What It Looks Like To Lose Your Identity – From Bipolar To Cancer Mom To…

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As this title might elude to, I’m about to share a little bit about what it looks like inside my head. Buckle up. This is going to be a fun ride.

My blog has not been active in some time. I’m not going to make some promises to post a certain amount a week or month, or anything really. I am going to write from my heart. It may be multiple times a day, and it may be only once in a blue moon. What I can tell you is that I have been struggling – not for words, but to figure out who I am. Let me explain.

As you know, or may not know, my five year old daughter has been fighting cancer. She had a brain tumor removed from her head. She had daily radiation for six weeks, and she then had a high dose chemo therapy regimen. To make a long story short, they threw all they had at it, with the hopes that something was the right answer. You see, the cancer she had growing was literally thought to be one of a kind. Her tumor and info was sent all over the place, in search of second, third or tenth opinions. We’re talking worldwide experts. No name for this unique thing. As such, we held our breath, and above all else, prayed. This past January, she completed treatment! Thank God! In February, her scans showed no evidence of the disease. It showed the cancer didn’t appear to have even ever been there! Again, thanking God!! Then, in May, her scans showed spots on her spine. Those spots were consistent with drop metastasis. In other words, it looked like a cancer that had metastasized and spread to her spine. But, there was a silver lining – it also might NOT be that. It could just be enlarged blood vessel(s) and we had no way of knowing for sure at that point. Even if it WAS cancer, it would have been too small to do anything with, or biopsy, etc. So, we wait. Three months, and we wait. Tomorrow, actually, she will have more scans to look and see what we are dealing with – which, obviously, we hope is nothing. In fact, our prayer is to have the scans, and see NONE of the spots previously seen.

That was the back and lead up explanation to what I am about to share with you. I can pretty much say that I am a picture perfect example of what it looks like to lose your identity.

One more back story. Many of you know, and some of you don’t. However, instead of hiding behind a mask of “everything is okay all the time” I want to be transparent about something. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Okay, fine. Go look it up. No, wait…it’s best you don’t. That said, it’s something – just the diagnosis – that I struggled with for a very long time. Years. Until recent history that I really figured out that it was just a diagnosis. It was not me. It is part of who I am, but not my identity. At least I thought. I do struggle with depression. I have also learned that I’m not alone in that. Depression is a real thing. It affects more people than you’d realize, or even care to think about. It hurts. Again, it became my identity for some time.

So, through these two examples alone, you can see that my life is definitely not boring. There are times, I long for a much more boring time.

The issue and problem is that we often will allow life’s circumstances – those curveballs that life tosses our direction – we often allow those things to define us. They become who we are. They become our identity. Then, when life changes, or circumstances take on a different shape, we tend to lose a part of ourselves. At least, it’s clear that I do. Let me explain.

When my daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I became a cancer mom. I became a cancer awareness fighter. I became a voice for children who battle childhood cancer. I became a person who spent more time in the hospital, even during holidays, than at home – at least it seemed at times. I realized that we had almost a second home away from home. Childhood cancer. It was who we became, and the fight we fought. We lived and breathed it (through all the tests, scans, hospital stays) with every breath. Then, THANK GOD, my daughter had clean scans. No evidence of the disease. No more daily / weekly / monthly tests, scans, radiation, chemo, etc. No more hospital stays. No more cancer, right now. Of course, I was elated. Beyond all measure. My daughter was free to live, breathe and run around and just well, be a kid! Yes, she would struggle with the aftermath of having had radiation and chemo, but she was HERE. She is alive!

But, now what!? Now where do I go? Now, who am I? These are all questions I never actually ASKED, but realized were present – asking themselves. I have come to realize that my identity was set in those things. It, rightfully so, consumed my days. Now, though – now that she is not fighting this disease, what’s a girl to do? I have to embrace this “new normal” as life again. I have to figure out what our current “normal” is and go from there. I won’t lie. It’s not easy. It is, however necessary.

I have, just in the past couple of days, sat down. With myself, and with my thoughts. I dug deep, and thought clearly – back to a time where I felt okay, good even. What I came to realize wasn’t shocking, but it was good to remember. I was the happiest when I was reaching out to others. When I took my own time, and gave it to others. When I took time, became a volunteer, and just reached out to others – helping THEM smile, it helped me. My hurting heart was calm again. It would bring me joy to see joy in someone else’s face. To know I had made a difference – that made a difference in ME.

So, two days ago, I went back to one place where I have felt me. I went to the YMCA. We have long since (over a year) not had a membership. Recently, my husband lost his job, and so a YMCA membership was something we couldn’t fathom, let alone afford. Still, though, I had to connect. I asked if I could volunteer again. I asked if I could just reach out, even during times that I might be hurting, because people (myself included) need people. I mentioned that I know God created us as community people, and I need that too. So, I turned in a volunteer application packet, and will soon be able to volunteer. I guess, to some, it may seem odd to be so excited about the ability to donate my time to make a difference in this community, and in other people’s lives. But, it isn’t at all silly. It’s real. I firmly believe that the heart of a hurting person can be brought so much joy from reaching out and serving others in such a way that life becomes about someone other than themselves.

I’ve learned that I may not have a rock solid identity, but I do know that there are things that make a difference. My purpose, through it all, however, remains. My purpose is to share smiles, and to share hope. It is to realize that in my not being alone, NO ONE in the world needs to feel alone. People – every person alive or dead – is or has a story. Every person alive is a living breathing story. Their story matters. Their life matters. THEY matter. That, and their story isn’t finished being written yet! The current chapter is JUST ONE chapter in a much larger – yet to be completed – book.

If you made it this far in reading this blog post, know that you have my gratitude. If you are hurting and not sure what your purpose in life is or where to find your identity, hold on. You’re still there. You’re still you. Don’t give up. YOUR life matters. Your hopes and dreams matter. Your story isn’t finished. Don’t give up! If you are hurting, or just want to chat, please don’t hesitate to seek help. Know, also, that I’m happy to talk it out if you’d like to post below or send me a message via my “contact me” page. I am grateful to not do life alone, and would be honored to walk alongside you in your journey as well!

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4 responses »

  1. thank you for this heartfelt reflection on the crazy emotionally impossible last year or so!! We are praying for all of you, and as you know, we are here for your family, no matter what!!

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