthest thing from what I cared about it. The decision to share my story through photographs, writing, art and social media in a completely raw and authentic way meant becoming extremely vulnerable, but even more so it meant being free…Free to be myself, to share what I was actually feeling, to shed light on a life that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. I no longer felt like I had to hide or lie or sugarcoat my experiences because I now believed that they deserved the time of day simply because they were valid; are so very valid.

So if I have any advice for the people reading this, it would be this: no one is telling you to keep up this facade. Our lives are far from perfect, so why put so much time and effort into making sure that the you others see is? There is so much liberation in choosing to be truly authentic. I’m not saying you have to put every single thought or feeling you have out there, but rather that it is okay to admit that you have difficult days from time to time or that you are struggling with something or that you find extreme joy in doing something incredibly odd. Be true to yourself and to others because by doing so you just might find that there are other people who share the same feelings or interests. You may just find that this shift towards authenticity will create a ripple effect that spreads across all aspects of your life, filling you up in such a way that you never could have imagined.

Just some food for thought.

By Grace

“Tell me your story.
Where do you begin?
What have you created?
Are you free?”
-Alison Malee

In the fall of my twenty-first year everything that I had come to know about my life and myself was ripped from me. All the things I had worked so incredibly hard for, the goals turned into reality smashed to pieces before my eyes; all the dreams I was still chasing left slipping through my fingers like sand. My strong body reduced by a kind of physical pain I still have difficulty describing. I was met with the prayers and well wishes of all those who cared for me. I was greeted with flowers and gifts as if the amount of attention received would directly affect the havoc being wreaked upon my system. I wish I could say that all of this support stayed with me through my battle over the next two and a half years (bringing you to this moment, here and now) unfortunately that was no the case. The more foreign my body and more evident my illnesses became, so did the world around me. I was, more often than not, met with an inability to empathize with my situation and a severe lack of knowledge about how to live with a life-altering illness. I found myself in a society where those who fall ill are expected to get better because that’s simply how it works.
Doctors will treat you.
Science will cure you.
God will heal you.
When there was no cure or treatment to be found I was passed from doctor to doctor and then hospital to hospital. When my prayers of healing were not answered I was told that my faith was inadequate. Somehow I wound up thinking that my suffering was my fault, that my presence was a burden to those around me.

It’s now fifteen days into the new year. 2017, can you believe that? I have relearned how to walk, endured botched drug trials, been declared chronically malnourished, lost function of muscles and organs and nerves…I have come to know the greatest of losses and the deepest of sorrows. I have been to the lowest of lows. There is no shortage of suffering in my story. But along with the bad has come the ability to find resilience within my aching bones. I have come to know the most profound happiness and peace through the strengthening of my faith and by forging ever onward, greeting life on each new day with open and loving arms. Through Christ I am able to accept and trust in whatever comes my way. Courage is not about being unafraid. It’s continuing on with grace and the notion that He will be ever present through all of my fight, both the good and the bad. My faith is as raw and as real as each twinge of every nerve, the quake of my tremor and every explosion that occurs in my brain with the onset of yet another migraine. It is messy and challenging and so much different than what my beliefs looked like prior to falling ill. I ask, “why me,” and, “why haven’t you healed me,” more times than I’d ever like to admit, but every time I fall down this the deep, dark hole of self-doubt I am lifted back up by His resounding love. He offers a kind of hope that breathes into me the strength to outlast and outshine all of the pain and agony that is living inside a body that betrays me.

So, as much as I like to portray the joy and truly beautiful moments that I experience this year, I will not deny the truth of the uncertainty that I face with each coming day. My life is a treacherous and never ending battle, yet I have the will to refuse giving it anything less than my all. I am often plagued by anxiety and depression, yet I am able to detach from my fears and find peace. I am loved deeply and filled up with the most joyous light, yet I am humbled by the places I have been and the things I have seen. To think, I have God to thank for this, His Son to thank for this, the Faith to thank for this…That is more than enough for me.

For those who endure the silence with me

The most difficult part of being sick that I have experienced in the past, now almost, two and a half years, has been the disconnect between my brain and my voice box that occurs with each and every steroid treatment. Now I’m not quite sure if this happens to anyone else, but when the Prednisone or the SoluMedrol or whichever infusion or injection it is begins I am sucked away into my own personal universe. It feels as though I’m being crushed by an immense weight I cannot see. It is being unable to turn my thoughts into something even semi coherent to myself let alone anyone else. It is literally being unable to make words. Every time I feel trapped and crushed by the depression that comes with having your serotonin levels obliterated. Every single time, I have felt the weight of it as I watch the distance between myself and my friends, my family, my loves growing exponentially with each day gone by. It’s horrible. I hate it with every ounce of my being and yet, I can do nothing but watch in horror as it plays out. My brain plays tricks on me; hallucinations, vivid nightmares and the deepest depression I’ve come to know.

Every single time.

The first experience. Two years ago this February. I laid in my bed in the dark alone unable to do anything, but text one of my closest friend at the time, “help.” Of course, they had no clue what to do and after taking me to a farm that I hold so dear for a few days I found myself in the hospital with doctors being unable to do anything other than drug me so that I no longer had to feel the horror of it. Now, I no longer seek out help at the hospital. I know that this will end.. But it has only been a little over a week and I find this hard to believe because time drags out and it feels as though I’ve been lost for months. I’ve convinced myself that my best friend, who loves me more than I am probably able to comprehend, does not love me or want to see me or talk to me or care. Why? I wish I knew. I wish I could experience this differently or not take the drugs in the first place but I do not have a choice and my hope is crushed and my will is broken with every soul shattering nightmare that wakes me from my sedation. I live in fear during these times. I exist in survival mode: distract or drug. This is the only way I know how to survive it.

I apologize in advance to those who experience this with me.

Pardon my grammar.

XO.