This week is all about the impact that illness, injury of similar has on your ability to follow your passions and how you might be able to see the positive in a seemingly negative situation. 

I’m possibly going to go a little deep here, but I believe that every situation has positive and negative in it. No matter how bad it seems there will be some positive, even if it’s just learning how to deal with something sh*tty. 

Often it’s easier to say than do, but finding ways to see that glass as half full rather than half empty can help get through the tough times. 

I started by sharing my experience and now am moving onto this month’s interviews which are with a series of inspirational women who have experienced this in different ways. Their insights and learnings are perfect examples of making the best out of their situation and show that we can learn and grow from the bad and the good. Even if you’re not ill or injured there are some really key insights that can help in everyday situations. 

I originally planned to edit the interviews down into one shorter piece, but there was so much excellent information I decided it’s be a disservice not to publish them in full so in no particular order here they are.


Erika Young from The Everyday Champion

In March of this year, I got a severe concussion while playing roller derby. At first, I had typical concussion symptoms such as headache and blurry vision.  As the weeks went on, I started feeling worse instead of better.  The neurologist diagnosed me with post-concussion syndrome, which means that the “hardware” in my brain (swelling and bruising) had repaired, but the “software”, which regulates sleep, mood, energy and balance, were still haywire. 

 My first emotion was guilt.  Strange, I know.  I had three babies in four years, and my last several years had been pretty consumed with their care and upbringing.    I got the opportunity to join roller derby, a fast-paced sport that reminded me of my pre-baby speedskating and athletic background.  Skating a night or two a week was the first time I began taking a little time for myself away from my kids.  Then, I got injured so severely that it interfered with my ability to take care of them or do my job as a personal trainer.  At first, I was so worried about disappointing everyone else, that I downplayed all my symptoms and tried to push through. My brain rebelled, and the more I pushed, the worse I felt.

The concussion was a serious challenge for my sense of self-worth.  My husband pointed out that he thought I had been living on an unofficial points system (this is not healthy!) .  Throughout the day, I derived self-worth and “earned points” by training clients, cleaning the house, reading to my kids and 1,000 other things.  Suddenly, I could not contribute in any way.  I felt like a burden, a taker, and with my “points bank” on empty, I was feeling pretty worthless.    My husband and kids were amazing at making sure I knew I was loved completely, and didn’t need to earn anything. 

Doctor’s orders were to do nothing.  No exercise, no reading, no computer, no television, no chores, even taking a walk was taxing for my brain. This was the hardest prescription a busy-body like me could follow.  Multitasking was strictly forbidden as it creates stress in the brain.  After several rounds of trying to push my limits, I finally had to give in a just rest.  It was boring, expensive, and taught me some very important lessons:

1)   Multitasking is a myth.   Research shows that humans are actually terrible multitaskers.  We are more effective doing single tasks with full focus in succession.  My brain temporarily limited me from trying, but now I am converted and use my healthy brain to single task with great focus.

2)   Rest is essential.  After a few months of doing nothing, my body felt stronger, my sleep quality improved, and I had a burst of creative energy and productivity.  I used to fight sleep and downtime, but I now know taking rest makes me more effective in my work times. 

After I finished being mad, feeling guilty, and fighting rest, the experience actually became somewhat beautiful.   I had been running on empty and living in my margins for a very long time.  The forced rest turned out to be exactly what I needed to recharge and get some perspective.  My kids were able to gain some independence and contribute more with household tasks.  I was able to identify some patterns in my life that I wanted to change. 

Whether or not you believe everything happens for a reason, answer this question: What value will I allow myself to receive from this experience?  Finding spots of gratitude and creating growth and change help us to live our lives during the illness or injury, instead of being miserable and waiting for life to start again when we are better.


 Elizabeth Benton from Primal Potential 
After struggling with my weight for over 25 years and trying just about every diet known to man, I was desperate for a change. I was depressed, isolated and weighed over 300 pounds. I hated who I saw in the mirror and I was miserable. I didn’t want another diet. I didn’t want a quick fix. I wanted to transform my life and become a new person. I wanted to be healthy, vibrant, fit and energetic but I was so far from that. 
 
I decided to throw out the notion of a diet or temporary behavior change. I wanted a lifestyle overhaul. After hearing a lot of about whole foods and paleo philosophies, I embraced the trend and transformed my body and my life through primal principles of eating and moving. I lost over 130 pounds and found a new love of fitness. I swapped my TV time for gym time and my ice cream for protein. I never felt better. My new lifestyle brought me an energy and radiance that I never knew was possible. 
 
I made the difficult decision to have surgery to remove excess skin that resulted from my significant weight loss. I was excited to go through with it but my biggest fear was losing control during my recovery. For 18 months I had been strictly committed to my workout schedule. It was what I looked forward to most every day. But after this surgery, I wasn’t going to be able to do ANYTHING other than walk for 12 weeks! I feared putting the weight back on. I feared not being able to maintain my motivation to eat clean if I wasn’t working out. I feared losing all the physical gains I had made in 12 weeks of no workouts. I was terrified that when my anchor of physical fitness was removed I’d go totally off the rails. 
 
Surgery came and went and it was hard. I realized just how much I had been relying on my workouts to relieve my stress. Even more than that, I realized that my workouts were what made it so easy to eat clean! After busting my butt in the gym all morning I certainly wasn’t going to waste the effort by blowing my diet! When that workout factor was removed, eating clean got much harder. 
 
Fortunately, I had prepared myself for the struggle. Facing my fears and concerns made them that much easier to address. I knew I had to keep my diet cleaner than ever for two reasons: 1) I wasn’t able to workout so the additional energy expenditure my body had been accustomed to was no longer there and 2) the mental battle of missing my workouts was hard enough. I couldn’t make it harder on myself by throwing my diet out the window. That would be a recipe for disaster. I made an effort to use my recovery time to experiment with new foods and recipes. I did all I could to keep eating clean fun and exciting. 
 
I also focused on all that I could from a physical standpoint. I walked as much as possible. I mediated. I stretched. Yeah, I was tempted at times to do more. To defy the doctor’s recommendations and go for a jog or lift some light weights. But I reminded myself that this was a season and tried to see it as an opportunity for physical and mental restoration. I was giving my body a break so that when I got cleared to workout again, I’d be primed and ready for progress. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.
 
I didn’t lose weight during my recovery. I wish I had and I certainly intended to but it didn’t work out that way. I am proud to say, however, that I didn’t gain any weight either. What I DID gain was a new sense of self-trust. I didn’t go off the rails. I didn’t forget all my goals and go on a 12 week binge. I embraced moderation and restoration. And you know what else? I didn’t lose an ounce of strength. When I finally got cleared to workout again, I worked back up to my pre-surgery workouts in just a matter of weeks and I was right: my body was rested, recovered and more responsive than ever! 


Ashley Olson from Ashley Olson Fitness
Early last year I was diagnosed Postural Orthostatic Tachycardic Syndrome (POTS), a syndrome that affects my heart. I was weak, tired, and dizzy most of the time and going about my day was tough. But, I wouldn’t go back in time and erase this period of my life even if I could. 
 
I’ve taken the past year or so to learn who I am, what I want, and to improve my health. It’s been a wild ride and I’ve created a life that I love. 
I’ve learned to be patient, embrace change, trust the process, and have developed a more positive outlook. These mindset changes have been a big game changer for me. 
 
There were times when I felt down, frustrated, and impatient, but I decided that moving forward was important to me. The changes I’ve undergone are the result of countless baby steps. I love baby stepping, because one day you look back and realize you have made incredible progress. 
 
This Byron Katie quote sums it all up, “Every moment is a gift: are you unwrapping yours now, and now, and now…?


Shira Nelson from Mom Beyond Baby

If you were to look at me you would never know. When I tell people, they are often shocked. You had what?? Yes, a grand mal seizure. Brain surgery, you name it.

A little about my story:

I had a grand mal seizure in my sleep in college. My puppy woke up my roommate who then called 911 as I lay unconscious. I stayed in ICU at Shands Hospital in Gainesville Fl where they ran tests to see what had happened. And I left with no answers.

I left with a seizure medicine and tons of restrictions. Once the blood dissipated later that year they were able to see what had happened. I had a cavernous malformation that popped that night in August, The doctors said it was a “time bomb” waiting to happen. Thankfully, it happened in my sleep and not while I was driving.

Fast forward to December and my case was taken to the board of neurology for determination of surgery. The spot is extremely close to my speech center so there was a risk I would lose my speech. But with the surgery, there was a chance I would be seizure free and no longer have to take medication. (If you are familiar with seizure medication, its worth noting that they are full of side effects)

I honestly didn’t think twice about it. I knew it had to be done. And so I went forward knowing that whatever happened, I did everything I could to beat this.

My lessons learned:

Gratitude. Everyday. No matter how bad you think it is that you can’t do the things you once did, look beyond the injury. Never let yourself turn into the injury. You are you with and without it. And while some days you sit there think “gah, I really wish ____” take a minute to appreciate all that you do have. I would never take back my seizure, the surgery of life with medicine. Because it has made me see and appreciate a whole new meaning of life. When your life flashes before you, the little things can become some of the most meaningful moments.

Fight. I know this sounds cliche but I truly believe that our ability to overcome injuries and obstacles thrown in our paths is our ability to fight through. No one can do it for you. You have to look deep within and find the strength. And while some days it seems like you just can’t do it, you have to. Because you were chosen for a reason.

Trust. When something traumatic happens the one thing you want to do is play victim. Why me? But when you trust that there is a reason, you find strength. You may not know the reason now or in a year but someday you will. You will see how much stronger of a person you have become.


Thank you to all of the women involved in this month’s interviews. Reading these wonderful stories makes me realise how we have to make the most of everyday and to learn as much from the bad times as we do from the good.  Did any resonate particularly with you? Have you had an experience where your goals or passions were impacted by an outside force?

Next up don’t miss the interview from Rachel Stanley who talks all about her experience in osteopathy and the advice she gives her clients. 

Injury part 2.jpg

Injury part 2.jpg

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