Feel It All

I lay in bed as a wall of sticky notes stares back at me. They read, “I am a runner! I am worthy! I am brave! I create energy! I am smart! I am a trauma thriver! I am beautiful! I am loved!” On the far right corner hangs the prepossessing purple sticky note that reads, “Feel It All.”

Feel It All.

Every emotion, every stab to the heart, every joyous laugh, every smile, every tear.
Feel It All.

I lay in my bed consciously feeling it all, every fervor of emotion that comes to me.
I feel the beauty that is in the sun shining outside.
I feel the pride of the year I’ve spent challenging myself.
I feel the heart break of loss, of both the dead and the living.
I feel the anxiety, of never doing or being enough.
I feel the depression, the deep sadness and NEED to be in bed, in my safe zone.
I feel the grief, of constantly wondering how to go on when Cooper is gone.
I feel the surprise, of life- the good and the bad.
I feel the disgust for the world we live in.
I feel the joy for the world we live in.
I feel trust, in that I know where I need to be- here, right here, in this moment.

Feel It All.

Feel every thing, every moment, every thought, every thing.
Friends, when you choose to feel it all, it doesn’t mean life will be easy- it actually means life will be harder. But you will be stronger for choosing to feel it all. For choosing to stand up to every emotion and say, “Here I am, here you are, together we are one.”

I never understood ‘being in the moment’ until I swam with sharks. You would think I would have learned this lesson from watching my brother die, but I assure you I could not be farther removed during that situation. When Cooper was passing my mind was so distracted about the ‘after’. After we would leave Cooper at the hospital, where would we go? How will our home be different? Does a little bit of me die too? Also, the social worker just handed me a pillow with Cooper’s handprint on it, is that all I’ll ever have left of him? I could barely focus on the moment I had in front of me, one last physical touch of Cooper.

However, swimming with sharks was quite the opposite. I HAD to be focused, completely possessed by that moment. One sudden movement and I would be choking on salt water all the while my body flailing in the water causing the sharks to FREAK OUT. The last thing any of us wanted as we floated atop their home. As I entered the ocean and looked below me, I realized I had just entered someone else’s property- a flood of respect washed over me. Thoughts consumed me as I rested atop the water. But unlike the stressful thoughts that consume me on land, in the water they simply told me to breathe, to stay calm, and to feel. Isn’t that all any of us need to do? To breathe, to stay calm, to feel? At the very basic level of being any sort of living creature that is all we need to do. What if instead of worrying about all of the necessities we deem to be important we just stopped and focused on the bare minimum? To breathe, to stay calm, and to feel.

Before I entered the ocean, a man gave me three simple instructions:
1. Stay Calm
2. Breathe
3. Always look the sharks in the eyes, it builds trust

I chuckled after that last one, really? Look the shark in the eyes? But he was right, it was our only way of communicating, me looking into his shark soul saying, “I am not going to hurt you, I am here to learn from you.”

Huge Thanks to Florida Shark Diving

I learned three important lessons that day in the water:
1. Stay Calm
2. Always breathe
3. Feel your feelings

The first two I learned from the man on the boat, but the sharks only reiterated his words. The third thing I learned was from the sharks and the ocean. ‘Feel your feelings’ the ocean taught me she is a big place full of wondrous things that we do not know about. The sharks taught me they are gentle, peaceful creatures painted only by dark stories. In that moment I needed to feel what was going on around me, I couldn’t make sudden movements, I couldn’t see what was coming behind me, and probably most terrifying, I could only see about 20 feet below me- but I knew there was far more feet beyond than that. My heart, beating into my chest a million miles a minute, skipped as I saw a shark come up from the unknown below me. She was swimming fast, and right towards me. I was nervous. But I remembered my instructions. Breathe. Stay Calm. Look her in the eyes. I did as I was asked and she swam softer, looking for the smell of food near by. I realized I was the last thing on her radar.

Feel It All.
Feeling it all is a lot like that shark swimming straight up from the unknown. At first you are terror-stricken, unable to think consciously about what you should do next. But then, if you listen to your feelings closely you’ll remember you’ve been given the instructions. To breathe, stay calm, and look her in the eyes. To look your feelings in the eyes and welcome her, to say I am ready to accept all of you. I will no longer push you down, push you away, and avoid your presence. I will feel it all.

The sticky notes that line my wall remind me who I am and who I aspire to be. The sticky notes are the instructions, not actions. Choosing to feel my feelings aligns fully with who I want to be. Feeling it all is the action to feeling worthy, to feeling that I am enough, to acknowledging my beauty, my trauma, and my abilities. The action of feeling it all is what turns my wall of affirmations, my instructions, into my reality.

To the sweet friend reading this, choose to not only write your affirmations, but to BE them. To take action and be your affirmations.
Sister, FEEL IT ALL. It is time to acknowledge our hearts, to feel all the beauty, pain, joy, and anguish. To hold our hearts with grace and feel it all.

Feel It All.
Today.
Tomorrow.
Every day.
Feel It All.

#graciousandgrateful

Survivor

“If your path is more difficult it’s because your calling is higher.” – @edmylett

It’s no secret that most wise people have the most traumatic pasts. They have fought long battles and probably lost most of them. They are also the most interesting people you will meet because they have gone through hardships.

But those people are also the ones fighting the hardest to live out each and every day. They are the ones escaping the wrath of suicide, depression, anxiety, negative thinking, and everything else that comes with trauma.

Lately I’ve been escaping those demons, barely getting away from the hands of my past. It’s easy to slip back into sadness, and unfortunately more difficult to choose happiness. I think it is because we long to be where we were before the trauma happened, before the loved ones died, we want to reverse time. I try every day to not live in the past, to consume my present and try to be the best version of me- I hear people say that “you can’t grow by living in the past” – but sometimes the past is just too hard to leave behind.

Post traumatic stress disorder is interesting, and for me, I find it is the hardest mental illness to overcome. Sometimes I find myself in the daze of a flashback and usually I do not want to return to my reality, I want to stay in the flashback where I know what is going to happen next. See, if I am having a flashback of me at the Route 91 concert, I know the next scene includes raining bullets. But if I go back to the present- its unpredictable, my mind is unsure of what is going to happen next.
Flashbacks make me comfortable, I’m in control- because it’s a scene of the story that has already happened.

Lately, I have been scared of my present and my future.
I have been obsessed with control.
And the only thing my brain believes to be in control over is the past.
So I’ve decided to write a letter from past Kassidy to present Kassidy.
I hope if you’ve been through something traumatic it resonates with you.

Dear 2019 Kassidy,

You’re missing out. Life is flying by and you’re sitting in a hospital room that is no longer yours to be in, walking halls that no longer exist.
You’re running from bullets that have already landed.
You couldn’t control the bullets, the cancer, or the pain- so what makes you think you will be able to control today? tomorrow? or next week?
You’re trying to put together a puzzle with pieces that don’t yet exist.
You’re losing your life all while trying to control it.
As you know, tomorrow is not in your hands.
You are not in the drivers seat.

So why don’t you sit back? Why don’t you do only what you can do in this day? Why don’t you rest, relax, and realize that you do not need to control what happens next, control is not the role God gave you on this earth.
I know you’re trying, I know you’re doing your best.
But remember that you don’t always have to be the best, you can just do your best.
Doing your best looks a lot different than being your best.
Just do what you can with what has been given to you today, not what was given to you 4 years ago, and definitely not what you think will be given to you 10 years from now.
Today is your only obstacle, what will you do with it?
You will survive.

You’ve got this.

Love,

Kassidy from 2013

I’d like to say writing this letter solves my PTSD. I’d like to say it cures it, helps me live in the moment that is today. But the illness doesn’t work like that- I have to remind myself of this letter every day. I have to choose now, 2019, over 2013, or 2017, or 2020. I have to decide to put my effort into today- and that’s harder than you think.

This post is dedicated to all who suffer from PTSD- from soldiers, to mothers, to fathers, to siblings, to you who’ve been through the worst of the worst.
You are not alone, your feelings are real, your flashbacks may haunt you but it’s only because you are called for a higher purpose.

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

I’ve been avoiding talking about this month because although I used to bring awareness to childhood cancer like it was my second religion, moving and finding my own space in the world has allowed me to distance myself from the advocate side of childhood cancer.
It is not that I do not want to be an advocate for the children fighting this horrific disease, because I am an advocate each and every day. What you have to understand is that sometimes, well actually ALL the time, advocating for the cause that KILLED your brother, is difficult. It hurts. It brings out my post traumatic stress disorder more than any other month.

The honest truth is I don’t want to spend my days focusing on the disease that killed my brother.
But I do want a cure so that no one has to go through what I’ve been through.
It’s a little bit of a give and take situation- I want to give support, but not have it take all my energy as I remember that my brother is dead.

So maybe it’s selfish? But honestly, grief is selfish. I am focusing on MY feelings about losing Cooper, how I view Cooper since he is gone, and what I have lost.

The thing is, childhood cancer still scares me. You would think after losing my brother to the disease I would be able to distance myself. But actually childhood cancer is in the back of my mind constantly. When I am with the babies I watch, the numbers of kids diagnosed each day runs through my head. When I think about my future, having children, the “what if’s” of childhood cancer come creeping up.
And I know your solution as you’re reading this- “Well Kassidy, you can’t live in fear” – You’re right, but you’ve also probably never seen a pediatric unit on Christmas morning, a child get poked with a needle larger than your hand, or watch that same child die.

Grief is hard.


September is hard- because it reminds me of the almost 4 years of absolute HELL that my family and I lived through. The funny thing is I cry more tears wishing he was still in the hospital, rather than crying tears cause he’s dead. My selfish heart wants him here, but my realistic brain knows he would not be the Cooper he was before he was sick.

So, instead of being an advocate for the children currently fighting childhood cancer, the children that are about to receive that diagnosis, or the children who are about to die from childhood cancer.
I wish to be an advocate for all of you who are not going to be affected by childhood cancer, who are not going to hear the words “Your son has Leukemia” or “Your daughter has a Glioblastoma brain tumor.”
I wish to be an advocate for all the people who will not hear those words because I want to remind you of the things that you are privileged to do with your children, siblings, mothers, and fathers each day that we who are grieving the loss of someone we love, cannot do.

You don’t have to say ‘I love you’, but you get too.
You don’t have to give your child a hug, but you get too.
You don’t have to put your phone down to listen to your babies stories, but you get too.
You don’t have to tickle your little one’s back, but you get too.
You don’t have to take them to all the sports and dance classes they want to go too, but you get too.
You don’t have to spend time taking them to the park or on vacation, but you get too.
You don’t have to kiss them goodnight even when they made you crazy that night, but you get too.
You don’t have to feel blessed by your healthy family every day, but you get too.

You see where I am going with this.
Every thing is a choice- you don’t have to do anything in this world, you GET to do every thing in this world.
Including loving your people.

Friends, Love them well because tomorrow is not promised.
As today ends Childhood Cancer Awareness Month- tomorrow marks the 2nd anniversary of the Las Vegas Mass Shooting, where my sister and I ran for our lives.
I cannot imagine what tomorrow would look like if my parents went from losing one child, to three children in the matter of seconds.
I know for a fact my brother spared our lives, I know he was there holding Julia and I as we ran.

Grief is hard.

It comes in many forms, alive or dead.
So today, tomorrow, and always- love your people well because today you GET too.
Tomorrow you might not.