When I create space for new possibilities, I flow with renewed courage, thankful for the strength I have learned from my scars.

I do not need my heart rate monitor to ascertain that my pulse is of the likes of a mountain ascent or when in the shadows of an MRI about to delve into the depths of my brain. Shaking, lonely and anxious, it is pitch black and 2:38 am. I open the bedroom window, a release from suffocation. Despite being high in the playing field that is the iconic Matterhorn, I am amidst flashbacks sitting on my hospital bed in Denver Health. The nurse’s aide who was on 24-hour watch tried to calm me. Her well intended attempt to soothe with stories and jokes only added to the smothering sensations in the debilitating darkness. That darkness hovers again tonight.

My mind has spiralled in the darkness. A vivid concoction of what was and what is, it stirs as rapidly as the beat of my heart. I lean out the window with hope the cool mountain air might ground me. I lay back down. Tossing and turning, visualizing a puzzle scattered in pieces, some broken, some of brilliant colour, some torn and some that simply do not belong. A face unrecognizable for its swelling and bruising, nauseating thoughts of the frozen bag of berries used to ease my throbbing head, flashes of vomit between flashes of ambulance stretchers, surgical lights and medics peering. Where does this puzzle belong? Who can understand and piece it together? Who can accept it as is? In secluded sleeplessness, alone with such dark reflective thoughts, I anticipate morning, the reassurance of its light, with hope and certainty of impermanence. This horror will pass.

At this moment of intense loneliness, the peaks and podiums are difficult to grasp. Puzzle pieces picturing pristine alpine sites, glorious sunrises, reflections of resilience and courage are all out of reach. I know they are there, I know they will return yet through my unwavering tears darkness dominates. 

Below the glow of glaciers with stars shimmering in the night’s sky, I tremble until the light draws my focus from the darkness. Signs of light comfort. 

Tonight marked the anniversary of an evening sorting gear, my bike and passport for a big mountain weekend in the Austrian alps just a handful of valleys away. Healthy, happy and independent, life was good.

Life is good yet tonight I went to bed unworthy, unsettled. Pushing my comfort zone amoung masses of manic mountain runners, the stares and questions broke me last night when everything felt too much. I knew enough to walk away. I knew I needed needed personal space to reconnect with myself. Though I walked away, I did not let go. I hung on to the root tightly like an intimate embrace.

As time distances itself from the day a traumatic brain injury changed my life so drastically, I am increasingly more aware of my needs. Whether I choose to feed the optimistic self-loving voice or the negative self critical one is up to me yet despite my awareness letting go of that which I cannot change is a challenge. Finding calm in chaos and assurance in my breath is developing with time and self-awareness yet tonight I brought my anxiety, my own dark thoughts to bed, not creating space for my mind to settle nor perspective to shift.  Rather than letting them go, I allowed strangers’ queries about wearing sunglasses indoors, the food I eat and the trail I tread to trigger doubtful thoughts of shoulds and what ifs.

Tomorrow marks the day my most important piece of equipment was rocked in a split second; my skull a mosaic, brain bursting through its shattered pieces. As its tessellated bits have taken a new shape, it is no secret that I have struggled to find comfort in my new normal. On this anniversary, sadness and hopelessness feel more powerful than any progress. Returning to those early days post accident, holding tight to what life was supposed to be kept me sleepless. Memories, some in excruciating detail, played on repeat.

Holding on to what I thought life would be before brain injury only restrains me from the benefits of letting go. Any craving for change robs me of moments of welcoming and appreciating all that I have. Holding on creates an imbalance which tends to take me to dark places filled with sadness.

It is only a change in my perspective that can inspire self-acceptance and my trail ahead. To focus on losses or the potential in a glimmering piece of the puzzle long past takes away from the light that is and that can be. Being mindful with respect for the climbs I have conquered rather than a focus on the ones that nearly broke me, when I shift to see the opportunities in mountains ahead, my heart lightens.  

When I tune into the present moment, when I see what I have overcome as strength, when I see the toughest times as learning opportunities, when I let go of the shoulds, what ifs and whys, I create space for the rise of hope and new possibilities. Embracing the art of letting go with the renewal of the morning light, I flow into the day ahead with renewed courage, thankful for the lessons darkness teaches, thankful for the strength I have learned from my scars.

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  1. juliet says:

    bookmarking this to read again when i need the perspective. my 3 year TBI anniversary is tomorrow and this rings so true. thank you for sharing.

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      Feels serendipitous that Letting Go of the Trail Behind came in alignment with your anniversary Julie ~ so glad you found it, will hold onto and, in doing so, know that somewhere on a mountain high, I am ‘with’ you.
      Sending gratitude for connecting, strength and love x

  2. Nadine says:

    A tough day indeed, and long journey you’ve been on. One thing to remember is that many people rollercoast through similar peaks and valleys in their minds – even without TBI! But you’re not “many people”. You’re amazing! Thanks for another inspiring post. We all need to remember to look for the light in the darkness.

  3. Thomas Stevens says:

    No one knows the struggles of TBI better than the victim. Jill’s, message, helps with understanding and lets other victims realize they are not alone. She is a valuable mentor to all of us.

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      Thank you Tom ~ feeling understood is an ongoing challenge that I do not hide behind my sunglasses.
      Your empathy, understanding the challenge of my situation and how it feels, moves mountains within and reminds me that I am not alone no matter how dark and steep my trail may feel.

  4. Diane Harmony says:

    Aloha dear Jill: Thank you so very much for sharing your incredible journey with us. I celebrate you on your anniversary…for all the mountains you have climbed in the wake of your injury, and for all the practices you are mastering in becoming accepting of the fabulous being you are now. If one of these practices can be to love and embrace the part of you that is terrified and seemingly stuck “back there” you will have taken Self Love and Self Care to a whole new peak. You are such an inspiration!!❤️

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      Your hug all the way from Hawaii is felt warmly here in the Himalayas Diane. Your anecdote reminds me of how the tough parts of a run or climb tend to be left behind, essentially let go of, when a beautiful summit is embraced. Thank you for the gentle reminder of how freeing letting go can be. I will continue to work to let go of cravings and embrace that which scares me with gratitude for where my trail has led.
      Much love and light to You x

  5. Nola says:

    What a vulnerable, honest sharing. My thoughts are with you as you continue on life’s path and TBI journey with it’s not so pleasant and pleasant moments. Hugs!!!

  6. Shannon says:

    Your writing is so incredible. I can feel the darkness, loneliness, being back to that dreadful day to you embracing letting go with the light and gratitude for everything. I empathize so deeply. I acknowledge it a choice to let go. I don’t have a TBI but I, as we all, have fresh painful experiences, unworthiness, guilt, shame I’ve been trying to shake that are so raw and deep it is a moment by moment focus on embracing the art of letting go so I can focus on creative possibilities, hope, joy and I am enough. I appreciate your words that not only invite us into your amazing journey, your authentic feelings day by day, but how relatable your navigation crosses over to any one of us with vulnerability, your truth, inspiration and guidance. I appreciate and love you!

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      You are worthy. You are enough.
      An honour to know that you can relate, connect and find strength in my story Shannon. I write from my heart and thankful that you are along with me regardless of mountains, oceans or months between.
      Deep within I know acceptance is a battle worth winning. Letting falls be falls, getting back up, striding on without grasping to what was, acceptance allows me to thrive in the present. I alone am responsible for the inner battle. Only I can let go, dust off my shorts and stride on. Resilience over roadblocks.
      My heart hopes that you too will keep getting up, dusting off your shorts and striding onward.
      You are enough. You are worthy. You are never alone.
      Sending strength and love,

  7. danielle savoie says:

    Jill : thank you so much for showing me the way as im getting ready to face new adventure s which were not in my post injury plans .

    • Jill Wheatley says:

      I am so glad the Globe and Mail article made its way to you and you in turn found your way to my website and are feeling inspired to begin new adventures Danielle ~ YOU making my vulnerability so worth it.

      Sending strength, hugs and best for exciting adventures ahead,

  8. Elaine Mitchell says:

    Good morning and Namaste Jill
    From Squamish British Columbia half way between Whistler and Vancouver. The mountains give me peace and well being no matter the weather no matter my struggles though I have nothing compared to you! My mood has changed from living on flatland till moving here three years ago. Mountains give me joy and peace. I no longer ski but grateful I did at one time. My children are avid skiers now.
    Be safe and be strong
    I look up to you!

    • Jill Wheatley says:

      Namaste Elaine,
      Thank you for making the time to visit my website and take the time to reach out from beautiful British Columbia. I love knowing that you to find peace and strength in the mountains. They do make an inspiring backdrop for working through struggles and the mountains of my mind.Thank you for sharing your light felt here across peaks and oceans and please do keep sharing. The world could always use more love and light.
      With gratitude,