My Journey of Healing Part 1
I didn’t think too much about myself the first year of Finn’s life. There were too many other things that needed thinking about and caring for. It wasn’t until he turned two (the age which doctors had told us he would be caught up with other kids) and I stopped breastfeeding, that I realized the last two years had really worn on my mind and my body.
Along with the stress of caring for Finn, my mom had been very sick and died just one week before Finn turned one. I had been in survival mode for so long that I was literally waiting for the next emergency. I was ready to go into action and when an emergency didn’t occur, my body just stayed in that fight mode. I was lost a lot of weight and the frail image I saw in the mirror was a reflection of all that had gone out of me physically, emotionally, mentally, and even spiritually.
I knew I needed to change, to heal, and to move forward into a better place, so I started with joining a gym—a CrossFit Gym. I had no idea what I was doing. I had literally never held a barbell in my life. I was the smallest, weakest, and slowest person in every class, but I kept going.
Then at just about a month into it I got freaking appendicitis. What are the odds? I mean really, because my husband also had it a few years earlier so what are the freaking chances I would get it too!? But I did. They took it out and that’s supposed to be the end of that, but when I went in for my follow-up the kind doctor sat me down and told me there had been cancerous cells on my appendix—having it removed very likely saved me from the cancer spreading. He still wanted to check for any other signs of cancer and I’d have some follow-ups every year for a while. I immediately saw a miracle: getting appendicitis had saved me from cancer. However, I also heard the word cancer.
CANCER CELLS!? Are you freaking kidding me! And like I had asked questions after getting Preeclampsia and HELLP Syndrome as to why, there were no answers for me. No one even knows what the appendix does! And cancer on it!? Well, after having lost my dad to cancer at the age of 16 and then my mom not two years earlier this hit me to my core. I felt weak and vulnerable. Once again, something needed to change.
I kept up with CrossFit and then chose to go to a naturopath to see if these health issues I had experienced were possibly indicators of something bigger going on in my body. I did blood tests, hormone tests, and discussed at length what the last couple years had been like for me. She recommended some supplements, diet changes, and…therapy…yikes.
I had tried therapy a couple times very briefly in the past: once in high school when my father passed, and again just a year or so prior with someone who was definitely not a fit for me. The naturopath gave me a couple recommendations and I checked them out. I decided to go ahead with it. The therapist I went to specialized in something called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). The technique was first started to treat veterans with PTSD after coming home from war and they found it had great positive effect. I won’t go into the details, but it’s an odd thing that in my opinion, worked.
I only went for about five months, but EMDR is supposed to be a much faster way to process grief and trauma than regular talk therapy. We didn’t get through every hard experience in my life, but the work we did brought me from the self belief: “I am broken and a burden to those around me,” to “I am strong and through my experiences I have a lot to offer others.” This coupled with strengthening my physical body through nutrition and exercise created an image of myself, for myself, that was no longer weak and vulnerable, but was in fact strong and able. The exercises I was doing are things that I would literally look at and think, “I can’t do that.” Then I’d do it. And every time I did those hard things I reminded myself that I can in fact do hard things, and be better for it.
Spiritually I had also felt weak and like a burden to my church. I remember joking with a friend asking her how many meals had been made and brought to her in the last couple years, she said none, mine was dozens. My life was so hard and sad people needed to help me and my family with the basic necessity of food in my life. It was a joke, but I was also tired of being the one needing help. I called myself the Job of our church group—a man in the Bible plagued with sickness and death. A little self-indulgent I realize now, but it just felt like “it” was always happening to me.
Consequently I also felt like my relationship with God had become one of desperation. “God, PLEASE help me” was my daily prayer and soon my suffering made me bitter. My spiritual well-being needed a work out as well. I delved into books that brought me hope, listened to teachers and preachers, and I stripped my faith down to simple truths that I believed for me. I also started actively seeking to help others in hard times like people had helped me. I gave gifts of food, time, conversation, encouragement, and anything else I could. Connecting with people and serving them through hard times is a great privilege. I used to be afraid I wouldn’t say or do the right thing, but now I know just showing up is the first step. Then tread gently and give with great love and humility.
I realize now that taking one step to heal and grow stronger lead to the next and the next. I joined a book group that we read one book a month and then met to talk about it. This was a good mental exercise for me that brought new ideas to consider, and new ways to grow and challenge myself. I started journaling more again, doing a gratitude practice, and meditating. I have a couple friends I talked with almost daily to simply encourage each other as we worked through the hard work of healing. I planned more date nights with my gift of a husband, bought a paddle board, took a few trips, and enjoyed this life and time when things were just good.
And this business, Finn & Co., has been one of the greatest parts of my healing journey. I got the idea for Finn the Panda when Finn was just 8 months old. From idea to creation then actually launching and marketing, I have been able to process my own journey, to help others and connect with other families, and to have something that is mine that I can put my heart and my brain into.
Healing from grief and trauma is not always easy, and it isn’t usually fast, but it is worth it. As a mom I excused myself from doing the hard work because “others needed me,” but if I really wanted to be there for them I needed to show up as a healthier and stronger version of myself and that takes work.
If you want suggestions for resources and ideas to help heal please send me an email, I’d love to help you in any way I can. You just take one step, then another, and another.