Have you ever felt weighted down, physically and energetically, by the sheer mass of a situation in your life?

It can feel like a ball and chain tied to your body, never ever giving you the freedom you know you both need and deserve to move forward with your life. It’s heavy, exhausting and debilitating. Sound familiar?ball and chain

This has been my life for nearly the past three and a half years, and now I can finally talk about it. So here is my story, which I’ve not been able to truly share openly until now (for reasons that will be revealed below).

On a Friday in November 2013, I came off a horse (who spooked) in a dressage lesson, hitting my head on the ground, with my helmet on, and hard. Lying on my back on the ground, I heard my friend and trainer yell across the arena, “Don’t move!” I couldn’t see, though I was still conscious. Whether it was for a couple seconds, or a minute, time is skewed and impossible to measure in moments like that.

Being an experienced rider, once I could see again and realized that there were no broken bones, I of course did the only rational thing that any rider does in these situations: get back on. To be honest, it was terrifying and I sat on the horse shaking and crying as the gravity of the situation hit me, a “normal” way to discharge the trauma that just happened. I rode for about 15 more minutes, just to finish on a good note. Yes, the horse was extremely sorry for the incident: that was clear (hard to describe to non-horse people, but just trust me on this). Though I had a bad headache, it wasn’t until I started on my long drive home (about 75 min) that I realized that something was truly wrong. I got increasingly and unusually tired.

“Shit!” I thought to myself, “I have a concussion.” Never having had a concussion before, despite being involved with horses from an early age, but having had written a paper long ago on the high incidence of concussions in equine activities, I just knew it. I made it safely home, to ice and rest. Little did I know that from that point on, I would begin a life-changing journey that would begin with the worst night of my life thus far (and I really do hope, ever), with the worst pain in my head I could possibly imagine.

My poor husband was up with me that night, as I woke up bawling in pain. I could not lie flat. The pressure and throbbing in my head was too much to bear. He frantically searched the Internet to find out which OTC pain killer he could give me that was not a blood thinner (potentially dislodging a clot, if one existed). I finally got the pain under control enough that I could sleep for a few hours.

Thankfully, being a holistic health professional, before I even drove away from the barn that afternoon I had called one of my colleagues, Nancy, a very experienced and Senior CranioSacral practitioner. She said she could see me that evening, but I opted to wait till the next morning. I didn’t want to go anywhere else but home.

Saturday morning I entered into my then chiropractor’s office (where Nancy had her practice), looking and feeling like death. After an adjustment, I had my session with her. Because I had already known Nancy for a couple of years at that point and highly respected her both as a professional and a friend (who could have been my mother), I (reluctantly) agreed to go to the ER to get a CT scan of my head to make sure I didn’t have a subdural hematoma (internal bleeding in my brain). Why I didn’t think of this on Friday afternoon, I don’t know. Goes to show how much I valued my own brain and life at the time. I decided to get the CT scan because Nancy told me to, and not because I thought it was really necessary. I was too worried about the financial cost, even with the good health insurance we had. But reluctantly, I went. Thankfully, the CT scan came out “clean,” not revealing any internal bleeding. The ER staff just checked me out, gave me prescription-strength Motrin and sent me on my way with a handout basically saying take it easy, and told me to follow up with my primary physician in a couple of weeks.

Actually, once the CT scan had been reviewed, the ER doc came in and (verbatim) said, “Congrats! You’re concussed!” You have no idea how many mixed emotions I feel now when I reflect back on that moment and those words.

With the attitude projected by the ER staff of, “it’s no big deal, you’ll be just fine and in no time,” my husband and I set off for a quick errand, and then home. I, of course, was in no condition to drive, since my brain could and would not think, even if I wanted to. Just about three and a half miles short of being home, we approached an intersection with a stop light. It was green for us, so we of course kept moving forward through it. But, we didn’t make it through the intersection. A woman in the left turn lane from the opposite direction failed to yield to our right of way and turned left directly in front of us. My husband did his best to avoid hitting her, but physics was not in our favor. We hit the back right end of her car with the front passenger side of my car. Yeah, my side. We pulled over into the parking lot of the market next to us to assess the damage of machines and humans alike and exchange insurance information. I couldn’t open my door. The impact had damaged my side enough that the only way out was climbing out the driver’s side door. I chose to let my husband handle it, though, as I was too angry to not just scream at the lady who caused the accident. Just like the horse, she too, was also very sorry.

To say I was pissed would be an understatement, as my vehicle was only 13 months old and the only car I’ve ever bought brand new. That came to my mind first. It was only then that I realized that my neck pain was really bad, despite being on prescription Motrin from the hospital, which was very much in effect still. The front of my neck (sternocleidomastoids specifically) was painful and my head was throbbing again (it had stopped throbbing after my Cranio session, and as long as I kept my head above my heart). Though I did not hit my head on the frame of the car or the windshield, in any whiplash event in a car, the head gets thrown forward and then gets snapped back and hits the head rest of the seat. My head was no exception to this. My poor brain got banged around in my skull some more. Thankfully, my husband and the other woman were both unharmed.

We waited for over an hour for State Patrol to finally show up. Thankfully, the woman claimed full responsibility for the accident, as that was the truth of the situation. Two head traumas in about 25 hours. Seriously, what are the odds?

On Monday morning I called my attorney first thing and said, “I have another one for you.” Just a couple weeks shy of a year prior, we had been in a very bad car accident (in which I was also passenger) on the freeway, being in the middle of a three-car pileup and the recipient of two highway speed impacts (one at each end) within seconds of each other. I had sustained many injuries in that accident and had literally closed that case (in terms of my accident-related treatment) about 6 weeks prior to that fateful weekend.

I began to tell her about the damage to the car and she was the one to stop me and ask, “But how are you?” I, of course, disclosed the fall on Friday, and how I had been feeling since the car accident on Saturday. We both knew this was going to be a very tricky and complicated case because these two incidents were only one day apart. I was more concerned with getting my car fixed and compensated for its devaluation, since it now has an accident on its record.

Four thousand dollars in repairs to my car later, and I was just starting to really experience the seriousness and pain of all that had happened to me. More on all that later… (all will be revealed for you to read in my upcoming book).

Because I entered into another legal case, I basically now had a gag rule. I of course could say I had a traumatic brain injury, but could not go into the details or share photos of the car on social media or with anyone who didn’t need to know. As such, I could hover in TBI support groups on Facebook, but I couldn’t ever post or comment. I was so afraid of my Facebook account being subpoenaed that I wouldn’t even “talk” about the details of anything related to these incidents in Messenger. I felt so incredibly alone.

When I gave talks to women’s groups on self-care (something about which I am very passionate personally and professionally), I would share my story, keeping it broad and general and would specifically ask attendees to not record or post anything on social media or the Internet about my story (only that they took away some really great advice for their own self-care. 🙂 ).  This forced silence was agonizing for me and really felt like an imaginary ball and chain strapped to my leg, holding me back and keeping me from really moving on with my life. I knew, and even my TBI specialist agreed, that when there are legal cases associated with injuries and traumas, the moment they close, healing really begins.

I waited. And waited. And waited. Due to the complexities of my case, and because of how soon this second car accident occurred after the one nearly a year prior, both auto accident cases got brought together. Honestly, I still don’t know how all the legal stuff worked, but I trusted my attorney. I had too many other things to tend to, including my own care (I’ll go into navigating the whole legal process in my book).

Then, about a month ago, it happened. After waiting four years and nearly four months, I got the email from my attorney to say the first accident (in December 2012) case was finally closed and I could come pick up my settlement check. I was elated and overjoyed! Then, just four days later, another email. After three years, four months and five days (not like I was counting), the second one was closed and I could pick up another check. I started crying in disbelief and relief. It was finally over. It was surreal. In less than a week it all came to an end. Closure at last. I even caught myself messaging a friend of mine on Facebook, only to erase my initial message and replace it instead that I would call her to talk. I had to laugh at myself shortly after I wrote that, because it didn’t matter anymore. I was free. No more silence or gag rule. Yes, the financial compensation was a huge relief, since I had incurred so much debt with medical bills, my decreased ability to work, etc., but truly it was knowing that this long-lasting battle was finally over that brought the greatest relief. The emotional toll it had taken on me was huge.

Now that the metaphorical ball and chain of these legal cases have been removed from my life, I really do feel free and that I can actually move forward with my life and my healing. Never did I realize the weight associated with closure. Boy, did it feel like 1000lbs got lifted off of me!

What happens, though, when there is no closure?

I was fortunate to obtain it in the legal cases, but there is no closure in the reality that I face now that I live with a traumatic brain injury. Instead, the focus shifts away from closure and towards healing, accepting, adapting, and learning not just how to “live,” but thrive with a chronic condition. The future, along with what will change, and if things will change, is uncertain. My hope, though, is to share my story, not for sake of sympathy (have had way too much of that), but instead to inspire and be a resource to others. My silence is broken, and my voice, whether spoken or written, will be to help you also heal, accept, adapt, live and thrive in your best life, no matter what.

Where is the lack closure in your own life still weighing you down?

Is there a way to find closure in your own situation?

If not, then how can you move forward? How can you find the gratitude, blessings and joy in every day and everything in your life, even the pain, the trauma, and the challenges?

Questions that don’t necessarily have easy answers, but I encourage you to reflect on the gifts of your own “story.” If you can’t find the gift yet, that’s okay. It took me about three years, along with a lot of coaching, counseling and yoga to even be willing to see them (as there are many gifts, not just one).

May you become free of the chains and weight that hold you back from healing and stepping into the full gifts and blessings of YOU and your life.

 

 

 

 

 

My whole life I’ve been strong. At least I always thought so. Strong in body (no that featured image is not me), strong in character, strong emotionally. But then Life knocked me around (literally) and taught me a few lessons (which Life will continue to do, guaranteed; hopefully without more traumas).

Strong, in my opinion, once meant being independent (I-can-do-it-all-myself attitude), lifting weights at the gym and being “buff,” and knowing all the answers. How living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) has humbled me!

strong-woman

For some time after I incurred my TBI, I thought I could do everything and function just as I had been for the first 30 years of my life. I continued working normally, despite hours and hours of medical appointments per week and running on only a few hours of sleep per night (I could not sleep for the life of me, no matter what), night after night for weeks and months on end. It was torture.

I must have thought I was Wonder Woman because I kept going on as “normal,” and pushing myself as this Type-A, go-getter personality did: working (as a solopreneur holistic health professional), taking professional development courses, writing e-books, etc. Going, going, going like an Energizer Bunny.

But then it happened.

After about 6 months after my injuries, my energy tanked, and hard. I could no longer weight lift on a regular basis. I didn’t have the energy to push myself, let alone get off the couch some days. I attended fewer yoga classes and had to cut back on how many days I was in my office, reducing my work by 25%.  I was diagnosed with PTSD and clinical depression, and experienced a whole plethora of symptoms (many of which I still experience today, nearly three years later).

I thought to myself, “This isn’t me! I get shit done! I can’t be lying around the house feeling like this.”

The reality of the situation sunk in. This WAS me, and even though I was getting excellent and very helpful medical care and counseling, this was still my reality and I had to accept it. I think at first I didn’t want to accept it. I thought I’d just turn back into “me,” but instead I had to meet a new version of me: “Me 3.0. (in honor of my age, 30, when this happened)”

Denial was no longer an option, and I learned to not only accept but to embrace Me 3.0. No, it wasn’t easy at first. I had to ask for help on many levels, especially emotionally (lots of counseling!). The days on the couch sucked, yes, but I learned to say, “Oh well. That’s how it is today.” Then I decided to become educated and empowered in my own healing process, because no one told me anything about what to expect or look out for (like signs of depression). I had to figure it all out by myself. It was a very lonely process, especially after the years started ticking by and people were like, “aren’t you ‘fine’ by now?” Um, no. TBIs take years to decades to heal.

Because of multiple variables, including the side effect of one of the prescribed medications I’ve been taking (believe me, I’m not happy about it, but it was necessary at the time), I’ve lost most of the physical strength that I worked so hard to gain in the weight room. That’s not to say that I’m not still physically strong. I am. It just means that I’m leg pressing 200lbs instead of 400lbs.

Some people, including well-intentioned friends, have said that I am a “know it all,” and I admit that I can be at times. It’s my way of trying to connect or fit in in a conversation, but it often backfires and I’ve learned to just keep quiet if I don’t have anything of value to contribute. What this healing process has taught me is that I am very smart, but intellect alone isn’t what makes me a strong woman.

So what does “strong” look like to me now?

Being strong means not being afraid to ask for help and support (and lots of it if necessary), even if you think this shows weakness. It doesn’t. It shows you’re human and resourceful.

Being strong means accepting what is, rather than trying to chase the memory of what was, or the expectation of what “should” be.

Being strong means being your own advocate, trusting your intuition and telling even your own health care team what you want and don’t want.

Being strong is realizing that you don’t know it all (you never will), and that you don’t need to.

Being strong is letting go of an image that you thought was You, and stepping into the latest version of your Self with grace.

Being strong means crying, feeling and expressing anger, grief, sadness and frustration, but then deciding you’re not going to stay in this dark emotional state.

Being strong means honoring where you’re at, each day, each moment, and having compassion for yourself so that destructive self-talk no longer occupies your thoughts.

Being strong is believing in yourself, your purpose (or finding your purpose) and having the courage to keep going, even when you are tempted to give up.

Being strong is making mistakes, learning from them, and being able to laugh at yourself.

Being strong to me is showing up every day, authentically and unapologetically Me, with all my challenges, flaws, gifts and talents, doing my best every single time, and letting the rest go.

I guess I’m stronger than ever thought, and I bet you are, too.

You don’t need a traumatic brain injury to teach you these lessons. That’s just how I apparently needed to learn them. Each of us has our own set of unique challenges that teach us something.

Write down what strong means to you, then make a list of what makes you strong per your own definition, not anyone else’s. Keep this list where you can see it so that when you need a reminder of just how strong you are (perhaps on a not-so-good day), you can come back to these truths that you’ve written. Watch your list grow over time, as Life continues to teach you, with every challenge, just how strong you are.

I’ll leave you with these words from Gandhi that I full-heartedly feel are true:

strength-does-not-come

My apologies for my silence these past few months.

At the beginning of this year, I wasn’t doing so well: still very fatigued and depressed as I continued to struggle in my recovery from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

But then things changed.

I changed.

Between some extremely effective Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy for my numerous traumas (multiple car accidents and a throw from a horse: all within less than a year a few years back) and changing to a much better line of supplements/nutraceuticals, Life started to finally shift in a positive direction. It was such a relief, after years of struggle and feeling like crap, to feel human again! It was the hope I so desperately needed.

I felt restless and was itching to move forward in my healing process, and my Life in general: to break free of the past, these traumas, the struggle, the emotional and physical pains and challenges…

I was ready to embrace the possibility of regaining my health, vitality and happiness.

This isn’t to say I didn’t seek health, vitality and happiness since all of these incidents occurred. Far from! I have sought these out from day one, but there was a part of me that wasn’t “ready” to receive them. I honestly believe I had very important lessons to learn from my struggles, which I can now use to uplift and support you, and my clients, on your own journey.

See, knowing both sides of the coin in a healing process (both the person seeking help, and the one providing it), I understand first-hand how we can end up stuck in a rut, feeling despair, hopeless, depressed, etc. Though our ultimate goal (at least mine, anyway) is to break free from the struggle, there’s a bit of comfort and identity with our “condition” that can be difficult to let go.

This can sound very odd, I know, but people identify with what’s wrong with them. Just listen to people you encounter on a regular basis. How many of them constantly talk about their disease, condition or pain? Yep, I know people like that, such that Susie becomes synonymous with back pain, or Grandpa with his arthritis. Get the idea? Yet so many don’t even realize that they’re doing it, and even if they are aware, won’t make the effort to change and embrace the possibility of knowing life any differently.

Some people are not ready to give up that part of their identity. Why? Maybe because it gives them something to talk about when they don’t have anything else to say to someone. Maybe their story elicits the sympathy and attention they’ve been craving. I’m sure it’s different for everyone.

I realized that I mentioned my TBI A LOT, and that it was almost always brought up in conversation. Not sure why I did this, but I did. There was a part of me that, at first, didn’t want anyone to know, and then later, a part that wanted everyone to know. So when things started to shift in the positive direction that I’d been seeking for so long, I had to do some serious thinking. Who am I NOW, living with a TBI, but also living my life without it being my main focus?

There had to be a new relationship with myself and my “conditions,” such that I honor their existence, but that they no longer get to have all of my attention and energy, like a parasite feeding on my soul.

In my professional practice, I run into skeptics from time to time, who think that the lasting and life-changing results I deliver just aren’t possible. Often this is brought about by societal or personal influence. Maybe an article you read or a doctor once told you that nothing is ever going to change for the better. You’re as good as you’re going to get. End of story.

With a TBI, it’s a very real possibility. Only time will tell which symptoms will improve, let alone IF they will. But what if I decided that I was going to challenge the limiting beliefs I had about what will/would change? What if I decided I am so much more than a person who’s been through multiple eating disorders, multiple traumas, and lives with brain damage? These things have shaped Me and my life, but they are not synonymous with either. I get to define who I am.

Audrey Hepburn once said:

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible.’

I'm possible

This is so true, especially when it comes to our own health and happiness.

Are there things that we cannot change? Yes, of course. My legs will never naturally be longer than they are. My eyes will naturally be blue my entire life. Yet we DO have the choice to first accept and embrace certain truths, but then keep challenging the status quo and our own personal limiting beliefs about our situation. Just because someone tells us, “It’s all downhill from here,” or “this is as good as it gets,” doesn’t mean we have to accept or believe it, even if the research and data are behind it.

We always have a choice.

I’ve chosen possibility: possibility to create the life I desire, no matter what anyone else thinks or says.

What will you choose?

Failure.

Something of which nearly everyone is afraid.

We do our best to avoid failure: in a game, sports, and pretty much every aspect of life.

Everything in our society implies that if we fail, we are worthless. We MUST succeed, particularly financially, to be respected and to prove that we’ve “made it.”

Well, I’m here to tell you and that failure is not necessarily a bad thing, nor something of which to be afraid.

Failure-is-not-the

I’ve admitted in previous posts that I’m a recovering perfectionist. Part of that drive is to be “successful” at everything I do. This explains why I gave up so many fun life opportunities, like weekend ski trips, to do extra-credit projects in high school. Yes, I did that, even though I was a straight-A (most of the time) Honors student (okay, so I got a couple B’s in high school….).

When I was working with my functional neurologist after my traumatic brain injury (TBI), I did all kinds of brain-training activities, including physical training (like push-ups while doing math problems: no joke!), and all kinds of therapeutic tasks that would make you think both my neurologist and I were crazy (but they WORK!).

There was one instance where I got so frustrated, to the point of tears, because I failed at a task or brain game.

Here I was, a grown woman, nearly crying because wasn’t “perfect.”

My neurologist said something I will never forget:

“I will make you fail every time. These tasks are designed to make you fail. If you do it well, I’ll just make it harder so that you do fail.”

Basically: get comfortable with failure.

Being the weight lifter that I am, he also made the following point:

When you weight lift, you push your body to failure. That is how you grow and get stronger. If you only lift what you know is easy, you’ll never get stronger.

This made perfect sense to me, and I realized that failure really wasn’t all that bad.

This lesson applies not only to strength training, but even the greatest breakthroughs in science. Think of how many failures Edison went through before finally succeeded at creating the light bulb. Reports say thousands.

From http://edison.rutgers.edu/newsletter9.html:

The authorized biography by Frank Dyer and T. C. Martin, Edison: His Life and Inventions (the first edition of the book is 1910), quotes Edison’s friend and associate Walter S. Mallory about these experiments:

“This [the research] had been going on more than five months, seven days a week, when I was called down to the laboratory to see him [Edison].  I found him at a bench about three feet wide and twelve feet long, on which there were hundreds of little test cells that had been made up by his corps of chemists and experimenters.  I then learned that he had thus made over nine thousand experiments in trying to devise this new type of storage battery, but had not produced a single thing that promised to solve the question.  In view of this immense amount of thought and labor, my sympathy got the better of my judgment, and I said: ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’  Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results!  Why, man, I have gotten lots of results!  I know several thousand things that won’t work!'”

My husband and I are big Mythbusters fans (on Discovery Channel: so sad only a few episodes left!), and one of their most used phrases is, “Failure is always an option!” Yes. Yes it is.

As a business owner, I have failed with various things and ideas, but have overall succeeded in that I continue to do the work I LOVE and change lives in my community. Even if I don’t currently have “success” as determined by my bank account, my success is measured in the number of lives I’ve been a part of changing for the better (the money will come). I have learned LOTS of things that don’t work for me as a practitioner, for that one particular client, or for my own business model.

But from these failures in my TBI treatment, workouts and even in my business, I’ve learned just of what I’m made.

I realized that failing pushes me even more to do my best, but to also accept where I am that day, whether talking about how much weight I can curl, to how math problems I can answer in the form of rain drops moving faster and faster down my computer screen in a brain training game.

If I push too hard and try too hard (which is very possible to do!), then I do not serve my own well-being and risk injury, getting frustrated or angry, or just completely wear myself out. What good is this? It’s not.

When it comes to your idea or definition of failure, get really clear on what “failure” looks like to you, and in what context. If you were to fail, ask yourself, “what then?” Go to the next worst case scenario and, again, ask yourself, “what then?”

When you start to ask yourself this question again and again, you realize that you can face your biggest fears, and see that you can already visualize how you can pull yourself out of your deepest, darkest fears and worst case scenarios. Sure, we don’t want these things to happen, but if we start to face this fear of failure, we can get more comfortable with it so it holds less power over us and see how it forces us to grow, explore new options (ie run a new experiment), and give our best with what we have to work with in that very moment.

It’s a matter of accepting what is (or what isn’t), but not letting it define you. Failure drives us to be our best, try harder, grow, learn, and aim higher.

Without failure, how would we know success? We wouldn’t. Just as we wouldn’t know hot without cold. We need dualities to fully appreciate each.

Am I still afraid of failure? Sure, I’ll be honest. But I’m not nearly as afraid as I once was. I still make little failures all the time: falling out of a yoga pose, trying a technique with a client that doesn’t work for them, saying the wrong thing… But I accept myself as human, and that means making mistakes.

Get well acquainted with failure. This doesn’t mean I wish anything bad for you. Not at all. But just realize that in any failure, you might just make your greatest success.

Be brave, and gentle with yourself. You can do it! Pick yourself back up and keep moving forward, even if it’s just one small step at a time.

 

 

 

Today I’m in a state of reflection.

It’s the two year anniversary since my traumatic brain injury (TBI) (and another trauma that occurred 25 hours later).

One year ago I wrote a post (click here), with thoughts and a poem for releasing trauma. And now it’s another 365 days later…

Though this past year I’ve made some significant improvements, there’s still a long road ahead.

I try to stay really positive in my outlook on life. Our brains are hard-wired for negativity, and we’re surrounded by it everywhere (just turn on the news and you’ll get my point), so it takes extra effort to look for the good in things.

Now, the title I’ve given this post may seem odd, an oxymoron, or just plain make you go, “what?”

“How can trauma be a good thing,” you ask?

Well, here’s how I see it:

They say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” right?

I’ve found this to be true in my own life.

Two eating disorders didn’t kill me. Neither did multiple car accidents, a TBI, PTSD, anxiety, nor depression.

They HAVE made me stronger. They’ve made me a better practitioner, and a better human being.

As a friend texted me today, “It’s a life event that will shape you, but not define you.

This struck me to my core. See, it’s easy to start defining or labeling ourselves with our challenges or problems, no matter what they might be: a disease, condition, an event or chronic pain (to name a few).

As I’ve reflected today on all of the lessons I’ve learned, people I’ve met, modalities I’ve tried, and relationships made in the past two years, I see where I’ve faced my own demons, learned to be more gentle and kind to myself, be less uptight, more creative, more patient, more compassionate, let go of limiting beliefs and expectations and go with the flow of each day.

Ultimately, all of my traumas (including my eating disorders: they are traumatic in their own way), have taught me more about myself than anything else could. Trauma, no matter it’s form, DOES shape us. It can help us grow, or make us crumble (and sometimes both!). Yet it doesn’t have to define us.

I get to define myself, not my past, nor my future, and you, too, get to define YOUR Self- not your past, society, your family, or things that have happened in your life.

This is not to say that we sweep all of the shit under the rug: not at all. Even in my positive outlook, which I admit is not 100% of the time, I do not discredit how difficult things have been. I don’t pretend that none of it happened; that there are no repercussions with which I’m still struggling. I don’t know how much of my personality these days is the true ME, or if some of the things I don’t like are a result of brain damage.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what I decide to do with it all, and give myself some slack. I’m not perfect, but I wasn’t before.

I can acknowledge the things that have changed for me in the past two years, but not give up and say that this is how I’m going to be for the rest of my life. Sure, there may be certain things that are permanently changed, and I’ll just have to work with those things as time will tell me what’s what.  It’s a lesson in acceptance versus giving up; acknowledging versus defining.

It’s so easy to ask, “Why ME?”

What if we are asking the wrong question? What if we ask, “Why NOT me?”

It’s controversial, I know, but I’m just throwing it out there.

No matter what trauma you’ve experienced, look back as what purpose it’s served in your life. What have you learned? How have you grown? How has it shaped, yet not defined, who you are today? Write these down!

No-experience-is-a-cause

Don’t discredit the pain, the struggle, nor the triumph in successes, no matter how big or small. They are all a part of you, but are not You.

So take a deep breath. Let go of the things you have let define you, including trauma. Get really clear on who you are, and share that with the world through your purpose, love and passion.

Till next time,

Be healthy, happy, and live in harmony!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Mindfulness and cheese,” you ask? “Where is she going with this?”

Here’s the connection:

The other morning, shortly after getting up and starting my day, I decided to do something different.

I had had a restful sleep (which for me is a BIG deal, since I’m just starting to sleep well after two years of severe insomnia due to a traumatic brain injury) and my schedule allowed me to take my time waking up and getting out of bed.

Most mornings I turn on my phone right away, checking texts and emails and getting Facebook posts up onto my business page if they haven’t already been scheduled. There are times when I’ve waited to turn on my phone until much later in the morning, but lately it’s been one of the first things I do once I meander into the kitchen.

I made a conscious decision to not turn on my phone quite yet.

Instead, I made breakfast and sat at the kitchen table in silence and took my time to eat my meal. I have a tendency of eating pretty quickly, which I attribute to my first eating disorder (anorexia) when I was in my teens and early 20s. My mentality was, “If I eat quickly, then no one will see me eat.”

Don’t ask me why my younger, unconscious Self thought that this was a good strategy, but I’ve been aware of it for some time now and have caught myself many times wolfing down my food without really tasting or enjoying it. Not only does this habit set me up for poor digestion, but also takes the enjoyment of eating and the sensuality of tastes, textures and aromas of food away from the experience.

This time I ate my eggs and oatmeal slowly, mindfully, and not while scrolling on my phone. I was present. Not to mention that I silently expressed gratitude for having this food to eat.

While sitting there at the table I reflected back to the previous evening, when my husband and I sat down to a light dinner of caprese salad, with basil and tomatoes from our garden, and store-bought fresh mozzarella cheese.

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I call myself an “urban homesteader,” because I like to grow and make a lot of food myself. This means we have three vegetable gardens, a greenhouse, bee hives, an apple tree, berry bushes, etc. No, we don’t have much property at all: we just use it. In fact, we live in a community of near 1000 homes!

As an urban homesteader, my husband and I occasionally make our own mozzarella cheese. It’s a fun and pretty simple process. It just takes a little bit of time.

When I thought back to eating our fresh caprese salad the other night, I reflected back on how quickly I ate my share of tomato-basil-cheesy goodness. Though we didn’t make the cheese ourselves this time, I thought, “It takes time and effort to make this cheese and for the tomatoes and basil to grow, and you just scarf them down in minutes without truly enjoying them!”

Busted (even if it was by my own self!).

It was a good reminder for me to slow down, both when I eat, and in my life.

See, I have a tendency to take on too much all at once, which has definitely gotten me into trouble. I’ve learned to scale back, out of necessity, but you and I both can apply this concept to every aspect of our lives.

We’re in a society that runs at max capacity, but often while on empty. We’re not “full” in many aspects:  nutritionally (with actual food, as opposed to food-like-products), spiritually, emotionally, etc. We’re missing out on being present and mindful of our food, our bodies, and our feelings. How can we expect to change any aspect of ourselves, whether that’s getting relief from knee pain or trying to grow spiritually,  if we aren’t even aware of what’s happening within and around us?

A short while later that same morning I went to yoga class, which is a huge part of my life (not just “asana,” or the physical practice, but the greater Yogic tradition). I once again got a lesson in slowing down and mindfulness as I watched another student, whose mat was in front of mine, go through their practice by flinging arms and legs around in each posture.

This lack of control I saw made me want to go up to them and say, “What is going on? Do you realize that you’re not moving with intention, mindfulness or control? See what happens when you slow down.” But it’s not my place when I’m a fellow student (but it will be when I’m the instructor, as a yoga teacher training is in my future!). Instead, I focused even more intently on my own practice and was able to feel so much more than the times when my mind drifts briefly off to other things during class.

Since then, I’ve been more aware of how I’m doing things throughout my day. I’ve slowed down to pay attention to my emotions, my thoughts, what I feel and sense in my body, and yes, to enjoy my food!

The world does not move at this speed, so it takes that much more effort to live mindfully.

It hit me yesterday that I’ve learned far more by BEING and FEELING than I ever have DOING and THINKING.

So let’s try to Be a bit more, and Do a little less. We’ll actually accomplish a whole lot more, and in a more superior, quality way.

meditation being vs doing

It doesn’t mean you have to move at a snail’s pace to live life mindfully. Just start paying more attention when you do things. Hate to break it you, but you can’t actually multi-task, as much as we like to pride ourselves on it. Your brain can only really focus on one thing at a time. So put all that focus into one thing and do it and experience it well and to the fullest. Go deep instead of spreading yourself thin.

Then take the time to savor the cheese!

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’re aware that in 2013 I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from being thrown by a horse, followed by a car accident (in which I was passenger) 25 hours later.

Recovery for me has been slow, lonely and difficult.

My life truly changed in those 25 hours.

I still struggle with lot of different symptoms, some of which have improved with time and treatment, but others remain and can’t really be explained without numerous additional doctor visits and expensive tests that seem to only open up more questions than answers. Every doctor I’ve seen has a different idea and wants to send me for more tests or studies and put me on expensive supplements (I’m personally reluctant to take pharmaceuticals unless absolutely necessary).

When I tell my story, I often have to explain the acronym, TBI.

It’s not the most common of acronyms out in the world, unlike OMG and LOL!

Since my TBI, I’ve tried hard not to identify myself by my injury, symptoms and struggles, even though there are times where they consume my life. Recently I’ve worked on accepting how I am today, and each day. Every day is different. Some days are great, others not. Yet I am still doing the best I can: running a business, being a professional, wife, friend, and all the other hats I wear. Sometimes my depression is overwhelming and I just want to hide from the world, but I do my best to pull myself out of it, in part thanks to the great support team in my life, and my stubborn determination that will never seem to let me give up!

Honestly, I’m tired of talking about my TBI and having it be such a huge part of my life these days, but it’s my current reality.

No one gets what it’s like for me, unless they themselves have been through one, or know someone who has (frankly, military families seem to get it very well!). So I decided that I’d put a positive twist on the definition of TBI…

Today my personal translation of the acronym is this :

TRUST

BLESSINGS

and

INTUITION

Allow me to elaborate.

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Trust has been a big part of my recovery. Trust in my health care team (which has wavered at times, truthfully), trust in myself and my body, trust in the healing process and trust that somehow, I will be okay (and that I AM okay [enough]).

Trust is difficult, especially when there are no real answers, and no real direction in which to go. I guess it’s also a form of faith that I have, that has undoubtedly been questioned many times over the past couple of years, especially!

As a health professional, I do completely trust my body and that it is doing the best it can with what it has to work with. It is smarter than my brain knows, and is far more resilient than our society credits.

Somehow I know that I will be okay. I will never be exactly the same as before my brain injury, because even the best treatment can’t erase it. I will, however, adapt where I need to and continue pushing forward with determination and hope for better. I’ve learned the value of having compassion towards myself, which I guess is a nice transition into “B:” blessings.

Blessings.

Where do I begin? There are so many. Sometimes, I’ll be honest in writing, I forget about them and get absorbed in self-pity (I have occasional pity parties for myself). But no matter how bad things seem, I’m always reminded of how blessed I truly am. My greatest blessing is my husband, who has and continues to be there for me no matter what. I am blessed with being able to continue doing the work I love, and that I’m doing as well as I am. My colleagues and practitioners from whom I’ve received care and treatment are huge blessings. My friends and family, even if they can’t empathize, do the best the can to support me, especially on my not-so-good days. I’ve developed and deepened relationships, and am particularly grateful for the lessons I’ve learned that not only make me a better person, but a better practitioner, too. The list could go on and on, but these are the staples I always come back to when I start to lose sight of everything positive in my life.

Intuition.

I know that because of what I do professionally, I have a much higher sense of body awareness and intuition than some walking this planet (yet I know there are people with way more than I!). I’ve had to rely on it when my path has no clarity. Since my doctors all come up with different diagnoses and treatment plans, none of which are remotely similar, I’ve really had to ask my body what it needs. Sounds really “woo woo” and New Age to some, I get that, but that’s the world in which I live. There’s actually a lot of science out there about “gut instincts” and such, and I personally believe our bodies can tell us a lot more than we realize, or listen to!

Throughout my healing process I’ve had to make educated yet heart-felt decisions on my course of action. I’m pretty educated when it comes to the body and can have really good discussions with my providers, but ultimately it’s me who decides what I want to do. I literally ask my body (I’ve been taught how to do this, but you really just have to be perceptive to its response and what you feel), and factor that into my decisions, along with all the other scientific data and medical advice. But I will not pursue something if it doesn’t “feel right” to me, and I think that’s important for everyone to do.

From now on when I speak or write about living with a TBI, I’ll think of these things I just mentioned above, instead of instantly gravitating toward the negative connotations of injury.

Even if you’re not living with an traumatic brain injury, see where you can apply the NEW TBI acronym to your own challenges, whatever they are.

Write down your list of the people and things you trust.

Write down your blessings. Post them on your bathroom mirror! Read them every day!

Pay attention to your intuition. Listen to it. Act accordingly.

 

I sincerely hope this help you in your own challenges!

Until next time! ❤

One word is all it takes sometimes to completely change your life.

It’s true. At least for me.

Here’s the word:ahimsa

Don’t recognize it? That’s okay! This is the sanskrit word “ahimsa (ah-heem-sah).”

Yoga is a huge part of my life, and not just putting my foot behind my head, but the greater tradition of it all. Mindfulness, breath, non-attachment, meditation, intention…these are all aspects of yoga that I have incorporated into all aspects of my life in the past few years and will continue to build upon for the remainder of my life.

Ahimsa means both “no harm” and “compassion.”

Of course, it applies to other people and other beings, but it only occurred to me lately that it applies to ourselves, too (duh, but I hadn’t thought of it that way before!).

I recently worked with a client who also has a history of an eating disorder. It was such a pleasure to work with them on their journey toward not only positive physical change, but mental and emotional change, too.

See, this client used to talk about their body as “packaging,” as if it were a separate entity from themselves; an object without feeling. Plastic. A container. They also used to wake up every morning and call themselves “fat,” or “disgusting” or other similar negatively implied words. Not to mention they weighed themselves every day, knowing that the numeric value of their mass in Earth’s gravity (which is all your weight actually measures) would determine their self-worth, and their mood, that day.

One day when the client was in for their session, I invited them to change the way they talk and think about themselves and their body. Instead of using the word, “packaging,” why not refer to their body as such (“my body”) or even “I.” Remember, your body is NOT separate from your mind, unlike our Newtonian medical model has implied for centuries.

My client started doing this, and has even NOT stepped on the scale for SIX consecutive weeks!

This is a HUGE victory and I really made a big deal of it and gave lots of congratulations and encouragement!

I am so very proud of all that this client accomplished in our twelve weeks of working together, and can’t wait to see how they progress in the next few months.

But getting back to ahimsa…

I thought about ahimsa as it pertains to my own life. I thought about how I used to call myself “fat” all the time, even though I wasn’t (and was underweight). I realized not that long ago that I used to do to get a response of “no you’re not!” Intellectually I knew I wasn’t fat, so one day I decided to change how I spoke about myself. I haven’t called myself “fat” in I don’t know how long (possibly a couple of years now). I refer to my heavily muscled legs as “awesome,” because they are! Who cares if my thighs touch? I can kick anyone’s ass with my awesome, strong legs (only in self defense, of course!).

In talking with my client, who is also a yogi (so we could speak the same “language,” if you will), I realized that ahimsa applies not only to our actions towards ourselves, but to our thoughts and how we speak about ourselves, too. Why would be harm ourselves by thinking and saying harmful things about ourselves, our bodies, our very existence?

Why would we starve ourselves, emotionally beat ourselves up if we allowed ourselves to indulge and eat something that we actually enjoyed, or over-exercise and not respecting our body when it needs rest?

I can only speak for myself, but I did it as a coping mechanism. At the time it was the only thing I knew how to control, and I just didn’t know any better. I see that now, and have lightened up on myself. I have compassion for myself, especially in my late teens and early twenties when my anorexia was in full swing, when I was 29 and orthorexic. I didn’t have the awareness or the tools/skills to address the actual problems and challenges in my life.

The past few years I’ve had to learn ahimsa for myself out of force and necessity.

See, in 2012 I had my second eating disorder (orthorexia). In late 2012 I was in a really bad car accident, that took a long time from which to recover and left me with PTSD. Then, in 2013, I got a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from being thrown from a horse, then 25 hours later was in another car accident on the way home from the ER. On top of that, in 2014 I was diagnosed with depression (which is near guaranteed in the first year following a TBI), anxiety, PTSD  and other issues, and now in 2015 my doctors still don’t really know what’s going on with me (they can only guess).

Can’t a girl catch a break? Apparently not. At least not me.

Because of all of these things, I just didn’t have it in my to exercise, practice yoga, or do a lot of the physical activities that were “normal” for me. The energy just wasn’t there, nor was the drive or motivation.

I had to really start respecting my body, appreciating how well it was handling and healing from all of these things, and not push it. Similarly, I had to really change my mindset and use positive words and affirmations when referring to myself and my body. No longer am I “messed up” or “fucked up” but I am so grateful for all that my body and I, in my life, have accomplished while trying to heal and recover from all of these challenges. No, it has not been easy one bit. There have been times where I just don’t want to go on. Really. But I got the support I needed and am driven by my clear purpose in life (and my incredible husband of 9 years).

What if you stop seeing yourself as needing to be “fixed?” You’re not broken.

What if you stopped letting a number on a scale or size of clothing determine your value as a human being?

What if you listened to your body when it was hungry or wanted rest, and allowed yourself to respond to your body with love and compassion?

What if you stopped saying negative things to and about yourself and replaced them with words of love and gratitude?

What do you have to lose from these practices? Nothing.

What do you have to gain from them? Everything.

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Even if you’re not a yogi, start practicing the principle of ahimsa. Yes, right now! It will take conscious effort at first, but keep doing it until loving yourself becomes habit.

Try it for a week and comment what you notice and how you feel when you have more positivity than negativity in your life. Remember, your brain is hard-wired for negativity, so it DOES take a little extra effort at first, but feel the sensations in your body when you think something negative, and then something positive about yourself. Notice what it does to your breath. Just notice what you FEEL. Get it touch. Start to make peace with yourself; your whole self.

I look forward to hearing what you notice.

Maybe a different word or phrase will come to you and inspire. Share that, too!

Till next time,

~Namaste~

A few months ago I made a mix CD, comprised of women power and inspirational songs. I initially created it for the women in the coaching program I led earlier this year, but I also ended up REALLY liking it and listening to the playlist frequently.

There is a great song by Jessie J. called, “Who You Are” that has become one of the several theme songs to my current life.

In this song, the lyrics, “it’s okay not to be okay” really hit me me, and hard.

As my focus has shifted away from my history with eating disorders (I’m doing really pretty well there, thankfully), to healing and recovering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that happened back at the end of 2013, and the subsequent PTSD, depression, anxiety and other things that I have yet to find answers for, I have had to let myself be okay with NOT being okay.

See, I was putting every ounce of effort into being “okay” so that no one could tell I was struggling: both with the mental and emotional challenges, as well as a significant drop in energy. I have been SO good at faking that I’m “normal,” that no one would otherwise know unless I took off my metaphorical mask.

I can’t pretend anymore. I’m not okay. Some days are better than others, and I actually feel good, but then the next day I’ll be exhausted and really feeling the depression. I have to take it one day at a time. I have to be okay with cancelling get-togethers, meetings, etc. to take care of myself. The challenging part is to not feel guilty about it, but I’m working on it.

I’ve started to open up more to my friends, family, and even my clients, as I’ve had to cut back a day in my work week, too (I just don’t have the energy). This has actually been really liberating: to be open and honest with what “is” right now, and voicing the support I need, even if it’s just a listening ear. For my friends and family, there is nothing they can “do,” per se, to help me. They cannot “fix” me, in part because I am not broken. I have challenges, but my body (including my brain), is doing the best it can with what is available to it in the moment.

Letting go of who I used to be, and the expectations I place on myself, is essential. I am not the person I was. Getting up at 5:30am to go to yoga or they gym is not happening these days. Instead, it’s up at 8am and making it when I feel up for it. Realizing that I have next-to-no threshold these days: stressful or challenging situations I would have easily been able to handle in the past are now overwhelming; even the small stuff. Canceling things last minute that I had planned even months earlier because I just don’t have the energy to do it. I have always been 100% committed and never used to back out of anything, especially last minute. I have to be okay with saying “no,” and often, when all I used to say is “yes.”

These things are all part of self-care. Though I preach it often to my clients, I am continually learning it first-hand. It’s not selfish, I’m not being rude when I say “no,” I’m not a “flake.” I am still me: dedicated, passionate, compassionate, thoughtful, self-less. The circumstances have changed, and so have my priorities. That’s all.

I often open up books with positive affirmations, opening to a random page each day for something inspiring. Not long ago I found this one (and modified it with the parenthetical note) :

I know and trust that though I have many challenges and unanswered questions right now, they will not last. Even those with a longer life-span (even if there are life-long ones) will fade into the background of my life. My brain will heal to the best of its ability, my body will heal from multiple eating disorders and traumas. I will not go back to being the old me, because that is not who I am today. Rather, I will acknowledge the things I have been through (both challenges and accomplishments), and those things that have not yet happened, and use them to grow, but it’s letting go of the past, realizing the present, and being open to the future that are key.

Whether you’re challenged with negative body image, an eating disorder, PTSD, depression, a TBI, anxiety, a chronic illness, etc. these lessons apply to you, too. Remember that this too shall pass, even if it seems like it never will. Acknowledge it, accept it, but don’t settle for it. There is always opportunity for greatness. I’ve seen this in my practice over and over again, where a doctor has told a client of mine that this is as good as it’s going to get. But lo and behold, they drastically improve! Keep searching, keep aiming higher, and don’t give up, but don’t discredit what you are feeling today. It is all valuable.

So take it one day at a time with me, won’t you? Remember, it’s okay not to be okay, but know that you really ARE okay, and WILL be okay again.

Much love ❤

How strong is that little voice inside your head?

You know, that little voice that always tells you, “You’re not ____ enough.”

Fill in the blank with pretty, smart, strong, thin, wealthy…..the list is extensive.

Really think about how you speak to and about yourself, both silently and aloud. This includes your body, your looks, your relationship or work status, or any other aspect of your life. Sometimes we can feel great about one or more aspects of ourselves and our lives, but then we come to “the one” for which we only have negative words, thoughts and behaviors.brain2

I used to be completely guilty of negative self-talk. I used to call myself, especially my legs, “fat,” even though I was underweight with one eating disorder or another. Then, when my hormones got really out of balance, only to be followed by a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that really turned my world upside down,  I would say that I and my body are f’d up, screwed up, messed up, or something similar.

One day I made a conscious decision. I was not “fat.” I am f’ing AWESOME! My legs are STRONG (hey, I have leg pressed 585 lbs in my peak!) and they get me everywhere I want to go, even if they are short! I started using this new positive language about myself, and lo and behold, my attitude really changed for the better. I have been happier and am able to help uplift others because I accept myself and my body, as it is, right in this very moment. Even the days when my body is stiff or hurts, I lose my balance in a one-legged yoga posture, or just am tired, I am grateful for the resilience my body has and all that it does for me. I am not separate from it. My body is ME, just as my mind is ME. They both, along with my spirituality, make me the complete, complex human being that I am. Not to mention all my little quirks thrown in there, too! 🙂

Problem was, even though I know I’m awesome, I still spoke about my body as being messed up, in regards to my current healing process. Then, only about 6 weeks ago, I decided to change how I spoke to and about myself.

Lying in bed one morning, I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh! No wonder my body is having a hard time. I keep putting it down!” and decided right then and there to no longer talk about my brain or my hormones (or any of my other challenges) as being f’d up, screwed up or messed up. Instead, I now encourage my body and appreciate it for doing what it can, given what it has to work with. I have told it that I’m seeking as much support as I can, and trying to get more answers so I can give it more of what it needs to heal and thrive. The more love and compassion I show toward myself, not only in my thoughts and words, but especially my actions, the more willing my body (including my brain) are going to try to work with me, as opposed to fighting me.

Have you ever yelled in anger at a friend, loved one or co-worker, and then later needed to ask for their help? How willing were they to help you? Not very (usually). Same goes for your body. Talk down or negatively to or about it, and it won’t be so willing to help you out. Why should it, if it’s not appreciated and surrounded by negativity, anger and frustration?

This is your opportunity to make the conscious decision to change, RIGHT NOW, how you speak, think and act toward every aspect of Yourself. Fighting with yourself takes a lot of energy. Why not play on the same team and win the game with ease (with some help from others, as needed, of course!)? Think of it like one of those Chinese finger traps. The more you pull and struggle, the tighter it gets. If you relax, it lets go and you can take your fingers out.

I could go on and on with analogies, but I think you get the point: negative self-talk doesn’t help you in any way.

On my way to a friend’s wedding the other week I found this great little book in an airport shop titled, “Love Who You Are” by M.H. Clark. Every page spoke to me with its positive affirmations. I had to buy it, so I did. When I opened it up today, I came across the following quote:

Love the person you are becoming

This really resonated with me because in life, and in any healing process, we change. We change because we decide to change. Of course, things happen to us that are not in our control, too. But we change, regardless. We must love who we have been, who we are, and who we will become. I am always changing, and so are you. But if you want positive change, you must decide to make the effort for positive change. It’s not just about wishing or willing it. You must be proactive, and it all starts with that voice inside your head.

You ARE ________ (fill in the blank) enough! Just as you are. Love it. Be grateful for it, and then decide to BE enough. That doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t change for the better, but you have to love who you are first to then show the world how f’ing awesome you are, too!

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Until next time….Love your amazing Self!