In the first few years of my recovery, everything was on a schedule. I had a “tunnel mindset.” In this tunnel I created my daily routine. I needed to plan out the hours of my day, so I could make it through. I needed this structure to remember how to get ready, what to do in the shower, when to eat, what time therapy was, etc. I believe this structure greatly benefited my recovery from a traumatic brain injury, but now it is almost 11 years later & I still find myself stuck in that same mindset.
I need a certain amount of structure still for my memory & my PTSD, but I also know I need to be able to experience life naturally. Not scheduled. The thought of losing my structure scares me, but the thought of never coming out of my “tunnel mindset” scares me more. I believe this is a new stage of my recovery that I am trying to enter now. I don’t want to be that hamster on the wheel & miss out on the beautiful spontaneity of life. I have already “lost” my twenties. I spent those years trying to get back to my baseline & figuring out my “new” body/brain. I don’t want to lose my thirties.
Over the past few years, I have slowly started to figure out who I am & what I would like to do with this second chance at life. I strongly believe that all of the struggles & pain that have happened in the past 10 years, were blessings in disguise. It took me a while to accept where I was at, & to believe that if I wanted my life to change for the better than I needed to see my struggles as lessons, something to grow though. Stepping stones to help me build the foundation I will need to live out the future I hoped for.
Today is the day to shift your mindset. Choose to see whatever you are currently struggling with as a lesson, a stepping stone. Yes, I know this seems simplistic & if someone would’ve told me this during my darkest times, I would’ve wanted to smack them, but now that I have worked through those dark times I can honestly say this is what has to be done. We all want the opportunity of a beautiful life, but sometimes “life” happens & we are taken to a place we never thought we’d end up. It may seem unfair when we are struggling in this foreign place, but it can be a blessing, if you choose to see it that way. If you choose to do the hard work & believe that you are worth it, because you are.
I don’t even know how to write this because I have so much going on inside my heart & mind. This internal struggle I have been dealing with has come to a breaking point. I just want to throw my hands up & say “Ok. Ok I give up. I’m done.” I do not know how to make peace with my internal dialogue. I do not know how to feel safe inside my body. I don’t know how to feel free. I’m ruled by the strict survival structure that I made for myself years ago, but I don’t need it now. Yet, I can’t break free.
I’m struggling with finding enjoyment because instead of enjoying the moment, I’m dealing with anxiety about the future, change, & if I will be accepted in a different form. I’m tired. I’m exhausted from being so serious all the time & not being able to join in with life because I’m consumed with trying to stay “right” according to my PTSD, so nothing will go badly. I’m tired of holding in what I’m truly feeling because I’m scared of being judged as crazy & feeling as if my true emotions are invalid. I’ve been conditioned to function as a robot. My PTSD has kept me in survival mode & in that mode, I function at a very minimal level. The thought of taking more than I need, being silly, enjoying things more than just at a surface level is foreign & honestly quite scary to me. I want a life of abundance, but the thought of living that way feels as if I would then be tempting fate. The thoughts of “why do you think you need more? Who do you think you are? Are you not grateful for what you have?” Run through my mind. How could I possibly want more in this life, when I have already been given a second chance?
I know I cannot continue on this way. I know or at least I think I know what I need to do, but I’m terrified. I know I was not given a second chance at life to survive in this manner. I know or at least want to believe that I was put here for more than just maintaining what my PTSD deems as “right.” I just wish it was easier to put on my big girl pants & walk forward through this fear, but I know I must. I don’t know if anyone can relate to this or if it even makes sense, but I do know my feeling of struggling mentally is relatable. I know first hand how hard it is to overcome mental & emotional struggles, so if you are currently battling an invisible battle within yourself, do not give up. I may be struggling right now, but where I am today is 100 times better than where I was a year ago. All we can ask of ourselves during these seasons of struggle is to just keep forward motion. Some days it may be baby steps, & other days it could be giant leaps, but no matter what it is going forward, remember recovery/healing isn’t linear. During the forward motion there might be setbacks, & that is okay, it’s still healing. Today is the day to accept you deserve more & walk forward through your fear.
How do you feel safe within your body? How do you accept your true self? How do you let go of the fear of change? These are some of the things I am currently dealing with. This morning I woke up with horrible anxiety & feeling unsafe within my body. I feel unsafe because of the internal conflict that I have going on within myself. My trauma brain & myself are going round & round. I, Kaylen, have grown mentally stronger & healthier over the past few years, because of this I am able to see the life that I want is within my reach. I also am able to see perfectly the last barriers between myself & this life. This barrier is honestly ridiculous because it sounds like such a small thing when spoken out loud but it still is causing quite the battle within me. How am I supposed to let go of the belief that because I don’t change physically, because I try to keep the same structure within my day that I will remain “safe”? I, Kaylen, know this is an irrational trauma response thought but it still feels so real within my bones. It still can trigger the flashbacks of what life was like before & how life is good now. My trauma has made the false correlation between life being good & my physicality/everyday structure not changing or remaining “good”. But now I am questioning good to who? Why do I feel I need to please these trauma thoughts? Why do I feel I need to remained caged by this irrational barrier when it is causing me so much internal conflict? Stress? I currently do not have the answers to these questions but I am currently searching for the permission I need to finally let go. I don’t know if anyone can relate to this but I do know many of us struggle with internal conflicts that usually stem from some false belief we picked up somewhere in life. I may not have the answers to my struggle yet but I do know that the only way to reach the life I want is to keeping moving forward. Without forward progress we are choosing to remain in our struggles. Yes, I know that sounds harsh but I have lived the proof of that statement. For years I stayed within a mindset that made me believe this was all life could offer me, but then I changed. I know I have overcome struggles before so I know I can & will do it again. For anyone who is also currently struggling remind yourself of what you have overcome, remind yourself of your internal strength. Today is the day to tap into that indestructible mindset & move forward.
Trauma is a fickle creature. Just when you think you have a handle on it, it surprises you & comes from a different direction. Recently I have been trying to get my “trauma brain” on the same page as myself & my heart. It’s honestly one of the most frustrating, difficult things to deal with. I, Kaylen, will have a perfect understanding of a scenario but my trauma brain engages & then my body remembering the trauma wants to act as it did years ago when I needed to protect myself. My bodies initial reaction is very animalistic. It wants to shut down & run. This has done well for my body & my heart in the past but now it is years later & I am wanting to move forward. I want to start living the life I dreamt about during my dark days. The dream that kept me going when I thought I had reached my end.
What makes this trauma experience so frustrating is the fact that I, Kaylen, know that what my trauma brain & body are experiencing is a fear response from my past but it still feels so real presently. This inner conflict with my trauma brain & heart is truly draining. It’s as if my trauma brain/body is gaslighting me. Making me doubt what I know is presently true. I argue these thoughts & impulses away but then trauma brain comes back with “you know what happened before. You didn’t listen or see the signs & look what happened.” I, Kaylen, know that my past & where I am presently are polar opposites, yet my body is still struggling on moving into the present with me & my heart.
I know my trauma experience is specific to me but I do know that we all struggle with leaving certain aspects of our past behind. It may not be trauma but we relieve & overthink the situation. We ruminate on the What if’s? Today is the day to leave the past behind. Even if you made mistakes in your past, you do not live there anymore. We all need to take the lessons/experiences from our past & learn from them. In time we learn the seed, our past experiences, holds more beauty than the flower that blooms. Choosing to plant that seed is a brave & courageous choice, the flower that comes after is the inner growth that takes away any limitations or false beliefs we once held. Be brave. Plant that seed.
Confusion is a hard emotion to deal with. Especially when it is your mind & body that are confused. This is something I am currently working on right now. My heart & soul know exactly what they want but my body & mind are doing everything to fight against. Inner conflict is a very frustrating thing to work through & live with. The inner tug of war that is going on inside me right now is overwhelming.
For so long I have survived by feeling nothing. Purposely numbing all emotion because it was too much to handle but now I feel everything. I love feeling again but my mind & body are slower to accepting this. How do you continue to move forward when the confusion inside of you is holding you back? Will the endless challenging of every trauma thought that pops up end eventually?
I do not know the answers but I am willing to keep working through the battlefield of my mind & body to find the answers. I know what I want for my life & I know what I deserve. I know there might be some who can relate to this inner conflict & are confused just like I am about how to maneuver through the land mines our trauma has planted but just know the only way out is through. I know how overwhelming it feels presently but I do know or believe that the best days are ahead. Knowing that my best days are ahead is what is giving me the motivation to keep moving forward. I now know & feel I am not alone in this.
For years I have struggled with feeling I don’t fit in. I felt that I wasn’t like the other girls/women that I saw around me. I felt that I was too “big”, “not girly” enough. So I resorted to repressing my natural body/self. I resorted to working out & dedicating my days to being “fit.” I believed that if I couldn’t be “smaller” & “more girly”, well then I was going to be fit. Because then I would be “good” enough. This mindset has brought me a lot of anxiety & pain.
It’s hard thinking that how your body would be without the manipulation of exercise & “clean” eating isn’t good enough. That being your natural self isn’t acceptable. And feeling you are always striving for something that isn’t attainable.
A couple of years ago I started my journey of accepting my natural self & feeling good about myself without the exercise & “clean” eating. It was hard to start but once I got a few weeks in I started to feel like I could love myself in my natural state & I did. I still love myself but I have allowed my past trauma to creep back in again. I have allowed my false beliefs & our cultures fixation on diet culture to resurface in my thoughts. But recently I have found the strength to address these creeping thoughts again.
In the past month I was made to see & feel that I am worthy of being myself. It’s still a daily struggle but for the first time in awhile I actually feel worthy of more than the life I was living. Worthy of more than what my past mindset was offering. I’ve realized that I want so much more for my life & if I am in a bigger body when I experience this life than well it is worth it. I’m on a journey now to be my true self. I don’t want to look back on my life with regret because I never fully lived. I want to look back on my life when I’m 75 & remember the fun times, the good food & the priceless memories. My goal now is to tap into the young Kaylen that still lives inside of me. The one who is confident & thinks that anything & everything is possible. The one who wasn’t fixated on being “good” enough but was fixated on dinosaurs & the joys of life.
I know a lot of us struggle with thinking we don’t fit in or we don’t look right by society standards but today is the day to realize that those “standards” are only getting in your way of enjoying the life you were meant to live. Getting in the way of your natural beauty. Why do we try to morph into a cookie cutter form of beauty? Why can’t we see that our natural beauty is enough? It’s time for all of us to understand that we were not born to live a minimal life, we were born to live abundantly. Today is the day to embrace your inner child & confidently enjoy life 💙
“Just let go.” That’s something I have been told quite a bit on my path to recovery from a traumatic brain injury. From what I can remember about the beginning of my recovery is that everything was out of my control. I needed to be watched while I ate to make sure I was swallowing properly. If I wanted to get out of the house, I had to wait on my mother or see if she could fit a drive with me into her schedule because I couldn’t drive. My own body was foreign to me. I couldn’t maneuver the way I wanted.
Once I woke up from my walking coma everything that I could control I “tried” to. I felt like I needed to know everything about any situation I may enter & if I’m being honest that still remains to an extent. Needed to know everything so I could have a false sense of control but also because of my PTSD. I didn’t want to be caught off by anything. Unfortunately this whole “control” thing only progressed more & more throughout the years of my recovery & took a sharp turn for the worse when I couldn’t make sense of why things had happened the way they had. My wreck. The abusive controlling relationship. The unanswered questions from family & friends on why they weren’t there when they knew I was struggling. I tried to “fix” my problems & be the person I thought I “needed” to be to make things go better for me. To get the answers my heart desperately needed.
The only thing I could control during this time was food, my appearance, & my fun. I didn’t think I was worth anything. I didn’t think I “deserved” to have fun or to have any enjoyment. I was consumed with hurt, shame, & the false narrative of myself that was put there by my abuser. So during this time I lost a lot of weight. I tried to perfect my appearance & personality thinking this would bring me happiness. It would bring me answers. It would bring closure. Well, I was wrong. It only brought me close to death & confusion. I was deeply confused about why my “fixing” wasn’t solving anything. I was following the false narrative put in my head by my abuser. I was working on becoming the woman I was told I need to be/look like to be “good.” It took years with my neuropsychologist before she was able to start to break through that false narrative in my head & get me to believe this “control”thing was just an illusion and that if I didn’t just let go, I would kill myself.
I’m now years past this time. I’m at a healthy weight, & I have ejected that false narrative. Today I feel as close as I ever have been to truly letting go. With that being said unfortunately parts of that false narrative remain. I’m now able to identify those thoughts & eject them, but the feeling of shame that is brought on with those thoughts still remains. My neuropsychologist has helped me see the big picture when working through my shame. Helped me to stop taking my anger from feeling this way out on myself. I’ve learned that the walk towards recovery is a step by step process. I’ve learned it is a long walk & that if you want to truly experience joy & happiness again, you must take the long path. I’m now towards the end of the path, & I am the happiest I have been in years. I don’t know if there are any who identify with this “control” concept & taking your destructive anger out on yourself. I do know that a majority of us struggle with the feeling of belonging or being “good” enough. I do know we all want to be accepted for just as we are. Today is the day to realize you were made for more & allow yourself to believe you deserve to experience the joy of life because you do, we all do.
Yesterday I was with a dear friend, & we were talking about the future. What our future plans were 15 years from now & where we wanted to be. When it came my turn to talk about my future & what I had planned for myself, I was blank. I said, “It’s hard for me to think about the future. I just don’t want to get my hopes up.” While yes that is true, I have thought about it more, & I know what I want for my future… safety. I want to feel safe in my own skin. I want to feel safe in my relationship/marriage. I want to know I have a place & belong. These are all the things I have been fighting for the past 10 years since my wreck & everything that happened after. My traumatic brain injury stole the safety I once felt within my own body. My abusive/controlling relationship stole my feeling of safety & replaced it with the feeling of doom. Replaced it with me only being able to survive & not live.
Over the past few years, I have been trying to rejoin the living, but I still always hit the same block. My wall or I should say walls. The walls I have built to protect myself from anymore harm, rejection, heartache, & pain. I have slowly been able to let down a few walls, but there seems to always be a barrier between me & others. If I’m honest, that is the way I “like” it. It gives me the false sense of security. The false sense of protection. I’m terrified of letting someone see behind the final wall. I was asked why that is & what I think is so bad behind it. My answer was a lot of issues but that is honestly not the real reason. What is honestly behind the last wall remaining is a scared hurt little girl. I know I am 33yrs old now but behind that wall is all my hurt. All my fear. That’s my last bit of my pure self that I am terrified to be taken or hurt.
I came out the other side of the wreck, my heartbreak somewhat changed. I locked away the last bit of my pure self that I knew was too tender to re-emerge at that time & since then I have become a stronger, more compassionate woman but along the way to becoming the woman I am today I never revisited the part I locked up. Once I felt strong again I was too scared to give her life because I was terrified of the pain I might have to feel again with her re-emerging. I don’t know if anybody who reads this will be able to identify with this, but I do know we all have felt pain. We all have felt fear, & we all know what it’s like to have to comeback from some loss however small or big it may be. The only thing I know now is you have to find the courage within to allow yourself to be unapologetically you. Not what you think you need to be for someone or what you think you need to be to survive. Just be you. All of you. Today is the day to unlock the parts of you that you thought you needed to keep hidden & show the world the beautiful imperfect mess that you are, that we all are.
Anger is a tricky emotion. People say there is a fine line between love & hate but I think it should be between love & anger. The people we love the most are the ones who can also hurt us the most & when we get hurt by those we love the emotion that masks our hurt is anger. It’s only been within the past few years that I have been able to truly identify the emotions I am feeling. It’s also only been within the last few years that I have gotten to know & understand myself. With my wreck I was dealt a not so great hand of cards. That seems pretty obvious since I should be dead but the cards I’m talking about were dealt to me after my wreck, when I was in the trauma unit fighting for my life. Little did I know of the events that would soon play out once I awoke from my coma, spend a month at Jim Thorpe & then finally make it home to start my 4yrs of outpatient therapy.
Once I came home from Jim Thorpe I was still in my walking coma, yes I was better but I was a long ways away from the woman I am today. I came home & naively thought since I’m home everything will be good. Man was I wrong. If only my future self could’ve been there to warn/prepare me for my friends getting together & deciding it was better to think of me as dead, for my family not being there or reaching out to me even when my parents told them I needed support & for the man who walked into my ICU room and began lying to my family about our relationship & then proceeding to make up stories about our past to tell me when I finally woke up & met him in person. I believe my story & my recovery would have a much different outcome & tone if I could’ve only known.
It’s really hard now when I think back on these times because my heart & mind are on different pages. I still deeply love all of these people, even if it’s only the imaginary version of what I thought they were, yet when I think of certain situations I am filled with anger. I now understand that I am actually not angry at all I am deeply hurt. To protect myself & to protect my mind from having to actually accept that these situations really did happen, these people who I love really did hurt me, I kept myself in denial. It’s much easier to keep your mind & heart in denial & just feel the “anger” but it’s also a lie & you can only lie to yourself for so long. Well at least I could.
I’m still currently working through my hurt/anger which honestly makes me angry. Yes actually angry. I have already worked through so much pain, trauma & issues with my neuropsychologist that I thought I was good. I thought I had left my hurt feelings & anger behind. I thought I had come to terms with my trauma. I thought I had come to some resolution in my heart & mind that would allow me to move forward & never look back, well I was wrong. It’s frustrating the way trauma works. The way it sets up little land mines within your mind, heart & body. It’s frustrating how you can go months or years never setting them off or knowing they exist & then when they get triggered you are blindsided. You’re caught completely off guard & feel as if you have fallen behind because you don’t understand why you were set off. I don’t know if there is anyone out there who truly understands this but I’m thinking there are some who can identify. I wish I had the answers on how to navigate these tricky emotions but the only answer I have is keep moving forward & know you are not alone. I think it’s easy to become ashamed of ourselves when we are experiencing emotions we don’t understand but that is the last thing you should feel. Embrace your emotions & try to understand them. It’s only when we have deep knowledge/understanding of ourselves that we can start to understand others. We all have dark places inside of us & only when we acknowledge our own darkness can we love ourselves & love others. Because the truth is we all are beautifully & uniquely flawed but those “flaws” make us into wise, understanding & loving people.
Over the past few years I have been trying to rejoin life, trying to put myself back out there. I knew it would be hard doing this after recovering from a traumatic brain injury, but I knew this is what I needed to do. I clearly underestimated the difficulty of this process. After trying to put myself back out there, I realized I can’t relate to people my age. I can’t relate to having a job, having children, having a husband/significant other, etc. I had the harsh realization that I don’t know how to socialize with others my age that well. I have no problem socializing with people much older than me, but when it comes to people my age I’m lost. While recovering from a traumatic brain injury & recovering from my physical injuries, I lost my twenties. Now I’m 33 and still feel as if I’m 23. The age I was when I had my wreck, my life stopped & I was forever changed. I go up to meet people only to find out that I am 10years older than them which is so surreal because I feel as if I’m their age. But then I remember the 10 years I’ve lost. I feel defective. I feel like a lost toy that has been found again, but I’m out of “date” or “trend” now, so I’m looked at from a far, never played with & sat away from the other toys. This is a gut wrenching feeling. It is a feeling of hopelessness that I will never fit in again. That I will never be able to assimilate back into a group of people my age. I don’t identify with my age. My mind is still believing I’m 23, & my body feels as if it’s 70. Where am I supposed to go from here? I do not know.
I do know I have to keep taking one baby step at a time, but I don’t know how I’m supposed to get over the fear of being seen as odd. The fear of being rejected or hurt again by someone I care for. But I know I can’t allow these fears to hold me back. But even writing that seems pretty lame to me as I’m reading what I typed because that fear for me is quite significant. A phrase most people use when trying to overcome fear or trying something new is “what do you have to lose?” For me I know far too well what I have to lose. I may not be in my best place or living my best life yet but compared to where I was 3, 4, 5 years ago, I am living in a way I never thought I would, & the idea of losing the self I have gained or even risking the little bit of happiness I do have now is nonnegotiable to me. But once again here I am in another predicament. Do I allow the trauma from my past to steal happiness from my future? Do I allow my past heartbreaks to steal my future loves? No, that will not work for me, so I guess this is the current journey I’m now on. Learning to navigate my thirties without allowing the trauma, pain & heartbreaks of my twenties to interfere. If I’m being honest, I think navigating through Jurassic Park would be much easier than this new journey, but one thing I have learned from the past 10 years is I just have to keep moving forward no matter how small the steps are & no matter how long I might be stalled in one place. To anyone who is also struggling with these issues or just struggling through daily hardships just know you are not alone. These feelings of inadequacy can be overwhelming but just know they are not true. Just because we might feel we are lost does not mean we are. Feelings are not facts. The truth is we are all worthy, & the fact is keep moving forward.