New beginnings have molded my life for 33 years of illness, something every woman in pain can relate with.
Reflecting upon my first blog here on For Grace’s new website, I’m excited about this new beginning. A place to share and explore my deep feelings about the many experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – that accompany life-altering pain.
My first new beginning came the moment I tore my hamstring while stretching at the ballet barre as a 21-year-old dance major at the University of California Irvine. I knew the perfect life I had was forever altered.
I desperately tried to hang on to my greatest passion, my career as a performer. I got a light-dancing, soloist job in an illusion act and worked in Reno and Vegas with lots of fire, tigers and insanely talented performers. Though I was in physical agony, I was also in my element, hell-bent on not losing that glamorous life along with my dreams.
It was a terrifying new beginning when my “ballet injury” mysteriously spread into my good leg – and I sadly had to move back into my mother’s home in sedated suburbia. There my 13+ year odyssey of doctors calling me crazy began while my disease with no name mercilessly spread throughout my body.
Giving up on those abusive doctors, accepting that I wouldn’t find a diagnosis or cure and moving to LA with John to resume my showbiz dreams as best I could was a world-opening, new beginning. I’d accepted my wheelchair – now that was a rough one! – and was stunned that, other than Playboy, Hollywood wouldn’t give me a chance. In the Biz, I quickly learned that disabled equals unreliable, a terrible bias that many are still fighting to overcome.
As the pain wore on, John wore out and more doors closed to my dreams, my new beginning was trying to find a reason to stay alive. I was fighting the desire to take my life and end the emotional pain that came with the abandonment of most every loved-one I had pre-illness.
During this time, I miraculously learned the strength of John. I’d been in love with this foxy guy since we were 19, but could never have imagined the magnitude of his love and commitment. I discovered that this man would jump into a volcano before letting me get hurt – and I’ll never ask for a more beautiful beginning.
With time and growth, I learned that to survive my pain, fatigue and loss, I had to re-invent myself. A comeback, if you will. Perhaps my biggest beginning was committing my heart and soul to For Grace. I sparked a meaningful life by dedicating it to helping women in pain avoid my fate. Since then, I wake every morning with a purpose-filled reason to beat back the demons that still plague me.
Along the way, new beginnings have included not being able to marry John because we can’t afford to lose my healthcare. Being too ill to have a baby. Choosing to walk away from toxic people including family members who worked to bring me down. Getting my diagnosis and finding partial-remission through self-care. Having great satisfaction at continuing to share my cautionary story with the world. And mostly gaining enormous gratification when a woman in pain shares that my work got her a diagnosis and care, especially when she tells me she’d given up and planned to take her life.
Wow, new beginnings can come in all shapes, sizes and colors.
I’ve come to understand that I was born with a healthy dose of resilience – and I’m working hard to develop more by using mindfulness meditation, building a healthy new community, exercising regularly, eating a plant-based diet, practicing gratitude and forgiveness and finding inspiration through extraordinary role models.
At For Grace’s 8th annual Women In Pain conference, we’ll be exploring resilience as a way to make positive, new beginnings and forge our comeback story.
Thank you, women in pain, for joining me on my first post here at The Fire Within blog.