When I sat up, I was bleeding, but I didn’t know that yet. “I couldn’t care less what ANYONE thinks of me.” As I regained consciousness, I emphasized my first thought as if speaking it aloud on a stage into an audience of strangers.
I touched the pain across my forehead. Blood on my fingers inspired two new thoughts: “Am I having an aneurysm?” and “Thank God for the neuroplasticity of the brain.” Then, with that self-coaching voice that seems installed in our humanity like hardware, “Candace, you are not having an aneurysm. But you’ve fallen. You’ve hit your head. And you need to call someone.”
Writer with a head injury
A friend took me to the ER and waited through hours of tests and monitoring. I would learn these tests were just the beginning, confirming I didn’t have a stroke, my neck was okay and my skull was intact. Doctors told me to see a neurologist for more tests, but I resisted their advice for several days.
My hair could cover the cut across my forehead. It couldn’t hide a disturbing constellation of symptoms, including dizziness, extreme fatigue, anxiety and – the most troubling side effect – intermittent issues with memory and language skills.
I’m a writer, a professional communicator. And I was injured in what I believed to be my greatest gift.
The neurologist recommended consulting a cardiologist, since we were unsure whether I’d tripped or fainted into the fall, as well as an MRI.
The first opening for an MRI was July 5, and I took it. My stress that day was compounded by lack of sleep, not only due to the concussion but also from neighborhood fireworks enthusiasts whose rockets left shells in my yard, ringing in my ears and the welcome surprise that my mailbox was undamaged.
I spent several difficult days waiting for the results, certain the imaging techs gave me strange looks after the MRI. “They saw something, something bad,” I sobbed into the phone to one of the few people who knew about the accident. (Did you notice “anxiety” in the list of symptoms above?) But I was wrong. The MRI revealed the damage to my brain was not permanent.
Good news. Full recovery. What the MRI and my neurologist couldn’t tell me was how long that recovery would take. “Every concussion is different,” she said.
With her permission, I continued to work with select clients. I used project-based fees instead of hourly rates, accepting only assignments with generous deadlines.
I couldn’t care less what ANYONE thinks of me.
I wish the feeling behind that declaration wasn’t the first side effect to wear off. I’m still tempted to “play small” sometimes, and I can be my biggest censor.
But that initial thought after the 2017 injury, and the injury itself, pointed me in a life-changing direction. During my recovery, when I wasn’t working, practicing Reiki or napping, I was learning about self-value from fellow creatives like Sue Bryce.
About six months after the injury, a colleague connected me with Chris Doyle of Mind-Morph. Chris needed an editor for his books, and I needed the encouragement and inspiration contained in his manuscripts.
It took 18 months for all the symptoms to vanish, but I did recover as promised with renewed focus and energy. I’ve taught entrepreneurs about giving their talents back to themselves and the businesses they own. I attended a cardiovascular summit as a Reiki practitioner (thanks to an invitation from my cardiologist, an advocate for holistic medicine). I’ve moved from a far-reaching suburb into Atlanta to work at a Buckhead synagogue. I started a new business. I stopped tolerating people or activities that drain me.
Throughout my recovery, I continued writing inspirational posts, including one of my previous features on Positively Positive.
Like many people, I teach what I am learning. Years before I fell, I wrote about an Illinois tornado and the miracle of 150 survivors.
Stories like these ignite empathy. We imagine stepping outside those shelters into the debris of an otherwise flattened building. We connect with the 150 survivors through our own “life is short” memories of waiting for medical test results, or a near-miss on the interstate, or a loved one who died too young.
These moments quietly nudge us into considering what we value, who we’ve helped and where we spend our time. We thank the people who work to keep us safe.
Then we fall back into our everyday errands. For a little while, we forget we are like spiders, busy and fragile.
My injury could have been much worse, and I want to continue using my gifts and appreciating the magic of each new day. This is not a hasty declaration, but a slow and spiraling epiphany that could stretch across this lifetime.
I carry two lessons from the accident into any struggle and every joy.
- Your greatest communication tool isn’t your mind. It’s a big, wide-open heart.
- The most important person to believe in you IS you.
Candace Schilling, publicist, offers PR Communication and Training to spiritual teachers and faith-based communities. For more inspiration as well as tips about marketing and strategic communication, visit candaceschilling.com or find Candace on LinkedIn.
Image courtesy of Caique Silva.