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The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Done!

April 2, 2013

If you have been following my newsletters or blogs for a while, you know that last summer I suffered a brain injury after a freak accident caused me to faint and hit my head off the concrete floor. Six weeks after the incident, I wrote about it in The Unlimited Newsletter and at that point in time, was dealing with only a few residual symptoms. I thought the worst had passed. Perhaps I was naive at that time or maybe a little too optimistic, but there was still a lot of healing yet to come for me. I would like to share my continuing healing journey with you now. 

To see me, you would never have any idea I was dealing with a serious injury, diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury. I look the same, and I talk the same for the most part, but inside I am a different person than I was a year ago.

I have a difficult time going to busy places. I have to schedule rest at many points throughout my day. I have a hard time following conversations in a big group of people without feeling my mind is overloaded. I was told by my rehab team at the Fowler Sports Clinic that I seem to have fallen into the 10 per cent of people with concussions they ‘can’t fix.’ So I have been on a waiting list for a while now to get into a more escalated level of brain rehab centre.

I previously was extremely physically strong. I ran, lifted weights, and even competed in triathlons. Now I am told by my doctor that I can’t run, at least for now. As somebody who previously pushed herself to achieve, now I am learning the peace in enjoying the smaller things in life. I have taken up yoga and go for short walks. I focus on quality time with my family as I know I need to spend a lot of time away from them while I am resting in bed.

This all strikes me as ironic. I was someone who took pride in my achievements, especially within my career. Now I have been forced to step back and really look at who I am beneath it all. I have learned I can’t define myself by my career, or my roles within my family or community. Any of this can be taken away at any time. If you have ever been laid off or separated/divorced, you understand this well too. There is something very raw and vulnerable about stepping away from it all. And it can be difficult to be open with yourself to really take a look and see who is underneath it all.

I started to get a glimpse of the ‘real me’ when I decided to take the leap a few years ago from my well-paid executive role to start this company, Potential Unlimited. I made the jump into the great unknown and followed my gut instinct to do something I really felt was part of my life purpose. Anyone who has ever worked with me as a coach or been a part of my training sessions knows I am very passionate about what I do and I pride myself in helping others make great shifts in their lives so they can be better in all areas. So you can imagine how frustrated I felt when I got to the point where my company had started to achieve some of the success I had worked so hard for and then I was forced to pull back.

A blessing to me is that I have been able to continue to coach clients over the phone. This has been an area of saving grace for me. I am able to coach without creating any symptoms for myself and I feel I am even more effective at my job than before the accident as I use my gut instinct more because other areas in my brain are not as active right now. This includes the areas that would previously allow my mind to wander to find ways to ‘fix’ my clients’ situations. And the reality is, my role is just to help lead them to find conclusions that are right for their lives. This work largely involves asking the tough questions that come from the gut instinct.

I have found myself in a bit of a branding dilemma once I figured out that this injury isn’t just a passing phase. I believe I am through the worst of it now, but it is still a part of me. As a business owner, I want to send a message that my doors are open. I am still coaching clients. I have had to turn down some keynote speaking opportunities a few months ago, but I have not turned down any coaching opportunities as long as the fit is there. But on the other hand, here I am, suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Kind of feels like an elephant in the room that I am not talking about. Yet it is so a part of my existence right now. When I coach clients and help them develop and build their executive brand presence, I work with them on knowing their values. I personally value honesty and bravery. So I feel it would be hypocritical of me not to share with you, the people who follow my posts and care about me, my journey.

There is something so freeing and empowering about owning who you are. For the person who is struggling with a failing marriage, an illness of him/herself or someone they care about, maybe an internal struggle related to your career, know that we all struggle. We all fail. We all have weak moments. No matter how perfect people may appear on the outside, we all go through rough times. This is what makes us human. When some of my clients tell me they haven’t failed before, I can relate to them. Before my brain injury, I really hadn’t experienced a major hardship that made me question everything about the world around me. If you haven’t experienced something like this, know that your time will come. It doesn’t mean an injury or a disastrous event will occur, but I believe as part of our personal and professional development, we all face struggles at some point within our lives which help us along the path we are meant to go and make us stronger as part of the process.

I wouldn’t wish this brain injury on anyone, but it has been one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. It has forced me to slow down. It has taught me even more about self care. I now am in tune with doing the activities and work that makes me feel good. We all participate in work that drains the energy from us. I now stay away from those activities as I pay the consequences in a serious way if I don’t. As I continue to heal, this is something I hope to take along with me. Do what makes you feel good. Be with the people who give you energy. Move your body in a way that you feel happy doing. And open your heart to others, letting the judgement fall to the wayside. Open your soul. Be proud of who you are. Use your skills. Work in a way that brings strength to yourself and others. Accept and even ask for help. Learn to pace yourself each and every day (don’t sprint to the end of life!). Live each day to the fullest. Own you. Let go, we don’t really have as much control as we think we do.Those are just a few of the lessons I have learned.

By sharing my journey with you, I hope to empower others to step away from their darkness, from those parts of you that you’ve been afraid to admit to others in case they think you are weak or a failure. If you are true to yourself then if others think you are a failure, that is their loss. If you try to deny your true self and not accept what is really going on in your life, that is your loss. Take it from someone who knows.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. April 4, 2013 9:49 am

    A honest and lovely post, Carey-Ann.

  2. April 9, 2013 11:30 am

    Very brave and wonderfully written. In grief and bereavement circles, we talk about “relearning the world” or at least how to be in it, when someone you love dies. Sounds like you are doing the same with your loss. Thank you for sharing – you are helping many.

    • April 9, 2013 12:23 pm

      I’m glad you enjoyed my article. You are right, when you lose part of your health…even for a while, you do go through a period of relearning the world. Then you learn to accept where you are at right in this moment. This doesn’t mean I am going to stop striving for more, but in order to truly heal, I need to accept this as part of my life.

      Take care.

  3. Sandy Bernier permalink
    April 9, 2013 12:44 pm

    A wonderful and inspiring article. Thank you for opening up and sharing details of your journey. I love the part where you shared the lessons you have learned – some very impactful thoughts here. Thank you.

    • April 9, 2013 12:48 pm

      Hello Sandy. I am glad the article resonated with you. It was very difficult for me to bring myself to write it. It was almost as if I was admitting my failures and the parts of me that are weak to everyone. This article was a long time coming, but I needed to get to the point in my healing journey where I accepted this is what is going on and it is a part of me. I can choose to push it away or love it. Just like the saying goes, “What you resist, persists.”

      • Shelly Rae permalink
        April 9, 2013 4:15 pm

        Hi Carey-Ann … Its been a while since we’ve spoken but I do follow you through your website – Just wanted to say how courageous and inspiring you are – your story is truly heartwarming!

      • April 10, 2013 11:30 am

        Hi Shelly. Nice to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words. It has been quite a journey I have been on…not an easy one! But I guess life is full of hills and valleys. Take care of yourself, and looking forward to doing a lunch when I am back on my feet again!

  4. Trish permalink
    April 22, 2013 11:34 am

    Wow, I love yoour post. Being vulnerable is so hard, but paradoxically so liberating. Thanks so much for opening up!

    • April 22, 2013 11:58 am

      Thanks for your comments Trish. Yes, it is not easy to be so vulnerable about the weakest parts of us. But this has been a humbling and liberating experience for me. I hope others will be inspired to be true to themselves. Nobody is perfect, but sometimes I think we try to be and that often leads to pressure and stress.

  5. Daniel Goldberg permalink
    April 22, 2013 4:07 pm

    Carey-Ann,

    Very inspiring.. I can relate in that, due to an unexpected loss of employment in an executive position, I too became very introspective and realigned my priorities. I have found that allowing divine intervention into my life has allowed me to be as broken as I could be and experience life in a much more meaningful way. I love that you shared your heart openly and am sure that the success you experience now will bring you far more happiness than you could have imagined..You deserve all good things..

    • April 23, 2013 9:01 am

      Hi Daniel.

      Thank you for posting a comment and also for sharing a bit about your own personal journey. It’s interesting how my situation is quite different from what many people experience, yet, I have received a lot of comments from others who know what I am going through from challenging life situations they have faced. It is a beautiful thing when we can support each other…even with a few kind and understanding words. Thank you.

  6. Paul permalink
    April 23, 2013 4:43 pm

    Thank you for sharing your inspirational story. Your honest article contains very good life advice. Sometimes, social media responses can be cruel and cynical; it’s great to see an enlightening article with positive follow-up comments. By the way, your article title created enough interest to move me to click on it, even though it was buried in a list of 30 entries in a LinkedIn email blast.

    • April 24, 2013 9:41 am

      Hi Paul.
      Thanks for reaching out to me with your comments. I have received a lot of supportive feedback and support for sharing my story. I think we can all relate to going through periods of weakness in our lives and feeling vulnerable. I am glad you took the time to read my article and to respond to me!

  7. Brooks permalink
    April 23, 2013 5:52 pm

    Thank you for reminding people that to “Own One’s Self”, with honesty, forgiveness and gratefulness, is an indescribable Freedom.
    I have often shared with clients; wherein,
    All Roads Lead to where I Am…
    the Courage to Perservere along the rough trails….
    allows the Expressway to be so much more appreciated.
    You must indeed be an amazing coach.
    Thanks for sharing a way, to pull down the bars. Brooks

    • April 24, 2013 9:45 am

      Hello Brooks. I loved the passage you shared with me. And you are right, it is when we travel the rough roads in our lives that we are actually openning ourselves up to living the lives we are meant to be experiencing. I am injured but I am blessed. This morning my three year old said to me, “Mommy, we have food and a bed and each other. We have everything!” How right she is!

  8. Leslie permalink
    April 23, 2013 9:16 pm

    Hi Carey-Ann,
    My Executive Roundtable for Leaders coach (and dear mommy group friend) Glain Roberts-McCabe sent me your blog post. I appreciate your journey more than you know. I also had a freak accident last summer: trimming tree branches and a heavy aluminum ladder feel on my head. 22 staples to close the gash. 8 months later, still off work with severe brain trauma. Through my journey, I’ve determined that this married professional mommy of two needed to slow-down and it took a ladder on the head to wake me up to that fact! I applaud you for your honesty and transparency to your readers. It takes a lot of guts professionally to be so open about your situation. And I also believe that life is always telling you something if you are willing to listen to the truth.

    • April 24, 2013 9:57 am

      Leslie.
      I am SO happy you reached out to me with your comments. I have heard about your story and it sounds like you and I are on a similar journey right now. Throughout this journey I have gone through a whirlwind of emotions from sad, frustration, anger to gratitude and peace (and then back again through that cycle a few times!). As a mother of a two year old and three year old, I feel sad that I can’t be the Mother to them that I want to be. But yet, before the accident, there were many times I was playing with them and thinking about work. Now I have seen a shift in myself and I am really focusing on the present and living each day as it comes.

      In the rehab group sessions I have started, they talk about accepting the ‘New’ You. I don’t like that reference as what that indicates is that the symptoms I am facing now will be a part of my future reality (I believe in my gut and doctors also tell me I will improve) So I now look at living with the ‘Now’ me. And isn’t that really all that any of us can do (brain injury or not). I use to get so wrapped up in thinking and planning for the future. Really, I was living for the future. Now I live for today. I live for the moment. I make the most of it. Because one thing my accident really illuminated for me is that we don’t live forever. Some random accident can happen and it can all be gone. So instead of being scared by that, I choose to live my life in a way that focuses on today. Because it really is a gift.

      I don’t know if your doctor has refered you to a brain injury rehab clinic, but I would highly suggest it. I am on a waiting list for the Toronto Brain Injury Rehab Centre and Parkwood Hospital’s Aquired Brain Injury Program in London. They really offer an amazing suite of services and they might be able to help you get better quicker.
      Take care of your beautiful self!

      • Leslie permalink
        April 24, 2013 3:58 pm

        I started vocational rehab last week at Bridgepoint in Toronto. My physician started advising me in Jan. about the new ‘me’. And I agree, life never changes and we are always evolving ourselves – adapting to new and present landscapes/challenges. So, the me ‘now’ is a better reality to exist within. Great way to think about it. Thanks so much for your perspective and helping me feel that I’m not all alone in this journey. Best, LM

  9. Kristi Dallow permalink
    April 25, 2013 12:16 pm

    Wow. Thanks for sharing your journey so honestly! What a horrific thing to have to deal with. Your attitude is inspirational – I wish you all the best with your ongoing recovery! 🙂

    • April 25, 2013 12:58 pm

      Thanks Kristi. I’m glad you found my story inspiring. I just take things day-by-day and enjoy the small pleasures in my life (of which there are many!). I am so grateful!

  10. April 25, 2013 1:58 pm

    Carey-Ann,
    I’m so sorry to hear about the ongoing complications following your fall last summer. I appreciate you sharing your story with us. You are courageous and inspiring. Thanks for all the great lessons here.
    Susan

    • April 25, 2013 3:02 pm

      Hello Susan. Nice to hear from you. Yes, it has been an interesting 9 months…I am blown away by the support of others and this helps to make me stronger. Thank you.

      • Susan Stitt permalink
        April 25, 2013 3:21 pm

        If there is anything I can do, please holler. Would love to help you anyway I can!

        Sent from my iPhone

  11. Darlene permalink
    April 29, 2013 12:24 pm

    Carey-Ann, I have always held you in great esteem – you inspire me. I did not know of your injury, but celebrate with you in your progress. I too have had personal issues to deal with over the last year and fing clarification and inspiration from ‘Desiderata’. Keep well and keep inspiring! Darlene

    • April 30, 2013 9:37 am

      Thank you Darlene for your sweet words and for sharing a bit about your journey too! I think we are all put on this earth to live our life’s purpose and to keep helping each other out. We all have important messages to share with each other. I am glad I could share a message that resonated with you!
      All the best!

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