Hello world…it’s Ashley here. I have wrestled with how I was going to tell my story. I’ve thought about how much should I tell, does my story even matter….is it relevant and will people be inspired or encouraged from my journey? I’ve been gone for a few months and to be completely transparent, I have struggled to get back in the swing of things. I have attempted to blog a few times. I remember being in OH with my mother for a work trip. She asked me to ride with her because at the time, I was still very sick and couldn’t be alone, and I had a total melt down. My balance was off; I couldn’t focus for very long periods of time but I wanted to write. I picked up my Mac and I remember how much the light irritated me. I went to type but all I could really do was peck at the keys.
I’d write a sentence and have to read, and reread and reread it again for it make logical sense to me. It took me about 15 mins to write a 3-4 sentence paragraph. I slammed the top on my Mac down and slung it across the bed! I cried so hard! What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I do simple tasks like type or read?!? That same, dreadful day, I decided to order some food from UberEats. I met the delivery lady outside the hotel and I thought I was going to die!!!! The noise, the lights, the people…it was just too much. I was stuck. I felt so loss in that moment. Another break down. And to top it off, I had a major headache so I took a pill…the wrong pill…my mama’s water pill instead of my headache medicine. So, I had 2 melt downs, a headache, and I couldn’t freaking stop peeing…what a day!
So, you’re asking…what the heck happened? Well, here’s my story:
On August 21st, the day of the eclipse, I like everyone else was super excited to experience this once in a life time event. I headed into work in preparation to not do too much lol (this was welcomed because I normally work like crazy and must remind myself to get up and move). The previous week, I was out traveling for work so I knew it would be a day of catching up and with the excitement of the eclipse, the office setting would be more lax than normal. I remember sitting at my desk and all of sudden feeling nauseated. Like most women in that situation, I thought, dang…am I starting early? I got up and headed to bathroom and nope…nothing. As I sat there though, my head felt funny. I wish I could accurately describe to you the feeling but I can’t. The best way I can describe it is that it was like how you’d picture a dam overflowing…water just bursting through the dam and overtaking everything around it. I felt like something broke and fluid began filling up in my head. I called my parents. One didn’t answer so I hit up the other one. I must’ve sounded odd because I was told to head out of the bathroom and my aunt was on her way to get me.
There’s many things I have questioned over the last 9 weeks…one of them is how the hell I got back to my desk. Our bathroom at work is not close to my cube…in fact, we must badge in and out of the hallway if we want to take the short cut so how I made it from the bathroom to my desk, in my condition, I have no clue. Apparently, I made it. From what I have been told, I told my bosses I didn’t feel well. They asked me if I wanted to go to the emergency room or the walk-in clinic…me being the person that doesn’t like causing a scene or having too much attention on themselves said…walk in.
This is the moment where things get blurry. I don’t remember much from this point. I know my aunt came and my work friend helped me down to meet her. I’m so grateful for her and my aunt. They worked quickly together and probably saved me from having a full-blown aneurism. I, in my bossy ways, directed my aunt to the closest hospital…I threw up. That’s all I can remember. I was transported from that hospital to another in the ambulance because my CAT SCAN showed that my brain was bleeding and I needed to see a neurologists ASAP.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced what it is like to have memory loss but it SUCKS. 3 weeks of my life are gone from my memory…now there’s a few sprinkles of memories in there…like my nurse telling me I got my catheter. Or looking up to see my cousin’s faces and my grandmother squeezing my hand. I remember telling my best friend who is a nurse to check everything the nurses were doing because I trusted her. I also asked for my God-sister who is also a nurse to come in and handle things lol. I had a diva moment when my other best friend came to feed me and I spit out some nasty meatloaf and told them the broccoli they brought me stank. O, I also called my boss and told them that I may be sick but they BETTER have my money (I think Rhianna’s song was playing in my head)…I sent a text too lol. I don’t think I’ll ever live that one down with them. HAHAHA! Once I realized I did this, I was mortified but not surprised. They both know, Ashley don’t play about her money lol! I also am very grateful for my work group and my bosses which are two people that I greatly respect and respect me. I enjoy my work…which apparently, I told my surgeon as well and said he had to fix me so I could go back to work. I’ve been told that I have said some crazy things… so in order to protect myself and those that I love, I’ll leave the rest of them out of this post lol.
I know you are wondering, what is wrong…what condition do you have. Well…I have an AVM. I don’t know what it stands for. I haven’t Googled it. I haven’t Googled anything and ya girl LOVES Google. I have a Google Home!!! But I don’t want to know any more details than what my surgeon and parents have told me (this is unusual for me). My brain bled is all I know and that was the fluid like feeling I had. It was blood. I was in the hospital for 7 days, 6 were spent in the ICU. I had to be woken up every hour to go through a series of test to make sure I didn’t have a stroke. My hearing and sight were extremely sensitive. I remember being in so much pain that I asked my surgeon for more morphine. I had no control. Everyone has a defense mechanism. That thing that we hold onto that will keep us safe. My safety net is control. That was gone and it hasn’t quite been the same since (which everyone around me has appreciated and I am glad I’m not as intense). When I was released from the hospital, I came home and my parents moved in with me. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for my parents. Their lives changed that day too. They spent 6 weeks sleeping in the full bed in my guest room. My AVM caused me to have extremely severe headaches. If you’ve had a migraine before, think about that times 10. I had nightmares because of the strong medicine I was on. They would have to get in the bed with me and rock me to sleep. I was in pain for weeks…unbearable pain…pain that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Pain meant I needed meds…heavy meds…so if I wasn’t in pain, I was drugged up. I spent weeks like this.
I remember my mama having to give me a bath and realizing that I couldn’t walk that well. I’d later find out that my bleed effected a nerve in my right leg. I had to have a sound machine to sleep because any loud noise tore me up. I remember getting upset with my family one day while they were cooking. I heard a loud noise that sounded like a helicopter. I kept yelling for them to cut it off, cut it off!!!! We realized it was only the microwave vent. I went back upstairs to my room and cried. I just wanted to be normal. I had many days where I just asked God…pleaded with him to be normal again. I couldn’t bathe myself, I couldn’t think normally, light bothered me, I couldn’t walk normally, I couldn’t hear, my body hurt from being in a hospital bed for so long…all while I had horrible headaches multiple times a day.
I got through it. I remember going to see my therapist for the first time after it happened. She asked me how I felt. I told her…I feel like I died and I could look down and see my funeral and experience the love that I never knew I had. It’s not that I didn’t know people in my life loved me. I just didn’t know how much. My family and friends are the most amazing people. I cannot describe how much they mean to me. They ALL stepped up. They fed me, did my hair, were my nurses, gave my parents a break, my brother has been my side kick, they drove hours to come see me and bring me Cheesecake Factory lol. They prayed with me and for me. I had sooo many people come see me in the hospital. My church family…what can I say…they are my family. I am an extremely blessed individual to have so much love surrounding me.
If I could describe my journey thus far using one word…it is clarity. I am clear on what I value most in life, I am clear on who loves me, I am clear on what matters the most, I am clear on what I want for myself at this point in my life. I am a very focused, driven, ambitious person…that can be good and bad. I’ve never really been good at slowing down and enjoying the moment. I am very goal oriented so after one goal is achieved, it’s onto the next. I have been a destination seeker…not someone who has stopped to enjoy the journey. My perspective on things have changed. I am calmer, more affectionate, more vulnerable, not as calculated, more laid back. I think this is a good thing. At times, I slip back into my need to be productive. It has served me well for a long time. Those attributes are part of who I am but going forward, I understand that I should have more balance in my life. This experience also taught me to take inventory of who I allow in my life. I’ve also had to place a mirror before myself and do some self-checking to ensure that I am presenting my authentic self at all times. Am I the Ashley that I want to be? Am I staying true to my beliefs and what I want for my life? Am I allowing other’s influences to dictate what I want for myself? These are hard questions to ask of yourself and I challenge anyone reading this to have those tough conversations with yourself. Overall, my faith is stronger than ever and I am at peace with my situation. I have had my what if moments…I was literally on a plane 2 days before I had my AVM…some days I wonder what would have happened if I was in the air. That’s my BUT GOD moment and I am GRATEFUL to still be here today.
I had some amazing moments with God during my journey. Dreams and visions…. some I remember…some I don’t. I never fully grasped what it meant to live in the spiritual realm until all of this happened. The things I could tell. I oddly haven’t really wrestled with asking WHY GOD? Why did this happen to me? Granted, I said I haven’t really wrestled, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come up at times. I am human…I just don’t stay in that place too long. My tangled blood vessels that burst had been in my head for 29 years at the time. I was born with them so why now? Other people have asked that question but it didn’t come up often with me. I thought it was kind of weird that I didn’t ask myself this. I have a close family friend who is preacher and one day, I dreamed about her. I forgot I had this dream until I saw her at a funeral. She said she was looking all around for me. Now, I was still on some heavy medication but when she sat down…I knew what she was going to tell me. She said, Ashley, God told me to tell you why this happened to you…and I responded with, I know. This journey has given me unshakable faith and restoration for my family. If nothing else comes of this, that is enough.
When you have a traumatic and life altering event happen to you…you cannot come out of it the same. You deal with those changes every day while the rest of the world moves on. The phone calls stop, the how are you feeling text cease…It is more comforting now for someone to tell me they are praying for me than it was before. My surgeon told I’d be irritated, have loss of focus and concentration, I’d get frustrated and may become depressed…all symptoms of someone who has suffered brain damage. Physically…I look fine. I am back walking normal; I can hear and see normally again but I have brain damage and I feel it. Some days I cannot focus on anything. I just sleep. Other days, I feel great and I wonder why I am still at home and not back working. I feel unproductive and lazy…like I should be doing more. It’s only so much Netflix and YouTube a person can watch PLUS cabin fever is real. No one can see my condition so at times, I get frustrated and irritated and I must remind myself…you have a brain injury. Take your time. This only happened in August. I look at the incision they made to do my surgery and it reminds me of how far I have come. I am grateful for my progress and I am learning to be more kind to myself.
I have to have radiation. I have been saying this for months now…it’s been rolling off of my tongue the same way you’d say; I’ve got to go to school. I’ve said it in a very nonchalant way. No big deal. BUT…it is a big deal. I freaked out the day they called to schedule my appointment. I had a MAJOR breakdown. I called my brother sobbing uncontrollably. I was going through it. The first part of all of this, I was high (I know I have been saying “on a lot of medication” throughout this but let’s just cut to the chase ok) I don’t remember much BUT this here radiation…I know it’s coming. I am scared. I have faith and all of that other stuff that is the politically correct thing to say but I AM SCARED. I don’t know how many treatments I’ll have to have, I don’t know how my body is going to react to it. I have good days and bad days with all of this…So that’s where we are. Am I back at work…NOPE…do I know when I am going back…NOPE…do I want to go back…. YEP. but first…. there’s radiation. So, I’ll let you know how that goes.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my journey. I will keep you posted on my progress. Please remember that every day you get to take a breath is a blessing. I am well aware that my situation could’ve been different with a very different outcome.
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