This week I celebrated my second birthday! Which technically is more of a celebrating-that-I-survived-and-beat-the-odds kind of day. Tuesday marked the beginning of my fourth year as a brain injury survivor. Don’t know if I really like that term, but well you’ll know what I mean.
I think the ‘old me’ would find it a bit silly, remembering the exact date of the accident. And probably also quite miraculous, as I’ve always been really bad with remembering birthdays or anniversaries. Maybe I remember this date so well, because in the blink of an eye my life got flipped- turned upside down (yes, I realise this last bit is from the ‘Fresh Prince of Bell Air’ theme song, but thought it to be very poignant *such a fancy word*). For me the accident is a distinct point in time that separates my life. I now have a before the accident life and an after the accident life. And have an old me and a new me.
However, I am also very aware that it could have been much worse. I therefore choose to celebrate this day each year. Which of course means eating cake and treating myself to something (this year a relaxing massage, very nice :)). And reminding myself of how far I’ve come, that I can live on my own again and even work and doing a job I believe in.
Ups and downs
In the weeks leading up to this date, I catch myself reminiscing of the good old days. The challenge with reminiscing is not to cherry pick my memories too much. Sure I could do a whole lot more in my old life. The only thing holding me back then, was my own willingness to do something or make decisions. But I also was always busy. And, looking back, I didn’t really value my relations and friendships. I never had (or made) any time to actually go out and meet my friends. So my old life was far from perfect. Unfortunately, there is a difference between knowing and feeling.
Emotionally these weeks have their ups and downs. The ups consist of moments or even days were I’m extremely thankful for being alive and still being me. And being appreciative of the progress I’ve been able to make these past four years. I started out on the couch of my parents’ home. Not being able to work or even walk for more than five minutes. Now I live on my own again, have a part-time job and can cycle through the city centre.
The downs are the moments, where I’m filled with self-doubt. When the uncertainty gets to me and I think about all the things I cannot do any more. Not a lot is known about the long term effects of having a brain injury. Combined with the fact that every brain injury is unique, the future remains filled with questions. During these lows it’s harder to think in possibilities. And I tend to stay stuck on the impossibilities. Not being able to go out for after-work-drinks or going to the cinema for example.
I once attended a lecture of a Buddhist monk in my before life. Something he said struck me and I always have to think about it when I’m feeling low: “you are not your thought and emotions”. I can’t remember anything else of that lecture, but these seven words stayed with me. I am not my thoughts and emotions. I can notice my thought and feelings, but I control how I’ll deal with it. There is undoubtedly a more well written explanation of this sentence somewhere on the internet, but I hope you know what I mean.
So, this week I choose to look at the positive side. I was lucky to get rushed to the hospital after my accident. Lucky that I live in a country with health insurance that paid for my rehabilitation and having an employer willing to enter me into a re-integration program. And very lucky, that my close friends and family didn’t walk away from me.
I survived. I’m filled with new ideas, plans and hopes for the future. Will they all come to pass? Who knows, probably not all. Still, I’m excited to go forwards!
Are you any good with remembering the dates of life changing moments? What is your favourite kind of cake to celebrate something? If you have a similar kind of anniversary, do you choose to celebrate it or you rather don’t?