Following the shunt insertion surgery, I had to find myself in the world again. As I touched upon in a previous post, I was released from my cognitive and physical therapy programs immediately, but I was not prepared for a return to law school just yet.
I needed to work on myself. Beginning on July 1st and continuing through September 7th, my days were spent in emergency rooms, operating rooms, the ICU, rehabilitation centers and in my house. At all times of the day, I was trapped in my mind and head. In a previous entry, I mentioned that my therapists said my story was reminiscent of Jean-Dominique Bauby and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, it is a fascinating and moving story and I recommend reading the book (or even watching the movie) if you are interested in learning more. Imagine waking up in a hospital after suffering a massive stroke only to find that you can think and reason but you cannot communicate with the outside world. You are now paralyzed. Yet, you can still hear sounds, smell, taste and feel emotion. Essentially, you are a prisoner inside your own body. Bauby was left only with the ability to move his left eye. Blinking was now the way he communicated with the world. Nevertheless, even though his body was immovable, his mind and spirit to think were free.
I too, was locked inside my own body until September 9th. As miraculous as my recovery was, there was still much work to be done.
Now, I know what you are thinking – I obviously recovered because I’m writing about my story . But it wasn’t that simple. As I mentioned above, I had gone over two months without doing anything of any importance and if I wanted to pick up where I had left off and move forward with my life, I would need to put in some serious work. My surgeon and medical staff, while in amazement over what taken place, could not predict what my recovery process would be like, nor could they predict how I would function in everyday life. If they could not make any assessments, you can rest assured that I too had no idea what was in store.
Could I comprehend what I read? Write a brief? Advocate for a position? Sometimes my ambition and drive gets the best of me, so of course I felt the need to start testing myself immediately.
“Immediately” is the key word here.
Not less than a week after getting back from my Rhode Island adventure where I felt I was destined to soon return, I went straight back to working for a law firm. On September 21st, I walked into the office and headed up the stairs. The last time that I was walking up these stairs was on June 26th – the day that I knew I was not okay.
At that point of the summer, my parents were driving me to and from work because of the double vision and in fear that something was not right. However, their fears did not stop me from wanting to work and so they agreed to drive me with an understanding that I would call them if something were wrong. No later than the time I had gotten up the stairs, I got on the phone and called. As I walked up the stairs, I felt extremely dizzy, light headed and queasy. I stopped on the landing halfway up the staircase and leaned up against the window. After mustering up the energy, I slowly climbed the rest of the stairs, sat down and called home – and you know the story from here.
Let’s try this again, shall we? On September 21st, I returned to the office and headed up the stairs. This time, I made it up with no trouble whatsoever and was feeling great. My employers were thrilled to see me back and doing well. I was eager and willing to do whatever task needed to be done, even if it meant standing at the copier machine all day pressing “start” or typing out a word document for an attorney. Over the course of the next three months, my progress improved greatly and I was being assigned more meaningful tasks. With each task that I had completed, I was beaming in confidence and eager to see how I would perform in the classroom.
Life was still moving nonstop for me and I was on the go 24/7 doing some task to help me resume my life as it had left off prior to my diagnosis and surgeries. I’m thrilled I was able to get right back into my life. I wanted it all back immediately and to erase from my memory what had happened to me.
At that point in my life, I did not want to remember any of this but rather, to carry on and move forward with my life. I never stopped to reflect on the severity of the situation; the pain and emotion that I had felt during the previous months; the impact this all had on my family or just what a total roller-coaster ride my life had turned into since May.
Ashley often told me, and still to this day has to remind me, I never took a minute to grieve over what happened to me and express my emotions. Six years removed from my diagnosis and years of battling to get to where I am today, I can look back and realize that at that time, the best way for me to deal with what life had thrown at me was to continue life as nothing ever happened. But hindsight is 20/20. My situation has matured me beyond my years, and I have now learned that there is nothing wrong with that. Nothing in life should be taken for granted. Life is precious and can go by in an instant. I learned. I grew up. But that didn’t mean that I needed to push myself too hard too fast.
For you readers who are undergoing a similar experience, let loose and express yourself. Don’t let it consume you, but it is okay to acknowledge that something bad has happened to you. Do not try to be a hero and pretend that everything is okay if it’s really not. As I said in a previous post, family and friends got me through my battle and you can rest assured that they have your back as well. Trust me.