5 Tools For Your Emotional Toolbox

“So now I know what I have to do. I have to keep breathing. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring in.”   ~Chuck Nolan, Castaway

I wake up at four-thirty in the morning with the flick of the overhead light and a chatty nurse. She slaps a blood pressure cuff on me, hands me a shot glass of meds and proceeds to siphon my blood into tubes. If this isn’t bad enough, when she is done she makes me crawl out of bed to get my weight. During this process I am imagining the many ways I could maim her. Yes, I love my nurses, I am friends with many of them. This doesn’t mean I don’t fantasize about grabbing a hypodermic needle and jamming into her eye. Of course, I would never do this, but at four in the morning it’s fun to fantasize.

I definitely woke up on the wrong side of my bed. I am in a growly mood. Monday I felt invincible and strong, today those feelings have dissipated like dew on a June morning. I feel trapped in a bizarre hospital prison with no hope of escape.

We all have to go through difficult times. Even the strongest people who have a  positive mindset will struggle. We are only human after all, and sometimes at our breaking point we turn to the dark side. The toughest of circumstances can feel absolutely unbearable. Like a personal assault attacking our spirit with all its might, it weighs us down like a ton of bricks, holding us in place. So what’s a person to do when they feel this unbearable weight? You have to look within. Be mindful of what you need. Get yourself an emotional toolbox, and fill it with tools. Here are just a few of mine.

1.) Be grateful during the tough times. 

No matter how bad things are, I can always find something to be grateful for. Even if it’s as simple as a chocolate bar.

2.) Remembering how I got through the last difficult time.

Sometimes, it may only be few days since the last time, but if it worked once it may work again.

3.) Live One Moment At A Time.

It is easy to be overwhelmed when looking toward the future. For me, staying present in the moment can make all the difference.

4.) Speaking softly to myself.

I am a big fan of writing letters to myself. There is something to be said about getting your thoughts down on paper. Love yourself, and be kind.

5.) Reach out.

No one can make it alone. Whether it’s a friend, sibling, nurse or holy person; just talking about it can really go far.

We all have choices. It’s these choices that make us or break us. I could choose to give up and go home. Actually, that’s the easiest choice. Just pack up and walk out the door. However, the consequences of that decision would be catastrophically fatal. So I choose to stay in this bizarre bastille, walking laps in the exercise yard with the other wounded prisoners. Yet despite the feeling of being chaotically trapped, I wake every day with a grateful heart. For as long as I am breathing, there is hope.

Chelle

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Waiting For Heart Transplant: Day 400 (an open letter to myself)

I was added to the heart transplant waitlist on August 16, 2016. That is exactly 400 days ago. The last 90 of which have been spent in the hospital two hours away from my home and husband. Some days I am sure I can’t go on, others I am sure I can. I want more than anything for my team to find me a good donor match so I can live a more healthy active life, but more importantly, so I can return home. Today I reflect not so much on the entire wait, but more importantly the time in the hospital. As you know, I am big on writing letters to myself. Here is another I would like to share with you.

 

 

Dear Warrior,

Today marks a bittersweet milestone for you. When you received the call that you were accepted on the Heart Transplant Wait list you were so grateful and relieved you hit your knees and thanked Spirit. You were so happy and hopeful, your future looked so bright. Then when they admitted you in June, no one expected you to still be in there waiting 90 days later.

Three months is a long time. You have missed so much; sipping coffee on the front porch with Bill, walking hand in hand through nature, midnight snuggles with Bill’s soft breath on your neck, listening to Skye’s barks and nips in her sleep and feeling the gentle hum of Bubby’s purring on your lap. But for all the things you have missed, you have gained so much; you’ve made new friends, you have a greater sense of who you are, your marriage is stronger, you have built a closer relationship with Spirit, and you have found a sense of purpose.

My dear warrior, you are not the same woman as you were a few short months ago. You have gained wisdom, faith and determination. Because of these days in the hospital, you are mentally stronger and more prepared to face your post transplant recovery.

I know every day you spend here feels like an eternity. But remember, we are all connected. You are here for a reason. Think of the lives you are changing with your strength and positive mindset. The physical borders of your life may have changed, but there are no limits to your spiritual one. Take this time for yourself. Look within. Meditate. Feel. Write. Share your story. This is how you can be of service to others. Your time will come dear one. When it does, all you have endured will have been worth it.

Stay strong. Stay the course. You will prevail.

 

 Chelle

https://www.donatelife.net/register/

 

 

With Love, Humor and Grace

Pulling back from an emotional kiss with my husband, I saw the sadness in his eyes, the sadness that mirrored mine. He didn’t want to leave but I knew he couldn’t stay. Letting our tears flow, we held our embrace a little longer, then walked hand in hand toward the elevators. We expressed our love in a public goodbye, then I stood and watched him go until he was out of sight. I struggled to hold back the flow of tears while George and I turned around, desperate for the refuge of my room.

Almost to my destination, I caught the eye of a nurse whom I have become close to. Noting the look on my face, she asked how if I was alright. I mumbled “Sunday’s are the hardest days”, as tears flowed down my cheeks. She stopped what she was doing, wrapped her arm around me and we walked down the hall. Once in my room, she held me as I cried on her shoulder telling her how much I missed my husband and my home. She explained that being away from those we love can sometimes be a harder struggle than the actual battle we are facing. She reminded me of what I strong woman I am. Reminded me that not only have I have made it this far, but I did so with love, humor and grace. And reminded me that when we get through to the other side of this journey all the suffering and sacrifice that my husband, my family, and I have made will all be worth it.

My strength being renewed, I gave her a hug, thanked her and told her to get back to work. With my head held high, I wiped my tears and told myself I was ready to continue the journey.

I only wish she could have done this for my husband as well.

Chelle


Please register to be an organ donor so someone else doesn’t have to go through what we are. Wwwdonatelife.net/register/

Where I Found Myself

My name’s Chelle and I was lost. Not lost in the sense that I didn’t know which direction to turn, but more in the sense that I lost who I was. I felt like a shell of my former self.

An old friend recently described me as a “wild girl” in my youth. I was as confident, outgoing, spunky and fearless as a girl at a frat party. These traits stayed with me through my twenties when I traded fearlessness for recklessness and negativity. I was in a bad relationship, worked two jobs while going to school full-time and practiced virtually no self-care, ignoring my cardiac situation completely. When the first indication that my health was beginning to fail, I was worn down by life and a bad marriage; I was barely thirty years old. This was the first time I was truly lost. I decided I had enough of my own BS. I put on my big girl panties and took action. I moved back to my home state, reconnected with my family, made an appointment with a cardiologist and divorced my husband. Pretty soon that spitfire girl of my youth was back, wiser and happier than before.

A short time later I met the love of my life. I snatched him up and we were living the dream. Until our world came crashing down in six words. I think it’s time for transplant. We knew this day would eventually come, but it still felt like a punch in the gut. After the initial shock wore off and we devised a game plan, things smoothed out for awhile. But as my heart failure progressed, I became as insecure and timid as a virgin on her wedding night. I slowly lost my independence, my memory and cognitive function declined, then the extreme fatigue set in. I fell into a massive funk. And I stayed there.

You could say I was going through the five stages of grief, and when I fell upon acceptance I settled there like a cat in a sunbeam. I was waiting for a heart transplant and that is exactly what I did. Waited. I kept telling myself I should be enjoying the time I have, spending it wisely. Instead, I went into escape mode. I escaped into everything but life; books, games, tv, food. This wasn’t like the last time I was lost. Before I was able to resurface and regroup. This was different. This time I was stuck like my boots in the spring time mud. Not going anywhere. Complete halt. I tried every tool in my toolbox; meditation, yoga, inspirational reading, praying and short walks in the woods. Nothing. I completely lost my mojo.

By now you’re probably wondering where did I find myself? Where did I wander off to? I was where I have always been. Within. The path I took to find myself started with a gentle nudge from my therapist. “Journal”, she said. I looked at her like she was from another planet. “You’re kidding right? I hate journaling”, I told her. “Just try it for a week or so” she suggested. I rolled my eyes in disdain, and reluctantly agreed. At my next appointment, I had to eat crow. It actually helped to verbally vomit in my notebook. As I continued spewing my emotions on the page, the universe gave me a huge bump. I reconnected with my birth sister Theresa Ann, who is a life coach . With her assistance I started to see glimpses of my old self again. With encouragement from Theresa and my husband, I took my journal and started a blog. My goal was to inspire other patients waiting for transplant and at the same time educate the public of the importance of organ donation. By the time I was admitted to the hospital 34 days ago, I was really finding my voice. The sparky, sarcastic and positive woman was back.

We all feel lost and alone at some point in our lives. We try desperately to climb out of the muck. Our friends, family and therapists can point us in the right direction, however; it is only when we ask ourselves the tough questions and stare into the sometimes terrifying abyss that is within ourselves, do we transform back into the butterfly.

Of course there is the chance I am completely wrong and it is all the go juice (Milrinone) pouring into my vein. Guess we’ll never know!

Chelle

 

An Open Letter To My Future Donor

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Dearest Friend,

I feel we’ve met before, on another spiritual plane, in another time. I’ve spoken to you in the morning dawn and whispered to you late at night. You may not be ready to leave yet, and that is okay. No worries, I have time, I can wait. Live your life, have adventures and find love. You and your family have been in the forefront of my mind quite a bit lately. It is hard to express how much love I have for someone I have yet to meet.  I want to assure you that I will honor and celebrate your life everyday. That you will become part of my family and one day I hope to be part of yours.

Together our spirits will become one. We will hunt and camp together, sing in the rain, act silly under a summer full moon and dance by the firelight. I’ll teach you to write, and together we will finish my book. We’ll meditate, pray and be still together; we’ll be active and strong. We’ll see the mountains of Montana and the deserts of Arizona. When I learn more about you, your passions will become mine. We’ll pursue them together. We’ll root for your team and mine.

There is no thank you large enough in this world for the gift you and your family are giving us. You are giving me back my life. You are giving parents more time with their daughter, siblings more experiences to share, nieces and nephews a chance to learn who their Auntie is and a husband more time with the love of his life. The only way I know to repay you is to live everyday to the fullest, to speak your name, share your story and honor your life.

With love and gratitude,

Chelle

Be a hero. Be an organ donor

My Best Birthday Yet

my 1st birthday

“There are those who hate to see their birthday arrive. Ah, but not I. For each year is a gift, each day is a gift. I am thankful and am grateful for this day of my birth. I find motivation within to live this year so let it begin!”

~~Theodore W. Higginsworth 

 

Waking to a light rap on my door this morning, I slid my eye mask up to my forehead, took a deep breath and started another day in the hospital. A young care aid pops in with towels for my daily wash up. “Happy 4th of July,” she declares rambling on about how quickly the day arrived and where did the time go. “One’s perspective is relative,” I answer groggily from my bed. Looking at the confusion on her face I explain,”To you it may seem fast, however I have been waiting for a heart transplant for 324 days. To me it feels like an eternity.”

After she leaves, I wash up and eat my fake eggs. Shortly after, my husband shows up bearing gifts and clean clothes. I think I was more excited for the clean underwear than the gifts! We sit on my bed and get down and dirty. Not like that, gutter mind. I opened packages from my family as well as strangers. I was overwhelmed by everyone’s thoughtfulness and generosity. About this time there was a knock on the door, three mail room employees walked in with donuts singing to me. And that was the beginning of a great birthday filled with off-key singing. The doctors sang during rounds, the nurses sang at shift change, and just when I was ready for bed the food service workers sang and presented me with a small cake. In between vampiric nurses and singing doctors, I managed to video chat with my family which was much-needed. I also got to go outside for the first time since I have been here. It was hot a humid and only lasted five minutes, but I was glorious!

Every birthday has been a hard-earned milestone for me. I say this every year, and every year it’s true; I never expected to still be here, which in itself is pretty amazing. I have learned to think of my heart defect as a wonderful gift. This gift has made me grateful for every day, even the bad ones. Having TGA has forced me to realize how valuable and precious time is and has allowed me time to learn beneficial life lessons. For instance:

  • procrastination is for the healthy and the young
  • every moment is a miracle
  • don’t waste time on false or toxic people
  • always check my feet for slippers before leaving the house

Today I proven once again, no matter what my circumstances, with a positive attitude and the love of family, friends and strangers I can make any day into a wonderful one.

Chelle

Be A Hero. Be An Organ Donor.

 

 

A Spiritual Heart Transplant {Conversations with Myself}

First i would like to thank Spirit for such a beautiful day. I am sitting on our back deck in 70+ degree weather in February in Erie. It’s unheard of. Usually the topics I share with you have pertained directly to my wait on the transplant list. Today, I would like to share something very deep and personal with you. I felt that in order to be prepared for this physical heart transplant, I also needed a spiritual heart transplant. And this is how it happened.

I closed my eyes, relaxed my body and became one with my breath. I imagined it was a beautifully sunny day with the perfect temperature and light breeze. I was walking through a meadow of colorful wildflowers following a path of short grass. I came upon a small child of about three years old sitting on the path holding a blue daisy. She turned, smiled and welcomed me over. The child was me. She had long brown hair, big brown eyes with long eyelashes, perfect coloring and a big magical smile. She was wearing a red gingham sundress and had a scar down the center of her chest. This was our conversation.

me: hi, wow you’re gorgeous.

her: thank you, so are you.

me: how are you? how do you feel?

her: I feel wonderful. I am a miracle, and so are you.

me: yes, we are. would you like to sit in my lap? I held her to me and rocked her back and forth.

me: you are so brave and courageous. I hope I can be that brave and courageous for my transplant.

her: you already are

me: i love you so much

her: i love you too.  I have to go now. You can come visit me anytime

With tears streaming down my face I watched the little girl and her blue daisy cross over a small creek bridge and into the trees. I hollered out to her..goodbye baby girl.

*After I gathered myself together, I went deep. I went to the place I know I needed to go but till now didn’t have the strength or courage to go.

I closed my eyes once more and returned to the meadow. As I walked along the path I met a young woman of about 23 or so. She had short brown hair, big brown eyes and wore an old ball cap with a red billiard ball on the front. She was very thin and frail looking in her top and cut off denim shorts. The young woman was me. This was our conversation.

her: hi, I’ve been waiting for you. She told me you would be coming

me: it’s nice to see you. how are you doing? {we walked down to the creek and sat on the edge tossing stones while we chatted}

her: I am lonely but doing well. I miss my family. Are you angry because I left and moved out here?

me: angry? no way. I am so proud of you. That took guts kid, leaving like you did. You left everyone you knew to move to a place you’ve never been to start a life. That’s amazing.

her: but I didnt always keep in touch.

me: that is not all your fault. your family knew where you were and how to contact you. You cannot blame yourself for their actions. Although, you could have left a little differently than you did. Gave them more warning or explanation. But you did what you thought was right. What you had to do. Without your bravery and courage, I wouldn’t be the strong woman I am today. All the scary things I have done in my life, I did because of your decisions. So thank you.

her: your welcome, your turn

me: Are you angry with me? for not fullfilling your dreams? I am not a school teacher. And I don’t have any children. I know that is what you wanted.

her: You did fullfill my dreams. You are a strong and happy woman. You live in a place you love and have a man by your side that loves you and would move a mountain for you. how could I ask for more? as far as the old dreams, I am glad I had them. They got me through a lot of really hard times. but that’s all they were. You have bigger, more important goals in front of you now. After your transplant you will help others be strong like you. you are right where you are supposed to be. All the decisions we have made have led you to this very place in your life. You got this! Let all of that other stuff go, you don’t need it any more.

me: thank you. I miss you some times you know.

her: I am always here. but we are done for now.

With tears streaming down my face I watched that brave young woman cross over the bridge, take the hand of the little girl with her blue daisy and disapear into the trees.