Friday, July 31, 2009

When Life Fell Apart

Eighteen years ago this week, my life ceased to exist as I knew it. You could say the lights went out in Georgia so to speak. Everything I had known up until this point had morphed into ways that I did not recognize. It was like I was viewing my life as a spectator from the outside.

It all started with so many changes in my life through various jobs, relationships, friends and events which seemed to be all part of my normal day, were nothing short of epic adventures. No Hollywood movie producer could have created a more robust picture than my life had portrayed on the big screen.

Just a few days before this, I knew that things were not going in the right direction for me but I had no way to find reverse. It was as if a steam train was racing full steam ahead to a cliff as the engineer knew the brakes did not work. I knew deep down and even stated it to a work colleague that "I was about ready to lose it in life". I did not have enough self confidence to understand that I could change the upcoming course of events and I was too weary and tired of fighting. All the strength and energy I knew, had been consumed in life. There was nothing more for me to give and nothing more for me to draw upon.

At first, it started out as a sore neck muscle which the Chiropractor was helping me to get relief from. However, it was not long after a treatment would be over that the stress and reality of life would weigh in heavy on me again and the pain and stiffness and soreness would come back with a vengeance. There was no escaping it. There was no running from it anymore. I tried to out run it but I could not run fast enough.

As the days and the weeks progressed, my body fell into surrender to something that seemed to completely overpower and overtake me. It robbed me of all my control. From soreness and stiffness into the paralysis beginning in my legs, then being accompanied by seizures, extreme exhaustion, fits of crying, confusion, feeling delirious, shaking, and just an overall desire of wanting this life to end through suicide. Trip after trip to the doctor's office with emergency ambulance rides to the hospital, I was met with confusion by the doctors and test after test revealed nothing concrete. Each trip, the doctor would send me back home to fend for myself while my family and friends tried to figure out how to take care of me. And while I was an alert, open eyed human being, there was very little I could do. My control over my life was gone. It was as if I was a passenger and a puppet master was pulling the strings.

More tests and hospitalization came next with the doctors still quite uncertain what was going on. No one had answers and all anyone around me had was plenty of questions. During one of the final muscle stimulation tests, my body determined it had enough of everything and when I woke up, there were doctors and nurses around me along with so much equipment as I saw the doctor above me getting ready to bring the paddles on to my body to bring me back. It was then that I knew I had come to the end of my road. It was the edge of the cliff.

So I remember laying in my hospital at the age of 25, thinking what has become of my life. I could no longer feel a needle being touched on my feet. My name was a very difficult thing for me to remember. Speaking a few words took forever and felt like it took more energy than climbing the world's tallest mountain. Movement was a gift if it was possible but then only something that would take forever to accomplish. Memory was gone to some far off place. And so, I was left alone with myself and my few limited thoughts. Is this the way I'm going to live out my remaining days if I have any more left? Am I going to lie in a bed as a vegetable, not being able to do much for myself or barely being able to speak a few words. Was this all I wanted for life? Was it all I could expect?

I remember making a decision to myself where I reached down deep that I did not want to be this way and I was not about to accept that which had caught up with me. This was not the way I wanted to function in life. It was not how I wanted life to be. In my mind, I made the decision that I had to fight with all the strength I could find and then some. This would not be easy but I was not going to accept the current condition I was in.

Through some miraculous insights by a neurologist, she spoke the words that began to show me a new path forward. Those words were in the form of a question "have you been through a lot in your life?". This questions was followed up by "would you like to talk to someone?". Those two questions were the beginning of my road home and led me to a psychologist who helped me chart the path ahead and it was at that moment, that I once again took my first step in physical therapy.

It was not an easy road ahead learning to walk again or just how to sit up and use my arms, my fingers, my voice and functioning in a normal way that most humans do every day. From getting myself around by a wheel chair in and out of doors and entrances to trying to walk up an incline and retain my balance, it was an epic fight that I fought. Just finding the strength to do this before exhaustion set in was like winning a gold medal to me.

Through time, therapy and healing, my body began to come back. Of course, new challenges would present themselves but knowing that if I kept myself going and remembering how I brought myself back, I knew I could do this. For learning how to take that first step again has given me so much courage and determination in life. It has provided the fuel and the energy to continue walking down the road of healing that I have had to do in my life.

None of this has been easy and there have been many days when I just wanted to give up. Some days, it has been hard to muster up the courage and the strength to take those difficult steps. It would have been far easier to just say I've had enough and stop. However, I knew that if I did this, it would mean my death. I had already been down the road of no return and I know that if I do not continue my journey that there may not be another second chance in life.

I find it amusing that churches teach about us going to hell when we die but I know from the cold hard reality that hell exists here in the present moment. It is not something you have to wait to experience when you are no longer alive. I've been to hell and back and now that my life is moving forward, I no longer fear all that for it is so familiar to me as if it is my hated and beloved twin.

Fortunately several years ago, I met some wonderful individuals who are now part of my life. Through their love and acceptance, they have helped me realize that while I've seen the dark side of life, there is a good side. There has been one individual that has helped me heal in ways that I was not even aware of. I had no idea how to continue my journey and I was growing weary but this one individual has helped me walk many miles down the path. This person showed me that all I did need was located right within myself and knowing this has given me so much freedom, so much strength and healing beyond my wildest imagination. I have been a witness in my life to having the right individuals come along at the right moments. Without them, this journey would have been more than I could have endured.

Life still presents its challenges to me each and every day. I'm faced with struggles of the past and how they impact my current day but I'm also given new opportunities to grow. Some days, the challenges seem more difficult than I care to embrace but I am constantly reminded of just how hard it was to take that physical step some 18 years ago and knowing I had the strength to do that, I know I have the strength to do it now.

The name the medical establishment gives to the condition I had is called a Conversion Disorder or according to Freud, "hysterical paralysis". You can google this condition and read more about it. To this day, I've never met anyone who has been through this in the way I have. It is rare to go through it in the manner that I did. Many people experience parts and pieces of this every day in their life only to a different degree. Many people who have experienced a Conversion Disorder from what I have read, don't always come back and recover. It is difficult. If you or someone you know has been through this, I'd love to have contact with them. I know there are others.

Just a note about the picture in this post - this picture was taken during the time I became paralyzed. This was in the early days before I had been hospitalized. Even though I'm trying to smile, I was struggling every moment just to make it.

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