I live every day with the goal to make it the best day. Every morning I reset myself to open my heart to all the possibilities of the day. I envision happiness, content, laughter, and a flow of positive energy. Every night I go to bed reliving the day, grabbing the best moment and feeling thankful for each of them, from the ordinary to the extraordinary moments. This I do every day, why? Because life can throw anything at you, without warning, and without any consideration, I have learned this the hard way… Now that we are housebound and we are staying at home alone, or with family, or with friends, there are moments that we want to break free of the constraint and we “need to do something that requires the outside”, we are all feeling the same. This feeling of wanting to break down our limitations and have our freedom to come and go is equal to all of us.
I am about to turn 40 in a few months, the big 40, and when I look back, Life (or destiny) has given me hard lessons, not all at once, but every few years… yes, a part of me has learned to “expect” the storm which can be a good or bad thing depending on how you see it.
So how do I cope with difficult times? We all have different ways of coping, for me, there is one action that has allowed me to move forward, time and time again, which is being compassionate with myself. I allow myself to feel all in, and then I try to see the positive way out, owning my feelings, being kind about my feelings, not judging me but looking for ways to move forward.
I would like to talk about one of the “storms” of my life, not the most destructive or painful, but the one that I keep thinking and going back to now that we are “bound” in our homes.
When I was 17 years old, just a few days away from turning 18, I had a car accident. I was driving and had friends in the car, and because of one or too many reasons, I lost control and we went down a ditch, a really big ditch. I don’t remember much right after the accident, I know we got out of the car, that one of my friends was bleeding, and that we climbed the ditch back up, that a car was passing by and gave us a lift to the hospital. I remember my parents being worried about my friends, who were our guests, and trying to get them back to the city in an ambulance. A good friend of mine saw me sitting by myself, being completely out of it, so he sat next to me, he realized I was in shock, so he asked me to lay down and put my head on his legs, and then… and then I could not move. People rushed at me and X-rays were taken revealing that I had fractured my neck (C5) and 4 other vertebras in my back (L5 – L2), with a couple of broken ribs that no one mentioned again. All of a sudden all the attention was on me, getting me to the city was the priority, getting me in an ambulance, in the hospital, immobilizing me.
The next few days were painful both physically and mentally, but we got through, I had a great doctor that had experience on my particular situation and quickly moved forward with the Halo (picture below)
I spent the next three weeks adjusting to the Halo, but happy I was able to move, it was going to be a process, but that the outcome seemed very good. I had a cast for my lower back which did not bother me as much since the Halo was painful. I asked the doctor for how long I will stay with the Halo? He said 3 to 4 months, I thought I could do that, one day at a time, and focus on the outcome, on the moment in which all will be ok again.
Four weeks into the treatment, one of Halo’s nails in the back of my head, sprung back, I had a reaction against it, and by the time I got back to the hospital, the doctor had to remove the whole thing, Got me a new neck brace, called Minerva, and told me to stay in bed, looking at the roof, with no movement, until I was able to try again the Halo. I spent three weeks in bed not moving at all, with sores in my back and tears in my eyes.
After three weeks, the doctor said, my skin had healed and the Halo was back. This time it was decided I will shave my head to make sure we can see if my skin was reacting again, and a dermatologist was brought in as part of the team of doctors. Unfortunately, the time to recover was reset, meaning my last two months were not valid, and the 3 to 4-month countdown started again. But I was able to walk, and that was enough. I was put on a simple diet that will allow me to stay healthy due to the fact I was with limited movement, and my stomach was able to handle since I was taking a lot of strong medicines.
I spent my days playing scrabble (alone), watching cable TV, and being entertained by whoever came to visit. I made myself a pretty good schedule that I will make sure I will follow every day. Within the confines of my house with an outing every few days (not easy to walk around with the Halo as people just stare at you especially with a bold head). But the time passed, one day at a time, morning, noon, and then it was night time, and another day was crossed off in the calendar.
My “new” 3 to 4 month became 8, which was very painful (pain wise) with the pressure of the halo having to be adjusted every week, bringing tears to my eyes, as soon as I would walk in the doctor’s office. But the day came and 10 months after my car accident, the Halo was removed. I was bold, and still had to wear a neck brace, but I was happy. So very happy. I went to dinner with my parents, a nice place, and we toasted, just the three of us.
It’s been four weeks of being homebound, but for me, but when I think of being homebound I cannot help but feel that it is ok, because it has been worse. This time around I don’t have a Halo, I can move freely in my house without feeling pain, I can play scrabble with my family or online with other people, I can cook different meals and not have a stomach ache.
I think about those that are sick, those that are bound to a bed, that cannot move, the people that are hurting and in pain and under extreme uncertainty about their medical status, my heart goes to them.
In summary below are tips and lessons that I have learned during my car accidents that I apply today to the social distancing and been homebound:
- Create a routine (shower, work, reading, coffee time, solo game of scrabble or puzzles, tv time, cooking, etc), create a routine that allows you to see the time passing in a productive way.
- Reset your mind every morning, opening the possibilities to productivity, love, community effort, friendship, education, among other positive actions the day can bring to you.
- Be grateful every night, alone or with your family. Allow your kids to express gratitude also.
- Be kind and compassionate with your feelings and yourself. It is ok to feel down, aggravated, mad, sad, frustrated, exhausted, etc, all of these are valid feelings, give yourself permission to feel them and then refocus on the positive, in your routine, in a hobby, or physical activity.