what ambition and anxiety taught me about self-care

On a chilly day in 2018, I walked out of the hospital and took a deep breath. I hadn’t zipped up my coat or wrapped my scarf around my neck before stepping out into the winter air, so eager I was to get out of that building and on with my day. I squinted at the sun as a cold breeze slid up my sweater and around my neck, feeling like life itself awakening me, inviting me back. Relief coursed through my body as I inhaled and exhaled with more hope than I’d been able to muster in months.

Walking into the hospital, I was prayed up and confident. But after being called back into the mammogram room three times for more photos, my courage wavered. After watching several women come in after me and leave before me without complications, I sat waiting for an ultrasound and possibly more tests, wondering what they saw and how to feel.

I wondered if I’d made myself sick with all my dreading and worrying. When you know that your thoughts create your life, and you also know that you’re thinking about awful things most of the time, you worry about what you’re attracting.

Pondering all the possible outcomes, I braced up. There were only two choices: love or fear. I thought, whatever they tell me, I’ll be brave, I’ll have faith, I’ll choose love.

A week before, after discovering a sore, dense area in my right breast, I set up an appointment with my primary care doctor. She examined me then scheduled a mammogram for a week out. I counted down the days with affirmations: I am brave. I am healthy. I am strong. But I was also shaken.

I tried to put the whole thing out of my mind and focus on each moment, each task in front of me. Each step, each conversation, each meal, each kiss, each hug, every small act, every tiny beautiful thing felt big and generous and I was thankful to be alive. For that week, I lived like each day was sacred, too sacred to spend in the labyrinth of anxiety and depression I’d been lost in for the last couple years.

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photo credit: frank mckenna on Unsplash

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