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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.

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…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.