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.

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.

Social isolation, Self-care, and Birthdays

My birthday is in 4 days and it’s a bit of a downer. I have to grow up and pay for my own insurance (I’m not intending to sound privileged but that’s the current reality of my life and it’s not the hardest thing or worst thing). The world is also shut down so there’s that.

Anyways, I turn 26 in 4 days, and here are a few things I’ve learned in the midst of a global pandemic.

 

  • Life is not all sunshine and roses and that’s ok.

 

Life is a mix of rainy days and sunshine. You can’t have one without the other. If you choose to fixate only on the good days and ignore the bad, then you are deluding yourself. But if you focus on only the bad, then you are also deluding yourself. What’s that saying, ‘Not every day is good, but there is good in every day”. Or something like that. Bottom line. It’s okay to not be okay sometimes. Life is not always ok, but it rarely ever stays there.

 

  • People matter. 

 

Yes, the correct term is social distancing but for some people, it turns into social isolation. Just be aware that some people aren’t quarantined with the ones they love so social distancing means they have very little social interaction. Reach out to the people you know. Write a note. Let them know that they aren’t forgotten in the midst of this.

 

  • You can’t choose the cards you’ve been dealt, but you can choose what you do with that.

 

This goes both ways. You can’t choose the negative things that happen to you-like in my case a car accident that changed my life. But you also can’t choose the good things that happen-like me not dying. You choose-positively or negatively-what to do with what you’ve been handed. You are not a victim of your circumstances, but rather acknowledge them for what they are and move on from that.

 

  • Self-care is uber important.

 

A lot of people, past me included, think they have life together, but I’ve learned that I don’t have to have it all together all the time. What a relief! I need to take care of myself. I’m learning that lesson again and again. I had the mentality that getting all better meant that I would have infinite energy and would be able to everything I used to. I was wrong. The idea in my head of how much energy I had is probably exaggerated and if it was right, it was honestly only a matter of time before I crashed in life. I probably was lucky I literally crashed my car. Just kidding, but in reality, I’ve learned a lot about listening to my body and resting so I can be the best version of myself. Self-care is offering people you love the best of you rather than the leftover parts of you.

 

  • Light always comes after dark.

 

It’s tempting to think this-the way the world is right now-will never end. But It will end, someday. The sun never ceases to rise again.

 

  • Yes, it can stink to celebrate my birthday in the midst of a lockdown, but the people closest to me are findings ways to still make me feel loved and cherished. Plus, it’s a cliche but I’ll seriously never take another birthday for granted because I truly am blessed to be alive today.

 

These are just a few thought about the state of the world and birthdays is social distancing. Thanks for listening to my thoughts and do your part to help this end soon.

12.17.2016

3 years.

This season is emotional. As the anniversary of my almost death-my life change-comes close I’m just a mess of emotions.

Let me just be honest.

Today was great but I was an emotional mess this afternoon-it was irrational.

BUT GOD.

ABBA-my favorite name for God-knew that I needed cocooned in His arms. He knew that I needed my small group of girls hugs. He knew that I needed Him.

I’ve learned a lot throughout my life, but here are just a few nuggets that, as the 17th roles around, feels a little more applicable.

 

  • God is “ABBA”.

 

The reason why I love this name of God so much is that I love the picture it brings to my mind. A picture of God standing with open arms as I run towards Him. He catches me and picks me up while twirling me around and around. I love that picture. A picture of a God that rules the world yet cares about the littlest thing that is bothering me. 

 

  • People can hurt you, but just because they can, all of them won’t.

 

This one is a lesson I’m still processing through. Throughout my life, letting people in has always been a struggle. I mean letting people into my core-the core of who Sara is. I have layers like an onion, and I learned the lesson of transparency without vulnerability. Let me explain that. I learned how to peel back enough that people were convinced that I was transparent but there was no real risk of me getting hurt. I worked through that and finally made progress and let a few people in. Then the accident happened, and I’m back at square one. I lost myself and figured that I was “too much” for someone to love. A person simultaneously proved that I was worth investing in and crushed my idea that I would ever find love. Then, enter God. God brought a certain person into my life as a friend and I was skittish. I liked him but I figured he would leave. I didn’t want to let him in, because I was afraid of the mess I would be if he did leave. We were friends and then he wormed his way into my heart. He was there. He stayed and who knows what the future holds, but he has taught me that it is possible to open your heart again. I love him for that simple fact and who he is. In opening your heart, there’s always the risk of hurt, but just because they can, doesn’t mean they will.

 

  • Nothing-no person-is a coincidence.

 

I don’t believe anything is a coincidence. I don’t believe that I was hired at MCS of a whim. I believe that I was there for a specific reason. I don’t believe God brought people in and took people out of my life for a reason. Each person I’ve interacted with over the years has shaped me into who I am today for better or for worse. 

 

  • My story is about more than just me.

 

My story while it directly impacts my day to day life, is not simply about me.  This life is about more than my happiness. It’s about God’s redemption of ALL humanity. If God uses me and my story to fulfill his purposes, then all the trauma will be worth it.

 

  • God is not afraid of emotions.

 

If I have learned anything in the past three years, I’ve learned that it’s okay to not be okay for a while, but I can’t stay there. I can’t pitch my tent in the mire and live there. I can visit there. There have been times that I pop right out of the hole, and there have been times where I have needed my brother or parents to give me a swift kick to the bottom (metaphorically) to propel me out of the hole. Love isn’t simply codling but love is telling someone the truth with grace. Two years ago, I hit rock bottom. Life didn’t look anything like I thought it would, and I dug myself a house down in the mire and was planning on staying there indefinitely. 

BUT GOD. 

God in his grace-oh sweet grace-didn’t let me camp there. He put people in my life to give me that swift kick in the butt that I needed, Oh it was hard. There were lots of tears as I lamented what was and could have been. I wrestled with insecurity, I made molehills into mountains, and I surrendered into God’s will. I’m not perfect at this in any means. I still am not quite there yet, but at least I’m not still where I was.

I don’t know what your story is-who has hurt you, what trauma has happened to you-but I do know that there is an ‘abba’ who loves you more than you could ever know. Here’s to believing that God has got this.

Things The Past 3 Years Have Taught Me

In 23 days, it will be 3 years since I almost died. December 17th will always be a bittersweet day. On one hand, it’s a day that I survived, but on the other, it’s a day that my life changed. Here are a few things that life and my brain injury have taught me in the past 3 years.

  • You only live-and die-once. 

This moment, right here, right now, is the only moment you are guaranteed. You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow so kiss your spouse, spend time with your siblings and friends, put down your phone and show your family you care.

  • You can do anything-within reason-that you put your mind to.

God was gracious in letting me recover so well, but it wasn’t without tears and attitude (Sorry to my family for all the tears. Thanks for putting up with my pity parties but not letting me stay in my funk). 3 years ago, I honestly couldn’t (didn’t) imagine the way my life has turned out. And I don’t say that to receive applause or for anyone to think I am awesome. I simply say it to 1) show how awesome God is in allowing me the privilege of carrying this testimony of His grace and love and 2) show what determination and hard work culminate in. I could have and almost did give up on my life being any semblance of what I had pictured it being. My brother has a list a mile long of things I said I would never be able to do again. The top of the list is working as an acute care nurse in a hospital. With my hard work, and it was hard, I was able to return to the hospital. Honestly, it was harder than nursing school, because I was constantly frustrated as I had to relearn things I had already learned a couple of years ago while dealing with migraines, needing TONS more rest, and hands not doing what my brain is telling them. All in all, I didn’t know what my outcome would be or what I could do until I tried. Never give up.

  • There are many paths to take. Don’t compare your path to anyone else.

I learn this lesson time and time again. Maybe you are 20 with your dream job or maybe life happened and you are still working toward it. Maybe you married the love of your life at 19, or maybe you are still waiting for the knight to come rescue you. There is no right path in regards to destiny. It’s not like you took a wrong turn somewhere and your life is ruined now as a result. Your story is your story, It honestly does not matter what anyone else’s story is, but someone needs you and your story.

  • Rest is necessary and good.

Im very bad at resting well. I’ve gotten better at it simply because I cannot function without rest in my life. I go go go,  then I hit a wall and am dead to the world for 24 hours. I’ve learned the benefit of a well placed “no” as hard as it is. I’ve learned that there are different kinds of rest that are beneficial for different moments. Rest could look like watching a movie with Sean, or it could look like taking a hike in nature. Rest doesn’t always mean sleep but I’ll be honest and say that I hate that I need more of it now.

  • Sometimes it’s crucial and needed to simply take life one day at a time.

If you look at the big picture, you can get paralyzed in fear and end up doing nothing, I know this happens to me more than I would like. I’ve learned through the last couple of years that oftentimes I can just focus on the next 5 minutes and then the next 5 minutes etc. That way I get through the day and accomplish something small instead of simple standing frozen.

  • Some times the best man is the one that is right there-offering friendship-as you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. 

I am a romantic but I am not one to believe in love at first sight or the right one. I just know that from my experience it doesn’t happen that way. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that as a rule it doesn’t/couldn’t happen, I’m just saying that in my case there is something to be said about someone who values my friendship which was all I could offer at the time. I was picking myself up and rediscovering who Sara was and if I even loved who I was. There was this guy that I shot down simply because I could not imagine someone else understanding my brain. Honestly, at that time, I didn’t even understand my brain. To this day, I do not know how he understands/loves my broken and repaired brain, but somehow, I guess, through being friends, I let him into my brain a little and he was willing to learn the kookiness that comes with a brain injury-knowing who you are, but not really recognizing the person that woke up from the injury. He gets me, I get him and I love him for it.

Here are just a few things among the many things that the last couple of years have taught me.

Loving your Neighbors and Other Expressions of God’s Goodness.

“It is a gift to have a body that holds our soul here on earth, with a heart that beats and air that

moves through our lungs. It’s a gift to be able to come to God with our prayers. It’s a gift to do the

things that give us joy. It’s a gift to have opportunities to love our neighbors. We live an incarnational

life on purpose. God designed it that way. By our very design we have limitations. We can fight them

or accept them.”

Alexandra Kuykendall

I was just thinking the other day about God’s goodness.

Tonight, I was blown away by God’s goodness. Honestly, if you asked me a year ago, if I would be living Mansfield by my choice, dating the love of my life and working at a hospital

in direct patient care, I would have laughed in your face.

I did laugh in my brothers face when he mentioned something about me returning to the hospital setting.

I honestly figured that was long gone as well as the hopes that anyone would be able to love me and my

broken (albeit slowly put back together brain and “Sara”). But God in his goodness put me back together

piece by piece and placed someone in my life that could handle my put together self with grace.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but right now, I can honestly say that God is good. A year and a

half ago, I struggled with believing-truly believing-that statement.

God is good.

God has a good plan for me.

I couldn’t see it. Sometimes, I honestly wondered why He saved me.

BUT GOD!

He has burst out of every box that I tried to put Him in. 

I have been so blessed by the unit and people in the hospital God has placed me with.

The man in my life who graciously deals with my schedule and loves my healing brain.

My small group girls and leaders God has put in my life to mold me more like himself.

The sunsets and sunrises where God shows His glory after a long day or long night.

So here I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God and realizing that God is not asking me to change

the world. He is simply asking me to love my neighbor-the people He has chosen to put in my sphere of

influence. Here I’ll be, simply loving my corner of the world.