An Inspiration (Previously shared exclusively on Patreon 02/12/2020)

I wrote this piece last year and shared it a year ago today on my Patreon. Part of the reason I’m sharing it here now is to update previous posts so when I (possibly temporarily) close my Patreon the links won’t be broken. Instead of Patreon, I will be using Ko-Fi for anyone who wishes to support me financially. (

The concept I wrote about here is not unique to me, but something experienced by many disabled/chronically ill people in their own lives. The concept is known as inspiration exploitation (formerly inspiration porn) and toxic positivity. I hope to write about both more candidly in the future, but for now this is what I have:

“You’re such an inspiration,” they say, and they mean well most of the time.

I smile awkwardly and keep my head down. Inspirations don’t fight back.

“Your life is so hard, but you are smiling, your smile is so pretty!”
I bite my tongue. I can’t cry here.

“Wow, you really give everyone no excuses!” They mean it as a compliment, but I shouldn’t be here. I feel so dizzy from the pain.

I don’t want my life to be used as an excuse to be cruel and uncompassionate to others.

I need excuses, we all do sometimes. Not all excuses are invalid.
I don’t want to be an inspiration, I just want to be human.

“You’re such an inspiration,” they say. “I could never go through what you do.”
I grit my teeth because I didn’t want to go through this either.

“You don’t look sick!” They smile, thinking this will make me feel better.
I work so hard not to look sick so people don’t feel uncomfortable around me.

“You look better today!” They mean well, but I don’t feel better. Maybe if I looked worse my doctors would listen to me.
I don’t want to look better, I want to wake up and not feel this pain.

“You’re such an inspiration!” They say, putting me on a pedestal with no escape.
How can I climb down in their minds, show them I am no hero?
I’m just a human with a broken body. I want to be seen for who I am.

“You’re so strong, I don’t know how you do it!” They smile, feeling like they validated me. I smile too because I don’t want them to feel as uncomfortable as me.

I don’t know how I do it either, but I wasn’t aware there was a choice.
“You’re such an inspiration,” they share again and again.

They mean to be kind, they think that it is but I have knots in my stomach.
If you only see me as an inspiration, you cannot see me.

You cannot see my bad days when I can’t get out of bed.
You cannot see me when the pain is so bad all I can do is cry.

You don’t see me when I can’t leave the house for weeks because I am so sick.
If you just see me as an inspiration, you don’t see me at all.

I don’t want to be an inspiration, I just want a friend.

Writing What I Need to Hear

A young woman (me) sitting in front of white curtains with a pattern of dark green and grey leaves. She is smiling softly, wearing a v-neck denim dress with bronze buttons. Her hair is dark brown and the top part of her hair is in a bun, the sides are shaved. Baby hairs are everywhere. Her eyes are green.

You’re kind to others but hard on yourself,

Darling don’t you know that you’re deserving of your own grace?

You don’t need to earn the right to rest,

It’s okay to give yourself the time and space you need.

It’s okay to take up space.

Healing isn’t linear and for you neither is sleep.

So darling, take your time and be gentle with yourself.

You stretch yourself so thin and berate yourself for snapping.

But what else was going to happen?

You aren’t invincible, but you don’t need to be either.

You keep falling, slipping, coming short of this tall mountain you’ve built for yourself to climb.

You curse your body for being human.

Darling, you don’t have to do it all.

You are human.

You are imperfect, broken in places, weak at times, but you are also marvelous, healed in places, and strong when you can be.

You are all together human, and that’s what you’re meant to be.

It’s okay to be who you are.

– Tori Lynn

Four Chronic Years

Your life is valuable and your value does not depend on your health.

I played with the title of this for a long time before I actually started writing it. I’m still not very happy with it but I’ve realized I’m using that as an excuse so I don’t actually have to write the content of this post.

I don’t have to write this, truthfully, but I feel like I need to. I’ve never really acknowledged this anniversary of when my entire life changed. Frankly, I couldn’t narrow down the date until I looked up my old medical records. It’s been haunting me a lot this year, so I’m giving in and writing it.

I’ve talked about the specific losses that came with this in other posts, but today I wanted to talk about another side of things.

(A little informational thing: I did have chronic health problems before this life changing moment, but they were mostly undiagnosed, I had found temporary work-arounds for them without realizing it, and had not often flared to the point I couldn’t hide from them. This post in particular is about my RA, but it is not my only chronic illness.)

Four years ago this week (May 2016) I was playing basketball with some friends. I was relatively healthy (that I was aware of, the underlying stuff and my mental health are other stories), I was energetic, almost everything was accessible to me, I was so naive. Life still had its challenges, but my physical health wasn’t a noticeable one. In fact I was already going through a lot before this life changing event happened. For the first time in my life I was actually going to therapy. Mind you, I’ve needed therapy a long time but the journey that actually got me there is a different story entirely.

For now, just know I was going through a rough time. Not unlike now, I had moved in January and by May I was still trying to establish new relationships. This triggered a lot of emotions I had no idea how to manage, so with some help and a push from people who cared about me, I started going to therapy.
Now that I think about it, perhaps the similarities to this year and that year are the reason I needed to write about it now.

At some point the next day, I noticed a sharp pain and swelling in my pointer fingers. It was so small at first, I was convinced I had either sprained or broken both fingers the previous day.

I was lucky enough to have a nurse practitioner friend (Diane Bite) who immediately recognized my symptoms as rheumatoid arthritis. If I had been in another place, I don’t believe I would’ve been diagnosed so quickly or even sought help. I am so grateful for you, Diane! Within that summer my diagnosis was confirmed with blood tests and by a rheumatologist and I started treatment.

My timeline is a little fuzzy for many reasons, but sometime between the initial diagnosis and seeing a rheumatologist I started having really bad days. The pain and swelling wasn’t confined to my fingers, but quickly moved to different joints. For almost a whole week my knees swelled up like giant red balloons and I could barely walk. I almost stopped eating entirely because my hands hurt too much to cook or even walk around a grocery store. RA isn’t like your typical OA (Osteoarthritis). It doesn’t stay in one place, it doesn’t even have a similar cause. I’ve written about it before so I won’t go into details here, but RA is an autoimmune disease, not just arthritis.

This hurts so much to write because I remember how alone I felt in those moments. I still feel alone sometimes. It’s hard to fight the feeling that “the world is against me” when even your own body is attacking itself.

I remember being in so much denial. I had always viewed illnesses as weaknesses; my internal ableism was off the charts. I constantly pushed myself into flares, I was so angry at my body for failing me, I cried a lot, I tried to maintain my old schedule (which I quickly learned was impossible). I felt broken, and though I hadn’t actively practiced self harm in years, I was subconsciously punishing my body for letting me down.

During the day my friends tried to help me, there are a handful of photos of me being pushed around on a longboard by friends because I couldn’t walk. I really needed a REAL mobility aid back then, but I didn’t view myself as disabled (despite having a disability and being unable to walk without assistance). I just viewed myself as weak, not deserving of help.

The first year was particularly bad. I quit therapy (likely when I needed it the most) and tried to maintain a good front to hide the pain. I thought it was a sort of strength to be in pain and not take pain medicine. (It’s not)
The pain levels and fatigue aren’t that much better now, but I’ve learned my limits, I have a set medicine routine (although it still needs tweaking), I have mobility devices, I’ve learned to say no.
But that first year, I didn’t have any of that. I had a bad allergic reaction to the medication I was put on and it took months to subside, my insurance suddenly stopped covering me with no warning, I didn’t know I could just ask for mobility devices (you can), I thought it was something I just had to tough out (I didn’t).

Within that first year, I also got married, got let go from two jobs, tried and failed many times to get hired at traditional jobs, lost 40 pounds I couldn’t afford to lose, and finally started working from home as an online teacher (which I still love).
Wow, I didn’t realize that was all the same year till now.

The pain was terrible, the fatigue was even worse, the brain fog was scary, but the worst part was feeling alone, isolated, and judged. Sure, there were people who judged me (both strangers and people I expected better from), but no one judged me as harshly as I did.

The first genuine mobility device I ever used was a wheelchair at the airport. The night before he proposed, my (now husband) boyfriend and I were flying red-eye back to North Carolina and I was having trouble making it to our gate. I had been dealing with this for a few months, but I was still having trouble accepting my limitations. He saw an airport wheelchair abandoned nearby and helped me settle in it. At first I was embarrassed, I had a very limited understanding of wheelchairs and thought they were only for people who can’t walk at all (they’re not). After some reassurance and goofing around from Johnny, I was grateful.

I’d love to say that after that I got some mobility aids and accepted being disabled, but that’s simply not the case. It took time and support. Somewhere along the way I found support groups specific to my condition on facebook, later I discovered the disabled/Spoonie communities on other social media platforms. Even though the people in my life tried to help me, there was nothing like finding a group of people going through the same things.

I didn’t start using a cane until 2018. My husband actually just found my first cane where someone had thrown it away and we cleaned it up. It was freeing. For the first time in years I could actually walk around without stopping every two minutes.

I don’t remember the first time I used the word disabled to describe myself. I remember some friends encouraging me to try and apply for disability sometime between 2018-2019, but it took awhile after that conversation to actually accept that I am disabled. It took a long time to realize that disabled isn’t a dirty word, it doesn’t mean I’m less of a person, it doesn’t mean I have failed.

This isn’t a story of me over-coming a disability. I am definitely still disabled. This is a story of support, love, acceptance, and pain.

In learning to accept my limits, I have learned to better accommodate the limits of others. I have learned more about myself in the past four years than I did in the twenty prior to them. I have learned to be kind. I have learned the value of support, of standing up for myself, of saying no, of resting when I need it, of demanding accommodation and accessibility, and of refusing to be alone.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking around. My inbox is always open if you are also grappling with anything I talked about here. However, it is not open for unsolicited advice or MLM sales.

You are not alone.

You are not less.

You are valuable.

Be kind to yourself.

Tori Lynn

Exercise and Chronic Illness

-Copied from my personal Facebook-

I haven’t spoken publicly about this often because who wants to hear about more at home workouts?
But on a serious note, also because it’s a painful topic for me.

I had to rewrite this several times because I found myself adding disclaimers out of fear of people’s perceptions of me.

When I first got sick, I thought I could “exercise myself healthy again” and it only made me sicker, so I avoided it until I could form a healthy relationship between working out and being disabled.
Last year with the guidance of my rheumatologist and encouragement from my family, I started practicing yoga. It was freeing, being able to do something again.
Then I had complications with my endometriosis and was told to stop all exercise again pre and post-surgery.

Fast forward to this spring, I have the green light (temporarily) to exercise again and I’ve been practicing modified yoga since mid-March. It’s freeing, it’s scary, It’s unnerving to know if I push myself too far I won’t be able to do anything for days.
Even the little workouts I do take so much energy that I have to rest afterwards before I can do anything else. But it’s nice to have this right now. It’s nice to work out to help my body instead of trying with no avail to get it back to how it was four years ago.

I know I’ll have to stop again soon, but that doesn’t take away the feeling of getting a little strength back for now. 🌷🧘🏻‍♀️
Enjoy the little things and don’t let the times you can’t do them take away from when you can. Be kind to yourself. 💕

Also remember there are more posts over on my Patreon that won’t be shared here so feel free to check it out.

Tori Lynn

The View From Up Here

View looking out through a window screen. There are several trees in front of a black and white house. Ivy is growing on the trees and some of them are starting to grow their own leaves.
On the windowsill are four succulents (if you pay attention to my instagram, these are Geralt, Ophelia/Octavia, Richard, and Constantine, only Geralt is not a cactus). Between the plants are small shells and pieces of quartz.

The view from up here is slowly changing in this little world
I’ve been here for weeks and the trees are turning green
My eyes are tired from too many things observed
In all this chaos the quiet was lost, it would seem

And yet when I breathe in through the open window
I can forget the rest, if only for a moment
I keep hearing that the only way to feel peace is to let go
But how can you let go in this climate?

There are five windows in my house:
One to the driveway
One in the kitchen
One to the rooftops
One to the world
And this one, to the trees.
This window is my favorite.
It’s quiet.
You can hear the birds singing today,
They have arrived for spring.


Did you forget spring was here?
I did, for a while.
I can’t see any flowers from up here,
But at least now the trees are starting to turn green.

The view into everything is bleak,
But the view from up here is nice at least.

-Tori Lynn

(As a reminder, subscribe here and/or join my Patreon to help support my writing)

Resources For Staying Home

This is a strange time, the best thing we can do for each other is to stay home. Many of my fellow Spoonie friends are used to being stuck at home, many of my healthy friends don’t know what to do with themselves. I wanted to compile a list together. I will come back and edit this post as I find new resources or vet recommendations I’m given, so feel free to come back and check this again later.

I’m not a doctor or any kind of medical professional (besides a professional sick person), nor do I have money to financially assist anyone sadly, so these resources are not medical or survival-based.
(Links are embedded into some of my suggestions. I’m not getting anything in return for adding these links.)

Being stuck at home sucks. This is not a vacation. I get it, believe me. I’ve had to do this before. So here are some of the resources I’ve found:

(This is not a master list in any way. Something like that would be better created on a google spreadsheet. This is more of my own personal list of things I’ve enjoyed.)


While anyone who knows me well knows I hate ebooks, they are better than nothing. Eventually, I hope to compile links to some of my favorite articles and writers, if I ever do that I will try to remember to link it here as well.
Without access to libraries, I am grateful for these:

Libby is a great tool that you can connect to your local library card (if a link is available, I’ve connected two so far). Once you connect it, you have access to all of your library’s ebooks. You can either read them in the app or on Kindle.

Internet Archive is a free national library of ebooks. During this pandemic they are suspending waiting times for all their ebooks so there is no limit to how many people can borrow the same one.
(Although I have heard they don’t pay writers the way libraries do, so try to request these books at your local library if you can)

  • Google

It may sound cliche, but if you have some extra time on your hands, use some of it to learn something new. You don’t even have to learn a new skill (although you can). It may be nice to learn things about people that are different than you. If you do, try to take time to learn from direct sources instead of just reading outside sources.
(For example, learning about the lives of disabled people by reading articles/books written by disabled people instead of caregivers or abled people, learning about the culture in x country from people in x country, not those who have only visited)


Nothing much of note here yet. I’ve settled for Spotify but I’m still not a fan. Alas, I miss Grooveshark.

This is a fun music activity that creates a seamless playlist from one artist to another no matter how different the two artists are. It’s a great way to find new artists.


I’m not an exercise person. My conditions cause high-impact exercise to not only be extremely painful, but to cause potential long-term damage. Since I can’t exactly go swimming right now, yoga has been a decent substitute.

Usually a per subscription yoga app. I used the free trial over a year ago. During the current pandemic, they are offering all of their resources for free. (Currently until May 1st)

My personal favorite yoga instructor on youtube. She has a lot of low-intensity videos that are possible to follow along if you have limited mobility and energy as well as higher intensity videos for people wanting more of a workout.


All the extroverts are getting antsy with cabin fever. I feel it, I do. Although I’m introverted, I treasure my one on one times with people and just leaving the house by myself. In a time like this, community is more important than ever.

  • Facebook Groups

I’m a part of several lovely Facebook groups. Some of my favorites are either connected to one of my jobs or illnesses. However, I’ve found lovey hobby groups as well, especially the plant and Pokémon Go groups. Search for something you enjoy and see if there’s an active group. It’s a great way to make friends and help you feel less alone in the void. There are also several Meetup groups that have turned to virtual meetings during this time.

We are definitely not alone in this, but our church has completely moved online for the time being. Not only are we streaming our Sunday services on YouTube, but we’re meeting for our regular midweek and small group discussions on Zoom. If you’re interested check out our MeetUp for the links. We are also doing personal Bible Studies through Facebook/facetime/zoom or whatever works for you, so as always feel free to reach out to me about that.

  • Social Media

Whichever platform you fit into, there are communities hidden in the tags. I love the disabled community on Twitter. They have helped me cope with becoming disabled and learn more about advocacy and what others go through. The nature photographers on Instagram make me feel peaceful and satisfy my wanderlust just a little bit. I’ve joined a few gaming communities on discord and Facebook as well. Find your niche. You just might find some friends while you’re at it.

  • Friends and Family

It may seem cheesy, but just because you can’t physically go see each other doesn’t mean you’re alone. Many of your friends and family (especially the ones you don’t usually get time to talk to) are also stuck at home now (or they should be staying home). Text them. Call them (if it’s me please text me first). Set up video call times. Play online games together. If you’re not great at technology, take the time to learn just one format for now or ask for help.


At some point you may start to feel bored or overwhelmed or both. It may come early or it may take a while. It will likely happen. So it’s important during this time to do things you enjoy. If you’re stuck in an apartment alone that may feel more difficult. I hope some of these can help.

  • Make Videos

They can be ridiculous nonsense like some of the funny ones I saw come out of the quarantines in China, or they can be vlogs about what you’re going through. If you’re used to talking to people, try talking to a camera. Whether you share it or not is up to you, but sometimes making it can help. Growing up my sister and I made hilarious (at least to us) videos with our stuffed animals. I don’t have most of those videos but the memories of making them are so special. Even if you’re alone you can share and edit a video together with your friends across the internet.

  • Games

You could be a video game person like me or a board game person like my parents. Find something you enjoy. A lot of traditional board games (or at least knock offs) are available online as well so you don’t have to worry if you don’t have roommates. My husband particularly enjoys playing Quiplash and is hosting zoom calls where people can join in.
There are plenty of free phone games out there as well. (I’m currently playing Clash of Clans again)

I need to get the links together, but I have heard that many museums and even Disney are hosting online tours and virtual experiences. If you miss going out, take some time to look up one of these places. Or even watch YouTube videos of the beach if that’s what you prefer.
(I have not personally checked on all the links under this one, but I hope to check them out soon!)


  • Open The Window

Not everyone has access to a yard and many parks are still too crowded to safely walk while practicing social distancing. If you’re high risk like me, you shouldn’t be going out at all if it can be avoided. So instead, open a window if you can. Thankfully it’s starting to get a little warmer.

  • Drink Some Tea (Or whatever)

I love tea. On any given day I drink several cups of different kinds of tea. It’s relaxing and better for you than soft drinks. Caffeine heightens my anxiety, so for now I’m sticking to fruit, herbal, and floral teas. Some of them are good for your skin as well so I’ve played around with boiling a second (or third) batch to pour in the bath. The rose tea was especially nice.

  • Meditate and/or Pray

It may seem obvious, but talking through what you’re going through in prayer can be calming. However, sometimes my mind is so overwhelmed that I can’t even get out a cohesive prayer in the moment. Another rough time for me led me to meditation. There is so much value to breathing and being still in a world of chaos, especially now. Not to mention after meditating (either silently, guided, with music, or on scriptures) my mind usually feels clear enough to pray again or do something else. My favorite meditation app that I’ve found is Insight Timer. It has a lot of options so that if you don’t like guided meditations you can still customize your meditation time. (I’ve found that doing a handful of beginner guided ones can be super helpful in getting in the right mindset though.)


Just because you’re losing your usual schedule of productivity doesn’t mean you have to be productive every moment. We’re all going through collective trauma right now, whether you recognize it or not. Take some time to breathe and be by yourself. Take time to meditate and pray or even just sit in silence and think.

If you haven’t done that in a while it may be scary or seem silly at first but trust me if you fill every moment of this time with the idol of productivity you will drive yourself into the ground. So don’t expect yourself to learn five hundred different things and finish a ridiculous to-do list. There is a chance that whatever you learn to do could bring back traumatic memories of this time, so don’t feel pressured into learning how to do something. Many of us will also be sick during this time. Give your body a chance to heal.

We’re all going through this together.
Stay home, stay safe.
Take the precautions you can if you’re an essential worker.
Stay at home if you’re not doing essential errands. (If you’re not high risk I’ve heard that short walks are still okay, just keep a large distance from anyone you don’t live with. Even if you’re family.)
You may feel very alone right now, it’s okay.
This is a dark time, but you are not alone.

– Tori Lynn

Immunocompromised Through COVID-19

Hello again, I’ve held off on writing this for a while but I don’t feel like I can stay quiet about it.

I’ve noticed that most of the people downplaying this pandemic (and most of the ones panic-buying or greedily taking advantage of people by price-gouging) are healthy. They are not the ones who will be personally affected.

However, they will be the ones to spread it because of their lack of concern.

This is not meant to incite panic. If you struggle with panic related to this condition, this isn’t for you. Stay safe, be cautious, and trust in the precautions you’re able to take. You can stop reading now.

This post is not about positivity or percentages. It is also not about panic. It’s not an informative post on what to do now. It is about those of us who are vulnerable. A lot of these things apply all the time, but they are magnified right now. Yes, we are also sensitive to the flu and people refusing to take precautions for that harms us too, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now.

In the name of “calming panic” people are saying that it’s not a big deal or that it’s overhyped (this kind of thinking is very western/individualistic) and that we’re “hurting the economy for nothing” because it “only” really affects the immunocompromised and elderly. This is a typical healthy person’s response to reasonable shut downs and quarantines.

PSA: It’s not vulnerable people’s fault that we’re not prepared for this. I’ve personally been mentally preparing since January when my students in China went on lockdown. They told me how serious it was, what was happening and I knew (not I panicked or I was afraid, I KNEW) it would be here eventually and that we weren’t ready.

People were already showing their xenophobia to Asians living in the US in January but it has gotten worse. Don’t blame people for things they have no control over.

When you say that it’s not a big deal, you are saying that we (that demographic) don’t matter, that we aren’t worth protecting. This article really hits all the points in that area and I highly suggest reading it: Stop Treating Me Like I’m Disposable When You Talk About The Coronavirus

“Show immunocompromised people that you know that we matter, and take small steps to show us we’re not alone in facing this daunting virus.”

If you are a Christian who is not taking this seriously, is acting in a xenophobic manner, or is more worried about the economy than the people sick and dying (even if they’re not in your part of the world or demographic) I urge you to read this passage, or even the whole chapter:

Philippians‬ ‭2:3-4‬ “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

When I hear or see people I love saying things like this, it’s nearly impossible to not take it personally. It’s not even about the emotional impact of such words, but the physical impact of knowing that you don’t care if I get incredibly sick or not. Like when well-meaning acquaintances come in for a hug without telling me they have the flu. As much as I want the hug, the flu for me and a healthy person are two completely different things. Even moreso with something so unknown as COVID-19. so I’m begging you, be considerate. Be loving. Be better.

I want to start wrapping up by saying I am grateful for the people taking and following preventative measures to help flatten the curve.

I’m grateful for the leaders of our church specifically making a plan for this and helping those of us who are vulnerable not feel like outsiders. I’m grateful for the events that were cancelled preventatively (I’m not talking about the ones that weren’t given a choice). I’m grateful for the people who are sticking to their quarantines even though it’s terrifying in a nation with no guaranteed sick leave. I’m grateful for my job teaching from home, giving me a virtual window into the other side of the world.

I’m grateful for the internet keeping us all connected during this. It may be overwhelming, but we are overwhelmed together.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I don’t know how this will be handled. It’s very daunting. None of us really know, even the people who are making the decisions.

We got caught off guard and the terrible, greedy underside of our nation is showing. Some of us will be okay and some of us won’t. Just know you aren’t alone. You do matter, even if the healthy people in your life keep saying you don’t (intentionally or not). You are a statistic worth protecting. Your true value is not attached to economic input or productivity.

I’m personally okay right now. There’s no outbreak in my city yet but I am taking precautions and preparing for when it comes. I am lucky to work from home so social distancing isn’t as difficult for me. I wear a mask for unrelated reasons but I need to get better about using it more. I’ve been afraid of how people have treated mask-wearers lately.

Stay safe. If you have resources to share, please do. Don’t hoard supplies you don’t need. Don’t steal from hospitals. Don’t downplay the suffering of others. Don’t harass people. Protect others. Don’t be xenophobic.

Wuhan jiayou! 🙏🏻

– Tori Lynn

Inspiration – Patreon

I’m still getting used to the multi-platform thing but the actual post is public on my Patreon. This is just a notification/reminder of sorts.

It’s called “An Inspiration” and I talk about how it feels to be disabled “inspiration porn” (if you’re not sure what that is a quick google search should help). It was an incredibly difficult thing to write because I don’t know how people will react to it.

Here is the link to the post.

Inspiration: if you are healthy it’s very possible you have a 100% positive relationship with inspiration, especially being told that you are one. It might feel exciting or flattering. The same often does not apply to those of us who are chronically ill and/or disabled. My worth is not how inspiring my life is to other people.

I care a whole lot more about being a friend and an advocate than an inspiration.

So head over to my Patreon ( and check it out.

– Tori Lynn

New Year, Still Me

Something about January 1st reeks pressure.

As a disabled person, pressure hits me a little differently. I can’t just change everything with a positive attitude and New Years resolutions.

I could easily go on a rant about the unhealthy habits and expectations surrounding New Years, but that’s for another time.

This year, the pressure feels even thicker with the beginning of a new decade (yes, I am aware of the technicalities but it’s ridiculous and worth ignoring).

Beyond the pressure, the reminiscence is tangible. Everyone is thinking and talking about the past ten years with a hyper focus on 2019. I’m sure everyone has had ups and downs, but the lows aren’t what people tend to share. Fair warning: that’s what I’m about to do.

I usually try the reminiscence thing myself, but 2019 was rough. After excruciating pain with an unknown source, a surgery gave me a new chronic diagnosis with no actual escape from the pain. Medical debt drove us into a tight corner, especially since my sicknesses cost me a lot of work hours. Before I got my diagnosis this past July we had urgent care trips where the doctors basically laughed in my face and told me it was in my head. I couldn’t have survived this year without my supportive and loving husband and family, as well as some close friends helping us out.

However, no matter how much they’d like to, they cant take away what I’m going through. The intense bouts of pain brought out some of the darkest struggles in my mental and emotional health. 2019 was dark and heavy, but one good thing is that it forced me to deal with myself. I lost a lot of myself over the 2010s and I spent a lot of 2019 trying to find it again.

I read a lot this year. It made me feel like myself again.

Looking at the past 10 years, I’ve had wild ups and downs. Stigmas and false assumptions surrounding the things I dealt with left me unequipped and feeling helpless.

Before you continue; me sharing about my health (both physical and emotional) is NOT an invitation to share your miracle cures or ideas about faith and mental health. I have shared about that in the past, but it’s not what I’m talking about today.

Faith doesn’t magically cancel out mental and emotional disorders or health problems.

The fact that I have these things is NOT a sign of a weak relationship with God or lack of faith. If you want to say something to the tune of that, I respectfully ask that you don’t.

So that brings me to this morning. My husband and I were heading to get some food when I realized I had forgotten something important at home – a small financial gift from a family member to pay for our brunch.

My head starting spinning and my lungs got tight. I could feel my body tensing up. My heart was racing. I couldn’t catch a breath. I started to feel dizzy (more so than usual). Tears started pouring out uncontrollably.

I wasn’t this upset just seconds before, what happened?

This, to those unfamiliar was an anxiety attack. They have been an unwelcome friend. I am getting help with it, but that doesn’t make it magically go away either.

All the digging up of the past years brought up some very dark times for me. Knowing that we’re moving in a couple months means a lot of expenses. We still haven’t paid off my bills from surgery in July and now we have to hit the deductible again for new medical bills.

There was a time I don’t talk about much when I was food insecure. Missing a day of work meant not being able to pay rent unless I scraped something else together or didn’t eat. During that time (and even for a while after it) I couldn’t dream of going out to eat somewhat nice food unless it was someone else’s treat.

So anxiety translated this to mean having to pay for this one meal out of pocket could compromise us having money after we move.

I had never really talked about this before this morning. It seems a little ridiculous when it’s all put together. At the base of it all, I know we will be fine. God has pulled us through (albeit often at the last minute and not always in a pleasant way) plenty of times before. But telling myself that in an anxiety attack doesn’t change anything.

Anxiety does that. It makes you feel like one mistake can break everything. It makes you feel like everything broken in your life can be traced back to a mistake you could’ve avoided. But the truth is, you can’t avoid pain or difficulties no matter how carefully you plan.

As one of my new favorite authors (Matt Haig) often says: depression doesn’t discriminate.

This year I read The Problem if Pain by C. S. Lewis, which also touches on this difficult topic. You can’t avoid pain by being good, or close to God, by being rich or methodically planning out your life.

Starting 2020 with an anxiety attack is definitely not what I would’ve planned. However, it sets a very sober stage. I don’t want to pretend I’m someone I’m not this year.

If I could tell 2010 me anything, it wouldn’t be what mistakes to avoid or even what to spend my money on. (Although yes I do still think about the money I spent on webkinz with regret)

I would tell 14 year old me to be kinder, but to stand up for myself.

I would say to be graceful with myself and others. No one can meet the expectations you have, not even you.

I would say that there isn’t a magic solution to all my problems and sometimes you just have to learn to cohabitate with them.

I would say to write more things down because your memory isn’t what you think it is.

I would say that you’re not alone. That your anxiety and depression doesn’t make you irredeemable or strange. That the pain you feel is real and there is a huge community feeling the same pain that you will find when you’re older.

I would say to ask for more help and to not try to carry everything all the time.

I would say that strength is overrated, but boundaries are beautiful. You don’t have to be the strong one all the time. You shouldn’t be.

I would say to grow, to develop, to learn and to be better, but not to change. Embrace who you’ve been made to be. Don’t try to be other people. Don’t try to break yourself down into bite size pieces you think people will accept.

Be you.

Two pictures side by side. The first picture is from 2010. I am sitting on top of a wooden set of monkey bars. I am wearing a very bright graphic tee and a purple plaid half-jacket. I have about 8 bracelets on and you can see some sharpie markings on my wrist. I am looking away from the camera in thought with a serious face. The picture on the right is from today (January 1st 2020). I am wearing a navy blue shirt with an animated whale shark on it. I am sitting on the corner of my bed in my room mimicking the same pose as the first picture.
Tori 2010 and 2020

Since I can’t say these things to my past self, I say them to myself and to you in 2020.

If you are human, you’ve likely felt alone. You are not. In this troublesome world, you are far from alone.

You can’t fix your past, you don’t have to.

Move forward, grow, but don’t throw away who you are.

You aren’t a mistake.

– Tori Lynn