guest of the week: amanda zitzelman

brain aneurysm, friendship, gratitude, Guest Blogger, happiness, inspiration, Kindness, Positive Thinking, survivor

 

amanda edit.jpg

This week’s guest blogger is a woman that I worked with last year, a woman that I admire. Her strength, courage and perseverance is inspiring. Earlier this year Amanda suffered a brain aneurysm, and she survived. Below you’ll read her encouraging words and hear her story of this life changing event. She shares her struggles but also shares what she’s done to turn this experience into a positive one. We chatted the other week for almost 2 hours and sometime in the future her and I are planning on starting a podcast! She inspires me everyday. She also started a GoFundMe page that she talks about in this post.  I’ve included the link at the end of her story. Thank you Amanda for taking the time to write this post, it means so much.

“I’m so excited to have the opportunity to write this post. I want to thank Sarah from the bottom of my heart for giving me a chance to share on her blog.

“Life is all about how you handle Plan B.” – Unknown

I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post. How do I want to share my story? What details, if any, do I provide? I wrote a draft with the timeline and details of what happened. But details can be boring and it’s easy to get bogged down in them. Then I wrote a draft that had condensed details and a brief timeline. What happened and the timeline IS important but doesn’t necessarily add value to this post.

In the beginning of May my brain exploded, or in other words, a brain aneurysm ruptured. Let me frame this for you: 50% of all ruptures result in death and of those who survive 66% have some type of disability. Post-rupture I was out on FMLA. Much of my first month home was spent sleeping, napping, or just resting. A brain injury recovery can take many years and even then survivors are never quite the same.

I said it before and I will continue to say it – I am blessed. I survived and I don’t have any physical deficits. My cognitive and motor skills are in tact. Yes, I get neurofatigue. Yes, I get worn out much easier than I used to. Yes, I get headaches.

It is an odd thing to have come that close to death. One of the things I see a lot in my survivor groups are people who are grieving their old life. I sympathize with them and understand. However, my life is not wildly different than it was pre-rupture. I don’t ever say this to rub it in someone’s face about how well I am doing. I share it because I (now) know statistics were against me. But even for how well I am doing I am still a stroke survivor. I am still a ruptured brain aneurysm survivor.

One of my biggest struggles has been balancing “I’m fine” with “I went through this huge life changing event.” I never want to use it as an excuse but I don’t want to downplay what I went through. I’ve been struggling with what I refer to as survivor’s guilt. I’m so thankful things turned out so well for me but I sometimes feel bad that not everyone who survived is doing so well. I try not to get hung up on this too much because so much of it has to do with where the rupture occurred, timing, proper diagnosis, age, overall health, etc.

Time is valuable in so many ways. It can save a life in a medical emergency (such as it did in mine). It is a currency that you cannot get back. How you spend it matters. Who you spend it with matters. What you do with the time you are given matters. What is unique about time is everyone chooses to spend their time differently but time all spends the same. Once it is gone you can’t get it back.

This is something I have been thinking about a lot the past several months. I had a lot of time on my hands being out on FMLA. Some of it was spent doing schoolwork as I did not drop my last class for my master’s degree. As I mentioned a lot of time was spent sleeping, napping, and resting when I first got home. Eventually, I stopped sleeping as much but still was on restrictions so couldn’t do much. Towards the end of my FMLA I started crocheting again. I thought if I was going to be sitting around I should at least do something productive.

I started a GoFundMe to raise money so I could make blankets for brain aneurysm survivors. I have made three so far that I have given away in one of my survivor groups. This gave me something to do and give back to a group that gave me so much in the days after my rupture. It also gave me something to do with my time.

I really understood the value of my time and how I wanted to spend it. We often work to make ends meet (unless you happen to be born into a wealthy family). But we were not made or meant to work to live. There are so many more things that are much more important. Don’t get me wrong – I definitely have to work or my bills aren’t getting paid.

Pre-rupture I was working through lunches and if it was particularly busy I would be there until 6pm sometimes even 7pm. No more. I made the decision that when I went back I was not working through lunches and I would be leaving at 5pm. And I have pretty well stuck to that. There was one day when I was there until about 5:45pm and one day I worked through lunch but that is it. In both cases there was an extenuating circumstance.

Doing this has brought me less stress and even some peace. We need to find a work/life harmony. This can be difficult but it is vital. It is in our non-work life activities that we do things we enjoy and love. These are the things that bring us joy and help us to weather the stresses of our work life. Our time here is incredibly short. This gift of life can be taken from us at any moment.

Find joy in the little things. Find peace in the quiet moments of your day. When we do this we start to find our mind shifting. It doesn’t mean that life becomes perfect but we start to attract the good things. Positive thoughts become the norm. It is easier to find the good in a situation that is otherwise difficult.

Whatever we fill our minds with will spill out in the forms of our emotions and actions. If a mind is filled with negativity or hate it will spill out. On the flipside a mind filled with love and positivity it will spill out.

Life will never be perfect. Might as well buckle in and enjoy the ride with all it’s twists and turns.”

Blankets 4 Brain Aneurysm Survivors

 

 

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