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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Fragmented Sense of Self ~ The Scrapbook ...

Grab yourself a cup of tea, a box of tissue ~ and be prepared to laugh, cry, be shocked and hopefully inspired to keep moving forward in life - because no matter what is happening at this moment (in your life) the best is yet to come! 
Next to learning to accept my injuries, letting go of who I was and the life I had, was right up there with the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life. A psychologist I was seeing at the the time, summed up 
what I was going through as "FRAGMENTED SENSE of SELF" 
the note she wrote her conclusion ...
Her suggestion to try and put the pieces back together was to Scrapbook. "What the H-E-double Hockey sticks is she thinking" ~ I wondered. Me, a scrap-booker? Nope! Not going to happen. Then Rehab-Girl and Occupational Therapist thought it was a brilliant idea ~ "look at it as a hobby" ... again I was not buying. Well finally I gave in ,but if they were going to "bully" me into scrap-booking I would have to have ALL the scrap-booking tools available. Thinking this would derail the "new hobby" I voiced my request. To my surprise they - were in Agreement. And Rehab-Girl and I would spend the next few sessions with outings to Micheal's and various scrap-booking stores in the area.

Of course we could only spend so many sessions getting supplies - until the pressure of actually working on the "new hobby" was expected. What happened during this journey would become a turning point in my recovery and one that today would put me on track to new beginnings. After looking around at the gigantic choices of scrap books - seriously who would have thought that scrap-booking was such a huge market? ~ I decided on a scrap-book with a butterfly.

The first page of the scrapbook I decided to do an Intro with the Beauty and Symbolism of the Butterfly, by Aviva Venefica. As I read her words I thought seriously - I'm doing this backwards ~ I was the "Butterfly" my life was happy, I was happy ... now I felt more like I was working backwards into a cocoon. What I missed - or perhaps it was that I was not aware was her name Aviva (I will share more about the significance of the name in future posts).  

This scrapbook was to help me with accepting who I was and how my life was going to be. Challenge was the only person I wanted to be was ME! The ME I was and knew before the accident. So I started with what I knew ... photos of my "old" life and me.
This was an extremely emotional process. This time is perhaps the only time that I actually felt angry for all I had lost. It took a few weeks to get to the next page...

Family for me consisted of both blood and friends who over the many years had become extended family members. I missed all the fun we had together. The FREEDOM of getting up and going and participating in adventures with them.

I knew eventually the scrapbook had to include the moment that my life changed FOREVER. When all that I knew and was, had become a memory. When my independence had been stripped from me!

Looking at these photos - even today- is like looking at a complete stranger. I know they are of me ... But all  I see is a hurt, broken, helpless stranger.
When I see photos of my time at the Rehab-hospital ... I see a smile BUT my eyes are lifeless, the sparkle lost!

This is perhaps the page that most moves me ... I would ask these questions of everyone who was taking care of me. Desperately hoping that they would have an answer; they could put a time frame to this journey of recovery; they would say YES .. you will be "normal" again, you will be YOU! of course these were not the responses ... silence was usually the response ... which in itself, to me sounded like  "you will NEVER be normal and certainly not who you were".

With my family living 4 plus hours away, friends tried their best to fill the voids and nurture me back to health.   Overtime they too had to return to their lives. And since I was no longer the social, adventurous extrovert they had known - staying in touch and finding things to do became more difficult. I don't blame them, after all I was no longer me on the inside. I didn't even look like me on the outside. 
As friendships began retreating to acquaintance status,  I was blessed  to meet Mr. G. in  mid 2007 ~ sadly he was facing his own tragic life detour. In listening to his story and all that he was facing took my mind off my own tragic circumstances. And over-time a friendship built on survival evolved into one of love. In 2008 we moved to our home in the country side.

But even the spark of love I was feeling was not enough. My life felt as if it had been torn apart, shredded into pieces. I started entering a very dark time. One that no one saw coming (not even me), I was wanting to no longer be on this earth. And I began to withdraw - living in the country (though great for security from the hustle and bustle of the city) made that much easier to escape into my darkness without anyone really noticing. Even the notes of support family and friends had written for my scrapbook as reminders that I wasn't alone and how wonderful I was - started to loose strength. 2009 was a very scary and dark year, and one which I truly began to think I would not come out of alive.
After not having worked on the scrapbook for the better part of 2009. And surviving, as we entered 2010 with the help of a new psychologist and some new members to my care team, it became apparent that I needed to get back to the world of the living. Travel, rebuilding friendships and building new friendships were goals we set.  
Also finding hobbies to replace the various energy based activities I had so enjoyed pre-accident. Rebuilding  my spiritual connection became important to me as well. As I worked on all the goals (things most people just naturally do - I had to actually work on) I started to realize that deep within me some traces of who I had been still lingered. Like the desire to do something with my life - despite all the obstacles that lay before me.

Around this time into 2010 ... I took my first real trip with Mr. G. - to Paris, France. And started blogging to help rebuild my communication and writing skills. The scrapbook eventually found it's way to the back of a shelf. My new dreams - much like the life I had known pre-accident - became buried in this scrapbook - out of sight. 

Recently as I unpacked boxes, that had gone into storage during renovations to our home in country, I came cross this long forgotten scrapbook. Filled with so much loss and wishes for better tomorrows. As I made my way through each page - the emotions flooded back ~ sadness, loss, fear, confusion, hurt, pain, anger, and the odd tear of happiness recalling special moments. Then I came to one of the last pages ... that I barely recall doing.

Together with my Speech Therapist and Rehab-Girl, we came up with a page of goals for ways for me to volunteer and give back to Sunnybrook Hospital and also what I could do, that would be fulfilling - Writer, Speaker, Motivator - Life Coach. These were areas they thought I would be good at and should focus towards. 

Oddly enough almost 2 years later and had long forgotten about this scrapbook ... as I left 2012 behind and entered 2013, I'd been working on getting back to writing my book and looking at other sources to contribute articles on life transition to; taking spiritual enlightenment courses and working on my Life Coaching training. I'm also gaining strength and looking forward to doing some volunteer work - that will help others facing life with a brain injury.

Looking at this scrapbook - it was possibly the best therapy that I could have ever done, though I didn't know it (or would have seen it at the time). Who knew that a scrapbook could hold so much for the future?
Interesting enough ... there were 2 blank pages at the end of the scrapbook. At the time I probably had nothing left in me to put there. Looking at these blank pages at this moment, in time ... I feel they are blank - because the best in my life is yet to come!

I shared this journey down memory lane through a long forgotten scrapbook ... to hopefully inspire and remind you that no matter how traumatic a situation may feel at this very moment; 
Don't give-up! Hold onto your faith and never stop believing.

Make your own scrapbook - see where you were (yes it may be difficult to do) ... 
add where you are now (even as painful as it) ... 
and visualize what you want your life to BE!! 
know that even if you forget about what you visualized ... you still put it out there ... and the universe will continue to weave your dreams and help you along the path to getting where you are meant to be.

Do you scrapbook? What type of scrap-booking do you do - capture memories; visualize your future? What  have you found helpful to stay moving forward when faced with traumatic events in your life?

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  1. Thank you for sharing this post. I know how hard it muct have been to relive such a difficult time in your life. I have not faced such difficulties as you, but in the past year I have had a major life change and I am just realising that it is ok to not have dealt with it in the best way. Like you, I recognise that I went through a very dark time and I withdrew from a lot of people and activities in my life. In actuallity, I made myself ill through 'punishing' myself after thinking I should've done more or could have changed the course of things. When this happened, it hit me how selfish I had been thinking of only me and how desturctive I had become. I am beginning to rebuild myself and life step by step. Your story is inspiriring - keep reaching for those goals :-) You're doing very well!

    Missy x x

  2. Dear Celia,

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful and inspiring story and I love the quote, the best in your life is yet to come.
    So heartwarming and know that in life, it is taking a day at a time and small steps in our journey.
    Look forward to your big reveal and sending my love and best wishes to you


  3. Dearest Celia,
    Your scrapbook is more or less my diary and all the slides that still need to be scanned. They bring back the puzzle pieces of our life's highlights and do give us joy, even in winter time! It did give me such satisfaction last week for finding three photos (scanned from slides) that I had no clue where it was. All of a sudden, while working on other blog posts, I had to research my diary (on my PC, taken partly from the real leather bound ones) and I found the date and from there I traced it all back. Proudly I told Pieter in the morning; guess what I found out? Those photos were from Hyde Park in London! Even with my sister Diny's trashing of all those detailed letters that I'd written each Monday to my Parents, I still can weave the story of our life together. Bit by bit and reliving the joy. Sure, life never stays at its peak, either by accident, disease or else. And we must go forward, must fight on.
    You are such a brilliant writer and I often ask myself; how genial must you have been before?! But the patience did pay off, it does not happen over night but slowly... A big hug for you and hope you enjoy this spring even more so than other spring times!

  4. My reaction to your statement, "Make your own scrapbook" is much like yours was - "What the H-E-double Hockey sticks is she thinking?" But I felt inside, "you need to do this" and it kind of freaked me out because it is a true challenge. But you know what? I'm going to do it. I am going to do it. I am going to do it. (You say something 3 times and it helps make it so, smile.) No, truth is, I AM going to do this and I am going to get where I am meant to be. I loved this journey through your scrapbook. It has helped focus me - thank you.

  5. How amazing! I loved reading this and would love to see photos of the person you call the "old you". I think she is still there albeit somewhat different but nonetheless a fashionista...a driven woman...a woman who has a tough time just sitting around...a go getter...and most of all, an amazing friend. Those who knew you before and after are so fortunate. Truth be told, I'm a little envious.
    Love you friend. xo


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