I believe Life is prone to throw a lesson at you until you learn that lesson. And even then, there are refresher courses to keep your skill-set up-to-date. The circumstances and details of the lesson differ to keep things interesting, but the take-away message is always the same until you finally learn that lesson.
For most of my life, I was an indisputable expert at Forcing Things. I was a force to behold. I had a ferocity and will that could plow people down and obtain advanced degrees and build up resumes and room-parent four classrooms when I only have two children (true story). After failed relationships and periods of malcontent and high anxiety and general displeasure, I finally learned to let go and be still. I finally learned not to force things. I finally learned to accept things for what they are, and Just Be. I finally learned how to let things unfold at a pace and trajectory out of my control.
Or so I thought. I had no idea I needed continuing education credits to maintain my licensure of Life. But apparently I did. The flying trapeze changed my life in so many ways. It was a wonderful opportunity to practice trusting others, of listening to my gut and stop living in my head, of doing hard things, of being scared and brave, of pushing myself, of believing in myself. It was so glorious.
Then it changed my life again when I overcompensated on a dismount, and landed on my head. It has been over 20 months, and I have not been the same. I have spent more hours than I can count seeking medical care and have spent thousands upon thousands of dollars trying to get my old life and brain back. I have not been able to run or strength train. I have not been able to swim or bike. I have not been able to think or sleep or write or remember like I used to.
I am realizing there are more lessons to learn from this drawn-out process borne out of one moment in time, one impact. I am reminded I cannot force things. I need to ebb and flow and wax and wane and just accept. Two neurologists and an internist have recently decided that this hindsight has allowed them to see what I am suffering with now is a chronic condition. I have post-traumatic migraines. They’ve essentially realized I have chronic migraines due to the fall. They now agree I never fully recovered.
This diagnosis creates a new perspective for me. Before, the doctors and I saw each episode of mysterious and debilitating symptoms as stand-alone and separate entities. My goal was to recover from that one episode. Each time. And each time, I would eventually have some good days, and I thought I had “recovered.” And when the slow descent into symptoms would inevitably come rolling in like the heavy fog rolls in slowly and gracefully into the San Francisco Bay, I would be in denial. I did not want yet another episode. Maybe I was so fatigued because I was burning the candle from both ends? Maybe I just need to be more careful with details. Maybe tomorrow this will all just go away.
I would let the symptoms worsen until I literally could not function anymore. I would eventually end up in the ER or in another doctor’s office. I refused to accept that these symptoms were returning. When the truth was inevitable, I tried to force a recovery from each episode. I wanted to get better and put it behind me. I had a life to live, after all!
Now I see this process as floating on the ocean. Waves will come and go. Fighting them only exhausts me and I risk drowning. But I can ride the waves, allow what will happen to happen. And by recognizing this, I can intervene with medications at the first sign of symptoms so that it is not so debilitating. I know now that the consistent red flag is when I cannot write. It all goes downhill from there.
I don’t know how this will turn out in the end–it’s too soon to tell (oooh, the cruel irony that it has taken me 20 months to say it’s too soon). I do know I was trying to force things, and it was exhausting. I do know I am glad I never had the urge to run away and join the circus because I’d be out on disability quickly. I do know that not fighting things is a very peaceful place to be. I do know that the trapeze has become quite the headache for me.