Tag Archives: Nervous

The pre-surgery nightmare.

4 Jun

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a nervous person. Along with those nerves, I was also very scared, especially as a kid. Rather than using the word “fears,” I was simply told by my parents and my doctors that I had a “vivid imagination.”

Because of this vivid imagination, I remember one specific time when my parents waited a while before they told me about a specific scheduled surgery. I understand now that they didn’t want to alert me to it too far in advance because they knew I’d essentially be a nervous wreck right up until I had to go in for surgery. Though I can understand this now and I know it was a protective measure, I didn’t see it that way when it happened. I remember the night my parents sat me down to tell me about a surgery that would be occurring in about a month. I couldn’t exactly comprehend at first that my parents had waited to tell me, but once I did I immediately started to worry. Not long after that moment, the dreams I would always have leading up to a big operation started. The most common, of course, was the dream in which I woke up during surgery.

Due to my “vivid imagination,” my dreams were exceptionally vivid. In my dream, I was lying on the operating table. My eyes were open, and I was seeing everything. The doctors had the femur of my left leg in their hands, and they were twisting it to the left in order to straighten it out. Though I couldn’t feel any pain in the dream, I could imagine it, which was almost as bad. I looked at the doctor’s gloves, which were covered in blood, my blood. In a room as white as the operating room, the red seemed out of place. And yet, there it was. On the doctor’s hands was the blood that ran through my very veins. As I watched the doctors attempt to “fix” what was “not normal,” I tried to scream out. My mouth opened to make any kind of sound, but nothing happened. I tried to move. I focused so hard on trying to simply raise my right hand off the table, but it was too heavy. The doctors had to know I was awake. If they knew, they’d stop. If they knew, it would all be over. I just needed to do something to get their attention, but they were so focused on my legs. They didn’t even glance up towards my face, not even once, to see the fear and the anguish that was mirrored in my eyes. I wanted nothing more than to get as far away from that room as possible. I wanted to get away from the dead quiet that enveloped me like a blanket that was too heavy, practically suffocating me. The moment I closed my eyes to escape the horror I was seeing, I woke up.

When I woke up from this dream, I felt like I could barely breathe. Without even giving it a second thought, I yanked back the covers to look at my legs. I touched them to make sure they were still intact, still closed up tight. I looked on my legs, my hands, and my sheets for the blood. The blood that had been so incredibly red, so out of place in that white room. With my sweaty palms resting on my knees, my emotions took over. I cried out, knowing that tears couldn’t do this type of fear justice. I rocked back and forth, holding the stuffed teddy bear that was tucked into the bed beside me, and knowing as I started to shake that the tears were coming. When my body finally allowed me to cry, I curled up on my side, hugging the stuffed teddy bear to my chest like a shield, and let my tears speak for me. After the immediate emotion passed and I was curled up into the tightest ball I could form, I began to hum. I hummed the lullaby that my dad so often sung to me when he’d rock me in his mother’s rocking chair on the nights I couldn’t sleep. Eventually, sleep tugged at me again, and I opened my eyes for a pleading moment as I looked into the darkness, knowing the dream was waiting for me.

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It’s an everyday battle.

15 Nov

When I started writing my memoir of living with Cerebral Palsy last January, in the back of my mind, I think I believed that I’d be able to write everything out and then I’d feel tons better or that my past wouldn’t control my thoughts so much. No, my Cerebral Palsy doesn’t define who I am. However, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t have a constant effect on my thoughts. When I first starting writing out the hard memories, it hurt, but it felt good too. It made me cry to bring up so many memories that I didn’t want to ever look at again, but it also brought me closer to those around me. My mom and I started getting along better. My friendships improved. For the first time, I could honestly say I was completely myself because I wasn’t allowing myself to hide behind the pain that dominated my life for so many years.

However, despite the beginning benefits of writing about my life, currently I don’t always feel like the benefits outweigh the pain that still lingers from my past. Truthfully, this wouldn’t be so hard to handle if things weren’t so physically hard for me lately. I’m falling more, but it’s not even the falls themselves. It’s the fact that I’m able to feel them before they come. My muscles get super tight, I start to walk on my tip-toes, and I get nervous. Since I know that I am about to fall, I become afraid to move. However, the more nervous and afraid I get, the more I tense up, which increases the likelihood that I’ll fall in a number of minutes. It’s heartbreaking, truthfully. Heartbreaking in the sense that I know I’m only 20 years old. I don’t even want to imagine how my muscles will be cooperating 10 years from now.

Even though I may have finally faced the pain and memories that dominated my past, will I be able to deal with the struggles that are in my present just as easily? Will I have to wait 20 more years before I can come to some kind of understanding? Truthfully, will I ever understand? Will any of this ever make sense? On the good days, the days that I’m happy and I have people around who love me, I’m able to stay pretty upbeat and optimistic about my situation. However, on the bad days, the days when I’ve already fallen 4 times and my back hurts, all I want to do is sit on my bathroom floor and cry. Though I know that may not seem like the greatest decision, what do you tell the person who’s been strong for so long? My entire life, the gusto has pushed through. My pure love of life has pushed through. However, as the years go by and the back pain and falls increase, it’s hard to carry that same level of strength. I’m trying though. I’m trying because I want to find enjoyment in my life, and I know there are so many people who love and support me and want to see me succeed.

I think what many people don’t realize is that living with Cerebral Palsy is an everyday battle. It’s not as if I can say, “Oh, my past is behind me. The hard part is over.” Though that may be true and though I am relieved to not have to undergo any surgeries right now, that doesn’t mean things are “easy.” I wake up every morning with back pain. Though I fall asleep best on my stomach and I’m not a restless sleeper, it becomes a problem when I wake up with a stiff back and normally stiff legs. Some days, it’s hard to walk easily. On mornings when I wake up extremely stiff, I debate whether I should crawl to the bathroom rather than risk falling and getting yet another bruise. Even though the bruises normally end up in places that people aren’t able to easily see, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. Though living with Cerebral Palsy may be something that I’ve gotten used to just because I’ve had no other choice but to adapt, that doesn’t mean that it’s still not a struggle to simply be happy. In all actuality, it would be so easy to slip into pity and just curl up in my bed and cry. For me, every single day is a battle. But I get back up, even if it means that I’m still crying.

A conversation with my younger self.

21 Oct

Sometimes I imagine what it would be like if I had the opportunity to speak with a younger version of myself. I wonder what I would say. I wonder what advice I would give to my 7-year-old self, the little girl with the nervous smile who has yet to go through 3 intense surgeries and many, many years of physical therapy. I wonder how it would feel to talk with someone who I knew so well, but yet couldn’t completely relate to since she hadn’t yet gone through all the pain that she would experience in her future. I wonder…

I’m sitting on a bench in a small park that I don’t recognize. There is a playground with swings and a play set, which are all just a few feet from where I’m sitting. Kids are playing in every available space in the park, but I feel like I’m a thousand miles away from their voices. It’s not until I hear her bubbly laugh that I know where I am. As I look over at the play set, she climbs out of the tube slide, practically falling right out into the sand because she’s laughing so hard. A moment later, her eyes lock with mine, and I know. The girl with the nervous smile, bubbly laugh and bright blue eyes is the younger me. However, it’s not until I look down a second later to see the braces on her feet that I’m certain my assumption is correct. Even though my stomach feels like it’s flipped inside out, I get up from where I’m sitting and walk towards the younger me.

“Hi, can I play with you?” I ask. She looks up at me with the hugest grin on her face.

“Yes, but only if we sit right here in the sand. I don’t really want to get up.”

“That’s perfectly fine, Amelia,” I say, as I sit down in the sand beside her.

She is focused on putting her arms as far down into the sand as she can, so it takes her a moment to realize what I said.

“Wait, how did you know my name?”

“Because I’m you. I’m you at 20 years old. We are the same person.”

The younger Amelia looks at me quizzically for a second, and then asks, “Does this mean that we can be friends?”

I can’t help but laugh as I remember what I was like when I was younger. Even at the age of 7, I wanted acceptance. More than anything, I wanted friends. Though those two things are something that I still find myself longing for, it was intensified when I was younger. It was often the only thing I could think about since it held such a strong connection to being just like the other kids, the “normal” kids.

I find myself staring with amazement at my younger self, wondering where to even begin.

“You have a wonderful best friend waiting in your future. In fact, there are many, many friends that will be in your life. However, the one I’m referring to, she’s everything you’ve ever hoped for in a best friend.”

“Why can’t she be here now?” the younger me asks.

“She hasn’t met you yet. She won’t come into your life until you’re 16, but I promise you, she’s the kind of best friend that you have always wanted.”

Instead of concentrating on playing in the sand, I now have the attention of my younger self as she looks up at my face with curiosity, so I continue.

“You’ve got a long road ahead of you, and it’s not something that anyone is going to able to prepare you for. It’s going to be incredibly hard. However, trust me when I say that you can get through it. It’s going to feel close to impossible some days, especially on the days when the pain gets really bad, but I promise you’ll get through it.”

The younger me then looks down at the braces that are on her feet and touches the plastic ever so lightly with her fingertips.

“I’m scared,” she whispers softly.

“I know,” I say. “It’s okay to be scared.”

“You’ll get stronger,” I tell her. “It may seem overwhelming now, but eventually it becomes like second nature. You’ll fall, time and time again. But you know what’s amazing about you?”

The younger me looks at me expectantly, but I know her nervousness lies just below the surface.

“You get back up…every time,” I say.

“Why? Why do I have to keep trying?” she asks.

“Because it’s the only way you can move forward. It’s the only way you can be independent.”

Even though I see the younger me roll her eyes at me, I know that my words are impacting her because she takes my hand and squeezes it. As her fingers link with mine, I am overcome with love for the little girl who has yet to know the intense pain that she will face. I have to look away from her before she realizes that I’m crying. As I wipe away my tears, I look off into the distance to see the sun setting behind the trees.

“I have to go soon,” the younger me says.

I nod, unable to say anything. I don’t know if I’ll be able to walk away. However, I say the one thing I’ve wanted to tell her all along.

“I love you. So so much,” I say, letting the tears fall and knowing that the younger me doesn’t grasp the magnitude of this moment. If only she knew that I would save her from all of this pain if I were able to. However, deep down, I know that I can’t do that. She has to go through it. She has to go through it if she wants to become me.

She hugs my legs tightly, and the warmth of her small body against my own makes me smile.

“I’m so happy that I get to be you when I get older,” she says.

She turns to go, and as I watch her walk away from me, her last words weigh heavily on my mind. Though she may want desperately to be me, I know that I need to remember to be her as well. I know that little girl is still within me, and she is showing me just as much love as I wanted to be sure and show her.

When in Ireland, take luck where you can find it.

25 Jun

Most of us have heard the phrase, “the luck of the Irish,” but whether the luck is still around or not, I’m not sure. I’ve never really believed in luck, but since coming to Ireland, I’ve learned to just take luck where you can find it.

For instance, I’m currently in Ireland and tomorrow I start my study abroad program at NUIG. That’s luck. Though it may not seem like luck that I am here, it’s lucky that the right opportunity arose to allow me to be here taking part in a study abroad program. There are not many people who get this kind of opportunity, but when I realized that I had this chance, I had to take it.

Even though I’m excited about what my program holds and I’m looking forward to meeting new people, I’m nervous. It’s scary….doing something this big. I don’t know anyone. I’m in a foreign country. Thankfully they speak English, but even that isn’t too much of a reassurance considering how big of a step I’m taking. Even though I went to Peru in January of 2010 with a group from my high school, this is a step up from that. Though traveling to Peru was my first time out of the United States, the trip only lasted 12 days, and I was with a group of students from my school, so I knew everyone. In this instance, I don’t know anyone, and I will be here for 28 days rather than 12. Quite a difference.

I know that it takes time to adjust, and my mom has warned me that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself about not doing everything since just being here and taking classes for 4 weeks is huge in itself. However, there’s always that voice in the back of my head urging me to not hold back….that voice in my head that would rather go out and do stuff instead of hang out on campus and study and pleasure read on the quad. However, hanging out on campus and studying/pleasure reading on the quad sounds pretty great to me. Since it is luck that I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy this experience, I’m going to enjoy it my way. All students are different, and all of the students participating in this study abroad experience in Galway, Ireland have different expectations for how the program is going to go. Just because my expectations don’t match those of another student doesn’t mean I need to fret. Maybe it just means that I need to enjoy being in Ireland/taking classes/reading, and maybe by some small stroke of Irish luck, I’ll meet someone who’s looking for a similar experience.

Ireland tomorrow!

18 Jun

Oh my gosh!!!! I leave for Ireland….TOMORROW. I woke up this morning with a huge grin on my face and started jumping around like a kid on Christmas morning because I realized that tomorrow is the big day!!!!

I’m spending today getting last-minute things together and going over and over my lists of necessities to hopefully not forget anything. However, the great thing is that most anything I forget in terms of little things can be bought over there, which is definitely a relief. Packing always seems to be super stressful, and even though packing for Ireland hasn’t been any less stressful, my excitement today is overshadowing the stress and nervousness, which is a definite plus.

I will be in Ireland for a total of 5 weeks. The first week will be spent traveling around the Irish countryside with my mom, i.e. a chance for both of us to get a huge gulp of Ireland at the same time. I’m excited that my mom will be coming along for a week to travel with me. That way I can get used to things and settled into the Irish culture before I begin taking courses in Galway for the following 4 weeks. Also, there’s no way I could not share my first Ireland experience with my mom. She loves to travel as much as I do, and it will be the first time in Ireland for the both of us. Ah, excitement! As I said previously, we’re going to be spending the majority of our time around the Irish countryside since it is rumored to be completely gorgeous and is the “typical Ireland” that is portrayed when most people think of Ireland. After a week of traveling with my mom, my mom will head back to the US, and I’ll stay in Galway, Ireland for 4 weeks of my study abroad program at NUIG. Even though I haven’t officially signed up for the two courses that I’ll take while in Galway, I’m hoping to take Irish Literature and Film and Gaelic Culture. How can I go to Ireland and not spend 4 weeks reading the great Irish writers like William Butler Yeats and James Joyce?! The truth of the matter is, I can’t. Therefore, it’s a pure necessity that I go to Ireland, read as many Irish writers that I can, and get course credit for it. Yep, purely magical! 🙂

So, Ireland tomorrow! Excitement! I’ll be writing one last post from the states tomorrow before flying out, but as of Wednesday, every post for the next 5 weeks will be coming to you all the way from Ireland, documenting my travels, including pictures galore, funny stories, and all the new experiences I have while living a dream of mine of living/studying in Ireland! So stay tuned!

It’s (almost) summer!

26 Apr

Well, I’m officially done with finals and moved out of my dorm. I’ve just got a short paper due on Monday that I’ll get done this weekend. Even though I’m very happy to be done and have the stress melt away, it was sad saying goodbye to my friends (especially 2 of my friends who are exchange students from England). I have loved my first year at UNCA (but second year of college). It’s been so amazing.

I’ve made some of the most incredible friends….ya know, those kind of people who you know you’re going to be friends with forever. It is such a great feeling, and I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to find a place where I belong. I know it takes some people a while to find that special place, while others seem to just be thrown into it…ya know, the people who just love a place from the start. That’s how it was when I visited Asheville for the second time though. I knew that it just fit me so much better. I was nervous as usual, but everyone gets nervous when it comes to new experiences.

Anyway, even though I won’t be technically on summer vacation until I write this last paper, I am eager to do lots of pleasure reading and have the chance to enjoy living in the mountains and not being bothered with schoolwork. It’ll be such a great change (at least for a little bit). Tomorrow I’m heading to Columbia to talk to one of my previous physical therapist’s graduate physical therapy classes about how things have been for me having CP. Though I have gotten better at talking openly about my CP over the past few months, the thought of standing in front of a class of graduate students and talking about my life is a little scary. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll say. However, I am pretty sure that Meredith (my previous physical therapist) will try to make it as easy on me as she can. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’ll be standing in front of students talking about myself.

Though CP is a huge part of my life and I do want to share my story with the world, I’ve never really liked talking about myself too much. I just never want to take away from the possible things the other person I’m speaking with may be able to teach me (in regards to their own life). Friendship, and communication in general, is a two-way street, and I think many people forget that. Anyway, tomorrow will be interesting to say the least. However, I’m excited to hear what the students have to ask me and to hear what they are currently learning about. Since I had 15 years of PT, I feel like a pro to the terminology when it comes to comparing my knowledge to someone who has no background/experience with PT. However, it’ll be interesting to see what the PT students know in comparison to my own knowledge. After all, it’s never considered a bad day when you have the opportunity to learn something new.

What Are Your Writing Triggers?

7 Apr

As I’ve said in previous writing posts, I’m a firm believer in “writing triggers,” or certain objects/locations/pictures/people who remind me of certain memories. Throughout writing my book, I’ve had to look for things to trigger certain memories of my childhood….or more specifically, the memories associated with physical therapy, Shriner’s, my CP, and just the different obstacles I’ve had to overcome.

Most people would naturally assume that my childhood home would be a pretty big trigger, but it’s not. Except for maybe the fearful times of attempted to get into the bathtub after my first surgery in 2003 and being terrified of my legs bending. See, I had just gotten out of wearing long-legs casts for eight weeks, and when your legs have been straight for that long, even minor movements could be painful. Anyway, my childhood home isn’t much of a writing trigger. I feel like most of my writing triggers have come from unlikely places…like seeing my knee immobilizers for the first time in years…driving past the places I’ve had physical therapy over the years…simply saying the word botox…or seeing Grace, an 11-year-old girl I know with CP, during her physical therapy sessions.

Over the past month, I have gone back and forth as to whether I want to go visit Shriner’s again, where I had all of my surgeries and intense physical therapy, and where I spent some solid chunks of my childhood. I haven’t been back in a number of years, and I remember how when we used to drive up to Shriner’s I used to get really nervous when we would take the White Horse Road exit, and then I’d get even more nervous when we were about 20 minutes away from the hospital. Knots would form in my stomach, and I’d look out the window and notice as much as I could….knowing that for the next few months my views would be confined to the walls of the hospital, despite the large amount of windows that didn’t give much of an “earthy view.”

Even though I think walking into the main lobby of Shriner’s wouldn’t have too much of an impact on me, I know that things would change when I’d go up to the second floor, and especially more so when I’d sit outside of the therapy room….realizing just how much pain a single room could hold. Part of me is thinking of waiting to visit Shriner’s until I’ve written the majority of my book because then I won’t have as much emotion aching to be released. I will have already released all of the really intense emotions. However, I am thinking of visiting once I finish my book to see if I could maybe give some type of talk to the kids there or try to sell my book to some of the families there.

I guess part of this writing process for me is channeling my pain and fear into something that can help others. I wish I would’ve had someone like me now to guide me as I was growing up…to show me that I was not alone…that what I was facing was painful and scary, but being reminded of the little things. Like how good it felt the first time I walked on my own, or what it felt like when I found my passion through writing, or the day that I realized I didn’t have to be defined solely by my Cerebral Palsy.