Life changed in a split second for me. A stranger took control over by body and I don’t think she is leaving. Ive learned the familiar old me isn’t returning so I have had to try to make peace with this “stranger”. It’s extremely difficult because this stranger knows nothing. She’s like a baby. She has to relearn language, how to eat, how to swallow, dress herself, walk, read, speak.. Gosh it’s tiring. I’m held hostage by a baby. I know what needs to be done but for some reason my voice isn’t heard. I’m just trapped in this tiny little space and have to watch everything happen. How did this happen to me? How was my body/mind high jacked?
Nothing makes sense anymore. It seems that everyone demands so much from me. I’m constantly being told remember this, do this, lift this, tell me what happened, don’t lay your head down that’s a sign of weakness. But what they don’t understand is my head is so heavy, it’s so painful to stay awake and focused. Would it really be that “weak” to lay my head down for a second and take a break? There’s one of two ways this story could go.. Do I forfeit my tiny space and completely lose the old me? Or do I learn to befriend and teach this baby how to live and function through life? Well I choose the latter.
The Kaylen Woosley friends and family knew for 23 years is still here (kind of) but she has changed. The Kaylen Woosley of today, who has befriended the stranger within, has some of the same personality traits and life goals but she is SO much stronger, caring and just better in almost every way than the old version. I mourned my old familiar self during my first awakening from my walking coma. I mourned my old life and memories. It is probably one of the strangest feelings to wake up and be an alien inside your own body. To look at pictures from before the wreck and have no idea who that girl is in them. To look at yourself in the mirror and feel as if two people are looking back at you. To have two voices inside your head, the dominant voice being the stranger and having no idea who is in the reflection but then there is a very soft faint voice saying “it’s me its me. I’m still here. I survived.”
The mourning process was quite hard for me but it also was liberating. The truth set me free. The truth was “I am different. I am a stranger. Kaylen Woosley of 23 years is dead. I have to relearn everything and I have no former memories to go off of. I am blank.” But guess what? During this time life didn’t stop for me just because I was clueless and grieving so I immediately got right back to it. I had to. I had no other choice.
It’s remarkable to think of where/how I am now and then to remember myself back then. I had such an amazing team of therapists to help me and push me towards my final goal of being “normal” again. It’s in these times of reflection I am very proud of myself.
I am proud of what I have conquered. I have been through so much since June 11, 2012 that it’s nice to look back and say “I did it. I achieved what doctors said was impossible.” I think I am finally stepping off my roller coaster of heartache, grief and pain. I am now at a place where peace is a priority and negativity can not exist. I have had to make many hard decisions during my recovery, one of the toughest was to leave friends and loved ones. But while I did the unthinkable and walked away from what I foolishly thought was going to be my future life, I found myself. Don’t get me wrong it was very scary but walking away opened up a world I didn’t know existed. I have now had the chance to figure out what respect tastes like and it tastes amazing.
My heart was ripped wide open to were I didn’t think I could close it but guess what? Miracles happen everyday day. My heart is patched up and beating strong again as if it was brand new. I am open to all possibilities that life has for me. My goal in this new life is to carry the wisdom that my past experiences have given me but to not allow it to weigh me down. I am going to treat each day as if it is a new unique reality that I have yet to encounter and I am going to proudly own my story. I am not going to waste my time running from it or pretending it didn’t happen. I am going to own it and use it to help others on their journey through whatever struggle they are dealing with. I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.
Silence. Something I have grown accustomed to. I’ve learned to completely shut off emotions and feelings. Don’t judge me for this. Do you know what it’s like for the ones you love to leave you and give no answer for it? To not be able to communicate? To have unfiltered anger that can be triggered by anything? To have a “monster” that lives inside you now that will lash out at anything to “protect” you? To have to fish words out of the blank space that is now inside your mind? To be startled by every sound? To have to live through flashbacks that are hell on earth? To be told something and instantly forget? To not be able to handle certain sounds, lights and crowds because you will have a panic attack? It’s maddening. It’s exhausting.
So I have learned to enjoy the silence. I am an observer now. I observe and take in everything. Partially because I have to so I can understand what is going on and to give me time to process but also because you can find all the truths you need when you just observe. You become much wiser when you are going through the recovery process from a traumatic brain injury. I woke up from my coma as a 4-6yr old. I had to relearn everything about life, social norms, daily activities, etc. I also got to see the world through a new pair of eyes and to experience the unfortunate judgements of those who are scared of the unknown. I learned how to cope with the uneducated who would harass me and follow me into stores then laugh in my face as I tried to explain my situation because on the outside I look “normal” so there should be no reason for me to use a handicap pass. I developed a new layer of toughness to be able to handle these situations. I am grateful for my situation because I think over the past four years it has developed me into a much stronger and caring person but I also hate it because it seems no matter what I am alone.
I am alone because no matter who is with me I feel I will never be able to communicate how I am or what I’m feeling. I am alone because after June 11 and what unraveled in my life following the wreck it’s hard to let down my guard and to trust. I am still in a survival mode protecting myself from anymore harm which plays into my PTSD and puts it into overdrive. It’s overwhelming. Where do I go from here? Who do I trust? How will I know I can trust again? So many questions going through my mind on an endless loop. My mind is already fuzzy enough due to my injury but life sure has made it into an even bigger mess. So how do I continue to move forward with my life? Well that’s a very easy question to answer.. God.
My faith is the only thing that has pulled me through. You don’t have to believe in God to be able to deal with the struggles of your life but you do need to have faith in something. Without faith and the hope that it will get better you will remain down on the ground where pain and sadness want to keep you. Pain, sadness and confusion are all the devils tools to use against you and play tricks on your mind. He wants you to feel hopeless and forgotten so that way you are much easier to manipulate and become his. Don’t give him that power. There is hope for you no matter what cards life has dealt you. The only thing you need is a strong mind and mental toughness. The most powerful tool you will ever need is your mind. Yes my mind isn’t at its peak anymore but I still have my fierceness that I acquired from being an athlete. I have approached every obstacle that has stood in my way the same way I would have when I stood on that mound and faced my next victim aka the batter. Nothing and no one is going to beat me. I will win this battle. I will strike you out.
“Normal” people have no idea how beautiful the darkness is. It’s amazing how much I can remember from being in my coma. Laying there and hearing the screaming. Feeling the fists pound on my chest while the doctors were demanding me to wake up and respond. Hearing loved ones come in and talk to me, holding my hand or kissing me on the forehead and I would feel the wetness from their tears. I do not fear dying because I have been to the edge where life turns vague and death seems very inviting as it entices you to come on over. I have found so much beauty in the dark for that is where I have spent much of my recovery. I had to be in the literal darkness because of my photophobia but I was also in the dark in my mind. I was so blissfully unaware of what had happened and what it truly meant for my future. The true horrors are found in the light. I have experienced many of those on my road to recovery. Every few months I would slowly fall out of the darkness that was in my mind and step more and more into the light. Each time being smacked in the face with the cruel truth of what has happened. The darkness does not destroy the light it defines it. It’s our own fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows. We scare ourselves with our worry or overthinking. I came to a point where I realized I wasn’t living. I was just surviving hour by hour, day by day. Thinking of the thought of tomorrow and what new battles I would have to face as well as continuing to fight the battles from today. I was living in pure survival mode because it was all too much. Finally after too much physical and emotional pain I had had enough and I thought “What am I waiting for? When will this get better? Why not just end it now? Who will honestly miss me?” But at that moment I knew I, Kaylen Woosley, was not going to give in to the pain. I was going to channel it and use it for good..so that is exactly what I’ve done. You have to hit your breaking point and evaluate yourself and the situation. I survived the impossible. I was tempted by death 5 times but I did not give in to the easy route. If you could see the size of blessing coming for you, you would understand the magnitude of battle you are fighting today. Some of the best days of my life are awaiting me. I just have to finish fighting my own battles. It’s not over until God says it is. And it’s not over yet. My story is just beginning.
There are a few moments that mark your life forever. In these moments you realize nothing will ever be the same and time has been divided in two.. Before and After. For me my life will be forever defined as before June 11 and after June 11. I reached my darkest and lowest point during this time. When I was at my lowest and everything seemed to be burning down around me I took my first step forward and walked through the fire and forged my new life in the flames. This new life wasn’t easy. Just because it was new doesn’t mean it was devoid of pain. There was a lot of pain during this period; mental, emotional and physical. Relearning how to do everything was nothing compared to relearning the character of some of the people I held dearest. But when it comes down to it it wasn’t my job to expose the fake they ended up exposing themselves and gave me the biggest gift. I had to become my best friend and in that process I found a new strength. I know how to be alone. I know how to survive. Never define someone by their words. Anyone can say the right words at the right time but not everyone can do the right things at the right time. Look at people’s actions for they will say volumes about their character. The best people will come into your life and make you see the sunshine even when you feel like Eeyore with a tiny rain cloud constantly following you. These people will believe in you so much that you start to believe in yourself and believe you can do anything with them by your side. These people are simply once in a lifetime. I am very fortunate to know a few people like this. They have been the greatest blessing. I’ve always been a person who looks too deep into something or someone because I realized there is always more than what meets the eye. The perfect example of this is myself. If you were to see me or talk to me you would think there is nothing wrong with me. I can hide my scars and I have learned how to hide my blunders when I talk or when I forget what is going on. Traumatic brain injuries are very different from one another. Just because I don’t appear “different” doesn’t mean I am not severely struggling on the inside to keep up with you as you talk and to process what you are saying as well as many other lovely side effects that come along with a TBI. If one day I could present myself the way I feel on the inside you would walk right past me because I would be unrecognized. It’s hard to fight the invisible battle because generally people think you are making it up, weak, stupid, lazy or just weird. But I am none of those things.. Well I guess I am a little weird 😃 but I believe that’s to the eye of the beholder. It’s not wrong to be 27 years old and still turn into a 5 year old when you hear the Jurassic Park music playing or to still enjoy watching Pocahontas. That’s just part of what makes me me. There is one thing I can promise you.. No matter what you are dealing with it will get better. What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. When you have struggled through something unexpected your heart has been pushed beyond the limits of what most people could endure. Embrace that. For when you have been destroyed (by whatever obstacle that stands in your way) you start to understand yourself as you are picking up the pieces and putting yourself back together. Find the silver lining in this situation because honestly it’s a gift. You get to know who you really are and what you are made of. After these times in your life you know you can survive anything.