#thumbsupforbeingalive

One year ago I posted this photo:

I see tired eyes. Hair that hadn’t been washed in a week. Nails that needed cutting. A chin so swollen from injury to it that I could not do a full smile. I was so weak that I could hardly hold my phone up. I had taken the case off in hopes it would be lighter without it. I typed those words with shaky fingers. When I snapped that selfie I was afraid I might drop the phone on my face. There wasn’t a retake. No playing with angles to find the most flattering look. No editing. It still bothers me that it says highlight “real” instead of “reel” One snap. I posted before I could change my mind. I had been reading all of the sweet messages people had been sending me. I didn’t have the energy or the strength to respond to everyone directly at that point but I wanted you all to know I had survived.

I look at this photo with mixed emotions. That girl was grateful to be alive. Exhausted. In pain. Confused. But hopeful. So hopeful. I couldn’t have known what the next year would hold. I could not have imagined the struggles we would face. The strength it would take- physically, yes, but much more mentally.

I thought about The Masters. I told Marc if he wanted to go we would handle it. I love that I married a man who could never leave us. And now we’re here. So much media. So many stories. So many memories. It’s hard to relive it over and over again. But the support is incredible. We’re making new memories. Beautiful ones. People are learning not just about our little family but about much bigger things. About Toxic Shock, Sepsis and ARDS. About the  Begin Again Foundation and our passion to help people and raise awareness. I’m an introvert. The interviews tire me but it’s worth it. Our story might prevent another family from having to endure the way we have. I’ll do every interview. Answer every question.

Yesterday I walked 9 holes, today I’ll walk 9 again. Hopefully I’ll walk 9 both Saturday and Sunday. 18 at Augusta National is still a little too difficult for me. One day though.  

#thumbsupforbeingalive

Love,

Audrey

#PSdontusetampons

One year ago I posted this photo:  

I see tired eyes. Hair that hadn’t been washed in a week. Nails that needed cutting. A chin so swollen from injury to it that I could not do a full smile. I was so weak that I could hardly hold my phone up. I had taken the case off in hopes it would be lighter without it. I typed those words with shaky fingers. When I snapped that selfie I was afraid I might drop the phone on my face. There wasn’t a retake. No playing with angles to find the most flattering look. No editing. It still bothers me that it says highlight “real” instead of “reel” One snap. I posted before I could change my mind. I had been reading all of the sweet messages people had been sending me. I didn’t have the energy or the strength to respond to everyone directly at that point but I wanted you all to know I had survived. 

I look at this photo with mixed emotions. That girl was grateful to be alive. Exhausted. In pain. Confused. But hopeful. So hopeful. I couldn’t have known what the next year would hold. I could not have imagined the struggles we would face. The strength it would take- physically, yes, but much more mentally. 

I thought about The Masters. I told Marc if he wanted to go we would handle it. I love that I married a man who could never leave us. And now we’re here. So much media. So many stories. So many memories. It’s hard to relive it over and over again. But the support is incredible. We’re making new memories. Beautiful ones. People are learning not just about our little family but about much bigger things. About Toxic Shock, Sepsis and ARDS. About the  Begin Again Foundation and our passion to help people and raise awareness. I’m an introvert. The interviews tire me but it’s worth it. Our story might prevent another family from having to endure the way we have. I’ll do every interview. Answer every question. 

Yesterday I walked 9 holes, today I’ll walk 9 again. Hopefully I’ll walk 9 both Saturday and Sunday. 18 at Augusta National is still a little too difficult for me. One day though.   

#thumbsupforbeingalive

  

Love,

Audrey

#PSdontusetampons

One Year

Well friends, it’s been a year. 365 days of the highest highs and the lowest lows. There have been many whys and what ifs followed by finding peace, purpose and passion in the search for answers that just aren’t to be found. Nights of silent tears into my pillow and days filled with ordinary moments made magical simply because I am there to live them. 

  A year of learning that Hawaiian sunsets can fill your soul with God’s beauty and that there is not much that good food and great company cannot comfort. 12 months of kissing boo boos, spilled sippy cups, and realizing that no amount of perspective will give you limitless patience for the end of the world tantrums toddlers can throw. 

  
52 weeks of learning just what I am made of. And that is a strong mind, a loving heart and an unwavering faith. Of realizing that healthy and skinny are not the same thing. And that without your family and friends nothing else matters. 

  
It’s been four seasons of self doubt and guilt and feeling like I have to make my life mean something. Otherwise, what sense would it make that I survived when others do not?  Realizing that writing can cut you open and expose your deepest insecurities and your darkest fears. Knowing that telling your truth might be the only way to make you whole again. It has been hours of research and therapy and learning and speaking uncomfortable truths. Four holidays of looking into my childrens’ eyes, hearing their laughs and believing in the miracle of God’s Grace. 

  

  

  

  

   
 

  
Days when I have been forced to accept that sometimes the strongest thing you can do is ask for help.  It has been 12 months of trying to accept this new normal of mine. Of pushing too hard and paying the price. Of trying to forgive myself for being weaker and more tired. Of reminding myself that it could be so much worse and just how blessed I am. 

527,040 leap year minutes experiencing the redeeming nature of love.

  
   
 You hear it all the time- tough times can make or break you. But what about the times when they do both? I have been broken- my body dependent on machines and medicine to survive. I have been made- into a woman who sees the light in life even when it’s dark, the good in people even when the world’s tragedies weigh so heavily on our hearts. How could I not when I get to fall into the arms of a man who will catch me every single time I fall? A man who has carried far more of the load than I have over the past year. It has been a year of love. Of learning that love is often told not with big, romantic gestures but with the simple act of being there. Our story is one that is filled with cups of coffee, wrestling our two boys, laughing over YouTube videos, hand holding, date nights that end with us in bed by 9 watching House of Cards, trips to the pharmacy for another round of antibiotics, and a million other little moments that we almost didn’t get to have. It has been filled with memories we would give anything to forget and ones that we will treasure for as long as we live. The biggest lesson I’ve learned? It’s quite impossible to treasure every moment. No matter how much perspective you have, no matter how grateful you feel, no matter how much you love your life. It is possible to love with your whole heart, to be a kind person, to give back, to smile and cry and laugh and scream and to shine. Shine bright.

It has been a year. What a year it’s been. 

Love,

Audrey

  
#PSdontusetampons 

Control

It has been 10 months since I went to the doctor thinking I had the stomach flu. Sometimes when I write my posts are well thought out. Sometimes it feels as though my heart is the puppeteer of my hands and that my fingers can hardly keep up with it’s commands. Today’s post is one of the latter. The words starting flooding my brain as I was reading the book, The Shack, that has been recommended to me by many different people. If you’re not familiar with it, it is about a man, Mack, whose young daughter, Missy, dies at the hand of a serial killer. A few years after her death, Mack receives a mysterious note inviting him to the shack where she died. At this shack he spends a weekend with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I am still reading it but one of the recurring themes so far is Mack’s distrust in God and his need for absolute independence and control over his life. In one passage Sarayu (the Holy Spirit) tells Mack:

You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms: that is a hard pill to swallow-choosing to live only in me. To do that, you must know me enough to trust me and learn to rest in my inherent goodness.

I am also currently reading a book suggested by my therapist, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal by Bellaruth Naperstack. It is taking me a long time to get through it because the truth of some of the things she writes takes my breath away. After last April I’m a little weary of anything that does that to me. In many ways it has been incredibly healing to just know that I’m not crazy. That the thoughts, feelings, and flashbacks are normal.

But back to the issue of control. I never considered how much I needed it until I had so little of it. The author discusses how it is in our human nature to delight in our ability to control and create things, even an 18 month toddler who realizes that she can knock a stack of blocks over and so she wants do it again and again (much to the dismay of the poor parent who has to keep stacking them!)

Naperstack writes:

The joyous self-love from such accomplishments is a good part of what drives us all- children and adults- to master more, to grow, and develop and learn even in the face of frustration, fear and the anxiety of the leaving the familiar comfort of already mastered terrain.

And because it is built into our human hard-wiring to love ourselves for being able to make things happen, the converse is also true: we lose self regard when bad things happen that are beyond our control. The essential insult of trauma is the helplessness it generates, and the inadequacy and powerlessness we feel in its grip.



She goes on to talk about how this can cause people to lose value in themselves and can creat feelings of guilt and even shame. Those feelings are enough to fill up several different posts and I’m not quite ready to be that naked with you yet so I will stick with control. When I met Marc I learned that Aussies are very relaxed, laid back people. I also learned that there is Aussie laid back and then there is Leishman laid back. If you need lessons on how to chill out, they’re your people. By nature of just spending so much time together this quality started to rub off on me and although I will never completely learn their ways I am forever grateful for this. I am not sure how I could have survived the past 10 months without this quality. And yet, my need for control has peaked.

When I think about the girl who was lying in a bed completely dependent on other people to keep her alive, I just want to lay next to her and give her a hug. I want to tell her it’s okay to let them help, and that it’s not her fault. And then I think about being discharged and being so determined that I was not going to let Marc carry me up those stairs that I painfully climbed up one step at a time. I was so tired afterwards that I could not get out of bed for the rest of the day. Fast forward a few months and I should be better already! I’m taking all of these supplements. I’m doing the “right” things so you have to be kidding me that I am gong to have to hire someone to help me care for my babies. I wish I could have looked at it in the way that it was my decision. It would have provided me with some comfort. Instead it was just more evidence of how little control I had over how I was feeling. I could not magically make myself better. Even by doing everything suggested I was not improving fast enough. Fast enough by whose standards, though? My impossible ones. Part of the reason I started this blog was becuase it would be my decision, in my control. I had been reading so many articles written about me. Some of them didn’t have the facts correct and I needed to control the content. Writing has been therapeutic in many ways but giving me a feeling of control has been one of the most beneficial.

I have surrounded myself with mugs that have phrases like, “Let Go and Let God.” I have repeated the serenity prayer. I wrote a post on faith. On good days I am better at giving Him my troubles. It’s the days when I need to the absolute most that I struggle immensely. I have many friends who have a faith so strong that I find myself envious. They say things like, no matter high the mountain, no matter how difficult the battle they know it is God’s will and that they have given Him their lives. Oh, what comfort that would be! To give up control would be to know that I can just live. I can trust His plan for me. I can just be a good person and try my hardest and that will be enough. I cannot even fathom the idea of feeling enough. Just as I am. Maybe one day. What is it that they say? The first step is admitting there is a problem.

Hello, my name is Audrey and it is time for me to give up control.

Love,

Audrey

#PSdontusetampons

The Rarity of Toxic Shock Syndrome

Yesterday morning I learned of a young mother of three beautiful children that is currently fighting for her life due to Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS.) I do not know the cause of her illness but I do know what her family is currently going through and I am heartbroken for them. Today two of my friends sent me a story of a 15 year old Michigan teenager who almost lost her life due to TSS from tampon use and then I got angry. In every story written about another person who has fallen ill with this authors state how rare it is. I’m not saying it’s not rare…but why did Lauren Wasser lose her leg due to it,  why did Jemma-Louise Roberts die from it at just 13 years old, and why did I almost lose my life too? It’s easy to talk about how rare it is. It is much, much harder when you are one of the rare unlucky people who get it.

It is easy to talk about how many people use tampons and don’t get sick. Yes, that’s a fact. But what if it is you or your sister, wife, daughter? Sure, it probably won’t happen to you. But if it does? I’ve tried in many posts throughout this blog to describe what it’s like but I’ll try again more concisely. You will start to feel like you are coming down with the flu. You will get a high fever, most likely diarrhea, and you will feel weak. You may get dizzy because your blood pressure has plummeted. Your nose may start to bleed as your platelet count decreases. You will go to the doctor. You will never imagine that two days later you will be in intubated and in a coma. You will be very scared when you start to hear the crackling in your lungs as they begin to fill with fluid. If you are lucky the antibiotics will work and you will live. But your life will not be the same. Even as you regain your strength and look “normal” again you will not know what normal is anymore. Your normal may include depression and anxiety with a side of PTSD. You may  have flashbacks on a daily basis that are exacerbated every time one of these stories come up again. You may cry because you know what their families are going through. You know what they will continue to go through. You know becuase you lived it.

But hopefully that will remain my story, and mine alone. I’ve talked about alternatives in a previous post but many people have asked me about them since I started this blog. I’ll go through them again here:

Menustral Cups

menstrual cup is a type of feminine hygiene product which is usually made of medical grade silicone, shaped like a bell and is flexible. It is worn inside the vagina during menstruation to catch menstrual fluid. They can be worn for up to 12 hours at a time and there is no known association with TSS from their use. There are many, many brands. One of the many benefits to them is that they are friendly to the environment AND the wallet. You do not have to replace them so they will not clog up landfills the way sanitary pads and tampons do. Here is a youtube comparison of several different cups for your viewing pleasure:
Please don’t talk to me about how awkward they are to use or how “gross” they are. I am stunned when I read comments saying things like that. When you are admitted to the hospital you check your dignity at the door. You are poked, and prodded, with tubes sticking out of you. You are given sponge baths and use bed pans. Figuring out how to use a cup in the privacy of your own home is the preferable option. I can promise you that.
Period Panties
These are panties that are moisture wicking, anti-microbial, absorbant (can hold up to 2 tampons worth,) and leak resistant. If you don’t want to wear anything internally these are a great option to try. If you purchase one pair, a woman in Africa will receive 7 pairs to use for herself.  They come in several sizes, three colors, and six styles. Here is one youtube review but there are many, many there to watch:
And of course there are sanitary pads.
If you choose to continue using tampons, okay. I’m not going to raid your cabinets… but don’t you dare sleep in them. Never again. Not even once. I’m not going to go around asking you what you choose to use once a month but I swear if I ever find out you are sleeping in a tampon or not changing them frequently I may have to punch you. I would rather do that than watch you suffer the way I did and do.
I am praying with all my might for the two familes I learned about. I’m praying that my message is reaching people. I am praying that not one more woman gets sick from tampon use. Life is so unpredictable and I know there are a million other ways to risk your life. I just don’t believe this should be one.
Love,
Audrey
#PSdontusetampons

New Year

Dear 2015,

You have been a year of…learning. So much more learning that I ever wanted to do. You have educated me, 2015. I feel knowledgable now. Can you do me a solid and tell 2016 I’m smart enough?

I know you won’t. Life is kind of a bitch that way. I will keep having many learning moments whether I would like to or not. I suppose all I can do is use them, grow from them, share them. So here’s what I have learned:

Family is everything. I mean it. There is not one single thing that is more important than your family. Whether your family consists of your blood, your friends, your dogs, cats or all of the above, cherish them. Love them fiercely. Do not take them for granted. Don’t love them quietly. Make it a loud, noisy thing so that they don’t have to just know they are loved. Make them feel loved. Make them hear it. Even during those times when they seem like they are good and don’t need to hear it. More importantly in those times when they are giving you every reason not to love them. Love them more. You will never regret love. Even if it can be messy and painful; you have everything to gain and nothing to lose from loving. Even if all you gain are lessons.

People will surprise you. In the best ways possible and the most heartbreaking. You have no control over that. In fact, it seems that we have little control over anything beyond our own actions. We discuss that a lot in therapy. I can only control my expectations. There have been so many people that have been there for me in ways that I could never have imagined. There have also been tears as I realized that sometimes you will have to lower the bar. Sometimes you won’t be able to lower the bar enough. This is the hardest truth but if you can accept it, I mean truly accept it, you can find ways to move forward in that new version of your old relationships.

Some times bad things just happen and all you can do is your best. I have to tell myself this all the time. I don’t know why I got sick and I don’t believe that there is a reason for it. I don’t know why I survived but I am hoping there is a good reason for that. I am tired, and tired of being tired. I feel like I’m never doing my best…but I’m slowly realizing that my best right now is just different from what my best used to be. I’m adjusting to this new normal. Some days I’m a bit more forgiving towards myself, some days I am my own worst enemy. All I can do is keep trying.

This year I want to be happy and healthy. I don’t have any huge goals for 2016. I would like to run again and lift some weights. I want to take care of myself and the people I love. I want to laugh more. I want to cry less. I want to send out as much light and love as I can. Maybe I will do more yoga and eat more salads. Maybe I will sleep a little less. I hope that I can stop remembering horrible things from last April so vividly. I would love to feel fresh and new again. It’s a beautiful thing, this option to live each day as a new one. Something about a New Year just makes everything feel possible again. Adios, 2015. I am very happy to say goodbye to you. I will take your lessons as I move forward into 2016.

Love,

Audrey

#PSdontusetampons

Balance

Balance would definitely be one of the words I’ve spoken the most this past year. It would rank up there with tampons, perspective, tired, and “no” (the last of which is usually directed at my kids!) Just like with the tree pose in yoga, balance is something that takes practice and work. You may have to start with your foot on your ankle and make tiny, tiny adjustments until you reach your thigh. And even when you feel like your scales are weighted just right, the tiniest thing can knock you down and you will have to start again. It’s so hard to find what is right for you but it’s work that is well worth it. Here are just a few things that I *think* I have learned.

You can love your body right now and still work to improve it. Seriously. You can accept every giggle and wobble and still decide that you want to be stronger, fitter, leaner. I just hope you make that decision for your health and not to look like some picture you saw. You can decide to wear leggings because they are so forgiving and you can also keep a pair of skinny jeans that you hope to fit into again. You can have both! You can appreciate your body just the way it is but still still have personal goals to strive towards. Find your peace in any means necessary. I have told you that I went from purging my meals, to taking on line courses about how to love your body, to almost dying and finding acceptance. I pray you don’t have to have such a kick in the ass to learn this lesson; because I can promise you that it is so freeing to stop caring what that stupid number on the scale is. Find other ways to measure your worth and your health.

You can eat cake and carrots. You can eat clean and order pizza. You can drink 100 ounces of water and finish the day with a glass of wine or a beer. And for Heaven’s sake if you are paleo/gluten free/ non-gmo/organic/won’t eat anything that the Food Babe has not approved- you are not a better person than those of us who really, really enjoy Wendy’s chicken nuggets and chocolate Frostys. Your goodness as a human being does not come from your dietary choices. If you sell advocare/Isagenix/it works/any of the other companies that comprise a multi million dollar industry that strives to make people feel not good enough…that’s okay. I’m not telling you to stop. Rock on, friends, earn that extra money for your families. I’ve tried every one of those products before and enjoyed some of it and felt miserable on most of it and ended up gaining every inch back…but doing a cleanse and losing weight never made me a nutritionist and it never actually made me any happier. So I will eat my broccoli, and drink my Chia Mama; and I will also eat my rice, and enjoy every drop of my Caramel Brûlée lattes. And I won’t feel badly about it because I don’t do too much of either. Crazy, right?

You can be sad and grateful at the same time. You can know how lucky and blessed you are and sometimes allow yourself to wonder, “why?” If anything I think that those days that the darkness has blanketed me make me appreciate the sunshine even more. I have felt lost, hopeless, and guilty for much of the last eight months but, I have also appreciated every smile, kiss, and piece of chocolate much more than I previously did. You might be thinking that I’m miss Pollyana over here making what I just said seem so easy I promise I’m not. I’m just saying it’s worth the work. Pyschologists have studied the practice of gratitude and results have shown that gratitude helps people feel more more positive emotions.  According to research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, gratitude stimulates the hypothalamus (a key part of the brain that regulates stress) and the ventral tegmental area (part of our “reward circuitry” that produces the sensation of pleasure). So yes, you can have days where you look around this world and wonder if there is any good left in it. You can also have moments throughout that very same day where you practice gratitude for delicious meal you just ate, and the funny joke you just heard, and the breath in your lungs. It’s science.

You can use essential oils and also take Tylenol and get your damn vaccines. Before I got sick I was really trying to move towards a “chemical free lifestyle.” I wasn’t winning that battle but I was inching my way there. When I started getting symptoms in March the first thing I did was break out my thieves, pain cream, Digize, and diffusers. I was bathing myself in oils. Then I got out of the hospital and I could not look at them. I could not touch them. Modern medicine had saved my life and I was never going to take that for granted again. But as some time passed I started missing them. I stopped blaming them for not curing what modern medicine almost couldn’t. I started realizing that if I get a headache I can try peppermint and if that doesn’t work I can take Motrin. I also remembered that even if they don’t do a damn thing thing for me physically (which I’m not saying is the case,) I can still enjoy the smell of them. I used candles for years, after all. Plus there is also the placebo affect. And even if every benefit is only in my mind, that’s okay. It was so freeing to me when I realized I can have both in my life. You can bet that I have my doctor’s number in my favorites list and I will not hesitate to dial it; however I will also put some Stress Away on my wrists while I am waiting to speak with him.

You can be giving and selfish at the same time. This is for sure the hardest thing that I am working towards every single day. My mind says, “Do better. Be better. You LIVED…you NEED TO PROVE that miracle wasn’t wasted on you. My body, on the other hand, says, “Calm the f*** down. You have time. You need to rest.” I am learning that I can have days where I don’t do one thing more than is absolutely required of me but I can have many more days where I work on the Begin Again Foundation, or try to raise money for Fallon, or collect baby carriers for Carry the Future. It is just taking practice to figure how much I can do without making myself worse for it.

I often feel that what I am doing is not enough, that I’m doing the right thing by my mind, my body, my family. If I am respecting my physical limitations then I am not giving my all to my children. If I am trying to hold it together all day I often collapse into tears by the end of the day. I have been on one anti depressant, then another, then none only to be plagued with insomnia and the kind of fatigue that really makes it feel like it will never get better. I guess what I am trying to say is that I’m better at talking the talk than walking the walk. But I do try every day. Sometimes it’s not my best. Other days I accomplish more than expected. Balance. 

Love,

Audrey

#PSdontusetampons

balance-is-the-key-to-life