Please visit the “About” section to learn more of the backstory, and see what got me here. I have learned much during the decade following my survival of (more than) two would-be death sentences. I have completed my memoir about my experiences, in the hope that different aspects of my struggle and story could help many others through their own, whether yours was also caused by an aneurysm, or something less physical.
My memoir begins with the fast-paced life I knew in the years before my first stroke, always surrounded by dirt bikes, race cars, and that euphoria-inducing “smell of race fuel in the morning.” The story then shifts forward a couple of years, to a time when the money, toys and race cars were all gone, and in their place a desperate, depressed life was being lived. I was blessed to always be surrounded by friends and family I loved, and the very fact that I was out partying with one of those friends the night before and morning of my 20th birthday kept me alive.
We shudder to think what could have happened had I not been out with my friend Teri. Had I been at home that morning, my parents most likely would have just let me sleep in, being my birthday. The aneurysm would have hemorrhaged, I would have gone into the coma, and my parents would have gone upstairs later to find the unimaginable.
While the love of family and friends (quite literally) kept me alive, the aforementioned depression with which I had battled for years led to a frequent binge-drinking habit and a 2-3 pack-a-day chain-smoking habit. Although my brain aneurysms were most likely congenital, as seems to be the case in general, I have determined through my own research after-the-fact that excessive alcohol and tobacco abuse can weaken and enlarge a preexisting problem. I concluded that my bad habits were what had caused the aneurysms to become as massive as they had, without rupturing years before on one of the many occasions I was thrown from a dirt bike, jarring my brain. On top of the alcohol and tobacco, I had been on birth control pills for years, which carry their own risk of stroke, and at the time I was popping diet pills, as I was at least forty pounds overweight and looking for an easy solution. I won’t name the pill, but suffice it to say, I was always an Anna Nicole Smith fan. I felt a kindred spirit in her, as a fellow Texas girl, and my heart broke for her when her beloved son died, followed so closely by her herself.
That being said, it disturbs me to notice the rising trend of aneurysms and strokes in the young, most likely often caused by the same bad health choices that aided to mine. I am hoping that through the publishing of my memoir and information I provide on this page, I can urge and steer others away from those detrimental factors, especially those who are of the age to make the most difference in their health. A recent survey conducted by the CDC confirmed the sharp rise in the rate of strokes among young people, with doctors citing the nationally common health risks of obesity and high blood pressure as possible contributors to that rise. [http://www.everydayhealth.com/stroke/why-are-stroke-rates-rising-among-young-people.aspx]
I wish to add my own belief that increasingly reckless living among young people is also contributing to said increase in stroke rates. It saddens me to see that, despite the abundance of information with which they are inundated, teenagers continue to make the same stupid decision I did in taking up smoking. I knew my generation was stupid to smoke, having been provided with all the health warnings our parents and grandparents had been less aware of, but to see that tobacco use continues to rise in this generation just shocks me. You haven’t gotten the picture yet? Three of my four grandparents died from smoking-related illnesses, and had to suffer through their end years. Haven’t you had to witness someone you love suffer? Maybe being too young to see my Grandpa suffering until his death had hindered the message from sinking in with me, even though I cried myself to sleep at night as a child because smoking had taken away my Poppa before I ever got to meet him. But after watching the Grandma I adored suffer and be taken away, and after two strokes flipped my life completely upside-down, I would never touch a cigarette again.
It seems that the advent of e-cigarettes is aiding to the rise in tobacco use with this generation [http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/youth_data/tobacco_use/], but I hope that seeing someone for whom many dreams and physical abilities were dashed upon the age of twenty will cause some teens and young adults to stop and think about that new bad habit they’ve picked up, or are curious about.
If there is something else to which I hope my memoir can speak, and another struggle with which I hope it can help people, it’s suicide. Another rising rate which saddens me is the noticeable rise in suicide rates, especially among girls and young women. [http://www.cbsnews.com/news/suicide-rates-rise-especially-for-one-group/]
As you learn in my memoir, I faced a mental breakdown towards the end of high school, the result of a break-up with someone who was never worthy of the suicidal thoughts that followed in the wake of his absence. I realize too late to help myself that the number of teenage boys actually worthy of the slavish devotion young girls give them is so small as to barely merit mentioning. Most will not become worthy of such adoration until their 30’s or 40’s, if ever. However, if I thought suicide looked tempting in those stress-filled teenage days, I had no idea how tempting it would look when I awoke to find myself forever trapped in what I believed to be a lesser body. With my family going through its own struggles, it would look even more tempting on the nights I laid awake with fears of missing out on my biggest dreams clouding my thoughts. While the tears always fell when I sat down to the piano, no longer able to play the left hand’s part of the music, while my throat choked and eyes welled at the sight of motocross on television, and while I now felt so left out of the racing world in which I’d always felt at home, it was thoughts of losing my oldest dream that tormented me. Since I was very little, the dream which mattered most to me was becoming a wife and mother. It was at only 2 or 3 years old that, as Mom tucked me in, I looked up with the big blue eyes of my youth and sighed “I just can’t wait for my babies to come out.”
I have already decided that my daughter will be home-schooled if I’m blessed enough to have one and she ever utters those words. However, after my second post-strokes break-up I was beginning to doubt that I would ever find anyone who could see past the limp, cane, (leg brace, at the time), and drawn-up arm to love and appreciate the person within. Mom would try to reassure me that the “right one” was out there somewhere, but I always replied that whoever it was “got run over by a Mack truck a long time ago.”
I’m fortunate that Mom turned out to be the one that was right, when I met and married the man who loves me unconditionally for the person I am, sees me as less injured than I do, and constantly raises me up to believe I can do more than I think possible. But none of the blessings I now enjoy would be possible if I had ever given in to those thoughts of suicide. That is why it is so important for me to show people, especially young people, that though your life may look horrible now, with no end in sight, it will ALWAYS get better, and in the end you will be thankful for the strength you gain getting through it.
Below is a picture of me just before my 10-year high school reunion in 2014. I was thrilled that I'd not only lost weight, but the surgery I'd had 4 years previously had taken away the need to wear a leg brace to prevent spasticity & dystonia from making my foot kick inward. I could finally wear boots again, I was so excited! Then, my asshole cats peed on the boots. And my lime green Nikes. Karma strikes again in the form of furry shitheads!