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Sassy Sara Smile

By Sara Chernauskas 26 Nov, 2017

Sara Smile is a Writer, Mother, Cancer Survivor, and Chronic Illness Warrior. Through both her Website Sassy Sara Smile, and Public Speaking, Sara writes and tells stories about finding Beauty through the Chaos and not just by wading through life’s quagmires. Instead, Sara does her best to not only dance through the mire but thrive.

Karkata Media

Telling stories. For Art. For Craft. ForCommunity. www.karkatamedia.com

By Sara Smile 20 Jun, 2017
You know that song, “Eye of the Tiger”? The song suggests a person who is working hard to achieve a goal and they are doing it the right way...through hard work. I have always liked the idea of being strong and fighting honestly for what you want to do...  Goals we all have...Things we all want.  I see that same type of intensity, hard work and honest kindness in Tiger Gems Jewelry and the owner of this wonderful company, Tabitha.
 My husband knows I feel that way and surprised me on Mother’s Day, 2017 *(My 1st Mother's Day Ever!) with a 1.25 ctw Art Deco Halo Set  from Tiger Gems seen here:
By Sara Smile 05 Apr, 2017
Self love. A term I heard  used as frequently when I was a young girl growing up.
 It is still if not more significant now, as an adult and a mom.  I have been feeling pretty low recently. My pretty low is way down there... I don’t like when I have to deal with my mental and physical issues, even more so since I have had Mila.
It’s an interesting maze to wind through in life when you have an anxiety issue or PTSD, or Bi Polar et al.
It gets ultra strange when you have a baby and you realize they are feeling the impact of these issues and starting to comprehend (in their own way) that Mommy is ‘not feeling well’. It’s still like winding through a maze - only this time you’re blindfolded and can’t fall because you are also holding a precious piece of your love. So, a bit weird.
For me I have found I don’t like my daughter to see that side of me. Not yet. I don’t know how to explain it and how it is also intertwined with my physical side as the two are always connected and in cahoots.
In spite of all this, I am forcing myself to write even though I don’t want to write. I WANT to put my head under the covers and binge watch Netflix while pretending the world around me doesn’t exist so that maybe, JUST maybe, my brain and body might recover.
Truth? Yes, I’ve done that & I still do from time to time. After I had Mila I had hormone nuttiness. I think it probably could be called/diagnosed as ‘Post Partum’, but when you have a little mental shit happening in your head before you are pregnant, it’s a tough call.   Every single Mom I have ever talked to has at the very least said they have had the hormone nuttiness. Some people it hit right away...Some people it hit 6, 10 months into the new Mom job. Each of these Mothers that I spoke to talked about how this “additional nuttiness” can last. Sometimes it even just becomes a part of you and it slowly begins to weave itself into the layers of one’s braided emotions creating an extra new feeling.
Around the time Mila turned 6 months this amazing personality and mirror of Mommy started. It was and continues to be amazing! So much so that it can become an addiction, your whole life. A high off of your child. I was loving it. I still love it. Till one day my health stuff came trampling in whilst I was hanging with my sweet Gal and a huge Realistic Truth hit me. I can’t JUST go and hibernate under the covers with Netflix, or even write at that moment because my child needed/wanted me.
Now there have been times I have put her down in her crib after hours of crying, just to give me a 15 min breather, but this wasn’t that. We were just hanging. Just me and my daughter. I am the one who had this emotion whack me like a truck. Part of this realistic truth that hit was that what I was feeling had to be put aside. I am the Mom and a chronically ill one to boot. I have to forge forward for my daughter. The other part of this realistic truth was I also have to recognize that just because I have Mila, just because I am a Mom, does not mean I am not still me. The great fun stuff, my own dreams (as I have many) and these hard to handle emotional, mental things are still factors.
So here I am pushing myself to write in the hopes that this will help me to embrace what I am feeling. I learned a long time ago - you steer into the turn if you skid - you don’t hit the brakes and change directions... You’ll get yourself and everyone else injured.
Now, apply that to having a disease and that is where I am - you have found my reality.
Here’s the thing. The writing kinda works for me. As I type right now I start to feel a bit lighter, a bit better. If only for a time. Writing does that for me. As does Yoga and Pilates, which alas I am not currently allowed to do right now (doctor’s orders).
This started as a quick post intended to talk about ‘self love’. It still is about self love. Everything I have been speaking about reminds me how little I have been doing to properly love myself and that certain medications and limitations are getting to me.
As I am drawing a close to this post I am reprioritizing a few things.
This did make me feel a bit better. I know I am going to post it regardless of its raw not 3rd draft quality. I needed this to happen. Which leads me to start thinking - If I am feeling down, or having a hard day that turns into 3 hard days, just within myself - I need to rethink priorities and what I force myself to turn into a new habit. I must remember that just like before Mila, I let these emotions of my mind wash over me, instead of getting caught in the undertow. It took a long time to learn and understand that, but I finally did. Struggling leads to sadness and nothing getting done. Even though I am a Mom now, I still need to write, and I still need to handle those emotions that wash over me when this happens. I just need to adapt and find a way to incorporate everything. When you use the word 'EVERYTHING' it reads as a huge task. Even “Everything” takes time. I can be a Mom and Sara at the same time. It’s the Sara part of me I am still working on, but if I continue to handle what I do in the way I am trying to,
things will be ok. Loving and Liking oneself is the key to being your best for you and everyone around you. It’s not changing who “you” used to be- simply a new amplified person.
I don’t know if this post will touch on something y'all relate to...I just had to get it out.
Never forget to make time for yourself and steer into the skid!
Much Love,
Sara Smile
Never forget to make time for oneself and steer into the skid!
much love.
By Sara Smile 20 Feb, 2017
At this point in the year we are starting to change seasons. It’s that point in Winter where even Winter’s biggest fan (me!) starts to think of Spring and bright, light colors. Trees begin to bloom and I daydream about taking my hubby and our sweet little Mila-Raven on her first outdoor picnic! My Mila is adventurous like her Mommy and has already gravitated towards the outdoors, and the woods.
A perfect segue to the review of my Jord Wood Watch  and to talk about the Jord Giveaway .
By Sara Smile 22 Dec, 2016
I have found that we all go through times where, regardless of our religion, spirtuality or lack of assignment to any one specific belief - This time of year - particularly the next two weeks (the last two weeks of the year) people take stock. Whether we admit it to one another, or even ourselves, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there or shouldn’t be examined.
For instance, there have been years at the end of which I have wanted to avoid thinking of what I have accomplished or lack thereof - my goals etc. I just pretended they didn’t exist. Simply blocked it all out. In my case it was due to a fear of recognizing or acknowledging OUT LOUD what I might need to alter, even a little, within myself, to help me feel better. To be a better me.   Not that I wanted to stay stunted - but facing what we fear can be frightening. Change is jarring. The list goes on...
My Birthday is coming up on the 31st of December and 2 years after this next birthday I shall know and unlock the answers to “..life the universe and everything”. Anyone who gets that reference written by a certain author, now knows how old I will be turning. I still stumble over saying my new age and it would appear writing it as well :) .
This year I have decided I needed to be more aware. In my current new mom status, and with my health deteriorating, again, after I thought I had it under control I have found myself in need of what I have dubbed a ‘Spiritual Alignment’ so to speak.
To clarify, my health is always a bit chaotic. But I have worked hard to make it an organized chaos. I understood my health chaos map. It was clear to me. Now it is muddled again, and has new additions (diseases) in the mix.
Herein lies the rub. I feel that I have failed. I have failed my daughter, my husband and myself. I even feel as though I have failed “hope” itself as an ideal.
I have been terribly weepy at a time when “I should” feel joy. I have been sad and pouting about my health when “I should be grateful it isn’t worse”. I have wanted time to myself to deal with my new health diagnosis when “I should be interacting with my baby”. To spend that extra time, I take her to my doctor appointments, my husband too, and I feel terrible that my little one is seeing mommy in that capacity. I feel bad that my husband has to help in so many little and big ways and I feel like a failure due to health my restrictions when “I should be giving him thanks and making time for him and focusing on what I can do”. Instead, I’ve found myself whining about my pain. A valid and true pain - but a whine nonetheless.
When we keep the “I should’s” of our life in the front of our minds - It puts a spotlight on things in which we have either ‘created unrealistically attainable goals’ or “what society deems correct”.
However we are all unique individuals. Therefore a broad sweep of “shoulds” doesn’t always apply to our different and uniquely individual lives and yet, the pressure permiates.
This year, It is my goal, realistic goal - which in my definition means -taking action however long it takes. Not rushing, but a steady motion, even if it’s slow, as long as it’s forward motion and inward reflection - though not too much inward reflection at a time - because for me, that is where I get caught up starting to compare with the “unattainable” and begin to self-sabotage.
For me the first step in doing this is facing it. After that comes accountability. I cannot really think of a bigger step toward accountablilty than being transparent and vulnerable on a public medium. Guess I have checked that box with this post. And I will continue to check back and be accountable to the people who are interested in keeping me accountable. People who perhaps have the same desire to “realign themselves to be their best” in their own way, and follow along on my journey as it is a journey we take together, even if the specifics are different.
The biggest thing that I have found to truly help me - is a recent renewed aid. I have been doing it more and more lately. Actually it started more since I found out I was pregnant and increased exponentially since Mila was born without me even realizing it. Only recently has it become of conscience thought. I have not made an out loud statement about it, because I have still been figuring it out ... Prayer. Now, some of you who know me well might be thinking, “Really? She’s always been a Universe/Vibe kinda gal” . Well, I must say as we change the hope is growth. Am I becoming a different person due to prayer? If so, it is a better person. Yet, I am still me. Still telling sardonic stories and coloring outside the lines. But why is there such a belief that the two things are mutually exclusive.
I am still a “Universe/Vibe kinda gal”. The same girl who was raised Jewish in a Jewish community. The same girl who was exposed to and raised around Catholic Churches and Communities.
For a while I was almost embarrassed to show that side of me. I minored in Religious Studies at my college. Learning as much about as many religions as I could.
You know what I found? Once you wade through the differences and extract the flowery language - the majority of religions speak of peace. Of private prayer. Being kind to oneself and each other and forgiveness for others and perhaps even more relevant, ourselves.
I first found my faith at the top of a mountain I climbed up (and eventually repelled down). Sitting at the edge of the mountain top, I marveled at the tree tops, the sky. I must have fallen into a meditative state because what I thought was a 10 min marveling at all of nature, was actually 2 hours. I found this out after one of the girls I was camping with quietly tapped my shoulder to tell me it was dinner time at the campsite.
I believe that while most of this post might come across as ‘dour’, it is actually a post wherein I am taking that first positive step toward forgiving myself.
To understand that hope has not given up on me, so I will not give up on Hope.
This is the end of the post, but the beginning of a journey. One that I hope and have good vibes that people will read this and watch my journey as I become a better mom. A woman who is kinder to herself. And a person who remembers more consistently that hope, prayer, vibes whatever you want to call it - are good things. Things to be proud of - and a place where I can find a peaceful alignment with myself and the world around me.
Let the restoration begin... And let that beginning have it’s start within me.
By SaraSmile 14 Dec, 2016
December 14th. Never an easy day for me. There is a strong chance that quite a few days through the month of December strike a chord for many people. After all, it is a big month. Holidays, which are joyous also force us to remember the good & sad of the people we don’t have with us - anything from distance to death. It is simply a reality.
That doesn’t make it a bad month, on the contrary, it is a beautiful month. A celebratory month. My Birthday Month.
One of peace, love and rejoicing in what we have. And no matter how bad so many people I personally know have it - or how bad it can get - We still have so much to be grateful for and celebrate.
December 14th is my Father’s Birthday. It is a difficult day each year. My father, my biological father, is/was a beautiful, funny, witty intellectual. If you met him face to face, it is/was hard not to fall under his charming spell.
Perhaps you have noticed I keep writing ‘IS/WAS’
The answer? It is because I don’t know if my dad is alive or not. For all the attributes I listed above - he lacked in one of the most important areas... Being a father. At first it was as though he was scared and I ended up parenting him. He then grew into a good man with unfortunate addictions and cruel habits he’d take out on my mother.
He also had a habit of making promises to me that he didn’t keep. For instance I spent many a day sitting on our stoop in NYC waiting for him to take me for the day.
But, he is/was MY DADDY.
After we moved out of state, he visited once. The next time we spoke was 15 years later. When I had to look him up to get his health records because my Cancer had set in.
Don’t get me wrong - when I spoke to him, he won me over again. After all, I’ll never stop wanting to know what it is to have a daddy & he is mine.
He gave what I have for years dubbed ‘speech 52’. This was a speech from him containing fatherly regret and how he would do better from that point on. I always wanted to believe. Let me rephrase: I always let myself have hope and belief even though I knew the reality of it all. And at this point with my Cancer, as young as I was, when he called me his little girl and said he would be there for me through all of this ‘Cancer Mess’, I believed him.
I have never spoken to him since. I have kept the same phone number, and have tried finding him. Some records say he is still alive, but I don’t know.
My point is, he never knew whether his one little girl survived Cancer. He never saw me get married. He does’t know that he has a granddaughter, Mila. I actually see a bit of him in Mila’s expressions.
To me, I never really had a dad. I had a man that helped in creating me, and for that I LOVE him unconditionally. I love his humor. His charm. His eyes. All 3 of which he passed to me.
But in my life essentially after the age of 12 (and kinda since birth) I have had more “father figures” than an actual dad.
It has left a hole, but I was lucky to have my grandfather as my “papa” till I was 19 when he passed. My Uncle, while geographically far always has sorta looked our for me. I also have a stepfather. He is a good man. Makes my mom happy. But he isn’t really a dad in those little ways.
Ways, I must say, I never truly saw or understood till I was pregnant and now in these last 5 months with Mila and her father, my husband, Jason. How he is with her actually shows me what I missed. What a father is and how just being there for his daughter brings them both joy.
The surprising thing to me - I am not bitter - I am Thanking G-D Jason came into my life and that my daughter has him as her daddy. Not just for the big things - but for the everyday small moments. For they are all significant.
This year we have arrived at the 14th of December, and I find myself thinking, “Oh father, Where Art Thou”. I am sad, but not angry (ok, it’s a mix of both - but more nostalgia missing than anger these days.)
I do wish that I knew where and if he is alive or not. I would love some sort of closure one way or another.
He would love our Milana-Raven (Mila).
I am a strong believer in witty lighthearted cynical talk and joking. I know I got that from him. But in my heart, I will always have hope. I will always want to believe the best in everyone. Especially my dad.
I know I am extraordinarily lucky and blessed. I am sick a lot and am constantly fighting illnesses and my body not working. By all means I should not be here. BUT I AM HERE.
While I am not much for talk of a ‘heavenly father’ it does not mean I do not believe in one. I am Jewish and Catholic - I am Spiritual. I believe in a higher power and the Universe. And I believe I am where I am in my life for a reason. Sure, I get upset with the universe at times, but if I am being honest - I know I have had a higher power looking out for me. There have been so MANY times I should not have survived, but did. The majestic beauty of nature always brings me back to this line of thought.
If that isn’t an indication of something bigger than all of us, I don't know what is...
So, Thank you daddy. You brought me into this world and this life, and what a ride it has been thus far. I think of you fondly and love you always. May we all have a slightly brighter season, simply because we are here.
By SaraSmile 23 Nov, 2016
Every year when Thanksgiving rolls around on the calendar, I find myself doing what most do... I think about what I have to be grateful for, and in my case, remind myself that no matter how many illnesses I had or have at that time, I’m still better off than so many others. A reality check. Putting my mind back into a set of humility and remembrance of how lucky I am to simply BE HERE. To even have the chance to wake up and feel physically awful (on my worst days). These things seem like they would and should be a daily constant reminder that sit in the front one’s mind, but it isn’t as easy as it would seem.
We all want to do our best. Of course I can only speak for me - But I want to believe most everyone wants to do their best each and everyday. To stay humble and be grateful, because WE ARE HERE. We wake up. That is not something we are entitled to...
That is a gift.
And so, each year I have attempted to do my best. Though saying and doing are two different animals, and saying is much easier than putting the ‘doing’ into practice.
I must admit there was a year or two there that I didn’t live up to what or who I wanted to become- my best self- so to speak. I wasn’t humbled, I complained. I wasn’t grateful that I had more than others not merely in material things, but the intangible as well. Instead, I cried about how I hurt OR how I had to spend the holiday sick.
Then something changed. Well, a someone. This Thanksgiving Post is truly about My Daughter Milana Raven (Mila). My husband and I had been told for years that children were not possible due to my Cancer history and my autoimmune illnesses. Even if by some against the odds way I became pregnant, I probably wouldn't survive to full term or through giving birth, due to my heart. It personally took me years to come to terms with this knowledge that a child may never be a possibility.
This was one of the things that made me act ungrateful. Not a pretty side of me, nor one I am proud of, but it IS the bare all TRUTH and I believe in being as transparent as possible.
I convinced myself that I didn’t want a child. To be brutally frank, I didn’t understand what it meant to ‘desire’ a child after everything I had been through and been told. I made my peace with living a life with my hubby. The dynamic duo - Partners in Crime. Jason and Sara against the world and eating it up!
In the beginning of 2015 we lost Jason’s father to Pancreatic Cancer. A devastating loss that is still hard to talk about.
Then, in August of 2015 I became pregnant. When I saw that little positive line, a JOY that I thought I had long since overcome arose in me. I told the hubby and I don’t think I have ever seen him light up with such a happiness since the day of our wedding. He grabbed me and hugged me. Then we both stopped short. We didn’t want to get too excited just yet. As it turns out that was the right course of action.
I had a miscarriage after being pregnant just one month.
But there was an upside to this tragic loss I mourned.
I was able to GET pregnant Despite what the doctors all said. I had always beat the odds against me; Why not this? Having said that, we were not TRYING to get PREGNANT .
It was that time again. Thanksgiving Day 2015, was fast approaching. I did my normal preparation I spoke of previously... My recheck of priorities and humbled myself by remembering how blessed we truly were/are even with Jason’s dad gone.
Then Thanksgiving Day arrived. I awoke with a funny feeling inside. One that I could not explain. But it definitely wasn’t a bad feeling. Just new. We had a leftover pregnancy test kit in the bathroom and I couldn’t resist testing myself (not telling Jason because I knew he wouldn’t want me to hurt again) . When the Smiley face saying ‘Pregnant’ appeared, I smiled but then stopped.
I refused to believe it was true just yet. I asked my hubby to please run out to any store that might be open and get more tests. He came back with 3 tests. I took all 3. By the last test I swear it felt like the the stick was staring back at me saying, “Stop peeing on me! You are pregnant! You're going to have a baby!”
It was known. It was Thanksgiving. Jason’s Dad’s Birthday had just past. I was more humbled and grateful then I had ever been. For whatever the reason, it was meant to happen this way and I knew it would stick. I knew the pregnancy would be tough, but we were going to have a baby. Of this, I was never more confident and on July 12th of this year 2016, Milana Raven (aka ‘Miracle Mila’) was born into this , our world.
By SaraSmile 23 Nov, 2016
I was considered a ‘sick kid’; in and out of hospitals since I was a baby. My ‘sick kid memories’ first started when I was 5 going in and out of hospitals for high fevers... even anaphylactic shock a time or three. This was my normal. It is what I knew. I thought everyone grew up this way.
The stuff I started to really deal with on my owncame when I began getting confirmed diagnoses on my first 2 autoimmune diseases at 17 years old. This number of autoimmune issues would only grow throughout future years, and are diseases I still deal with on a day-to-day basis.
But I digress...
By necessity I became more in tune with my body, how I ate, and what to do to stay moderately healthy and function with the body I was dealt. I won't tell you it was easy, because it wasn’t. It took time. It still does. At this point, however, I was in college. This wasn’t something I wanted to deal with at all. It was too much. It had already been too much up until then, and now this? I got sad. I became angry. I literally yelled out loud to G-D, the Universe, Mother Nature and everyone and everything in between. I went on a hike up my favorite mountain where I had always found a sense of inner peace and sat for a long time looking out atop the trees and all the beauty that lay in front of me to help put things in perspective. It started to work. I slowly realized I could do this. It wasn’t like it was a death sentence (or Cancer) - it was a chronic set of issues that, while terrible, needed to be dealt with and no anger or sulking would help that happen.  
Over the next few years I cautiously began to live again - feeling alive and rejoining society bit by bit with a growing sense of empowerment. Yes, I was sick, but I could still keep up. I kicked ass. I was finally arriving at a place of peace. I became dialed in with my body even more as I understood with a new clarity how my mindset impacted every part of my health. Sure, I would have bad days. They would come and I would have to handle them. I allowed myself to be sad or sick when that happened, but not wallow. Once again, a difficult task that still takes focus.
It was about this time I was graduating college. I was ambitious, hungry to see the world, have adventures and collect stories from those adventures. Well, I did just that. I had a job that allowed me to travel and for the next 5 years did public speaking, training people and handled conflict resolution. I met so many new people, lifelong bonds were formed and all while I was able to live in a variety of states and a couple of countries.
I was living in Germany when I was called back to the States for family reasons. It had been almost 5 years since I’d lived in the state my mom lived in and traveling home to stay put for a bit sounded lovely. I had handled my illnesses and had many adventures with more to come, I just knew it.
Although, I must say, had I even had an inkling of what lay ahead of me when I wished for adventures and an interesting life with stories to tell...I probably would have been a tad more specific.  
I settled into a routine close to family and felt I needed a break from traveling for a reason I couldn’t quite put my finger on - which meant even when small business trips were offered, I declined. I was like that for about 6 months. I had been getting regular check ups and was technically deemed ‘my version of healthy’ but something inside me felt not quite right. My mind and body had become in sync almost too well. Most things I could handle on my own, but this new feeling, this ‘not quite right’ indescribable feeling wouldn’t leave me. I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I decided to have a full work up done of all my ‘known ailments’ just to try and understand this potential change in immune issues I might have to adapt or adjust to, making me feel more like me again.
I went into the hospital as an out patient to have the standard series of tests done, including seeing my physical therapist, blood tests, and body scans. After all was said and done, the hospital doctor in charge of my care told me that I was doing stellar. He said my autoimmune and health issues were well in check, and that even though my white cell count was high - that was perfectly normal for anyone with my conditions (which I knew). Most people know, but for those who don’t, a weaker immune system usually goes hand in hand with an elevated white cell count. That was my entire life - so I was alright with that and honestly happy to hear my version of normal health was in check.
However, I still felt off, but I put my faith in the medical professionals. After all, while they do “Practice Medicine” and don’t proclaim to know everything - these people were quite thorough. I convinced myself to let it ride and that perhaps it was just me readjusting to being back in a regular routine.
Nine months later (yes, the approximate length of a pregnancy) I still had that ‘not quite right’ feeling. I couldn’t shake it and it was becoming more of a nagging presence in my mind. Although if you had asked me to describe it - I couldn’t- I just knew my body and I knew I felt off.
I also realized I had to be my own advocate (another post I will write about soon) and scheduled to go back to the hospital as an out patient again. I had the same series of tests and scans as I had 9 months earlier, but this time when the doctor (a different one) walked in there was one small change in what was said about my results.
He told me that my autoimmune stuff was great - I was doing wonderful with it and he thought I handled everything quite well, which is why he seemed perplexed as he talked to me about the next portion of the test results.
“Sara” he began , “As I have said everything looks great, which is why it is so concerning and I am curious as to why you have not done anything about the mass in your chest.”
I looked up and said in a rather panicked tone, “What mass in my chest?!”
That was all I had to say. He closed my file and looked down - not at me. He couldn’t make eye contact. As he walked backwards out of the room and began to shut the door he muttered, “I am going to call your main private physician.” then he shut the door leaving me sitting alone anxiety already setting in.
I had a lump jump to my throat as my stomach simultaneously dropped. Intuitively I already had a feeling that I knew what was going on, but nothing was “known” yet. I picked up the phone in the hospital room and feeling like I was going to vomit, called my mom and stepdad.
“Ma, the doctor just said I have a mass in my chest and walked out to call my private doctor. The nurse said I can’t leave. I am scared.”
My folks who lived about 45 min away from the hospital got there in about 20 min and then everything started to change. My life began to enter a new phase, but what? We didn’t know anything yet.
The only thing we learned once we were all together was that 9 months earlier this mass was 3 times smaller, but visible and in my chart. The doctor had simply neglected to tell me. Now it had grown to a softball size mass.
I was admitted for more scans and assigned a cardiologist. Instinct aside, all I knew was that my life was about to change forever...again.
To Be Continued in Part 2 - Coming Soon!
By Sara Smile 31 Oct, 2016
I often read many tales of Moms that speak about a loss of identity after having a child. Now, perhaps because being a mom is new to me and illness is not, I am used to hearing, reading and talking to people about identity loss after becoming sick. For example, instead of being Sara with a side of illness, I became ‘That Sick Gal’ who happens to be named Sara. Being a new 1st time mom, well, not only am I in a completely new territory; I am in a new realm. I know how to better take charge and dismiss it when people think of me as ‘That Sick Gal’ vs Sara. This doesn’t mean it is not a stigma I don’t continue to run up against or that I don’t still feel shaky about my identity now and again. I am simply more practiced at speaking of my illness - whilst for others it can be rather odd. But speaking of my identity being a mom? This still eludes me.
I know talking about illness isn't always pretty. It doesn't always flow well. And let’s be honest, it’s extremely personal.  Conversationally, it is a stopper. I mean people just get either slack jawed or completely tense; but when you are used to talking about it, that type of reaction is easy to forget.
Taking all of this awkwardness into account I am going to go there anyway. I have had Cancer. Currently, I am in remission. For those who have been touched by Cancer in any way - you know this doesn't mean the end. Before, during, and since the Cancer I have lived with and fought Lupus, MCTD, RA, and Endometriosis -  just to name a few. That Cancer tale of mine, my friends, including the after, will be told in the posts to follow.
However, this write is more about identity, or rather a lack thereof.  I believe we experience many shifts throughout our lives that may cause our identity to tear, fracture, or completely break from what we know. Motherhood being one of the most significant for women. But my loss of identity started, and has been a huge challenge since I heard the few words that would forever redefine what I'd known:
  "You are too sick to work. We think you're great, but you and your health have become a liability that we cannot afford to take on".
I should have prefaced this by saying how much I LOVED WORKING and I was at a place/age where not even a husband, let alone a child, had entered my thought.
With one sentence, kind as it may have been, an entire part of my being was whisked away with what felt like a mere wave of a wand.
The logical part of me understood of course; it made sense. It made business sense (small or large). Viscerally though I felt as the air had been slashed out of my tires; except for one tire and that one tire just had a slow leak to reiterate and stand as a constant reminder of what I had become.
I became sad. Worse than sad, I became sullen and an empty shell.
I remember during those long hours of sitting still out on the porch thinking, ‘How do people do this? How do my mom friends do it? I know I have seen them go through it and come out the other side even stronger. I have seen my fellow illness warriors do the same - Why can I not just be who I am?’ But I didn’t know who that self was to me or how she was perceived in society. And who was this girl that  worried about how she was perceived? When did that happen?
After an enormous amount of self-loathing, a little too much time spent deconstructing myself, and a lot of journals filled up I finally realized one thing (if nothing else). I may not have known who I was but this ‘pity party’ had to stop. I had to move. Function. Get one thing done. Shower and be happy I was clean. Little by little and step by step I began to begrudgingly get off that porch and instead force myself to go do the little things I remembered my old self enjoying, not knowing whether this new me would. I went to the book store. I began going back to my yoga and dance classes again. Then, one day, after much forced repetition I was smiling without reminding myself to smile. I began to write with passion again not for pity. I might not have known exactly who I was, but I was becoming ok with that. When bad days came, they just had to be dealt with -- and I am not being flippant, believe me. None of this was easy. It still isn’t.  But if it were easy, everyone could do it.
Now I have become a mom and something that I thought I had already resolved within myself has resurfaced. I have lost my identity again. I always had empathy for the Moms who went through this, but in the same way that people who are not sick don’t know what to say to sick people I never knew what to say to my friends who became moms and went through this when they asked for help.  
There is one difference in this current loss of identity, and that is I am aware of what a loss of identity feels like.  I do not have to wonder what is happening or have people tell me why I don’t feel like myself.  Although, it has been extraordinary how open moms will be if you only just ask them.  I have found the mom community to be reassuring, especially the new moms who are about 1 year ahead of me. They help me navigate with the ‘do’s and don’ts’ that can throw all new moms for a loop.  But my identity is mine to figure out, and by drawing on my illness experience as a positive, it has made me aware of what an identity crisis feels like. For this I am grateful. But I still must navigate through THIS loss and the frustrations still exist.
In the end there is no ‘correct’ thing to say. Nor is there a quick fix from a loss of identity from any life-altering event in which this loss is a result. The most we can do is talk to each other and try to be kind to ourselves. Some days will be easier than others. I can only hope that now as a mom, I will find that identity again - or even better evolve to broaden my identity…to make it my own again and be at peace with myself.
By Sara Smile 31 Oct, 2016
I often read many tales of Moms that speak about a loss of identity after having a child. Now, perhaps because being a mom is new to me and illness is not, I am used to hearing, reading and talking to people about identity loss after becoming sick. For example, instead of being Sara with a side of illness, I became ‘That Sick Gal’ who happens to be named Sara. Being a new 1st time mom, well, not only am I in a completely new territory; I am in a new realm. I know how to better take charge and dismiss it when people think of me as ‘That Sick Gal’ vs Sara. This doesn’t mean it is not a stigma I don’t continue to run up against or that I don’t still feel shaky about my identity now and again. I am simply more practiced at speaking of my illness - whilst for others it can be rather odd. But speaking of my identity being a mom? This still eludes me.
I know talking about illness isn't always pretty. It doesn't always flow well. And let’s be honest, it’s extremely personal.  Conversationally, it is a stopper. I mean people just get either slack jawed or completely tense; but when you are used to talking about it, that type of reaction is easy to forget.
Taking all of this awkwardness into account I am going to go there anyway. I have had Cancer. Currently, I am in remission. For those who have been touched by Cancer in any way - you know this doesn't mean the end. Before, during, and since the Cancer I have lived with and fought Lupus, MCTD, RA, and Endometriosis -  just to name a few. That Cancer tale of mine, my friends, including the after, will be told in the posts to follow.
However, this write is more about identity, or rather a lack thereof.  I believe we experience many shifts throughout our lives that may cause our identity to tear, fracture, or completely break from what we know. Motherhood being one of the most significant for women. But my loss of identity started, and has been a huge challenge since I heard the few words that would forever redefine what I'd known:
  "You are too sick to work. We think you're great, but you and your health have become a liability that we cannot afford to take on".
I should have prefaced this by saying how much I LOVED WORKING and I was at a place/age where not even a husband, let alone a child, had entered my thought.
With one sentence, kind as it may have been, an entire part of my being was whisked away with what felt like a mere wave of a wand.
The logical part of me understood of course; it made sense. It made business sense (small or large). Viscerally though I felt as the air had been slashed out of my tires; except for one tire and that one tire just had a slow leak to reiterate and stand as a constant reminder of what I had become.
I became sad. Worse than sad, I became sullen and an empty shell.
I remember during those long hours of sitting still out on the porch thinking, ‘How do people do this? How do my mom friends do it? I know I have seen them go through it and come out the other side even stronger. I have seen my fellow illness warriors do the same - Why can I not just be who I am?’ But I didn’t know who that self was to me or how she was perceived in society. And who was this girl that  worried about how she was perceived? When did that happen?
After an enormous amount of self-loathing, a little too much time spent deconstructing myself, and a lot of journals filled up I finally realized one thing (if nothing else). I may not have known who I was but this ‘pity party’ had to stop. I had to move. Function. Get one thing done. Shower and be happy I was clean. Little by little and step by step I began to begrudgingly get off that porch and instead force myself to go do the little things I remembered my old self enjoying, not knowing whether this new me would. I went to the book store. I began going back to my yoga and dance classes again. Then, one day, after much forced repetition I was smiling without reminding myself to smile. I began to write with passion again not for pity. I might not have known exactly who I was, but I was becoming ok with that. When bad days came, they just had to be dealt with -- and I am not being flippant, believe me. None of this was easy. It still isn’t.  But if it were easy, everyone could do it.
Now I have become a mom and something that I thought I had already resolved within myself has resurfaced. I have lost my identity again. I always had empathy for the Moms who went through this, but in the same way that people who are not sick don’t know what to say to sick people I never knew what to say to my friends who became moms and went through this when they asked for help.  
There is one difference in this current loss of identity, and that is I am aware of what a loss of identity feels like.  I do not have to wonder what is happening or have people tell me why I don’t feel like myself.  Although, it has been extraordinary how open moms will be if you only just ask them.  I have found the mom community to be reassuring, especially the new moms who are about 1 year ahead of me. They help me navigate with the ‘do’s and don’ts’ that can throw all new moms for a loop.  But my identity is mine to figure out, and by drawing on my illness experience as a positive, it has made me aware of what an identity crisis feels like. For this I am grateful. But I still must navigate through THIS loss and the frustrations still exist.
In the end there is no ‘correct’ thing to say. Nor is there a quick fix from a loss of identity from any life-altering event in which this loss is a result. The most we can do is talk to each other and try to be kind to ourselves. Some days will be easier than others. I can only hope that now as a mom, I will find that identity again - or even better evolve to broaden my identity…to make it my own again and be at peace with myself.
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