Saturday, December 9, 2017

New Plans

I got a call yesterday afternoon from my foot surgeon's office telling me that he had a cancellation for next Friday the 15th and asking me if I would like to move my surgery up by two weeks. Uh, HECK YEAH I WOULD. My foot has been driving me absolutely nuts. Two less weeks of being in miserable pain is always something I will say yes to. This means that we are on a big time crunch, though, in getting my papers signed and clearance done, so I have to go to my doctor's other office in a different town to sign the papers on Monday (because he's not in the office where I normally see him that day), and call on Monday and reschedule my surgical clearance with my primary care and pray they can get me in on Tuesday because the surgical coordinator has to get the clearance forms to the hospital Wednesday morning. I couldn't call yesterday because they close early on Fridays and had already closed for the day by the time I got the call about the cancellation. So there's that. But I'm sure it will get done. I'm just glad I told the coordinator weeks ago to keep me in mind should my doc get a cancellation!

So my weekend was already off to a good start. Then today, Mom and I went over to my uncle and aunt's house for lunch because my cousin Dustin is home visiting from the Coast Guard. My uncle loves to cook, and there was so much good food I could hardly stand it. Then, I drank several mugs of hot chocolate and hung out with them and watched the MLS Cup Final (boo you, Toronto), and then my uncle drove me home afterwards (because Mom and Mommom had both already left earlier). It was so nice to get to do something different and be with other people for a change, especially since Dustin is home. My life is very monotonous, and it's only going to feel even more so after Friday, so I thoroughly enjoyed getting to mix it up for once.

Getting to see this cool kid was just icing on the cake. :)

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I feel pretty.

I hadn't gotten my hair cut at all since August, so it was getting really thick, and I wanted it short enough that I don't have to mess with it while I'm recovering from surgery, so this was a very good appointment for me today. I may not be a girly girl in most regards, but I do love getting my hair done. :) And after discussing it with Mom when I got home, I think this is the perfect length for me. So yay for that. I love the lady I see every time. She's the only one I trust. She somehow magically knows what I mean I want even when I can't describe it very clearly.

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Saturday, November 25, 2017

There's nothing quite like Rivalry Week.

It's what I look forward to most in college football season, taking on the UNCheat Tarholes Tarheels. There is no team that most State fans hate more. Plus, being the last home game of the season, it was Senior Day, and we had to say goodbye to the best class this program has seen in ages. That was pretty bittersweet. This almost made up for it, though.

Yes, sir. We beat our arch rivals in what turned out to be a very weird, very tense, very messy game. But hey, a win's a win! While we didn't meet expectation this season, this was our Coach's best record in his tenure here. PLUS, it's the first time we've gotten six conference wins since 1994. Yeah, I know.

Celebrating the win didn't take away the frustration of losing twenty extremely talented men, but I know most of them have careers in the NFL waiting for them. I was in an especially cheesy and sentimental mode, so I created an Instagram post just for all of them.

#1 Jaylen "JaySam" Samuels TE/Hybrid
#48 Cole Cook (C) TE
#50 Tony Adams (C) OG
#27 Dakwa Nichols RB

#9 Bradley Chubb (C) DE
#27 Justin Jones DT
#98 BJ Hill DT
#35 Kentavius Street DE

#85 JuMichael Ramos WR
#6 Gavin Locklear WR
#4 Jerod Fernandez LB
#58 Airius Moore (C) LB

#2 Mike Stevens CB
#5 Johnathan Alston CB
#26 Nicholas Lacy CB
#24 Shawn Boone S

#64 Peter Daniel OT
#79 Ben Kaiser OL
#44 Bryan Smith DE
#54 Davion Allred DE

A D-Line who garnered national attention (rightfully so). LBs who made so many important plays, you usually couldn't count them all. A secondary that never stopped fighting to get better, even when the crowd was against them. WRs and a RB who fought through life-changing injuries to come back even stronger. A TE and OG who were the unsung heroes and leaders of the team. Walk-ons who earned scholarships. Scout team members who worked hard and selflessly every day to make sure the starters were ready for battle. And a hybrid, jack of all trades, all-purpose king of the field who defied all explanation. That's a lot of really special guys to lose all at once. Ask anyone; this class changed the culture of the program. The good news is that once you're part of the Wolfpack, you're always part of the Wolfpack, so Wolfpack Nation can cheer a lot of these guys on on Sundays.

I also added a picture for my favorite player, junior Nyheim Hines, who had two major touchdowns, 48 and 54 yards, had his personal record (by a LOT), and crossed the 1,000 rushing yards threshold for the season. And he did all of this after getting back on the field just one day after being cleared from concussion protocol. He's a BEAST.

These 20 guys are one of the most impact classes our program has ever seen. Wolfpack Football will never be the same. It was so important to everyone, team and fans alike, that they be sent out on a high note. They deserve every ounce of love, adoration, and respect they're getting.

Thanks for the memories, boys.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

That's what I call a good holiday.

I got to see my cousin.

I got to eat amazing food. (I love growing up in a family of incredible cooks.)

Garlic and herb marinated turkey, pork, stuffed mushrooms, stuffing not in mushrooms, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, broccoli, baked mac and cheese (the same mouth-watering deliciousness I asked for for my birthday), and three different kinds of cheesecake bites. It was even better than it sounds.

I was just lucky the Wolfpack is playing tomorrow instead of today (I'm post-dating this a couple of days), otherwise, I'd be in a food coma during the game.

Hope y'all had a good Thanksgiving, everyone.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

This is what I'm most thankful for this year.

Well, more like this is who I'm most thankful for.

Forgive me for risking sounding like a broken record, but Clayton, Jay, Reafe, and Tunji are my angels on earth. This year, more than ever before it feels like, they have carried me when I didn't think I could walk. They have saved me from myself when I felt like giving up was the only option and couldn't see a way forward. They have held me up when I felt like I was collapsing and refused to let me go when they saw me slipping into that dark hole. 

No matter how isolated I've felt this year, I've always known that I had someone I could call or text, someone who would be there to tell me the truth of who I am and how much I am loved. They've let me vent about the same fears and the same stresses over and over again and never once gotten annoyed or tired of hearing it. They each encourage and push me in their own unique ways, and I can't imagine my life without each of them in it. 

Clayton is my spiritual/faith encourager. He's the one I can go to with all of my questions and fears and frustrations about God and know that even if he doesn't have any answers, he won't judge me. Conversations with him always help me work out struggles with my faith. Even if I'm not feeling God's presence anywhere else in my life, when I talk to him, I remember that God is here and God is alive, because I see God in Clayton. I truly have learned more about God from him than any church service I've ever gone to or could ever go to. 

Jay is my, stealing a quote from Hamilton, "look at where we are, look at where we started" friend. Because he has known me longer than anyone currently in my life, he has the unique ability to remind of how far I've come and grown, and he really knows what he's talking about. Because we've seen each other through so much, he's seen firsthand everything that I've overcome and uses that as his proof that I'm going to keep growing and keep moving forward. He reminds me that even if I feel stuck now, it's not going to stay that way, because it never has - I've always overcome. 

Tunji is the one who forces me to find the humor in life when I can't see past whatever hard thing is in front of me. That may sound like more of a distraction than an encouragement, but it's not. He has this instinctive ability to know when I need to laugh and has no shame about doing whatever is necessary is order to make that happen. And by making me laugh, he reminds me that there is always something light in the world. There is always joy to be found somewhere. I just have to be willing to look for it. Even if it's found in one of my best friends saying the most random, off-the-wall nonsense just to make me smile.

Reafe is the one who pushes me to hold on to positivity when that feels impossible. He is the first to remind me to choose joy when letting the pain win is the much easier option. He unashamedly reminds me of why he and others look up to me so much, and that, in turn, forces me to remember that there is good coming from all of this. Texts from him always remind me that as long as I'm alive, God is using me for something, and that it's going to be okay in the end. Even if I can't see it getting better right now, it's going to get better. 

The real, blunt truth? These four guys are the main reasons I didn't try to kill myself back in September, why I stopped and called for help when the thoughts first entered my mind. Because even though I thought at the time that their lives would be easier without me in the long run, I knew that I couldn't hurt them, and I know for a fact that losing me would devastate all of them. Their presence alone in my life, even though they are hundreds and thousands of miles away, reminds me that I matter to someone when I feel like my biological family only cares about what I can do for them, not actually about me. 

An exchange trip I wasn't supposed to be allowed to go on to a city more than 4000 miles away. A class I randomly joined for a Twitter experiment. A soccer team I never intended on meeting, let alone becoming friends with. I met all four of these guys in the most accidental ways, and now, they are the most important people in the world to me. That's God, y'all. That's all God.

I've said it a million times before, and I'll say it again: DNA doesn't make a family. Love does. The relationships I have with Clayton, Jay, Tunji, and Reafe are all the proof I need.

So yeah, if you were to ask me what I'm most thankful for this year, I would give you this answer without a second thought. It's these four guys right here. They are my angels, my saving graces, my four best and truest friends. Since I can't change my health issues, at least I have the comfort of knowing that I have people to help me get through them. I couldn't ask for anything better.

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Here we go again.

Tuesday, I went back to my foot surgeon for my six month post-op visit. I was fully expecting this to be one of the rare times in my life where a doctor appointment would be smooth and uneventful. I've been having a bit more pain in my right foot since around the beginning of October, but I figured it was just because I spend so much time barefoot since I really don't leave the house much.

Well, this is what I get for assuming things.

After I got the x-rays, I was just hanging out waiting for my doc to come back in to talk to me about them, still not having a clue anything was wrong. When he came in, though, he was way more serious than he usually is, so I just said, "So what'd they say?" And I heard a sentence I have heard way too many times in my life.

"Well, can I just preface this by saying 'if it can happen, it will happen to you?'"

And my heart sank. Because you'll never guess what bizarre thing my body decided to do to me this time.

Remember how he put steel plates and screws in my foot in order to immobilize my big toe? Yeah, well, those broke in half.

Oh, yes, you heard me. I broke steel plates and screws in half without even trying. I'm like Wonder Woman, except way less cool.

My doc assured me that this isn't my fault, that he knows I did everything that I was supposed to do during recovery. He said he won't know for sure why they broke until he gets in there, but sometimes, shit just fails and the fusion doesn't take. Like he said, if it can happen, it will happen to me.

So yeah, I'm having surgery again. Number 28 for those keeping track at home. It's scheduled for December 29th, but the surgical coordinator said that she would call me if they got a cancellation because ever since my doc messed with my toe at my appointment, I've been in a lot more pain than I was beforehand.

I'll be honest. I've been angry. Really angry. My closest friends know that one of my biggest fears in life is that my life is never going to be anything but a cycle of constant doctors and health problems and surgeries, and this just felt like confirmation of that fear. Plus, it's so aggravating that just when I think I'm finally getting my feet back under me - I'm not sick anymore, and I changed one of my psych meds, so my depression was getting better - and could focus on job applications again, something else pops up that completely derails my life when all I want is to get my shit together and move out and be an adult. It feels like every day of my life is this constant battle, and I'm just so exhausted. It's like the universe is saying, "I'm going to keep punching you in the face until you absolutely lose your damn mind," and I'm on the brink. I really don't know how much God expects me to take, or why begging and pleading for refuge and a break from all of this pain leads to nothing but a continuation of me feeling abandoned and hurt and alone and exhausted.

But if there is one thing I know in the midst of all of this confusion and pain, it's that no matter how alone I feel, I am never without help. God has given me the most incredible support system of friends who, even with hundreds, in one case thousands, of miles between us, have shown up big time in the past few days to hold me up when I've felt like I couldn't stand one more second. I see God in my friends every day, in every conversation. And when I don't know what to say to God, when prayer feels impossible, their presence is a reminder that God is here, too. God sees me hurting and knows the pain I can't always express.

Am I still afraid? Yep. I was having nightmares just last night about this next surgery failing, too.
Am I still angry? Yep. I'm tired and don't want to do this anymore.
Am I still confused? Yep. I don't understand why I haven't been through enough.

But I am loved beyond measure. And I am not alone. At the end of the day, that's what matters.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

So. Much. Sickness.

It's been...a rough time.

It started out as allergies/a sinus infection the week before Halloween, so I had an antibiotic for that.

Except then, instead of getting better, it moved into my chest and turned into a respiratory infection, so I had to get a different antibiotic and basically lived on cough drops for several days.

I started getting better for a few days.

Then, I got the cold from hell. I knew it wasn't a sinus infection because my snot was clear (TMI? sorry), which meant there was nothing the doctor could do, so I just had to ride it out.

Except it wouldn't. end. I even got the fun sore throat and swollen lymph nodes to go along with it. And my usual regimen of Benadryl and Sudafed only seemed to make it angry.

I finally stopped sneezing a couple of days ago, but I still haven't shaken this chest pain and cough. And I've been having to do even more for my mom than usual because she got a tooth pulled on Wednesday, so she's pitiful and who really cares if I'm sick?

On the upside, my neurologist wrote me a prescription for a migraine nasal spray (who knew there was such a thing?), instead of just giving up on treating me like he was originally saying. It has the same central ingredient as the DHE infusion I did twice while I was at Campbell, so I'm cautiously optimistic. I've done it a few times so far. I haven't really noticed a difference, but my sinuses are still swollen, so I have no idea how much of this headache is also a sinus headache. That's the fun part of being screwed up on multiple levels. Ha.

Ha. Anyway, I'm tired. I have laundry to do. I just wanted to get on here and document what the past two weeks have been. In short: sick.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Windows of Light

Well, all hell broke loose here today.

I can't get into how exactly for several reasons, but suffice it to say that Chelsea has taken her stellar decision-making skills to a whole new level and it's probably going to have ramifications for a long, long time. So that's awesome. And it nearly sent me into a panic attack tonight. Which is really shitty timing, especially seeing as Blake is at our house for who knows how long.

Thank God that I have the best friends on the planet, friends who are more like family than my biological family at this point. An hour with Clayton and 45 minutes with Tunji, and I actually feel like I can breathe again.

My family-friends (yes, I just made that up), they're the ones who actually care about how I'm feeling and are willing to listen. They care about how the stress of everything happening in my life is affecting me. They care about supporting me and lifting me up, instead of telling me basically to just suck it up and deal. They're here through everything, even though there are hundreds of miles between us and they have craziness in their own lives to deal with. They just get me, as stupid and cliché as that sounds. Tunji and I call each other "Siamese twins" for this reason; we're not just incredibly similar, we also have the innate ability to understand each other even when we can't find the words to communicate coherently. I used to be able to talk to my mom like this...until she stopped having the time or energy to care.

I told Tunji that I've spent the past 14 months that I've been in North Carolina taking care of everyone else and their problems and trying to keep them happy and balance everything and putting myself last because I've felt like I don't really have a choice; after all, nobody else seems to care that I'm dealing with severe and constant pain through all of this. You know what Tunji said in return? Two things. One, that he admires me so much because I've been able to keep hold of who I am at heart in the midst of all the crap I've been through - goofy, smart, outgoing, caring, and loving. After all, one of the reasons I stopped myself from attempting suicide is because I didn't want to hurt someone else (him). I haven't given up on trying to live my life and be myself. Two, that I am the most loving and caring person he knows, and I deserve to have someone love me and take care of me. He believes a guy will come along love me the way I want and deserve to be loved, and until then, I have him and so many other people who are going to make sure that I am never alone, no matter where I am.

These two conversations tonight, these were a reminder and comfort I needed that God is still here and God is alive. At the end of our conversation and prayer, Clayton read a blessing that he said he'd never read before but was led to, and when I heard it, all I could say was "God is good." Read it for yourself. Maybe you need it, too.

May you be blessed in the holy names of those
Who, without you knowing it,
Help to carry and lighten your pain.

May you know serenity
When you are called
To enter the house of suffering.

May a window of light always surprise you.

May you be granted the wisdom 
To avoid false resistance;
When suffering knocks on the door of your life,
May you glimpse its eventual gifts.

May you be able to receive the fruits of suffering.

May memory bless and protect you
With the hard-earned light of past travail;
To remind you that you have survived before
And thought the darkness now is deep,
You will soon see approaching light.

May the grace of time heal your wounds.

May you know that though the storm might rage,
Not a hair of your head will be harmed.

Typing it out now, one line stands out in particular: "May a window of light always surprise you." These two conversations tonight, they were my windows of light. In the fear and stress, they were reminders that I am not alone, I am loved, there is good in this world, and maybe God isn't as distant as it has seemed lately. They were the light on a hard and dark day.

I think maybe my family is going to need me to be their window of light now more than ever. And it's going to take supernatural strength and peace, because J am tired and overwhelmed trying to do everything on my own hundreds of miles from the people who know and love me best.

Lord, help me. Just, please. Whatever it takes. Help me. Help me help my family. I need you. I'm tired and confused and don't know what to do. But also, thank you for my friends. Thank you for my windows of light. I get it now. I'll try not to forget it next time, but I might need some reminding.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

To Love and Be Loved

"The single desire that dominated my search for delight was simply to love and be loved." - St. Augustine

Yesterday, I got to go back to Campbell for a soccer game and see my boys that are still there. I was counting down to this day, praying that Mom would be well enough to take me. I so desperately needed something to work out in my favor. I honestly wasn't certain it would happen until she actually got out of bed to get ready; it's been a really rough week for her, but she said she toughed it out because she knew how important it was to me.

Being back at that soccer feels like home. Even though I felt so old being surrounded by college students (when did that happen?), it still felt so right to be sitting there watching a team that I have followed for five seasons now.

It was all the more perfect because it was this guy's senior night.

Matt was a true freshman my senior year, but he redshirted that year, so that's how he's still at CU. I was so proud of him to get to see him celebrated after all the work he's put in. 

I was also there to see these two adorable boys.


and Seth

I met them back in January of 2016 when I was visiting Campbell while on break from New York. They had heard about me through Ricky and quickly became my "second generation" of brothers. It's crazy to think that they were freshmen when I met them, and now they're juniors.

And because God was apparently in a really generous mood yesterday, one of my other brothers who graduated last year, Martinez, was actually at the game to see Matt for his senior night, too. Of course I had to get a picture with him. He knew it was coming. ;) 

While I was taking the picture with Matt and Josh, another guy from the team I actually really wanted to meet walked by, so I got everything I wanted out of last night. His name is JJ, and I've basically become his biggest fan. He's a ridiculously talented player, and I really wanted to meet him to just tell him what an incredible player I think he is. He was such a sweetheart, too. I think I made him a little bashful with all the compliments, but hey, I was a little excited. He even reached down and gave me a big hug to say thank you, which I was pleasantly surprised by. Despite the jokes the rest of my brothers like to crack, I never make strangers hug me. Even I'm not that weird. ;) But he and I got to talking on Facebook today, and he told me that Matt, Josh, and Seth had told him some about me, so I semi-jokingly said I was more than willing to adopt him as my brother, too, and he said "I'm in!" so I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship. :) 

I was on such an emotional high when we got home last night around 12:30 that it took me a sweet forever to fall asleep. This is what my boys do to me. It's not so much being back at Campbell as it is being with them. Which is weird, really, since Matt is the only one (Martinez, too, but I'm talking about of the guys still on the team) who was there at Campbell when I was there and witnessed what I went through, and by the end of next weekend at the latest, the only guys I will know on this team will be guys I met after graduated and through association from other guys. But as I was telling JJ today, the guys from my year pretty much saved my life (there's an understatement), so I see it as me just passing on the love, and it's created this bond that can't really be explained to anyone who isn't part of it. They're my boys, my brothers, my family. Just as much as anyone who shares my DNA is. When I'm with them, everything feels okay for a change. It's like I can forget everything that is going wrong, everything that is stressing me out, everything that is negative because the love that I feel both for and from them is completely overwhelming in the best possible way. It's not lost on me for a second how lucky I am.

To love and be loved like this, well, it's everything.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

It's been a while.


I kept meaning to blog, but the past two weeks have been kinda rough, so the days kept slipping by, and it just kept becoming tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

Let's catch up, shall we?

We have air again, as of last Friday, so three cheers for that. That was a long two and a half weeks, but it just breaks my heart even more for what the people of Puerto Rico are going through. The timing of that definitely kept it all in perspective (most of the time).

I went to the neurosurgeon last Thursday. None of the tests he ordered showed anything, so he's pretty much at a loss for what to do or what is going on with my head. There is one more test he could do, but he's really hesitant because there's a high risk of infection, especially with me being a MRSA carrier, and we're pretty sure this test is how I contracted staph meningitis back when I was 17. Plus, he's not confident that this test will produce any results, since the other tests didn't, so putting me at such a great risk for what will probably tell us nothing seems like a dangerous idea. So I had him fax all of his records back to my neurologist, and I'm waiting for a call from him to see if he has any ideas on what to do. I can't afford the copay for the Botox (it's way more expensive than the Botox I did when I was still at Campbell), so I don't know if he has any other ideas. If he doesn't, I may go through with this other test from my neurosurgeon just to try something instead of giving up, because I am tired of being in this much pain. Otherwise, I'm kind of screwed.

Last weekend, what I thought was just allergies and my typical sinus issues moved into my chest and turned into a full blown respiratory infection. So Monday, I got to go to the doctor and get a stronger antibiotic than I'd been on two weeks before, a steroid inhaler, and meds for my nebulizer machine. Woo. Always something with me.

Most of the week flew by because I've slept a lot because I've felt like crap (as one does), but Thursday, I did make it to my psychiatrist, and she changed my depression. I haven't seen her in two months, because at my last appointment, things were going well enough that we thought I didn't need to come back in a month, but things have gone so downhill with me mentally since then that I knew I needed to change something. Luckily, she is awesome and didn't even question my request once I told  her about how bad things had gotten. I told her that I talk to my therapist every week, I take my prescribed medication every day, I do everything I'm physically capable of to take care of myself mentally, so I have to try changing meds, because I can't keep feeling this awful. So we'll see how this goes.

Hands down the highlight of the past two weeks, though, was the two hours I got to spend on Facebook video chat with Clayton today. I know I say this all the time, but I am so, so, so lucky and thankful that he is my best friend. No one makes me laugh harder or teaches me more, let alone all in the same conversation, than he does. He is one of the few consistently good things in my life, and one of the very few people that make me feel completely safe and free from judgment. I can talk to him about my relationship with God, my struggles, my anger, my frustration, especially with everything that's been going on with my head and the doctors being stumped, and he doesn't shame me for any of it. Instead, he reminds me not to shame myself, like I am prone to do. But what was different about our conversation today is that he actually put on his "Spiritual Director" hat (his words, not mine) and asked me about my prayer life and gave me some advice on how to broaden it and change my perspective on who I see God as in the midst of my current struggles. I'm used to talking through different stories and passages in the Bible with him, and he's taught me a lot about theology, but this was something totally new. And I loved it and totally appreciated it. He doesn't want me to stay in this rut that I've been in for a little while now of feeling angry at and abandoned by God. The level to which he cares for every facet of my wellbeing (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) is very comforting and humbling.

I'll tell you one thing: I would be lost without my people. That much I know for sure.

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