by: Kimberly Chapman – Brain Aneurysm Survivor
It happens time and time again, a voice echoes loudly within our heads reminding us we are not like you and the outside world views us as different or difficult. There is no one course of action that a survivor “should take” or a specific way that a survivor “should act” during the recovery process. There are, however, some important things to keep in mind when offering support to a brain aneurysm/avm survivor.
There will never come a time when I forget that an aneurysm entered my life. Telling me to “move on” or “get over it” never makes me want to embrace myself or the brain aneurysm. Recovery is a slow process and there are no vacations while I try to learn to navigate through this new life I’ve been given. I understand my aneurysm didn’t happen to be a death sentence, but instead that it has become a life sentence. The healing process will never end and it takes a long time before both the heart and mind are on the same track. Moving from healthy person to survivor has been a life changing process, it has transformed how I view and accept the world. It scratched my lens of perception, landing me into a deeper sense of living.
In my 12 years of navigating the world as a brain aneurysm survivor, I am continually struck by the power of the bond between survivors. Our condition connects us and we become friends in mere seconds, even if we’ve never met before. No matter who we are, or how different we are, there is no greater bond than the connection between survivors. It’s a recovery journey for an entire lifetime, and unfortunately only those who have walked our path understand the depth of our pain and pride we carry at the same time. Being a survivor means I’m part of a club that I can never leave, one that is full of the most caring souls I’ve ever known.
Period. The end. There is no “moving on,” or “getting over it.” I wish people could understand the day my rupture occurred was the day I started fighting for my life. My aneurysm was not a one time event….it was an event that will last a lifetime. I’ve become a member of the club called “brain aneurysm/avm survivors” and it’s a club I didn’t apply to join… nor one I can ever leave. Every single member wishes we’d met some other way, any other but this. The members are the most beautiful, caring, loving, compassionate people I’ve ever known. They are the ones changing the way the public views brain surgery and putting an exclamation point at the end of our awareness campaign.
There are great days and then there are the not so good days. Compassion, love, and understanding are what’s needed- not advice or a lecture on how I was so lucky to have survived. I miss the prior me and I realize there is no going back. There will never come a time when I won’t think about what I would be if the brain aneurysm hadn’t entered my life. It took me a long to build that girl before the rupture and it may take me a lifetime to let her go. The length of grieving time over prior self is different for each of the club members, but every person will face a life changing moment when they realize they can’t continue down the pathway of “prior self” and must take that fork in the road towards rebuilding.
Every day another person joins our club. Every day another survivor gets upset about how our cause is not known. They are the ones who spearhead awareness campaigns or launch a crusade of involvement. They do this in the hopes of saving another person from ever having to join our club. Curious to who the movers and shakers are in this cause? Look for the survivors who are turning their tragedy into a triumph. They’ve transformed their pain into a force to make a difference. They are the ones who have figured out that if they stop crying, they can be strong and create a movement.
Even though I may be in recovery for a lifetime, grieving my prior self doesn’t mean my life is void of happiness, love, and enjoyment. I don’t have to choose between grieving my prior self or happiness. In this situation, grieving and happiness can cohabitate. My life is more enriched now that I have experienced a brain aneurysm. I now think from a deeper place and love from a fuller heart. Due to the fact that I’ve experienced pain, sorrow, and fear my joy comes from a place of pureness and what is essential to live for.