Know the Signs, Fight for Victory

Taking Control

As a softball pitcher, I was used to controlling a game’s tempo. I could choose to take a breath or regroup, or force batters to rush if I was in a groove. I could paint the outside corner or decide on high heat, knowing what needed to be thrown and when. In order to pitch, you have to believe that everything begins and ends on your command.

I lost so much control in my life when I became sick. I seek it out every day since.

And even so, I’m constantly reminded that we’re in control of absolutely nothing.

Last week, my dog was meandering in the backyard and ruptured her second ACL, a painful injury requiring expensive surgery, weeks of healing, and the stress of confining a dog who even at age nine, just wants to play ball.

The unexpected stress on top of an already full plate of personal health struggles, coupled with the craziness that is 2020, sent me spiraling.

So when I heard Dr. Melissa Flint’s presentation, Stress and the Cycle of Negative Thinking, during The Marfan Foundation’s International E3 Summit, it was as if she was talking directly to me through the computer screen. (I think they can really see us).

Here’s what I learned from Dr. Flint’s talk.

  • Stop using the phrase, “yes, but…” This dismisses the good and focuses on what’s wrong. (We can’t replay what happened, or things we should have changed – it’s done).
  • Figure out what you speak negatively about. This is easy. (My list seems to go on and on- money, health, future etc.) Rewrite or rethink every negative statement you say and put a different spin on it. Dr. Flint suggested changing “I’ve never done this before” to “I’m learning something new.” (This is difficult.It’s also a game changer.)
  • Avoid seeing everything as good or bad. We’re always taught things are one way or another. Wrong or right. If you always anticipate the worst, (I can’t tell you the nightmares I’ve had where I replay every dog injured leg outcome), you inevitably filter out the positive. (I’m glad this injury happened when I was with her. I’m glad it wasn’t in the earlier days of the pandemic, etc.)
  • Bring in the right people. Choose who can build you up. Choose who can best know what you need. Then stop letting others dictate how you should act, think, or feel. You can ask for opinions and get a million different answers. Trust yourself and those close to you.
  • Solve one thing at a time and go from there. (I can’t determine what this recovery will be like for my pup, but I can cuddle the heck out of her and provide her comfort right now when she needs it.)
  • Remember, the world isn’t as serious as it feels. Laugh, smile, and appreciate. (I have the love of a great dog, who is still mischievous and spunky)

How can you get control back?

Dr. Flint stated that control is emotional regulation.
It’s having all eyes on you and not letting anyone see you sweat.
It’s when onlookers are unable to tell if you’re winning, losing, or somewhere in between.
It’s focusing on the next pitch.
I’m working on it.
I’m reminding myself.
Hand me the ball.

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Bridgette Howe was a full-time teacher before being diagnosed with VEDS in 2010 following major surgeries. Bridgette continues striving to pursue her passions of teaching, volunteering, and advocating for rare illness and disability. She resides in upstate NY with her spouse Travis and their pranky labrador, Stella. Bridgette hopes that her writing educates and inspires others in their own journeys and looks forward to seeing everything The VEDS Movement, the VEDS division of The Marfan Foundation, will accomplish.

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