Why I Saw Strange Men in my Room (and am telling you about it 9 months later)

I have been wanting to tell my story for awhile now. But every time I went to write my eyes strained, my neck tensed up, my head throbbed and I felt nauseous. After 10 minutes, I’d lose concentration and shut my laptop.  On bad days, it was because of frustration. On good days, it was acceptance; today’s just not my day. I would convince myself that my time is coming. That I will know when the time is right.

At the early stages of my concussion, I closeted my experience. The pain I felt was deep, and I didn’t want to burden people with my afflictions. Who wanted to hear about the fact that every time I crawled out of bed, blood rushed to my head and I nearly passed out? Or that at night it felt as though someone was perpetually hammering a nail into my skull. And when the headache did subside, and I was finally able to shut my eyes, I would unexpectedly jolt awake and spring onto all fours, hyperventilating because of the strange man I swore I saw staring at me from across the room.

I honestly despise excuses and complaining.

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. There are people-cancer patients, soldiers, rape victims-with far greater battles.

Plus, I like to make the most of my situations, and knew I would overcome this one eventually.

So I downplayed my symptoms to my parents. I hid tears behind closed doors. I practiced mindfulness, self-reflection, and focused on getting better.

With my physical limitations, my thoughts and feelings consumed me.

Questions swirled around: Why is this happening to me? When am I going to get better? What did I do to deserve this?

The more questions I asked, the faster the tornado spun.

I am hardwired to find answers. To get from point A to B as efficiently as possible.

But with this concussion,  I was living in a real-word version of that game at Chuck-E-Cheeses. The one where the gophers pop up and you have to smack them back into the ground. Each time you hit one, another one or two or three resurface (I swear, that game is rigged).

Every time I weathered one storm, another swarmed in. And I would re-activate problem-solving mode.

What was I trying to solve?

A while back, once I was able to tolerate minimal screen time,  I navigated my way to my blog: arrowliving.com.

The home page popped up and I scanned the quote at the center of the page:

“AN ARROW CAN ONLY BE SHOT BY PULLING IT BACKWARD. WHEN LIFE IS DRAGGING YOU BACK WITH DIFFICULTIES IT MEANS IT’S GOING TO LAUNCH YOU INTO SOMETHING GREAT. SO JUST FOCUS AND KEEP AIMING.”

Below, was the intention of my blog;

“Arrow Living is intended to inspire and encourage individuals to overcome all circumstances, even the seemingly impossible. The stories, interviews, quotes, and excerpts, are meant to motivate individuals to live the most wildly rewarding and satisfying life humanly possible.”

In that moment, it hit me.

A year ago, I had unknowingly written out my destiny. I had gotten what I asked for.  To get thrown directly into the embers of a “seemingly impossible” situation, and somehow find a way to make the most of it. A chance to perform my own case study on what it means to be an Arrow Liver.

Once I had this revelation, my motivation to get better rose even further. I couldn’t wait to overcome this concussion so I could share my story and inspire as many people as possible.

My concussion occurred while playing in Australian Women’s League. I rested, waiting for my symptoms to subside. Weeks passed, and I had little to show. I would have to postpone my story on perseverance.

After 8 weeks of stagnation, I saw a migraine specialist who told me to take a certain medication and I would be back in a matter of weeks. I started progressing quickly, and after just three training sessions, my coach played me in a game.  I made it! I thought.

I thought wrong. I played a full match, 60 more minutes than planned. By half time I was physically and emotionally depleted. The following day, my symptoms flooded over me and I was back to feeling terribly disconnected with myself.

A couple weeks later, I flew back to Oregon. With great medical and emotional support at home,  surely I’d get better and back on the field in no time.

For nearly 9 months, I have been living in a physical and mental cloud of ambiguity. My symptoms, at their worst, have prevented me from doing many things that bring me joy: play soccer, write, read, explore the outdoors, and spend time with my loved ones.

A few months ago, I hit up one of Portland’s finest treasures, Powell’s Bookstore. I ventured to the health section and stock piled every novel I could find on concussions, and sprawled out on the floor, determined to fix my brain’s ailments.  Again, I was problem-solving.  Within 20 minutes, I had to stop reading about treating concussion symptoms. Because of concussion symptoms.

A month later, having made progress,  I again decided to visit Powell’s. By the time I walked into the store’s cafe, I felt like I was engulfed by an energy-sucking vacuum. I sat down to journal, but picking up my pen felt like I was ascending Mt. Everest. The chattering couple next to me sent my brain over the ledge. I got up with the intention of walking home, but my entire body ached, and I found myself gravitating to the corner of the sci-fi section. I laid down, and pulled my sweatshirt hood over my eyes. A few minutes later, someone tapped my shoulder. I lifted my hood and a store employee was an inch away from my face.

“Excuse me you aren’t allowed to sleep here.”

I outwardly laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, but inside I felt defeated.

For months, my journey has been a one step forward two gallops back process. Any time I set my eyes on a target date, I have been let down. And once again, I postponed telling my story.

Although physical symptoms have prevented me from writing, I recently uncovered the real reason I was withholding my story. It wasn’t to spare others.

At the eye of the tornado of my struggle was MY OWN fear.

I was safekeeping my problems until I surpassed them.

Or at least until I was on the right track.

So I could be in control and have an answer.

I believe it’s a natural human tendency to share our vulnerabilities only once we are able to wrap them up with a bow.

It’s a mechanism we use to protect ourselves.

Because society admires those who overcome tough times.

How Oprah Winfrey endured poverty and hardship to become the world’s most motivational talkshow host.  How Steve Jobs went from college drop out to founder of tech powerhouse, Apple. How Major league baseball player Mike Lowell overcame cancer and went on to win the World Series.

Through the media, we often hear of these stories post-struggle. Once they’ve made it.  It’s truly inspiring.

But there may be something more brave and powerful about divulging unsolved issues. About confessing that you are trying everything possible, but still have nothing to show for it. That you are scared out of your mind not knowing how things are going to turn out.

The more I exchange my story with others, the more people share with me their own battles, and I realize we are all ultimately chasing the same underlying feeling of worthiness.

Whether it’s losing weight, earning a promotion or finding a soulmate,  we often theorize, that once we figure out our most pressing issue, everything will fall into place and we will finally achieve these feelings.

I believe this thinking is fruitless and flawed.

Once we tackle one challenge, another one will undoubtedly present itself. Life is a never ending string of obstacles. We will never have everything figured out.

Sometimes, the strongest thing we can do, is allow ourselves to be present and accept where we are right now. To understand that everything we are feeling—from the hopelessness of lying on the Powell’s bookstore floor, to the radical acceptance in reading Arrow Living’s home page—is real. To trust that everything is going to work out.

That it’s okay to simultaneously not have all the answers, yet still have an unwavering belief in my ultimate vision.

That if I am intentional in my actions to be the best I can be, to discover my truest self and fulfill my purpose, then by the law of momentum, good things are bound to happen.

This is my endless story of Arrow Living.

p.s. If you need to contact me I’ll be curled up at Powell’s in the self-help section

p.s.s I no longer see strange men in my room, but in future posts I’m going to backtrack to the beginning of my concussion when I did, and reveal the revelations that have gotten me to where I am today-still Arrow Living

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