“Forget the past, it’s gone, but glance back occasionally to remind yourself where you came from and where you are going.”
As I sit here watching the last days of 2019 pass by, I must look at how much I’ve grown this year. Looking back over the year 2019, I am constantly amazed that I’m where I am mentally. This year has been one of many struggles. This year was filled with some very hard times and a lot of growth. Some of the most difficult and loneliest times of my life were in the year 2019. But this year has also held a lot of redemption for me.
I spent many days and nights earlier in the year barely able to function. There were days where getting out of the bed was just too much to handle. And this was all done completely alone. Some days it took everything I had just to make it to my therapy appointments. 2019 was a year when I thought I was busy dying but I was persevering to get better. I was engaged in a lot of maladaptive behaviors, but I was also clawing to hold onto some form of life. Coach and I had some intense therapy sessions, but I never felt anything but her love and wanting me to succeed. There were many times I remember telling her, “Don’t you dare give up on me. And don’t stop pushing me.”
Then after having trusted her and doing whatever assignments she told me to do for over a year I began to reap the benefits. My thoughts and beliefs about myself and the world around me began to change. I soon had the hunger for being happy and happiness I would find. I then realized that the craving for being alone would dissipate and loneliness became my enemy. I would soon formulate a plan with my parents to move back home to Mississippi. Texas had served its purpose and brought about change and growth. I was no longer controlled by my trauma. And I now had an internal system that was helpful and working together instead of chaotic and hurtful to both me and those around me.
I was “different” in every kind of way. I was no longer facing life like I was going to a fight. I was beginning to enjoy life for what it was. Days were still difficult at times but not catastrophic. The day would come when my mom and dad would, at separate times, move my belongings home. Except the day my dad would fly out to help me we would drive my truck the 8 hours back to Mississippi together. I was excited to be making the move but terrified of the unknown. I knew one thing…. I had grown closer to God and my faith in him through a time of desperation had not let me down. Coach would continue to guide me through these tears of fear as well.
Excited as I have been moving back home, I have been moving forward with shaky uncertainty. I was terrified moving back to the same town that once held so much judgment against me. I was also moving back to where my children have been living and growing for two years without me. All these emotions I hadn’t counted on being so intense. I was so consumed with being happy that I wasn’t prepared for everyday emotions and frustrations of a situation like this. My “difference” became apparent to both me and other people who I had known all my life.
When I left this city almost 10 years ago, I was full of anger that had lasted the entire time I was gone. I was now returning happy and at peace with myself and my trauma that originated in this same town. I also had been embraced with my reappearance rather than shunned like I had been preparing. I came back to town feeling loved and looking for love again. I had been on a path of self-destruction that had almost taken my life. And now God has given me a chance to start over.
Each new day I try to find a way to grow and thank God for giving me that chance. My opportunity of being a better parent has proven to be a slower process because I am now starting completely over trying to learn how to do this the right way. And honestly, I continue to take shaky steps forward. I don’t really know what I’m doing but two little boys were glad to see me make it back to town anyway. I’m finally able to be fully present with my children and enjoy the simple things like rocking in a chair together.
Friendships that I thought were dead and gone are now renewed and healthy. I no longer go through my days wanting to die. I go through life with coach by my side and God leading the way. And hopefully I’ll be able to find a way to give back in a way that benefits others. And just maybe one day in my personal life I’ll find love in a healthy way and they will also be able to enjoy the new me as much as I do. Goodbye 2019.
Adjusting to Home
“Your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life. Keep going. Tough situations build strong people in the end.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart
Today is the two-week mark of me having moved back home to Mississippi. The timing of the move was to ensure that I was home for the holidays and that’s exactly what I did. I came home and was soon greeted by my little boys making the first week filled with love and happiness. Anytime you move from one place to another there is an adjustment period usually filled with frustrations and my time back has had those times as well.
For me there has been a mixture of emotions that I was somewhat prepared for but have also been surprised by. With my dark past in this small town and trying to get settled the stress of it all has brought tears to my eyes. The stress of being back in a town where there are some difficult memories to face mixed with the stress of getting new doctors, reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances, developing new routines and the death of a family member has left me emotional and a bit edgy. All-in-all I would consider the experience thus far normal.
In the best of circumstances, the stress would be a noticeable factor. But coming back to the place where all my trauma occurred with still very vivid memories has made the transition a little more difficult. The difficulties where they are uncomfortable are not impossible to overcome. My initial thoughts about moving back where that I would face a lot of judgment and harsh criticisms as I had in my younger years. What I have found is that I instead have faced people who still are supportive and who love me even knowing my past. And those who send their judgmental stares and comments my way have been drowned out by hugs and words of support and compassion. Me and old friends have sat while we all laughed and cried together with stories of difficult days from the past and the near future. And my aching heart is always soothed by the words of my children saying, “Momma D, we’re glad you moved back because we missed you.”
My spiritual life which has held a lot of contentment for many years has been met by people who just want to love and support me while I find my way here in small town living of the Deep South. And thanks to coach before leaving Texas I was already learning how to let people love me again. Likewise, I continue to be supported by my friends from Texas who only want to see me succeed as they saw me in the days of barely putting one foot in front of the other to keep surviving. The best advice I was ever given as a child and an athlete that’s kept me going was, “Never ever give up.” And the words I always tell coach is, “Don’t ever give up on me.”
Two of my hardest but most rewarding years of my life were spent healing in Texas. And it’s where I feel like I got my second wind in life. I love being able to smile a genuine smile today. I love feeling like I now have the capability to be a mother to my children. I love knowing going forward that my relationships with people will be ones that are genuine instead of superficial. And that they can be relationships that are healthy. I love knowing that my hard work has bought me something more rewarding than a degree could ever give to me……LIFE. And I love knowing that no matter how many times I wanted to nor how far down I got physically and mentally…. I NEVER GAVE UP. The miracle happened and I’m alive today to enjoy it.
Happy Birthday To Me
“There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. “
Today is my birthday and a day that I haven’t really celebrated since I was young. My birthday has always been representative to me of the day that I was put up for adoption and given away because I was unwanted. And after meeting my birth mom several years ago the fear of being unwanted at birth became a reality. That was exactly what she told me. I didn’t receive the explanation from her that she was young and couldn’t take care of me. She very coldly told me, “You were an inconvenience in my life and you still are.” I don’t know how cold the chill was that went over me the day she spoke those words. But it was cold enough to chill my soul.
I’m not afraid to admit that this has been a very painful part of my life for a very long time. And in many ways, I have allowed her reality to control my thoughts and actions about myself for many years. And then I met Coach who through unwavering compassion has taught me differently. She saw the open wounds of those awful words and graciously began helping to promote healing.
What coach has taught me is that I wasn’t an inconvenience to anyone but her. The beauty of living in a free nation is that not all our realities have to match, nor do we all have to agree. She also taught me that my self-worth should never be determined by a woman who didn’t have the capability to love me anyway. I have two wonderful parents who love me and have done nothing but support me my entire life.
Today, I’m happy to say that December 4th is a day that should be celebrated. I am a good person who loves people and loves to be love by both family and friends. Life has not been easy, but the trauma doesn’t control me any longer. My birthday means that God was gracious enough to breathe life into me for me to make my mark on this earth the best way that I can. I have a family and two beautiful little boys that call me mom that love me. And I also have friends spread across the country that love me and want nothing but the best for me. And I have a “system” that does their best to help keep me functioning in new ways that we’ve learned the last two years. They are a special group that I depend on to help keep me going and loving me enough to keep me safe in every single way.
Now December the 4th isn’t a day where people are prevented but rather embraced for wishing me a happy birthday. Today I smile instead of frowning and staying locked behind doors. There’s nothing like getting to share birthday time with my oldest son Marshall. And, today is a day where God is thanked for the breath of life that made me. And for my birth mom, she is silently thanked for being the vehicle by which I enter the world. These days of being grateful have changed my view on many things. I am grateful to God, the universe, friends, family and others I’ve not yet met for being a part of my journey. Because the day that someone is born is a day when life changes for anyone, they meet in ways we may never know. I say with all the happiness in my heart…” Happy Birthday to ME!!!!!”
“We never know the love of a parent until we become parents ourselves.”
–Henry Ward Beecher
The doctor walked into where Mel and I had been sitting waiting for the ultrasound. The doctor takes the apparatus and gel and moves it over her belly. Looking at the monitor he said, “Do you see that little blinking light?” Mel and I both shook our heads yes. The doctor said, “That’s your baby’s heartbeat.” For a moment the feeling was surreal, but it soon changed to excitement. This was our baby and we would be parents in less than 9 months.
The next few months we would be preparing for our little baby to reach the due date. At 12 weeks the doctor would tell us that our baby would be a little boy. We were both beside ourselves with excitement. But in a few months Mel would develop pre-eclampsia and be put on bedrest. This would make me extremely nervous, but I was still hopeful that everything would be alright.
The days came and went but our baby’s birthdate would change from a date in January to December 3. This meant that he would be a preemie and would have to go to the NICU. The day of his arrival Mel was in labor 36 hours. I was just a ball of nerves waiting and hoping that both Mel and our baby would be ok. I eventually fell asleep on a couch in the room from sheer exhaustion. The next thing I know a nurse or doctor was trying to wake me saying, “Ms. Arnold your baby is about to be here.” Mel was also yelling, “Dana wake up!” I wake up quickly and head over to where everyone was scurrying around. Within a few minutes Marshall Lake Landrum-Arnold would be born and he was beautiful.
The team would whisk Marshall away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Mel wouldn’t get to see him for the next 24 hours. It also meant that we would have to leave our baby at the hospital when we went home. That must be one of the most agonizing moments of my life. So, our routine would be me going to work and dropping Mel off at the hospital to be with Marshall in the NICU in the morning. And when I got off work I would go by and pick her up from the hospital which we renamed Camp Marshall.
I can honestly say that those days were some of the most stress of our lives. Leaving your baby at the hospital while you go home no matter how well things are going is very hard emotionally. The level of worry isn’t one I can put into words. But eventually on Christmas Eve of that year we brought our little baby home. Marshall was making our hearts beat then and he still does. The Christmas of 2011 was one of the most special Christmases on record. Because he was and still is one of the best presents, I’ve ever received. Happy Birthday, Marshall!!!!!