We were isolated from family. My mother was AMAZING - but was she going to live with us for the next few years? No. She had her own life to live - and I had reassured her endlessly that I would be fine. Friends? Well, you certainly find out the people who are important in life. Those that will be there for you. Many others dropped away as things became hard. On reflection this was a hard but invaluable life lesson. I was unable to drive - I'm still not legally able to drive a manual car (which we had at the time). Now of course I drive an automatic but it was a good 8 months before we were able to replace our car.
Consider - you cannot walk... you cannot drive... you have two children under two. Four precious friends picked me up and gave me lifts to toddler groups or play dates when I was able. And when I got my car the freedom was liberating!
When asked how I was I responded, "I've got two wonderful, healthy children, I'll be alright". Other mums would say "I don't know how you manage". That phrase would come out on automatic pilot hoping that that would end the conversation about me as anything deeper would promote an emotional response which I so wanted to conceal from the outside and because what would happen if I admitted I wasn't alright? I wasn't thinking about how I felt - I always responded about my physical symptoms and how I was expected to be getting better. So even though I wasn't I could still behave like I was.
When Little Man failed his health checks my heart and my mind broke. I'm not prepared to talk about the details of Little Man's illness but it did involve his brain - a form of hydrocephalus, and at 18 months we nearly lost him. So much pain and fear... yet running alongside wonder and love in the miracle of life. He was only 8 weeks old when he was diagnosed. [Thankfully, LM's condition improved once his skull fused and after some tough times he overcame the challenges of the first 2 years of his life.]
I put myself under too much pressure to 'soldier on' and I felt enormous [self inflicted] guilt about the trauma I put my family through and what I was causing them to miss out on in life. But if I'm completely honest, without my family I would not have survived. I am a mother first and foremost. I had children to get up for and a reason to keep fighting for things to get better. My children needed me and I was doing well in fulfilling their needs. But on reflection, my anxiety had become an obstacle in my recovery (compounded by very real health concerns for my boy) meaning I lost perspective and worried excessively.
Two operations later with little improvement (each with additional pain and lengthy recovery) we sought a second opinion privately. This was my epiphany. When the endless search for things to change ended. And it was not a miracle cure or a magical drug...
Acceptance was the key.
Of course, acceptance was a process. Probably a two year transformation. It took time to come to terms with this new normal. I mourned the loss of my mobility and this took time. I mourned the loss of the life I was going to have, the woman and mother I was going to be and this too, took time. I underwent counselling as part of a Pain Management Programme, which was life changing in how I view and value myself. And after that grief came acceptance.
Acceptance: that my central nervous system is damaged and my pain receptors having received acute pain for so long are frazzled and stuck on high. They feel extreme pain even when they shouldn't. There is no miracle cure.
Acceptance: that my pelvis, left hip and soft tissues are damaged and cannot be mended. A replacement will be required at some point anatomically but this will likely not improve pain levels due to acceptance of #1. There is no miracle cure.
Acceptance: that life has changed beyond all recognition. My career is no longer an option. Financially we are markedly worse off. We have been through an awful trauma which has taken its toll on us all and this cannot be undone. But our life continues, I can give more quality time to my children and we are grateful for that. Why should it follow that our life should be unhappy because of some unhappy and challenging elements in it. We choose how we respond, challenge ourselves and grow.
Acceptance: that the accident was no-one's fault. No-one is to blame or should feel guilty. Life happens in the blink of an eye. Many, many people are in far worse situations and we are thankful for being able to live our simple life. That we need to rebuild our lives, be kind to ourselves and slowly things must improve. Guilt is a waste of energy.
Acceptance: that love prevails. My best friend... yes we love each other. He sees past my physical incapacity. Everything has changed and yet the important things remain - our love and the essence of who we are as people, how we want to be as parents. It is a deeper love to be nurtured, beyond the physical or surface. It embodies how we live now in a far greater way than it would have done had the accident not happened. Our minds have been refocused on what is truly important and what brings happiness in life.
Acceptance: that I am a good mum. That throughout my illness and recovery despite it all, I was and am a good mum. I always loved and fought for my children. I failed for a while to look after myself. I have learnt from that and am a better mother because of it.
Acceptance: that we must look after ourselves in order to be best placed to look after others. We must be kind to ourselves. This is not the same as being selfish. But consciously thinking you did something well, or you deserve a cup of tea in the sunshine, or will buy that magazine you've been craving - all contribute enormously to our mental well-being.
And that was the beginning of consciously appreciating the Simple Things.
Nearly seven years on we have lots of joy in our lives. I am thankful for the changes that experiencing those years have stimulated. Yes - I suffer from crippling pain. I am and will continue to be physically disabled. We manage our life - what we do, how we do it with this in mind and of course it places enormous limitations on us. But. There is so much good in my life and I am free to really SEE and embrace it.
It's not always easy... sometimes I need to refocus and remind myself what is important in life. Sometimes how other people are able to live makes me question the choices we make - but that would happen anyway. I have time... So I love with all my heart and I am loved completely in return... and I do feel blessed.
To read the first in this series My Disability Journey click here