“By accepting yourself and being fully what you are, your presence can make others happy.” ~Jane Roberts All the talk the past few months have been on depression and mental illness especially since the death of Robin Williams last year. When I heard he took his own life due to depression my heart sank. I could hardly believe someone as vivacious as he always seemed would have depression. It all resonated so deep with my soul because I have experienced my fair share of depression… All this thought on mental
illness has ultimately lead me to my next step in my life. But this step I have taken has been taken only because I know from experience what most would say a “Mental Illness” may feel like since I lived with a brain injury most of my life… “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” ~Maya Angelou I was asked to do a speech a few days ago on overcoming a brain injury. March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and a ladies club of a town nearby to me asked if I would come discuss some of the stages I had with my brain injury and how I dealt with it. They were interested in how I used my running to get through most of these things. I was delighted to do it because I knew each of these women fairly well. I began talking to them all and they were unaware that March was the month to recognize this so I went into some detail of that. Then I always begin by introducing myself and saying, I am Stephanie, a marathon runner. One lady looks up at me and says she remembered me well when I ran the streets religiously in this town, and I agreed with her on that. She told me she would have never known I had any of the issues I was going to talk about. “I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ~Brené Brown After this remark was made I immediately felt a strong emotion come over me and I started opening up on everything. I told them all I ran so often, and had all these ambitions to run marathons and lift all this weight and stay as active as possible because I remembered not being able to do any of this. And I remember those words being said, you will be in a wheel chair the rest of your life, and they drove me more each and every day! But I also let them know that the obsessiveness trait I had about all my activities was probably due to the brain injury I received. They all sat in amazement and listened to me go on and on as I described some of my running adventures and the awesome people I have connected with. Then the question of Post-Traumatic Stress came up and I felt another strong emotion come to me on that subject, and I felt my voice start to shake as I began to speak on that… “Sometimes what you’re most afraid of doing is the very thing that will set you free.” I took a deep breath and said, I was so young when my injury happened to me. When I finally got out of that hospital I was like every other adolescent. I wanted to be normal and fun, no different, so what did I do? I picked it up and carried on with my life like I was normal. Even though I always felt this strong push inside me I never understood. But the day this push began to make sense to me was the day of The Boston Marathon 2013 bombings. Just hearing those words Boston Marathon excited everyone, they all said you were really there? I said yes I was there not running it but I was there. Their eyes lit up with even more excitement to hear this. I then went on to say I didn’t witness any blood or any damage but I heard and saw some things that I will never forget. I told them, after hearing those bombs and seeing those faces filled with horror. I traveled back home to Georgia only to revisit my past over and over in my mind. Through nightmares, visions, and then going into a deep depression. This was the post-traumatic stress I never went through as a child after I had my injuries. They all sat in even more amazement and then I said I used my running to help me through this time in my life, and I recommend it to everyone I meet actually. “Life always waits for some crisis to occur before revealing itself at its most brilliant.” ~Paul Coelho I then told them that wasn’t the last time I saw the face of post-traumatic stress… I told them of another time a few months after I got over the bombings. I had a photo shoot with a tennis wear company in Atlanta GA. I was high on life, ego a mile wide and I met a child sitting in a car seat with a brain injury. He looked just as I did in my mind, in a memory I have so often from those days I sat in my wheelchair. This baby was only 8 years old and looking at him was as if I had taken a leap back in time to 1993 and I was looking directly at myself… The speech ended, and I made the drive back home and let my mind drift away in thoughts of what all I spoke of. All I could do was smile with a grateful heart because I remembered a time not too long ago when speaking on this subject frightened me so much I could hardly move. Those memories I was recapturing tonight had stifled me for so many years of my life. But I always knew I had this powerful message. I always felt that push, always…. So to end this entry I will share a big lesson I have learned about life. And that is the bravest thing anyone can do I have found is to have the courage to step away from “normal” and be exactly who you are. It has taken me many many years to discover that the desire to be heard has to become stronger and more powerful than any fear you have of being different! But most of all when you feel your push don’t wait, jump!! Never Give Up, Never Give In, Never Stop Trying, Never Ever Give Up!!!!