Dear Lady Gaga,

You are one kick ass strong woman. I really appreciate you. I really do. 

I am no you, but we do share something in common. We share the same words. 

I am using your words often. Just for me. Just to validate and explain some things that I couldn’t before. 

I thank you. And I couldn’t have asked for a better person to supply them as your words often come in the form of lyrics. I like lyrics, they come with a beat to march to. I am so lucky to able to use your words to help explain the inexplicable to myself and others.

I was looking for these words. At times I thought I had them, but didn’t. It has been a source of frustration and more sadness to not be able to describe it, because then I can’t read it. I can’t understand it without reading it. I need it in words. 

So when you feel something inexplicable, that’s a tough spot. Really tough to communicate. To be able to talk to someone about it without sounding crazy. And just talking about it can be weird as you have so much to be THANKFUL FOR!

There were some words that really resonated and allowed me to breath a bit deeper. Like the guilt about even complaining. How can you complain with all of your fortune that you feel captive in your body? I have such guilt about this. How can I complain? I am one of the lucky ones, my child and husband came home from the hospital. 

And how it doesn’t get better. I did just like you said. I gave myself a “week.” I gave myself a week off from work to get better and when it didn’t, I was so upset and got worse. 

You were so brave to do what you have done. No one put a gun to your head and said you need to talk to the world about these things.  I also applaud Oprah and Prince Harry as well. To speak openly about mental health is hard. And I know the backlash. When I spoke openly about Jacob’s cancer my friends patted me on the back, but the time I spoke about Benno’s anxiety disorder, I was immediately the cause of concern that I was hurting Benno. 

You did not need to go on that show and I don’t need to publish. 

But you went on that show (whether you know it or not) to help someone like me. It truly has helped. I have listened to your words several times now. They help me. 

And maybe I do that too. 

Not maybe. Definitely. 

No lady am I, but to give someone the hope you gave me- would be the best gift I could give. 

And sharing helps us heals. That was a theme from the entire episode. And when I look back at my own breadcrumbs, it’s true! I see that helping helps. 

So lady, Thank you.

For those looking to watch: Apple TV: “The me you can’t see”

Why do you do this?

Why do you do this?

My mother in her kind way asks. Why do you want all these people to know your private business?

Why do you do this?

My friends prod in a supportive way.  We just worry about what others may think.

Why do you do this?

My work colleagues ask in a concerned way. This can hurt us.

And it’s a fair question.

Why the hell do I do this? 

And my answers back never quite suffice. As how can I explain something I don’t quite understand ?

Why do I do this? 

I ask myself.

One thing I have always understood is I write it to read.

The reading is the important part. And recently I have been more thankful than ever. Real  breadcrumbs I can go back to. Real lessons of things that for some reason I can’t remember without very accurate reporting and details. And it helps. Sometimes to just remember that I survived it. That in the darkest hour I am now looking back on it and reading it. Just like a story.

And that’s when it dawned on me. 

Exactly like reading a book. 

I get to read this character’s story. I get to observe her state. I get to objectively look at something that is anything but objective. It is the only way I survive. Making it a story. And when I read it feels less scary and truly noble. 

A real journey of discovery. Of lessons.  

But why publish?

Why publish?

The fair rebuttal by all, including my voice

Surely I can read a doc on my computer and read it without publishing it. However, I do like the “database” like structure I can see/ search my writing in wordpress.

But still. Probably not the greatest argument.There are search functions on many things include google docs.

So why?

There were reasons.

And then someone said the words for me. And I am so thankful of that. So thankful that it hits me in my core. Forever in her debt. Not because I can communicate the reason to others, but because I feel so much better.

Woke up feeling so much better.

One person did that.

Just one little lady:)

Breadcrumbs

The mornings are the worst. 

Truly the worst.

I wake up and my body is so tight I fear my ligaments will pop if I stand. In those first moments walking feels like a scary endeavor. Each step full of tension as my arms radiate with tension and my breath feels so shallow. Stairs look like mountains and sun rays feels like a weight beating down on me.

My mind is here. Fully aware that I am safe. I’m not running from a lion, the room is not on fire, nor am I waiting to hear if my son survived surgery. But it’s hard not to give in to my body that is saying the world is at war and I’m in the middle of the battlefield in my pajamas. So I close my eyes and cry. 

I thought I was getting better. I really did. I’ve had some moments recently that I will write about to remember. But this morning was especially hard. Especially defeating. Especially painful. When does it get better? When does it go away? 

I feel captive in my own body.

But lucky for me I left some breadcrumbs for this moment. 

I left one here

I even left myself a big chunk of bread here.

And I am thankful for these breadcrumbs. These little pieces I left to remember. The writings remind me that this will end, because I’ve done this before. I read them over and over. It’s crazy how fast I forget. The minute it went away last time I ran back into life with vengeance. Ran into it with open arms ready to make up lost time. And left that PTSD behind. Even when Steve reminds me- this has happened before and it ended, it will end again. I don’t believe him. His words don’t help.

Only mine do.

I left myself breadcrumbs. There is the proof. My own writing. My own voice. I am so thankful for them. 

I have been here before. I also have done the research to understand the WHY. Thanks past self, this is helpful.

I am FINE jewelry

FINE JEWELRY- A category of jewelry that is “fine.”

Previously I assumed that meant expensive, from only the finest metals and stones. Honestly, a category of jewelry that I had no interest in. Flair isn’t about materials, it is about stories.  I have yet to find a necklace behind glass that has a story. A story that reminds me of an adventure or a friend. So such fine things don’t interest me. I am not an owner of fine jewelry.

But I had it all wrong.

Turns out the “fine” in Jewelry means something different. More of a validation of being “fine.”

I got surprised with something fine.

I am wearing my “I am fine” jewelry for the rest of my life.

Even as it turns my neck blue I will find a place for it. And I thank you Benno. I do. With your 10th birthday money you bought a best friend necklace and decided to give half of it to me. It made me smile. It even got me out of bed. You broke the riptide that kept me at sea. The pebble made it to the beach.

And today is the first day I feel a bit normal. I didn’t wake up with an intense sadness with tears in my eyes. I woke up with anxiety, but the sadness nor high level of anxiety was not there. It was such a relief. 

And I went into town with my boys. I heard the “Ms. Levin” and turned. It was a former student who I taught first grade to. He is now an investment banker. Yep. I’m old. He didn’t think I would recognize him. But I did. Even after all these years. And he told me he saw me on a podcast and how proud he was to tell his friends about his teacher who is helping to change the world. How he wish he could go to college again with MYX.

I introduced him to my children. I told him how he was once their age and used to cry at kickball when he lost. And I cluted my fine jewelry and felt loved. And remembered my purpose.

And instead of beating myself up for my inability to function this last week. I looked at this young man and felt immensely proud. I remember when he lost those kickball games.I remember when he lost his mother in 7th grade from cancer. I remember. But look at him now. I introduced myself to his girlfriend. I took it all in. I had something to do with that. I had something to do with his success. I did that.

Tomorrow I get back to work, but not in the same way. 

I vow to take time to connect my fine jewelry heart with its other side. I vow to be more present to my children. I vow to be more patient with myself. 

I will own my diagnosis. 

I suffer from PTSD.

I will not apologize for this.

And I will be FINE.

The secret? Get higher

Apologies for rapid fire of posts…last one was written yesterday, but one thing I’ve learned is to document the GOOD as much as the BAD.

————————————-


Feeling better.

The secret? perspective. A different one.

One that is  higher.

One that allows you fo float. Above it all. Only there could I see the beauty, only there I can understand what is happening to me. 

I just had to get higher.

Up Up Up.

Today was an adventure. I went into the city to start a new type of PTSD therapy. This one involves getting high. Ketamine to be exact. Straight up.

I sat in the office as I took the drug. They took my vitals. They had me walk one foot in front of another. I, of course, aced all these games. Getting high is something I excel at. This I can do. Want me to receite the alphabet backwards? You name. I can do it. Doubtful that there is a high that I have not tried. Doubtful that there would be any change. Pretty sure that whatever they give normal people I would require double.

And I was disappointed.

The result? Sad and high. That wasn’t the relief I prayed for. Now I can cry and be depressed while feeling loopy, great. Thanks doc.

But I was told to wait, it will take a few hours.

And a few hours after I found myself on a helicopter. Steve surprised me in my depression with the gift of not sitting in traffic for 3 hours to get home to my children while high on drugs.

So I got to go even higher.

Up in the sky. And as we got higher, I got calmer. All of a sudden breathing felt easier.

And I could see it all. The buildings, the trees, higher and higher. And I saw myself. My PTSD is not out of no where. Nope my body is keeping score.

 I had a cancer scare a few weeks ago. They “found something.” And when I was told after 2 monograms that they would need to do a biospy. I had ZERO reaction. ZERO. My only question was “is this time sensitive? I have a lot of work things coming up.”  

I was not nervous. I did not cry. I had zero fears about it.  Steve was nervous. He was nervous that I wasn’t nervous.  But I wasn’t. I swear. Not for one second. I saw others get nervous. But I was calm. Why should we worry about something we can’t control? If it’s cancer, we will deal with it. I was impressed with myself. I had achieved some state of nirvana. I was unflappable.

 I walked into the biopsy and asked if I can work during it? And that I did. I read an article on depression in Gen Z while getting my biopsy.

And it turned out to be nothing. I left that biospy and went straight back to work. Steve was relieved, my family relieved, and I felt so smart- see all that worrying didn’t help you. I am way ahead of you all.

I was totally in control.

until I wasn’t.

Until the blue wave came and swept me up. While in the wave, you can’t see which way is up. Just a whirl of water. It felt like it just kidnapped me. It felt out of the blue.

But up high those waves felt small. Like little hills. And they didn’t sweep the pebble, but the pebble went for a ride.

Maybe the pebble took some ketamine too.

Thankful for the height.

Thankful for the perspective, one that is a bit brighter.

Will report back soon on this therapy cancer moms out there. I will be your guinea pig.

But so far…I’m out of bed.

June Blues

So blue they are. 

And like a wave they just crash.

And it hurts.

It’s not the crashing that hurts. No. That is the best part. That is the part you feel. It pounds down hard. If anything you walk right into that part. Feeling every bit of the cold water. That part reminds you you’re alive.

It’s the undertow that gets you.

Being that pebble that finally made it to the beach to only be dragged back under and swallowed by the sediment that was stirred. Gone. Taken. Ripped away. The light of the beach is now dark.

Never to know when you will be lucky enough to make it up again. 

And the craziest part is I’m not even at the beach.

Nope.

Just right here in this bed. 

But it pulls all the same. As if these sheets have a force.

A riptide.

It’s June again.

This was once my favorite month. School celebrations. Warm weather. And for many years the beginning of a much needed teacher vacation.

But the last three Junes have not been such. 

2 years ago in June I was told my son had cancer everywhere and his survival was anything but certain. 

Then a year later in June I was diagnosed with PTSD. Out of no where I was crippled with anxiety and depression. It was “understandable” (as I’ve been told) after the years I had been through.  At that point we had finally gotten Jacob out of the hospital, to only be embraced by Covid to pull him (and me) right back into isolation.

It was a lot. And PTSD it was called.

But this June had promise to be different. How could it not?  There seems to be light out there. There is reason to celebrate. Jacob would go to camp! I am back living my purpose, helping others find theirs. Yes-Cancer mom was able to create a future for higher education to help millions. 

But yet here I am, in bed.

I woke up the other night to find myself crying in my sleep. That was a first. It was the strangest feeling. I wasn’t quite sure how to stop crying or what I was even crying about. I was for sure not in control. My body felt like it was its own being. I looked at Steve sleeping in bed and even forced myself out of bed to look at Jacob sleeping in his, but while my eyes saw 2 healthy humans, my body cried as if they were both gone. 

So for the past few days I have just closed them. No need for eyes. Even rational sights don’t register in the undertow. I may see, but I don’t feel. So I sleep. I have an uncontrollable need for never ending sleep. But to only awake to a sense of gloom and guilt.

Guilt of being a sucky mom. Did someone feed them dinner?! It’s Benno’s birthday will someone buy him a cake?

Guilt of being a sucky leader. DId I miss an email?!

And the guilt pulls me with the undertow, back to tears until I fall asleep again. 

Its June again.

Today is a big day for us

Nightwing,

I’ve been quiet. I know.

But don’t think in this absence there hasn’t been a day that you are not next to me everyday. You are my daily motivation. And today we celebrate. All of us. As it took a village to get here, the Nightwing village.

Almost 2 years ago in a hospital room alone around 4am I made a promise. If Jacob was spared, I would live every single moment count and make the change I wanted to see in the world.

Knowing that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE even when the odds are against you…I am very proud of share that together with the support of you and the MYX team, today we launch to the world an educational model that brings back value to the student.

www.themyx.com

Follow us on instagram, facebook, twitter and more @livethemyx!

Help me get the word out to students and parents. Help me share that there is a program out there designed intentionally to shape confident life ready young adults who will have the skills to conquer anything.

Including the roller coaster life can throw you.

Where you begin the real learning, the lessons only learned by experience. Life the ultimate teacher.

LEARN IT

LIVE IT

LOVE IT

With incredible gratitude,

Abby

Candyland

Today we are back in the hospital. It has been a long time (thankfully), but we are back for treatment and scans (ahhh!). 

And I’m back in my seat in the room of waiting. 

And I’m craving candy as the legendary game plays in my head.

Candyland is the most genius game of all time. A game we can all learn from and should play even as adults to remind us all of an undeniable truth, YOU NEVER KNOW. Something us planners need to heed.

Jacob summed it up so perfectly. During our last game, Jacob was squares away from victory and drew the dreaded plum card that sent him back to the beginning. “You think you are winning and then BANG back to the beginning” Jacob shouted (always shouting…no change in hearing here!). But, all said in hysterical laughter as he moved his piece to the start. 

To which I replied “and sometimes you think you are losing and then BANG you won” as I drew a double yellow and skipped to victory.

“Candyland is crazy!” Jacob said.

And I got silent. Is it really? Is it crazy? Or is it real? 

Isn’t life just as unpredictable?

Jacob set up the rematch and lined up our pieces to play again, however this time, I played a bit differently. 

First card, blue!  That lucky draw led me to the rainbow path. Just skipped ahead, score! And it felt just like my first day of work after college when the head teacher didn’t show up- immediate promotion! That was lucky and set up my career nicely. Luck definitely plays a role in your life. I’ve been lucky.

Jacob has the next exciting draw, lollipop he jumps his piece with glee. Oh joy! But only for a minute. He next card puts him back. I watch him fall behind. I see his win leave. I see my son fall. Without thinking, I state- “that is like when you got cancer.” I thought I was talking in my head, but nope, out loud it was said. 

Jacob had no issue with this statement. He agreed and then started laughing. Laughing!

“And soon I’ll draw another card and not have cancer. You never know.”

How wise you are Jacob. 

You never know, even when things look bad, you never know. BUT then I shared we do know somethings. We know how we react.  We know how we respond. We could either cry and stomp and say “It’s not fair” or laugh and enjoy the ride.

Today I’m enjoying the ride. 

I’m living in Candy Land. Literally and figuratively. I am sitting in the room of waiting and watching the ride and accepting it. And it turns out eating candy as you do it makes it all a bit sweeter. 

New Years 2021

I stopped writing.

I had to put it aside for many reasons ones I hope to one day share, but mostly because I can’t write the same. I am no longer her.

But I miss her. 

The nightwing her. 

Such a crazy thing to say. Considering that girl spent her days and nights in hospitals and was on the brink of mental breakdown daily. But I do. I miss her. She was tuned in. She had clarity about the world and her place in it. 

She had the unique opportunity to watch you all run by. 

I miss the sit.

I sat. You ran. You played life. I played the sidelines. At times you were all blurry. Moving so fast, but that allowed me to witness the colors.

I watched. I watched. I watched. I watched. For minutes, to hours, to days, to months, to over a year. 

The room where I watched even had a name: The Room of Waiting.

You may know it as the waiting room.

You’ve experienced it. We’ve all been in this room. Imagine doing that for 18 months. You get into a rhythm. You can do it in your sleep. Your body becomes one with the chair and I sat.

And watched.

And, most importantly, learned.

I walked away with a real understanding of humanity, suffering, and love. 

I was a student of life. A person searching for the ultimate WHY as only with understanding the why, could I gain control.  And all that sitting led me to one lesson:  control is only gained by embracing uncertainty. 

So I share this with you all on this upcoming holiday, my favorite holiday. Embrace uncertainty. Embrace it. 

Don’t wish for “normal” that is a foolish task. 

For example, people assume that my life has just gone back to normal. 

Life by no means is back to “pre-cancer” as there is no such thing. There will never be “back to normal” you will see.There is no AGAIN. No such thing and expectations should be checked.  You will create a new informed normal. One with the weight and the lessons of the past.  And it will be better. The weight from the past can make the present feel lighter. That it can. But it can also make you just a bit more fragile so be gentle.

So when wishing in 2021 (thank GOD), don’t throw out 2020. Embrace the lesson that 2020 gave us.

No one is in control.

Embrace the uncertainty and all will be certain.

Wishing you an uncertain 2021 with certainty that you will make it the best.

Happy New Years all!

Abby