LONG POST ALERT. May be accompanied by tiny violin noises. Also, it has not been proofread because I, too, like to live dangerously. #richiecunningham
So, I got a kidney stone. Today we did the whole surgery thing. I’ve had some form of pain in my back since June 2022. Part of this is aging (classic). Part of this is hyper-mobility leading me to be a bendy, “Gumby” like yogi but can be harsh on tendons, and the spine when done in excess. As we know from Ayurveda, anything in excess is poison.
So, how did a healthy woman like me get a kidney stone? Best guess doctors had, before today, was an excess of vitamins taken during the pandemic. My spiritual sense new better; this was just part of the story of Mick Jagger (what I named my stone).
I’ve held fear inside my body, without expressing it, for a long time. Fear of not being good enough, fear of being judged as a straight-passing bisexual woman in communities where that is not accepted, or even acknowledged as real (bi-erasure). Fear that men I’ve loved will leave because of this or simply because I am not good enough to stick around for. Fear that I will be discarded, left, all because I wasn’t good enough to fight for, to raise, or to love. I’ve held all of those fears in my heart since the time I was a little girl. This year, before I knew about the kidney stone, I started reconnecting with those fears in a new way.
After nearly a decade of active participation in therapy and sobriety and talking about my feelings, last December I decided to stop going to cognitive behavioral therapy after a breakup rocked my world. In that relationship, I was afraid. I was afraid of his instability. I was afraid, every day, of being left once I attached emotionally to him. I was afraid that his family wouldn’t like me. Afraid that if he didn’t want to be intimate all the time, there was something lacking or insufficient about me as a partner. I was nervous and, let’s call it anxious, all the time. You could call my emotions codependent, absolutely, but I’ve learned over a lifetime to keep my emotions in check. My behavior wasn’t that different to when I was more secure in the relationship, in the beginning. I struggled with immense fear, in silence, and alone, just as I had done when I was a little girl and my pea-brain decided that I had to be “the brave one” all the time in order to receive love and care. This belief was never true, but it got lodged into my heart and soul, and has stuck around until recently. When we broke up, which logically was mutual but emotionally felt more like I had gotten dumped, I was super sad for a while. But, I was weirdly calm. I was able to get out of “fight or flight” and come back to my nervous system. My sleep and Digestion improved. I wasn’t having mood swings anymore, even though I was having a temporary depression. It felt like what I’d imagine postpartum could feel like. After spending months and months with different hormones coursing through your veins to the nth degree, then having a crash and a loss of those neurotransmitters, I was depleted on a heart and soul level. I didn’t want to talk to any of my friends, but I also communicated that I needed loving space and I’d return from hibernation when I was ready. The friends that have done their own inner work understood, held space for me at a distance, and understood that I was on the bench for a while. Hell, I was on the “Injured” list with no return to play date in sight. And so, I spent about 4 months being quiet, teaching yoga, not talking about my problems for ONCE and instead, feeling the depth of my feelings. No anesthetics, no avoidance. Just sitting in the fertile shit of my existential fatigue. No mud, no lotus.
Over the summer of 2022, when the physical pain started, I began to communicate more again. This time with words. I learned to say “I have pain,” and not feel entitled or guilty or ashamed about it. I did have pain, physical pain, which was easy to communicate because I needed the help of trained professionals. Fast forward several months, lots of pain and trips to the doctors getting poked and prodded, and we learned that not only did I have an 11 millimeter kidney stone (I know, quit bragging!), but I also had a bulging disk (where my L4-L5s at!?) and, for the kicker, low amounts of bone marrow!! Spell it out with me: W-T-F.
My fear skyrocketed. Do I have cancer? They didn’t know. Let’s check it. Nope, you’re good.
Do I need surgery on my spine? Not sure, let’s check it. Nope, just lay off the wheel poses and intense postures/weights for a while. Okay, easy enough.
How bought this kidney stone? Will it go away on it’s own? Nope, we checked. Let’s put you under and blast the shit out of it with a laser. Okay, sounds good enough!
The weeks leading up to the surgery were scary. My mind was racing and I could not meditate my way through to peace. I had moments of faith and clarity, sure, but they were intermittent at best and fleeting at worst. Today, when the roller coaster of emotion was taking me up to the scariest, highest, most ungrounded place, I revisited another fear stored in my body: being unconscious while a man had access to my most private physical and spiritual parts. Cue the drop of the roller coaster, I was a mess.
This surgery, this procedure, this fucking season has forced me to address my feelings in a way talk therapy never did. Preparing for the surgery was scary because I didn’t know what to expect, but also because it would be the first time in my sobriety that I’d be fully unconscious in the hands of a stranger. The last time this had happened, and the time before that, and the time before that, was very hurtful to my heart and soul. It had been partially my fault, as during my years of active alcohol abuse I self-abandoned and left myself vulnerable, exposed to the danger that ensued. “Was this different than the last time?” My worried mind asked. “Of course,” my rational mind responded. But PTSD does not work on your rational mind. It works on your little reptile brain and I wanted to cut and run out of that hospital. But I stayed, I breathed, I got some “sobriety approved” hospital drugs and surrendered fully to the experience. Apparently when I woke up, the anesthesiologist asked me how I was feeling. With a sly grin I gave him a thumbs up and responded, “Valium :)”
The best part? They couldn’t even remove my kidney stone today. LO-FUCKING-L. Apparently, when I was a little fetus in my mama’s uterus, my left kidney developed a blockage in one of the “chambers.” Imagine there’s 4 roads that lead to the same place, only one of them has been closed, like, forever. Apparently this little rock of calcium has been building up in there my whole goddamn life, and I may very well take it with me when I go meet Creator after this human body of mine kicks the bucket. But, I don’t think it’s any coincidence at all that the same year we discovered this stone was the same year I discovered how much unaddressed, un-admitted fear had been running my life. I shared these fears out loud, with friends, and felt seen and heard in a way I hadn’t let myself be seen or heard before. Always trying to present as “okay” because I wasn’t ready to admit how much fear energy had ruled my life and my decision making. I’m grateful, truly, for this whole fucking experience because it’s given me the freedom to admit to others, in sobriety, that sometimes I am powerless over my own fear. It’s helped me reconnect to the scared little girl who felt she had to protect her single mother at night and had nightmares for 6 years straight, every night, that we were going to be hurt because we didn’t have a big strong man living with us. It’s why in the past I’ve been attracted to big, strong men that give me the illusion of safety but inevitably reinforce the beliefs I already hold to be true which is that I will be left. It’s why, I think, I’ve grown a stone the size of a bullet in the place where some alternative medicine practitioners claim holds all your life force energy. It’s okay that I was afraid, that’s a normal part of life. It was the denial of this fear, the disassociation of my heart and my body, that I believe caused me to manifest a physical symptom like this. And, even though I will live with it until it causes unnecessary problems in my urinary tract (should I put that in my Bumble bio?), I know it’s there. And it’s been there forever. Just like my little stone, my inner little girl has been scared for a long time. And this was the first year of my existence I’ve ever admitted that out loud. Because I’m a proud #leorising. Because I’m an adult child of alcoholic, dysfunctional, codependent families. Because I’m a sensitive little soul in a world that hurts REAL BAD if you’ve been sexually assaulted or abandoned or whatever. But, we survive. We get through it. And we have the scars, stones, and (by the grace of my god, love) the sobriety to move through it and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
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