“We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.” ~Joseph Campbell
It’s been just under five years now since I had a head injury that changed my life forever.
Unfortunately, after spending more than 2 years seeing multiple types of therapy and several doctors every day for over 2 years, I had to quit my job. My heart broke.
As a school administrator and special educator, I enjoyed my job. I’d been in classrooms since I was twenty years old, and here I was at fifty-seven, suddenly unable to return to a school in any capacity because of a head injury.
The first two years, when I wasn’t being transported to therapies and doctors, I was mostly in bed or on the sofa.
To be honest, it wasn’t just because I was physically hurting so bad—it was because I was emotionally hurting, too.
Every day I have suffered from headaches since the terrible day that my head was injured almost five years ago. My symptoms include dizziness and vertigo as well as fatigue.
I was diagnosed by my neuropsychologist with memory, executive functioning, processing and recall problems.
However, these were only temporary problems compared to the emotional anguish I felt and the deep pain I experienced when I realized I would never again be able go into a school classroom.
And I had to learn the hard way.
It was the first Grandparents’ Day at my grandson’s school after my head injury. My husband took off work and picked me up from home, dropped me off at the school doors, parked the car, and then escorted me to our grandson’s classroom.
I always loved Grandparents’ Day at schools where I worked, as well as at our grandchildren’s schools. Grandparents’ Day was a wonderful opportunity to greet grandparents at school. I treasured the moments when my students introduced me to my grandparents.
We always made a big deal out of Grandparent’s Day with our own grandchildren, and I was thrilled to be attending this year because it was one of my first ventures out of the house for anything other than medical appointments.
I still had balance issues, anxiety, panic attacks and vision problems.
But my husband was my best support person, so I thought I’d be okay for this outing.
I ended up in the corner of an overcrowded classroom, surrounded by dozens upon dozens of grandchildren and students. There was no escape. Then I panicked.
Difficulty breathing, sweating, shaking—and near syncope.
He quickly excused me and took me out of the school to get through the crowd.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay.
It was a terrible feeling.
The next time it happened, I was attending a basketball game at our granddaughters’ school where they were cheerleading and dancing.
When the crowds started to gather around me, I was sure I would be able to handle them. I then had another panic attack that left me shaking and having difficulty breathing.
Again, my husband escorted me through the crowd and out the building—unable to stay.
As my appointments became less frequent and more distant, the doctors said I was getting better. I kept going to counseling for PTSD.
My ability to use the coping skills I had been practicing for over two years was improving. But I still struggled.
I was now doing my physical therapy and vision therapy at home, so I didn’t go to those appointments anymore. I wasn’t seeing the specialists or doctors as often as before.
I was seeing my counselor remotely because of the pandemic, so I didn’t even get out of the house for that weekly appointment.
At the age of two years, something was wrong. I had lost the joy that was in my soul and heart for so long. Actually, I think it had been lost for some time. It was important that it be found again.
My life had been half-lived. Because of my head injury, I lost my job and was ready to retire. My social life was stagnant because I couldn’t drive or be in large crowds.
However, I was certain that my life was not as it seemed. It is notOver and I still had much to live.
My conscious decision was to climb out from underneath my rock. I was tired of being isolated and self-pityful without any joy in my heart or soul.
It was obvious that joy had to be my choice. My mindset was changing and I wasn’t letting what had happened in my life control me.
My friends and family saw a difference as I got out of under my rock. My explanation was that I had taken back control of my life, and I chose joy over all else. My accomplishments were a source of pride for many. In fact, people were very proud of me.
But I sometimes discovered that the concept of choosing joy didn’t always resonate with people. They didn’t seem to have the spiritual foundation necessary to understand what I meant.
So, I started explaining exactly what I was doing—choosing joy as a lifestyle. I shifted my attention and mindset from what had happened to me to all the wonderful things around me—flowers, animals, music, sunshine, and smiles.
As a school administrator, I used compartmentalizing. My counselor helped me to put the past behind me. It was important to keep my eyes on the positive and not dwell on the negative.
I made it a point to laugh more—watching more comedies and scheduling time with fun people. It took a lot for me to ask friends or family to drive because I was always the driver—but I did it.
I even laughed about the mess my house had become during my down time and decided to just pronounce “Bless this mess!”
As I cleaned up the house, organizing it became easier. My husband was patient with me and understood my needs. There were piles of clothes, bills, and loads of mess.
I focused on an attitude of gratitude and controlling what I could control—my attitude, my words, my behavior, and my responses to life. Instead of beating myself up over my shortcomings (or not being able or able to work anymore), I accepted them.
As I shared more about finding joy, I felt more empowered to take control of my own life. Every day, I felt more joy.
Outside, I was able to spend quality time with my family (and the cats) and enjoy time alone. I organized family gatherings again and was able learn to cope with panic attacks and my headaches.
I accepted that IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY. It wouldn’t be a disaster if something had to be cancelled because it was bad for me. This was a fact I accepted. My family and my friends also accepted this fact.
It was a complete shift in my entire life.
My outlook changed.
It was like a flood of joy that I experienced.
Now I can see the benefits of retirement and enjoy it. Making jewelry is something I’ve taken up again. My house is cleaner and more organized than it’s been in twenty years. And I am more functional than I’ve been since the head injury.
Not because I’m all better but because I have a better mindset. It’s a choice of joy that changes everything.
There are some days that are more rewarding than others.
It’s still like that.
Fast five years later.
But I no longer live under a rock—or in bed under my covers!
I’ve learned through it all that choosing joy is a lifestyle concept. And I’ve been living it as I recover from my head injury and take back my life.
I’ve become empowered and confident again because I control how I see the world.
Joy is the lens that allows you to see the world through. Joy will help you see the world through a different perspective.
Sassy Sister Stuff is a place for awesome women who are actively seeking to redefine their personal growth, wellness, adventures, happiness, self-love and self-care, mindset, entrepreneurship, plus so much more—at any age or stage of life. Founded by Susan Ballinger in 2020, Sassy Sister Stuff contains a wealth of information about managing life and taking good care of yourself. Susan, an Individual with Exceptional Needs Specialist is determined to make her site accessible for all.
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