There once was a girl so convinced she could take on anything that she attempted to take on the whole world. She was a classic workaholic who defined herself by her productivity, and accomplishments. She often put other's needs above her own and wasn't good at loving herself. Not even 3 world titles could make her feel validated in her existence. A part of her felt like a fraud when people talked about how great she was, but she could never really figure out why. She would later learn that this was a typical response after childhood trauma, but at the time she was blissfully unaware that this was even an issue in her life. Her overachieving nature was all she knew. She convinced herself that if she was channeling her intensity into positive things it was OK. She rarely took time off without her "To-Do" list.
Mid 2016 - 2017 she kept up a high pace despite getting many hard bumps on the head. She never slowed down long enough to listen to the warning signs. She was too busy acting like she was OK while trying to accomplish more goals. That's the problem with living in the fast lane, you usually don't slow down long enough to change the tires before they blow out on you. The universe eventually had no choice but to hit her so hard that she had no choice but to stop and listen. Her whole world came crashing down.
One night in sparring she began seeing double. She knew at that moment her martial arts career was over. She couldn't even do 1 more fight. She'd have to call it off at the last minute.
This was extremely hard for her to do, but she had no choice. She felt heartbroken. She cried for weeks and deleted her social media because she couldn't handle the questions or comments. She felt her reputation was crumbling, but she wasn't well enough to explain herself or face it.
She couldn't have even imagined at the time that months later post-concussion syndrome would set in and she would no longer even be able to do her job.
One of the hardest things with a head injury, for me anyway, is that there are moments where you feel somewhat well and there's a guilt that comes with that. It was tough to admit to myself how much damage I had done to my brain. It felt nearly impossible to lay in bed all day and rest without feeling guilty for not working. It's like a part of myself failed to admit that I was hurt. I had days where I could be somewhat busy, but I would pay for it later with a 3-day brain fog or headache.
It seems silly looking back, but that's the best way I can describe it. I wasn't well by any means, but I always thought that I should be, or felt like I should be trying harder. It was nearly impossible to admit to myself that I had an actual disability.
For months I was trying to maintain a somewhat normal life. I believe this prolonged my healing process. Your brain needs kindness/time to heal, and I was feeding it quite a bit of guilt every day while trying to make it do too much.
Goodbye Job, Martial Arts, and Sanity
Hello Darkness, Depression, and Anxiety
In September 2017 Post-concussion syndrome caused anxiety and panic to set in without warning at random points throughout her day. This devastated her. The one person she was always able to count on was herself, and now she had lost that. She could no longer trust herself to stay true to her word or complete needed tasks. Her brain became unpredictable and out of her control.
People she thought she could depend on quickly vanished, while people she didn't know cared so much proved to stick by her through her darkest times. It came across as rude to people if she would walk away when they were in the middle of a speech or if she canceled on them, but she didn't have the brain capacity to explain it properly. She felt discarded for no longer being useful or for being a burden, and she was constantly blaming herself.
She spent many months in the darkness alone with her thoughts, which had completely turned on her. A voice was now there that had never been there before. Telling her death would be better than living. It never felt like her voice, she told herself it was just the injury talking. It took her well over a year to make that voice completely go away. She hid it as best as she could, but anytime she walked into a doctor's office she had a meltdown. She fell apart at unpredictable moments. She felt her life was over at the age of 33.
Her so-called "stable secure job" with medical insurance failed her and proved to be a false sense of security. Not only did they deny her any medical payments, they verbally attacked her, lied about receiving medical documents and failed to respond to her emails on various occasions. It would take her days to get up the courage to phone them as she knew their screaming and accusations would send her poor bruised brain into a 3-day panic attack.
Stress is the worst thing for a traumatic brain injury, she felt like they were keeping her sick on purpose. To use their words, "Her injury was invisible, so why should they believe her? If she could be doing yoga she could be teaching a class full of teenagers?". She felt like the whole universe was against her. She vowed never to depend on an insurance company again. On a positive note, strangers seemed to show up at the perfect moments to help her through tough situations. They didn't know her so it made it easier for her to fall apart in front of them and accept help.
Her health, body, and financial stability were all lost. She felt alone and helpless. Her complete identity had perished. She very quickly went from being in the best shape of her life with the money for travel and adventures, to gaining 32 Lbs and only being able to pay her bills with credit cards. Her debt got up to over 54 000$.
She went from being one of the toughest girls in the country... to being the girl that had to randomly run out of the gym in tears if the music was too loud. She even had to leave her full cart at the grocery store to run out because the lights were too bright or an announcement on the intercom startled her into tears. She would often have to sit in her car until the panic subsided before she could drive home.
Her only moments of laughter that year was hiking in the mountains with 1 friend at a time. Mother nature felt more healing than any doctor's office. Many had no idea of her struggles. Her social media was filled with hiking pictures where she was happy. She wasn't posting about the 6 days in between those hikes where she was miserable and incapable of much. Long walks were the only exercise her brain could tolerate, and the calmness of nature rarely set off her panic. She couldn't believe she had grown up near the mountains and hardly ever went. They were so beautiful and peaceful. She became obsessed.
She drove in silence for over a year, she missed music, but her brain couldn't handle the stimulation. Every day was different so it was nearly impossible to predict what she was capable of. Some days she nearly felt normal, other days she would have to pull over due to overwhelm, or would burst into tears in an elevator full of strangers for no apparent reason.
Doing any sports or the things she loved became impossible. She even had a severe anxiety attack a dodge ball game and had to drop the ball and run out... AT A DODGEBALL GAME!?!?!?!
She felt so broken. She had no idea who she was or if this damage was permanent. All of the programs her doctors sent her to made her fill out so many forms and answer questions she didn't know how to answer. None of it was helping her, it was only making her feel worse. In desperation, she decided to travel to the other side of the world to escape her past identity while taking a yoga/meditation course.
She wanted to be surrounded by people who didn't know her as being any different and would learn about yoga and meditation. She had many suicidal thoughts that didn't feel like her own, it was like her brain had turned on her when it hit a state of overwhelm and she couldn't control it. She knew she had to do something. She had no money, but she knew if she didn't escape her current reality she wasn't going to make it through. The only time she felt any peace was on her yoga mat, which was ironic because she had always thought yoga was boring before her head injury. Now it would save her.
Off to Nepal, she went in search of healing. She had Ativan for the noisy airport and Hubert to snuggle when she panicked.
It was one of the best decisions she ever made. It would be over a 2-year recovery even after Nepal (she didn't realize that at the time), but Nepal was a very important first step. At this point, she hadn't realized how serious her post-concussion syndrome was, but she knew a trip to a faraway land certainly couldn't hurt.
Next Blog Post Will Be All about my trip to Nepal and how it saved my life.