I titled this post almost a month ago but the words didn't follow.
This morning, a few shared posts on the importance of recognizing the signs of a stroke on my Facebook feed reminded me of one of my greatest worries. Brain injury.
I had no understanding of the words "brain damage" until Dad survived a heart attack, but his brain did not. He stopped breathing and his heart stopped. He was revived after fifteen minutes. But fifteen minutes was too long. The damage was irreversible. We lost the essence of our dad that night even though his body mightily fought on and survived.
You hear of miraculous survival stories. You hear less about those who survived but never lived again.
One of my biggest fears is being held hostage in a body without a fully functional brain.
A head injury caused due to an accident could happen in the blink of an eye. There are illnesses of the brain - Alzeimer's disease, cancer, tumors, stroke and inherited conditions. Not to mention the myriad of other diseases that hold a healthy and vital brain captive inside of a body that gives out.
I don't obsess about my fears but every time my life is touched in some way by someone who is faced with a condition of the brain which is out of their control, my fears seep to the brim of my consciousness again.
My mind wanders as I think of those who are walking that very walk as I type. I simply cannot comprehend what it must feel like to be in their shoes right now. Nor the shoes of the family and friends who are their support system.
I watched "Still Alice" almost a month ago and it was a movie that struck a chord deep inside of myself.
"Alice" knew she had early stage Alzeimer's disease and while she was able, she devised many ways to feel like she had a sense of control over a disease which encroaches on its victim without mercy.
I watched her make a video, talking to herself in the future, at a time when she no longer held onto her own sense of self or memories or ability to function in a fashion she was accustomed to functioning.
I have often joked that I write everything down in case the day comes when I don't know who I am any more. I will be able to sit down and read about who I used to be ...
I have sat on the sidelines of my life, watching and empathizing with those who are waging a war against a brain disorder. Whether it is physical or psychological or a trauma to the brain, it is all so very delicate.
I cannot imagine how it feels when life as you know it spins out of control and you feel powerless to change where you are at.
If I ever become a stranger to myself and lose my way, what would I tell myself?
I would hope I would be kinder to that stranger than I am to the person who I wake up with each morning and live with all day.
Presently I tell the-person-within, that she doesn't do enough, isn't kind enough, doesn't reach out enough, doesn't care enough, doesn't work enough, and simply isn't as good as she is capable of being. She beats herself up over not keeping up appearances - whether it is a spotless and well maintained home or tending to maintaining the body she is presently living in.
In the future, I would like to forgive that person and remind her that she tried enough. She made the effort to be enough and reach out and touch those around her. She did her best and was the best mom she could be at the time, to each one of her children.
I would like to applaud that person for caring less about clean windows and fresh paint and cared more about spending her energy on taking what she needed to give to herself so she had a little bit left over to share with others.
I do not write to prove that I existed. My dirty little secret is that I write just in case I need to remind myself of who I once was.
I need to know that I did my best while I was at my best and that I forgave myself for all the rest.
What I need to tell myself at this very moment in time, is that the parts of your body that need your time and attention are not your hair, nails and feet. It is your overall body. Get out there and move and stretch and flex those muscles.
Sitting here in my computer chair has become my most comfortable place to be. I know I need to get out and use the rest of my muscles so I don't lose what I already have.
I am "Still Colleen" in this very moment and I should be paying more attention to the present than worrying over that which is out of my control.
Colleen, just wake up in the morning and do your best. Your best will change from day to day. But don't neglect your body, mind and soul. Nourish those and the rest will come.
Forgive yourself just a little bit more and talk to your present self the way you would talk to a future "you" who has no idea who you used to be.
My heart aches for those who are walking down a tough and challenging and twisty path right now. I have no idea what are the right things to say or do. I just want to walk beside you and be your friend when you need one.
Our health is everything when we have it. Be kind to yourself today.