A New Normal

March is Brain Injury Awareness month.

I really didn’t think I would still be struggling with things five years later. But here we are, five years later and migraines still knock me for a loop.

I’m just going to be honest here… I had a rough 36 hours. I worked all weekend-night shift-so I slept a bit yesterday, but it wasn’t quite long enough. So, then I continued about my day. It was good, but towards evening I started to get a headache. Long story short, I ended up in bed with an ice pack. Migraines like that are fewer and far between, but now they knock me for a loop because I’m not expecting them. It’s times like this that I want so much to be normal, but then I remember that this thing doesn’t take away from me, but rather it adds. I’m who I am now because of it. Here’s a few things to consider as you interact with people with known or unknown head trauma.

  1. Every injury is different. You may know someone who had a brain injury, but that does not mean you know this new person’s story. I get that you are trying to relate, but better than jumping in, listen. Their story may surprise you.
  2. Just because we think differently, don’t think we are stupid. Can I be vulnerable? This is one of my biggest fears. On bad brain days, when the words get caught more often than naught, I fear that people will think that I’m incompetent. I know I shouldn’t care this much about what people think, but I’ve worked my butt off to get to where I am. So yes, I probably care too much about what people think and honestly, words might get caught in my head, but I know that I’m just as smart if not more than I was before my accident.

These are just a few ways that you can accept a person with a brain injury! Even 5 years later, I’m adjusting to my new normal. Thanks for reading my thoughts!

Things I Desire From 2022

So I’m big on resolutions but rather than resolutions, I heard someone refer to them as practices.

I like that. 

New year practices. That gives the idea that I’m not going to be good at them from the get go. It will take some time but eventually, I’ll get the idea.

  1. Be more present. My words for the year are enough and rest. I struggle to believe I’m enough when my attention is split between things. I desire to be more present with the places and people I’m with.
  2. Say my best yes. My default is saying yes to avoid disappointing people. I desire to practice saying my best yes as saying no to something now might let me be more productive in something I need/want to do later.
  3. Read a book a month. Lately, it’s been listening to a book occasionally, but I want to structure my life around making time to do the things that bring me joy.
  4. Spend consistent time with Jesus. Now, notice I’m not putting a time frame on it like a certain number of minutes or hours but rather I desire to spend consistent time with the One who knows my heart even better than I do. On days when I have lots of free time that time spent with Him could be longer than on days when I’m busy.
  5. Drink more water.
  6. Love my people well.
  7. Rest as often as my body needs.

Enough Rest

This year my word was enough. This coming year-2022-the word that has been stuck in my head is rest.

Enough rest. Now that has a ring to it-especially after this year.

Rest. 

What is rest?

Rest according to the definition is: “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength.” 

I am a definite  overachiever. Rest is not in my typical vocabulary. I need to make it more common. What I’m learning lately is that in order to be the best daughter, wife, friend, and nurse, I need to rest. It is not suggested. It is required.

Rest.

This is an area that I strive to be better in.This year I want to make that the essence of this year.. I want to come out of a space of rest instead of a place of busyness. I want to encapsulate my productivity within rest instead of vice versa.

In a culture that elevates busyness, it takes courage to rest-to step back and take care of yourself. Always being on the goal takes a toll on body and soul. Here are a few of the ways that I want to be intentional about rest in this new year.

  • Limit social media: sometimes, social media is nice, but other times, it is draining even in the calmness. It stresses my emotions because it impedes my desire for contentment.
  • Get more sleep: I work nights which means my sleep schedule is crazy. People want to do things at 10 am after I’ve worked. I say yes because I don’t want to disappoint people. I aspire to choose those moments wisely and learn to say no.
  • Spend time with restful people: There are certain people in my life that are restful and I can sit with them and do nothing. Those are the people I should spend more time with.
  • Incorporate an afternoon a week and a day a month of rest into my schedule.

This isn’t exhaustive, but these are a few of the things that I hope to implement in 2022.

5 years…

Dear Sara,

This is me writing to you from 5 years after that life-changing event. Here’s what I have learned and grieved as life doesn’t look anything like I thought it would, but God is good in the chaos of life.

  1. Nothing is a coincidence. I feel like I already kinda knew this, but I have really felt this lately. It’s not a coincidence that on one of my hardest days, a friend texts me out of the blue or I get a letter that encourages my soul.
  2. We need people. We can’t do life or get through hard things without certain people. I mean, you must choose the people that surround you wisely, but I can’t count the number of times that I was “this” close to giving up, but certain people took me by the hand and walked with me. 
  3. Everybody goes through something, but don’t let it define you. Sometimes it’s more obvious and sometimes it’s more subtle. I’ve learned in the past couple of years that I am more than my accident or brain injury. Yes, I do have chronic pain and I deal with migraines, but it makes me a better nurse because I get it. 
  4. Life is not simply about my happiness or comfort. Growing up, I knew this fact but there’s a difference between head knowledge and heart knowledge. Life is about glorifying God and His desire to rescue humanity. If God can use my story to advance His kingdom, who am I to stand in His way.
  5. I probably wouldn’t have a few people that have impacted my life-my husband being the most significant. I met him shortly after and he put up with me finding myself again before I could offer anything to him. We are still growing and figuring stuff out, but he is my soulmate and my accident put us in the same circles quicker. 
  6. It’s necessary to put down roots so you have a place or people to go home to. Throughout my nomadic childhood, I put my roots into people rather than the bevy of places that shaped my worldview. I’ve always wrestled with the idea of staying vs going. I’ve learned the necessity of walking the tension of both. It’s exciting to go to different places and see exotic things, but there’s also a strange kind of comfort in being known by the barista in the local coffee shops or the guy at the front desk at work. There’s something about being known and seen.

This is not a comprehensive list of what I’ve learned and grieved in the past couple of years, but as 5 years rolls around, I’m learning that I’m a complex person. This is part of my story but not the entirety of it. It complicates life a little, but it ultimately makes me a better nurse, daughter, best friend and wife.

Love, Sara

The year of Enough

Enough.

That is my word for this year-this crazy and insane year. I chose to embody this word in whatever I did throughout the year, and man was it hard.

I chose to believe I was enough even when I needed to take antidepressants to help me cope with nursing in a pandemic. I don’t plan on being on them forever, who knows though, but they allow me to be the best friend, daughter, wife, sister, and nurse I can.

I chose to believe I was enough when real life clouds marriage and the rubber meets the road. We basically started out the year married so we are coming up on one year. It has been the best and hardest thing. We grew a lot and together but oftentimes, I had to choose to believe I was enough because I felt lacking. The key is choosing to see what can realistically be changed and needs to change and what is my brain lying to me.

I chose to believe I was enough when I didn’t get positive feedback on my work but I also didn’t get negative feedback. I chose to believe I was enough simply because I was enough.

I chose to believe I was enough when my brain says get overwhelmed and I need to rest. It doesn’t make me less than because I can’t do more, it just makes me more intentional about the time I do give to people. I’m learning that no one can do everything.

I chose to believe I am enough simply because I’m a daughter of the King. That being said, life is not always easy, but it is sweet if you choose to look for the light shining in. When life causes me to doubt that I just have to remember the truths.

  • God embraces emotions.
  • I am valued and loved.
  • God calls me beloved.
  • I am a child of God (John 1:12)
  • I am beautifully made (Psalms 39:14)
  • I am intelligent (Genesis 1:27)
  • I am loved (John 3:16)
  • I am enough

I’m just as enough with messy hair in my overalls as I was all dolled up in my wedding dress. I’m choosing to live into that every day, not simply the good brain days.

Here’s to the rest of 2021 and growing in confidence and experience. Here’s to believing I am enough, no matter where God has me put my anchor down.

6 months down, a lifetime to go.

Now I still have so much to learn about marriage and about Sean, but we’ve made it halfway through year one and we started our journey in the throes of a pandemic. Here are a few things that I’ve learned in the hardest and best 6 months:

  • Marriage is a commitment-A promise to someone else. It’s promising that the other person will always be the first priority in your life. It’s promising that his happiness is valued. 
  • Marriage is a collaboration-rather than a compromise. A friend once told me that in compromises one person usually lose something but in a collaboration both parties work together to a common end. I think that’s true. Both parties are often more satisfied with the end result.
  • Marriage is an endless sleepover with my favorite person. I look forward to coming home and seeing Sean and curling up next to him. I think someday I’ll get over it (but I really hope not).
  • Grand gestures are nice but it’s the little things that truly mean a lot. Flowers and candy are always appreciated by me but it’s more about the gentle way he holds me when my emotions are fragile or the way he waits till I wake up in the afternoon to mow the lawn.
  • Loving well means you need to learn the other person’s love language. 
  • Communication never goes out of style.
  • Love is a choice-even when the feelings are there.
  • It’s not all about a wedding, but marriage does deserve to be celebrated. 

So here we are: 6 months down, a lifetime to go, and a whole lot more to learn and fail at the first time. Sean is my favorite person and I can’t imagine doing this marriage thing without him by my side. Marriage is hard but worth it nonetheless.

Grace, upon Grace, upon Grace

Can I be honest?

I’ve been in a dark place. I didn’t want to admit that because life is seemingly good. I married my favorite person. I bought a house. We got a cat. I love my job (most of the time). I talk to/see my best friend on the regular. Life is good.

But hard.

They don’t tell you that even though you live together now, being on opposite schedules mean, you may not see much of your favorite person. 

Adulting is a lot of work-and you have to do the work even when you don’t feel like it.

Sean thinks so differently than I do, which in most cases it’s good because I’m glad he hasn’t experienced the same trauma I have.

PTSD stinks. I mean, you do the work. You’re able to stand on your own two feet again. You have a steady job and relationship. You think you’re good then WHAM. PTSD hits you upside the head and knocks you down. 

Depression makes you feel less than because it’s all of a sudden hard to get out of bed and find motivation to do even the simplest tasks.

We are in the middle of a pandemic that changed the way we do everything. 

Oh and add to it the guilt of not being okay when it appears that you should be happy. It stinks.

All in all, I’ve been managing with the help of trusted individuals and God. But I decided that I couldn’t process it by myself, so I started therapy again. It was with the same counselor that say me though the mire the first time so she’s familiar with my defense mechanisms. Only two sessions in and it wrecked me.

I finally put a name to the feelings of loss I was feeling after everything. I was preparing for everything to get ripped out from under me. What? Life was good and I was preparing for the worst.  After that session, I had to do the hard and exhausting work of sitting with all the emotions. Now that I’ve sat with them, felt them fiercely, and given them room to breathe, I can do the even harder work of changing my thoughts. 

Here’s to not being okay, but I’m in a better place than I was yesterday. Here’s to giving myself grace when my traumatized self hurts the people I love. I have broken pieces but I’m doing the hard work of letting Jesus patch me together like only He can.

Year 26 and counting…

I LOVE birthdays. I don’t view it as another year older but rather as another year you survived.

I LOVE birthdays and I value reflection so every year I look back on the year and see all that God has done. 

This year on the eve of my birthday, I’m spending the moments reflecting on how far God has brought me.

  • I found my person. I don’t believe that there is only one person destined for you but rather a person who you choose to run beside you in life. 26 was full of plenty of high moments as I got engaged and married to my best friend who, for some reason, loves me, quirks and all.
  • You can’t have highs without lows. 26 was privy to some of the highest highs as well as some of the lowest lows as I navigated what it means to be an empath nurse. I get the privilege of entering into some of the hardest and best moments of people’s lives. I don’t take that honor lightly.
  • Friendship is precious and needs to be treasured. There are those people who entered your life unexpectedly. Life is hard. Hold those people close and check in on them occasionally. It’s the hard and holy moments that matters.
  • No matter how bad it gets, you can rest in the simple fact that you have a Father who loves you more than you can ever know.
  • Do not plan your life out according to a time table. You never know when life will throw a curve ball at you.
  • Self-awareness is underrated and undervalued as a skill.
  • Be yourself. Those who care, don’t matter and those who matter, don’t care.

This took me YEARS to figure out, but it’s so true. Just simply be yourself. I’m still figuring it out. I’m just me. I’m not perfect by any means, but I’m working to embrace my shortcomings and be myself. 

Here’s a snippet of what God has done in my life this year-may there be many more adventures with God as He takes me on the grandest journey.

Things COVID-19 has Taught Me

So about 5 days ago, I was diagnosed with Covid. It has been a wild ride so far but God used this time to slow me down and spend sweet time with him. Here are a few things that have been ruminating in my soul as I have been quarantined by myself with God.

  • Thankfulness changes your mentality. 

It is easy to be in this situation and be woe is me. Yes, I have covid and yes, I must spend most of my time quarantined by myself to protect my family, but it could be so much worse. When I switched my mindset, I was grateful for things instead of living in the muck of my sorrows.

  • Rest in Jesus is vital and worthwhile.

           I have been going and going for a while. I think Jesus saw that and used this opportunity to slow me down (albeit very quickly). He knew I could not sustain that for too much longer. I am using this time to grow closer to Jesus and figure out what he wants from me. If you need me in the next few days, I will either be asleep or reading my Bible or listening to books on tape.

  •  People are needed. 

           The worst part is that not only am I feeling crummy, but I am also physically alone. I knew this before, but I am an outgoing introvert. It means that I like my alone time, but I like people as well. For me that has been the hardest part of this. I never lacked compassion but now I have empathy for what people go through. I was lucky (and fingers crossed I stay lucky) in being able to stay at home and not in the hospital. I can only imagine how alone people feel. People are needed, and not just in a pandemic. So, check in with that new mama, or friend you have not heard from in a while. Check in with your people. Oftentimes, you will find that you needed it just as much as they did.

These are just a few things that God is teaching me through this, and He is not through yet. Final thought: this is real. I am one of the lucky ones. I was as careful as I could be, and I still got it. Looking back, I would not have changed anything that was potentially questionable. So, since the community is now the frontline, please, wear your mask, wash your hands, social distance, and stay home. Yes, most people survive with mild symptoms, but it can be detrimental and deadly to some.

Mental Health and Self Care

In this season of quarantine and COVID-19, tensions are high and mental health is often ignored and forgotten. People are isolated, scared and lonely. Here are few tips to care for yourself and others in the midst of chaos.

  • Simply being kind to others is significant in this day and age. You never know what someone else is going though. 
  • Recognize that life is stressful for everyone so in turn take care of yourself mentally as well as physically. 
  • As a human, simply take notice of things and people around you, and simply see people. 
  • When life gets overwhelming, simply take a deep breath and take life 5 minutes at a time.
  • Therapy is a good-sometimes necessary-thing and shouldn’t be shameful. Therapy was the best thing that happened to me and I still go to therapy, from time to time, when life gets overwhelming.
  • Sometimes even medications are necessary and shouldn’t be shameful. Do we look down upon people that take medication for diabetes or blood pressure? It’s the same thing for your brain.

Mental Health is Health and we should keep the conversation going.