13 massifs during 1 trip arounds the sun: 12 months later, I am just getting started. Run, reflect, and grow through what I go through.

After more than 2 years in 7 different hospitals, one year ago today I was filling my backpack in anticipation of a year of celebrating being alive. Using some of the world’s most illustrious mountains as a host for the party, my goal was to embrace and accept the ways my traumatic brain injury changed me.  

Perhaps aligned with my belief that parties do not last forever, I needed a timeline; something concrete with the end result being a ticked box beside the expectation that I would accept the trail my life took as a visually impaired brain injury survivor and happily manage all extras that came in the wake of my accident.

Closing the painful chapter, my stoke was high ready to ignite a new one celebrating with Mother Nature. In reflection, I knew no different than to set a goal, a specific target for my trail ahead.  I had just come off a chapter of numbers with self imposed rigid expectations and a tendency to keep moving goalposts. When would my brain stop bleeding? When would my eye open? How long would my feeding tube have to nourish me? How could I hide my disfigured face? Where could I hide my medication? How could I get out of group therapy? All rhetorical, unanswerable or unhelpful questions which stole precious energy, kept my anxiety high while my trust in and hope for my future wavered until ultimately depleted. Believing ripples of adversity could not possibly linger any longer, I set out for  a year putting pressure on mountains to do something magical. Here on day 365, I am certainly not able to authentically tick that box as complete.

From September 2014, my story was taken over by characters in the form of a relentless medical team and cheerleaders who believed there was going to be real mountains with illustrious summits  in the pages ahead, not just the figurative ones that I was too exhausted to climb. This story would have been shelved, collecting dust, had such characters not stepped into the drama.

This chapter of recovery and celebration has not progressed as quickly as the speed of the ball which changed my life. It has been a year of changes, a year of growth, strength, risks and courage I never could have imagined when deep in chapter adversity. Some days the pages feel blank with no direction, some days the pages are smudged, torn and the pen has no ink; yet combined, the pages, forming chapters within this story, have made for a most surreal page turner. Serendipitous encounters, flights landing in never never land, blood sucking creatures, hugs in storms where storms don’t happen, benches for beds and thumbs for rides, this is a story that could not be quilted by the most creative seamstress. New characters, new settings, tales of getting lost, tales of getting found; finding myself and strength I never believed I had. Though the plot has thickened; it is nowhere near crested its peak.

I reflect on 12 months of change and gratitude that grows with each flip of the calendar, each new paragraph of my story. Mountains continue to soften my reaction to adversity; naturally providing perspective, enabling me to face anxious thoughts and embrace all the ways previous chapters have shaped me. On days when the pages feel dark, blemished with dried tears and words fail to flow, I am working to gently keep moving without opposing or fighting currents, rather flow with openness and acceptance, assured I will come out safe and further ahead.  

As the story develops, so too do my feelings of peace and acceptance of the storyline. Though, lessons learned, certain there is not a finite point where I will award myself a certificate of acceptance, I feel a blooming sense of pride for positive change and growth. Mountains have a way of grounding me yet this story is far from being laid to rest. I will leave concrete plans and timelines to fall into play with much more ease than when this party started; I will trust the process. Run, reflect, and grow through what I go through. Though the story will continue to write itself, I will play my part, guiding it where I can flourish, looking inward when I need strength mindful that everything needed, wherever my trail and story takes me, is within.

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  1. Tom Stevens says:

    As I run, ride my bike or hike in the mountains of Colorado I think of Jill. A person never knows what is around the next bend. It could be tragedy, triumph or simply the trail. One April day it was Jill, wanting a photo taken.
    I saw all three that day.

    • mountainsofmymind says:

      Embracing what comes from around every corner and every climb with strength knowing where I have come from and the team of cheerleaders who, though all alone on the mountains, encourage my every step.
      Though our trails crossed in Colorado, I am thankful you are with me on every trail Tom.

  2. MW says:

    Though there are hundreds of km between us I am so proud of what you have accomplished and how far you have come Jill