Stephanie Lovekin – I am a self-described introvert and a person who never wants to burden others with my problems.
The pattern of my thought process goes something like this: what I’m dealing with is nothing compared to what they’re going through. My challenges will just make others sad and add to their burdens. They won’t understand. They won’t know how to respond. They will distance themselves from me.
When cancer struck, initially I minimized it. I thought “this is only stage 1. I’ve seen others plow through this with grace and ease. I will conquer this alone, keep my head high, go through the motions and be done. If I’m down about it, and let others know how emotionally, mentally, and physically distraught this has made me feel, I’ll take them down with me.”
However, it was in this moment I realized just how desperately I needed to connect. I realized that I needed to be honest with myself and others. It was the only way I could survive this.
After ending a 23-year marriage, then getting a devastating diagnosis at the age of 47, it was hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel. The ground gave way beneath my feet. I was falling and nothing was there to catch me.
In order to survive I needed to be honest with myself, which required for me to be honest with my friends and family. The prospect was so scary. I realized I had never been completely honest with myself or the people I love when it came to explaining how I was doing.
Now, the fear of cancer was bigger than the fear of losing people. So, I dove into the deep end and focused on honesty and not being scared to reveal all of my thoughts and fears. I expected only one or two people would stick by me and that only a few people would offer the encouragement that I desperately needed.
What happened instead is overwhelming. Regardless of where people were in their own lives, they’ve said and done things that helped me realize that I am not burdening them. I don’t need to be that self-described introvert in an effort to protect others.
I realized it takes strength and courage for others to reach out when their friends are sick, down, sad, and frustrated. It’s made me realize that I’ve surrounded myself with people who have tons of strength and courage, and who are so giving and have the biggest hearts.
I was wrong all along. The people I know and love have big shoulders. They can handle my burdens. They can handle the big, ugly stuff I need to say. They want to help…if I just let them.
Over the past 3 months while being treated I’ve received numerous meals delivered, flowers, cards, phone calls, visits, texts, emails — each one of them received at perfect timing.
This wouldn’t have happened if I falsely explained “I’m fine” and said “I don’t need anything” when others asked how they can help.
It’s taking a lot of practice to actively change who I thought I was. It is still scary – but I’m working to be more honest with myself and others in all facets of my life. I can’t turn back now.
I’m now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I couldn’t be more blessed and grateful. My circle of people has given me more than just conversations, gifts, flowers, and food. They’ve helped me find my courage, how to connect with honesty, and to realize the irreplaceable value of those connections.
I’m feeling so full of love, strength, and I see such a bright future.
Stephanie Lovekin is a full-time single mom of 2 boys, 13 and 21 years old. She has struggled with anxiety, depression, self-doubt, and lack of confidence, but has found support through talk therapy and tools such as mindfulness. Steph works full-time in a corporate setting and enjoys sharing her life lessons through blogging, in hopes others with similar struggles find connection through her experiences.