I wrote this blog a little over two years. I was all "I'm gonna be brave" and "I'm going to be vulnerable" and "I'm going to let people in on the real Krista"...and then I got scared. I didn't post this blog because I was not ready to be so candid and the thought of posting it made me sick to my stomach. I've always been a private person. Sure, I write songs that are personal but singing and talking are two very different things for me. Plus, a song can be taken a lot of different ways. You never really know what a song is about unless you ask the songwriter. Anyway, I've decided to be brave today. I turned 40 this year and I am going to mark this off my bucket list: BE HONEST & BRAVE (check).
Life is so unpredictable. The first time I truly experienced life's curve ball was when my brother Corey passed away. Life has never been quite the same since I got that 3am phone call. As anyone who has suffered a major loss knows, life eventually goes on, not in the same way but after so many years you have your new normal. I find myself very lucky to have had music to delve into, it held me up when I wanted to stay down, it greatly helped me connect to my brother's spirit and to face my own grief. Though pain dulls with time, it never fully leaves. I can compare it to my piriformis syndrome, most days I can walk just fine but every now and then I limp or stumble when something aggravates it. So, that was my first real hard, gut wrenching curve ball.
My second curve ball was after I had my beautiful daughter Grace. The three weeks following Grace's debut in my world were blissful. I remember feeling overwhelmed with joy and love...oh my goodness, the love. I had never felt love like that. It was all encompassing, truly unconditional, tangible, comforting love. Three weeks later exhaustion set it. The compulsion to make sure she was breathing every five minutes instead of getting the rest I so needed took over and there was no turning back. I worried constantly. I could not sleep, no matter how hard I tried, I slowly declined. I was riddled with anxiety although I hadn't a clue that's what I was feeling at the time. I was nauseated 24/7, I felt scared and alone. It wasn't the kind of fear I'd felt in the past like times when I'd opened a show for a national artist or like the fear I'd feel going to get a hair cut (yes, bad haircuts scare me! Don't judge). It was the kind of fear you would feel if you were certain your baby was going to stop breathing and you were incapable of stopping it. My hormones were certainly playing tricks on me. Later I would come to find out I was suffering with post partum anxiety.
I had never felt anxiety on that level. I mean sure, I would get a little nervous here and there before I took to the stage but not always. My brother had bad anxiety. I never really understood it until I felt it myself. I was diagnosed with PPA and PPOCD. I went on zoloft for four months. I was obsessed with cleaning and keeping things perfect because everything felt out of control even though it wasn't. I was obsessed with something happening to Grace. I thought I was incapable of taking care of her even though I desperately wanted to. I was afraid to be alone with her and not for the fear of hurting her but for the FEAR period. That is what anxiety does, it paralyses you and tells you "You can't". Oddly enough, I did not have trouble bonding as I still felt the intense love for her. My family rallied. They came and helped with Grace and got me the help I needed. My PPA/PPOCD eventually became a thing of the past and I was so grateful. I'm still a bit of a neat freak though ; ) That might just be all the Virgo in my astrology chart!
Fast forward to 2017. Curve ball #3 My mother in law had a massive heart attack a few days after Christmas. She was in an induced coma as they tried to figure out what state her heart was in. It was bad. Seeing Steve in that kind of pain was really hard. She had emergency bypass and valve replacement surgery. We were warned that she may not have the same brain functionality when she woke up but we would have to wait and see. Talk about torture. Waiting is always the hardest part but seeing her in ICU with a breathing tube, hooked up to a million monitors was devastating. My mother in law is a strong woman and miraculously made it through that trauma. With much time, she healed. Around the same time, I was experiencing chest pains and dismissed them as sympathy pains.
Curve ball #4 I later came to find after months of dealing with breathing difficulties and chest pain that I had pulled my diaphraghm. Say what?!! I had suffered a great deal of anxiety until that point being put through a d-dimer test and others to try to diagnose the chest pain. And I was even told the pain was from my anxiety. Um, no, it was the other way around. You rely heavily on your diaphraghm to support your breath when singing. It was a hard blow. I sang to my daughter Every. Single. Night and I'm being told I cannot sing, I cannot exercise and that I can only walk slowly, VERY slowly. I was told it would take months (6-12) to fully recover. WTF. My diagnosis came on March 17, 2017 in the ER and I still struggle here and there but I'm mostly recovered. A slew of other things went down that year. By the end of July I was feeling tired, the kind of heavy, tired you feel in your bones. I didn't recognize myself. I felt my sense of humor and personality were far from me. I didn't have any interest in playing music, reading or even hanging at the pool with Grace (I took her anyway but I was not enjoying it the way I had previous summers). I couldn't really understand it, maybe I had lyme disease or epstein bar. It felt very physical. My husband suggested I was depressed. Depressed!!?? What? That's crazy. No, I am not depressed I told him and myself but as the weeks went on and my daily trips to gym were not helping since I coudn't do what I had done prior to the diaphraghm pull, I succumbed to the fact that I was infact depressed.
Curve ball #5 My depression held me back from enjoying ANYTHING & EVERYTHING. I journaled every single day and I started therapy with a new therapist who I instantly clicked with. It's important to note that I had not been playing much guitar other than to teach or do music therapy and this had unfortunately been going on since I had become a mom. I mean, yes, there were times I sat down and wrote an instrumental song (no lyrics) but the amount I got to do was nothing compared to what I was doing prior to becoming a parent. I missed my voice but it didn't feel like I had one anymore. It was like my lyrical self had been completely silenced. I had zero contact with that part of myself. My therapist helped me understand that suppressing my interests and talents was not allowing me to be my best self. Holding onto creative energy and not releasing it can allow that energy to manifest into something negative (ahem, anxiety, depression). Music had been my way of not only expressing myself but dealing with stress almost my entire life. Although I had gotten used to my role as a mother and life without music, I was lost in the mix. Grace wasn't getting the best ME because I wasn't fully myself. I began to fit in playing wherever I could. By mid November I was back! The relief was a gift just in time for the holidays.
Hello curve ball # 6 There was about a month over the holidays/new year and even past that time frame of my dad being in and out of the hospital and it was serious. I was scared. I was definitely having anxiety but it was manageable because I had been collecting all the important tools I needed to combat it over the past few months. My dad made it through sepsis among other things. Yes! Things were looking up.
Curveball # 7 I had felt something bulging from my lower abdomen since the summer but was depressed and unwilling to have it looked at. By January, I had really noticed it's size had grown and it was even more visible to the eye. My husband and mom were not happy with me having waited this long to go for the v-ultrasound that was ordered in October. Yes, I waited THAT LONG. I went on January 31st for my test. The next day I got the results in the patient portal. It was a large fibroid tumor on the subserosal part of my uterus. I had every symptom you can have but was living with them so long I didn't know they were related to the tumor. My pelvis was full and my stomach was bloated. I thought I was just gaining weight. I even thought I had IBS at one point. Nope. And OMG the back pain. I had pulled my quadratus lumborum October 23rd but this tumor was most certainly exacerbating the injury. My doctor referred me to my gynecologist. She explained that it was sitting on top of my uterus and that it was massive (the size of my uterus) and responsible for the pain I'd been living with. Those frequent bathroom trips made sense now! My uterus was putting pressure on my bladder because the tumor was putting pressure on my uterus. Due to the placement and size, it would have to be cut out. I was in shock because prior to that appt I had read up on these types of benign tumors and I was expecting laser surgery or something less invasive. I would basically be having a C section with a 4-6 week recovery. I was okay with that because even though it was really going to suck, it would have sucked more had it been malignant. I couldn't help but know why I instinctively waited to go for that ultrasound. Going through a major surgery while in the throws of depression could have really been a recipe for disaster. I was strong and back on my feet. I was happy and ready to face this challenge. That's not to say I was not nervous about the pain and being put under but I could handle it. And I had the support of my family and friends, what more could one ask for? I was feeling really grateful for my life, for my daughter, for my music (I had recently started jamming with friends and I was feeling inspired, kind of gitty). The surgery was a success but the tumor ended up being twice the size of my uterus with one of my fallopian tubes going right through it. The tube had to be taken out in order to have the tumor removed.
Curve ball #8 and quite possibly the scariest curve ball. Later that evening after the surgery I suffered a PSVT episode. Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia. I felt nauseated. My left arm started hurting and my arm and hand started tingling. The tingling then went to my right arm, then my feet, legs, torso, chin, lips...it was travelling up my face. I couldn't lift my arm and it felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I felt completely panicked. I heard some code said over the loudspeaker and realized it was for me. They rushed my dad and Maria who were visiting at the time out of the room. The room filled with doctors and nurses. I started praying outloud, I was having a hard time catching my breath. I looked into the eyes of a nurse who was trying to start an IV and told her "Please, I have a 4 year old whom I love very much". They brought in a heart monitor and everyone was rushing around. I heard beeping and the looks on the nurses faces were the scariest expressions I'd seen. I'll never forget their faces. I heard someone say bring in the crash cart and I knew it was serious. I could feel it was serious but those words validated what I felt. One doctor started asking me if I had taken any blood thinners. I said no. He told me they had to make sure I wasn't having a heart attack because they would have to take me upstairs. They opened the front of my gown and quickly stuck me with EKG stickers...this was all happening very fast. I felt like I was in an episode of Grey's Anatomy. I heard the main doctor say heart rate 175, almost maximum heart rate, he instructed one of the nurses to administer a bag of this medicine. "This is going to make you feel strange" she said. More nurses came in. Whatever they gave me didn't do what it was supposed to. I focused on my yoga/meditation breathing and stared at the tv. I have no idea what I was looking at, I just knew I couldn't look at them because despite them telling me to try to stay calm and "we got this, you're going to see your daughter", their faces were serious and they looked scared. I didn't know what was happening either, only that my heart rate was almost maxed. A nurse told me my husband was there outside the room. I did not want to put him through a loss and most certainly did not want my parents to suffer another loss of a child. I was focused on my breathing and Grace and all the things I still wanted to do...like write a song. I felt Corey in the room. I mean I REALLY felt him. The doctor said something about a flat line on the EKG. That was confusing b/c I was very much awake. They quickly administered another bag of medicine through the IV and slowly symptoms started to subside. I would later be told that medicine stops your heart so they can bring it back to a slower heart rate. They cheered. Someone said heart rate is stable at 120 (Corey's birthday is 1/20). The nurse said something about her 27 years of being a nurse in regards to this situation (Corey passed 2/27).
They let my dad, Maria and Steve come in the room. They were shaken and crying. They took me to ICU to monitor my heart and started me on beta blockers. I was told that the stress on my body from the surgery most likely prompted the episode. Fast forward through all the heart tests and the rest of my hospital stay, I am home and well. I'm off the beta blocker and my heart rate has been good. There was no serious harm done to my heart and for that I am grateful. I have PSVT and will have to follow up with cardiology once I'm recovered from this surgery for stress tests. Could all the anxiety I had dealt with in the past been the PSVT? Anxiety always felt like a racing feeling inside. You have increased heart rate with anxiety but you also have increased (on different levels) HR with PSVT and that can mimic anxiety or panic attacks. I don't know but I do know that I will treasure every single day, every single person I love and as soon as I am able, I will be back to my music.
You never know when a curve ball is coming your way. That's why they're called curve balls! Never leave anything unsaid, be brave and stand in your truth. But most of all, be grateful because every day is truly a gift. Thank you to my friends and family. I could not get through anything without your unconditional love. I am blessed.