A year ago today I went blind. Nine days after the birth of my daughter, my brain began to bleed and I awoke in the Intensive Care Unit-I had suffered a stroke. My left side function had been compromised, my vision was blurred, and the hope of being home for my brand new baby was shattered. Before the bleed I was a healthy and happy 34-year-old woman, after the bleed I became someone I could not even recognize.
After two weeks my vision slowly returned, the swelling in my brain had not disappeared; but diminished, and I was released to go home and attempt to resume a new kind of normal as a Stroke Survivor. I was sent home on seven different medications; Anti-Seizure, Anti-Nausea, Pain Medicine, Blood Pressure Medicine, Migraine Medicine, Anti-Anxiety, and Anti-Depressant. I could barely walk to the end of the driveway, I could not sleep, eat, smile, or enjoy the new life I created after almost losing mine. A few weeks passed and my partner returned to work. Being home alone I was then blasted with the aftershocks of trauma. PTSD, Anxiety, and Post-Partum Depression crept in as I struggled to make up for lost time as a mother. I could not leave the house, get through a store without panic, go a day without crying, or properly take care of myself and my children.
I remember the morning that I could not get out of bed, the thought of living another day in the state that I was in had paralyzed me. My partner called into work, and I reached out for help. I had heard of a post-partum outpatient program in our area so I called, and the next day I was there participating in the beginning of my journey toward healing. I stayed in the program for three months, going every day. We worked on mindfulness, and exposure, and many other tools to emerge out from under the shell we had created for ourselves. Little by little I began to see some light in life.
One Friday evening I got a phone call from a friend asking me to join her in an all to early Vinyassa Yoga class at a studio close by. I accepted her invitation against all of my anxious nature. The next morning, I found myself on a mat, amongst twenty or so other people who looked much more fit and ready than I did. My sweat turned to tears as I could barely bend down for a forward fold, I would fall through my planks, I would topple through any type of balance pose. People twice my age were upright and upside down with what seemed like minimal effort, I barely made it through the class without panicking. But something happened that day that I have yet to fully understand. A switch went off, and I decided to go back and try again.
After a few weeks I began to notice subtle changes. My moods were more even, the light came back into my eyes, I was sleeping better, and I had a bit more energy to get through the day. I started attending yoga class every day. I would scramble to find a babysitter for those ninety minutes, but they were quickly becoming the most important ninety minutes of my day, and even though I was unaware of all that was happening on the inside-my journey towards healing began to accelerate. Planks became my resting pose, my breath became strong and assured, pain transformed into a teacher, and the sweetness of life began to flow through my ruddy and mucky veins.
Fast forward to today, I have been practicing yoga nearly every day for four months. I have become an intern at the studio where I began. My left side function and strength has returned, I have not had a panic attack in four months' time, and I am down to two medications from seven. I look better, I eat better, I feel better-but most importantly I process life better. Yoga has taught me that I cannot go over or under, or above, or around my experience; it has taught me to go through it. In each pose no matter how much pleasure or pain that goes with it; I am working out the kinks of trauma, regret, insecurity, and fear. With each breath I go deeper, find more strength, and become more aware of who I am and always was even through the past year of pain. My body has gained flexibility and strength, my mind has begun to balance, but the best thing that yoga has done for me has been in the healing of my heart. Deep down where once stood a fearful and hopeless worrier, there now stands a strong, peaceful, and resolved Warrior.