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

Birthdays, Nightmares, and Love

Birthdays are so interesting. At least they are to me. It’s sad as we get older that they get less and less important. That won’t happen with me. No sir. If I can get ONE day to do whatever I want, no questions asked, you better believe I’m gonna take it.

This year, I choose to reflect. This past year can’t easily be labeled.  On this day in 2017, I was celebrating my 50th birthday. Not in the fashion I had hoped. My family was in the quiet farm town of Ottawa, IL preparing for my father’s first surgery. My husband and daughter were getting ready to travel back home while I stayed to help out. It was no big deal. We thought.

A few weeks after this milestone birthday, our family experienced the nightmare of a lifetime. My father…strong, healthy, funny, intelligent, witty, active, generous, efficient, handsome, and dearly loved…was reduced to a shell of a person. And it turned our world upside down.

Over the past year we have experienced fear, anger, frustration, hospitals, doctors, nurses, surgeries, rehab, lawyers, expenses, arguments, sleepless nights, confusion, paranoia, messes, relocation, tears, lies, cover-ups, CYAs, panic attacks, depression, hopelessness, grief, disagreements, and separation. All horrible. All unfair. All unbelievable.

But here’s what I reflect on today:

  • The time the doctor asked my Dad who the President was, and he said, “I’d rather not talk about it.”
  • The two RNs and one PA who were always there when we needed them, were honest with us, KNEW my Dad before this, and said, “What in the hell happened to your Dad?” (They understood our shock and disbelief.)
  • All of the medical staff here and in Illinois who have helped my father return to a new version of himself, still all that he was, just taking a little more time to get there.
  • The privilege of welcoming my parents into my home to rest, recover, and be loved by a daughter who owes them her life, a son-in-law who has a heart of gold, and a grand daughter who will always know what family means.
  • My friends who were curious, shocked, supportive, forgiving, helpful, patient, loving, and here. Just here.
  • And no matter what the hospital does or who takes responsibility for what happened or whether this could be a legal case….I really don’t care. All of that will be taken care of by the all mighty spirit that knows ALL of the answers and how to work things out.

What I really care about is the here, the now, and that everybody feels loved. Everything comes from love. There is no other source.

It’s my birthday. I feel loved.

I hope you do too.

birthdays

 

One Way to Approach the New Year

As this new year approached and I was inundated with suggestions to leave my troubles in 2017, look ahead to 2018, come up with a resolution for the new year, and be excited about it, all I could feel was the need to be left alone.

The last six months of 2017 were horrendous for my family. My 86-year-old father underwent heart surgery on August 1st and due to medical malpractice, suffered a brain injury. Before this, he was a healthy, strong, intelligent man who went to the gym three times a week, completed the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle, and rode a tractor almost daily through acres of farm land. His heart is now as healthy as can be. His brain is not. Although he has progressed a great deal from being unable to walk, talk, eat, and control his bodily functions, our family has been through pure hell taking care of him. He and my mother now live with my family.

So, when faced with the anticipation of a new year, I simply felt stuck in the hardship of 2017. How can I not be? It’s still happening. So I wanted to put this off.  Could we just wait another six months for a new year? I’m just not ready.

So I turned to thoughts of yoga: love, light, peace, and truth in body, mind, and spirit. And that was my turning point.

New Years Day passed without a thought. I celebrated without the need to have discovered my resolution. Daily tasks were carried out in plenty of time. The house was transitioned back to normalcy from all the decorations, baked goods, and Christmas music.

What I had to remember is that this year has been difficult for me. And 2018 will continue to be the same, at least for the time being. In addition to the events surrounding my father’s injury, I have lived with anxiety and depression since the age of 19. I turned 50 last year. In fact, my 50th birthday celebration was brought to a screeching halt by what happened to my father. It’s been a struggle to keep my anxiety and depression at bay.

So I gave myself a break. A big one. I removed this huge need to identify what I desired for 2018 and gave myself the time and space to let it come to me. I created an opening to allow its entrance.

On January 1st, while scrolling through my Instagram feed, it flew right in. I saw a word I hadn’t seen in a while and had forgotten about: Sankalpa. This is a Sanskrit word in yogic philosophy that refers to a heartfelt desire. It is an intention or a resolve to do something. It comes from deep within and is often an affirmation.

new year

On January 2nd, I taught a yoga class using this idea as my theme, informing my students that they had one of four options:

1.) Use a resolution you’ve already created and transform it into a Sankalpa.

2.) Create your Sankalpa during class today.

3.) Be open to receive your Sankalpa if it is not easily coming to you.

4.) None of the above.

I had already chosen number three and I still haven’t been able to put it into a concise phrase, but I now know what I want this year. I want yoga. Not just the physical practice of yoga but all of the spiritual healing and connection that comes with it. I want to feel as much love and peace as possible every day, in every moment. I want to be able to surround the sadness I feel for my father with light and transform it into joy. I want to be true to myself and allow the time and space needed for all of this.

I can do it. I know I can. And I’m in no hurry.

 

Wonderful Places Where Yoga Heals

Project Balance

“Our Mission is to bring mind-body wellness to the children and families of our community through partnerships, education and outreach.”

Yoga 4 Change

“Yoga 4 Change is a non-profit organization that achieves meaningful change for veterans, incarcerated individuals, vulnerable youth, and those dealing with substance abuse. Our purpose-driven yoga program enables us to heal and empower these under-served populations, creating healthier, safer communities, one class at a time.”

The Recovery Village 

“Our patients reside in beautifully designed, private and semi-private rooms with comforting accommodations and amenities. We provide a rare retreat for our patients with a serene landscape and top-notch amenities to promote a healthy recovery environment.  Our full continuum of care reaches past your stay at our residential facility, ensuring continued success in your future.”