In the years following, I was overcome with hopelessness and despair. My injury restricted me to living in bed, and I endured round after round of emotionally exhausting therapies and narcotics. Four years and thousands of dollars later, I was still in debilitating pain. We discovered that one of the wires from my previous spinal cord fusion had broken and pierced my brain stem. To this day, I'm the only person in the world who that has ever happened to. The doctors told me I should be paralyzed and if we didn't remove it surgically, I would be. The surgery itself bore a very high risk of paralysis. Mere weeks after discovering this, my father fell down a flight of stairs and passed away from brain damage. My nine year marriage failed shortly after, and I eventually had a nervous breakdown. I thought my life was over, and to be honest, I wanted it to be. I thought I would live out the rest of my days alone, in bed, and in unrelenting pain.
Hitting this rock bottom turned out to be one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I realized that I had to change everything. I could lay in bed and hurt or I could choose to get up, love, and serve people and connect with others, even while hurting. It sounds so simple but it was a decision; a conscious choice I made every single morning. Around this time, I also decided to wean myself off of years and years of heavy narcotics. I chose to take action and start living out the emotions I wanted to feel—and amazingly those emotions that I so desperately longed for soon came!!!! Webster’s definition of hope is "to desire with expectation of obtainment". I decided to feel hopeful for my future; to believe that this wasn't the end of my story, but the beginning.
I know hard times will always come, and truthfully there are lots of hard things still in my day to day. However, I have seen the most beautiful things born out of the most broken and painful things. Waking up in pain every day is incredibly difficult, but it also makes me a better version of myself. It has allowed me to see the world and others with a new lens—a lens filled with hope and wonder. My pain has given me empathy in a way that I never knew possible. I can enter in and walk with others that are going through heartache, depression, death, physical and emotional suffering, in a way that I was never capable of doing before. Most of all, I can also have so much hope for them. I now know that it is possible to live the most rich and beautiful life in the midst of brokenness and pain, and even despite it, if you’re willing to choose hope. With every ounce of conviction, I can promise that that times of despair do not need to be the end of anyone’s story. There is so much love, goodness and hope to be had in this life, but seeing it is a choice. Choose to live a life of hopeful expectation and your emotions and life will surprise you in ways you could never have imagined.