But for now, I just would like to talk to you from my heart.
First, thank you all for the lovely emails, well wishes and concerns. They are greatly appreciated and they mean a lot to me. I wish you all the very best too.
I have always been upfront and personal with my wonderful cyber friends, but I have struggled as to whether to share my personal struggle these last several months. My husband (feels nice to say that) reminded me that my blog isn't just about design and pretty photos. It is also about my personal insight of life. He reminded me that my readers have their own struggles, and writing about mine may comfort others. I thought about what he said and so I decided to share.
As you know, almost a year ago, I got into a horrible car accident. I was hit by a drunk driver, flipped my car twice, and only a light post saved me from going over the bridge down to the highway below. I walked away with no broken bones, not even a broken finger nail. It happened on my birthday, December 11th ,early evening. I did get a very strong hit to the back of my head with a gallon paint can (it was a full can of course) and that bump set off a chain of problems - both physical and emotional.
Since I came out alive, and I felt so lucky, I didn't pay attention to some signs that all was not really okay. I much later discovered that I was in denial about the effects the accident really had on me. I lost a great amount of sleep due to my pain in my arm and I had a headache everyday, all day long, for over two months right after the accident. After that, I have had many headaches that has kept me in bed many times. I was not use to living in chronic pain and I wasn't dealing with it well at all - but I was in denial about that for quite a while.
I wanted to just get back to "normal" and get on with all the plans I had made for 2008! I had just got engaged, I was moving out of my home, putting inventory aside for my Internet store, finishing up my book, plan a wedding, and so on. I had my whole year planned out and I wasn't about to let some accident keep me from my plans.
I won't bore you with any more details, but what I want to share is that several months after the accident, I felt like something was wrong and I didn't feel myself at all. Not really depression. Not really sad...but just not myself. I cried at the drop of the hat, seemed fearful of losing Randy (in an accident), I became fearful and unreasonably worried when he didn't answer his cell phone on his way home from work (I was sure he was killed or in an accident) and finally, I went to get help with these irrational fears.
I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and I learned that I really wasn't as "okay" as I thought (or hoped I was). PTSD is a condition that I wouldn't wish on anyone. In my case, I would at times panic and freak out while in the car when I thought a car was driving way too close to me. I once pulled over on the side of the road and called Randy in tears because I had experienced road rage from another driver and I was too scared to drive home. While driving, I would have to really study the white lines on the road to convince myself that the driver next to me isn't too close to me. Many times, while Randy drove, I argued that he was too close to a car, going too fast, or just basically scared him with my gasps as a car pulled out of a driveway. I had always thought him to be an excellent driver up till then.
My counselor explained to me that my short temper was anger that I had for my life being so disrupted and living with the chronic pain. I had horrible nightmares that scared Randy to death as I screamed out for help in my sleep. I was not fun to live with. And I felt like I wasn't the same person anymore. I missed my old self and really wanted her back. My counselor explained that a significant life event always, always changes a person's life and there are no exceptions. None.
A part of me was gone and I had to grieve for her absence and then get to know and accept the new me. And during this process, I had to rest, rest, rest. I disconnected myself from most people, friends and others. I didn't feel like myself and I wasn't sure I even liked my new self. I was very forgetful, and got overwhelmed very easily. I stopped my design work late last spring and have had a few other personal issues that I had to deal with since. I have had over 110 doctor's appointments, physical therapy appointments, counseling and MRI's, X-rays and so on since the accident. I really didn't have the time (due to so many doctor appointments) or energy to be the happy, fun, creative person that I felt that others expected from me. And I didn't want to let others in my life at that time because I was afraid I would disappoint them and their expectations of me.
The blow to my head from the paint can caused some visual issues, headaches, and slight abnormal "spikes" in my brain during several EEG tests. These spikes were never clear as to what was going on except perhaps slight seizures. The doctors feel that I was experiencing post-concussion symptoms. Well, at least that explains why I didn't feel like myself. And the counseling helped in that I no longer felt like I was going crazy, that everything I was going through was a "normal" reaction. My reaction was delayed, as explained to me, because I was in denial and I was so busy feeling grateful to be alive and in one piece. It wasn't until after the holidays and several busy projects did I slow down enough to let it sink in how close I came to losing my life, the pain I was in, and the emotional turmoil of survivor's guilt. Not less than a week after my accident, a friend called to tell me that her young son-in -law-to-be just lost both his parents in a car accident...why did I survive and they didn't? He is to be married soon and neither of his parents will be there. It seems unfair and that feeling of guilt, grieving, anger, and fear are all part of having PTSD. And feeling those emotions just simply made me want to be alone, rest, and not be pulled in so many directions from so many different people.
So, if you have read this posting this far, I would like to reward you with it ending on a very good note and lessons learned. As I stated earlier, my counselor said I would never be quite the same again, and as much as I fought it, she is right. How am I different? Well, to my much dissatisfaction, I can't do as much as I use to and I am slower at getting things done and can really only do one thing at a time now. I don't like this one bit. But as my husband reminds me, most people do only one thing at a time. Another thing I am not too happy about is I sleep a lot more now. By that, I mean, I sleep 8 - 9 hours now, instead of only 4 or 5. Never mind that sleeping 8 hours is healthy, but it cuts into my work time, which means I get much, much less accomplished in one day. I don't like feeling so unproductive.
But, there are other things about the new me that I do enjoy. I no longer allow myself to be pulled like a piece of taffy in so many directions by so many people. I also find myself doing things (or not) that best serve my needs instead of always trying to meet other people's needs, wants, or expectations. That was a very hard thing for me to accept. It felt selfish and self-centered, but with time, I learned that it is a healthier way to live. And finally, one thing I like about my new self, that I really, really hated at first, is I am truly living my life without guilt or apology for not doing "it all". I let myself be convinced that I "should be doing this" or "should be doing that" and if I don't, I will fail others, my talent will be wasted, and I will let others down. I no longer feel guilty about not living up to the expectations of others. The only expectation I hope to meet is what God has planned for me and my life. I hope my life's path is truly the path He wants me on. And what is that path? I will have to wait and see.
So, how am I doing today? Well, I can't remember the last time I have been this happy. (Many photos from my wedding show me laughing and laughing). My headaches are less and less and after several treatments of acupuncture, my arm is so much better!! I have a husband that loves me dearly, good friends who are still my friends, even after my long absence from them, and I have so much to look forward to. I am taking time off from design work for the next couple of months just to rest and to be "happy." And for those of you who are so lovingly curious about what I am going to do next? I can honestly say (guilt-free):
I don't know yet.
But you will be the first to know.
And you know what? That is really okay with me. Writing this post was wonderful therapy for me - just the thing I needed to do...and I have you to thank. I had a very loving and caring friend tell me a while ago that "you are losing your fans if you don't keep up your blog..." The old Elizabeth would have felt very guilty and worried and would have got right to the computer and crank out a post. But the new Elizabeth just replied to her, "I know." And after I thought about what she said, I realized, that I don't write this blog to increase "fans" but rather, I share my photos, my design work, my thoughts, my adventures, and even my struggles with you because I feel a connection with you, my readers, my friends.
And even if there is only one left that still reads my blog and checks it now and again, then that is fine because I feel like I am having a conversation with just only you anyway. :-)
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday...hug your family, eat lots of pie, and take a long nap....and I will talk to "only you" very soon!
From my house to your house,