You Are Brave

“You are so brave”. This is often said to me when I tell my story to others. It starts off when someone asks what my tattoo means or if they are bold they will step into unknown territory of why my face seems to not stay symmetrically aligned with the other half. I really like those people. They cut the bullshit and get to the point. I know people stare and want to ask but follow the political correct line and shy away. Instead of staring just ask. It makes me more comfortable with you to know that you are looking at my eyes instead of my half crooked mouth or focusing on my dropping eyelid instead of what I have to say about the weather.

I have never thought of myself of brave. I don’t put myself directly in situations that would harm me or others. I never fought for my country. I never had to escape or seek asylum. Processing that definition I had never thought of myself as a brave person. I was a person who had something terrible happen to them and I tried to survive. That was it.

Each time this is said I have to process and break down this phrase and words. I would like to think that everyone is brave in their own way. I love words and the approach and meaning behind each one. Each letter that is put together to form one word holds such a powerful, yet different meaning for one person to another.

Brave is a powerful term. I believe everyone is brave in their own way. Everyday you must face things that are not pleasant, that’s life. I think that you are given a choice in any circumstance and with that choice you choose whether you break or thrive. Deep down you have the power to control and divert your path.

What You Don’t Think You Need Two Hands For

I have always thought of myself as an independent woman. I sometimes have gone out of my way to prove to others that I am independent. This has been a common theme even as a youngster. So when you are put in a situation where you lose your independence you are at a disadvantage. How do you go about doing daily activities that were so easy and carefree to asking for help. For me, pride got in the way at almost every turn. Everyday tasks that I would never think twice about before, I would have to ask for help. Some things I would just shake my head at, shying away at the thought of having to go through with them. Anger and frustration consumed me. How was it that last week, this was a simple task that I didn’t even have to think twice about, and now, I have to have at times, two people assisting me.

I was on the Rehab floor of the hospital. We were being taught or given things to work around things that had become difficult in life but it was as if at every step they were proving a point to the person in there that they needed to ask for help or figure out an alternative way to accomplish a task.

Take for instance any meal time. For a floor that assisted patients with strokes, car accidents, etc, they provided juice containers that you had to have two hands to open. For the majority of people on the floor that couldn’t use both arms or hands this was a bit of an inconvenience. Salad dressing containers were also concealed in air-tight packs. How can someone try and drink or do anything themselves if they are not even given the chance? They have to constantly ask for help. The mental aspect of being there was one of the most challenging. Squeezable salad dressings. You become innovative rather quickly. Juice came with an aluminium top so after I few days of experimenting I learned to be able to drink it I all that I had to do was pound a straw through pretty easily. It was only twice that I showered myself with grape juice. I learned quickly that you always eat breakfast before showering just in case you spill on yourself because showering was a feat in itself. Try if by all means to do it once because you need to save your energy for walking and therapy.

Another thing was attempting to do anything grooming wise. Shaving my armpits. It was like an amazon forest. I couldn’t move my entire arm. I could only rest my arm on something (like my head) and shave one. But that would be just plain silly, having one armpit shaved and the other au naturel. I was convinced at the end that I could braid them. It was becoming a trend to sport the ‘au natural’ look which helped, but I was ever so thankful when my Mom shaved them for me. I took for granted what you needed both hands for. Washing my hair and face was also something was of great difficulty. I would have to have a shower seat for safety precautions. In the shower, it would take me three times longer to bath than normal. It also took me a while to figure out how to get the liquid from the bottle to my head. The process of opening the lid and then making sure I didn’t use the whole bottle was overwhelming. Everything would also fall over in the shower and roll away me too. Thank god for my nurse Shayna, she flipped my garbage can over. I was able to squeeze the right amount on my leg and scoop it to put in on my head. I did this with my face wash as well.

Each day when my left hand becomes weak I always remind myself how bad it was and how it this little blip on the map is nothing to worry about. A little weakness is nothing to compared to what could be and was I have been through.

The 4 Hard Lessons I Learned From 2016

Every year I sit back and self-reflect on what has happened over this past year. As each year moves forward, I want to look back on what I have completed and accomplished and what I have learned not only about myself but also about life. I think that it’s important to do this every year to grow not only as a person but as a wife, daughter, sister, godmother, friend, and business owner. I don’t want to stay stagnant in my life I want to make sure that I am contributing to society and being the most well-rounded person I can be.

This is also the perfect time of the year because in January I turned another year older. Another year to the big 3-0. When I was younger (well turning twenty), I thought reaching this age I would feel so old and would be settled down with a heard of kids and all of those cliches that it would come with by now. Instead, I got the married part down, but everything else is a little late coming. This was the first year the I didn’t set New Year’s resolutions. One in part because I never actually remember what I chose by November and the whole only set goals because it is a new year is a bit cliche. I now believe we should always be challenging ourselves to be better people. Not only once a year. Here are the four lessons that I learned from 2016. Some being the hardest thus far in my life.

  1. You can change your bad habits if you really want to. I have previously been a big believer that once a ‘bad egg, always a bad egg’. Yes, I know, pretty black and white but it had helped me get to my 26th year. During my 27th I took a long hard look at my life and what I wanted as my legacy. What did I want to be known for or what did I want people to remember about me? I also took a hard look in the mirror and had to ask myself what was I waiting for and holding back when I was accomplishing my bucket list. So I sat down and (old school) took the pen and paper and wrote a list ending up with 28 items, ironically as I was turning 28 the following year. That gave me one year to complete each task. I tried my hardest and with the support of family and friends, I completed the majority of tasks. Am I disappointed that I didn’t finish the entire list? No. I set out to put myself out there and push my boundaries. Step out and face my fears and I did that. Here is the list of completed bucket list items:
  1. Learn how to make sushi
  2. Re-open One Up Communications
  3. Do yoga each morning for 15 minutes
  4. Be able to run again
  5. Be able to play the guitar again
  6. Participate in the #100daysofgratitude challenge
  7. Get a small tattoo that means a lot
  8. Become a pen pal
  9. Meet Andy Cohen
  10. Ride a segway
  11. Visit a fair
  12. Go to a beer festival
  13. Become a regular somewhere
  14. Start a tradition
  15. Read a book a month
  16. Meet one of my entrepreneurial icons
  17. Eat at Noir in Toronto
  18. Learn how to saber a champagne bottle
  19. Complete one Pinterest project per month
  20. Submit a piece of writing and get published
  21. Interview for/Launch a podcast
  22. Give back to my community
  23. Eat at a place featured on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’
  24. Sponsor a child
  25. Have a spontaneous adventure
  26. Start a garden
  27. Hike in Algonquin Park
  28. Make my own wine

2. LET IT GO. True to the amazing words of Elsa (for all of the Frozen fans out there), holding onto things that cannot be fixed is not worth it. You are the person in the end that will take the brunt of the hurt. Carrying that negativity around isn’t worth it either. It becomes toxic in your life. It isn’t worth getting sick over or focusing your energy. Yes, acknowledging that this happen in your life is good, but letting it take over your life is not healthy. It cannot change what has happened and until they have invented a time machine, you will be stuck in the same rut, feeling the same way until you can move on. I had to learn this (while watching and listening to the Frozen soundtrack on repeat). This was one of, if not the important to healing and this past year. I apologize in advance for getting this now Disney classic in your head.

3. Relationships matter. This was a biggie and one that I realised the most these past two years. Surround yourself with the people your want to represent yourself and who you want to influence you for the better. Their support and kindness are what helps you through the day. Surround yourself with positive individuals that support your progress and bring the kind of energy you want to be around. It is important to work hard at those relationships around you that mean the most. Getting through the anxiety might be hard, but it will only get better. What I took the most from this year was the slowdown and be present in conversations and in your relationships. Work on my anxiety and my relationships that it has so badly affected. My goal this year is to work and nourish those relationships around me that I hold near and dear to me. I want to show those who have helped me through everything how much they mean to me.

4. You can’t plan. I have to admit I was a planner. I had planned my life out to a tee. From when I was finishing my education, to the 2.5 kids I was having by the time I was 26. Little did I realise that this is not how life works, nor can you change that.

After each life event and date passed by and I didn’t get to check it off my list a little bit of anxiety crept up in the back of my brain and so did the questions. Am I falling behind in my life? What if I don’t reach these goals by this date? Did I fail? It was a learning process that to cut myself a break and accept that it is okay and plans change. Measuring success and happiness were looked at differently each and every year. We can’t define ourselves on these things. Our bodies, our relationships all change as do what you think your life will look like. I used to think this is what success is supposed to be and that is what I need to be doing to stamp my legacy. That has slowly changed. I am grateful to be able to be here today. I may have stumbling blocks ahead of me, but who doesn’t. My legacy won’t be defined by these milestones that everyone has told or imprinted on me that I was expected to accomplish, it will be what I define as my own.

Don’t Judge Me And My Friend Larry

I had been used to the stares by now. By now I even ventured out into the great unknown of society and beyond my comfort zone of the darkness of the movie theatre. I had grown tremendously since that Wednesday in May now knowing that I will never be that person who entered the hospital that afternoon. What I didn’t realize was that for all of the time that I have worked on myself, moved forward, and moved passed the days and nights of not knowing if I will be able to use my hand again or if my face will decide to go back to it’s recognized position, there will always be times that will trigger me to fall back right into a moment of vulnerability, devastation, and complete of loss of confidence. Right back to the once paralyzed individual that couldn’t look herself in the mirror.

It has since been a year and a half since that life-changing afternoon. I have weekly occurrences of speech deficits, paralysis and more. What I have chosen to do is not let it stop me from leading the life I want and choose to pursue. I have come a great distance physically, emotionally, and mentally although take on the perspective of ‘tackle one day at a time’. I didn’t realize the true meaning of this saying until last week. I have become more comfortable with my new body including all of its flaws and stubborn decisions, choosing to not let it stop me from running my business or doing the things that I love. At this point, I haven’t noticed the stares when I bring Larry out (for those of you who don’t know Larry, he is my cane) or when the left side of my face hangs to the floor, or when I am talking in my own language that only my husband can translate. To me, you just keep going and don’t look back. I don’t see my condition as a disability or a hindrance, to say I don’t have ‘my pity days’ would be lying but they are not every day. Until last week when I had to realize that the world might see it another way.

This was until I was I was called out. Called out for having a walking assistant, named Larry and looked at differently for my mispronunciation of words and how my face changed. My broken brain was not cooperating and decided to go on it’s own adventure that week. I was judged while I was accompanied by Larry, my trusted companion and right-hand man. Good old Larry. I thought that I got over facing the stares. The loud comments by children about my looks but now because my competencies were being called into questioned, this became a whole new meaning. It was the first time I had been verbally called out, questioning my capabilities because I was using a cane and my face had drooped over. Questioning if I could complete my work, invasive questions that were borderline. I was caught off guard I have to admit. I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know how to explain that this is my life. As much as I try and be transparent to my family, friends and clients, there are many things that I hold back to not show weakness and see pity in other’s eyes as they look back at me. What I needed to do was put my big girl pants on and get to work and not feel bad for myself. Sitting here focusing on my sickness doesn’t help anyone. But sometimes as much as I do to help my body include eating right and sleeping enough my body decides on its own what it is going to do. The only thing I can do is try and not let it get in the way of my life and what I am trying to accomplish.

Going out in public with my cane and with my  face sideways doesn’t bother me. It is the judgement that is already assumed that bothers me. Judgement that because I have a walking assistant and have a facial deformity I cannot do my job correctly. My mind is still here, I am still the same person with the same goals and strategic vision I was on the phone and by email, my leg just might not be working that well some days.

Appearances are a funny thing. It got me thinking. I don’t use my appearance to complete work. Half of the time, if I could wear yoga pants and no make-up I would and when I worked from home I practised this. My styled hair doesn’t create and strategize how to develop social media or consult on marketing plans for your business. Wearing makeup doesn’t determine if I can create your graphics or edit your photos.

I wasn’t sure if I was taking this too personally and needed to stack it up to being “just business” or if there was something more there. Were these preconceived notions with disabilities that I was just realizing and experiencing there all along? The truth. Yes. It is only due to the fact that since 2015 I have never had to deal with anything like this before. To put it gently, it made me see people and the world in a whole new light. I questioned how I was looked at by others and how judgemental I had been before. Saying nothing at all is worse than saying something at times. I did nothing, or chose not to see that this was happening and how wrong this was. Now all of sudden my illness has made me see the world without the rose coloured glasses I seemed to have on prior to this. Which is sad as it shouldn’t take that to make me realize what is actually happening outside of the bubble I live in. This encounter didn’t feel great nor did I want it to ever happen again.

I felt like a scarlet letter had been cast on me and I had to prove myself to others all over again. My brain was still working and now harder than ever, even if my body doesn’t look like it at times. Explaining my situation didn’t matter, overcompensating for what was already passed was what I was in for. I wish I could just hide behind a computer forever so that no one could know how complex migraines impact my life. I have adjusted accordingly and that is what matters. I was used to this with every client, but now such a personal element was being brought to light, something I could not control and now being questioned. Yes, I use a cane at times. Yes, my face looks like a groupie of the Joker from the Batman movies and yes, my speech is a little slurred. But I have light and life in my eyes.

The moment that this happened it brought me directly back to when I was told I had to remain in the hospital for five weeks and then fast forward to my three attempts at re-starting my business in September and the next months following. I was consumed with self-doubt and questioning all of the progress that I had made. The bandaids are still on my broken brain, slowing healing. I know that this is one of the life lessons that will help me grow as a person and business owner and can only work harder to change people’s minds that they shouldn’t judge before they know one’s capabilities. There is a story behind every individual. Take the time to learn that story and you might be surprised of what you learn and what they teach you in the process.

 

Coming Back

It’s been a while since I have been I have been back here. Writing has been such a cathartic process for me. To be able to express myself when at times it was the only way I could communicate with the world. I cannot thank everyone enough for their support and kindness during this entire process. With each word and each post, I am able to heal a little bit more.

I always thought that I could and would never get over all of my feelings that happened beginning on that Wednesday afternoon. It’s true, some stay with you forever, however, others I have slowly put behind me and have learned to let go. I think people call it moving on. I can’t carry this with me forever. It is time to be no longer known as the girl with “that terrible migraine” but “a girl with terrible migraines”.

The Process of Accepting

 

I have begun the process of self-reflection. Really looking at everything in my life. Looking at the fork in the road I have come to, the paths that I had crossed, and ultimately what was and was not working for me. I had become so numb for so long refusing to feel and let my emotions become me that I had become overwhelmingly flooded with everything all at once. Overwhelm being an understatement of course. If I didn’t accept what happened and in my mind think it was a real event than it never did, right? Even though I absolutely knew that it had, and continually was still happening physically, I still didn’t want to deal with pushing through the feelings of knowing that this was my new life and feeling the raw emotions of what happened – including the dissolving of relationships, and the power of people’s actions.

I knew that if I didn’t put on the brave face I wouldn’t have made it through. There was two options, two choices to make. If I didn’t choose to push through, moving my feelings to the side then I wouldn’t have been able to get married, I wouldn’t have been able to walk down the aisle. Choosing to succumb to my emotions would have been a disaster. I would have had a meltdown and saw no end in sight, no goal to focus on. I might have seemed okay on the outside (relatively speaking), a positive attitude, a determined mind, but I was broken inside. I didn’t know how to get through each day.

All I needed to do was keep going like this. Who needed to feel things anyways? I was doing fine moving forward without accepting what had happened. It would have been nice to keep going like that forever, but I am learning that your mind and body do not work that way. I had and was going to eventually crash and surrender to every pain I had ever felt stabbing in my heart and tear I held back. It was never going to be that easy. It slowly started on a week before my wedding day and never left. With a room that full of love and that many people an anxiety attack strikes you down like a lightening rod. The room spinning, walls closing in, it was defeating. I was only one person. I couldn’t get hit anymore. My cup runneth over.

What needed to happen was change. Change in myself. Reflection over what had happened since May. And acceptance. It has truly has been a process. What I have learned about myself over these past few months are many things. My outlook has changed. What was once important is not now. People who were once significant figures no longer needed to play an integral part in my life. Through self-reflection, I realized who had stood by me when I needed it the most are those that I needed close by. During my fragile state pre, during and post hospital stay I unfortunately, found this out in a dramatic fashion. I don’t blame anyone. I made decisions to not see anyone accept family members and even those visits were very hard for me. I was not myself, physically, emotionally and mentally. Things are said in those situations that are not meant in malice, but because there is nothing else to say, which in retrospect makes it worse. I was just trying to make it through my physical therapy sessions and grasp if we were going to cancel the wedding or not. If I could compile a list of do’s and don’t’s when visiting a patient in the hospital, tell them they look amazing (I knew I didn’t but hearing I looked like sh!t, even jokingly wasn’t funny). Telling me that you could decorate my walker to go to my bridal shower, I know came from a good place, but that was supposed to be a special celebration that I was now forced to face being stared at. Please note to everyone, don’t get sick before your wedding.

Everyone always says when you go through a tragic event you will know who “your people” are. I never wanted to believe that, never wanted to choose to believe that just because someone got sick a relationship would change. Why should a relationship change or take for someone to realize what you mean to them because of terrible circumstances? In contrast, when someone is in a tragic state, that is when you show compassion the most and demonstrate how much your relationship means to you. I remember going to my first major event (outside of our wedding) and I started having an episode. I tried to push through but needed to sit down. People turned away. Refusing to make eye contact and turned their backs. It was easier to turn away then to treat me as a person and ackowledge that I was still me. Yes, my face was melting and my left side was not working, but I was still Katie. I wanted to say, “Don’t turn away like I have a contagious disease”. It made me feel like I was ‘that kid’ in high school or did actually have a contagious disease and have to be quarenteed. Slowly I didn’t hear from people. Who wants to be stared at along with ‘that’ girl when they are out.

Relationships evolve. People change. It in inevitable and that is life. It is not something to turn sour about but something to accept. You cannot change people but you can grieve the process of how your paths might not stay intertwined. For me this was difficult. You learn quickly when in a situation where you are vulnerable and weak, who is there to console you, and sit with you in silence. It is simple as just show up. Not for themselves in a parade of selfishness that in turn comforts their own ego, but for you. In that moment, your needs outweigh their constant attention seeking ways. You learn quite quickly that when tragedy meets selfish ego, you will never win, during any circumstance. That is okay. That is something you have to accept first in order to move forward.

What once was something so sacred as a relationship between two people was not anymore. That is something I have realized and come to accept. I have opened the door to feel a flood of raw emotions. People grow up and change, but that does not take into consideration their compassion towards others in a vulnerable and emotional state. Their character does not change. That is and always was who they are. Their core shone brighter when there is no other noise to distract you. This has been one of the hardest things to do. Having to re-evaluate your relationships when you know and have come to realize they are not good for you. A lot has happened to me in these past months, losing relationships has been one of the most difficult truths that I have had to face. Facing that these relationships are no longer authentic to who I have become or know that they are not really true friendships that will stand the test of time or the test of anything for that matter. It was very hard to face an inauthentic version of what the truth was and face up to what had happened. The numbness that had once held me together faded away to anger and rage for what happened, not only my illness but how I had gotten inadvertently hurt in the process. Someone very wise and dear to me told me anger is poison and I believe so much in that. I still share disappointment in the fact that this is what was left, shattered and in pieces and with casualties. I feel that through accepting what happened this is part of the process. Understanding my new normal includes relationships and the events that surrounded May.

 

 

How Do You Thank Someone That Changed Your Life

Thanking someone for something can be in a form of verbal expression, a gift or public acknowledgement. Going out of your way to do something for another person out of the goodness of your heart shouldn’t have the requirement of automatically doing something in return. There shouldn’t be an expectation of receiving something. You do it for that person to help them. It is polite to acknowledge that act but not required. Many people in this world go into fields that are filled with kind-hearted acts of service. Occupations like nursing, therapy, firefighting, police and so on. Many get paid, but yet go out of their way to ensure that the people that they encounter are safe, feel comfort and have kindness spread.

When you have a life altering experience, how do you thank these individuals? The therapists that listened to you day in and day out. Worked with you to make sure that you would have the functional movement for your wedding and to be able to get back to what normal would look like for you at home. The paramedics who let you choose to radio station on your fearful ride to London, the ride that would determine what would be your ultimate diagnosis. The small acts of kindness, that to them, include their job, but to you, laying on the stretcher staring into the abyss of what was an unknown future, this melted your heart and made you feel comforted.

While in therapy the acts of compassion that the team assigned to me displayed were insurmountable. I was overwhelmed and beyond grateful for their outward bounds of warmth. When I initially entered into the days that led to regaining my body back, I was unsure and untrusting of the process that was ahead. I didn’t know what was going to happen and there was a lack of control on my part on what I could bring to the table. I had never encountered this type of situation before, now I am not sure I would have signed up to lose control and function on half of my body either. When introduced to my therapists and my program, I was scared but knew that I needed this to work. It was my only option. Therapy can mean many different things to different people. From my experience therapy can help you with your mental and physical wellbeing. Before May and everything that happened, I had always imagined therapy being an academic research-based field. Something where an individual basically studies you and your feelings around an event that happened, helping you and your mindset. That was mental health portion. Since May, I have been introduced to the physical side of therapy.

I was introduced to the full fledge of services on my second day in the hospital at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. Eating was hard when your mouth was seized shut and your face was drooping. It was there I met with Speech Language Pathologists. Then came Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. A few weeks later I was introduced Recreational Therapy. This rounded out the whole body of services to get you back up and running (figuratively speaking). Every therapist was a therapist. They would listen wholeheartedly to everything that I would say, some days just pouring my heart out because I could not control my feelings. Each person had an expertise and would work together to ensure that I would become a whole person again, no matter what.

Physical therapy would be where I would push myself. Every session I would ensure that I would challenge the previous goal met. Every day she would motivate me to beat my last time on the exercise bike or to make it another round on the floor. Social Work. She would come in every day to make sure I was okay. A check in to see what sessions I had, what progress I had made and if I just needed an ear. Meeting her for the first time she cried with me, she laughed with me through the most embarrassing of things. She made me feel human again. My Speech Therapists would talk with me. About the wedding. About my business. About Ace. There was always a lot of talks about Ace. I could eat real food again. They taught me to control my facial droop and breathing techniques. Talking with them made it okay to hear my voice again.

It is true what they say, people come into your life for a reason. They make impressions on your heart. I know that I will never forget everything that my family, friends and therapists have done for me. After recently coming visiting the rehab wing at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, it was emotionally overwhelming. Walking up to the hospital I thought that I wouldn’t have the emotional reaction that I did. I thought that I could hold it together. Almost instantly after pushing the button in the elevator and riding up in the silver encased walls the lump in my throat appeared. As soon as the doors cascaded back and the tables with the puzzles appeared the puddles in my eyes did too. We walked to the front desk to see everyone. It was surreal. It felt so nice to see everyone in a semi-normal capacity. I feel that I have been changed forever by what happened. A new perspective. A change for the better. I still have my setbacks but so does everyone.

I could only manage to talk for a few moments before breaking down. Revisiting my old home, as I would call it was something that I needed to do. I had wanted to do it for so long but mustering up the courage to walk in and on that floor took a long time. Each person who goes into that line of work has a special heart. They touch many people, not just the patients that they care for but the families that are involved. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the team of therapists assigned to my case. I know that I wasn’t the easiest patient at times but they gave me compassion and kindness during one of the most devasting times of my life. From the bottom of my heart, I will be forever grateful.

The Reason Behind The Meaning

I have been writing for quite some time now but have come to realize that I have not explained the meaning of the title of my blog. A Broken Brain Story came from hours of sitting alone and wondering if my brain would resolve and I would miraculously be cured of all things that had happened. Having hemiplegic migraines are not something that are permanently damaging which is a blessing, however, your spirit and body are in this confused turmoil fighting against each other trying to win a battle and in the end, everyone is knocked out.

I become inspired to write this blog after reading an amazing book on our honeymoon. The book, titled Stir, My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Back, about a woman, Jessica Fetchor who had an aneurysm burst in her brain and her journey recovering. I was convinced people thought I was crazy because I starting reading it on the plane going to Miami where our port was and I started to cry. Her writing and experiences brought me back to places I thought that I had left and never had to be back again. It was haunting. I decided to revisit it again on our second week and couldn’t put it down. I read the entire book in two days. There were times when I laughed aloud and made Sidney read the few paragraphs because it was as if she wrote my life the past few months. Reading her story and knowing that she came out alive and thriving was inspiring. In some way, it gave me comfort in knowing things are going to be okay because she went through a situation multitudes worse than I.

I had been writing to work things out in my mind. At first, it was a voice-to-text feature on my computer as my floppy fish hand was not working but slowly would move to typing. It was comforting that I could write everything out and walk away, kind of like a thought dumping. It was also comforting to know that I still had the ability to communicate coherently through writing as my speech had bit the dust for lack of a better term. All things were not lost. There was still hope. Going over my journal entries, there was a common word that I came across. Broken. I feel broken. My life is broken. My body is broken. This word was found continuously in almost every entry since May.

The common theme when discussing my diagnosis was that no one knew when my symptoms would eradicate. Days, weeks, months. No one knew. As much physically as I felt defeated, mentally I was even more so. The kicker, it all started with my brain. My brain was the center of this mess. It was the control center of what was happening to my body and something inside was broken. When medical professionals talked about my hemiplegia or to me, they talked about it as a third person. “The migraine”, or “The brain”, as if I was sharing the room with someone else. Often times I still can’t comprehend or grasp that this has happened to me but then I have to get myself upstairs and it kicks in really fast. Note to self and anyone out there, never buy a two story house when one side of your body doesn’t work. You have to resort to going up the stairs on your butt like a toddler, it’s a humbling experience, to say the least. We are now looking to get a chairlift. This will be exciting, however, it does clash just a bit with our decor.

So that is why it is A Broken Brain Story. It is a part of me but does not define who I am. I live with it every day and will for the rest of the life. It will probably always be broken but it is only one of my stories.

What’s Wrong With That Lady

When I was cleared to go enter the real world and have some sort of the escape known as a day pass, I was ecstatic. I had to learn how to get in and out of a vehicle safely and master stairs. Conquering surfaces with carpet had to be the worst feat of all. My ankle would catch on the textured surface almost every time. It was one of those laugh/cry moments that you just want to shake yourself into doing what you want. I so desperately wanted to get out of the hospital that I would do anything. When my social worker initially told me that I would need to spend five weeks in the hospital as that was the time needed to get me back into fighting shape, in my mind it resonated that I would be getting out earlier. I expected only a week. When I put my mind to something it was going to happen. I was going to beat that expected date. I did not want it written on my white board. For me, that meant it was out there in the universe and if it was written then it was a permanent date that I had to adhere to. Little did I know, that is not how things work on rehabilitation floor.

Once I conquered the safety measures, I was cleared to be released, for a few hours at least into the real world with supervision, of course. I had to be signed out and sign back in when I returned. The first time that I was allowed to leave, Sidney and I went for a drive. I started crying as we left the parking lot. It was immediately freeing just pulling out onto the main street. Other cars passing us, street lights that were turning green, yellow, red in front of me, instead of from a window. I hadn’t been in the hospital for that long, relatively speaking, but as soon as I was sitting beside him in the passenger seat with the window rolled down, it was as if the streets had changed dramatically and I was transported into another world.

Escaping, I would refer to it as would be my release. It would make it feel like I was still connected to the world in some way. In a sense that there were still people living beyond the walls that were my so-called home. My first time out of the hospital, we went to visit my beloved puppy, Ace. My heart melted having the opportunity to hold him again and see his wiggly bum. He was all that I talked about. Sidney sent me short videos that I would replay on my phone for hours so being able to see him in real like so to speak broke me.

My next adventures would be to the movies. The movie theater was a safe place for me. With its dark atmosphere and quiet surroundings, I didn’t have to worry about people looking at me. I just had to make it into my seat. That was my goal. From the car to the ticket line, to the concession stand and then ultimately to my seat for the next two hours. The darkness allowed me to escape. I could focus on something other than trying to hold my face together. Laugh uncontrollably at the banter on screen, attempt to predict the ending of who the ultimate villain was, it was a safe sanctuary. I didn’t have to think about what was happening to me.

The problem? It was sometimes just getting into that seat. I had to have precision focus. Not let in the outside noise or distractions. Crowds were and sometimes still are my enemy. That was the trick or else it would throw off my goal and my emotions for the day. I think it is human nature. You have to and are drawn to look when you are curious about something that is different than you. I am not by any means saying that this is right, but it is true. It’s funny how before this all happened I was that person too. However, now in that position, I don’t do this. I know what it feels like to be gawked at, whispers become screams in your own mind. Sidenote, I also inherited Superwoman hearing after this as well. I am still deciding if this is a good or bad thing. I know that children mean well and that they don’t know so they must ask. In retrospect, it is refreshing because they put it out there in the open, instead of behind your back or in an inauthentic nature with a forced smile and sympathetic shrug. Doing this to me feels like you have pierced me with a spear. I don’t need sympathy a need laughter.

The first few times at the movies I had been using a wheelchair because I would become so tired and I was not sure how long I would be able to use my leg for walking wise. Kids are unfiltered and are curious. Being a busy night at the theater, there were many. After making it past the electronic ticket booth I felt like I was going to be okay, I was going to make it, but after waiting at the concession stand, their stares became blinding. I was trying to shield my drooping left-side not appear as evident. It did not work. I could hear a group of youngsters behind me. “Mom, what’s wrong with that lady?”. Immediately feeling my face turn red, I could only sit there in embarrassment. The mom just shushed him. I wanted to run and retreat back into my safe domain of my room where I know the noise wouldn’t follow me or even be there.

Many things ran through my mind. I shouldn’t have left, it was too soon, I am not ready to leave and be in the “real world”. The only problem was that I couldn’t leave. I wasn’t even able to wheel myself anywhere. I would have literally wheeled myself in a circle, due to the fact I only had one working arm. If I had kids asking their parents questions before, that would have really sparked conversation. Instead, I remained quiet. Alone with my thoughts, made it into the dark, comforting theater where no one else would question my appearance. I could hide. No one else would see me and I could find the comfort in knowing that I could escape those haunting questions.

One Down, Twenty-Seven To Go.

It is official. I have begun my 28×28 bucket list. I thought it was best to start the journey on my 27th birthday. I chose something that I was the most fearful of to kick things off. As you can guess, I got my first tattoo. I was so nervous the morning of. I had booked the appointment almost a month in advance. It had taken me that long to work up the courage to step foot in the tattoo parlour. I chose a symbol meaningful to me. A semicolon on the inside of my middle finger. The meaning behind my choice being that a semicolon represents the continuation of a sentence when the author could have chosen to end it.

For me choosing a symbol that would be permanently on my body was daunting. How big should I get it, what is the meaning behind it, there were so many variables to consider. When I came across Project Semicolon and what it represented, so many things jumped out at me. Project Semicolon is a non-profit dedicated to providing hope to those struggling with mental health issues. I have been ridden with anxiety since May 20th. Debilitating anxiety attacks that make me feel like the world is falling out beneath my feet. I cannot breathe. My heart races. I cannot focus on what is in front of me.

What also brought me close the semicolon was the definition behind its punctuation. The initial movement and flicker of hope on my left hand was my done by my middle finger (of course). For me that meant that the function and ability to move wasn’t going to end. It didn’t stop. It didn’t end forever. The flicker of my middle finger meant hope that my hand was going to come back to life and begin to move again. It was a pause, not an end to something that I am so grateful to have. Really, it is a continuation of my story.

The semicolon represents what has happened to my body. It could have ended and stopped there but it didn’t. My body could have chose to end movement in that side but it didn’t. There was a pause and then continuted on moving again. It kept going. My hand came back when it could have ended but it continued and I am so happy for that.

The tattoo didn’t hurt nearly as much as I thought. The heparin shots definitely took first prize in that needle category. Those are blood thinners to prevent blood clots. The tattoo artist treated me with kid gloves, which I was very thankful for. My left hand was down and out from the nerves already so I could not control it. He had to hold it down and contort it to make sure that he could successfully ink me. Every time I look at it now, I can see what could have been and what is now and am so grateful.