“WHAT HAPPENED TO ANISSA?”
This was posted about twenty messages into a thread of emails back on November 17, 2009.
Earlier in that thread I had let everyone know that I would be leaving shortly, that international calls were outrageously priced, and who to contact in case of emergency. I was out shopping for a media cruise I was taking with other bloggers, preparing to leave the very next day.
The email thread went to all the writers of Aiming Low, a group blog I had helped to found and run. We’d just come back from Boston and New York, where we had our first big jobs and we rocked like Van Halen.
(David Lee Roth Van Halen, not Sammy Hagar Van Halen)(That’s important in case you didn’t know).
What happened was devastating.
After a lunch by myself, I stood up to throw away my trash.
My legs gave out.
Embarrassed, I tried to stand again.
My legs totally crumbled.
I was no longer embarrassed. I realized this wasn’t just a night of too many mojitos choosing to show up. This was serious.
I was having a stroke.
An ambulance ride, my family assembled, lapsing into a coma, then another stroke.
Some of my dearest friends came to Atlanta from Florida. Some of my blogger friends came from behind their screens. And while I was sleeping through a coma, the Internet became involved and we did things like used my name as a trending topic on Twitter, took my numbers from 3000 followers to 7000 followers and when my husband was forced to blog my condition, there were some 50,000 readers daily.
I know. CRAZY!
I spent time in a coma. The doctors told my husband to bring my children in to say goodbye. He did, but I wasn’t done yet. Twenty minutes after the children left, I started fighting again.
I went from a coma to a hospital bed.
From a hospital bed to a nursing home.
Then the nursing home changed to a rehab hospital.
From the rehab hospital to Vegas. Wait. Scratch that.
Then I went home.
From November to February I worked towards one goal.
To go home.
I remember that day, opening the door and knowing I was home.
To be perfectly honest, my husband had to open the door and push me through, but I WAS home.
The hard work was just beginning.
There was getting the house organized so I could get my wheelchair around. Moving the office downstairs so I could write and have a bit of myself back. Sears graciously donated a washer and dryer when ours stopped working, front-loaders so I could actually DO the laundry again. Making the kitchen work the best we could with the space we had.
Everything became therapy.
From exercise with a walker to folding my own towels. One-armed. Crooked, but folded.
And I started writing again.
With one hand instead of software that worked with my voice.
Knowing it was a way to measure how much I changed and progressed, I wrote. Every day.
“Things have changed since i woke up from the coma.
in good ways – I managed to miss all of winter.
in bad ways – I’ll pay to see the new Twilight movie. Oh, I’ll pay.”
That was part of a post I wrote after I first came home. Bad punctuation, bad sentence structure, admitting I’m a Twilight fan…at least I was writing when they said I wouldn’t wake up.
“I went to BlogHer. I wore them every day. I ate at a Atlanta meet-up.
I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. They were crooked and they were cloudy.
I felt bad considering I’d just gotten these glasses, my first pair, a few months ago.
The appointment took hours. I had the full eye exam, complete with whining kids and snapping parents. “
This is part of a post I wrote a few days ago. BIG difference.
I write every day.
I exercise every day.
I parent every day.
I try to be a little more normal every day.
I have three kids. In a wheelchair, with a right leg that doesn’t work the way most right legs do, a right arm that moves funny when a few months back it didn’t move at all, a face that’s crooked with an eye that doesn’t go back and forth correctly, I’ve always been a mom.
I have worked viciously for every bit of my independence. I take pride in making the progress I do. I let myself cry when it feels like too much.
And, believe me, it does sometimes.
It’s hard to make people understand that you can be thankful for the breaths you’re given, and still grieve the things you had to give up…
Playing hopscotch in the driveway.
Making castles of Lego’s.
Cuddling with your arm wrapped around your loved ones.
Dancing the night away.
Singing at the top of your lungs.
You let go of those things because you know that you have one thing.
It’s what makes me go to a doctor who hurts me. It’s what makes me ask the therapists to teach me the things that suck, like how to get off the floor. It’s what pushes me to exercise when I’m tired. It’s what motivates me when I really want to just stay in bed and let others take care of me.
If I ever give up the “drive” – and by “drive” I am not talking about a Buick, although that might be fun – I might as well not have woken up.
That’s not what I want my children to learn.
It’s not what my husband fought for.
It’s not why I came home.
My drive will take me far enough to walk some day.
My drive will see my vision correct itself.
My drive will hug my kids with both arms. With no help.
And I’ll write when it happens.
I’ll share when things happen that make me happy. But I’ll also share those moments when it all comes crashing down. I have times when I have to choose between what I am and what I wish I was. You can feel sorry for the way life has handed you your deck of cards or you can work until you’re able to shuffle again.
I hope you choose the way that’s hard. That’s uncomfortable. That’s painful.
The way to more rewards than just walking.
Bio: Anissa Mayhew, 36, was a wild game hunter in the wilds of the jungle. When she got bored she became an international spy. Then to top it all she became the mom of three, a wife and started writing. Then things got really exciting when Anissa had two strokes, went into a coma and ended up in a wheelchair last year. She’s been writing about her fight to recover, her love of coffee, and finds her reasons to still laugh.
Ladies, what do you think about this resilient woman of incredible strength? Did you learn anything about yourself and your own attitude and approach to life? Or simply feel free to leave Anissa a comment.