“Your life will be different.” “You may never remember anything from your past.” “We can’t say when or if you will ever get back to functioning at a normal baseline for your age.” These are a few of the things I was told over and over again by my doctors. But nobody ever told me the toll my severe traumatic brain injury would have on my soul. The recovery process is the hardest thing you will ever go through. And that’s putting it nicely. The physical pain from my collapsed lung and the multiple breaks in my hip, pelvis, ribs, sternum, sacrum and shoulder are nothing compared to the pain of my severe traumatic brain injury. Imagine your head being crushed or squeezed while having razor blades jammed into your brain.. Well that’s how I feel 24/7. It’s a pain that will never go away. It’s something I have had to grow accustomed to. My doctors offered me time and time again to give me any medication I might want to ease the pain or allow me to sleep but I refused every time. The day I got home from Jim Thorpe rehabilitation I got off all of my medication. All my pain, sleep and anxiety medication were never taken again once I was home. I decided I was going to take my recovery head on and to do that I needed a clear mind that wasn’t doped up on medicine. This decision was not an ease one or pain free but I stuck with it. I am in no way suggesting or saying everyone should do this. I’m just explaining my course of action for my recovery.
To make a full recovery and address all the issues that needed to be taken care of, I have had to put my guard down. This is something I am not accustomed to at all. I am someone who never shows emotion and I always look composed. Even when I am falling apart inside. But to make a full recovery I had to put down my guard. By doing this I constantly feel like an exposed nerve. Completely exposed. This is a very unfamiliar and uncomfortable feeling for me. There have been some consequences to being fully exposed and vulnerable but I believe the final outcome has been well worth it. I have learned it is ok to show my soft side. I don’t always have to be on guard ready to protect myself. Not everything or everyone is out to hurt me, even though my PTSD and past would like to tell me otherwise. There are still amazing opportunities out there for me. And I believe this now more than ever because I have let go of the bondage that was holding me back and I am now fully embracing my new self. And guess what? I’ve learned I’m not half bad. For someone who was once categorized as “mentally unstable” I now know who I am. I know I AM strong. I know AM worthy. It’s a great feeling.
Everyone of us will go through something that we think we will never make it back from.. Injury, divorce, heartache or loss of a loved one. During these times when you feel hopeless quiet your mind and listen to your heart. We all are screaming inside because we are frightened but you have to make a choice. Do you want to give up or do you want to fight your way back to the top? It was during one of my flashbacks when I was reliving my experience in the trauma unit at OU medical and my heart was beating out of my chest about to explode that I made my choice. I decided I don’t want to die. So I fought back loud.
When you are dealing with an invisible injury you tend to become invisible as well. People don’t see your pain and can’t feel your struggle so they forget about you or they want to make you prove to them you are struggling. It’s hard for some people to understand that just because you can’t see the scars and bruises on my brain that they do actually exist. I am struggling to survive day to day and when I forget, make mistakes or my brain “falls” out of my head and stops working, that’s not me being stupid or weak.. That is my severe traumatic brain injury showing its ugly head. You are the unknown to them and the unknown tends to scare people. You tend to lose your voice. Well I did. I lost my voice during my recovery because I had completely lost myself. I had no idea who or what I was. I was an alien inside my own body. This takes a huge toll on your soul. I was confused about everything and just going through the motions. I was solely focused on my recovery. I only lived minute by minute. And during this process I forgot I had the right to have a voice. I forgot I had the right to speak up. I forgot that I could have my own opinion.
Now I have transformed. I have emerged from the cocoon I made for myself, to protect me while I was recovering. There are some who would probably like for me to step back into my cocoon, but I am ready to emerge. I have discovered I have wings and I am ready to use them in the second part of my life that’s awaiting me. There will always be parts of me that will remain messy, untamable and reckless.. But I refuse to apologize for it anymore. I have come to realize I am full of life again. I had once been drained of everything but now I’m back. I am too full of life to be half loved or to have a mediocre existence. I now have a voice.