moving forward

navigating through the life that was and moving into the life that is

8 Things

on August 15, 2013

8 things that you may not know about me, but I would like you to know.

  • My brain is indeed still healing. Yes after 21 months, nearly 2 years, my brain is still healing.
    • Brain injury rehabilitation takes a very long time; it is usually measured in years. It continues long after formal rehabilitation has ended.
    • Please have patience with my memory. Know that not remembering does not mean
      that I don’t care.
    • Patience is the best gift you can give me. It allows me to work deliberately and at my own pace, allowing me to rebuild pathways in my brain. Rushing and multi-tasking inhibit cognition.
    • The whole article is incredible, though, and I hope you will take the time to read it.
    • http://www.brainline.org/content/2011/07/lost-found-what-brain-injury-survivors-want-you-to-know.html
  • Sometimes my son hits me.
    • IMG_3900This sweet, loving, talkative, sensitive boy hits me. Some people might say that I let him, but that is not the case. What I do is work through his anger until he can stop from hitting me himself. Yes, I move away. Yes, I might stop his hand from hitting me, but I know that spanking him or putting him in time out immediately never helps him calm down. Those things make it escalate, those things lead to biting, scratching, throwing things and he has done all of those things to me as well. Sometimes I cry, he always cries. Inside of this sweet little four year old boy is pain and anger that I cannot even begin to understand. He misses Glen. He remembers. He knows he’s no longer here. At times, when that overwhelms him and he is tired or hungry, I am who he gets mad at. There is safety in that for him. I think he knows that he is mad at something, at things that he cannot control, sometimes just mad and I am the one person who can take it. I am the one person who he can direct that anger to and will still love him just the same at the end of it all. He is not a naughty child. I don’t know how many times I have been given the look that says “you need to spank that child” or “you are too easy on him.” No, in fact I don’t. I need him to get his anger out in a healthy way, I need to hold his trembling body after the fit is done, and I need to reassuringly whisper “it’s okay, baby, mommy loves you to Heaven and back, to Daddy and back.” That’s what I need to do. Here is who my sweet boy really is…we were visiting daddy and I look over and he’s singing “In My Life” by The Beatles to daddy.
  • I just started showering daily about 2 weeks ago. Ha. Yup I did.
    • Everything in my life has a back story now and there are parts of me that are saddened by that, but there are parts of me that see victory in the back story. Let me explain…I went from not even being able to use the bathroom, to having bedside baths, to having to demonstrate to the Physical Therapists (one of them male) that I could get from my wheelchair, over the tub edge, and onto the bath seat. I then went home from the hospital and had to shower on a bath seat with an adult present in the room and did this twice a week. Then I began trying to stand for short amounts of time again with an adult present, to finally standing the whole time with the bath seat for safety purposes, to just 2 months ago finally removing the bath seat and trusting my balance. When you are working that hard to take a shower, showering every day just feels like an impossible feat. So showering daily for me now, is a victory.
  • I’m terrible at being alone. Really. Terrible.
    • Ever since I was dating age, I have had a boyfriend. By alone, I do not mean the physical presence of a person.  I love to go to movies by myself, or a meal, or coffee.  By alone, I mean a person to share my life with daily.  I love to share my life with someone, talk about my day, talk about their day, laugh about things that happened, cry when necessary. I love to love. When Glen died, I lost that person.  I lost that person so unexpectedly and so quickly and it was terrifying.  I am at the age where many of my friends are married. They have a person.  And that didn’t mean they weren’t willing to be there for me, but it was different.  My safe place that I had found in Glen was gone.  I am so thankful to Glen’s male friends who took it upon themselves to call me and check on me, take me out to dinner and talk to me, let me cry if necessary. Thank you.
  • I am vulnerable.
    • We are all vulnerable.  We all have vulnerabilities.  They are not weaknesses. They are an area where we feel need and often seek to fill that need with the wrong thing. The weakness comes in that choice, not in the vulnerability itself.
    • After becoming a widow and experiencing a severe traumatic brain injury in the same week, my vulnerabilities in life expanded exponentially.  This is where the first thing I wanted to share comes back into play.  Just after the accident, my vulnerabilities were dangerous.  I was not allowed to be alone or to care for my children alone in the beginning.  At this point I had lost my husband, my job, my ability to care for my children, my ability to run, my ability to go to the bathroom alone and I was vulnerable, impulsive, and emotional. I was self-centered, selfish, angry, and well, tired. Some days and moments of days I participated in my recovery, other times, I was anything but interested.  My parents were basically dealing with a teenage girl all over again but worse.  I was emotional, sensitive, impulsive and mean sometimes.  As you can imagine, as a parent, it was difficult to watch. Never once did they give up though. When I began to want to make more decisions for myself, they cautiously watched me and allowed me to do so.  As I mentioned, it was like having a teenager all over again. They let me make some of my own decisions, knowing that I may get hurt but lovingly knowing that I had to learn the lesson on my own. I look back on it all now and am once again humbled by their strength, grace and support.
    • Today, I am still vulnerable.  As I mentioned, everyone has vulnerabilities. However, today, with continued healing, I am able to make better choices.
  • I have been on a lot of medicines since the accident. Some for physical needs and some for emotional needs.
    • Around February of 2012, my anxiety was debilitating.  I would wake up in the middle of the night in cold sweats with heart palpitations and tingling arms.  I have had anxiety before and when it was bad, I would go for a walk or a run.  Now, I couldn’t do that. I was still using a walker or a cane.  My favored coping skill was gone.  All of the things that I couldn’t control and now I could no longer control my own coping. My mom had returned to Michigan and as soon as she talked to me she booked a flight to come back. I wouldn’t leave my bedroom. I wouldn’t talk to anyone.  I was mad, sad, alone and thought I would die from the anxiety.  I went to the doctor and ended up being prescribed Ativan to be taken every morning and night.  I really don’t know how to explain what a relief I felt after that first pill.  Before I go any further, I want to say that I never misused the Ativan, I took it as prescribed but I did not know the power that the drug had.  I knew it was a controlled substance. I had to go to the doctor each month to get a prescription.  Honestly, though, I didn’t really know what it was.  All I knew is that it made me able to function.  In November of 2012, for some reason, I decided to stop taking it.  I knew that it was always something temporary, but what I didn’t know was that although I was thinking that I no longer needed the drug, my body had a different story.  I was sick. I was achy. I was paranoid. I was shaky. I had heart palpitations.  After a few days of debilitating anxiety and panic, I called the doctor and she told me to take it immediately.  I was addicted to a drug.  All this time, I was addicted to this drug and had no idea.  She recommended that I wait until after the first year anniversary of Glen’s death and the holiday season, and then go off.  I was horrified.  I was addicted to a drug. Addicted. I felt misled. I felt like someone should have explained it better.  Turns out, they did.  My memory was still very patchy at the time and my mom cried when she told me that we had talked about it.  I cried with her and she said the words that changed my feelings about it, “Sandra your body was addicted, your mind wasn’t. As soon as you want to, you can give it up. You had to do what you needed to do to get through this stage.  You needed the drug and there is no shame in that.”  The next few weeks, I tapered off of the drug and on January 1st 2013, I stopped taking it. J I went without it for nearly six month and then during Glen’s birthday, Father’s Day and our Anniversary, I took it two different times.  I took it the way it is meant for under normal circumstances.
  •  I love my life. I. Love. My. Life.
    • There are bad days. There are bad hours. There are bad minutes. But overall, when I look at my life, I love it.
  • I love writing.
    • I write often.  Not always publicly, but I write.  Writing is cathartic. I feel like myself when I write. So I continue to write. Here are some thoughts that I spoke into my phone on March 5, 2012

Real Life

It is often said, that ignorance is bliss and truth be told, it is not.  All that ignorance does is hide the issues.  It hides what is real in your life. Ignorance does not prepare you for life. Ignorance will not prepare you for what life will ultimately give you.  Ignorance causes you not to know yourself. It causes you to think your life is satisfied by things that will never truly satisfy you.

Now tragedy, tragedy will suddenly reveal all of the things which were held captivate by your ignorance. You will quickly realize that tragedy is real life and that every life will experience tragedy in varying ways and at varying times.  Truth tells us that all lives will experience tragic events.  And ignorance does not prepare you for that.  It does not make you stand firmly on the you that you are.  When tragedy hits, the trap door on the stage of your life suddenly opens.  You will have no choice but to fall and you may fall into untruth, into circumstances whose invisibility in your life, never made them untrue. You will suddenly have to face parts of yourself differently than you ever have before. So the question is, how do we come to know ourselves? How do we get outside the realms of what makes us comfortable, so that we can learn? It is possible to live our entire life inside our comfort zone, but what are we doing while we are living inside that ignorance bubble? How are we impacting other people’s lives? If we are honest with ourselves, the truth is that we will have very little influence or impact on the lives around us.

I want to share the journey with you.  A journey of tragedy.  A journey of reconciliation. A journey of forgiveness. A journey of love. A journey of what really experiencing life feels like.


8 responses to “8 Things

  1. Sarah says:

    Sandra, I have only met you a handful of times, but I am amazed by you. You are such a strong, beautiful, smart, and honest woman. Most people are afraid to say the deep, personal things that you share in such a beautiful way. Thank you for writing. I truly enjoy reading your posts. PS – you are an amazing mother!

    • Sandra says:

      Thank you Sarah. Thank you furthering encouraging me as I unwrap what life looks like and feels like for me. And thank you for saying I am an amazing mother!

  2. Francine says:

    Sandra, we have never met. Like I told you in the past I became aware of your accident because Glen and my fiancé Dexter were good friends. But I have followed your posts and blogs ever since the beginning of all this. I have to say I am in awe of you. You have come such a long way. I know I’m only looking in from the outside but you have shown so much strength and I will continue to keep you in my prayers!

    • Sandra says:

      Thank you so much Francine and thank you for the leaving the comment. It is always so nice to know who is still reading. Thank you for the continue prayers.

  3. After talking with you at the kids’ swim class tonight, I came home and started reading your blog. I haven’t had time to get through it all :), but I have experienced a plethora of emotions reading both new and old posts. The thing I am most struck by is the honesty and emotion with which you and your family and friends write. Thank you for sharing with the rest of us.

    I look forward to talking more at the swim practices and reading more on your site.

    On a different note, your video of your son made me think of the first time we took our son to the grave of his twin sister. It was the one-year anniversary of Ellie’s death, and Isaac was 1 year and 2 months old. Following Jewish tradition, we took small stones to place on the grave marker to show that we had visited. We all placed our stones, and then Isaac promptly picked them all up and started throwing them at the marker.

    Without thinking, I said, “Isaac, don’t throw rocks at your sister,” paused for a moment when I realized what I had said, and then burst into a combination of laughter and tears. When we first found out that we would be welcoming twins into our family, I knew I would be saying things like that one day. When Ellie passed away, I mourned those future moments… but, as it turns out, I still got to live that one.

    • Sandra says:

      It was so nice to talk to you as well. 🙂 Thank you for sharing that sweet story. I completely get the humor in it that others may not understand. I have said, “don’t step on Daddy” to my son and then laughed when I realized it was something I never thought I’d have to say again. Look forward to seeing you Monday.

  4. Cathy Commeret-Whitcomb says:

    I am not sure how I missed seeing this, but am so glad I just saw and read. Sandy, your words, honesty, love of life and wring uplift our lives. Love you honey!

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