Well my little nook on the internet, I’ve neglected you again. Why? Because 2017 was hard. Mother effing, hard.
I spent most of the year, in typical Alex fashion, questioning and fighting myself every step of the way. What can I say? Some things never change, so sit tight because this is gonna be a long one.
Last January, after a mysterious health issue had worsened, and after years of investigating with no answer, I learned that this mystical problem had actually been “missed” by my physician in 2013. Upon making this discovery, I also learned that 2017 would be my foray into the land of surgical adventures. If you want to see me dressed in a surgical gown as part of Mugatu’s Derelict campaign, click here.
I kind of touched on this a bit in my last blog post, but didn’t go into detail because I’ve been really emotional about it all, and for me, when things hurt me badly enough, I bury them like pirates bury treasure. BUT, I think I’m ready now, so buckle up because here goes.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a tomgirl. I’ve never been the stereotypical version of feminine. I never liked dresses, I was always into sports, and I never really dreamed of marriage or babies. I was never 100% sure if I wanted a baby or to become a mom, but not long after we got married we decided to try anyway.
Like many women, I was not successful on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 100th attempt. Apparently what they teach you in health class as a teenager, in a death comm 5 fashion, isn’t 100% as accurate as it seems. You cannot get pregnant the second a D enters your V.
That being said, I can honestly say with my whole heart that trying and being unsuccessful EVERY SINGLE time was the most frustrating/heartbreaking thing for me to experience. It was even more frustrating because I never truly felt feminine which ultimately made me convince myself that because I couldn’t seem to get pregnant, I was now also biologically failing as a woman too.
This, along with some other related concerns, is what inspired the investigation into my health. After a ton of tests, bloodwork, and diagnostic screenings, the physicians told me everything was normal. Except, like I said earlier, it wasn’t.
As the years passed, I decided to put having a baby on hold because I couldn’t bear the rollercoaster of emotions each month. I hate crying and I hate feeling like a failure (who doesn’t?), plus, word on the street is, it naturally happens when you stop stressing about it. So, I basically poured my heart and soul into running, reclaimed some of my health temporarily, and shortly thereafter, my health took a nose dive for the worse.
I started getting constant nausea, stomach pain, and month long cycles (and yes, 30+ day periods are EXACTLY as awful as they sound). I basically became anemic from all of the blood loss and was so physically tired that the struggle was more than real when trying to crawl out of bed every morning. Let alone what I was putting my body through with training.
I eventually decided enough was enough and ended up switching doctors. That’s when it was decided to do all those tests for a 2nd time and also when we discovered that I had a watermelon sized mass in my uterus that was causing all of this drama. A mass so big it was not only pushing onto my pelvic bone, but also up into my stomach. How a trained professional can miss something of that size and magnitude diagnostically still blows my mind, but nevertheless, it was finally an answer, and so I kept pushing myself forward, but mentally, I was still in denial about it all.
I don’t know what it is about the struggle bus that I love so much, but I pushed myself so much that my body ended up reaching its limits and started fighting me back. My runs got slower, I tired more easily while training, I gained weight, and I started getting harder and harder on myself for what constantly felt like a long list of failures. Worst of all, I repeatedly kept telling myself that I was a failure and that my body was a failure because it felt so damn broken.
I tried to drown the pain and fill the void by setting big goals and trying new things to achieve those goals, but when I look back at all of it, I failed to listen to the beat of my own drum; not only physically but emotionally too. See? Still feeling like a failure.
After years of burying those emotions around pregnancy, along with the pressures of society’s expectations that women are only worthy if they become mothers, made me feel really insignificant.
Those feelings crept in so deeply that it infected every aspect of my life. I literally couldn’t even run away from it anymore because it started manifesting itself physically and it became very clear to me that I couldn’t escape from it any longer.
Cutting a long ass story short, I ended up spending a lot of 2017 trying to navigate all of those emotions (shit, I’m still trying to). I’ve spent a lot of time feeling things I don’t want to feel. I don’t want to be the person that’s not okay, but here I am, not okay and 100% standing in all of my vulnerability.
If am being completely honest, on most days, especially post surgery, I feel like a shell of the woman I worked so hard to become. I know she’s still in there. I know because I can still feel her in my heart. I can still feel that spark of determination within me to rise up again, but I also know I’ve gotta work really effing hard to make her shine again. While 2017 felt very much like a year of failures and losing my sense of self, it’s also a blueprint for change in 2018.
I specifically chose today to share these thoughts in recognition of Bell Let’s Talk day. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s a Canadian initiative that’s engaging people to end the stigma around mental health through conversation.
It is estimated that 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health illness in their lifetime, and if I am being honest with myself, I have never felt as depressed or as anxious as I did in 2017, and it’s something I continue to struggle with today.
I’ve sought help and I’ve been working hard to build myself back up again, and as hard as these emotions have been to navigate, and as lost as I feel, it has also been a tremendous learning experience for me. I’ve learned that I am just as soft and emotional as I am tenacious. Most of all, I’ve learned that it’s OK to be tender too. Much to my surprise, I don’t have to be tough all the time to be a bad ass. There is beauty in softness and the characteristics I embody like my kindness, my empathy, and my heart are actually my femininity and they might just be some of my greatest strengths.
I recently read somewhere that there is nothing more beautiful than a woman coming back to herself, and in many ways, I feel like that is the path I am currently on, and no one can walk it but me. My hope/intention for 2018 is that I come back home to myself; one walk, run, swim, ride, and day at a time. Whatever it takes. And I’ll do my best to share the adventure along the way.
As always, thanks for listening.