On May 19 of 2016 the last thing I remember is driving home to my friends and family on a sunny Thursday. I had just landed on U.S. soil after a great time working for an after school program in Antigua, Guatemala. Everyone was relieved that I made it back in one piece, I was safe! I had no idea I was in for another, different kind of adventure.
A car accident involving a semi truck changed my life forever. I was stuck in my car for 45 minutes to an hour. Once they were able to get me out, I was unconscious and my brain was exposed. My whole body was mangled and destroyed, my injuries were extensive. I was life flighted to Tulsa, Oklahoma and rushed into surgery. My parents were told that if I survived I would likely never walk or talk normally again.. I was in a coma for 9 days.
When I woke up, I was talking! I was sent to a rehabilitation hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska, where I would learn basic tasks like how to walk long distances without a wheelchair, how to do basic math, like addition and subtraction, read on an elementary level, and how to navigate through life with a traumatic brain injury. After being home from rehab for two days I went back into the hospital for a craniotomy because I was leaking cerebrospinal fluid out of my nose. I had to have another surgery to correct the leak and was in the hospital a month recovering from surgeries. I spent 3 months in physical, occupational and speech therapy relearning all kinds of tasks and dealing with my PTSD. I eventually returned to school in Austin, Texas.
I thought the worst was over. After months of hospital stays and brain surgeries, learning how to love the new me, I thought I had beat this. Then just when I thought I was getting back on my feet, all that is a traumatic brain injury came back and made me lose balance and knocked the wind out of me.
In May of 2018, 2 years after my accident, I had a terrible seizure that left me unconscious for about 10 hours. I woke up confused with my parents standing over me, wondering how they got to Austin, which is 500 miles away from Springfield. This was my first seizure, and I was terrified. I remember the first time the doctor called me “epileptic”. I was sitting in his office alone, I was wearing a green shirt. I was scared, I didn’t know what to expect. I felt like I had to be strong and put on a front for everyone else. Knowing I made it through my last battle didn’t feel like enough to convince me I could handle this too.
I isolated myself. All of my friends just got to go out and have fun every weekend and I was dealing with all of this, so I came up with excuse after excuse to cancel on plans. I laid in bed all day, I dropped all of my classes. I was having 10-20 seizures a day. My life was just ambulance rides, needles, pill bottles and not being able to keep a job. I hated myself all over again. I didn’t understand why I survived everything just to live for this. I told myself that this was it, this was my life forever. That I was never getting out or getting better. I’m never going to be able to shower with the door locked because if I drop a shampoo bottle, someone has to be able to bust in the door and swing the curtain open to make sure I didn’t slip and fall. Too many things caused me to feel like I don't have any dignity and no sense of independence. Epilepsy was who I am. It took me over.
The doctors just said “take care of yourself, do yoga, meditate, eat healthier.” I thought it was ridiculous. As if that would help a medical diagnosis? But finally, I was desperate. I decided to reduce my stress. I decided to put myself first, and take care of myself. I did one of the hardest things for my pride, I moved away from my new home in Austin and back to Springfield to be closer to my parents so I could have more help and reduce in my life. It felt like 10 steps backwards. I was giving up my independence and my progress towards a normal life, but it was 20 steps forward for my health. Since I have moved home, my seizures have reduced to only 5-7 a week, if that. I am healthy, and I’m so much happier. I didn’t think I would get back to this place. I forget that life is full of ups and downs, not just ups and one down. That’s why you have to keep on. You’re always on your way up.
My seizures are continuing to get less frequent that makes my life so much easier to live. I made myself get better even when I didn’t want to. I made myself actually tell someone when I felt really sad. And I made myself get up and go for a walk when I felt like laying in bed and calling into work sick. I still have bad days. I still struggle with it. I still have days when I have lots of seizures. And days I’m really sad. Those days suck. But I am so much better than before. I read a quote that really resonated with me (if you know me, you know i love quotes). It said, “Not everyday has to ‘count’. Somedays your only purpose is to make it to the next, and that counts too.” And I thought that was really powerful and true. It’s something we don’t remind each other of enough. I’m so thankful for all of the people who were persistent and stuck around and helped me, and reminded me of that.
I’ve gotten a new job on the Seven Billion ones team. Hearing the stories of so many incredible people provides so much perspective. I am so amazed by the stories of the everyday people living around me. I find so much peace and solace in that.
Let them help you. Let the medicine help you. There is no shame in vulnerability or asking for help. There wouldn’t be light without darkness. We’re all just human, fighting battles, and we have so much to learn from each other if you just pay attention.