Before my brain injury I was someone that was outgoing, passionate, and marched to the beat of my own drummer. Someone who was self-sufficient and ready to take on the word.
A nurturing person that felt a sense purpose to empower women that were troubled with generalized anxiety and overwhelm. Women who felt like a doormat for others and lost in the world because they didn't know themselves.
Because I had both the personal experience and the education to benefit others with what I’d learned about transforming their relationship with themselves and their stress, I set out to help them. And I did. With a program that took me a decade to mindfully and lovingly develop. Soon I was effectively helping women across the country learn how to mindfully bring more Compassion, Appreciation, Respect and Encouragement into their lives- to be their own best friend. And women loved it! It totally changed their lives for the better. My life felt successful!
And in a matter of seconds, after my brain injury, it all changed. Nothing prepared me for how vulnerable, fragile, timid or fearful I would be. Nothing prepared me for the high level of anxiety or hyper-vigilance I would experience. I had gone from someone who was a confident, passionate, driven, motivated woman who was ready to change the world to a tender, fragile baby bird who felt all alone and unprotected in the big scary world.
At first I was in denial. Since my daughter was in the accident too, my only focus was on making sure SHE was healthy, strong and stable. So I did my best to shove down my symptoms. shrugged them off, push them aside, pulled up my Big Girl Pants and soldiered on. In the first couple of weeks this was easier because I think I was still working on adrenaline. My only focus was my daughter's well being. Although my symptoms were bad, ignored them. I cooked, cleaned, and entertained for the holiday while I shoved down the truth. I was in agony. I mean real agony. And I think you know what I mean. I was dealing with massive head pain, vertigo, dizziness, nausea, instability, confusion, muscle weakness and more. But I pushed onward determined to be seen as strong and capable.
After about three weeks my daughter was back at school. She was still healing, but in better shape than me. Once she left, I lay down on the couch. suddenly the headache, nausea, vertigo, tinnitus, tingling in my face, arms and fingers, the muscle weakness and more, took me over like a tidal wave. A perfect storm of surging waves destroying everything in its wake. I was suddenly disabled and I didn't know what to do.
After a moment or two, I clawed my way to my husbands bedside I said “I need to go back to the ER. I’m not OK.” Taking one look at me, he jumped out of a heavy sleep, threw on clothes and we rushed out the door.
After an ambulance ride from one hospital to another, an MRI scan and a seizure later, I was finally home with the diagnosis of traumatic brain injury, whiplash and a few other things. Now that I was no longer on adrenaline my body had sent up the flairs that it needed attention NOW. Within a matter of days my speech began to slur more and more, and it slowed down a lot. Muscle control and coordination was weak. I couldn't even hold a toddler cup to take a drink. I was unstable on my legs and my gate was completely off. Like I was walking on jello legs. Every motion, every sound, every light, every smell and experience was overstimulating, unnerving and overwhelming. I felt tender and vulnerable like a baby bird that fell out of its nest.
My feeling of vulnerability didn’t end there though. Every turn I made within the medical community only left me feeling more and more powerless, vulnerable and confused. No one acknowledged my condition, no one took me seriously, including the neurologist who's office I had a full blown seizure in before I even got to fill out my paperwork. My symptoms were gaining in strength and in variety. I felt I had no one I could count on to help me heal and get me back to who I was before. Not one medical person acknowledged my suffering as real. Not one medical person treated me like a human-being who was in genuine pain...because they couldn't see it in their limited tests. I felt all alone and drift at sea.
To me the world was now a big, scary place. And I needed to fully depend on another person for my welfare and safety, just like an infant. This level of vulnerability was paralyzing for me. Especially as someone who had the strong constitution to be independent and to make it through life on her own terms. For someone who tended to be self-sufficient and independently minded, it was emotionally crushing.
I was in brain fog thicker than pea soup, but I had to learn to quiet the voice inside my head that was criticizing, judging and nagging me about not "being a quitter". I had to quiet the part of my mind that told me I was lazy, that I needed to push harder, to fight more and stop being a wimp. The part of my mind that was making my symptoms worse. Making me feel more vulnerable and less empowered.
But I had an ally that helped me. You see no person is an island. We need the support and compassion of others, whether it comes from an individual or a community, to help us release the lies our mind tells us. The lies that tell you it's not OK to take time to heal. That it's not OK to be vulnerable and to hide away until you're feeling strong enough to face the world one moment at a time. My husband was that compassionate, supportive, genuinely kind person for me. He told me we would find the right psychologist or me that understood traumatic brain injury and PTSD. And we did. Without them, I don’t know how I would have gotten through that first year. And if you have someone who is a patient, caring, compassionate and supportive listener, count them as your own personal blessing. They are truly a gift that needs to be acknowledged and thanked.
One of the things that is so debilitating about vulnerability is that you feel so isolated. You feel like you are the only one experiencing this since so many other people seem to do just fine int the world. They don't have any idea what you are going through every day. But reaching out to others whether it is on social media, an online support group, in person through a support group, or reaching out to a friend who has been through this can be more empowering. No, it may not get rid of the feeling of vulnerability, but it can soften the feeling of isolation that goes along with it. That feeling that tends to make every symptom worse.
Personally to help soften the feeling of vulnerability even further, I've been finding that talking with myself with compassion instead of criticism or comparison to be helpful. It helps me to gain emotional strength in my own home amidst the overwhelming sound of lawnmowers, cars passing by, construction and other machinery every day. Those sounds tend to overwhelm me and make me feel unsafe. As does neighbors being outside and doing things I can hear. But talking to myself with a nurturing tone, and with kindness and compassion make a difference. I tell myself all the ways I am safe in my home. I bring my attention to what I can touch right now, such as the cold of the tile floor under my feet. Then I inhale and bring my breath down to my feet. Exhaling out a long breath from my feet until the entire breath is blown out completely. I do this a couple of times until I feel stable again. This helps to ground me. It eases the illusion of being unsafe in my home, even though it feels and seems very real in the moment. I have also found that L-Theanine and GABA to be highly effective in reducing my feelings of overwhelm and high anxiety (hypervigilance). To further aid in cultivating a feeling of safety in our home, we installed a tall privacy fence. I wear earplugs every day so that sounds of machinery and people aren't so overwhelming. And recently, we put down a deposit on a dog that will be trained as a psychiatric service dog to help me function more independently in the world too.
I share me personal experience with a TBI/PTSD because although we may all be diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and PTSD (the perfect storm), we each experience it differently due to our unique personality, our personal perspective, the cause or causes of our injury...and more. And yet some of our experiences are very much the same. This feeling of intense vulnerability can suck...and until we can be in a place where we are comfortable seeing it from another perspective it will constantly suck. It can also be seen as a wake up call that we need to be more gentle with ourselves. That we need to stop pushing, striving and working so damn hard to prove our worth. T view it as a reminder that just the fact that you survived is a testament to your strength, your fortitude and your immense value. Once I surrendered to the knowledge that I was loved unconditionally by the source of all creation, that I was part of a community of people struggling with symptoms just like me, that I could heal and hide away until I felt strong enough to take a step forwards again, resiliency began taking hold.
I live with the effects of several traumatic brain injuries and complex PTSD every day. But I refuse to let it define me or limit the quality of my life. And my lifestyle has definitely changed. Now I make choices with my family that take in account my sensitivity to people, places and experiences that don't allow me to feel safe, and choose experiences that we all can enjoy. I have learned to make choices in my lifestyle to slow down, to be more compassionate and kind with myself and to free toxic people from my life. To only let in healing methods, people and experiences that empower me. This is all part of the healing journey. And as long as I remember that everything in life is unpredictable and temporary, I can slowly let go of my fear and overwhelm one small, safe step at a time, at the pace that is just right for me.
Information contained within this site does not take the place of professional medical care. It is for educational purposes only and created with the intention of offering support and empowerment to women struggling to find wholistic and natural answers to their challenges. Every individual is responsible for their own actions, choices and behavior.