10

An deireadh

Hello beautiful people,

What a long time it has been since we last met here. So much is happening on a micro and macro scale that it’s impossible to think about it too much for fear of overwhelm.

This is a post I’ve had percolating around in my mind for a good few weeks now, it’s that time of year when I come here and write about still being alive, about moving through sludge and about hope.

This year though, at 8 years young, it’s going to be different. I’ve finally reached the stage where it now feels like it’s an event from a faraway time and a faraway place. I never thought I’d make it here, I imagined I was destined to carry the weight of that day forever. The past year has been such a time of transformation for me that even the dreaded anniversary effect has admitted defeat and gone home to wherever such creatures reside.

There’s not one thing I can put my finger on that created the change, it’s just been a combination of many things. I think finally letting myself fall ill to paraphrase Rumi was a major factor, forgiving myself and allowing myself without shame to be an absolute mess. To not be sorry for crying or feeling angry. I also learnt in this magical year to love myself, something I’ve never done. This gave me confidence and also a finely honed capacity to not give a flying wazzoo about what anyone thought of me anymore, there’s strength in that, it allowed me to slither back into myself, to take up space once more.

Time, oh time, it unfolded beautifully as it wanted to, I wasn’t aware of its plan, it gave me a dig when I kept impatiently pushing and prodding it, gnashing my teeth when it just wouldn’t move quickly enough. Trust time, nurture time, it is wise.

I’ve spent the past eight years doing everything and nothing, I’ve kept my mind busy when it allowed, learning lots of new things that I loved. Herbalism, Counselling, Horticulture, Garden Design and getting out the paintbrushes and the sewing machine. Things that make life heartfull and interesting. I went Vegan in this liminal time, a decision that stands as one of my best alongside adopting our furry boy Cooper, my best friend, my mirror. A boy full of joy who makes me laugh and smile every day.

In recent months I’ve started studying the Bardic grade with OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) and I’m enjoying it immensely. I’m learning Gaeilge (or trying to) and I’m about to embark on the next module towards a Forensic Psychology degree. The biggest change however, has been the fact I’ve started running again, a chance encounter on YouTube with a shouty Welsh man doing running music reviews has enriched my Earth body with the bravery and sheer abandonment of running in nature again. I’m not a fast or far runner, I’m an arms in the air, laughing at myself runner which is the best kind I think. Thanks to Running Punks and Jimmy for giving me the gift of strength and health.

What can I say, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, the fact I’m not trying anymore, striving, people pleasing and just taking responsibility for my own self and my happiness is rewarding me with a life of abundant joy and love. Do I still get fatigued and sad? Of course I do, but I navigate that stuff like a boss. Letting go came quietly and without fanfare but in a haze of tears, sadness and relief.

So, here we are, a blog with an owner that has nothing to write about anymore, I knew this day would come eventually, I’ve written myself through the absolute worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m spent. The grief that I poured through these virtual pages has slowly brought me back to life, for that I’m grateful. I hope, my friends, that it has helped you too.

It is time to say goodbye, I’m crying as I write this, there is a lifetime here in this blog, a fools journey, there and back again. I think of the friends I made along the way, the people who reached out during their own personal nightmares. I wish you all the very best and I hope you stay in touch. Thank you to you all, you will never truly know how you helped. We all find our own way through this and sometimes it feels like it’s never going to happen. My one wish for you all is that you hold on and make it. Those that come after to the brain injury club, for there will unfortunately be many, know I’m here from the past willing you on.

It’s weird to think that even when I disappear off onto new things this will still be here, a capsule of light and shadow as I moved through my loss and came to terms with what happens when the rug of life is pulled from under your feet and sent to the tip.

I have a new rug now, it really ties the room together.


It wouldn’t be right to finish without a song, this is for you all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

Running over the same old ground

It’s been two months since we last met here, two months that have been a short blip in time but also feel so looonnngggg. It’s May, we’ve had the wonderful Beltane and things are starting to accelerate and grow and heat up.

This is my favourite time of the year, so full of promise and pregnant with expectation (a hangover from being a kid when summers felt endless and exciting). I won’t mention Derek (the virus), he’s still here, hanging around, meaning lots of us are still in lockdown, a situation as mentioned previously that is old hat to myself and other people with Chronic conditions. But this blog is not about Derek, it’s about the human mind, the soma of trauma and how you move on but ping easily back like knicker elastic.

There was a satisfying thud on the doormat today, this arrived.

This folks is the big wedge of paperwork from my stay in hospital in that misty time of ambulances and worry. I requested this pre-Derek as a way of accessing old addresses for my Irish naturalisation application. To prove I lived here when I said I did. I’d actually forgotten about it such was the gap between request and response.

I opened up the envelope and in an instant I was back there in turmoil, pain and confusion. Thumbing through with big heavy tears and feeling overwhelmed. It makes for very interesting reading. Firstly, it showed me the amount of work and personnel involved in putting just one person back together (this was only for my 9 day hospital stay). It made me even more grateful for the amazing NHS and the magical people that work for it. Secondly, it filled in the gaps for me. I got to see on paper the steps taken whilst I was out of it happily floating in another dimension whilst chaos ensued. When you are disconnected from an event in the way I was (being unconscious) it’s still hard to fully understand everything that transpired. Seeing it written down was a big moment of awakening for me especially the part that took me through my surgery, I got to find out how I was lying on the bed, that my eyes were taped up, that they elevated my feet. All these little details that place me in that room instead of it feeling like a film I once saw.

The biggest poke in the eye however was the triage and admittance log. When I arrived at hospital my Coma Scale rating was 3. For those not familiar with the Glasgow Coma Scale, 3 is the lowest number, it’s about as unconscious as you can get apart from being dead. There’s also frightening statistics that people with a 3 rating have a 85% chance of dying. I was teetering on the cliff edge and I’m bloody lucky to be here. I had a 15% chance of survival and for some reason I did. Now if that isn’t completely sobering I don’t know what is.

Looking at all of this in pen and ink was mind boggling. Another layer has been added to this story. As I write this I’m watery eyed and it feels, for a brief time, like living it all again.

So you see, this is why Derek holds no fear for me, I’ve met Derek before in a different guise, I looked him in the eye, rolled the dice and thankfully I woke up. I WOKE UP. That’s why despite everything life is beautiful and unpredictable and joyful. I don’t get to do what I used to do, life is quiet and slow but I’m content. My goodness, never before has the simple act of just opening my eyes been so important.

stay well and stay happy my headbangers.

x

 

 

 

 

3

Where do I go next?

Hello fellow headbangers and non headbangers.

It’s been a while huh? Or at least it feels that way as Winter often does. Slowly crawling through the cold dark nights until the faster warmer energy of Spring hits. February often brings a great feeling of hope for me as I feel new life begin to stir and start to think about my new season of seed sowing. My energy levels definitely match the season, I‘ve been half asleep for most of Winter, wanting to hibernate and sleep, a feeling we all get I’m sure.

Despite the urge to curl up I’ve been active when needed, I aged another year in January (I’ve started counting backwards now!) and just last week I did two more Horticulture exams, exams number 5 and 6 out of 8. I revised for two months for these exams because they were hard. Lots of Latin names and features of plants to learn. I ended up dreaming about trees and randomly had names of shrubs popping into my brain like intrusive thoughts whilst I was driving or in the shower. There has literally been no time for anything else whilst this was going on. No more multi tasking for me. One thing at a time please.

I only have 4 months left now until my last pair of exams and the end of my 2 year course. This has brought up so many strange feelings. I have LOVED doing this course, yes it’s hard, but I’ve loved it. I love the fact I’ve learnt about something totally new, I love that it meant I had to get out of bed, I love that I met new people and I love that it’s something that has felt so heart-full. Something that resonates with who I am. But this now leaves me feeling a bit in limbo, where do I go from here? When this is all over what do I do next? I know I want to continue with Horticulture but I’ve no idea how. There’s a level 3 course available but no one in Northern Ireland teaches it, it would mean distance learning via Edinburgh and hopping over there to take exams. A lot of faff right? I don’t want to learn all this wonderful stuff and just leave it lying dormant in my brain to eventually disappear.

Horticultural Therapy is a route I’ve considered but on researching it’s difficult to find just HOW you get there, no specified route, just like post-TBI life I suppose. I’m in equal parts extremely happy and grateful to have nearly completed the course but also sad and lost about it ending. This as always has parallels with how Brain Injury feels. You spend a lot of time wondering just where you go next or where you have gone or how you fit into society anymore. It’s a strange limbo too.

All this time I’ve been unplugged from what is deemed the accepted way of living, I’ve grown. Just like one of my beloved plants I’ve rooted and shooted into my own space. The further I go into discovery the more and more I know that modern living has got it all wrong. Believe me, it has. I’ve always known really but never been brave enough to step outside of it fully. My TBI gave me a chance to peep behind the curtain properly and show me what is acceptable to me to help me grow and finally learn to love myself. I never did, you see, always so hard on myself chasing perfectionism, chasing chasing chasing…….well nothing really because ultimately it was always here. As a kid I was totally uncensored and brave and in the moment then life knocked it out of me as it does with us all. The young me didn’t question about being ‘enough’ or wonder if so and so would approve, she did it anyway. I like to think some of that has come back since my brain got a factory reset.

There was also the realisation that I no longer think obsessively about what happened. There are weeks now where it doesn’t even enter my head. I can still get frustrated about my LACK OF ENERGY and my inability to sustain activity. Do I wish I wasn’t fatigued? Of course I do, but I am, so that’s where we are. I still have a cry at times but I don’t think about it every day. Therein lies acceptance. All this time I’ve been waiting for a whizz bang explosion of glorious acceptance showering me with golden light but instead what it did was slither quietly into existence. No light bulb moment just gentle, expansive post traumatic growth.

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So I reckon with lots of falling over and near drowning and howling at the storm I may have, just maybe finally learnt to surf.

0

…and then the sun came out

 

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
― Albert Camus

As you saw in Wednesday’s post (which if you haven’t read is here) things got very bleak at points after my TBI. I’ve documented many times through my writing and videos the loss that occurred that day. I think it is important not to hide and dismiss this aspect of injury, loss, ourselves but I also want to show that if like me you are or have been in those depths following a brain injury, there is hope.

Hope is a funny thing, it was at times just about the only thing I had to cling onto. Where that reserve of hope comes from when all seems lost, I’ve no idea. But for me, the thought that maybe just maybe in 5 minutes, or 5 days or 5 weeks I’d start to have some lightness or joy was enough to keep me going. Sometimes all it took was someone to whisper ‘you’ll be ok’ and I clung onto that like a steroid addled limpet.

This is me, telling you, that you are safe and you will get there.

There was no one defining moment when everything just clicked, it’s been a gradual unveiling that still continues to this day but I notice in my private writing things stated looking more optimistic

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I became more aware of my ‘wholeness’ the fact I could contain all of what was happening inside of me without trying to favour one over the other and fighting myself to push the ‘sad’ away. This is a regular occurrence I see within brain injury survivors in those initial years, the exhaustion we put on ourselves by fighting ourselves constantly. Even the language we use like ‘battle’ ‘war’ and ‘struggle’ do us no favours. I try not to use these terms now (they do slip out occasionally but that’s ok).

So once I’d started to learn to lean into myself, to just let things be, it became easier. It didn’t go away, of course not, but sadness and all those associated ‘negative’ emotions become part of ‘what is’if you just remove the label. This took time for me, it meant a lot of unraveling of learnt thoughts and behaviours around my emotions but I’m getting there.

I began to write less about how awful everything was and started to make lists of things I’d like to achieve, things I’d like to have in my life, an unheard of idea in the first 2 1/2 years post injury. Also, I know it’s a cliché but time, wonderful time has been an ally. Now I’m not talking a few weeks here, you need more patience than you ever thought existed in the entire world, but time has carried me further away from that place towards one that looks more comfortable. I found looking through my notebooks I was writing less now, the need to find solace on the page was lessening and I found a phrase that just was a complete lightbulb moment for me

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POST TRAUMATIC GROWTH. I had never even considered such a simple concept, I was stuck in the trauma and as far as I was concerned that was it.

I can only speak for myself and how things unfolded for me but there is growth after trauma, it takes time and effort but it’s possible. You fall over many times but that’s part of it. I fell and still do but I get up again and keep going, I don’t want to sound like one of those ‘pull your socks up’ types, I’d never say that to anyone. I know how it feels to give up, I know how it feels to be exhausted and empty, so give that part of you a little space to do its thing then try again. It’s not a race, if you aren’t feeling it for a week then have a week off. I had months (yes months) of complete inaction, berating myself for being useless. If I’d have known then to just be ok with that I’d have been less distressed and tired. We humans are funny creatures we are perfectionists, we like things done as quickly as possible, the concept of drifting and letting things unfold fills us with terror. Good! Let if fill you  with terror then once it’s gone, slow down, breathe and grow from your trauma.