Owning your storyThere is something I want to share – that has taken me exactly a year to get to.
Chapter I: Understanding accidents and trauma
I’ve been debating whether or not to share this personal, vulnerable situation with the internet/“social world,” but maybe some stories are meant to be shared for a greater purpose. We humans share everything from posts of our food, vacation spots, outfit inspo, quotes that inspire, memes, products, selfies, pictures of our loved ones, sunsets, makeup, drinks, music, weddings, partying, art, our pets, the list goes on and on.
Our feeds are consistently being updated, everyone wants to be seen or heard. And I did too. Until last May.
It is not the easiest story to read, and I want to forewarn readers before they continue, to know there is semi-graphic content that is not exactly comfortable to take in.
Last May, exactly a year ago today, my mom came to visit Waco, Texas to stay with my husband and I while she was on a break from her job. My mom worked on a cruise ship and would work several months on and have a few months off, a dream job many would say.
While she was here, we were able to go and support my sister while she competed in her first marathon in Corpus Christi, a solid 4 and a half hours away from Waco. We drove in my mom’s rental car, packed our bags and headed off. We celebrated my mother’s birthday the day after my sister’s marathon, enjoyed seafood by the water, had a few mojitos and soaked in the sunset from the restaurant on the water in Corpus Christi. I had been craving to put my feet in the ocean since we left Oregon, smell the salt hanging in the air and feel the warm sand in between my toes. My mom is a fan of the water too, so we knew it would make her day.
We drove home the next day, grateful hearts and full tummies after treating ourselves all weekend. We got back to our apartment in Waco and decided to have our last meal together at Torchy’s Taco’s to say goodbye to our mom before she had to fly back. A few miles from Baylor’s campus, we were at a dead stop on the highway, waiting for traffic to subside. I remember looking over at my husband and telling him how much Texas traffic always made me feel nervous, and what seemed out of nowhere, our car was struck, spinning us across the highway, into the barrier, now facing oncoming traffic.
I won’t go into details, but to give you vague idea, my mom was in the backseat. We were hit by a commercial van, going about 70mph – who seemingly had no time to slow down. My husband was in the driver’s seat, and I was in the passenger side. Glass was everywhere, I couldn’t get out from my side, and I looked back to a haunting image I will never be able to erase from my mind. I thought my mom had passed. She was crammed in between the back seats and mine, head down, non-responsive. I remember everything going slow motion – truly feeling like I was in the worst nightmare of my life. I called 9-11, trying to lift my mom’s head up to support her and tried talking to her as though she was still with us, telling her to keep breathing for her daughters. My husband Kevin was trying to open the door to help her, but it wouldn’t budge, he tried kicking in the window to help, but nothing would work. An EMT was there within 10 minutes or less, time was and still is so hard to grasp during moments like this.
I noticed my mom started breathing, and mumbling inaudibly while my fingers trembled trying to support her chin and get her hair out of her face, which was enough to calm my heart and immediately be the logical voice next to my mom, telling her everything was going to be okay. She was breathing. I had to be strong for her.
Once the ambulance came, they were somehow able to get her free from the backseat and transported her to the hospital. She was in the ICU for weeks before she was able to be transferred to intense physical therapy, breathing machines, more surgery and multiple attempts to release the blood filling repeatedly in her lungs.
That first night, trying to sleep, was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I would wake up every 30 minutes, re-living the accident, seeing my moms face, sweating through my sheets. Glass came out of my hair for days, I had never been so sore in my entire life, but I did not want to complain – since Kevin and I both did not end up being hospitalized. The remainder of the accident laid in our kitchen – broken suitcases, glass covered clothes and dried blood. Everything made me cringe and hurt.
I remember when I was in the hospital with my mom, sister and my husband, my best friend Megan sent me a care package saying how grateful she was for me when I was in the hospital with her years ago, and that she was so glad I was okay, sending me my favorites, chocolates, bath bombs, a DARLIN’ sign, (“Just like your business,” she said!) and a card that is sitting next to my bed to this day. Not many knew about the accident, since I didn’t share over social media, the rest of the world remained in the dark. And sometimes, I think that’s more than okay.
My mom is still recovering, and I don’t think I will ever be the same in a vehicle again. My anxiety and fear took over for so many months, that I alienated myself from the world, from my friends, even my family. I immersed myself in therapy and worked on healing both mentally and spiritually, I saw a doctor frequently to work on my physical health, and only saw people when I had to – usually at work, getting gas or groceries – only when absolutely necessary. Even then, I didn’t feel like the same happy-go-lucky Brit anymore.
Every time I got behind the wheel, I would fear someone would run into us from behind again, and there was nothing I could do to stop them.
Please – I urge you and encourage you… honestly, that text message, Instagram story, Facebook notification, Tweet, Snapchat, or whatever notification pops up on your phone, can wait. When you are driving, you have no idea how much responsibility you hold in that circular wheel between your hands, and how greatly you can alter the person’s life in front of you, beside you or behind you from being a distracted driver.
Chapter II: Grasping the idea of losing your best friend
A month later, my best friend Megan was diagnosed with Leukemia again. I couldn’t believe it, and I couldn’t process it. The next few months were heartbreaking and made me long for home. Last time she was diagnosed, I was close enough to be beside her hospital bed, talk to the doctors, sleep beside her in the hospital, relay information to family members and friends. Now, in Texas, I felt there was so little I could do to give my support but also stay in the loop.
I flew to Oregon to be with her during her last days, transportation always a hurdle I had to overcome, but nothing could prevent me from being with my sister, my best friend and my megs.
We talked about what Heaven would be like, what we should do with all of her shoes and clothes, and how no one would ever forget her. We cried, laughed, sat there in silence and just hugged each other. I didn’t want to leave her. I didn’t want her to leave us.
I flew back to Texas, getting the call a few days later that she had passed.
I was lost.
I didn’t want to drive, I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to work, see anyone, I didn’t want to continue with the business that I had created here in Waco as a wedding and event planner, I wanted out of my body. I wanted to crawl out of this pit that was developing in my throat, the hole that spread down into my chest, deep inside my stomach, that left my legs heavier than lead. My eyes seemed permanently sunken in, desperate for rest that never came. I was exhausted from weeping at the most inconvenient times. In the middle of a grocery store, at work – pushing my body towards the parking lot when my eyelids would get salty and hot, in hopes that I would make it to my car during a lunch break where I could be alone, when a Facebook memory would pop up reminding me of Meg, or when my husband would step on the brakes when I wasn’t paying attention, sending me into a spiraling panic in the car– the blood would rush to my face, my neck, arm and leg would tense up like we were in the accident once again. The same feelings crept back in. It kept coming back.
I felt I had no control over my emotions, my fear and anxiety swallowed up my personality and my confidence in feeling safe in the world. And my best friend was gone.
I cut contact again from the world.
I continued therapy, flew back to Oregon for the celebration of life and came back a different person.
I don’t think I will ever be, “better” or “back to myself again,” because I am different.
These experiences have made me view life in a lens that I had never been given before. I am not afraid of death anymore, and I value my friendships and family more than I ever thought possible. My empathy for others has more depth and dimension, and the sky holds more colors than I ever noticed. Plants provide more energy around me, my patience – although tested, because that is life and I am still human, has strengthened in ways I didn’t think possible. Music has provided therapy, and writing seemed anything but therapeutic at first.
Chapter III: Understanding, processing and healing
I don’t think I will ever understand why cancer happens to people we love most, I don’t think I will ever understand distracted drivers, or why bad things happen to good humans.
But I promise you, that we all will all pass away at some point. We are not meant to live on this earth forever, and I encourage you to tell the ones you love – just how much you appreciate and adore them. Because life can be taken away so unexpectedly, so unfairly, so abruptly, and if I have learned anything in the past year, it is that we are here for a far greater purpose than going to school, going to work, eating and repeating.
Everything that you do, do with intention. With purpose behind it.
When everything is so unbearably heavy and dark, the last thing you want to do is look at the positive side of things..
So how do you get back up?
Hiding is not healing.
I think that’s when I realized, we are all stories. Our pain, our happiness, our emotions. In the end when our souls escape our skin and bones, that is all that we are. Memories, heartfelt, hilarious, heart wrenching, terrifying, beautiful stories. And if you are going to bed every night with yourself, can you honestly say, “today I was better than yesterday?” And if it’s a no, wouldn’t you want to change that – even if only just for yourself?
This has been my story the last year of my life, and I hope to inspire those that are going through a time in their lives where it feels nearly impossible to move forward, that it is, in fact, possible. With a good support team (which was my husband, my family, Megan’s mom, my doctor, my therapist and even my coworkers), and ultimately time. Time to grieve, rest, reset and the practice of being mindfully aware that some days will be harder than others, you can get through whatever life throws at you too. Because we are just stories, and if your heart is still beating, and you wake up still breathing, you have another page to fill. It is our duty to keep living for the ones who no longer can, and to make something of ourselves while we remain in our human form. Again, hiding is not healing.
I suppose my purpose for writing this blog, was to share with others how quick it was for me to be unrecognizable to myself.. and to extend my support to those who are also going through a rough patch(s) in life. I truly think therapy saved my life, music, writing, reading and family support.
Chapter IV: What has helped me
- Eckhart Tolle transformed my thought process with both his books The Power of Now and A New Earth (which you can purchase on amazon by clicking the links of these books, I HIGHLY recommend them) both copies are by my bed in arms reach for a constant refresher. I know that during these dark months, it was hard for me to read and stay focused, I was often so tired, when I read I would re-read the same passage and just long for a nap to disappear for a bit. What really helped me take in A New Earth was listening to Oprah’s Podcast, “Super Soul Sunday’s with Eckhart Tolle. This allowed me to close my eyes, take in each chapter and replay them whenever my mind went spacey.
- Music was another source of inspiration and healing for me. I listened to Billie Eilish’s album ‘don’t smile at me’ and ‘when we all fall asleep where do we go’, specifically “when the party is over” heavily on repeat.
- I couldn’t sleep well at night, so I would play ocean sounds from Spotify to help lull my mind to sleep.
- I called my dad. A lot. He is always the person that knows exactly what to say, or just acknowledge the fact that there is nothing to say, but validate your feelings and let you spill your sadness over the phone nearly 2,000 miles away. That helped a lot.
- My husband. What a rock of support. I don’t know how many times he would find me in tears, where he would just hug me or rub my back when there were no words to say besides, “I’m always going to be here.”
- I would go on walks, alone. And leave my phone in my pocket. No distractions. Really noticed the air around me, and feel the pattern and sounds of my shoes on the pavement. Being in the present moment was somewhat foreign to me.
- I tried my best to stay off social media, it was a world that was always happy and seemed to continue spinning when I felt stuck in the same place. It also lacked anything of depth that I was searching for, and I knew that during that time, it wasn’t helping in healing.
- I upped my fruit and veggie intake, I wasn’t hungry much anyways, so I figured why not nourish myself in the process.
- I allowed myself days to be sad, to be alone and reflect. Not in a martyr type way, but in a way that would allow myself to fully be in my emotions, so I could learn to move forward, even when those emotions didn’t necessarily disappear.
- I quit self-medicating, with TV, with constant naps, with unhealthy eating, I chose to not drink alcohol or consume any kind of altering substances that would inhibit healing. At one point, I was on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications to help with the panic attacks and moods (which I truly believed helped me at the time) and was forced to sit IN my feelings, as uncomfortable and massive this weight was– this method was what worked best for me. *Everyone is different – I am not a doctor by any means, so please take this how you may knowing that we all have different levels of resiliency and biochemistry.
- Lastly, time. As cliché as it is to hear, time was the only healing factor to help continuing daily life become easier, even though you will never feel fully, “healed,” the heaviness becomes lighter, and you learn to carry the weight in a different manner so you can continue to participate in life.
Chapter V: Owning your story
At the beginning of this blog, I posed the question: “social/private life: where do we draw the line?” And truly, I don’t know. For me, it’s about owning my story and sharing with others. Because I cannot be the only one who has struggled with moving forward and questioning what I am doing with my life/how I am going to keep living from time to time. I didn’t share this for a year… because I wanted to process and heal in my own way, which at first was pushing everyone and everything away.
The one thing I know for sure… is that healing is not hiding. And if I can own my story, something that has made me develop and grow into the person that I am sitting behind this computer right now, I will and I must. Human connection is the one and only true glue that bonds us together, helping us get through the good and the bad.
So here I am, bruised, but not broken. For as Rupi Kaur states:
We must fall, root and rise in order to bloom. The soil to me, means embracing basic needs such as nutrients, sleep, family, meaning, and from the rubble, we rise once again, stronger and even more radiant than ever before. And this is the recipe of life. No state of life is ever permanent, and all we can do is be there for each other when we fall, root and begin to rise again.