Life After Brain Surgery

A week ago my family was all meeting up at a parking garage outside of University of Maryland Medical Center Baltimore, gathering our belongings necessary for the long day ahead, and rushing inside to get to where I needed to be by my 5:30 appt time. Sadly, the hospital sent us on a long run around until we finally landed right where we needed to be, but we got there. Tension was high among the group, of course. The nervousness in the air; palpable.

I was asked if I was ready, more times than a few. How do you answer that? How are you ever ready to risk leaving your family behind? How are you ever ready to risk not coming back to them the same as you left them? So I lied. I was ready, yes. I lied and said I was fine. I lied and said I was going to be okay. I was petrified.

Questions began, IV was started, prepping was moving at the speed of light, but I was still stuck. Lingering, waiting for my entire family to hug me all at once. What would be my last thing to say to each one of them? How do you decide that? You cannot scare the kids, Kristen. You cannot upset your sisters, Kris. And my God, don’t let my parents feel my fear.

Last night I was asked what I felt in those moments. What was it that I told myself to help me get through it and make the final decision to go through with it.

The answer is my life. I wanted my life back. The vibrant, exuberant, fly by the seat of her pants girl was gone. She was replaced long ago by a zombie of a woman that was barely surviving this world. She could no longer head out on grand adventures, planned or otherwise. She spent her days hardly able to make it up and down the stairs let alone to a school event with homemade brownies.

She couldn’t make it to concerts with her sisters anymore. She had to cancel plans with friends more times than a few. She couldn’t get outside and run around with her two sons anymore. Life as she knew it ceased to exist.

But this morning. 7 days after the scariest decision of her life, that girl woke up at 5 am without an alarm clock, went downstairs without a single creaking or aching bone (stairs are a different story), and made herself a cup of coffee. Do you realize how long it has been since that has happened? I won’t count the nights where sleep never happened and I got up at 5 to start a day after a night of no rest. I’m talking actually slept for hours, woke up, went down, and made my own damn coffee??

Let’s ask my little baristas when they wake. I bet ya it’s been a while.

Good morning, world. It’s good to be back.

Monday Morning Ready!

Good morning all. I know it’s been a while since I posted anything or read any blogs. My health has been my primary focus lately. Brain surgery in 23 days!! But, while I’ve been basically bedridden, I have been doing a lot of thinking.

I have a million ideas for projects, community involvement, books I want to write, and opinion pieces I want to write. However, my brain is total mush!

Any suggestions for organizing my thoughts and getting these projects underway? đŸ¤”

Reflections

While exploring WordPress, I came across a lovely blog, Rigpa, and blogger by the name of Mitesh Jain. I found this questionnaire and wanted to answer the questions and share with all of you so that you may do the same. I felt that the questions allow us the opportunity to reflect on our pasts and look towards our futures. It’s a great way to determine what we treasure and where we can improve.

You can find the original post here: Knowing Inner Self

This questionnaire’s objective is to provide insight and understanding self.

  1. If life stopped today, what would you regret not doing?

If my life stopped today, I would regret not telling people how I truly feel about them. This goes for the people I love and the people that have wronged me. Some times, it does feel like I’ve let too much slip by in life without insisting on an apology. I just forgive without one. That is a major regret for me.

2. What does your ideal day look like?

My ideal day would be waking up feeling rested (hard to do with fibromyalgia), enjoying coffee on the patio with a slight breeze blowing. My day would include laughs and giggles with my children. Enjoying yummy meals and fun activities throughout the day without the worry of my regular daily stress.

3. What excites you?

I get excited when things seem to be falling in place for me or someone I love. I enjoy seeing other people reach their goals and I hope that my positive energy will bring good things my way.

4. What do you wish you did more of?

I wish I would spend more time working on my novel. I know that I have a great story to tell that will touch the lives of many people. Unfortunately, writing it becomes painful for me because it is based on my own experiences. So, I stop writing for a while.

5. What area of your life, right now, makes you feel the best? Which area makes you feel the worst? Why?

Best: I feel the best about graduating from college with honors and choosing to continue my education. I am currently enrolled in graduate school and I am proud of my determination and perseverance.

Worst: I wish I was working and using my degree. I have the desire to start my career helping those with behavioral health issues. Currently, I feel that I am of no use to the world or the greater good.

6. Who would you love to meet? What would you ask?

I would love to meet (although he’s deceased) Sigmund Freud. He is an idol of mine in the field of psychology. What I would most like to discuss are actually the areas of his theories that I oppose or have been proven incorrect after years of psychological studies.

7. Imagine you’re in your 70’s, what memories would you like to have? What stories do you want to tell?

When I’m in my 70’s I would like to be able to tell my grandchildren stories about their parents as they grew up. I would like to pass on the wisdom I have gained through the years in hopes that they will avoid making poor decisions, yet always reach for their goals no matter how many obstacles stand in their way.

8. What did you want to be when you were younger?

When I was younger I always wanted to be a lawyer, then wanted to be a veterinarian. As I’ve grown, both passions are still high on my list. As a professional in the field of psychology, I intend to fight for policy change as it impacts mental health access in our country as well as the socioeconomic issues that impact behavioral health in our children in this country. I also intend to have a farm where I will practice animal assisted therapies with my clients.

9. If you could travel for free to one place, which would that be?

I would want to travel all over Europe. There is no way I could choose just one particular location. I want to experience Ireland, Poland, Spain, Italy, England, France, etc.

10. When was the last time you did something you love doing?

I write every day. That is what I love and that is what I will continue to do as long as I am able.

11. When was the last time you tried something for the first time?

About a year ago I took my children to Luray Caverns in Luray, VA. We explored one of the country’s most beautiful natural wonders. It was an amazing experience with my children.

12. What habit would you like to create?

I would like to start running again. As a child and teen (even early 20s) I was very active and athletic. Time and disease have taken their toll on my body. I would like to begin to push through the pain and force myself to get back into running. I was always such a peaceful and mind clearing experience and I want to get back to that.

13. With whom do you want to spend most of your time?

Of course, I always enjoy spending time with my children. But lately I have been wanting to spend a lot of time alone with my thoughts. It is helping me to figure out how to heal from my past and plan for my future.

14. What piece of advice would you give to five years old you? Fifteen years old you? Twenty years old you? Right now?

Five year old: Listen to your parents, always. They may seem mean but it’s only because they love you. I know you don’t want to move away from life in the city, but you are going to love living on a farm! Trust me!

Fifteen year old: Slow down, girl! Appreciate every moment with the people you love. And don’t trust that lying boyfriend your brother warned you about! He’s going to cheat on you.

Twenty year old: I know life is tough right now. Being a young, single mother is going to always be hard. But you will reach your goals one day. I promise you!

15. How do you want to be remembered in life?

I want to be remembered as a compassionate person with a good heart. I want to be remembered as a great friend that was always there when others needed me. I want my passion in life to be passed on to my children and I want them to say, “I get it from my Momma”.

I hope you take the opportunity to sit and answer these questions yourself. If you do, please tag me in your post so that I can see your answers as well. Let’s all reflect on our lives and share in the possibilities of wonderful futures!

~Kristen

Story Time: Grab a Seat 

Hi everyone. I would like to share my story with you. Some may call it bragging. But some may be inspired. Here goes nothing. 

At 17, I found out I was pregnant. Wow! I never expected to be a statistic. I never intended to let down my parents, embarrass my siblings, or shame my family. But there I was, barely attending school as it is was due to rebellious teenage ways, and pregnant. When I went to the guidance counselor in April of my senior year, he informed me that I could not come back and finish out the year. I would have to go back in September and complete another year. Due to give birth September 14th, I knew that wouldn’t work. So I took my fate and focused on getting ready to have a baby. 

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September came, and my world changed. On the day when the world mourned the lives lost in the terror attacks in NY, DC, and PA, I became a mom to a beautiful little girl. Boy did I have to grow up fast! A year after her birth, I took my father up on the offer to pay for the GED test. I passed with no problems. I wasn’t stupid, not by any stretch of the imagination. I was a teen who rebelled against tough times and tough authority and made poor choices in the process. But stupid, I was not. 

A few months after getting my diploma, I started community college. I did amazingly well! But a few semesters in, I was raising my little girl alone and work became priority. I had to stop attending college. 

And then, 4 and a half years after my first child, I gave birth to a chunky little boy! But a few months after his birth, I found that I still had not learned my lesson about men and bad choices. His donor was a drug addict who abused me and threatened to kill him. But I was strong enough to know that I needed to get far, far away. I did. I also enrolled in college again and continued working on my degree. 

17 months after chunky monkey was born, I gave birth to another son. His dad and I did all we could to raise all 3 kids in a happy, healthy environment. But we were young and it didn’t last. We currently co-parent. And it works for us. As has the co-parenting with my daughter’s father (mostly). Don’t worry, chunky monkey knows his background, and he loves the dad that has been and continues to raise him. 

5 years ago, when the boy’s dad and I split, I lived in my sister’s attic. 3 kids, me, and what personal belongings we could fit, spent a year living in my sister’s loft style, finished attic. Though it was cramped, we had love. I had the support of my sister and her strength to learn from. 

All was going fine. I was able to get my own place about a year later and began building a life for my kids. I decided that finishing my degree would be the only way to do that. Considering I was raising 3 kids and working full time, online college would be the best option. 

So I researched different schools, applied to a few, and determined which university would best fit my life and my long term goals. I chose my university and got started. Many people said I would never finish. That I would drop out just like I have in the past. 

Well I didn’t. I pushed myself through days without sleep, nights of research and discussion posts, and weekends of fine tuning academic papers. I was determined by the pride I saw in my children’s eyes. I was motivated by their wishes for a bigger house with a private yard. I worked my brain to the point of exhaustion. My body ran on coffee and dreams! 
This past weekend, our dreams became a solidified reality. The first step towards the life we want was recognized. With my family there, I walked the stage at my commencement ceremony. Not only did I finally earn my bachelor’s degree, I earned it with honors. Out of 271 bachelor’s candidates, only 12 earned honors recognition. I was one of those 12. I earned my BS in Psychology with a 3.97 GPA. 

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I know my family was proud to see that up on the big screen. But I had no idea that the emotions my children felt were so strong until after the ceremony. When I exited the building and searched for their faces through the crowd, I became discouraged when I didn’t see them exit. I began to walk to find them when my Dad found me in the crowd. He informed me that everyone was waiting out back for me and to hurry!  

As I turned the corner, my children ran to me with open arms and tears streaming down their beautiful faces. My Dad was able to snap a few candid moments. Here is my favorite. 

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Nothing was more powerful than those moments when my children held me tight, crying, and offering up their congratulations. They stated how proud they were and how happy they were to see me on that stage. I still cannot look at the pictures without crying. I told everyone I would finish this time. And I did it! With honors. 

~Kristen