Heartbreak and Healing

* Before anyone thinks the worst, the baby and I are fine! I only just realized this morning how the title and photo could give the impression otherwise *

I struggled with how to write this post this week. I want to say so much but then I second guess myself. I want to share and be totally honest and real with you, but I've experienced some dark, heavy stuff and I get scared of dragging you down by writing about it here, but then it doesn't do you (or me!) any good to just gloss over what's real, even if it's hard to write. The positivity that you see in me is real, that's a huge part of my personality, but I struggle with a lot, too. So instead of just telling you that and moving on, I want to dive even deeper this week than I have so far.

Waiting for my occupational therapist in the rehab hospital.

When I was healing from my accident for the first few years, I yearned for someone who would just "get it." My heart was hurting so much and I was so tired of trying to explain what I was going through all the time, and even my amazing husband who was with me through the entire hospital ordeal had no way of fully understanding the effect the crash itself and the TBI had had on me.

I remember nights where I would cry so hard I would wail and scream to the point I couldn't breathe. I felt like my heart was breaking in half. Once, my husband said to me (at the time he was still my fiancé), "I know" when I expressed how hard it was for me emotionally. But instead of feeling comforted, I yelled at him, "NO! you DON'T KNOW!" and angrily sobbed some more into a pillow. Then I felt really bad for snapping at him but he quietly left the room with an, "ok" and let me cry it out.

I was frustrated and hurting and so desperate to just feel "better" like, YESTERDAY. I didn't know myself and I felt like a huge piece of me was lost, never to be found. I was healing but I still felt broken, inside and out, and I felt like I had been robbed of my joy. The worst part was fully remembering who I'd been before I got hurt and how all the things I was capable of "before" now seemed so out of reach. I felt like a stranger to myself because the new me was so foreign, and unwanted!

Learning to walk with a cane in the rehab hospital, my physiotherapist, Karen, guiding me.

I hated that new, unknown me. I hated myself for  being "weak", sad all the time, and incapable of just bouncing back to "normal". I just wanted to get the old me back and I wasn't willing to accept this person I had seemed to become. I knew I would never be exactly the same but I wanted to be a normal human being again, not this broken, brain-injured girl. I felt so frustrated and impatient and angry. I still wanted to do epic things with my life! To have a fulfilling career, change the world, help people, have a family, travel the world... basically DO IT ALL. I think I set even higher expectations for myself after being injured than I'd had for myself before I got hurt. Probably not the kindest thing I could do for my body that was already doing the best it could...

But with my bar set super high for myself, I worked hard to heal. It was a slow process but I tried everything I could think of and afford. I even used a few sessions paid for by my health insurance to try getting therapy to treat my PTSD and the grief I knew I hadn't fully processed. The therapists I went to didn't help though. One just let me talk, but didn't give me any tools, really, to deal with what I was telling her. And the other, she told me that I should just accept who I was now instead of striving to get better. Cue the raised eyebrows and, "EXCUSE ME?!" that ran through my head.

Learning to climb stairs with my right leg doing all the work. I was wearing an eyepatch when not in PT to help correct my double vision.

I already understood that there were many things that I couldn't change about my body and my life, and I had to accept them. I have hardware in my body that will never come out. I have scars, my brain works a little differently and I need more rest than I used to. I can never run for exercise again. But now I know I can live with and manage those things. I can accept them. What I couldn't accept was allowing myself to slip into a mindset of "this is good enough," where I would just stop trying. No way. I'm a fighter and a problem solver... even to my own detriment.

When I was in the hospital with a feeding tube, I was too brain injured to understand its necessity. All I felt was this awful tube taped to my face, going up my nose and down into my stomach and I hated it. To me it was a problem and it made me uncomfortable, so I figured out a way to fix the problem.

I pulled it out.

17 times.

And when they tied my hand to the bed so I couldn't reach it, I brought my face to my hand and continued to pull it out! Seriously. Even after all those times, I never realized that pulling it out meant that it would have to go back in again. That realization really sucked, every time. But my problem solving skills were intact! Just not that little part of my brain that understood consequences...

I used to wear this face all too often. Frustrated, confused, mad, upset... With time, I learned to move past that and find joy again.

When it came to my recovery though, having something to focus on and fight for was giving me purpose and it's that feeling of purpose that helped me get to where I am now. And now, my focus and my purpose, and many of you probably guessed, is this baby that's growing inside me.

Obviously the baby brings me a lot of joy and has totally shifted my focus away from trying to "fix" the remaining challenges I still face due to my injuries, but before I conceived, I found that giving more attention to my passions and following my heart was creating space for my joy to return. The less I let what "happened to me" control how I felt and the less attention I gave to my "cognitive deficiencies", the more I could do more of what made me happy and gave me confidence. But this whole pregnancy thing is opening up a whole new level of understanding, knowledge and perspective on healing and wellness.

You know what's amazing? Despite the TBI and 14 broken bones, including my hip and my pelvis, I have a NORMAL pregnancy! It's not high risk! I was so sure it would be and I was so scared, but our bodies are AMAZING.  From conception, everything has been perfect. Normal ultrasounds, normal wellness checks, happy and healthy mama and baby. Can you believe it?!  It's teaching me to trust my body and what it can do. Obviously I help it out where I can through food, movement and staying mindful, but it knows what to do and I'm trusting it.

One thing my husband and I are doing before my due date is taking a hypnobirthing course together to help both of us prepare for the birth. Before you get all "oh no she's just going to talk about weird pregnancy stuff now," bear with me because this applies to all of us.

It's actually not a weird woo woo thing (it really needs a new name) and it will give us the tools, knowledge and techniques to have a beautiful birth, without fear. We're aiming for a natural birth and from what I've learned so far is that regardless of how the baby decides to be born and no matter what happens (even if a c-section or other intervention becomes necessary, which were big fears of mine going into it ), the hypnobirthing course will give us the ability to navigate it all without a ton of stress and fear. 

Peace is totally possible.

So how does that apply to you? Learning about birth, which is another big, life changing event (although much more positive than my accident was), is teaching me that so many of the same things apply to life, healing and wellness. Education is key, and so is your team - the people you have around you who are supposed to help you. I need to trust the people who have so much control over my and our baby's health, and our whole birth experience! If I don't feel comfortable with them, I'll be tense, birth will be harder and it may mean a higher likelihood of medical intervention, and all that means healing may take longer and be harder, and I could be in more pain.

Trusting my team allows me to relax and trust the process, and sets me up for healing and recovery before labor even starts. Education, knowing what to expect (as much as you can), knowing your options ahead of time and knowing what your rights are are all vital to feeling calm and  prepared when I go into labor, too... but those things ALL apply to any experience with healthcare providers and  hospitals and treatment! It doesn't matter if you need surgery, or physical therapy, or a prescription. We all need a good team around us, we need to be able to ask all the questions we want to ask, and we need to have our healthcare team respect our wishes and our personal plan for wellness. My team after my accident was amazing and I'm still in touch with many of the people who cared for me at the accident scene and in the hospital. And now, the doctors I have in my life make me feel totally cared for. It really makes all the difference.

I'm in my third trimester now - the home stretch! I am so grateful for everything I'm learning and even more so for how it applies to my wellness journey overall but while I still feel great, fatigue is starting to mount and I still have so much prep to do! I hope you'll forgive me for taking some time away. A little self-imposed maternity leave of sorts. I am growing a little person after all, and I need to take time to properly prepare for his arrival, but it means the world to me to stay connected to you. I'll still be posting to social media and maybe blogging if I can, so make sure you're following me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so you don't miss any posts and so we can keep getting to know each other. All of you reading are truly in my heart and I don't want to lose touch with you.

And I'd love to know, what are some really hard things you've dealt with and how did you get through it? How do you take care of yourself and your healing process? What do you do to make sure you're getting the help and support you need? Let me know in the comments below.

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