It’s been a long couple of weeks around here. Who am I kidding, it’s been a long year. 2015 has pretty much overstayed its welcome and I’m ready to move head first into a fresh start with 2016. Yes, I realize we haven’t even had Halloween yet, but a girl can dream, no? I guess I should back up a little…

Back in 2007 I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor, a cavernous angioma. It is about the size of a foosball and sits on my right pons. If you are unfamiliar with your pons, your cranial nerves gather there at the base of your brain, where the stem is. Back in 2007 when this sucker decided to make itself know, I was one sick momma. The entire right side of my face went numb, not in a Bells Palsy sort of way, in a novocain wearing off from a terrible trip to a maniacal dentist kinda’ way. I suffered from extreme vertigo, threw up a lot, lost a lot of weight I have no business losing and basically felt like I had the world’s worst hangover for months – the better part of 6 months. Luckily I was able to find myself in the office of one of the world’s best neurosurgeons, Dr. F. Dr. F invented lasers to get in your brain and remove tumors. These lasers limit the amount of brain tissue that needs to be cut. He’s pretty genius. We decided to give stress management a try before slicing and dicing my brain parts. My type of tumor is vascular in nature – imagine an egg, the errant blood vessels gather inside this little sac, like the egg white. When my stress gets bad, my blood pressure goes up and it bleeds into that little sac…which in turn presses on those cranial nerves I mentioned before. (PS – cavernous angiomas are congenital – so I’ve had that thing in my brain my whole life…and many people have these little sacs of goodness in their body, it’s just rare for them to bleed) Controlling my stress keeps the numbness and puking away. I impressed my doc with my ability to manage my tumor so we’ve left the little sucker alone. Even the slightest risk of permanent vertigo is too great of a risk for me. I’ll deal with the ringing in my ears and the occasional caterpillar on my face (that what it feels like sometimes, like a hairy caterpillar climbing out of my right nostril…so if you see me wiping, I’m not germy, it’s the caterpillars tingling).

How did I learn to manage my stress, you may ask. Well, I had to learn to tell people no. Once my people pleaser brain managed that…I had to learn how to tell people no, without feeling guilty. Now that took some learning! Then I had to learn to meditate. Yes, I realize that sounds hokey but it worked for me. It’s remarkable hard to learn how to shut your brain off for a little while. I’m a worrier, it’s in my DNA. On top of that, I have an excellent imagination – very colorful and full of tangents just waiting to spin up! Learning to take control of my situation and simply taking time for myself was a task I took on like it was my job. Well, it was my job, getting better to avoid brain surgery is not something to trifle with.

It seems I’ve gotten a little too comfortable in my skin lately and I’ve forgotten to take care of myself. A recent unsettling situation left me reeling and distressed. So now that I have the situation sorted, and the puking has stopped, it’s time to get my caterpillars in check. Back to mediation for this girl. I recently downloaded an app called Breathe – I think it was designed for youngish students but hey, it seems to be working so I’m sticking with it. 45 is the new 20? Whatever. It basically walks you through the mediation process – a nice soothing voice guides you for 6-10 minutes and then you get a gold star at the end. Ok, so it’s more of a potted plant starting to grow, not a gold star, but it feels like a gold star! I started using it Saturday and I can honestly say, I can tell a difference already. It’s amazing what stress can do, the toil it takes on your body, and your spirit. This stress has been brewing for a year now and my realistic brain knows it’s not just going to go away because I tell it to. My meditating brain knows that since I’m doing all I can to manage it on the outside, I can at least control how I manage it on my inside. Learning to shut my worrying off, even for a little bit, is how I take control. Actually, I guess I shouldn’t say “learning” as I already know what to do, remembering to do it is where I’m at now. Please don’t think this is some sort of debilitating thing for me, it’s not. I was sick enough back in 2007 to know I never want to feel like that again, ever. I just lost my focus for a while, focus is back now.

The question I’ll leave you with is twofold. Are you a worrier? I wasn’t until the kids came along, then bam! c-section scars and worrying, welcome to adulthood! If you are a worrier, how do you manage it, or does it manage you?