I brought in the New Year, 2017, in Fiji with my partner. Celebrated my 30th birthday a few days later, with much excitement building for my trip to Canada, and to top it off I had just started studying for my dream job – to become a mentor…and not just any mentor – A brain injury mentor. I have always felt incredibly passionate about wanting to help people who have experienced brain injury, create and build a life that they truly love living after brain injury.
I worked so hard to get to this point. I was right where I wanted to be, and it felt amazing!!!!
Fast-forward to the 10th of January 2017, when I landed in Canada for a dream snowboarding trip that would see me road trip solo from Vancouver to Fairbanks in Alaska, and back down through the Rockies, Banff and Revelstoke before making my way back to Vancouver…I was on top of the world!
Under an hour later, I was asking a staff member at the airport to call me an ambulance as I was certain I was having another brain haemorrhage.
I wasn’t wrong!
After brain surgery to remove a large AVM (arteriovenous malformation) and evacuate a heamorrhage, I was on a flight back to Australia 17 days later with 50 staples in my head and feeling very ordinary! Utterly devastated, yet so incredibly grateful that I had pulled through my third major brain haemorrhage in my 30 years of walking this planet.
Now I am someone who is incredibly active and spends that majority of my waking hours outdoors, doing something physical whenever I can. But over the past few months, I can’t tell you the amount of times that I struggled to get out of bed. All I wanted to do was stay in the comfort and warmth of my bed, hiding away from my new reality.
I felt unmotivated, depressed and frustrated by how dramatically things had (once again) changed. This wasn’t fair!
As I lay in my bed feeling sorry for myself one morning, I had a lightbulb moment – I still have a choice! I have a choice to continue moping about and feeling down about what has happened, or I have a choice to accept what was happened and embrace the change. My life can still be amazing – it is just different…and that is ok!
Now I am in no way saying it was easy. But what is harder, is staying stuck in a past reality that no longer serves where I am currently at.
I started exploring the possibility of being happy regardless of what I am going through. What if I was to change my inner dialogue from ‘this sucks, this isn’t fair, my life is over’ to ‘wow! I have been through so much lately, and while there are many changes that I feel uncomfortable about – I still have a choice to create a truly amazing life regardless of my brain injuries or any other challenge’.
When I authentically said this too myself, out loud, I instantly felt a little spark of energy. I said it a few more times, and that spark drove me to get out of bed with a spring in my step for the first time in months.
“I still have a choice!!!”
Now I am not saying I have a choice to experience the regular headaches, confusion, speech issues, fatigue, memory problems, partial paralysis, tracheal stenosis, epilepsy…the list goes on. I am saying that I do have a choice on how I choose to speak to myself (inner dialogue), and I choose to be positive!
I choose to be in absolute awe at the fact that I survived. I survived 3 major brain haemorrhages! Wow… If that’s not an accomplishment, I do not know what is.
I have 90% recovered from full right-side paralysis. Yes, my right hand is still struggling, and I have noticeable weakness throughout my entire right side… Yes, it’s annoying! But hey, I am here. I will continue to work on strengthening and moving it as much as possible.
I choose to continue challenging myself physically – I enjoy rock-climbing, snowboarding, mountain biking, free-diving (this one I might after to retire after my most recent haemorrhage) and hiking. Yes, I have to make adjustments. Yes, I am in pain sometimes doing these sports. Yes, it is frustrating…but hey, I still get to continue pushing my limits!
Whilst brain injury changed a lot of how I live my day-to-day life, it has also given me a profound zest for living a truly remarkable life.
It has taught me that you can either make every excuse as to why you can’t, OR you can throw yourself in the deep and work incredibly hard to achieve the things that most people said you never would be able too.
My brain injuries have made me not only a survivor, but a warrior and an unstoppable force – all because that’s what I continue to choose.
Change the way you choose to think about your situation, and watch your life transform into a truly powerful existence!