There was a period of time after my first 2 brain haemorrhages where I lost hope.
I felt trapped in a body that didn’t function. I felt beyond broken, and I couldn’t see how my life could possibly be worth living. I was very much a victim of my circumstances, and I couldn’t see a way out.
I didn’t believe that my life would get better, let alone be extraordinary!
I certainly didn’t realise it at the time, that was the key that triggered change – How I believed things to be.
When you convince yourself of life being one way, that’s exactly how it is. Why? Because you direct your thoughts to match your beliefs.
A pivotal point in my recoveries came when I witnessed people who were much worse off than me, still smiling and remaining positive no matter what life served them, including death.
If they could, there was NO reason why I couldn’t.
It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It wasn’t a quick fix, it took a conscious effort. The more conscious I became, the more I challenged my thoughts about my current reality.
I discovered that our thoughts shape our reality. By changing our thoughts, we can change our reality.
Now, that’s not to say that it changed my reality of being paralysed overnight, it did not. Nor did it change the difficulties that I had with my speech, the pretty much non – existent memory, the emotional lability, the intense and very frequent headaches or the learning difficulties.
It is easy to get caught up on the actually physicality of the issues that you have, without much though beyond that.
What has happened is only one part of the equation. How you choose to respond to what has happened is where you will find either your reasons for you life not turning our, or your power.
The same can be said about what you choose to hold onto – if you change what you hold, everything else changes.
You have no control over what has happened. It is in the past. But you have control over how you choose to respond! Our brains have this remarkable ability to rewire based on what stimulus we feed it – a thing called neuroplasticity.
Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself, studied neuroplasticity extensively and discovered that the brain can actually change its own structure and function, even into old age. Neuroplasticity not only gives hope to those with incurable brain damage, but expands our understanding of the healthy brain and the resilience of human nature.
So with a new understanding of the plastic nature of our brains, I embarked on a journey to rewire my own brain to think positively, and create an empowered experience around what had happened to me.
Repetition of what you want to achieve is key.
I wanted to replace my negative thoughts about what had happened to me, and how it had impacted my life, with thoughts that were empowering and positive.
I wrote out positive quotes, and notes that were in line with what I wanted for my life, and stuck them all around the house in places that I would look frequently. They were next to my bed, computer monitor, on the cover of all my school books, every mirror in the house, above the bathtub, toilet door, cupboards….they were everywhere.
At first, I would try to ignore them when I saw them. I didn’t believe what was written on them! But there came a time when I was so desperate to escape my version of living hell. That very desperation drove me to try something different.
I started reading what was written. It started making me feel good. So I read them out aloud. That made me feel even better. I was onto something here…
I kept going.
Slowly, slowly I noticed that my negative thoughts where being replaced with more uplifting, empowering thoughts.
‘I am a survivor. I am a warrior. I am unstoppable’
This very practice became something that would change the whole course of my reality. I felt empowered, even though I still struggled with all of the same physical limitations.
Now, tackling paralysis (or any of the other challenges I had) was no small feat. It was gruelling and relentless…but I was determined that I was NOT going to be paralysed for life. So I began telling myself that I would walk, and my actions matched my commands. I made sure that my daily rehabilitation sessions were my priority. As a matter of fact, I not only showed up – I went early, and I stayed late.
I repeated my manta’s, through the hours of failure upon failure. Sometimes I would be repeating those internal mantra’s, tears of frustration pouring down my cheeks. I was not here to give up!
Write out what it is you want from your life. Break them down into small, manageable goals. Visualise you doing those things, tel yourself that you can do them and take consistent action into turning those goals into a reality.
If you believe that you are unstoppable, your brain will have to believe it too.
Learning to silence my inner critic and focus on positive thoughts helped me stay on track, when it all felt like it was falling apart.
The voice that whispers that you are not where you should be can be either constructive or destructive. You can use it as either a motivator or saboteur; for or against you.
Learning to accept how thing were, and how they weren’t helped me to stay in the present moment.
I learnt that comparing how life was before served no constructive purpose, as a matter of fact, it is the quickest way to self-sabotage. Habitually comparing yourself to how life was or how you think it should be, does not help your self-esteem in any way. It is a self-abusive act that diminishes your personal power.
Getting present to life being different helps deal with things as they are, in the present moment. Because let’s face it, you can only make changes to what is happening right now, not how they used to be.
A daily dose of gratitude goes a long way.
Have a look around you. There are plenty of things in each day that we can be grateful for – if you cannot find anything, you aren’t trying hard enough!
Consciously practicing gratitude on a daily basis helps to rewire your brain, by teaching it to look for the good in every situation, no matter how dire the situation is.
My most recent brain haemorrhage (AVM, January 2017) came as a huge shock (as they often do!). But I was able to turn that shock into a feeling of deep gratitude very quickly, by looking at all the all the amazing things that had happened. I was still alive! I had amazing team of medical staff that ensured that I was taken care of to the highest level. I could still smile…..the list goes on.
Mindset and attitude plays a huge part in how your reality is shaped – recovering from any life trauma included.
P.S – I highly recommend reading (or getting the audiobook) of The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. It changed my entire perspective on what our brain is capable of achieving, based on the stimulus we feed it. You can get a copy here.