Emerging. But First, Hell

The last article I wrote was on February 12, 2019, just 5 days following my bike accident. In a way, I can’t believe I’ve gone over a year without writing on my blog. In another way, it makes perfect sense. The reason? To put it bluntly…hell.

My accident messed up my face. It healed pretty quickly, but for a while, I was ugly. There was no concussion according to the doctors. I don’t believe that, but no matter. After a CT scan and three MRIs, they found no damage to my brain. Thank God.

But something about the head trauma set off a year long bout with depression and anxiety. In addition to the daily torture of intense fear, zero motivation, long days in bed, crying, crying, and more crying, a total lack of communication, and losing 25 pounds, I endured a few fascinating experiences, all grueling, some helpful.

  • TMS, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation – a procedure during which I wore a helmet and my skull was repeatedly and aggressively tapped over a period of about 30 -45 minutes for at least 40 sessions. Most of time, I didn’t mind it because I hoped it would work. Sometimes it sent me into a panic attack. It didn’t work after all.
  • Sessions with numerous psychiatrists – different circumstances led to this frustration. I am now with someone I like and trust.
  • Experimentation with various prescriptions – at one point, I was taking more than 10 medicines! I’ve got it down to six now and plan to get it down to one.
  • Residential treatment at La Amistad – after two 6-week stays at this facility, I recovered but then relapsed. My time there will remain one of the most intense and profound times in my life. I look back on it with disbelief, yet with some nostalgia. It turns out that you can’t recover by running away.
  • Bi-weekly sessions with a therapist – uncomfortable and torturous, yet extremely helpful. I am forever grateful to the woman who has led me to recovery.
medicines

About a month ago, approximately one year and 5 weeks following my accident, I began to emerge. The anxiety remained but I was able to beat it by exercising. I had been exercising a little bit here and there (a sad representation) but I finally felt good enough to walk and ride our Peloton. Then the anxiety faded and I continued to start my day with exercise. I was smiling, laughing, talking, engaging, moving, and feeling happy. I had done so very little of that for over a year! Those who know me well couldn’t believe how low I had gotten.

The torture was over. I couldn’t believe it. For the first week, I expected it to revert back. I didn’t trust it one bit. A brief reprieve had happened once before, only fooling me. I wasn’t going to be fooled again.

emerging

Here I am a month later still feeling happy, content, inspired, and healthy. But I have a long and hereditary history of depression and anxiety. I have had minor setbacks before. I know that this might attack me again. Painful things happen and we don’t necessarily handle them so well. My only hope is that I will never fall to the kind of place I fell this time around. I was as low as I could go and it honestly felt like I was being tortured.

Now, there are lots of things to be thankful for. I credit my recovery to three of them:

  • Medicine – pure and simple. Do I love the thought of being on medicine for the rest of my life? Absolutely not. But I know that it works and I’m good with it.
  • Therapy – digging deep and way back; facing unpleasant memories; forgiveness; admitting all; discovering myself; facing the truth – a journey with no regrets

And finally. Prayers.

I begged God to take this from me. It was from a place of desperation, however, and not a place of hope and faith. Not sure it was really all that effective.

I’m talking about the prayers of others. Whenever people would ask me, “What can I do for you?” or “How can I help you?” My answer was always the same.

Just pray for me.

I will never be able to express the gratitude I feel for the thousands of prayers that continued throughout the year. Since I couldn’t pray without feeling desperation, I always knew that others’ prayers contained more hope, belief, faith, and love. They were more able to pray. They were closer to God. They had happiness in their hearts and wanted that happiness for me. What a gift.

Well, I finally received that gift. I am happy. I am myself. I am whole.

From hell to whole. I have emerged.

faith

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?

Ha! What a silly question! Why DO bad things happen to good people???? Well, why not? No one is immune to bad things. The test comes with how you deal with it and what lesson you allow yourself to learn from it.

So, how am I dealing with my bicycle accident? And what lesson have I allowed myself to learn? Well, I’ll tell ya.

Dealing:

  • Laughing. It’s really kind of funny when someone sees my face for the first time. Some examples: holy cow!, you poor thing, you don’t look as bad as I thought you would, I’ll hug you gently, it looks like eye make-up gone wrong, what happened to you?, you didn’t break your nose? no concussion? you just fell off your bike?, etc. etc. etc. And here’s one that makes everybody else laugh: Right after it happened, my daughter screamed and ran away, and said, “I’ll be at home, Mommy!” What the hell??
  • Being positive. I am pretty damn lucky that I have no broken bones and no serious head trauma. When I think about the moment my face hit the sidewalk and how it bounced back (have to stop thinking about that), I am stunned that nothing broke and I didn’t have a concussion.
  • Being grateful. This happened during school dismissal. There were so many people around willing to help me make phone calls, stop the bleeding, bring me supplies. It is amazing what my close friends, and even strangers, will do for me and my daughter. Despite the fact that she was ready to leave me in the dust (literally), she stayed and people surrounded her and comforted her. It was NOT a pretty sight and I don’t blame her for wanting to leave. In fact, the next day was her birthday. She was already in celebration mode! My close friends took care of us. They dropped everything and jumped into action. Thank you Carolyn, Heidi, and Bronwen. I am so blessed by you.

Learning:

  • WEAR YOUR FREAKING HELMET!!!!!!!!! Can’t stress this enough. There is no excuse. Wear it.
  • Be Mindful. Slow down. Be aware of your surroundings. Take your time doing everything. Be careful. Full of care. No excuses. Do it.
  • Don’t let this depress you. You’ve been through some shit, Libby. This has not been an easy ride lately. This is just another setback and you will persevere.
  • Do NOT look for the next bad thing to happen. Resist that dangerous habit with all your might.

Final thought:

There is something profound about injuring your face. Even if you aren’t a vain person, it really makes life hard. Your face is what people see. It is your identity. It is what people look at when they talk to you. I found myself wishing I had broken a limb or something other than my face and then immediately regretting that thought. It creates a vulnerability I’ve never experienced; the need to say, “Pardon my face. I fell off my bike and my face took the fall.” Luckily, people are kind. Thank goodness for that. But I look forward to the day when I won’t be frightened by my mirror image. This ain’t pretty!

When your face takes the fall.

How I’m Coping with Loss on a Loop

As hard as I try not to feel like one of those cartoon characters walking around with a cloud over my head, it’s pretty hard not to. There are daily reminders of the multiple stresses in my life and I can’t seem to hold onto what I know is all that matters: the present.

I consider myself a positive person. I know that dwelling on the past is useless. I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding a worrisome outlook. I believe wholeheartedly that bad things must happen in order for us to appreciate the good.

  • I used to think that my father’s brain injury was all about anxiety.
  • I used to think that my brother’s death made me feel guilty.
  • So, when the third bomb hit and we had to give up our dog after only six months with her, I realized that all three of these major life events can all go under the same category…

LOSS

In a sense, I lost my father to medical malpractice. Yes, he is physically still with us, but so much was taken from him. And it’s just horrible.

I lost my brother to alcoholism. He is gone. Forever. And I am so sad.

I lost Savannah to unforeseen circumstances. I was her person and the house feels empty without her.

So, here I am, with three losses on a loop, never having the chance to recover from one before the next came along; being reminded every day of what my father lost; haunted by the words my sister spoke into the phone when my brother died; wondering why Savannah isn’t following me up and down the stairs.

Here’s what I tell myself and anyone else out there who needs it:

1.) Feel what you feel. Be sad, angry, frustrated, pissed at the world…whatever you want. Cry. Cry a lot. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing. Cry if you need to. Don’t you dare hold it in.

2.) Eliminate things and people that don’t serve you. You’ve got enough on your heart. Say no. Walk away. Purge. And then, don’t feel the need to explain. Nobody needs to know. Make choices that work for you and be done with it.

3.) Try not to feel like you are just waiting for the next bad thing to happen. This is not Karma. This is just life. It’s all good, even if it’s bad. 

4.) NEVER apologize for feeling like you do. Feel it. Embrace it. Own it.

5.) Dig deep and find the positive, inspirational, life-altering lessons from this experience. They are there for you if you are willing to see them.

6.) Ask for help. As much as you feel like crawling under a rock and avoiding the world, get out there and talk, listen, breathe, and connect. You are never alone.

____________________________________________

To those who know me well, I give myself permission to break one of my own rules.  I’m in the middle of this loop and swimming in sadness. Please forgive the unanswered calls, the cancelled plans, and the mood swings.

This is life right now. It is what it is. And I know I’ll be okay.

Different Kind of Dear John Letter

A different kind of Dear John letter, written on July 21st…the day after my brother’s death:

Dear John-

You’ve suffered so much and I’m glad it’s over for you. It gives me some comfort to imagine you in your prime in heaven. There must be lots of awesome snow, water, and off-road tracks for your various adventures. I hope you soar and swoop as high as your imagination can take you.

I am so sorry that I couldn’t have been a better sister to you. There were times that I tried, but just didn’t have the fortitude to hang in there. My strength only takes me so far and there are some things I simply can’t take. I also understand that one can’t help another without their consent.

I commend you for trying to heal yourself with meditation, yoga, spirituality, and conversations with God. You learned a lot and you taught me a lot. Just the other day, I happened to include the book, The Infinite Way, in a small collection on our living room side table. I will re-read it soon and perhaps collect some excerpts for you.

Your niece, whom you unfortunately never met, just a couple days ago, out of the blue, asked about funerals. She knows that people typically wear black at such events. I don’t envision us having a funeral or wearing black to honor you. I see a quiet celebration and lots of color.

You are now where have always yearned to be. You are with God. You are free. You are whole. You are ascended. I wish I could talk to you now to hear what this amazing experience is like, but for now, I will settle in the gratitude that YOU finally know. And I will see you there some day.

I love you, my brother, always.

different kind different kind different kind different kind different kind different kind different kind different kind

Top Three Apologies Owed to my Daughter

Many more apologies apply, but if I stick with the top three, I won’t feel the gut wrenching guilt that plagues me every day. As a six year old, she has endured more upheaval and drama over the past seven months than anyone should. And while I am sure she will be a better person for all of it, it still sucks for her in the meantime.

So, my dear, sweet girl, my sincere apologies for the following:

1.) Disrupting your life with chaos, uncertainty, frustration, neglect, confusion, noise, emotion, and absenteeism.

2.) Making you feel that anyone or anything is more important than you.

3.) Losing my shit WAY too many times.

You WILL be a more understanding, compassionate, and mature person having experienced this chaos. You are, without question, THE most important person in my life and ALWAYS will be. I will lost my shit many more times. Just do one of two things: laugh at me or give me a hug.

top three

How I Deal with the Naysayers

How I Deal with the Naysayers

My husband and I picked up my parents last weekend and moved them to Florida.  Our five-year-old daughter stayed with a friend. It took us two days and about 20 hours of driving.  We made it safely and without any major incidents.

My father suffered a brain injury on August 1st and has been through ICU, additional surgeries, Rehab, Therapy, and pure hell since then. The injury was caused by a grave error made during heart surgery. His heart is perfect. The rest of him is not. He is not the strong, sharp, healthy 86-year-old man he was when he walked through those hospital doors almost three months ago. My mother, age 78, and quite healthy, is not the same either. She is exhausted, discouraged, frustrated, and sleep-deprived.

For these reasons, my husband and I are now taking them into our home for an indefinite period. Yes, this is daunting. Yes, it required a great deal of discussion and planning. Yes, it will change our lives. Yes, people are saying that I don’t know what I’m getting myself into.

But here’s what I have to say:

  • The next person who tells me that I don’t know what I’m getting myself into will get slapped.
  • I am an extremely positive person. This is the way I choose to live. This puts me at a distinct advantage.
  • I am pissed. Those doctors screwed up my father. I am determined to help fix him. Anger helps motivate me.
  • I adore my parents. They have bent over backwards for me my entire life. It is my turn to do the same.
  • Their granddaughter is the light of their lives. Why not let them bask in her light and soak up some of that youthful energy? And in the meantime, this is an opportunity to teach her compassion, patience, and understanding.
  • Everything is temporary. Accept it. Enjoy it if you can. Move on.
  • I am strong and I can do anything. Why not this?

So, as we move through this new and challenging journey, I will continue to be positive. I will teach yoga. I will use my essential oils. I will cry when I want to. But most of all, as hard as they knock on my door, I will not let the naysayers in.

how i deal

 

How a Simple Phone Call Broke My Heart

A little background to prepare you…

My father had several surgeries in July and August. During his second surgery, the medical team made a grave error which caused either an ischemic or anoxic brain injury. This surgery was on August 1st. He is still unable to do lots of things he was fully capable of doing when he walked into the hospital that morning. It has been a long, hard road.

The following is an email I wrote to my four siblings and my Mom after a phone call from my Dad, while retrieving my daughter from school.

Dad called me and said that he had a message for me to relay. He said he had been trying to contact his family to let them know he was on his way home. That he couldn’t find Mom, to tell her he loves her immensely, and he will come home to her soon. (She was sitting right next to him in their home.)

I said that he might not understand this, but he was actually home with Mom. That he didn’t have to go anywhere. That he was being taken care of.

He said, “So you’re telling me I am home.” And then he kind of laughed in disbelief.

After a few nonsensical things about traveling, he said he was trying his best to get to me. I told him that I would come to him the next time we saw each other.

I told him that maybe some day he would be coming to Florida to live. He said, “Oh really! That would be good for me.” I agreed.

I heard Mom’s voice in the background, so I said goodbye and told him to hang up.

I had already lost it from his comment about loving mom ‘immensely’, so I needed to get off the phone before he heard the tears and sadness in my voice.

My heart is breaking.

How To Tell if You’ve Had Enough

How To Tell if You’ve Had Enough…

There I sat with the blood pressure cuff on my arm feeling pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t high.

On my right, the markers my daughter had just slammed into my hand after getting frustrated with her project, saying, “Here, keep them for 15 years!”

On the TV, the news coverage of Hurricane Irma.

Directly in front of me, my view of our palm trees blowing in the 25 MPH wind, not even from Irma, but from the nor’easter.

Five simple words repeated like a mantra in my head.

I can’t take much more. I can’t take much more. I can’t take much more.

Not the kind of mantra I prefer, but it remained.

The tears began to flow. The short and sharp breaths joined in.

I can’t take much more. I can’t much more. I can’t take much more.

I thought of my father.

My mother.

My failures as a mother.

My hives.

The breaths got longer, deeper.

My eyes closed as I wiped the tears.

The cuff came off.

The markers were released to a hiding place, most likely to emerge before the 15 years is up.

The mantra slowed, faded, remained.

I can’t.

And I won’t.

how to tell if

 

 

 

Roller Coaster of Emotions Tamed by Words

The roller coaster of emotions throughout this time with my Dad has been mind boggling. One moment, I am encouraged. The next, I am so distraught. One minute, I am laughing. The next, sobbing. And of course, at many moments, comes the piercing anger.

roller coaster

This has not bothered me though. I have allowed myself to feel and do whatever I need to get through it. And we are only at the beginning. I’ve done a lot of writing. This has become my outlet over the years, and has helped me tremendously over the past two months. When the anger arises, my keyboard gets a beating. But the act of banging out these words provides a bit of satisfaction.

roller coaster

This poem illustrates my last ditch effort to help my father sleep and swallow. Amazing that our body can forget how to do those things. This is all quite amazing. Unbelievable. Tragic. Downright wrong.

The words help.

____________________________________________

 

Throat Chakraroller coaster

Standing by his bedside,

I lay the stone at his throat.

Placed my hand above,

Moving it in a slow, gentle, flowing motion.

Swallow. Swallow.

As simple, yet as difficult, as that.

Meditating on opening, flowing, functioning;

Breathing energy into this space.

Onto his feet with oils;

Couldn’t believe what I was doing.

Never imagined doing this.

Any of this.

roller coaster

Go Ahead. Get Pissed Off. You’ll Feel Better

Go Ahead. Get Pissed Off. You’ll Feel Better…

Yes, I am a yogi. I remain calm as much as possible. Teaching yoga is my favorite thing to do. I believe strongly in the power of positive thinking and manifestation. I use essential oils and Chakra balancing for my health. I informally counsel others on these ways of living. Most of the time, I am a happy, friendly, loving, and giving person.

go ahead

But right now, I am pretty damn pissed off!

I have found myself here several times since June. I have been deeply immersed in medical arenas, discussions, inquiries, conferences, emergencies, planning, etc. on behalf of my father.

My father.

A vibrant, strong, intelligent, funny, clever, 86 year old man, who’s been reduced to unthinkable things. He WILL recover. He WILL be healthy again. I know it.

But every day or two, I just get pissed off. And I’m okay with that. Pissed off feels good some times. It releases me from the happiness and hopefulness often hard to muster.

Dad…get pissed off and get yourself out of here.

go ahead