So, I started the new treatment plan. And… I feel off. It’s like I stepped into another dimension and exchanged old symptoms for new symptoms, aka side effects. It’s weird. I shouldn’t be complaining. I should NOT be complaining. I know this. It is a blessing that I can finally see the finish line. But I have to be honest and say that this feels WEIRD.
This week I went to the doctor, and it went well.
As I write that statement, it feels very anticlimactic. I've been dealing with undiagnosed symptoms in my body for a little over a year. The health issues forced me to stop my life and evaluate my values just like what the current pandemic has done to America. It began as the scariest experience of my life and slowly transformed into the most revelatory experience of my life, and it has become the most precious experience of my life. It was my wilderness season, where I wandered, found God, and found myself. It's been beautiful.
When my health started to get rocky, I went to many medical professionals and they couldn't find anything. Then I started going to a holistic practitioner that kept me going, helping me rebuild my energy and understand what my body doesn't like. It wasn't cheap, but I kept doing it. Over time, I stopped going to medical doctors every time I felt scared. They weren't giving me answers, and deep down I felt like God was telling me to just be patient with my body, so it could heal.
Then, out of nowhere, about two months ago, I got felt a release to go see a medical doctor. That urge was a complete surprise to me because I didn't think I'd ever find one that could actually help me. I got scared too. I'd become so connected to my body that I didn't want anyone to touch it without the utmost care. But if this past year taught me anything, it's that I have to follow my spirit. So, I started the process.
I had a candid conversation with my holistic practitioner. I told her that I felt like my body needed something more, and I probably should see a doctor, even though I wasn't sure who. She immediately said she had a contact that could help. She referred me to someone she fully trusted that specialized in the care I needed. Then, she told me what to have the doctor look for. At that moment, I felt like she handed me the secret keys to the kingdom. I wasn't sure if anything would come of it, but I was committed to trying.
I called the doctor, and it took about a month to get in with her. We talked through my symptoms, and she was the first doctor who heard my full story and took it seriously. She could even tell me where the issue started based on what happened, and she created a plan.
I had blood drawn, had to wait for the results, and scheduled a follow-up appointment. The whole process from the first call until my recent visit took two months. For two months, I felt like I'd stumbled into the right doctor but had to wait. I had to wait to even see if treatment was possible. The waiting wasn't fun, but eventually, I got good at it. I waited until it was time.
I went into the doctor's office this week, and she was able to tell me exactly what was wrong with my body and had a treatment plan to fix it. Thankfully, I hadn't developed a disease or disorder. My body just had some deficiencies and imbalances that triggered pain. We just needed to give my body what it lacked, so it could rebalance itself. After a year of quiet internal work and two months of waiting, I finally got answers.
I left that office with peace in my heart and a treatment plan in my hand. And I had the thought, "That's it?" My healing didn't come wrapped in dramatics. A year of dealing with my heart, two months of contacting the right doctor, and waiting, and my wilderness season was finally closing with one quiet meeting that changed everything.
My doctor said it will probably take two months of treatment to be back to normal. It all depends on how my body responds. I have a feeling that she's right.
It all felt anticlimatic when I sat down to write this, but now that I'm reflecting I'm tearing up. I'm learning that goodness can be simple. It doesn't have to dramatic because goodness is enough. It's been a journey, and this chapter is closing in the best way. I'm grateful. I am content. I have answers...finally.
Right now I'm in the middle. You know, those times when you're waiting on something awesome and you don't quite know what to do with yourself in the meanwhile? I am waiting on three opportunities as I write this: some are professional, some are personal. It's exciting but also a little... frustrating. I'm right in the middle. It's like I'm back in my senior year of high school, and I can see my graduation finish line. I'm moody. I'm over it. AND I feel guilty for being over it because these are first world problems. I spend most of my mental energy taming my inner brat.
I have always been terrible at waiting:
When I look back, I realize this nervous energy has less to do with excitement for the future and more to do with discomfort in the present. I have to work on staying still and enjoying the moment until it's time for a change. Otherwise, I'm miserable during a time when I should be celebrating and soaking up the world around me.
If I could talk to my younger self, I would tell her to slow down and enjoy all of it. I would tell myself to celebrate my hard work and recognize that the season I was so anxious to get out of was really beautiful all along. I can't really talk to my younger self, but I can talk to my present self.
Cyrah, the present is beautiful. Enjoy it. Celebrate it. Because when the future comes, the present will be over, and you don't want to have missed it.
I feel like my body is really close to complete healing. I should be excited, but instead of feeling excited, I feel distracted by all the other life stuff happening around me.
Here’s the thing: I knew at the beginning of this healing journey I would come out of it okay. It took a while for me to let go of the dramatic, terrible outcome I thought was going to happen and just make peace with the current situation. I was down, but I could heal with time. Once I made peace with that reality and started doing the work, somewhere along the way I assumed that the journey would be easy. I thought that if I was destined to be better, I would only have to do a few steps, and voila! Completely healed.
I didn’t realize that circumstances beyond my control would continue to happen, even though I was already going through something I didn't like. I would never say it out loud, but somewhere deep inside my psyche, I thought the world would stop so that I could focus on getting better. It didn’t.
I forgot to factor in resistance.
Here are just some of the things that have happened since the beginning of my healing journey:
1. Both of my family cars crapped out and needed major repairs. Multiple times.
2. My mattress also crapped out. I woke up in pain some days, and my sleep cycle was completely off for about a month, so that made it harder for my body to heal. Fun fact: one night my arm started going numb and I started having slight pressure on the left side of my chest. Instead of freaking out, I called my doctor. Turns out, the nerves in my shoulder were all bundled up because of terrible sleep practices. The good news was that I wasn’t having a heart attack. I just needed to go to the chiropractor and buy a new mattress.
3. I found out (via pain) that I’m gluten-intolerant and my body really doesn’t like dairy or sugar. I changed my diet completely.
4. Oh, and COVID showed up in the US. So . . . pandemic.
5. (Really a continuation of 4) My family was stuck in the house together for three months because the entertainment industry (where all the adults in my home work) completely shut down. Thankfully, God provided, and our home is taken care of.
6. (Really a continuation of 5) The entertainment industry revved up almost out of nowhere, and we all had to adjust to an accelerated pace. Which meant quarantining on set, sometimes parenting alone, trying to audition and stay safe, blah, blah, blah.
7. My mind freaking out from time to time because it just wants to fix my body.
8. A family member of mine received a really terrible diagnosis.
You get the point. My “walk in the park” healing journey didn’t happen, but that's life. AND it's a little bit of a blessing. Challenges keep us sharp. They keep us on our toes. They force us to create solutions when we'd be otherwise content. Challenges reveal our capabilities and our limits. Life isn't meant to be a multi-decade struggle, but "easy" doesn't make us. Consistency in the face of adversity does.
So, this morning, I am grateful for the resistance. I choose to get up, be kind to myself, and keep moving forward. One day my body will feel amazing again, and I will have become someone awesome during the wait.
Photo credit: Casey Gardner Photography
I believe roles come into my life when I am ready for them and when they are ready for me. It's equal parts preparation and destiny; I have to be properly aligned for any of it to work, but I have no control over it. That's why I try not to sweat booking acting jobs anymore. (Full disclosure: I used to REALLY sweat it. So, no judgment if you do.)
I learn so much from every character I play, but lately, I have been thinking a lot about Fay, the lead character in Jump by Charly Evon Simpson. I played her a little over a year ago, and the experience changed my life. Fay is a complex, beautiful, hot mess of a human being that lived in my skin for two months.
In true Fay style, I almost missed the audition to play her. I found out about Jump two days before the first round of auditions. No one in the theatre house knew me, but I felt drawn to the story and decided to give it a shot. I tried my version of Fay in that first round and just kept going, never quite feeling like I had her figured out. I remember sitting in the waiting area, surrounded by beautiful black women that also looked like her. I tried to figure out who would make a good fit for the role, not actually thinking that the team would choose me.
Before Fay, I felt like I was stuck in an emotional pain cycle for a little over a decade. Like Fay, I had some depression and unresolved grief. I'd just started going to therapy, but I was timid about the whole thing, censoring myself in the sessions.
When I got the role, all of that changed. Fay FORCED me to face my pain directly. We shared trauma, and she said so many things out loud that I didn't have the courage to say. She was tough and broken. She laughed and danced through hard times. She was exactly what the Doctor ordered, the creative outlet to be a hot mess too!
Playing Fay was hard. The rehearsal process was both challenging and satisfying. I felt both determined and doubtful. In performance, I was emotionally present, but I could only handle it one day at a time.
I am just now understanding how profound the whole experience was for me. The role was my opportunity to work out my personal mess on stage. I thought facing all that trauma at once would break me, but it cracked me just enough to see what was going on in my heart and truly heal from the inside out.
So, if I could talk to Fay face to face, I would say:
You're a bad *ss.
Thank you for the safe space to work through the pain.
Thank you for teaching me that I am perfectly capable of every creative challenge I want to take on.
Thank you for being a vital part of my healing process.
I finally made it out of the pain loop.
I am okay, and you will be too.
Challenges are meant to be embraced, not avoided. They humble us. They teach us about our humanity and force us to expand. I wouldn't trade Fay for the world. She made me grow, and I am eternally grateful.
While walking recently, the impulse to pick up the pace hit me. My mental reaction? Confusion. Why on earth would I start running when I get so much value out of slow, boring walks?
Walking reminded me daily that progress is progress, whether I move fast or slow.
Walking forced me to slow down and enjoy the process: it’s my moving meditation.
Walking allowed me to make peace with the uncomfortable seasons of life.
Walking taught to be patient with my Maker and with me.
My daily walks started as a frustrating reminder of my weakness and have since become a retreat from the noise and business around me. Walks are life to me.
So, when I got the urge to start running, my confusion morphed into a slight panic. Was the old me trying to creep back in? Was I pretending to be content but secretly hoping to get back to running through life with reckless abandon? I kept walking and thought about it. With time I realized that the urge wasn’t discontent. It was a sign that I was getting stronger and was ready to work on my physical and emotional stamina. The voice in my spirit was whispering, “You’re stronger than you think you are.”
So, as an act of faith, I enlisted My Love as a running partner. It took about a week to work up the courage, but we got out there and ran. Well, our first night out was a light jog up and down the street that ended with a very winded Cyrah. BUT we did it! Every weekday since that day, we’ve dressed for a run, stretched our limbs, and stumbled out the door, (whether we felt like it or not). Somehow we make ourselves start and don’t stop until we’re done.
Every day I’m less sore.
Every day I pant less.
Every day I enjoy it more.
The events in my life just seem to reflect what happens in my quiet time. Career opportunities have picked up. My relationships are demanding a little more of my attention. In the best way, life seems to be asking for more of my energy than it was before. What’s beautiful about following my spirit is that I was prepared for the change of pace. There are moments when my soul is a little confused by it all. It wants to run top-speed into everything … because now it can. But, after a year of walking, I know better. I force myself to keep walking on the inside.
Two years ago, I felt like everything about my life was moving too slow. If I had downtime I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had to deal with my discontent head-on. After working on my heart for a while, I’m more content in any state. The urge to run only came when I was fine with just walking. I’m thankful for the lesson.
Now I feel peace and gratitude. Period. AND it has nothing to do with my external circumstances. I may be moving faster on the outside, but inside I’m still on that slow, boring stroll that brings me so much joy.
The following is a letter I wrote to my love:
Babe, today was tough but profound.
This morning I woke up acutely aware that I finally had something concrete for doctors to look into, and my mind almost went into full-on panic mode. What if they wanted to treat me in a way that hurt my body? What if I needed surgery? What if? What if? What if? And as I drove back home from dropping off our little one, I realized I’d just that quickly picked the whole situation back up again. It happened so fast! I immediately started verbally letting go of everything that was worrying me, and my heart rate slowed again. So, I guess staying anxious is a choice?
After my come-to-Jesus moment, I went on a hike with one of my friends. She talked about her issues. I talked about mine. For the first time in a while, I didn’t feel like the only person giving in the conversation. She reciprocated with some really good advice.
As we talked, my body overheated and I passed out. It sounds dramatic, but it was bound to happen. I didn’t drink water, and we were walking in ninety-degree weather.lol. Do better Cyrah… Surprisingly, the experience wasn’t scary. In some weird way, the whole thing reminded me of what letting go looks like in a very practical way.
When my body overheated, I completely lost control and passed out. but someone was there to catch me and take care of me. The passing out wasn’t nearly as bad as the fear of passing out when I started to feel off. I had a deep dream and woke up to a caring friend, who actually KNEW how to make sure I was okay. She wasn’t panicking. Her medical training kicked in. She got me into the AC, fed me, gave me water, and monitored me. We laughed as I ate, cracked jokes, and went our separate ways.
I think this experience was there to show me what letting go looks like in real-time. It’s like a figurative trust fall and being caught by someone capable and loving.
So, today was a good day after all. I just had some mind-stuff, talked it out with God, and literally had to let go. Before jumping into the rest of my day, I hydrated and took a nap, allowing my body to recover. I’m thankful, and I’m more than okay.
Before jumping into the rest of my day, I hydrated and took a nap, allowing my body to recover. So, today was a good day after all. I had some mind-stuff, talked it out with God, and literally had to let go. I’m thankful.
I’ve been working on my mental health for about two years. As a softy, empathetic artist, watching the news feels overwhelming, so I subscribe to an email service and skip the sensory overload. I know what’s going on in the world, my industry, and my interests within ten minutes. It’s awesome.
A couple of days ago, I skimmed my digest, and an article from Psychology Today called, “Release: When to Let It Go,” by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. grabbed my attention. I felt drawn to it, so I read it.
Here’s some background:
About a year ago, I started having mystery symptoms. The hardest part about being sick with something undiagnosed was the battle with my mind. Because I was having symptoms in my breasts and in my limbs, I could not shake the thought that I had cancer. I did not have cancer. I’ve had all sorts of tests to prove it. I don’t even have cancer symptoms. I just had this idea in my head because I watched my mom’s battle with the disease. I thought that because she lost her battle to it, it was coming to get me next.
I had these terrifying images in my head of my body lying in a casket and this sickness being the end of me. I was scared, but instead of saying I was scared, I went into battle mode. I decided that I was going to fight these negative thoughts head-on, even though deep down I felt like God was saying that “fighting” my thoughts was the wrong move.
I read a couple of “positive thinking” books, and I did the work of trying to overcome my thoughts with more positive thoughts. Every time I had a negative thought, I tried to interrupt it with something positive. Sometimes, I would say positive words out loud, even scripture. Sometimes, I just tried to meditate on a new positive outcome. I was willing to do anything to get my thoughts to turn around. I felt like I was at war with myself.
While I was at war with myself, my spirit was whispering a different story. First of all, I wasn’t dying. This sickness was just something I needed to get through to heal from a lot of pain from the past. I was promised that I would heal physically and emotionally on this journey, but it would take time. It all sounded great, except for the time part.
It’s a year later, and my body is still healing. Am I better than I was when I first started this journey? Absolutely. But I have only “kind of” been diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance and with dehydration (one of the three times I went to the ER.) No major medical diagnosis. No prescriptions. It’s just me, God, therapy, and a holistic practitioner feeding my body what it needs to heal on its own timeline. For a year I’ve been working on my body while battling the same old thoughts. Some days are better than others. I know in my heart that I can’t trust the negative thoughts, but they never magically disappeared like the books said they would.
That brings us to two days ago when I read this article about letting go. It basically summed up all of the things I’d been hearing in my spirit. Instead of fighting my thoughts, I actually needed to surrender the whole situation to the Creator. I needed to release all of it.
Once, on one of my magical walks, I heard that still small voice whisper, “I just want you to trust me and enjoy your life.” Hearing that baffled me. I thought I was trusting. I was out here walking, talking, and learning. I was doing what I felt like the voice was telling me to do with my life. What was I doing wrong? The issue wasn’t what I was doing per se, it was what I was holding on to that wasn’t mine to hold. I wasn’t fully steering the ship, but a finger was still on the wheel in case I needed to take over.
After reading the article, I knew it was time to completely let go of the situation. I needed to let go of my timeline. I needed to let go of the outcome. I needed to let go of the need to be in control of my thoughts. So, I grabbed a candle, lit it, and said a prayer.
The moment I opened my mouth, the tears started flowing. I poured out all of my emotions and profusely apologized for my lack of trust. I completely relinquished control for the first time. Once I poured it all out, I blew out the candle and put a lid on it.
The moment I let go, I became aware of two things.
1. I was lighter.
2. I felt afraid.
At that moment I realized my control issues came down to fear. And for the first time in a while, that was okay. I acknowledged the feeling and released the need to fix it.
It’s been two days and my mind has been better than it’s been in a year. My body feels pretty good too. I don’t know how long it will take to feel completely better, but that’s okay. I don’t need to. It finally sank in that real trust is surrender, letting go of the need to know everything and letting go of things having to go my way. I’m already winning because I’ve chosen to live in peace right in the middle. And for the first time in a good while, my life is imperfect, but I’m content.
My therapist: “When was the last time you just played?”
I didn’t really have an answer to that. I have a four-year-old, but we don’t really “play.” I feed him. I bath him. I help him with his homework. I read to him, cuddle with him, and watch movies with him. I tell him I love him, and I mean it. BUT we don’t really “play.” My love (ML) does that part. They play ninja and Mr. Grinch. If ML isn’t home, my little one (MLO) knows how to play on his own: car sounds and character voices erupt from his bedroom often. He laughs. He crashes things. He makes a mess with his toys. He’s happy. Meanwhile, I peacefully wash dishes, cook, or prepare his bath. I’m responsible and loving, but I don’t know that he’d call me fun.
One day, as an experiment, I told MLO that I wanted to play with him after watching my favorite show. He said, “Sorry mommy. Only daddy plays with me.” I thought, “Well, guess what little n-word? You gettin’ me today.” I don’t know if he subliminally heard my message, but he quietly walked away.
After my show, as promised, I walked into his room where he was already playing. Without hesitation, he put a toy car in my hand and took off with his own, pretend driving it on the floor and his bedroom furniture. I said, “What am I supposed to do with this?” MLO, “Race!” So, we pretend raced around his room for a little while. I didn’t get the appeal, but he seemed to enjoy it. I had a really hard time staying present. There were so many other things I could be doing right now. I felt unproductive.
Then it hit me. I’m BAD at playing! I’m an artist. I make a living doing what I love. My work is fun. In my work, I’m down to experiment and play. I get INTO it, but somewhere along the way, I let the world grow me up in my personal life. It’s not a miserable life, but I don’t only want to feel juiced when I’m working. I want to feel just as alive when I’m just hanging out at home.
As a was spiraling, my kid kept shoving toys into my hand and diving into some weird imaginary world. I forced myself to stop thinking. I looked MLO in the eye and said, “Mommy needs you to teach her how to play with you.” It was a humbling admission, but he took the challenge with enthusiasm. MLO, “Okay!”
He shoved a plastic bucket handle in my hand and put three empty toy buckets in front of me. He also had a plastic bucket handle. Then, he just started beating the snot out of this small row of buckets until they all fell over. Once they did, he laughed. HARD. I saw the freedom he had, so I just followed his example. I knocked over buckets too. I didn’t understand the game, but it didn’t matter. We were just knocking things over because it felt good.
Then he put the buckets in his chair and started knocking them off the chair one by one. I tried doing the same but ended up just being his hype man. It was fun! I didn’t have a game plan. I was in my head for half of it, but I officially played.
Since that humbling day, I’ve challenged myself to play with my kid for thirty minutes a day. Sometimes he leads our time together. Sometimes, we just play an age-appropriate board game. He’s helping me to loosen up while I’m helping him navigate life.
If I can be honest, I’m not practicing play to be a better mom. There’s already enough of that guilt to go around in the world. I’m practicing play to be a happier me. I’ve just figured out that my kid hasn’t been jaded by life yet and still has his imaginative spark. I’m essentially taking lessons from a master, and a cool perk is that we are getting closer. At some point, I hope to be as free as I was when I was his age, but, until then, I’ll just keep practicing connecting with my inner kid.
Right after my mother passed, I decided to fix my life. I’d just graduated from college with a theatre degree and no sense of direction. I’d just spent six months as my mother’s primary caretaker, and I wasn’t needed for that anymore. I ran a small business, teaching performing arts classes after school. I made okay money for someone still living with the parents but watching my mother’s decline rocked my world. I HAD to get out of that house.
I found an apartment I could afford and asked an entertainment industry professional to mentor me. She offered me a job as her assistant. I took it.
The pace of my life changed in an instant. I went from running a business part-time to running someone’s life and business 24 hours a day every day. 12-hour shifts were pretty standard. My boss and her clients contacted me on my cell any time they needed me. One day, I was aimlessly meandering through life, the next day, I was sprinting at breakneck speed.
My car broke down right before I moved, so I took public transportation to and from work. I caught the first bus to work and caught the last bus home at night. If I missed the last bus because work ran late, my boyfriend gave me a ride home.
The schedule was insane, but I was working. I was around people that knew what they were doing. I learned about how the business worked. I took acting classes where I worked, so I had a creative outlet. I was operating on four hours of sleep every night, but I was doing what I had to do to succeed. Life is too precious to waste it “kind of” do what you love. I was ALL-IN. I was RUNNING toward my goals with reckless abandon, even if I didn’t know what they were just yet.
I ran like that for two years and quit that job. It was a smart move. My body was telling me that I needed to slow down, and I was getting married, so it was time. My life slowed down a smidge, but I always found another way to run at top speed in the direction of success. It felt right. As long as I was running, I was getting it DONE. Until … I got pregnant.
Pregnancy was both miraculous and annoying.
I HATED that pregnancy slowed me down.
I was angry at my body for needing naps.
I was angry at the doctors for requiring me to spend so much time in medical buildings.
I was frustrated with my agents for not submitting me for film and television roles. True story: I deliberately covered my baby bump on auditions. At five months pregnant, I was offered a great theatre role in a show that would run during my third trimester. When I was offered the job, I told casting about the pregnancy, and they decided against hiring me. Da*n baby! I needed credits.
I was mad at my husband for not at least taking turns carrying our child! Seriously, I couldn’t understand why I had to carry the little person the entire gestation period. No breaks. Just heavy … for almost a year.
More than anyone, I was angry at this little person for breaking my stride. I was no longer running. In that season of my life, my body just couldn’t keep up with my mind. I felt internally humiliated. But instead of admitting defeat, I simply altered my pace.
Maybe I couldn’t run, but I could power walk! I auditioned, started new relationships, shopped for a new agent, trained, took notes for scripts I would write postpartum. I had a plan.
I’ve done some version of that for years. Running or power-walking to some unknown magical land of success. Never quite present. Kind of making progress. Anxious. Always moving. Never quite happy.
Last year changed all of that. In 2019, I got sick and had to do a full stop. For almost a month, I was in bed. I couldn’t run. For the first time, I had to just … be. It was both terrifying and wonderful at the same time. I heard God’s voice and felt my own soul for the first time in years. I sat in bed and just listened.
This is what I heard:
My soul was deeply wounded and exhausted. After my mom passed, I needed a moment to heal: go to therapy, get quiet, connect with friends, be creative. I thought I was running toward success, but I was actually running from myself. “Busy” was my excuse for self-neglect when I desperately needed care.
Over the past year, I’ve been slowly rebuilding. I spend a good amount of time nourishing my spirit. My exercise routine right now is pretty boring. I walk. I do yoga once a month. Sometimes I rollerblade when I’m feeling particularly fun. But most mornings, I take a long, boring walk. On these walks, I am practicing what I learned from my full stop: connecting to God’s voice, clarifying my desires, and making peace with my body. The walks are teaching me to listen, really listen to what’s happening within and in the world around me.
I wish I could say I’m ready to run again or at least jog a little. I’m not. I’m still slowly making progress. But life isn’t about moving at a rapid pace, it’s about knowing where you are going and savoring the journey. I can honestly say that this time I’ve learned my lesson. My soul is well. I am whole. I have a clearer sense of direction. I have goals that really resonate with who I am today, and I’m not measuring my success by anyone else’s standards.
So, for now, I’m walking. When I’m strong enough to jog, I might. It doesn’t matter how fast I get there. What matters is that I am healthy and aware enough to enjoy it when I do.