2019 was the worst year of my life so far.
I’m shaking a bit just thinking about all that I am about to write because it still weighs heavy on my heart. It is currently 2:11 AM and I honestly don’t know if I will get any sleep tonight. I have debated about writing this for about a month. When saying yes to myself I began the stressing - over the right words/phraseology/framing/length/etc. I recently was able to fully process how I feel about it and am ready to bare my soul. I will warn you that I have lost most of my grammar skills (they’ve been rough since day one to be honest) and there will probably be many errors… and ellipsis… I truly think I started using them to avoid punctuation in texting and it has ruined my grammar in all forms of writing. So, without further ado, here is “the story.”
An undetermined amount of people know that I was attending TSTC in Waco to study culinary arts. My first semester in the Fall of 2018 was wonderful in every way. By mid-semester I had a typical course load, a great church to be a part of, a loving boyfriend, a job at Chick-fil-a and a job teaching dance once a week back home, new friends, a new personality and a spunky nickname to go with it: “Lizzie”, I was managing a lot of things on my own and feel I was balancing/adjusting quite well! My life was full. I was journeying well. I was overflowing with joy. I had chosen to become a new person. I wanted to “reinvent” myself and all the pieces of my life just seemed to fall into place. I felt like I was sitting in God’s lap watching a movie of my new life. Sure, it was still LIFE. There were still ups and downs, but choosing joy was like breathing.
Then I was murdered. Slowly, then all at once. Yes. I was murdered, the wording is appropriate and extremely necessary.
Mentally and spiritually I was balancing/adjusting/managing perfectly! I was ready for life and all that it has to offer, but my body. I don’t even have a word for it. Just: but my body. Two things: 1. This requires a bit of backstory. 2. I did not have all the knowledge about my own circumstances/memory until reflecting later… but as I am now, this is what the “deal” is with my body.
Since moving to Groesbeck and beginning to run weekly for the mileage club in P.E., I have had knee pain. I was in second grade. I quickly was convinced that this was normal. I told my Mom once and she dismissed it as growing pains, or I might have hit it on something. She had every right to do so! Not to mention that I was very clumsy, and generally complained a lot... I NEVER brought it up again because I am such an independent, deal with it yourself, kind of person! I thought that everyone just hurts when they run, so then began my hatred for the activity. Fourth grade event, I swear I’m not making this up: 1. got tripped and fell onto my (left) knee, 2. Somersaulted out then proceeded to slam into the floor once again with my knee, 3. Repeat #2, 4. Gym teacher assumes its nothing, tells me to walk it off, 5. That was that. My knees kind of randomly hurt more often after that but nothing major… Then I made the Varsity Tennis team my freshman year of high school. I was CONSTANTLY complaining about my knees and even played with another teammate that also wore a knee brace (because of previous injury) and we were called “The Cripple Crew.” I played until the end of fall in my junior year, I quit for several reasons. The chief one was not my knees but that was probably a close second. At some point I did physical therapy for a diagnosed syndrome… Therapy did nothing, but I just sucked it up and put mind over matter. After quitting tennis, the only other physical activity was teaching dance once a week. This kept me from gaining weight and sure my knees hurt from time to time, but I could manage. While in Waco, I kept this job, added playing beach volleyball almost daily for 3-6 hours, and eventually the job at Chick-fil-a. The volleyball mostly stopped after about a month mostly because of pain but also scheduling and just general tiredness of having a lot on my plate…
2019. (Keeping on with physical circumstances…) I started the year and because of what I will soon explain about my mental health… I was doing nothing but sitting around all day until work then coming back to a couch then to bed. Chick-fil-a, dance, and spending time with my boyfriend, filled every moment of my days. I don’t know when it started to scare me, but I knew something was up. Sometime in the spring I almost couldn’t walk. I dragged myself into Chick-fil-a just to finally admit defeat and told them I could not work that day, or any day for as long as it took to recover. So, I waited and rested. Nothing changed. I had to resign in April. I still went to dance and got away with mind over matter... I finished the dance season and on the last day of the recital it really started to hit me: I’m not okay.
And it wasn’t just my knees. So, I have been refraining from any details about other aspects of what happened for a reason: because that’s how I was doing it. I was so focused on the physical that I ignored (many times purposefully) the mental and spiritual parts of what was happening to me.
Some know that I did not return to school for the spring semester of school. Winter break was wonderful! I bought a plane ticket to go spend a week with my boyfriend’s family and meet his old friends… But the entire break, I just did not want to go back to school. But I soldiered on. I had registered, payed, gotten materials, etc. Went to the first day of class and even though it started off with a hitch, I LOVED my pastry class. I had a lot of fun making baguettes but in the back of my mind I had this nagging thought: “I’m not supposed to be here.” Ignored that for the rest of the day, didn’t have work, and went to bed just feeling a little tired. When I woke up the next morning, I was mentally paralyzed. Within the week, after prayer and tears and phone calls galore, I decided to drop out. So many things came to light all at once. I told everyone that I wanted to be a “World Traveling Missionary Chef.” That stemmed from an idea put into my head that I just rolled with. It was not MY dream at all though. And I felt that God wasn’t calling me to it anymore either. I needed to be there in Waco, and he got me there by way of TSTC but that just wasn’t it anymore. On top of that, my body couldn’t take the physical requirements of the job either… I was terrified because I didn’t have a clue “what was next.” And thus, began the death of Lizzie. I pushed myself into working a few more shifts and just having more time with my boyfriend. When I had to quit my main job, my identity started to really crumble. I held myself together until the end of dance but with only one stitch of the thin thread left.
I became a shell. I wasn’t ever fully empty; I still fiercely loved and had some great moments but… My summer was simply a blur of wake, waste, repeat. Sleep became a random occurrence that only happened when my eyes couldn’t bare to stay open any longer. Food became a thing that I had to do occasionally, because I would probably die if I didn’t eat. I put on a smile for the world to hide that I was floating in nothingness. The only person who I wasn’t invisible to, was my boyfriend. He knew me. He knows me, and I thank God that he stuck by me through it all. Even so, I still tried to be brave with him because he had his own life to deal with. The poor man. He had no idea what to do but love me unconditionally… I don’t know what I would have done without that. I searched for odd jobs that always fell through and did things on the internet for piddly little pennies: I never got enough to redeem… I was clinging to Waco and my false sense of independence. I applied to another school just to keep the inevitable from happening.
I moved back home to Groesbeck. After deciding that this was it, I got myself a primary care doctor so we could deal with the issue of what I finally owned up to: I had mildly severe depression. The hardest part was this: I DIDN’T KNOW WHY! I had accepted that I wasn’t in school and was totally fine with that. I knew that I want to be an artist and how… well… kind of ridiculous that sounded, and knew I probably need a more stable job first, but I had accepted that. Why was I so depressed! I did start medication, started adjusting habits to lose the weight I had gained, as well as sleep stuff, etc.
I had finished bringing my stuff back on a Saturday. That very next Monday, on my way to Waco to swim/see my boyfriend, on a whim I decided to listen to a podcast. So, I looked up “Jesus and Depression” and BAM! God just laid it all out for me: I had lost all hope for my physical body. I thought that I just wasn’t ever going to get better. I immediately was better. I felt almost completely healed, I needed a minute to pick myself up, but I was better! I had hope because I was getting help and it wasn’t going to stop until I got answers and solutions!
Over the last 4-5 months: Mentally – I stopped meds for depression and have gotten back to a “normal” state (for me anyway). I still have some pretty bad nights (that’s when it hits me) and the insomnia doesn’t help but… that’s that. Physically - I lost most of the college weight I had gained, solidified that pain relief medicines do nothing for my body (was even allergic to one,) had another diagnosis for my knees (now both of them are definitely affected) and did another round of almost pointless physical therapy (I called the main exercise “torture” and for good reason,) developed an almost constant nauseated-ness, and have gotten something close to “I don’t know” from every medical avenue we’ve gone down so far for both my knees and other symptoms. Acupuncture is the next adventure for the knee pain that I am exploring.
I started this healing process with an attitude that I wouldn’t let it break me or define me. Unfortunately, the pain of doing more than walking back and forth to the kitchen for food 3 times a day, is stopping me from, well, almost everything. I force myself to do some things but usually I either end up sick or I am in too much pain and lose a day or two… I cannot function like a “normal” person. I can’t do anything with consistence. I have lost the fullness of “Lizzie.” I enjoy working with my old youth group on Wednesdays. At least, the ones where I’m not sleeping all day from the previous night’s insomnia or bed-ridden sick. That’s about it. And I’m usually in pretty severe pain by the end of the night…
How do you focus on recovery/being healthy constantly everyday (and it failing) without losing sense of self! I’m not who I used to be – Kathryn doesn’t even feel like its my name sometimes. I am still called Liz/Lizzie by my boyfriend (and his family/friends/etc.) which doesn’t hurt or bother me at all in the time I spend with him. When I am alone and thinking about who I am now. She is dead. Killed by her own pain. I didn’t want this to happen. I didn’t choose to have to leave her behind. The person I was and wanted to be was taken from me after only being her for a few months! How do you grieve yourself? It feels like I have nobody to be – in grieving myself. I am a daughter to God, a daughter to my parents, a sister, a girlfriend, a friend, a leader, etc. But that is who I am in relation to others and that’s only part of me… Who am I to myself anymore? I know some of the things I want to be, but I literally know that the pain will stop me from living it out, because it already has… I am waiting patiently as I seek answers and solutions to at least manage all this physical and mental pain.
I went into 2020 with hope that I will get better. I also went in with an understanding and acceptance that it might not happen. I’ve been a little upset, seeing all the wonderful things happening in other people’s lives. At the same time, it has been a light for me. I just have a lot to look forward to and I can be excited for/with those I love who are in a different season than me. Life is still worth living and I'm just taking it day by day.