[This was written in 2003, almost one year to the date of being rear-ended on the freeway. I thought this writing was long since lost. Before the accident I started a group and we went through Cheryl Richardson’s book “Take Time for Your Life,” the following was what I read to our group. I have done no editing to this; it is in its entirety unchanged, warts and all. The faith I had at that time is different than what I feel/see now, my spiritual life is evolving.
I would never know how prophetic it was to have gone through Cheryl’s book that speaks volumes on extreme self-care which is exactly what TBI requires for survival. It is fascinating to go back and read this (although it makes me cry sometimes) this is who I was after the first TBI. I really did feel I was getting better…little did I know another rear-end accident would happen in just a matter of months and my life and hopes would be shattered once again…permanently.]
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Tonight I wanted to do something different in that I want to have a time capsule to share with you and to keep for myself.
I believe I am finally turning the corner after nearly one year and am feeling better more often than simply once every three to four weeks – and without the use of caffeine! As I’m heading into what I hope to be the final days of feeling terrible, I want to document some this journey. I’ve asked myself three questions, what have I lost, what have I gained, and what have I learned?
What have I lost?
I lost the things our world claims of greatest esteem – I lost the very essence of myself. I lost the ability to do and be for others and waited with bated breath for my return so I could even be there for myself. In the beginning, I struggled to sit or walk or even do laundry!
I lost the ability to look and more importantly feel beautiful. I lost the ability to coordinate outfits and feel good in them. I lost the ability to make decisions.
I lost the ability to recall names, events, things important to this heart of mine. I lost the ability to remember little details people say in average conversations, specific mention of need or want so I could bless them by giving that thoughtful and loving little gift. That’s just who I am, and I lost that.
I lost the ability to speak – I lost the ability to communicate with people I love and cherish the most in this world. I lost the ability to determine what I was feeling at any given time. I lost the ability to deal with things as I had in the past; my coping skills were all but lost.
I lost “friends,” I lost a boyfriend who said “he’d love me unconditionally,” and “his love for me would never die.”
I lost my job. I lost my confidence. I lost my self-esteem. I lost my knowledge of everything I’d ever known. I lost the ability to work with my horse. I lost the ability to carry things. I lost the ability to have the satisfaction of starting and completing a task.
I lost the ability to see any task as anything less than a mountain – from doing laundry, to getting myself ready each morning, to making a simple phone call – I was exhausted before, during, and after the task.
I lost the ability to hold thoughts long enough to write them. I lost my gift for encouraging greeting cards to people and that’s a precious gift to me.
I lost my strength; I drowned in weakness, helplessness and hopelessness. I tasted despair and was suffocated by depression so deep that all I saw was black.
I was stripped of my pride and felt painfully alone and embarrassingly transparent and vulnerable. I could feel the cold floor as I hit rock bottom and could do nothing but pray and cry.
I lost my sense of humor, I lost another precious gift of being able to make others laugh, something I’ve loved since I was a child when I first dressed up as the Fig Newton guy and danced in front of the TV every time that commercial came on.
I lost my connection with myself, God, my friends, my family, and my world. I suddenly believed I didn’t belong, fit in, or was accepted anywhere, and I was now visibly different if only through my own eyes.
This newfound awkwardness made puberty look like a cakewalk. I lost the shelter of belonging and being active in my groups and social life. I lost being a part of life itself. I lost being able to give and help, to be and do.
I lost the ability to make new friends because I couldn’t remember anything they told me.
I lost the ability to recognize people I’d known just months or years before, lacking words to speak in greeting or replies.
I lost the ability to ask my birth family questions at our first ever reunion last year in Georgia. I lost the ability to know what it feels like to feel good, energetic, or have stamina that lasts. I lost the feeling of having energy reserves.
I lost the ability to multi-task. I lost holidays, evenings and weekends with friends and family.
I lost my immune system and suffered from more colds, allergies, and viruses than I probably have my entire lifetime combined. I lost the ability to be active, another love since childhood.
I lost the ability to have success, for everything I did was muddled with mistakes, distraction, and lack of concentration and focus. I lost my hope for being a productive member of society.
And I lost my hope for the future believing I could not live out my duty or role as a loving wife and believed no man would want a woman like that.
What have I gained?
I have gained a heart that wants to understand more, judge and criticize less.
I have gained a heart that wants to help more and hurt less.
I have gained a heart that wants to communicate to find a solid ground, rather than fight creating walls and wounds.
I have gained a heart that relentlessly wants to help others in similar situations – help out without the person having to tell me what to do because most likely they simply just don’t know.
I have gained humility and a willingness to suffer and finally accept the outcome of loss understanding that if God sees it fit to even take the very essence of me away that has to be okay because it was Him who gave it to me in the first place.
I have gained a heart that seeks forgiveness and healing for the deepest hurts caused by others and to walk in a love that this world has only longed for. I want to remember to “forgive everyone for everything.”
I have gained a heart of compassion that cries and prays every time I see a car accident on the news or in real life. I have gained a fragile heart that cries even when car accidents are merely portrayed by Hollywood.
I have gained a heart that wants to make mature decisions that have been well thought out and planned.
I have gained an understanding of my limits.
I have gained a respect for God and the strength He gave me every day that I took so much for granted before.
I have gained a painful insight to understand we all have our trials and our pains – no one gets through this life unscathed, even though many appear otherwise.
I have gained insight into how much we mask just to get ourselves through and sometimes so we don’t have to deal headlong with the truth, and many times, because we’re all so scared.
I have gained an insight and perspective on friendship and gratitude for those who did not turn away, and I’ve been disappointed and lost respect for those in my life (who spoke of ‘unconditional love’) and did.
What have I learned?
Why are we so busy and yet no one is really living? We’re not enjoying life; we’re just trying to outrun each other to the finish line. Yet children grow up, friends die, and life passes us by without us ever really embracing each other or the moment.
We choose to live in discord and carry so much unnecessary stuff in our heads. What ever happened to just loving each other for the sake of it? Why is it children can love people who are different but we can’t?
I have learned why some people turn to addictions – I did for a while, there is just so much pain a person can take…especially alone. I have learned what it feels like to go crazy, like I’m losing my mind.
I’ve learned we don’t really listen; we’re too busy forming the next thing we’re going to say.
I’ve learned we make everything priority when in reality all we need to do is work, eat, sleep, breathe, and pay our bills. And I’ve learned that life is about choices.
I have learned to have greater compassion for the man in the wheelchair for we are more alike now than twelve months ago. When he smiles at me and says “Hi” and I’m in my pit of depression not wanting to be anywhere, the dawning of a new thought takes root, I start to think I can make it too.
I have learned I want to live a simpler, more peaceful, fuller, beautiful and satisfying life. I want to be free of the man-made entanglements that are so common in this generation.
I have learned that no matter how dark your circumstances are, there is a net of people – many of them I never knew before, that God will be place in our lives that we do not fall too far.
I have learned of God’s provision and more of His character…and I’m learning about real unconditional love. I’m learning, hearing it said from people who do not know each other, “You’re so precious to me,” as if from God Himself, and I know I can make it.
I have learned I am not as good or as pure or as lovely as I once thought I was. Seeing inside myself into the deep recesses of my pain shows me my dire need for God and His grace, mercy and forgiveness. It shows me too, the human condition of everyone and the knowledge that I really need to rest in God’s care.
I have learned how hard we strive for things that don’t really matter, throwing away the things that really do.
I have learned the devastation that Alzheimer’s patients and families must feel and the helplessness that accompanies that disease. I have learned statistically, because of my injury, I’m now more susceptible to Alzheimer’s and I have a genetic link to this disease as well. But then again, I believe in miracles and I believe in a God who can do anything He darn well pleases. So I’ve learned to take it one day at a time, and I’m learning to Let Go and Let God.
I have learned to do what I need to do for me even though it disappoints others. I have learned that I don’t like to ask for help when I’m at the place where I cannot return the favor nor even take the time or energy to write a thank you note. Gratitude and showing appreciation are such a part of me; it’s difficult to not be there!
I have learned the friends that can’t ride with you through the hard times cannot be classified under the precious gentle term of “friends.” This has been one of the toughest things to accept since I’ve walked through the fire with others. I’ve learned Love must be Tough.
I have learned what bondage our thoughts can be. If Dr. C. (my former employer and ‘friend’) had been open to the idea of finding out what really happened to my brain right after the accident as I had asked, this entire passage of time would have been much, much different. I have learned how much we judge one another, not accepting the other person as they are.
I finally learned with help that yes, my brain injury is the reason why I lost my job; I had long accepted the words of others over their behavior.
I’ve learned that we love life wrapped up in beautiful packages with ribbons and bows…I’ve learned what we cannot accept we try to change.
I’ve learned that we’d choose not to struggle if we could, and I’ve learned that when faced with something like this people ask, “Isn’t there something they could give you to help you remember?” Ah, the answer is always in a pill.
I’ve learned that acceptance equals peace, no matter how you slice it.
I have learned it’s best to let the person you’re trying to help lead; trying to change them or tell them what to do will only add distance and pain. You never know, you may just be their only link.
I’ve learned what it means to really minister to another person. I’ve seen the rehab folks time after time accept me exactly where I’m at, even though it wasn’t what they had planned that day, they met me where I was and gently directed and supported me. They never preached, but listened, extended themselves in compassion, integrity, understanding, and encouragement, and always in the comfort of kindness.
I have learned its okay to just be where I am, disheveled or not, with makeup or not, wet hair and sweats or not. I have learned that good enough is good enough and perfect cannot exist. I have learned it’s best for me to just do the next indicated thing and leave everything else up to God.
I have learned its okay to forget, and I’ve learned that love is all that really matters because it’s all that remains in the end.
I have learned that perhaps God allowed me to finally have a home of my own and the job He provided for me in December so I’d have safe places to hit rock bottom. And I’ve learned that if we look for them, we will find God’s fingerprints (and footprints where He carried us) all over our lives in places He provided, guided, and protected us.