Last April my family and I, all eighteen of us, spent a week together in a house in Destin, Florida, to commemorate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. My sister Kellie is creating a photo book to commemorate the trip and my parents’ accomplishment of sticking together all those decades.
Kellie called me last night. “Jodie, I barely have any photos of you from Destin. Were you hiding from the camera?”
“Well, mostly, I was the photographer, but I’ll take a look at what I’ve got on my phone.” I hung up with her and turned back the clock seven months.
First, I saw what appears to be a collection of “before” pictures. Before my diagnosis. Before treatment. Before forty-two pounds and the most stressful year of my life melted away. Before I reclaimed creativity.
I hate every picture of myself from that trip. But, not for the reason you may think.
I hate those pictures because they show a woman I never want to be again.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) had robbed my body of its ability to use insulin and brought with it a nasty cocktail of anxiety and depression to poison my mind. Unknowingly, I had struggled with this for over two decades, but always had writing to depend on as my way to embrace the world or rage against it.
However, for the year leading up to my diagnosis and treatment, I feared I had lost that coping mechanism. Most days, I struggled to write at all, mush less anything worth publishing. I stopped listening to my instincts on writing, allowing others too much influence over my writing style, stories, and characters. Then, I just stopped writing at all.
I had lost my ability to be creative, authentic, and brave.
Then, a succession of miracles occurred.
First, a doctor listened to me and forced me to face the reality of anxiety and depression. She did this by asking me if I was still writing. I told her, “No.” She responded, “Jodie, that’s not good.” She also said the words PCOS and pre-diabetes. The latter was terrifying.
The second miracle was the treatment for my PCOS and insulin resistance. Within a week, I could feel the positive effects of the medication, healthy eating, and increased exercise. I felt hopeful. The constant fog in my brain began to lift. I began to like myself again. And, the scale began a nosedive.
The third miracle came via my husband and an overdue heart-to-heart. He told me to stop coddling him, worrying about him, trying to control him. Now, seven months later, I know this was the miracle I most needed.
By ditching my need to control everything and everyone around me, I freed my mind to write. One month into my new lifestyle of letting go, healthy eating, and rigorous exercise, I began a new work-in-progress, one I never thought I was capable of writing.
As for the “before” pictures, I printed one out, but it is not displayed where you might think. It’s not taped to my mirror or stuck on the fridge. It will now live on my desk as a constant reminder that if I continue to live healthily in body and mind, I can be my best creative self.