They said my Maximum Medical Recovery (MMR) would be five years after the accident.
While I was released from therapy after six months, they said it normally took five years to feel comfortable in my new skin. To adjust to life with a severely impaired dominant hand, a newly deaf ear, partial facial paralysis, and other impairments.
It would take five years to learn where to sit in the room, how to write and type comfortably, feel comfortable stepping outside my comfort zone, and owning my deficits.
They said I would never be what I was.
I had biweekly cognitive tests to see how well I was progressing. They included visual and auditory memory tests and, “How many words start with C, B, P, etc.?” in thirty seconds. They made me feel like a lab rat.
After we met with a head therapist at a time when I was limited to eating pureed nastiness, being walked in a medical leash because of balance issues, and releasing I didn’t know how to tie my shoe with one working hand.
These meetings with my parents in Atlanta made me feel like I was in a parent-teacher conference as a failing first grader.
I felt demeaned. I felt irate. I felt challenged. I felt ashamed.
How do you regain confidence in yourself after situations in life make you feel small?
The Darkest Part of My Story
For me, the two months in Atlanta was the hardest part of my recovery.
I felt like a toddler facing the list of limitations: You can’t eat normal food, walk unassisted, use the bathroom by yourself, get out of your bed by yourself, etc., etc.
All I was up against and all they were telling me made me doubt who I was; who I would end up being.
Shame moves us away from our story. And, honestly? It took me longer than five years to really feel comfortable in my new story.
Sure, on paper my therapists and I hustled. I Chick-fil-A milkshaked my way out of the feeding tubes. I ran a half-marathon a year and a half after the accident. I learned how to write with my left hand and type using both hands in a pecking kind of way. I graduated with my MBA from a great school with an A average four years after the accident. I got married and had three healthy, beautiful little girls. On paper, I hustled my way back to who I was.
But our stories aren’t on paper.
Despite all of these goals achieved through the help of therapists, time, and God’s grace, I still didn’t feel fully myself.
Because I felt so beaten down by all of the parent-teacher progress reports, I still struggled to find confidence in who I was again.
Am I Enough?
When I got back to my house, life, and job after six months of therapy, I made the false assumption everyone – old friends, coworkers, even my fiancé – was trying to see if I was the same girl, if I was still worth hanging out with.
When friendships changed or felt forced, I blamed it on me not being the person I used to be. “I’m not as quick, pretty, or fun as I used to be. I’m not enough,” I thought.
These thoughts came at a time when all of my people we’re transitioning – starting jobs, getting married, moving, or having kids.
It took well into two kids and a move to realize all of us stumbling through our mid-20’s were in the same awkward, figuring out life after college spot where making new friends and keeping up with old ones is tough.
My friendships weren’t changing because I had changed; they were changing because we all were.
Coming to this realization helped me remember that He isn’t finished with me yet, that He isn’t finished with anyone yet.
It helped me settle back into the healthy confidence I once knew in who I was and who God was making me into.
Breathing Life Into the Dark
I was able to travel down to Atlanta recently for a good friend’s wedding. It was an incredibly relaxing weekend away from the kids. My high school friends and I hung the whole weekend swimming, catching up, and staying up way too late.
The day I flew down I felt the need to go to the hospital I had stayed at close to ten years ago. The one whose parent-teacher conferences beat down my confidence in the woman I now know I still am.
I kind of surprised myself I didn’t get emotional walking past my old hospital room or by the head therapist’s office. It may be because I was escorted by a security guard rolling my luggage through the halls, but still.
They mentioned there was one nurse who would’ve been on staff while I was there, Dorothy. I smiled. Out of the many medical professionals I had, she is one that I will always remember. Her unbridled joy, laugh, faith, and optimism, when I was in the ICU and therapy, were exactly what I needed. So much so I made that poor security guard take me back up to her floor to see her. To take a picture with her. To thank her.
My visit to that hospital breathed life into some of my darkest memories. It felt like I finally laid down the chains that had bound me there.
Don’t let your dark memories and chains define who you are.
It may take you close to ten years to have the courage to recognize them, to stand up to them, and to breathe life in them.
But there’s something very freeing in not letting our past undermine our worth, our faith. He is still working, even in our darkest spots.
Where do you find your confidence? How have you breathed life into some of your hardships?