Unwrap

There’s going to be a lot of unwrapping taking place soon. Growing up I would anticipate hearing a BOOMING “HO HO HO” each Christmas morning. Admittedly, I had a little fear. My sisters and I would race to the living room to see what gifts were left. There’d be one gift we never unwrapped (given by the man in red). As we near the end of a year we’ll never forget (or wish to forget) and the Christmas season, I’ve been doing some unwrapping of my own.

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Have you unwrapped yourself? Are you just breathing? Are your dreams and soul slowly dying due to despair or toxic ruminating thoughts that can’t be overcome? Does your life revolve around the screen of a small device~no thinking, no planning, no dreaming…just scrolling, observing, judging, and wondering? I’ve been there.

It’s taken me years to unwrap some of the ties that have bound me (spiritually, mentally, and physically). Physicians have “unwrapped” my physical package of brain injury, mild cognitive impairment, diabetes, spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, gene mutation (w/blood disorder), severe osteoporosis, arthritis, and let’s throw in I’ve been blonde most of these years (a gift by choice ๐Ÿ˜‰).

I allowed these diagnosed conclusions to dictate my own healing-even suffering from our own healthcare crisis in this country that wanted to provide me the “gift” of healing-if only I paid. To those that have suffered loss in this pandemic-my prayers and condolences. To those who have lost anyone they love, my heart goes to you. To those who suffer daily with lack of food, shelter, clothing, and love-I see you, I pray for you. I’ve seen miracles, even in my own family, due to the gifts and talents of wonderful and caring doctors that do exist. But I was solely leaning on the filters of each individual expert to guide my existence. I won’t be hard on them. Each doctor has been wonderful. They might fix what is wrong at the moment, but they can’t maintain my own health. I’m going to be harder on myself. Not because I don’t love myself. It’s the exact opposite. I’ve taken my healing into my own hands. And to do this it had to start deep inside me~a soul healing had to occur first. I loosened and dropped the ropes of rejection, religion, rebellion, regret, regurgitation, reaction, resentment, rhetoric, and retaliation. Although, without all the tension I’ve placed on my soul strings, my best music may have never been produced.

Through the unwrapping of solutions (that just make common sense) I’m on a better journey to doing the things I used to do. There will still be pain. But I can manage it for now. Here are the gifts I give myself daily:

  • Morning meditation and quiet time with God (now and until the end of time I will start this way). It’s during this time I pray and greet gratitude. Typically my neck and back hurt very badly first thing, so it’s essential I begin the day “gracefully”.
  • Stretching -my back, my neck, and my mind (I love learning something new each day). I have a stretching routine that I follow each day-from floor to upright. It feels so good when I’m standing to even reach my hands as far behind my back as possible with thumbs up.
  • Exercise-even if minimal. I know that my heart needs to function at it’s best level. And by taking care of myself my heart can help others. My muscles need memory and strength (if you’re suffering from elbow and hand pain I’d suggest you pull back all fingers (no thumb) in a small and loving stretch 3-4 times a day).
  • Good nutrition-I’ve fallen off the wagon here lately. Don’t we all feel awful when we’re putting garbage in? My digestive system thanks me (as does my endocrine system) by eating clean and healthy.
  • Posture-this has been the number one thing that hindered my healing for a while. Not anymore! If I sit, I have a pillow on my lower back to make me “sit up straight” (remember when our Mom’s said, “sit up straight?” Sitting is a tragic thing for me if done too long. It’s a tricky balance for me. Some positions hurt standing and others sitting. Just mix it up! TIP: when standing put your hands behind your back. It forces the neck back instead of leaning forward. According to my chiropractor the number of “tech neck” issues will continue to skyrocket (and our kids have futures of bad necks if we don’t address it now).
  • Limiting my time on social media. I have a timer set for Instagram. By 8:30-9:00 p.m. I will have placed all technology down (or wear my blublockers to read on Kindle sometimes-oops :-). I haven’t been on FB in two and 1/2 years and I don’t miss it. I’m so thankful that those that love me find other ways to keep me in the loop.
  • Deep breathing-typically I will practice breathing activities throughout the day (inhale slowly 8 seconds, hold it 8, and release slowly 8 seconds-it can vary based on your own abilities).
  • Laughter-they say it’s the best medicine. Winter and the stress of moving out of my R.V. has tried to hinder this exercise. I’ve learned through all my experiences that finding a way to laugh is healing. I’ve even laughed through tears.

My prayer is that you’re giving yourself gifts of good health (in all ways). You deserve it! Do what you know you must to maintain your health and spirit. Christmas season is not joyful for everyone. It can be a season of sadness; which can make physical pain worse. Reach out for support if you need. Put down the burden you’re carrying for others. Set boundaries for yourself to empower YOUR growth and health. If you continue to deplete your emotional, mental, and physical energy on things that don’t align with your values you may regress and worse, stop growing and healing. Be kind to yourself.

Unwrap yourself. Take a peek inside. Oh what a gift you are!

Have faith ๐Ÿ’š

Afterword

I’ve missed writing. Writing is like breathing to me. I’ve missed reading your posts. I’m beginning a new transition that has taken me some time (and patience). As I stand here writing (I found an awesome stand-up desk from Amazon๐Ÿ˜‰) it dawned on me this is my last Saturday in my R.V. Living tiny has taught me many lessons. I don’t need much. Do I desire nice things and comfort? Absolutely. But I have found the less clutter around me, the less clutter in my head and heart. And what’s left after the clutter is gone is what really matters. When I began blogging at the beginning of the year, while approaching 50, I knew this year would be a game changer. It’s turned out to be a game changer for the world. Goals shift. Life changes. Embrace the simplicity you wish to create to fulfill the journey God has for you. There aren’t wheels under this tiny home I’ve dreamt about for two years (that’s ok; my car has wheels and there are planes to visit my kids and grandkids). But there’s a foundation. Although houses come and go, this footing, near family, and my foundation of faith, is stronger than ever.

Oh, and my Dad stills says “Ho Ho Ho”.

“You look fine”

How would you define trauma?

Oxford states it’s “1) a deeply distressing or disturbing experience and 2) physical injury.” We could all agree that experiencing trauma is part of our existence. For some it’s due to accidents. Sometimes our trauma may be “self-inflicting”. Perhaps you, (like me), made a choice that caused distress and trauma during certain times of your life.

If you read my essay, “Shake it Off”, you might remember I took a few hits on the head. But today I want to share the physical, emotional, and psychological impacts resulting from a brain injury.

A trip to the E.R over five years ago, after a moment of unconsciousness, was the beginning of what I call my “assessment” period. As an educator, I had been THE tester~THE one who evaluates. It was my job to teach the kids exactly where they were. I never expected them to perform to standards that just weren’t possible for their development. Or for all of the students to grow at the same rate. Small people had to succumb to hours of questions and prodding of their little minds. Schools today still expect kids to read, write, solve problems, socialize with others, eat, follow norms, and even pick their nose on GRADE LEVEL. Yep, everything is judged on what is “expected” for a child’s “date of manufacture”. Don’t get me wrong~national standardization has its place at times, but it’s NOT the ONE indicator for success. I need to not digress into schools and assessments. Oh boy. Rant over. Now where was I?

What do you call “grade level” for a 45 year old? My brain, at approximately 3 lbs, would hopefully be completely normal and functioning CLOSE to what’s expected at middle age. I do know a “child’s brain forms more than 1 million new neural connections every second”. Also, “our brain changes more than any other part of our body.” (medicalnewstoday.com, 2017). Surely, I’m still forming tons of connections.

Evaluations revealed the brain injury~and lack of oxygen at times~decided to leave its mark. It was in the form of memory loss, depth perception/balance (physical), and processing speed. I’m not going to tell you what the official IQ score was…..I don’t care. Anymore.

The testing documents, every da*$ hospital bill, the tear stains on past school contracts, the diagnostic evaluation, speech/physical therapy notes, and many other paper reminders, including divorce papers and other “here I go again” papers DO NOT MEASURE MY WORTH OR SUCCESS. ๐Ÿค

The most odd revelation to appear during what I call, the “rounding of my records” was a gene mutation diagnosis. Its name is so fitting~MTHFR mutation-and I pronounce it just as it looks. It has been the center of my health “target” that is riddled with darts. For those that know what this is~or worse, deal with its outcomes~you’re probably aware that the same characteristics, at times, can mirror the same symptoms of a T.B.I. Its impact on the blood resulted in my anemia. This, along with the TBI from a wreck ( & arthritis, neck injury) and diabetes, created a “trio of trauma”. It was armed with boxing gloves that landed several left hooks. You’d think I’d just lay on the floor for the count. After a few knock-outs, it might be the wisest thing to do. There was one time I didn’t think I’d get up~I didn’t even want to. But I refuse to stay down or just exit the ring altogether.

Are you like me?

Through all of these injuries and the lasting effects, I cling tight to my faith. When I throw on my flannel shirt and take a hike, I know the risks. My friends know sometimes I need a hand. If you REALLY know me, you’ll know that I crave alone and quiet time, and that by 6 p.m., I experience brain fatigue, too much background noise (unless it’s music) disrupts me, I experience frequent headaches and dizziness, I lose things all the time, I forget to take my supplements or even eat, I’ll lose my train of thought when speaking, my face has a funny look when I’m trying to process things so it appears I’m “overthinking” (which I used to do all the time anyway), I prefer physical exhaustion (as long as I’m protecting injuries) over mental exhaustion, my moods can swing, I don’t always make sound decisions if overwhelmed~I might be faster than you up a mountain, but I’ll take my time if you pose a question or need me to think about something, and I have to have a routine~the simpler, the better (isn’t that for all of us?). I can become so frustrated with myself!

Some of you reading this may think all of this is just the aging process. And that is a true statement. With that in mind, what will YOU DO to preserve the sound mind you have? How will you nourish your mind and body with good nutrition? In what ways will you add peace and simplicity to your life? How can you protect yourself from injury while still enjoying the risks of living life to the fullest?

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Recently, I bumped into a friend from my school days. The first thing she said to me was, “You look great!” (how kind~she had no idea I was struggling that day). She shared a story about me that I had completely forgotten. At first, I thought it was about someone else. Tears came to my eyes~and to her’s. For a moment, I traveled to the exact spot she shared and pictured myself in that scene with her. It was overwhelming.

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All of us have struggles. This post has taken more than three hours. I had to find my “health folder” to even remember specifics. Brain fog has set in because of the weather. My neck hurts from sitting; although I have stretched many times. But I know someone will read this. SOMEONE WILL and I pray it helps you in some way.

If you suffer from an “invisible disease” here are a few bullets that help my daily game plan. Not to sound judgy, but these are “no-brainers”. ๐Ÿ˜

  • REST-is #1 for all of us
  • Morning Meditation-beginning my day with truth and peace
  • Get out~nature is my best medicine (depression, anxiety, and wanting to “isolate” are common. We need quiet and alone time~but don’t isolate yourself from healthy gatherings and sunlight which we ALL NEED)
  • Listen to music, color, and learn something new (I didn’t know I could play a few more instruments, knit, create things, etc….our brains need to learn daily!)
  • Avoid too many processed foods/carbohydrates
  • Hydrate (I’m trying to get better at this)
  • Enjoy small meals and healthy snacks (Walnuts are a great brain food)
  • Relish in your routine~just don’t forget to explore and have days where you can just be “free to fly” when you need!
  • Be honest with people in your limitations~if you can’t do it, it’s OK.
  • Avoid stress (seriously? This could be a year of blogging ideas….)
  • Smile and laugh as often as possible
  • Keep a journal to record thoughts and feelings
  • Use your phone to set timers and reminders
  • Ask for help
  • Make lists ( I love crossing off the things I accomplish~Just don’t try to eat the whole elephant in one day. ๐Ÿ™‚

Even if you look “fine”, you may be struggling. Those that love you should understand and be happy to assist. It can be awkward for those closest to you to fully understand your situation. Encourage your friends and loved ones to learn along with you. If you saw a loved one using a cane, wouldn’t you automatically assist? We assume, if the injury can’t be “seen” that all is well. Give grace and be a learner. Pay attention to others who may look “just fine”, but suffer inside. You may be the only Jesus they ever know.

Have faith.๐Ÿ’š

The most comfort I receive is when I “rest” in the loving and peaceful spirit of Christ. I imagine myself crawling onto his lap and experiencing his hugs of grace and compassion. In HIS eyes, I’m healed and I look just fine. And I am…….just fine.

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๐Ÿ“ฃIf you have a loved one suffering from a brain injury here is a great link. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cfglaw.co.uk/blog/brain-injury-brooke/10-things-you-should-never-say-to-a-person-with-a-brain-injury%3fhs_amp=true