God’s timing

The days and weeks leading up to the anniversary of June 11 are miserable. I start to hear every knock on the door in my mind that I have used to shut out the flashbacks. Every demon who lives beyond that door what’s to come out and play. They want me to experience every sound, loss and pain all over again. They try to work their way through my bones so I will be defenseless when they decide to attack. There are wounds that will never show on my body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds. You may see my smile, love, laughter and faith but what you don’t see is what is hiding deep within me. The “monster” that is relentless at trying to destruct everything in its path. You don’t see the flashbacks, insomnia, Neuro fatigue, brain fog, exhaustion, depression, triggers, anxiety, paranoia, pain, stress or fear. This “monster” is very good at hiding and I’m very good at playing cover up.

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I now know how to hide my “weirdness”. I had someone point it out to me enough that I had to learn how to shut off and escape from the madhouse that is inside my mind and I learned to disconnect so I can look calm and peaceful. But in reality I am dead inside and I am just keeping the “monster” at bay. I’ve learned lots of tricks so I can come across as somewhat “normal”. The fear and insecurity that lurks within myself begins in the feeling that I have no control over what is happening to my body or what is happening with my emotions. PTSD creates a hair trigger for emotional high jacking. Something triggers me or I have a random flashback and just like that my body is high jacked. It’s terrifying. It’s also lonely because it’s hard for people to grasp that I don’t have much control over it and it is hard to explain to those who don’t deal with it. I can try to control my surroundings so I can stay calm but that’s about it.

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I strongly debated on whether or not I should share my writings and my story. One reason is because I’m scared that if people only read my writings but never get to meet me than they will think I am insane. They will picture me as someone who can’t function. But that is simply not true. They will never realize that I am a normal woman who just has a LOT on her plate or like someone once told me “I don’t have a plate, I have my own buffet.” 😃 which is very true. But I decided I had to look fear in the eye once again and continue on with sharing my story because having an untold story inside of you is extremely painful especially when it is a story that has the possibility of helping so many others who are in the same situation as me or the possibility to help someone who is struggling with something less major but just needs that kick in the pants to realize you can do this. To realize they aren’t alone in whatever battle they are fighting. Don’t give up. A major benefit of writing out my story is it has been very therapeutic. One of my goals in writing is I want to be able to describe the best I can what I have been through and what I go through every day so people can have a better understanding of me. As well as the bag of tricks that comes along with me including my severe traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

Finding my purpose:

There has been a joke among the people who have been around me during my recovery that “I go big and I can’t take the easy road.” It’s funny though because I don’t see an easy or hard road. I just see the path that God has put in front of me. I know with every obstacle, loss, betrayal or pain I have dealt with on my path to recovery, God will use to make something great. There is a reason why I have gone through what I’ve gone through. There is a bigger purpose for me. God will make beauty with these ashes, I am sure of it because I am already seeing some of the outcome. Beneath every survivor is a broken person who had to learn to get back up and to never depend on anyone. Survivors know that the only person who can save them is themselves. The greatest tool a human has is their mind. I, as a survivor, have learned how to use the power of my mind to get me through the impossible. With my writings I no longer have a secret deep within me. I have a story that is ready to be told.

What’s your superpower?..

When you were little I’m sure you and your friends would discuss which superpowers you would want. Would you want to fly, have X-Ray vision, super strength, invisibility, etc.. I always wanted to either fly or be invisible. It really is true what they say about be careful what you wish for because you just might get your wish. I think it’s nice to think about being invisible but it’s completely different to actually be invisible to the ones you love or worse have an invisible injury. My severe traumatic brain injury and PTSD are invisible to the naked eye which is a blessing and a curse. I’m beyond grateful that I was able to recover to looking “normal” to others but it is a curse because at times it feels I have to prove that I do struggle daily and I did sustain a life altering injury.

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Sometimes it is easier for family and friends to act as if everything is normal than to educate themselves on what life is like for me now with the injuries they can’t see, the unknown is scary and only those who really love and care for you will make the effort to understand your “new” normal. Trust me my injury is real, this isn’t something I made up. Only by the grace of God am I here today. If I wouldn’t have kept my bike helmet on to drive to the lake then my head would have been completely smashed. Even with my helmet on I almost died five times and my brain suffered severe damage. I now have a severe traumatic brain injury and diffuse axonal injury. From the few seconds I remember the day of my wreck and my memories from ICU, Trauma unit, almost dying, and everything that happened after the wreck I have severe PTSD. With my brain injury and PTSD I notice every little sound, movement and mood change. I am very sensitive to sensory issues as well. I am photophobic, which is sensitivity to light. I have a hard time with sounds and movement. My eyes are constantly surveying any room I am in and following every movement. A person moves my eyes involuntarily go straight to that person and see if it is a threat. I have to always have my back to a wall and face or be able to see the exit of any restaurant. In the movie theater I have to sit at the top so no one is behind me and I can see if anything bad was to happen. Certain sounds don’t have as much of an effect on me but then there are others that will take me right back to the day of the wreck or to the days in my coma.

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These are all injuries that you can’t see but trust me if you could see the wounds on my heart and brain, I would be unrecognizable to the ones who know me.
When I think back over the past four years, I remember the pain, struggle and heartache. I remember feeling defeated, unlovable and worthless but today when I look in the mirror I finally see Kaylen. I see a woman who learned to wear her heartbreak and tragedies as armor. I am extremely proud of the woman who stares back at me in the mirror because I know what it took for her to put herself back together piece by piece. I see my inner strength, lessons learned, perseverance and the seed within me growing. I can now see a future for myself and for the first time I’m not terrified. Don’t get me wrong I’m still scared because it is a lot to comprehend and it overwhelms me but I have a future and I know my purpose.

Embracing the struggle:

If you are struggling with anything right now just remember most of the people in your life don’t realize the strength and courage it takes for you to get out of bed every morning, face the day and to continue whatever war you are fighting. Be proud of yourself because you are still here and you are still continuing your fight. Embrace your struggle and let it make you stronger. You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it. Repeat after me.. I am stronger than this challenge and I am tougher than whatever is trying to defeat me. This war isn’t over until I win. This too shall pass.

This isn’t the end; this is my beginning

“If I didn’t already know I would never believe that you were in such a horrible car wreck and that you suffer from a severe traumatic brain injury. You look fine.” I have heard comments like this more than once. I take it as a huge compliment since I have worked incredibly hard to get to this point. I had some pretty big obstacles that stood in my way, but I just tackled them one by one. And by Gods grace I came out on top.

Studying my “old” life:

I quickly learned that to get better I was going to have to fully dedicate myself to my recovery, so that’s what I did. Due to my brain injury, I have a hard time sleeping because my brain doesn’t know how to completely shut off and I struggle with night terrors from flashbacks. In the beginning this was very hard to deal with because night time is already so hard for me. But I had to make a choice, do I sulk in my misery or do I try to turn my lack of sleep into a positive? I chose the latter. Every night when I couldn’t sleep I would go through pictures, I would study faces and I would make chronological notes so I could hopefully regain some of my past memories that were lost. This was an exhausting process and it was quite defeating in the beginning because I couldn’t remember much, but then I got back on Facebook and I used it as a study tool. I would go through my friends and try to remember how I knew them and what I knew about them. I did this every night, I still do this but now it’s not at such an extreme extent because thanks to the chronological notes I took and studied over and over I have retrained my brain and regained some of my past memories.

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During my recovery I have suffered heartbreak and loss of loved ones but I always reminded myself to just breathe. In these moments of hardship I took deep breaths and told myself “your story isn’t over yet.” I thought of solutions for whatever problems I was dealing with at the time and I promised myself that I wouldn’t let my worry or grief control me. I would remain in control of my actions. I reminded myself everything I need is already within me. I held the power, I had control over my mind. I could choose to think positively about my situation or I could be negative. I chose positive. I had to give myself positive affirmations. I had to remind myself I am strong, nothing and no one is going to break me. I will emerge from these ashes that have tried to bury me.

Finding my way:

In the beginning I would grieve the girl I was before, the one I don’t remember and never met. I would long for the person I could’ve been, but one day it finally hit me. There was no other way for my story to go. This has been Gods plan for me all a long. There is no what if, should’ve or could’ve for me. It was always going to turn out like this because God needed me to go through my wreck and hardships so He could mold me into the woman I needed to become. This is why if I had the option to go back in time and make a different choice I would still choose to drive through the intersection. Although it took me almost dying five times, I was given the greatest gift on June 11. I was given new eyes and a new perspective for my life.

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My passion has always been psychology and pursuing it for the purpose of helping others. Now with what I have been through I can fulfill my passion by telling my story and speaking to others. Helping those who have suffered know that their struggles don’t define them. If they are willing to work for it they can come out of the pit of misery and relish in the light again. I’m still learning how to stand in the light because I stood for so long in the shadows but I’m growing more comfortable with it each day. For right now, I have had to put my goal of becoming a psychologist on hold but I believe that during this time of my life this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing to fulfill Gods purpose for me. With my new perspective on life I am eternally grateful. I am thankful for who I have become, and I am going to keep fighting for what I can be tomorrow. Life is full of give and take. Give thanks and take nothing for granted.

My constant endeavor

Healing comes in waves. Somedays it feels as though you are just beating yourself against the rocks but I have found out that’s ok, it’s still healing. My fear is that I will never be healed. I’ve come this far and I still have so much more to go. It’s an exhausting journey and one that feels as if it will never end. One of the hardest parts of my recovery is trying to recover while dealing with my PTSD. I swear I’m doing ok and I’m getting so much better. Then I don’t know what happens. Something goes wrong and I’m gasping for breath. I’m panicking and I can’t tell what’s real and what is a flashback. I don’t know when or how it happened but I’m losing my mind again. I think I’m missing a piece of myself so I slowly start to crumble. I awake from the terror and I’m left picking myself up off the floor. Once again piecing myself back together even though I know this will happen again because a piece of me is missing. A piece that I’m afraid I will never get back. Im having to learn to balance myself without it so I don’t fall apart anymore.

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I’ve become self conscious. Can everyone see the bags under my eyes? Do they notice my eyes constantly darting around the room awaiting for something bad to happen? Do they see the “monster” within me? Am I doing a good enough job appearing happy? Is my smile genuine or do I need to fix it? Can they see I’m struggling on the inside? I hate this. The constant questions that are always in the forefront of my mind. Just so it’s no longer a secret.. I’m struggling. I struggle every minute of everyday. But I am a fighter I will be alright.

Healing:

I know everything will heal eventually, it just takes a little time. My body will heal. My mind will heal as best it can. And my heart will heal. But for now I have to keep the wounds on my heart open. I have to dive into my wounds so I can understand my pain. I must be fearless in this process. I must feel the pain completely so that way these wounds will never surface again. I have to let the wounds on my heart air out until I finally understand the pain I am feeling. I’m learning to remain open so that I can feel lightness. I can’t shut out my light and I can not shut myself off to love. Once my wounds heal I know I will watch beauty pour into my open heart. My heart will be healed and beat even stronger than it did before. I will acquire new strength. My soul will repair itself and I will have gained new depth. I know my happiness will come back. Bad times don’t last forever. Always defend your right to heal at your own pace. You are allowed to take your time. Recovering takes time, and everyone heals at their own pace.

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I try to keep my facade up so people can only see my strength because my ultimate fear is if I am vulnerable and open up to anyone again I will be abandoned and left with nothing. I can’t take anymore hurt. I am holding myself together by shear will and with the strength God has provided me. Not many have bothered to hold me close and tell me it’s okay not to be fine. I have been told the exact opposite. “You scare people, you’re weird, you need to step up to the plate, stop being pathetic..etc” trust me I get it I am the unknown so it is extremely easy to now categorize me as a freak. That’s ok. After what I have been through and survived I will gladly wave my freak flag because guess what? I’m alive and I shouldn’t be.

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I take everyday head on. There is no other choice. I have breathed through my life up to this point as if I am walking across a battlefield trying to win the ultimate war. My one wish is that one day I will be able to live and not just survive. I want to finally cash in on my jackpot of getting a second chance at life and I want to live. I want to live a passionate and vibrant life. I just have to make it through the sludge of the moat before I can arrive to my final destination of the castle.

Conquering my misfortune

You took my identity and you tried to take my life. You took the simplest cognitive functions away from me and you stole my body. When I was broken down to nothing you tried to steal my soul. You killed a part of me and you demolished my dreams of the future. You injected confusion and self-doubt into my veins. You did this so seamlessly I began to believe the lies. You left me questioning my own sanity. I was left walking around aimlessly, like the walking dead. I am at war with my body and brain everyday. I now tiptoe through life trying to avoid the land mines of flashbacks and hateful memories. Every morning I try to wash off the residue of the day before so I can try to start over, but no matter how hard I scrub my skin the heavy words, memories, flashbacks and aching pain still remain. I’m starting to realize there is no reset button. I can not have a do over. This is it.

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My mental state has been shaken to its core over the past four years. Everyday has been filled with confusion. I have had to relearn this “new” world twice now. I thought I had found my silver lining and I thought I had my life figured out but then I had everything taken from me and all the lies I had once believed revealed as nothing more than empty promises. Once the truth was revealed I was left crumbling to the ground. I was left once again confused and lost trying to figure out my “new” world. Do you have any idea what it’s like to try to do “routine” or “normal” things that you used to do before but now you simply can’t? Do you know what it is like to not know who you are anymore when you look in the mirror? To think you have found your way out of the fire multiple times, only to be left consumed by the flames? Hopeless and devastated I stopped and took a hard look at myself. I saw a lost girl who was broken but then I thought of how far I have come and I saw my new strengths I have acquired during my recovery. It was in this moment I found my inner power, so I wiped away my tears and picked myself up. I stood tall, faced forward and continued on.

Some people fear the fire and some simply become it. I had no choice but to become the fire that was trying to engulf me. I had to change, I was left no other option. Im not mourning the loss of myself anymore. I’m only grieving the thought that I could one day rescue my old self. Im mourning the ignorance of that thought but also relishing in the fact that I could never rescue my old self, nor did I need to. The seed that was planted in me the day of my wreck, when I was broken down to nothing was starting to flourish, and I am starting to see the tiny branches grow. In the depths of my despair and heartbreak I found myself, my “new” self. The one who learned to rise from the ashes. The one who has put herself back together piece by piece. We all have hidden seeds inside of us we just have to find them and learn what they need from us so they can grow.

Never giving up:

Life is full of disappointments, failures and setbacks. But none of these things can permanently stop you. We all have the power to overcome anything life throws at us. Nothing is as powerful as a made up mind. Don’t give up or cave in, tell yourself you will get through whatever it is you are going through, then just do it. Never stop believing in yourself. Whatever war you are fighting right now isn’t over until you win. Repeat that to yourself everyday, I did and still do. I also have it written on the mirror in my bathroom, along with many other positive affirmations. It may look odd when guests come over but it is what I need to do for myself to remind me my story is far from over. I made up my mind that nothing will overcome me and the only thing that has the power to defeat me is myself. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you to start to live and enjoy your life, you could be waiting forever. Start enjoying your life today. Be grateful for every moment because you never know when you could take your last breath.

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The finest souls are the ones who have gulped pain but never made anyone else taste it. Instead, they walk through the flames of hell with buckets of water for those who are still consumed by the fire. At some point in time everything is going to go wrong in your life. When this time comes you can either accept what you are left with and learn to work with it.. Or you can give up. Never give up. Grab your bucket and learn to walk through the flames.

Pulling up by the bootstraps

It has taken some time but I finally learned to start wearing my injuries and heartbreak as armor instead of shackles or constraints, I am so glad I did or I wouldn’t be doing what I am today. I would’ve stayed stuck in the quicksand of pain and misery but instead I am telling my story and helping others learn and see that they can move forward, they don’t have to stay stuck. Four years ago I was talking with my occupational therapist about trays, bags and other accessories I could attach to my wheelchair and then eventually my walker. It is amazing to think back on what my “normal” used to be, and where doctors told me I was going to stay permanently. Even when all the cards were stacked against me I never gave up on myself. It is not in my nature to quit. I am somewhat of a perfectionist. I will not be satisfied with less than my best. When I am passionate about something or someone I will give all of myself. Thankfully I was passionate about my recovery and getting better. And I had the best therapists who didn’t give up on me, even after my blow ups.

Finding the missing pieces:

There have been many times over the past four years where it would have been much easier to succumb to my pain and to settle with where I was, instead of tackling the obstacles that stood before me. I may have had my identity, heart and brain ripped apart on June 11, 2012 and by the events that followed that horrific day but I never lost the pieces of me. They remained buried deep down in my soul. I just had to be patient with my recovery and with myself so I could find them again. I will always hold on tightly to the memories I still retain from being at Jim Thorpe where I was lost, scared, bloody, tired and trembling trying my very best to understand what was happening. Trying my best to find the lost pieces to put myself back together. But I was a fumbling mess. I didn’t even know my name. I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror. But even when I thought I had gone as far as I could go and I had taken all the pain I could handle, I still took another step. I kept going and stayed around to fight for another day.

I had my rough days were I felt the same sentiment as Job.. “I loathe my very life; therefore I will give free rein to my complaint and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. I say to God: Do not declare me guilty, but tell me what charges you have against me. Does it please you to oppress me, to spurn the work of your hands, while you smile on the plans of the wicked” But even when I was angry and confused about everything going on around me, I was never alone. God was always there holding my hand. He knows our frame and that we are all frail, feeble, and weak. It’s okay to question God and to not understand His path for you, as long as you don’t intend to stay stuck there. I surely didn’t understand. I was completely lost. But now I have seen His plan for me and I am continuing forward into the light.

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I had no idea why everything kept piling up against me even though I was giving all of myself to try to get better. During my times of despair when I didn’t think I had enough strength or understanding to go on, I reminded myself of Isaiah 12:2.. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation” God was always there to show me where to find the strength I needed to continue my fight.

Pushing the reset button:

When your flesh and heart fail God will be there to pick you up and give you strength. I’ve always known this but now I know firsthand that He will not cause pain without allowing something to be born new. I have been through enough pain, physically and mentally, to last a lifetime time but I have been made new. I have been given new eyes. God used my severe traumatic brain injury to reset me and my life. He used my brain injury to put me on the path He has always intended for me to walk. He put me through many obstacles during my recovery as well as many obstacles of personal matters to show me what I deserve. He had to teach me some lessons the hard way because I am stubborn and hardheaded. I used to trust some with my life but I learned that some can’t be trusted. And that is perfectly ok because without going through my heartbreaks I wouldn’t have been molded into the woman I am today. I am very proud of her. She turned her cant’s into cans and always believed in herself.

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It’s times like these when I reflect back on my times in therapy or times when I couldn’t stop crying because the pain in my chest was too much, that I fully appreciate where I am today. To think back on the days when I couldn’t write, dress myself or brush my hair really gives me a new perspective on where I am today. Life has a way of testing us and our will to survive. It will have everything happen to us all at once or have nothing at all happen. In these moments it is up to us to take responsibility for ourselves and our future. Don’t forget you have the power. The battlefield of the mind is the toughest battle, our past may explain why we are suffering but we must not use it as an excuse to stay in bondage. Keep a positive attitude and the devil will soon give up once he sees you aren’t going to give in. Butterflies are proof that we can go through a great deal of darkness but still come out as something quite beautiful. Your flaws are perfect for the one that already loves you.