I was planning on writing about my garden today. I walked out at 7am to take pictures illustrating that my cucumbers are already past their prime and how my green beans are better than ever.
Those things can wait.
When I opened my blog dashboard this morning my heart sank. I regularly get emails and comments from readers who are also dealing with cervical dysplasia and hpv and the anxiety, stress, and uncertainty that surrounds this issue.
This morning there were more than usual.
Every time that another woman reaches out to me asking for comfort or advice or just sharing their story I feel overwhelmed with sadness for them, I can literally feel their stress. I honestly also feel a little taken a back by the responsibility of being a voice for this issue.
Don’t get me wrong, I am only grateful that I have chosen to publicly share my experience and that so many women have felt safe enough to reach out to me through the blog and share their experiences as well. I get sad that I can’t reach through the screen and give each of them a huge hug! I don’t always know how to dispense the wisdom (or if I even have any) or comfort or grounding that I want to send out to each of them (you!).
The best that I can do is to continue to share my path and story.
Here are 10, quite unoriginal but truly helpful, things that I utilize to get my breath back, my feet down on the ground, and my heart beating slow and steady when cervical dysplasia starts to take over my world.
1. i take a walk. walking helps jolt me out of my head and back into my body. it reminds me to look around and see my surroundings. it gets my endorphin’s pumping.
2. i read a poem. particularly by Hafiz. I have several books of his work and I can open any page and find at least one line to ground and calm me.
3. i text/call a friend. sometimes they don’t answer. it’s ok. the act of reaching out often helps bring me back down to earth when stress starts to pull my feet out from under me.
4. i cry. it’s sometimes just the release necessary and not always a sad, tragic thing to shed some tears.
5. i meditate. i am the first to admit, I suck at meditating. it’s really hard. reeeeeeaaallly hard. but focusing on breathing and, well, focusing on focusing can help bring me out of a dark place and remind me of all the blessings in life.
6. i watch tv. sometimes mindless entertainment is exactly what I need to calm down.
7. i take a nap. hugs help too.
8. i research “alternative treatment” options then make an appointment for acupuncture or buy some herbs or supplements or make a list of foods with stress reducing/cancer preventing/happiness-promoting qualities and post it on the fridge as a reminder. redirecting my anxiety and stress and feelings of helplessness or anger this way really helps me find some self-empowerment and helps me see the big picture.
9. i remind myself that stress is about the worst possible thing for my immune system and then choose whatever option between numbers 1-8 is the best thing to reduce stress in that moment.
10. i remember that no one thing defines me. so much of my life and my world is healthy and happy. parts of it aren’t but they are just that; parts. i do allow myself to get wrapped up and overwhelmed with the possibility that i will have to have more surgeries to remove the dysplasia, that i will get cancer, that it will spread, that i will have to have a hysterectomy, that i won’t be able to get pregnant, that i won’t be able to have a healthy pregnancy, and on and on*.
then i pull my head out of my ass and practice gratitude for the fact that i DON’T have cancer, that my friends and family are also relatively healthy, and that i have a blessed and beautiful life.
I mean no disrespect with the last sentence, this stress is real and intense and when something is happening to you it can be challenging to not feel like it’s ginormous and insurmountable.
However, for me the best thing I’ve done for my physical and mental health is to attempt to not let this issue define me and not let it seep into all aspects of my life. This is still a challenge that I face everyday but it has gotten easier as the initial shock has started to wear off.
I strongly encourage you to find methods to cope with the stress, fear, and anxiety that come up with this issue. Please seek help. Talk to a friend, a therapist, a family member. We all have resources available, we just have to know how to tap into them and how to ask for help. There are sites for therapy online if you don’t feel like you have someone to talk to about this in person. One that I’ve seen but haven’t tried is BetterHelp. Writing a simple list, perhaps similar to mine above, can also be a helpful reference when stress starts to get the better of you. We are not alone in this. Sending each of you a huge hug.
*Most cases of cervical dysplasia clear up on their own. Having cervical dysplasia or even a (or multiple) surgeries to remove it does not necessarily effect child bearing. Having cervical dysplasia does not mean that you will get cancer, there is certainly a higher risk but it is in no way a given.