A Few Charms (Banner)

A Few Charms (Banner)

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

How I smashed my face and my finger - and found love

A fall and a trip to the Emergency Room made me realize something significant about my kids; something that I was surprised that I didn't know already. Let me tell you how I got injured and then tell you how I came to this realization - and shocked my kids with my announcement.

My Pandora Rose Essence bracelet
Shortly after moving to a new home in August (yes I have lots of news that I need to catch you up on), I had an accidental fall. We now live in a condo, a series of row houses, attached to our neighbours on both sides. We have a small back yard that is mostly filled by a deck and the rest of the property is shared space and cared for by the condo corporation. Because we had just moved, we had some plants that we had dug up and brought to our new place. Unfortunately we left those plants in the common space beyond our deck. One morning I heard the sounds of lawn mowers and had a moment of panic, thinking they were going to drive their mowers right over our plants. So I rushed out the back door. The steps leading from our deck down to ground level had been removed temporarily while we were doing some gardening. When I rushed outside to save my plants I took a big step down and subsequently did a face plant.

Our backyard deck (photo from previous tenants)
Stairs on the left going down to the flagstone path

When I stepped down off the desk I lost my balance. I think the flagstones were wobbly. I immediately fell forward, landed on my knees first and continued falling forward until I slammed my face into the solid wood fence. I crushed my glasses into my face, cutting the edge of my eye and bending the arm of the glasses at a 90 degree angle. I seemed to have banged my baby finger straight into the wall, probably in attempt to stop, or at least slow down, the imminent collision - which must have been a hard impact given the forward momentum of my 300+ pounds.

The overgrown flagstone path and the wooden fence (on the left)

The stairs on the grass waiting to be repositioned

Where the stairs used to be

The flagstone path under construction
- definitely wobbly

Still focused on my rescue mission, I pulled myself to my feet - not an easy task when you are as heavy as me - and ran over to grab the plants and put them on the deck. Then I realized that my finger was bent at an unusual angle. And I couldn't straighten it. Correction: I couldn't actively straighten my finger. If I used my other hand I could passively straighten it but boy did that hurt! And every time I moved my hand, the finger would snap back into the bent position - and that hurt even more!

My baby finger wanted to stay bent at this angle
My husband Mike and our then 16-year-old son Mitchell were both at work that morning, but my daughter Taylor (Mitchell's twin sister) was home. When I came inside I called for her to come help me. My face and my finger were bleeding so I was cleaning myself up in the powder room when she came and found me. I had also injured my knee in the fall and wrenched my back. My back was going into spasms and all I really wanted to do was climb into bed. Taylor bandaged my finger (it was bleeding from being scraped on the wooden fence), and she told me I needed to go to the hospital.

I was reluctant to go to the hospital. I  just wanted to crawl into a dark corner - or my bed - and lick my wounds, figuratively of course. But Taylor appeared very concerned about me and said I probably needed x-rays. I was surprised that she was so concerned. I'd never seen her like that. So I gave in, and Taylor called my husband Mike who came home from work and took me to the Emergency Room.

My face after I smashed it into the fence
At the hospital, the doctors were more concerned about my head than they were my finger. I take Warfarin, a blood thinner, because I have an autoimmune condition called antiphospholipid syndrome. As I mentioned in a previous post (Bellies and babies and "girlie parts") I'm at risk for blood clots (both venous and arterial) and will be on the blood thinners for the rest of my life. It hadn't occurred to me that hitting my head could mean bleeding on the brain, something you apparently don't want when you are on blood thinners. So there were x-rays and an MRI, of my finger and my head, and everything was fine - no fractures, no brain bleed.

During my long wait in the ER Taylor kept texting me asking how I was so I sent her updates. I couldn't understand why she was so worried.

Mike left me at the hospital while he went to pick up Mitchell after work. We had a brief visit at the hospital and then Mike took him home. I didn't see Mitchell that night or before he left for work the next morning. As soon as he came home from work, Mitchell immediately came upstairs to check on me. He wanted an update. He asked about my back. He was clearly worried. And I was genuinely puzzled by his reaction. What did all this mean?

To finish the saga of my accident, I will tell you that my head is fine (well, there's no fracture or bleeding anyways), but my finger is not. It's still crooked and messed up. I have what's called "Boutonniere's deformity" from a torn ligament and I'm seeing a plastic surgeon in December. Plastic surgeons (rather than orthopaedic surgeons) do all the delicate work required for hands and fingers.

Over the next few weeks I pondered how my kids reacted to my accident and my injuries. And I found myself saying, "I guess they love me."

You might be surprised to hear that. I know that I was surprised to hear myself say that! And what it came down to, what I realized, was that I had not actually known that before - truly believed it. So I was now thinking, "They were concerned about me. They were worried about me. They care about me. Huh. I guess they love me."

One night in October, while we were all sitting at the dinner table, I made a little announcement. I told the kids this story, of how their concern and caring after my accident made me realize they love me. They were shocked! They said, "Of course we love you!" They were quite put out, frankly. Insulted even. Their responses were along the lines of "Why would you think that we didn't love you?"

That stopped me in my tracks. "Why?" The only answer that I could give them at the time was, "I guess when you have depression you don't think anyone loves you." But I don't know if that's true; if other people with depression have this problem.

So over the next few weeks I pondered some more. I certainly have times that would make anyone question whether their teenager loves them: when they are annoyed with me, irritated by me, impatient with me, and complain about me - or tease me. As frustrating as that can be, that wasn't quite the full story. That's not the real reason I didn't know that my kids love me. The real reason wasn't about them. It was about me. I didn't think I was lovable. And that is what we call a "core belief."

For my birthday I asked for  some Pandora Rose Essence charms
to go with my Luminous Rose bracelet
Having been through schema-focused therapy a few years ago, I recognized that I had just identified a schema or "lifetrap." These schemas or core beliefs are formed in our childhood and reinforced throughout our lives. They impact how we think, how we feel and how we act, especially in relation to others - they impact our every day. This is what happens with core beliefs. They are so fundamental that you don't even realize you have them, until something happens that contradicts those beliefs. Like your kids worrying about you. Loving you.

I did not know that I had the core belief that I am somehow defective and "I am unlovable." I mean it makes sense. It helps explain some of the anxiety about being judged, the self-criticism, the eating disorder, the depression. I didn't know that people could love me.

It's like believing in Santa Claus. When you're a kid you believe with all your heart that Santa is a real thing. You pay attention to clues that reinforce that belief and you ignore any evidence that might dissuade you. And then over time, or all-of-a-sudden, you know, you just know, that there is no Santa. And it makes you wonder how you could have possibly believed that Santa was real. And you'll never ever go back to believing that Santa is real.

I'm sure that I ignored lots of evidence that people love me. But this new evidence, seeing my kids' behaviours, changed my belief. I have come to feel that it is possible to be loved. That someone else could feel love for me. That I am someone that another could love. That I am worthy of their love. That I am, in fact, lovable.

So I started wearing this Mother's Day bangle every day (along with the two-toned "Opposites Attract" ring I now wear as my wedding ring). The bangle is engraved with a very simple message: "You are so loved." I'm trying to take this in. Trying to absorb it. Trying to let it become part of my reality.

On my 54th birthday, on November 1, my husband gave me this Pandora Rose Essence charm. It was to remind me of this time, this occurrence, when I finally realized that my family loves me. Apparently that is how it's supposed to work in normal, happy and healthy families. Even if we're not related to someone, it is our love for each other that makes us a family. Like the charm says "Love Makes a Family."

Now, if you're wondering what people, events and circumstances led me to believe that I was unlovable, you'll have to wait. It's going to take a little more pondering before I write that story.

I watched this video recently. It's about a guy who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge - and survived. He talks about the mental health challenges he was experiencing at the time. And this one statement really spoke to me:

"I thought I was a burden to everyone who loved me. Because that's what my brain told me, because that's how powerful your brain is."

I hope I'm like those kids who never go back to believing in Santa. I hope I never go back to believing that I'm a burden to my family, or that I am unlovable. But depression is an illness and the brain is a powerful thing. My brain might try to tell me that nobody loves me. But now I have the tools to battle this, I have these stories on my blog, and I have this charm to remind me that I am not alone and I am loved.

Essence charms from the top: Dignity, Happiness, Happiness
and "Love makes a family"

My Thoughts on the Essence "Love makes a family":

I have collected Pandora Essence charms since they first came out and I love the different traits they portray - courage, belief, compassion etc. but I do wish that Pandora would stop repeating the same values and would consider adding new qualities like acceptance, commitment, inspiration... I could go on. Having a phrase rather than one word engraved was a departure for Pandora. But I really like how shiny the charm is, I like the design, and of course I like the message.

As much as I like the Pandora Rose and the few gold charms I have, I find it hard to see the patterns on the charms; it's more visible on silver charms when there's oxidation. So I thought of another way to show you the charming pattern on the Pandora Rose "Love Makes a Family" bead. I rolled it in Play-Doh.

You can see that it is a pattern of trunks, branches and leaves - but I think there's also roots on there. It reminds me of this quote: "Like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions, but our roots keep us all together." That seems an appropriate affirmation as my kids complete university admission forms and prepare to leave home next fall. Not only does love make us a family but love will keep us together. I feel a song coming on...

My Pandora Rose Essence bracelet, my bangle with the Rose clasp, and my
soft pink Luminous Rose bracelet with pearls, mother of pearl and moonstone

Related Posts:

When your brain and body scream 911 - a story about my introduction to the idea of "wise mind"  and the "threat system," and the reason for intense emotions. You'll also see an overview of the types of therapy that have made a huge difference for my mental health and the charm that represents my asking for help.

Will he always love me? My explanation of panic attacks - a story about the origins of schema-focused therapy. A rather long post but my explanation of panic attacks and the charm that helps.

Two birthdays and three babies that narrowly escaped being born on Halloween - my own birth story and a story about choosing the birthday of our twins and the charm that represents it.

Do I really deserve to be happy and healthy? - a story about feeling undeserving and unworthy and my first steps to changing that and a charm to help remind me.

Moving from self criticism to self acceptance - a story about accepting ourselves at every stage in our development and the simple silver charm that represents it.

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