Three weeks ago I was approached to be a guest on a podcast series launching this summer. Naturally I screamed yes before actually thinking it through (and yes I am well aware that saying yes on impulse may one day be my downfall); but I was excited about the project and downright stoked to be included.
A few hours after the initial excitement subsided, the internal panic / overthinking began.
What on earth would I talk about?
How could I make it relevant and valuable to whoever decided to listen?
Where would I even begin?
Well, as I learnt years ago – when in doubt, ask your friends. I reached out to my immediate circle and the response was tremendous; but also overwhelming from a quantity perspective (travel, career, relationships and general health were the hot topics). But then, one likeminded individual suggested I talk about my attitude and outlook.
The idea was interesting but scary. After all, while I’ve bared my soul on this blog (and to my close circle) it’s truly never been at a macro-scale (and certainly never on audio). Nonetheless, I decided to go ahead with it (would you expect anything else?) but deep down I knew I had to start here (in this safe space) first.
And so it begins…
Eleven years ago I had a pretty severe snowboarding accident; not only did I hurt my spine, but I also hit my head (for the record I don’t think a helmet would have helped but I wholeheartedly encourage you to wear one if you’re into winter sports). I went to the doctor like any somewhat-responsible young adult would have and did all the tests. I was put on bed rest for three weeks for my spinal cord injury, but my CT came back clear.
Three years later, I had my first episodic headache and on day 17 (after puking from the pain), my mother took me to the emergency room. The doctors ordered another CT scan and it came back clear, again. They told me I was stressed, gave me steroid injections in my scalp (for the pain) and sent me home.
Fast forward to July 2017…
After a routine chiro adjustment I began having severe lower back pain (which had remained an ongoing issue over the years). The pain was even worse the next day and I could barely stand, much less walk. I went back to the same emergency room (from a few years before) and had a non-convulsive seizure for the very first time. As luck would have it, I hit my head (again) against a wall and so unfolded a series of events that I quite honestly can’t remember outside of the recap my family gave me.
Fast forward to January 2018…
After a routine follow-up CT scan, my doctor’s office phoned me to schedule a follow-up consult. I knew I wouldn’t like what I heard even before going to the appointment (we all know it’s not a good sign if they can’t tell you your results over the phone). I went to the appointment (with dread in my heart) and was told that my CT had been flagged for moderate to severe brain damage in the region of my brain that handles motor function. They told me not to worry (and to stay off google – ha!), referred me to neurology specialist and scheduled a MRI. The neurologist ordered test after test – I’m talking multiple balance tests, a heart test, random parasite/infection tests (especially after hearing about some of the countries I had travelled to) and everything came back normal. Not only were my results normal but I apparently had the profile of an extremely healthy individual (which makes sense considering I don’t smoke, don’t do drugs, eat healthy and workout regularly). However, the MRI results came back and were consistent with the CT results – moderate to severe brain damage. My doctors were at a loss in terms of next steps and literally couldn’t do anything other than repeat ALL the tests. The fact that I kept acing all the balance tests was particularly puzzling and I was told that patients with that level of damage typically experience slurring of their speech and regularly fall over.
As you can imagine, that’s when I went into full panic mode; I had nightmares about dying and spent every free second thinking about the list of things I needed to do before the inevitable end. I booked a trip after every doctor’s visit as a coping mechanism (a very expensive distraction mind you), but knew that having an internal (and less expensive) coping mechanism was more important.
I did everything I could think of to keep my brain hyper-stimulated (iPhone brain exercise apps, puzzles, painting, and the list goes on). I also became aggressively aware of the value of my energy and how I spent my time (not to mention who I spent it with). I gave more to the people who mattered and got rid of anyone who brought negative energy into my space. I was told I was an asshole, overly intense, too serious and downright savage by the people I left behind. Fortunately, I was told the opposite by the people who remained; people who surrounded me with love, protected me from most of the retaliation, and consistently offered me their unwavering support.
By no means am I saying how I approached my situation is right for everyone, but it was certainly right for me and imperative for my health and recovery. The brain damage is irreversible but in October 2018 (after 10 long months) my neurologist informed me it would not progress, called me a medical miracle, discharged me and told me to continue living a “full and happy life.”
I gave 150% in every situation (whether it was family, career, relationship or health related) and although it was the hardest year of my life, 2018 was also the best year of my life (and it’s certainly transitioned into 2019).
I’ve truly never felt more mentally and physically strong than I am in this moment and I’m so unbelievably grateful.
So if you’ve ever wondered why I am the way I am… now you know.
Till next time! xo
PS – I dug up the cover letter I wrote (shortly after my first non-convulsive seizure) when I was applying for a job at my current company and thought it would be interesting to share the intro:
If I had to pick an animal to represent my human persona at this stage in my life, I’d pick a cockroach. Yes, you read that correctly – a cockroach. The past few years of my life have been challenging. During the few months that can only be described as rock bottom, I realized I had two choices to make: 1) I could wallow in misery and never get back on my feet; 2) I could channel my inner cockroach and become more resilient.
Choosing option two is hard when you don’t necessarily see a light at the end of the tunnel; but it really does make the victory that much sweeter.
The result is me – an empathetic, grateful, creative little soul who knows how to adapt, be flexible, and touch the hearts of audiences without ever touching their skin.