This has been a couple of weeks of major disappointments and lessons learned. I have a whole new appreciation for “self care” now, having been given an excellent opportunity to personally choose it or not. An emergency admission to the critical care unit to rule out heart attack or stroke was not the greatest way to start out the work week. Then came the battery of tests, finding the veins and drawing what felt like quarts of blood, along with the whole “hurry up and wait” standard rule of thumb for hospital testing. I was told I had been put on “stroke protocol” which evidently meant, “See how much poking, probing, prodding and radiating you can put her through.” I mean, I’ve been an official heart patient since that day in 1996 with the whole heart attack and stent implant deal. But stroke? I mean, really? No, no, no…that is what happens to old people. That is what took my mother’s life, and I would have no part of it. Then they came at me each day with a syringe that was just under the size of a stalk of celery and injected some sort of clot busting drain cleaner directly into my stomach. On top of all this, my feet were cold, which is totally unbearable for me.

You see, I was scheduled to be part of “Take Back the Night” on Saturday. I had been planning, preparing and looking forward to the event for months. I was going to sell my book, have my own table, and be a speaker. I was so excited to have the opportunity to speak up and speak out, encouraging victims of sexual abuse and assault that there is hope and affirmation beyond some of the most traumatic experiences life can bring our way.

Even my doctor told me it should be okay for me to attend. I realized on Thursday that manning a table was out of the question, so I called the event coordinator to let her know. Then she came at me with words of reassurance, something crazy like, “Carolyn, you have to take care of yourself first. Do what is best for you. There will be other opportunities.” What part of “turning 60” does she not get? I have to cram as much life as I can into the next years. After all, my mother died at the age of 66, and time’s a’ wasting.

I was taken to the cath lab on Friday morning. The results were picture perfect. Yay, I could go home, rest and be out and about Saturday for the event. The reality of it all is that I had just about enough energy to ride in the wheelchair to the passenger pickup. Well, that was Friday, so I had practically 24 hours to become whole and back to full speed.

I woke up Saturday, thinking of getting to the event, excited the day had finally arrived and I was home, free to travel. Then I tried to crawl out of bed and began to wonder if it was possible for a fully loaded 18-wheeler to plow over me while I was sleeping? I wanted the tag number of that rig. I was crestfallen. If I did participate in the event, it would be half-capacity, at best. Then those words started coming back to me… “You have to take care of yourself.” There were so many “but’s” flying through my mind. “But, what about my designated spot? I would not be there to fill it…But, I’d be letting all those people down…But, I wanted to be a part of my sisters taking place in the event…But, I was so excited for so long and now…”

Then it hit me, I mean, I really got the point of self care. We, as victims, do not fully comprehend the importance or value of self care. You see, we just don’t think we are significant enough to deserve that sort of attention, not from anyone, much less our own self. We’ve grown exhausted trying to become invisible in order to avoid drawing attention to ourselves or our plight. So, we fail to take proper care of ourselves by not speaking out or stepping forward about the abuse or violence we have experienced. We’ve become all too familiar with putting ourselves last on the list of caring.

It suddenly sunk in. Not choosing to take care of myself was part of the victim mentality, and I am no longer a victim. I battled too long and hard to make it from victim to survivor, so I began some self talk, “There is no way I am going to lose ground now.”

There will be times and opportunities in the future for me to speak or reach out in my advocacy work on behalf of victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. But, if I choose not to take care of myself, give myself proper attention, then I may not be at the top of my game when I am needed most. That is where the actual disappointment lies, letting down myself and so many others in the future by making poor choices now.

YES! I get it. So, I called the event coordinator, and okay, blubbered like a baby as I told her I would not be able to make it. She reminded me how much the core group loves me and that there will be other doors opening, not to mention this is an annual event, and there’s always next year. I mean, who knows where I will be at this time next year? And I got a call from a dearest of friends who was filling a part in the program, wholeheartedly reassuring me there was a divine order in all this, and not to ignore it. Again, I blubbered, but I think it was more because I was touched to realize how others truly care about my wellbeing, and how blessed I am to be surrounded by angels without wings.

Take Back the Night Tampa Bay

So, to all my sisters of the Sexual Violence Task Force Speakers Bureau, thank you for lighting my candle! I’ll be there with you NEXT YEAR! In the meantime, we will continue to make a difference for many, as we remember to tend to our own self care in the process. With the usual hug, I bid you blessings. Namaste.

To view the video of Take Back the Night, CLICK HERE.

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