When I think about the fact that, last Thursday, I had a seizure…it blows my mind.
It doesn’t even seem real. I truly never thought that would happen to me…but no one ever does.
Despite the fact that I feel perfectly fine and I don’t really understand what all of it means, I still can’t drive and I still had lost complete control of my body for those few minutes and looked as if I were frying from the inside out. That is really strange to think about.
It is also weird to think about how lucky my friend Steve and I were that everything happened that day exactly as it did because we were five minutes away from getting into my car and driving onto the freeway where I would have then seized while I was driving 60 mph.
I truly think the seizure was caused from stress. I didn’t know it at the time but I felt the seizure coming on for about a week before it happened. I kept telling my sister or whoever that I felt really out of it. It was hard to explain, but I kind of felt disconnected from my body at times. It felt like I was surrounded by an aura or something.
I kept thinking those feelings were being caused by the fact that I have so much going on in my life right now.
I may or may not have been pushing myself too hard…but I was doing what I thought I needed to do in order to be okay.
After Rio, my depression hit me hard. It hit me differently than it had ever hit me before.
As I have already said in an earlier post, I spent the past 8 years telling myself that by the time I made it to the Paralympics I would have overcome my depression.
But when it turned out that I made it and my depression was still there…it really made things hard for me to deal with.
It made it feel like no matter what I did in my life I would never be able to live without depression…and that was a pretty depressing thought.
Maybe it had nothing to do with my depression and more to do with the fact that they say there is such a thing as the post-olympics/post-paralympics blues…and maybe that was all I was experiencing. It is always hard to tell the difference between what is normal and what is depression.
So this is what happened. I came back from Rio…after those 8 years of hard work day in and day out, after all the hype working up to it and making my entire life revolve around that one goal. And then it was all over. And I no longer had this one goal to focus on and to look forward to.
Not only was I training for the Paralympics, but I was also attending grad school to earn my Master’s in Social Work and I had graduated with my bachelors in Psych a few years before that. And while playing on the USA Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, I was also playing on the University of Illinois’ Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team. My schedule was packed from morning until night and I made it this way on purpose so that I would have no time to think.
Thinking was never good for me. Anytime I had time to think, my depression would take over me and it would be really hard to get back out of it. But staying busy, staying focused and working hard helped me through it all.
buuuuuuut when Rio was over…I kinda had no idea how to cope with my depression…because I wasn’t really expecting to still be dealing with it in the first place.
And the only thing I knew to do was to try to make things better in the world…
Doing good things for others helps me to feel better about the world.
sooooooo I tried to get things going as fast as I could. I tried to fill my schedule up with as many things as I could so that I would feel like I was still moving forward in my life.
IT WAS freaking hard to get things going because my depression was really pulling me down those first few months after Rio. I would go do things and feel good…but then as soon as I got home it would take over me. If I took a nap it would take over me. If I slept in it would take over me and everyday I had to find the strength all over again to get up in the morning and get things going for the day…because every morning I had to convince myself that getting up was worth the fight.
I started by coaching my niece’s 3rd through 5th grade PAA basketball team…those girls helped me so much more than they even know 🙂 I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of all of their lives!
I also began helping to coach my Co-Ed Wheelchair Basketball Team with the Tacoma Titans Metro Parks Adaptive Recreation, as well as helping out with their youth team when I was able to.
Tacoma Metro Parks also offered me a part-time job where I get to work on outreach, helping to run demos, and running an adaptive fitness class with my amazing coworker Kelsey Warren ❤
I then applied to be a substitute teacher and began working for both the Peninsula School District and Tacoma Metro Parks 🙂
I was invited to interview with the executive director of the WIAA, Mike Colbrese and after the interview he invited me to go to the capital with him and speak with representative Sullivan about funding for adaptive sports programs in schools. We planted the seed in his mind, but the program still needed to be developed. But I was told that the opportunity was there.
I was then invited to attend the abilities Expo in Las Angeles with my sponsors at Sunrise Medical. When I was there I met some amazing people and was offered unbelievable encouragement and support in order to really pursue my dreams of creating more opportunities and providing support for people with disabilities to live more fulfilling lives. The trip to LA was truly more than I could have ever hoped for!
I came back to WA and continued to work towards my goals of making things better for people living with disabilities. I was so above and beyond excited about the future as I really began to see my dreams of helping others become a reality. I began to understand it really is possible and I really do have all of the love and support that I could possibly need in order to do the things I believe need to be done.
But at the same time it overwhelmed me. I felt like I had to hurry and figure out my exact plan as to how I was going to make it all happen.
I was trying to figure all of these things out at the same time as I was trying to work two jobs, pay off my debt and finish getting my internship set-up and finalized to start in May.
And then on top of that, I realized in the last few months that I can be a foster parent. I realized that I am 27 years old and I can be a foster parent right now. I am an adult. I don’t need to be married or own a house. I never really thought of myself as an adult, nor did I think it was possible to be a foster parent if you weren’t married or had your own house. Therefore, when I realized these things…I suddenly felt liberated. I felt like I could let go of the whole “finding Mr. Right, white-picket fence, fairy-tale kind of life” that may or may not ever happen. I told myself that I would rather help these kids that may never have any of those things. Changing my goals to helping these kids helped me to feel a sense of guidance in my life again.
I signed up for and went to a foster parenting orientation and I began trying to get things figured out for a future where I could really do this.
I was invited to the Nike Headquarters by the National Wheelchair Basketball Association to represent Team USA and run a demo for kids and adults to try out the sport.
And then, last but not least…I had also been going to multiple doctor appointments in order to get things figured out about my ankles which have been completely stuck down for the past 8 years of my life. Both of my Achilles tendons tightened up after my accident, which has caused me quite a bit of pain and discomfort. I now have a major surgery scheduled for tomorrow morning where they will cut the tendons in both of my ankles in order to lengthen them back to the neutral position.
But with all of this…and so much more…I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed. From my perspective, I thought I was feeling overwhelmed because I was trying so hard to run away from my depression. I viewed my depression as the overwhelming part, everything else was just what I had to do in order to not let it take over me. I want to be busy. I want to make a difference. But the problem is that I want to do it all right now. I want to know that there is a purpose for all of the suffering my depression has caused me. I worry that I am almost to my thirties and I do not have my own house, I have not met the love of my life, I still have depression and I do not have a career set-up for myself. I worry that I am not doing enough to help others and to make a real difference in the world.
So with all of that being said…those feelings of being “overwhelmed” had begun to feel more strange as if I were disconnected from my body…or as if I were surrounded by an aura, and I couldn’t really comprehend or explain it to others. I did, however, tell my sister and my friends a few times when I felt weird like that…but I just kept trying to push through it and keep going.
And then, last Thursday, I had a seizure for the first time in my entire life.
My friend and USA teammate, Steve Serio, had come to visit me from New York, before we headed to the Nike Headquarters in Oregon.
Wednesday, he had gone to my Tacoma Team’s wheelchair basketball practice to meet everyone and hopefully give some inspiration to some of the players.
That night I couldn’t sleep at all. I tossed and turned constantly and I kept clenching down on my teeth as well. In the morning I went out to the living room where Steve and my grandparents were and told them that I didn’t sleep. I just felt weird. I took a nap a little bit later that day and then Steve and I drove out to the Harbor to surprise my two favorite little girls, Alex and Penny, at their physical therapy appointment. I am so in love with them and I just want to be there for them as much as I can.
We spent about an hour hanging out with them during their therapy, Steve and I pushed next to Alex in her cute little pink wheelchair on the way to their car to say goodbye. The last thing I remember is looking back at Alex and smiling at how cute she is! I have so much love for her it is crazy!!
But the next thing I know I was lying on the ground with everyone around me. It took me a minute to realize that the person next to me was a firefighter, and that we weren’t “just hanging out on the ground” like I thought we were. He told me I had a seizure and I said “No way!!” I thought he was joking. He was taking my blood pressure and it was extremely high…so was my temperature. I could hear Steve and Sara (Alex and Penny’s mom), explaining to the paramedics what had happened. Steve said that we were all hanging out around the car and I was in the middle of saying something to them when I all of a sudden looked really strange and out of it. I turned and stared at him and then began falling towards the ground where I stiffened up and began shaking uncontrollably while my eyes were wide open and rolling around in my head.
Hearing this, none of it seemed real to me and I still didn’t quite understand what was going on. All of the sudden an ambulance was there and they were bringing the stretcher over to me. I started to laugh to myself because I thought it was weird they were going to put me on the stretcher because I still didn’t understand what had happened and I didn’t think I needed it.
When I was at the hospital the nurse asked me a bunch of questions to see how my memory was. I didn’t know what day it was and I had no idea what had just happened. When Steve got there, I couldn’t remember the things we had done during those past few days. Then doctor came into my room to talk to me. He told me the tests they were going to run to hopefully find out what had caused the seizure. I asked him what it could be and he told me “It could be a variety of things. It could be a tumor on your brain, bleeding in your brain, cancer, stress, etc” I started crying as he told me these things. Luckily the CT scans did not show anything wrong…but we still have to get an MRI. I am no longer all that worried about it because I really do think it was caused from stress. My sister Kelci told me that her friend has seizures and that she feels “out of it” and even has that Aura feeling that I had for the week leading up to it as well and that helped me to feel better knowing that I did feel it coming on for an entire week before it happened.
Sooooo now that I have explained all of that…I am now about to go to sleep and wake-up to have my ankle surgery. ughhhh that is going to be painful 😦 I am not as scared as I felt last week at my post-op appointment…but who knows how I will feel in the morning. If all goes well it will be nice to feel my feet flat on the ground again for the first time in 8 years!! 🙂