By Lauren Duffy
This whole year I’ve been waiting to write this post, so I guess now is a good time since the year is ending. Let me start off by saying, while this post will start off in a completely negative tone, it, like all things in life, will get better.
This past year was the hardest year of my life thus far. On January 29, 2012, I woke up on the floor of Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, MA with no recollection of how I got there. I remember looking down at my hands and seeing that I was covered in blood — my own blood. Pain was shooting from my nose to my chin and I ran into the bathroom to look at the damage. Tooth dangling, ripped up lip, cut nose, cracked bone under my nose, blood everywhere. I collapsed, sobbing and terrified on the dirty hospital floor as a few memories started to come back to me.
I remembered my face hitting pavement. I remembered some doctor telling me not to lose consciousness. Then I remembered blackness… lots and lots of blackness.
I’m told that I fell on my face in a parking lot while walking back from a friends apartment. I wasn’t surprised.. my klutziness at its finest, I guess. And apparently the ambulance workers knocked me out with Morphine, hence the 9 hour memory loss.
In the week after this happened, I begun to hate who I was becoming. Before this happened, I never ever ever ever ever cried.. ever. I cried for deaths and I cried when I laughed and that was about it. But after this happened, I cried like a baby. I was so horrified and confused and so scarred from that experience that I just couldn’t help it. A lot of it was fueled by pain medicine, so the tears just didn’t stop. And, before this happened I used to be a rock. I was positive, I was happy and I was strong, but suddenly the opposite was true and I didn’t know how to handle it.
But at least it was all over right? Wrong. It was only beginning.
Things got awful. I felt so alone and so horrible about myself and felt like I couldn’t catch a break. By May I had had to pay $10,000 in medical bills because I had to have 9 surgeries, including two root canals. Yeah… that sucked. I finally ended up having to have my front teeth reconstructed with Veneers which were disgustingly expensive per tooth. The accident was on January 29th, and the medical problems didn’t end until April 29th when I had my last procedure. In other words, it was three months of pure hell. I wish I could say that the sucky stuff ended there, but it didn’t– the whole year was hard. But I can honestly say that I don’t regret it– I learned so much this year that the pain and hardship was worth it in a sense.
I wanted to share the biggest life lessons that I learned this year with all of you in hopes that if you’re ever faced with a rough time or maybe even a tough year like me, you might have a fighting chance of handling it well… or at least a better one than I did. ;)
So here they are: the 12 lessons learned in 2012…
Lesson One: It has to get worse before it will get better.
It sucks but it’s totally true. Think about it: they say that bad things come in threes, right? Therefore, it gets worse then it gets better. Right after I got hurt I was convinced that the rough times would end that day. In fact, I thought I would go have surgery and then go to work right after. Hah.. yeah that didn’t happen. Even after I was released from the hospital, my injuries got worse and worse and I needed more and more surgeries over the next few weeks costing me thousands and thousands of dollars. There came a point when I felt like I couldn’t pick myself up and motivate myself to do anything anymore. How many times could I get knocked down before things got better? So just remember, things will get better, but don’t be surprised if life knocks you down a few times first.
Lesson Two: Learn how to take care of yourself.
Before the accident, I was strong as a rock and I would often use that strength to help my friends and family through their problems. But when I needed help and when I needed to heal myself and give myself a pep talk, I couldn’t do it. I was always so concerned with solving everyone else’s problems that I had no idea how to solve my own problems. So, before you put your energy and effort into others, try to take some time to take care of yourself.. without being selfish, of course. Focus on you from time to time, it’ll only make things easier if you understand yourself.
Lesson Three: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
After I got hurt I was so drugged up for a few weeks for pain and I was told that I couldn’t eat solids for almost two months. Lack of food plus drugs? I was in struggle city. I finally had to go pick up paperwork and test results from the hospital, and I was freaking out over my inability to drive there to pick them up since I wasn’t allowed to operate heavy machinery in my condition. Emily and Ryo offered to drive me and I, feeling horrible about burdening them, reluctantly accepted their favor. After I thanked them profusely and apologized a million times for the hassle, and after I probably drove them up a wall, Emily finally said something along the lines of “Stop apologizing! It’s okay to ask for help!” And she was right. As independent as you may be, you can’t always do things alone. Sometimes you need help, and that’s totally ok! Don’t be afraid to ask, because a true friend or a family member will be glad to help and won’t see it as a burden. Don’t try to take on the world by yourself, you’re only human.
Lesson Four: Surround yourself with things that will keep your spirits up.
When you’re down, the worst thing you can do is throw a pity party for yourself. Instead, do things that make you smile. Over the Summer, I was so incredibly poor from all the bills I had to pay and there was a week there where I was feeling like I just couldn’t catch a break. So, I went to the beach in Narragansett, RI with my amazing friend, Jamie, who is more like family. We laughed, chatted and walked the shoreline of the beautiful beach and had a truly beautiful day. It was gorgeous, and I was so incredibly happy to be with her. There’s something rejuvenating about the ocean, and that day was exactly what I needed. So, if you’re down in the dumps and feeling defeated, go somewhere or be with someone that will help you hold your head up.
Lesson Five: Live to be remembered with a smile.
In early June, someone very special to me passed away. His name was Daniel, or as I knew him, Danny, and he died far too young. His loss was tough and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him. But one thing that I love about remembering him is that when I think of him, I think of him smiling– he was always smiling. How amazing is that? He lived so that I can only picture him happy. That’s how I want to live.
Lesson Six: Home is truly where the heart is.
I used to be at a place in my life where going home from school was out of the question. It wasn’t because I didn’t like going home, it was because I liked feeling independent and feeling like I ran my own show. But in March, I hit a breaking point and was ready to completely give up, so I just went home for a weekend to clear my head and step away from schoolwork, bills, work, and every stress inducer that was bugging me. It was so amazing to be home and amongst my family. I think I had lost sight of just how special it can be to be home. Home heals, and it is truly where the heart is.
Lesson Seven: Laughing is powerful medicine.
A few months ago I ended up having to have a procedure done because I had a bad cancer scare. This messed with my mind more than I can describe. “Really? Another procedure? Haven’t I gone through enough?!” I felt like every time I got comfortable and happy with my life I was pushed right off my high horse. But when I went home for my procedure, I was looking at a few pictures from my high school freshman yearbook and I noticed a hilarious typo. When I showed it to a few of my high school friends, my friend Meghan laughed like I’ve never seen a human being laugh before. It started off kind of in a mocking, slow and strange way, and soon turned into a loud hysterical laugh with tears streaming down her face. Soon enough all of my friends in the room were dying laughing, myself included. It’s unreal how powerful and pleasantly contagious laughing can be, so laugh.. and laugh often.
Lesson Eight: Do what you love to heal.
I use exercise to relieve stress. There is nothing better than being stressed out, putting on your favorite gym clothes, putting on your favorite song, and sweating your stresses away at the gym. Part of my problem when I first got hurt was that I was not allowed to work out by order of the doctors. But I couldn’t sit still, so I exercised anyway and just did the exercises at half speed. I wasn’t allowed to jump, so I bounced. I couldn’t do intense cardio, so I did yoga. I was sure to be careful and I tried not to overdo it. It may not have been the best idea, but frankly I would have lost it if I had to sit still for weeks. So while I’m not encouraging you to do anything dangerous, I am encouraging you to do what you love, no matter what. Especially when it comes to de-stressing, mentally healing, or being happy… just do what you love, always.
Doing what I love :)
Lesson Nine: The only opinion of yourself that matters is yours.
I spent way too much time this year worried about what other people thought of me: I messed up my face, I was worried people would think I was ugly. I wasn’t allowed to work out fully, I thought people would think I was lazy. I had panicked when I thought I had cancer, I was afraid people would think I was being dramatic. Life kept knocking me down and I was upset, I thought people would think I was a huge complainer. I didn’t want to ask for help because I didn’t want to be seen as a burden. I realize now… Who cares? I wish I could have seen that. So don’t do what I did– just worry about your own opinion of yourself and forget the rest. You’ll only drive yourself crazy worrying about something you cannot control.
Lesson Ten: Breathe and smile.
This year I had my feelings smushed by a guy for the first time. I normally don’t let myself get caught up on guy trouble, but I think I was feeling too weak and vulnerable to ignore it. How did I get over it? I breathed and I smiled. I had FaceTime dates with an amazing friend who made me smile, I watched Ellen Degeneres clips on YouTube that made me smile, and I did things that I love which made me smile. And if that wasn’t enough, I closed my eyes and I breathed. Deep, calming breaths. I did this any time I was feeling upset or overwhelmed, for any reason, and it always worked. If you trust the breath and mean the smile, they will calm and they will heal.
Lesson Eleven: Be you.
Realize your own awesomeness. Understand how amazing you are. You are unique and you are important. I don’t think I was trying to be someone else this year, but I certainly wasn’t being true to myself. I hate that… I really do. Be true to yourself, be happy with who you are, and embrace your greatness. Be you, because you are awesome.
Lesson Twelve: It will always, always get better.
Sometimes times suck. Sometimes the world will kick you when you’re down. Sometimes you’ll feel like the universe is laughing at your inability to pick yourself up. But you know what? It gets better. We all have bad times, sometimes they’ll last for years, sometimes only hours, but it always passes. Things will always get better, even when it feels like they won’t, you just have to trust that tough times will pass, and they will. Positivity is everything.
I’ve learned so much about how I want to live my life, how to be myself, and how to be happy this year and I have no regrets. I may have had to endure some rough times to learn these lessons, but I’m happy I learned them. In the grand scheme of things, everything that I went through could have been a million times worse, and I was pretty lucky overall.. I just couldn’t see that.
So if you’ve had a tough year, a tough month, a tough week or day, just remember that it will all get better. Embrace the new year. 2013 is going to be great… So get excited!
If life knocks you down or you fall on your face (figuratively or literally), simply pick yourself up, dust yourself off, stand up tall, and keep that chin up. You are strong and you are awesome! Love yourself!
Have a healthy and happy new year and get excited for all that 2013 has in store!