Finding Strength in Vulnerability

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I have not blogged in a long time. My life had begun getting so busy with surgeries, healing, training, talking, participating, racing, more surgeries, and internal discussions with my soul that I had started to become disconnected with my ability to process my emotions through this medium. I recently had surgery #29. I completed my first marathon in Lehigh Valley, PA and then went on to having my left side opened back up to have three expanders placed. One in my lower leg, one on my upper thigh, and another on my left butt cheek. The surgery left me back in a wheel chair for sometime and in immense pain. I had to face my own vulnerability all over again with seeing my left side cut again, and bleeding and oozing for weeks. The expansion process was grueling and twice a week for over a month I went in for injections into the three ports of my leg. They slowly injected saline to inflate the expanders bags under my skin and allow me to “grow” new tissue. At three years post trauma my body had grown all the new skin back, however the skin was badly scarred and incredibly vulnerable. In the one year I had sepsis twice. IMG_1536IMG_1192

The goal of the expansion surgery was to be able to grow new tissue through slowly stretching my skin from inside out and then have all of my newly developed skin be cut out so they could stretch my more sustainable skin over affected areas thus reducing my chances of infection. When January came around I was back under anesthesia for another 6+ hours and when I awoke my leg was bound together with multiple drain tubes. The pain was excruciating. I came home far too early and had home health nurses work with me over the next few weeks on wound care. My new leg looked like I had a butterfly of scar left in the stitching. IMG_1815IMG_1745

The pain had me back on crutches for some time so the skin could heal and my depression began spiking again along with PTSD and nightmares of the trauma. I began waking up night after night screaming as my nerves were regenerating and the pain throbbed through my left side. Once again, I was vulnerable.  Help was needed for all of my basic care.  In a few weeks I began lifting for strength, and then as the skin became totally healed over I started spinning, and then light jogging and swimming.   The fascinating thing about this journey that I continue to discover every day is that when we are most vulnerable we are most open to allow ourselves to grieve and release emotion, pain, and the feelings associated with feeling dependent.  As those exhales continued to happen I found I had no choice but to accept help. I had to accept love, support, and care.  As an athlete, and a stubborn Irish/Greek chick Ive found that allowing myself to be in places of discomfort have forced me to grow in ways I never anticipated.   We are now seven months out from my last major surgery. I would like to say that Im no longer vulnerable to infection now that my leg has finished healing, however that is untrue.  Two weeks ago I was back in the hospital facing a severe infection.  I lay in the ER sobbing with anger and despair.  The surgeon looked at me and reminded me that I will forever be compromised as my vascular and lymphatic system was horribly damaged,  AND I am strong, resilient, and capable.  Would I have fully understood the latter sentiments from him had I not been vulnerable?   What a beautiful metaphor has been created. My body needed to have the damaged and affected areas “pruned” off in order for healthy tissue to grow, AND Even with healthy tissue and pruned branches I can still get “sick”, How true for life!  When we become vulnerable in various situations in life, we must learn to extend our hands and accept help. We must learn to accept compliments, love, and growth from others. When our bodies become nourished we can gain the strength to shed those branches of doubt and negativity so that new shoots can grow that are nourishing to our beings.  Powerful stuff. Will we get damaged again with these new shoots? ABSOLUTELY.  As long as we live, we will become vulnerable.

The powerful thing about vulnerability is that it provides us the opportunity to be empowered, enlightened, and to truly listen to ourselves and each other.

Tonight, I will participate in a triathlon relay. I get to cycle (woohoo!).  I have completed a few triathlons including half iron distance since my last major surgery, however only as an Aqua Bike or as a relay.  I am still working on building my strength back in my left side so I can transition from the bike to the run effectively.  I am continuing to grow, learn, listen, and accept help and kindness from others and my own limitations. I am continuing to learn that STRENGTH has many faces and one of them looks defenseless and weak however the even when the exterior is limited the heart and soul will always persevere.

When you feel vulnerable, remember that even when you need help you are strong. 5893

Stay rooted throughout the seasons of this life my friends.  Remember to shed dead branches so that new shoots can grow.

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