I love stories. We all have them. I love hearing them. I love sharing them. I love making them. My story today is entitled ‘The Fall’. It is about life changes, brain changes, identity changes, and heart changes. I’m quite sure this will be the longest and most edited entry of all time. Mainly because I am not sure where I am going nor how to get there once I do. [I have already edited the beginning of this post at least seven times.]
I’ve been working through how to tell my story. It isn’t that I have an incredibly interesting one, but that it is important to know how to answer the question, “What’s your story?”
I’ve led a pretty darn good life up to this point. I was raised by two of the most awesome people on this earth, have an amazing family & wonderful friends, and have been given many opportunities to do well and live life abundantly. I accepted Jesus as my Savior at a young age and spent time growing in The Word and watching my parents live out their faith. I also attended a Christian high school and college, which kept pointing me to the path of Christ. I had a “faith”, but it hadn’t really been defined or owned yet. Sure, there have been plenty of times of heart-wrenching loss, disappointments, unwise decisions & compromises, spiritual warfare, trials and tribulations. But overall, life has been good. Well, I thought that up until about 5 years ago.
You see, I was going to be a WORLD CHANGER (thank you, Indiana Wesleyan). Turns out, that is waaaaaay harder than I anticipated.
Throughout life, I have been an over-achiever, learner, perfectionist, multi-tasker, set high expectations for myself [and others], and had the memory of a…well, something that has a great memory. In college, I had a double major with a minor, was a delightful Resident Assistant, dedicated Teacher’s Assistant, and superb Hobby Lobby framer…all at the same time and with relative ease. After college, I climbed the corporate ladder in the automotive industry, later I simultaneously had five part-time jobs because my interests were so varied, and was self-taught in various areas just because I savored learning. Did I do all things perfectly? Yes. I mean, No. No I didn’t.
Although it wasn’t a conscious thought, I believed I could really do it all on my own. My identity was found in my intellect, talents, and wit.
Fast forward several years to ‘The Fall’. Not only had I not become the “world changer” I envisioned, but life was not going my way. Because things weren’t going my way, I found myself in a depressed, anxious, and in a rebellious state. To make matters worse, Indianapolis just got hit by one of the largest ice storms it had ever seen. It iced, it snowed, and re-iced [the picture is just a glimpse of what my car, Gairy, succumbed to that day].
I’ve always been a little accident-prone and even though I should’ve known better than to go out in that weather, I went to work the next day anyway. As I was walking into work, I lost my footing on the ice-covered sidewalk and fell. I didn’t just fall, my head met the corner of a cement step in a real big way. The ice was demolished and my head’s point of impact was crystal clear. I don’t remember if I blacked out, but I remember my first thought being, “Who saw me?!” It didn’t take long for me to become disoriented, dizzy, and have extreme head pain. Because of my spectacular stubbornness, I waived going to the ER and just went home.
Within a few days, I was noticing a lot of problems: I couldn’t stay focused. My thought process was delayed. I struggled putting ideas and sentences together. I couldn’t make decisions. Words that I used daily escaped me. I made mistakes left and right. And, somehow, the least of my concerns was that both the front and back of head ached severely. I ended up finally going to the ER, but it was really too late to find anything other than confirming I did NOT have a brain bleed. Their prognosis was that I had a concussion and it will just work itself out.
After a few more days, and with some heightened panic, a friend’s dad did what should have been done at the get-go: he called a neurologist and made me an appointment…he even drew me a map of how to get there.
I spent the next two years (yes, two) going to regular neurology appointments, having daily homework assignments, completing various scans and neuropsych testing. In that timeframe, I had three neurologists. One retired and referred me to his medical partner, and the last was designated to me through insurance. Each time I was referred, I was basically starting over. I had to relive the pain and frustration of the accident and why I wasn’t “normal”. I had to talk about my feelings and struggles and yadda yadda yadda. I repeatedly lived in my grief. Each neurologist agreed that I needed to accept that this (memory lapses, verbal communication issues, delays in information processing, inability to function at a high level, etc.) was the “new me”. I was already in a not-so-healthy-in-every-department-of-my-life state, and all this sent me over the edge.
I was exceedingly angry. I was severely depressed. I was defiantly rebellious. I felt desperately alone. And so much of my negative thoughts, words, and actions were directed towards God. If He loved me, He would heal me.
He had different plans.
I was finally diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Encephalopathy through a contracoup injury. Basically, when the back of my head hit the cement, my brain lunged forward and my frontal lobe was damaged. Your frontal lobe controls a lot, such as memory, problem-solving, language, and social behavior. All things that were going terribly awry. And all these things were me!
If I wasn’t going to be myself again, who was I?! Where was God? Why didn’t He rescue me? Why didn’t He hear my plea for help? Why was I left alone questioning who I was and if I was worth anything? How was I going to change the world if I couldn’t operate as well as before?
I lived in darkness, self-pity, selfishness, and full-on rebellion for two years. It wasn’t until my mom came to me with tears in her eyes asking me the question, ‘When are you going to break?’ It didn’t occur to me that I needed to break. I was so calloused that I didn’t see myself sinking, hear the care and concern from loved ones, or think that life could be different than what I was currently living. Once you are in a pit, that pit becomes home.
The prayers of my parents, and probably of others, are what opened my eyes to see what state I was in and desperately want out.
It was a slow process and I was all over the place. I couldn’t see God’s bigger plan in all of it, but piece by piece He was revealing Himself to me. It was no longer about “the plan” or “my brain”. It was about redemption. He was writing my story that I so often tried to write myself. I needed to get to a place where I saw who I was apart from Him and how much I needed Him for forgiveness and sustainment.
I don’t remember a whole lot about that time. But the last three years, I can tell you they have been a battle. A battle to accept how I now function. A battle to trust that God not only has a plan for my life, but fiercely loves me. A battle to be confident. A battle to set goals. A battle to believe I can achieve those goals. A battle to have faith. A battle for my identity. A battle for my heart.
What I have learned in the past 5 years outweighs what I learned in the previous 28 all together. I have learned that I need a Savior. I have learned about real grace and that I need it. I have learned we are fragile. I have learned that memory is just plain weird and unpredictable. I have learned that I have made incredible progress. I have learned to be intentional. I have learned to laugh at myself even more so than I did before. I have learned that I abhor wintry conditions. I have learned that changing the world is possible, but I have to want change in myself and follow God’s lead. I have learned that my brain and abilities are only a component of who I am. I have learned that my ears, hands, feet, and words have a greater impact in this world than my brain ever could.
Not a day goes by that I don’t notice or feel ‘The Fall’. The back of my head will probably always be tender. My brain will probably never work like it did before. My heart will never be the same because I know what the depths of despair look like and how I was rescued, resuscitated, and given a clean slate. I wouldn’t change ‘The Fall’ for anything.
My story isn’t incredibly interesting. But it is incredibly mine. And all progress and change I have experienced is because I serve an incredible God.
After the longest post e-v-e-r, I leave you with more:
I have always loved music, but music meant something so much more during this time. It could express what I could not; and it continues to impact me on my journey. There is a relatively new song by Death Cab for Cutie called ‘The Ghosts of Beverly Drive’ that caught my attention a few months ago. It is a song I can identify with and reminds me to not get lost in the accident.
If only you’d have known me before the accident
For with that grand collision came a grave consequence
Receptors overloaded, they burst and disconnect
‘Til there was little feeling please work with what is left
Oh I need not be flattered that you’ve never been here before
So there’s no need to mention that you’ve no firsts anymore
But if you let me be your skyline I’ll let you be the wave
That reduces me to rubble that looked safe from far away
…I don’t know why, I don’t know why
I return to the scenes of these crimes
Where the hedgerows slowly wind
Through the ghosts of Beverly Drive
I don’t know why, I don’t know why
I don’t know what I expect to find
Where all the news is second hand
And everything just goes on as planned
You wanna teach but not be taught
And I wanna sell but not be bought
So let us not be lonesome
So let us not be lonesome
Lost in between our needs and wants
Our needs and wants
Not only has music been therapeutic, but, more importantly, I have been encouraged repeatedly by promises in Scripture. It took a long while to find solace and hope in God’s Word, but I got there.
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.