Shea’s Story

This is the very first time I have written it all down…

When I was 18 years old, a bumpy road was right around the corner from graduating high school. I remember feeling like the whole world was in my hands. The warmth of summer was approaching, I’d be attending a new school in the fall, and have to meet new people. New seemed to be the word that kept ringing in my brain.

Instead, life took me on a rollercoaster ride.

I wound up in the hospital… a few times. I kept experiencing kidney infection after kidney infection, which caused my schooling to be brought to a halt. My primary doctor referred me to an urologist (kidney doctor), and after running many different tests they found out that I was born with a blockage (an artery was blocking off my right kidney). This was the root cause to a major kidney malfunction. To get a little anatomical, this is called a Urinary Pelvic Junction Obstruction (UPJO).  

In the course of the next four years, I went through 5 different kidney surgeries in order to save my right kidney. During this time, I was in and out of a local college, trying to maintain any physical activity but also having to remember to count calories in order to gain back muscle that was lost. There were many days where I lived inside a negative space in my head and in my heart. It felt like everyone else my age was getting to experience all of the newness that I had hoped for. As I would scroll through my social media news feeds that were filled with familiar smiles that I no longer kept in contact with, I would get a deep sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was such a dark, negative feeling of jealousy and bitterness. I could not be happy for them and instead would look down within myself and question, “Why can’t I be happy like them? Why can’t I be free?”  Also, in the midst of all of this negative space, trying to heal and having a somewhat regular healthy lifestyle – my boyfriend and I of nearly four years at the time decided to call it quits. It was not a healthy relationship. We would fight, break-up and then get back together; this cycle did not stop until one day it completely just depleted our energy. We were young, we were dumb, and we happened to be falling out of love with one another and just did not know how to press the stop button. It left scars on my heart and probably on his as well. These four years held some of my darkest days.

Little did I know, those experiences were just the roots that I needed…

It was not until I sat down with a life coach who really woke me up from the negative world where my soul was living. He gave me the “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs” triangle, which put self-love into a whole new perspective of being worthy. These talks with this life coach led me to shake off my foggy goggles of life and start focusing on the work I had at hand – myself. I needed to begin to love myself. I had to make changes.

The first step to becoming a better lover of my own soul - I started to surround myself with the people that I cared about most, my family and small group of friends that I had grown up with. That was my circle. On Sundays, I went to Buckhead Church to hear Andy Stanley talk about faith and unending grace. Other Sundays were spent watching episodes of Oprah’s Own, which led me to the discovery of an interview that Oprah did with Ms. Maya Angelou. She told her story of hardship, and how she empowered through the literal knockdowns in life with two powerful words, “Thank You”.  Maya Angelou would say out loud what she was thankful for during the moments of wanting to just roll over and give up, and it was then that I started to practice this in my life. I started reflecting more, and saying “Thank you” as a daily practice.

My second step was keeping a journal. For a while, I reflected on my past from childhood to the person that I could feel myself growing into. One day at a time, one step at a time. In my journal, I jotted down things that I had lost on the rollercoaster ride in order to find self-love. Many of these were: physical changes in my weight and even hair loss, which impacted my self-esteem; I lost people that I had once considered friends; the loss of love for the small things. Not only did I reflect on what I had lost, but also what I was thankful for during the present moment of that very day. Last but not least, I wrote down goals for the future and things that I would want to come back to keep myself re-charged and encouraged: “Never give up, continue to say thank you in the moments of despair, and to take one day a second at a time and remember to stay in the moment; always find the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Breathe because everything will be okay. ”

With these small steps and positive impacts on self-love I started noticing a difference in myself. My happy meter was growing, my health was on the incline and I could feel the energy in nature prevail. Kindred spirits were coming into my life and I just wanted to hug them all for being there with me in the moment. Reflecting back on these four years of my life, I have taken away so much wisdom, strength, and have made a best friend within myself. This was a time of growth that I will be forever thankful for. Every breath has a whole new meaning to me now. One day at a time, one second at a time, one inhale, one exhale, breathing in love for myself, this journey is a forever journey – Buckle in tight because there is going to be a rollercoaster full of emotions!