Unmuted: Part Two

This is the second of a three-part blog series. Read Part One: I’m Not On-Mute


My Body 'Off-Mute'

Dear Courageous Leaders,

This month, as I honor my one-year anniversary of the brain hemorrhage I experienced on January 9, 2020, I am still struggling to understand that life-threatening event. I find myself processing the physical and emotional trauma and the palpable reminders I carry in my body.

My memories of the weeks that immediately followed my brain bleed were wiped clean, with the exception of a few random fragments. I don’t know if this was the result of the physical distress the bleed caused in my brain, the drugs administered to manage the pain, or my body protecting me from the emotional ordeal I experienced.

Those who lived through these weeks at my side, described me as navigating this experience with courage, intellectual curiosity, stubbornness, and even humor. From them, I know that I had moments in which I believed I was going to die, I had conversations about my mortality, and I was processing the very nature of my existential being. I find myself not only covetous of these memories that live inside others, but also sad that they were taken from me.  And, while the details of these weeks do not reside in my conscious memories, my body still remembers.

Seven weeks after the bleed and finally back home, I grappled with the physical reminders in my body. I’ve come to accept that there is no “going back.” Acceptance came through grieving the changes and losses. I will need to use a walker. I can no longer climb onto a small step-stool to water plants or shower without a transfer bench. I will never again wear shoes with even the slightest heel, and the complexity of button-up shirts for my fingers dictates a new wardrobe.

While such losses were unique to my health situation, the grieving of the ways in which the small, everyday details of our lives have changed, is something many of us have experienced this past year.

About five months after my brain bleed, I experienced a sudden resurgence of significant pressure at the back of my head. Immediately, my body signaled “Danger!” My heart began racing and I couldn’t catch a deep breath. I’m now coming to understand that this first panic attack was prompted by the memories my body still held, and the fear of dying which still lurks within the insidious corners of my mind. As I grappled with a diagnosis of a milder form of PTSD, I learned that part of my healing and learning journey was embracing and understanding the “story my body is telling me.”

My body is definitely telling a lot of stories these days—too strong to be muted. 

It takes a great deal of mental and physical energy to listen and respond to what my body is telling me, as it tells me quite frequently of the trauma and grief it has experienced. But my body also whispers reminders of what I have overcome, how I have been transformed, and what I have to celebrate.

I believe that my body and my brain draw new life-breath from the reminders it carries from events one-year ago to today—the result, a stronger drive to find and create meaning and purpose. My brain has been on overdrive; the reflective, generative, creative, and empathetic thinking I am now engaged in has leaped to a whole new level. Many days I feel energized by the plethora of thoughts, curiosities, connections, and stories my mind is generating and processing. I’ve joked that given my desire to avoid engaging in anything that could trigger another brain bleed, perhaps I should eschew phrases like “my brain just exploded with ideas,” or “that just lit my brain on fire.” But as of now, I think maybe phrases like these are appropriately celebratory of my experience, the dance I had with death, and my body ‘off-mute’a symptom, a consequence, and a miraculous result, of healing and resilience.

Still walking my learning journey,


In reflection:

What story is your body telling about navigating the trauma of this pandemic?

How are you listening and responding?

P.S. PART THREE: MY HEART UNMUTED comes out next week. Join me in the learning journey.

6 thoughts on “Unmuted: Part Two”

  1. My dear Erica. This piece conveys the amazing transformation you will always be going through. Thank you for putting your story out there…for us to read, savor, know you better and touch the depths of what it is to be alive. Patty

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Erica. It’s comforting for those of us who deal with or care for those with MS and neurological conditions to know that we are not alone. Love keeps us strong.

    1. Thank you Bridget. I agree. There is comfort in knowing there are others who can share in and relate to our experiences and stories. It is one of my “whys” for writing this Be Courageous Leadership blog.

  3. Erica, can’t thank you enough for sharing your journey. The strength and courage you have is remarkable. Yes you truly are a blessing of words and a gift to all.
    Thank you, Pam

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