Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
What Happened To My Old Normal?
To understand this ramble of mine you will first have to know the history of how I got to the point of needing to accept new normals. On March 13, I had an accident with one of my horses that ended up with me having a concussion which developed into Post Concussive Syndrome.
To put it nicely Post Concussive Syndrome is what happens to a very small percentage of unlucky people like myself that have lasting symptoms and effects of their injury for longer than the normal 2 week- a month period doctors expect you to recover in. This evidently occurs more often in women than in men, and people like myself who have had multiple concussions over the years are more prone to it since concussions build on each other.
To make a long story short, I'm almost 6 months after my accident and though I have come a long way... I still have a long way to go. I still use a walker to get around due to balance issues, get fatigued easily, have reoccurring headaches, and my peripheral vision is damaged to the point that I can't drive because I'm considered legally blind.
The past six months have been filled with doctors appointments, physical therapy appointments, talk therapy appointments. Appointment after appointment where I get told: "good job keep working on it, the brain is a funny thing and it just takes longer to heal in some cases than others." I swear, I must have heard that statement phrased at least a hundred different ways in the past six months.
The Damage Is As Much On The Inside As The Outside
I have come to realize that the effects of this injury for me at least, are just as much emotional as they are physical.
See the physical part is easier to deal with. I take the prescribed medication, do the prescribed physical therapy, show up at all my appointments. I'm doing everything I can do to rehabilitate myself physically.
Emotionally though it isn't so cut and dry. I suffer from anxiety already which of course does not help the situation, since it leads to overthinking every little thing. Worrying, wondering, crying. It really has done a number on my already not so healthy mental state.
Besides anxiety, which I have been working on with my therapist and God for a few years now. None of this is normal for me. Not being healthy and active is not my normal. It's not normal for me to be stuck in the house, to have to be driven around, to have to ask for help with everything, the list goes on and on.
So what do you do when you have been living on this earth for 33 years, and you thought you knew what your normal is and all of a sudden you have no clue?
Well for me I got mad and I cry a lot. I'm not even going to try and say that I haven't done my fair share of feeling like it's me against the world and feeling sorry for myself.
I have learned to put on a happy face most of the time when around people, but it is hard because in the back of my mind I'm always worrying and thinking that the people I'm around are probably having the same thoughts and doubt that I'm about my condition or recovery. Everyone wishes me well and asks if I need anything, which is impressive since it has been six months now, I would have thought by now me trying to recover would be forgotten by people since I'm not out and seeing people like I normally would. Which by the way speaks volumes about the quality of people in my life.
There is that word normally again. Normally, this time of year I would be busy with teaching riding lessons. Riding my horse Finn when I get done teaching for the night and enjoying the peace and quiet after a busy day on the farm. I'd be swimming in the river with my nephews, going hiking or to the beach with friends. Nothing is normal, and it sucks.
Maybe I Have The Wrong Definition of Normal ?
I had this revelation yesterday when we were on the boat headed out to the bay to fish. It was gorgeous weather and gorgeous scenery and it felt great to be on that boat out in the sun with the wind blowing on me.
I was thinking about how it is a weird thing that boat doesn't seem to aggravate my symptoms unless I stay out too long. Which got me thinking about how good it was to be out there on the boat instead of in the house thinking about what I can't do or what I would normally be doing.
The word normal kept getting stuck in my head all afternoon. I normally would be able to bait own hook, but I can't now because I can't see. I would normally be able to stand up and move around the boat as much as I want. Now I'm stuck in one spot. Normally I would not have to secretly wonder if the reason we were headed back wasn't that of the weather, but because my Dad and boyfriend were afraid I had overdone it and needed to get out of the sun. Normally I wouldn't dread seeing the neighbor two piers over because I was embarrassed about the help I needed to get in and out of the boat and off the pier. Normally I could get a shower without my mom's help, and normally I wouldn't dread facing my own family for Sunday dinner because I'm embarrassed that after all this time I still need a walker and still can't work. Normally after dinner, I would walk the horses out for the night so my mom wouldn't have to.
For some reason, I was stuck on that word" normally." So my obsessive anxious mind spent the whole time I was out on that boat yesterday thinking about the dreaded word "normally" and how maybe I have the definition of it wrong.
Yep, I Definitely Had The Wrong Definition
Maybe normally isn't a set in stone constant. Just because things are going well doesn't mean that they are going to be the same forever. Just because my old routine is what I'm used to and I don't know how long it will be before I'm back to normal..maybe there is nothing wrong with that. Maybe normal isn't a constant in life? Maybe it changes and we all go through different normals at different points in time? Maybe it is okay to not be "normal" or have a "normal" that never changes.
The non-anxious minds reading this are probably thinking about how I'm overthinking way too much. That is absolutely true. One thing I did decide on the boat ride yesterday between reeling fish and deep thought, was that I would allow my definition of normal to change.
Instead of being angry about what I can't do and how slow my progress is going, I decided to just let it be. I'm doing everything I can do to make things better physically. So now I needed to do the same thing mentally and accept my new normal. This is who I'm right now, this is where I'm in life, I'm doing my best with it, and I'm still moving forward.
Looking back to the weeks and months right after I was hurt, I have come so far, like a million miles far. I spent most of my time laying in bed sleeping and though I was using a walker I had to practically be carried into my physical therapy appointments. I never went outside, would have never dreamed of getting on a boat. See that's when I realized that my normal can change and that there is nothing wrong with that. Nobody has ever guaranteed any of us that our normal would be the same forever. So we have to learn to accept our new normals, wherever they might be at any point in time.
My old normal I spent most of my life in the barn with the horses, my new normal I avoid the barn and the horses because I feel like it has neon lights flashing " why are you here you can't do anything that you would normally do".
In realizing that I need to accept my new normals, I realized that I think the way I'm going to find peace and emotional healing as my body physically heals, is to work toward a happy medium between the old and new.
What I'm Going To Do About It
I'm not going to focus on what I used to do, but I'm going to focus on what I can do now and the steps that I need to take to get back to where I was. I struggle to be a positive thinker but I'm going to keep at it, and I can use my old and new normal to help me with that.
For example, at the beginning of my physical therapy lessons, I had to always be in the darkest room because the light hurt my eyes too much. Now, most days I can handle the inside light without too much eye strain at all. That tells me my normal is getting better. Even though it is a small little thing, that small little thing is what helps me to get my head right again when I feel like I'm heading back down the negative path.
I'm going to learn to accept my new normal, and not be ashamed of it. I'm not going to settle on it, I'm going to keep on moving forward as best I can, but I'm not going to fight the fact that I'm different than I was before March 13.
I'm just going to keep on accepting whatever my normal is on any given day. Knowing that I figured out one of life's secrets. We all think we know our normal, but our normal can change at any time, and how we process those changes is up to us and nobody else.
My normal doesn't have to be the same today as it was yesterday or last month or last year. It might change all the time, but I'm still the same person. Even though I'm not doing my normal things or my normal job, I'm still the same person on the inside. I'm not going to get lost in the darkness of worrying that things are never going to be normal again.
I'm going to bask in the light of knowing that my normal can change whenever it wants and that I'm a learning to be a strong enough person to accept that.
Who Needs Normal Anyway
I like to believe that anyone who has ever had an injury like mine that takes a long time to recover from and changes your life to the point of making your heart hurt like it has mine, in the end, will be a better and stronger person for it.
I'm still here, I CAN still do things, I'm still the same person, even if I'm physically and emotionally struggling.
I'm learning to accept my new normal and that my normal might change at any given time. I just have to do the best I can and not give up.
Scripture, of course, is not for everyone, I understand that. To me it is a big part of life, I read my bible daily, and I just keep reminding myself Timothy 2: 1-7 " For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but he has given us one of power, and of love and of sound mind".
It is all part of the plan, as said in Jeremiah 29:11 " For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future."
So I'm going to hold all those words close to my heart and just keeping on accepting whatever my normal might happen to be on any given day. Working on a balance of what I used to do and what I feel capable of now. Maybe I will find myself somewhere in the middle of the two, who knows!
There really is no such thing as normal and I can be whatever version of me I want to be on any given day. Me being able to find peace in my life and in my mind is not about finding a normal, it is about focusing on the right things and having faith that everything is going to be alright!