Alyssa’s Story| Becoming Session at Duluth Boudoir Photography

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What single word do you most identify with?..

FAMILY….

This is one of the hardest things I will have ever written and I don’t even know where to begin but life sure is full of ups and downs that have tremendous effects on ones’ mental health and well being. So let’s jump right in and start with my eczema when I was a kid. Until now, I have never really told anyone about this. The eczema on my hands was so bad that they would crack and bleed. As a result, every night before bed my mom would put bag balm on my hands and then put socks over them to keep the bag balm from getting all over my sheets. I was so embarrassed and worried about what everyone else would think of me and how they would make fun of me if they ever found out. We all know how mean kids can be.

Over the years my eczema has gotten better since when I was a kid but every winter they still hurt, crack and bleed. There are times I cannot even do the dishes because my hands hurt so much. I just continue putting lotion on my hands to try and keep them moist.

Moving into 2009 I started having more health problems.  I was basically in pain constantly.  Some of my symptoms were getting little bubbles/sores in my mouth after eating, extreme abdominal pain and cramping, reduced appetite, fatigue, arthritis in my wrists, along with many other symptoms.  

I ended up with a large lump on my ankle that was extremely painful. I went into the doctor and of course was sent to another doctor and another. In the end they ended up doing a biopsy on my ankle that I thought I was going to die from because of the pain it caused. It was determined that I had erythema nodosum. This is a type of skin inflammation. It was so painful that at times I couldn’t even walk and my mother had to carry me to bed.

Finally, in 2011 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s (this explains my symptoms listed above). It only took a few years of being in pain, many tests, swallowing a camera, having a colonoscopy, tons of doctor visits and an unnecessary surgery from a misdiagnosis from one of the 20 or so different doctors I saw for one of them to finally diagnose me properly.  At this point the inflammation in my body had gotten so high (73% and normal inflammation is 0-5%) that I had to be put on prednisone which of course made me bloat and gave me a lot of anxiety.  

About a year after getting off of the prednisone a lady I had helped in the past came back into my work and said “did you lose a ton of weight? You look so much smaller now.” It took me a while to figure out what she was talking about; she had seen me for the first time when I was on prednisone to get my inflammation under control and I was extremely bloated. I will never forget that scaring day and what prednisone did to me both physically and mentally.

In 2011, I did a sleep study because I was constantly tired. I thought I might have sleep apnea again. I was diagnosed with sleep apnea when I was just one week old. My mother decided not to put me to bed one night and thank god she didn’t as I would have died due to sleep apnea and the fact that I stopped breathing. 

If you have never done a sleep study before, let me tell you that they are not fun. I had to go to the hospital at 6pm to get everything set up.  They put numerous cords and sticky things all over me. My stomach and head were full of cords stuck to me and yes, you have to sleep with all of them attached to you. So once they are done hooking you up, you have to go to sleep in their bed, all alone with a video camera watching you (talk about creepy)! 

My sleep study results were astounding. The sleep study showed that I woke up on average 39.7 times per hour. That’s around every 1 and a half minutes. I do not consciously realize I’m awake for most of the 39.7 times but some I do.  Either way my body is affected tremendously by the amount of times I woke up consciously or not. But on the positive side, I didn’t stop breathing enough times to have sleep apnea. So, with these results I was put on Lunesta to help me sleep. 

However, the doctor didn’t want me to be on these meds forever. So after a period of time he wanted me to stay up as long as I could and then wake up at a designated time. Now if I was able to sleep without waking up until that designated time, then I could go to bed 15 minutes earlier the next day.  He wanted me to keep doing this until I was able to go to bed and wake up at a designated time every single day without consciously waking up at all during the night. If I were to wake up, then I needed to start the whole thing all over again. Now I was going to college at this time and working a full time job… Someone please tell me how I would accomplish that task? So I didn’t even bother with this. 

To this day I still do not sleep well and I wake up many times each night. I have no idea what it feels like to be fully rested. On top of me not sleeping much, I now have a beautiful newborn baby girl and a toddler which makes it even harder to get sleep. Though I would not trade my baby girls for anything.

Then in the beginning of 2012 I went through the worst thing I could ever imagine, I lost my father to Suicide.  The last day I saw my Father was when I visited him on Christmas day and the last time I spoke to him was when he called me on my Birthday, just 5 days before he took his life.  Now every year when these days are upon me I am extremely emotional and I do my best to hide it from everyone because I don’t want to burden them with my sadness and I feel like their thoughts will be “O here we go again,” “we know these things happened to you,” “it’s been xxx amount of years,” “you just want attention,” “your fine, suck it up,” “yada yada yada.” 

About 4 months after this devastating experience I left a mentally abusive relationship that I had been in for several years off and on that I just could not leave and stay away from. I think losing my father gave me the courage to finally take that step and leave that relationship for good. I still struggle with the things I endured in that relationship. Without saying too much lets just say to this day I still have a hard time with thinking highly of myself.  Oftentimes I feel like life just keeps beating me down and I’m drowning. 

Now fast forward to August 2018, I took a trip to Idaho with my mother for my brother’s wedding. I was extra tired and had some odd cravings.  So I took a pregnancy test and on August 27, 2018 I found out I was pregnant. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to surprise my husband with the news we had been hoping for. He would be arriving in Idaho in just a few days. So we planned a fun way to tell him the news.  We went to Things Remembered and had a couple of glasses etched on that said “Baby Burr Expected 2019.” We had our plans all set up. We were ready to go to a local restaurant where one of my sister in laws friends worked. My sister in law dropped the cups off and when we picked my husband up from the airport we were going to go there to eat lunch. He and I would be served our beverages in our special “Baby Burr Expected 2019” glasses.

On August 30, 2018 I ended up in the ER.  They ran a bunch of tests and it was determined I was no longer pregnant.  We were all devastated. My sister in law went and picked up the glasses from the local restaurant and let her friend know of the miscarriage.  When my husband arrived on August 31, 2018 I told my husband there was a change in plans and one of our friends would pick him up from the airport (as I was not in a place in my mind to be able to greet him in public). When my husband finally arrived at my brothers house I asked him to go for a walk with me; that’s when I broke the news to him that “I WAS pregnant.” His sadness was different from mine since I knew I was pregnant for a few days prior to losing the baby and he found out I was pregnant and no longer pregnant all in one sentence. I do still grieve our lost baby and of course will always wonder what if and why.

Today I now have two beautiful baby girls whom I love dearly. Charley is our first born (5/30/19) and Kennedy is our second born (2/5/21) with a complicated and difficult labor. With Kennedy’s labor we did find out for sure that I cannot have a vaginal birth because my birthing canal is not big enough.  If you remember the date 2/5/12 from above, this is the date my father lost his life. Now of all the days our beautiful Kennedy could have come into this world, she chose this date.  I do have mixed feelings about it but I try to think that she wanted to bring some sunshine on such a dark and sad day in my life that I will never forget.  As I typed this date just a moment ago, I noticed another thing about this date, the year is flopped around as well. So many emotions have come about with this date.

Furthermore, with having babies comes a lot of sacrifices. As all of us mothers know, our bodies will never be the same and postpartum depression IS a real thing. I was an avid crossfitter prior to being pregnant and kept my body in decent shape for the most part. 

Now fast forward to present day… my body is nowhere near what it used to be. My boobs are different, my hips, my waist, my skin, my hormones and moods and much much more. My stomach is the part I am most self conscious about, I have a lot of extra skin compared to how my stomach used to be before I was pregnant and I can’t seem to get rid of it. 

Then also comes postpartum depression which is on and off as my hormones are all over the place and I can’t seem to get them in check half the time. During the first few months of Charley’s life (my first born, 5/30/21) there were many times I would just start crying for no apparent reason or over little things or anything for that matter. I would blame myself anytime anything went wrong; it was all my fault and I should have known better. I should have done xxx different. I should have done this instead of that. Then I’m upset that I’m upset. When you get into those slumps it can be hard to get out of them and it can be a vicious circle of thoughts.

O and lets not forget about how exhausting it is to have a baby. Thank you to everyone who reminds me how tired and crappy I look at times, yes, I already know this, I don’t need you reinforcing these thoughts and reminding me. 

I am hard on myself at times and tell myself how terrible I am at life. I can never do anything right, all I ever do is procrastinate because I can’t decide on anything, I’m an idiot, why am I so indecisive, why do I always wait until the last minute and so many other negative thoughts go through my mind too often. My husband doesn’t understand and I don’t think he ever will, nor do I expect him to. He just wants the best for me and for me to be happy. I am so thankful to have such a supportive and wonderful husband. I really don’t try to be so negative, I just get frustrated with myself and always think I should have done better. I struggle with keeping these thoughts in line. Each day I try not to be so hard on myself.  I try to tell myself, I’m only one person and I can only do so much but I still feel like I fail at many things I try to do.

There are good days and there are bad days. I just try to focus on all of the good days and work to make the bad days better. We can’t trade in the body or mind we are given so we need to keep working on ourselves and telling ourselves that we ARE good enough.

Alyssa was a applicant that was accepted for a Becoming session. She willingly and openly has expressed her story to me and for all of you to read. RESPECT that. All these amazing women have opened their door to us and trusted us to be their story’s keeper. To let them be heard.. to not feel alone. I highly suggest listening to the song while you look through the images.

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