Monday, September 15, 2014

The Plan

It's a funny thing-- the life you plan for yourself versus the one God has planned for you.

At my first rehab evaluation at the Traumatic Brain Injury unit in Jackson, the doctors and therapists looked through my file and asked me and my mom questions about my pre-injury life, trying to get an idea of what my "normal" used to be. I was a daycare teacher who was truly in love with her job, and loved those kids so much that I spent my free time babysitting. I loved being in school. I loved playing sports. I loved going out with my friends. I was so active that I didn't even have time to watch the cable I was paying for. I was independent. Some nights I practically collapsed into bed, wishing for a day I could spend just laying in bed watching tv.

Well. Be careful what you wish for, huh?

Sometimes I think about what my life is like right now and I laugh because of how absolutely bizarre it is. I am only taking 2 college class and they are online. My college graduation that was supposed to be in May is being pushed back. The only time I'm around kids is when I'm around my little cousins. If I want to walk, I have to use a walker and I'm exhausted after 6 steps. All of my friends are hours away. I spend my days in a brain and spine rehabilitation institute.

How can that be? I was sure I had finally made peace with it. It is what it is. I've never been the jealous type, ever, but when I see my friends' Facebook posts about school and student teaching and graduation, I'm just dumbfounded. I mean, that's supposed to be me.

I wasn't born to spend my time re-learning how to do basic skills. I wasn't born to spend my days in bed "resting". I wasn't born to be the person who takes forever to graduate college. I was born to teach and dedicate my life to helping others and live a beautiful, successful life that I created by working hard. I'm so good at covering it up that sometimes, when I'm just watching a movie with my family, I forget. Internal injuries are sneaky-- other than a couple scars under my clothes, I look just like I always have.

I kept trying to fit myself into this pre-accident box. Maybe if I go back to Starkville, things will be like they used to be. Maybe if I try to keep myself busy in between my therapy sessions, I will forget how vastly different things are. Maybe if I just keep pushing myself, I can make MY life plan happen.

I like to be the best I can be. The best daughter, the best sister, the best friend, the best student, the best teacher, the best babysitter. I knew I needed to take care of myself first, but I didn't want to walk away from all of that.

But finally, I found the right doctor who knew what she was talking about. And she looked at me and she said, "I'm going to lay it all out on the table for you, okay? You. Have. To. Stop. If you don't put the rest of your life on pause and come do your rehab here, you won't get better. And you are just too young to let this take everything away from you."

For about 60 seconds, I was crushed. I saw my life plan swirling the drain. What about school? What about my kiddos? What about my life in Starkville? But then I was suddenly relieved. Because someone finally told me that it was okay to just stop, and I didn't feel like I was just throwing in the towel. I wasn't failing because this wasn't my fault. I wasn't choosing to leave everything in Starkville behind for now, I was being forced to. I can finally rest. I can finally let myself breathe long enough to heal. I can stop trying to do everything at one time, and just focus on getting myself better first.

And you know, I think it's alright. I've always thought of it as admitting defeat and letting these injuries define me, but really I think it's just the opposite. It takes a lot of strength to give up your color-coded, neatly organized life plan. It's hard to feel like you're standing still while the world is still moving on without you.

So that's where I am. I'm a patient at the Methodist Outpatient Rehabilitation Institute in Jackson. My "window of opportunity" is closing very quickly. When it comes to serious nerve damage, you typically have 6 months - 1 year after the accident to regain sensation. December 30th will make it 1 year (umm CRAZY), so after that it's pretty much all about adjusting to the new life for good. (Fingers crossed for the best results possible!) So they keep me busy with all kinds of stretches, nerve tests, upper body workouts, and crazy things for people with partial paralysis like an underwater treadmill. I work hard, and when I'm drained at the end of the day, I'm allowed to crawl into bed and rest. I'm a senior in college, just with a few modifications and a later graduation date. I'm also a godmother to the most beautiful, precious, and perfect little girl there is. She is my sweet new baby girl cousin Gemma, and it's safe to say I'm head over heels in love with her.

Like I said, it's a funny thing-- the life you plan for yourself versus the one God has planned for you.

If you think about it, it's kind of scary, too. Sometimes I am so comforted by the idea that I don't have to worry, because someone, who is so much bigger than me, has a plan just for me. Other times, the control freak in me spazzes out over the idea that the life plan she has worked so hard for isn't the plan that's actually going to happen.

But this is my life. My "new normal" as they like to say at rehab. I miss my friends and my kids and going to 2-for-1 Tuesdays and being a fun-loving 21 year old.

And I don't know when I'll finish rehab, or when I'll finally get to graduate from college and have my own classroom and then have a house full of kids. I don't know if I'll ever be able to walk, skip, and jump down the streets of Disney World with my family again. But I do have a plan. And the best part? If my plan doesn't work out, someone who is so much bigger than you and me has something planned just for me. And maybe it seems silly to some people, but that's what I'm holding onto. That's what I have to hold onto in order to keep going.

After all, I hear His plans tend to be the greatest.