Part 3 : A Life Changing Experience

Just over a month later and I find myself on the mend and in beautiful Greece. The full team are up to date with what happened to me and are all incredible and wiling to assist in anyway they can. They all became my support, my crutches and my new family…

The first week, was my handover week and it was truly an emotional and hard transition for me… You have got to understand I went from basically being isolated in a room, sleeping and barely being able to do anything. To arriving into the complete opposite environment. An environment that would save my “spark” of my soul and get me to not only laugh again, but push myself to be stronger and more back to myself then ever before.

I remember it being day 3 of my return, it was the first official stop of the route and I already needed a nap on day one… I was weaker than id ever been, I wasn’t my usual self… Could I do this? Was I strong enough? I had a full team relying on me to make this route a success… and for the first time I started doubting my capabilities…

I skipped lunch so I could get some rest… I found myself hesitant to put myself out there again… I felt like I lost my “spark”… How did I just chat to everyone I met? How was I happy and bubbly 24/7? How was I going to be the best manager I can be not only to my team but to the guests and crew? I was in my head completely and I just remember taking a step back and literally giving myself a serious pep talk. I had one of 2 options, to admit defeat and get myself back home or it was to kick this feeling in the ass and get myself back, fight for myself and to fight the “demons” of doubt and depression that were crawling into my life.

I called my mom who has and will always be my pillar of strength, she reassured me that if I wanted to come home, that I could and nothing or no one will be mad with me… That if home is what I needed I can come back…

I was scared, I knew that if I went home, I would slip into some sort of depression and I would loose myself completely, so my only option I gave myself was to FIGHT! I was staying… I remember grabbing a cocktail bucket, literally flicking my hair back, taking in my surroundings and realising how lucky I am to be here and how lucky I am to have this opportunity and turned my doubt in myself around… I took a sip and I stayed… the best decision I could have ever made.

This was the exact moment when I decided to take control & get my happiness & myself back… I was not going home!

My job with Yacht Week, literally saved me. It was the reason I pushed myself to recover, it was the reason I got my smile and laughter back and the reason I wouldn’t let the accident win. It ignited a flame in my soul and reminded me how and why I want to live in this crazy world. Before I knew it week 1 of my handover was done and I was more than ready to take on the next 6 weeks with my team which became my family. I was ready to smash the season and for us to make it the best season yet!

In terms of where my health was at physically… I was officially walking without crutches, my balance was 95% back, although when I had to cross the gangway from the boat to land – lets just say I needed a helping hand at times haha… I couldn’t look up nor down, my eye level had to stay relatively central otherwise I would get dizzy and get black out spells. That lasted for about 5 weeks on the boat… I was still sleeping elevated with about 3 pillows and still couldn’t sleep on the left hand side of my body. When I lay down I would spin out completely that I would squeeze my eyes closed and hold the walls until the sensation passed.

I had to sneeze with my mouth open for weeks and only officially had my first mouth open sneeze 2 weeks after the accident as I was so scared of the pressure. I hadn’t been able to blow my nose for 5 weeks and had another 5 weeks to go. The whole point of the open mouth sneezing and no nose blowing was due to my fractures and the pressure and damage that can be caused by something so simple. As I couldn’t blow my nose, that meant I couldn’t blow air out my nose under water which is rather shit to be honest. Have you tried swimming without being able to do that… hahaha it sucks!!! There was also immense pressure when I would put my head under water, even if it was for a brief second, so their was nothing pleasurable about it. So for the first 5 weeks on the boat, I would granny swim my way around the water, use the steps to climb in and dip my head under for a brief second. It became a standard boat joke about the granny climbing in haha!

There was such a build up when I could eventually jump off the boat into the water, I remember having my team swimming around at one of our swim spots and them all cheering me on when the day finally arrived for me to JUMP IN! Yeah that sounds lame to some, but living on a sail boat and sailing the most incredible waters and NOT being able to dive off the boat, sucked! So a team cheer and shout of : GET IN THE WAAAATER!!! I got to jump into the ocean and I was able to blow my nose after 10 weeks! LIFE CHANGING!!!

Its honestly the small things in life that you become so grateful for….

I was at peace that I couldn’t do my daily 5km runs or partake in any excessive exercise which used to be a priority in my daily schedule. Yoga was a practice in my life that I couldn’t live without, but had to learn very quickly how to live without it, as you dont realise most movements in yoga my concussion wouldn’t allow. But I was at peace…

I know from all my pictures on Instagram it looked like one big party, all the fun and laughter and I was back to my normal self but there was a lot of work that happened behind the scenes of those pics not only from my team but for myself as well…

My team and I were working 7 days a week, late nights, early mornings and a new stop everyday. At the start of every weekend said goodbye to an amazing crew of guests and then welcoming a brand new crew of guests for the new week. Every day deserved the same dedication from all of us and the same incredible energy. Work was the best distraction I could’ve asked for, the electric energy I was surrounded by 24.7, the fact I was meeting the most amazing people from all over the world was what fuelled me and the non stop laughs, dancing and beauty we surrounded ourselves with, was just pure magic.

But with all this magic I was surrounded by, the first 3 weeks I would wake up every morning with a fear… A fear that my health was going to take a turn. I would wake up with hope, that all would be ok health wise. I would be so scared that something would go wrong and I would have to leave back to London for further operations. I just didn’t want my experience here to be taken away from me again… The specialist who operated on me and got me back to health, had given me his details incase of an emergency along with an emergency back up plan. So I was prepared, but my heart just couldn’t handle things taking a turn for the worse. Luckily though that emergency plan never got put not action.

It took some time, but eventually the fear of something going wrong started fading away… I was living my best life! I was surrounded by incredible people, I was eating the most amazing food and sharing the best drinks in the best locations.

I would wake up every single day and be so grateful that I’m alive, that I can see, that I can walk and that I am healing…

I remember when I started getting feeling back in my face and it was the craziest sensation…. Some days would be painful and I would fear that my infection was back and other days it felt so normal… I couldn’t touch my face in certain areas for weeks, washing my face was a challenge, putting any sort of makeup on was a challenge, my scars were taped up with micropore for weeks, starting the Nelly trend again and bringing back the plaster on your face trend haha… But really the normality of my face became more recognisable with tape, a tape that seriously does work magic. Sunblock and a hat 24.7 so that the sun wouldn’t damage my scars and new skin. In all healing was a full time job…

This was the only picture I took / have of my scars healing & progress over the full period in Greece. Still very red & sensitive but eyebrow hair is growing back slowly (I got told the hair wouldnt grow back at all due to trauma… BUT we had a few babies making their way back & I was over the moon!

I had such a mental block that I couldn’t look in my mouth to where they had operated, I just envisioned seeing an infection or some huge ass hole on the side of my mouth and I would work myself up to a point of pure panic. Luckily I had an amazing medic on my boat who would check my mouth for me and make sure all was healing like it should. The first time I managed to look into my mouth at the area of operation was 8 weeks after the operation. 8 WEEKS!!!

I got told that I had stitches all over the side of my mouth, which I could feel for the first 2 weeks and eventually they started to vanish. I couldn’t bite into anything and had to cut my food into tiny pieces and place it into the right hand side of my mouth and I could only chew on the right hand side of my mouth. Everyone would be tucking into their delicious gyros and there would be me eating with a knife and fork… standard shock and horror when people would see me doing that haha! It was frustrating and it sucked but again it was baby steps in my healing process… You actually forget over time just how hard it actually was but when you are going through this, everything that was hard was such a progression at the time. With time everything heals and becomes easier, eating became easier, laughing became easier and my smile was back to normal…

Video call catch ups with my familia on a Friday night became a set date every week 🙂

Before I knew it 7 weeks of living on a sail boat and heading up this insane event in Greece had come to an end… You gain a whole new piece of your soul after an adventure like this and saying goodbye is never easy… luckily I had 2 more weeks left of my adventure before home time back to SA was happening. (I will talk more about The Yacht Week in another post about what its about, my work I have done with them and what an amazing adventure it takes you on) I had 2 more incredible weeks of travel ahead of me, with the amazing friends I made over the past season…

One of my stops was even Amsterdam…. YES AMSTERDAM! The bicycle capital of the world and I decided to go spend some time there… But I was all about the healing and getting over my fears and it couldn’t have been a better environment for me, to push myself to not only cross busy intersections again, but intersections dominated by cyclists. Who are all so pedestrian respectable and cautious which brought such a sense of ease over me and by the end of my trip I had made huge progressions with my road & bicycle PTSD. (again will talk more about my travels in separate posts)

I generally thought I had dealt with the accident during my time away, I was coming home, I was refreshed, I was a new person and had a whole new lease on life and I was ready to come home and to eventually be reunited with my family and friends… It had been just over 3 months since the accident and just short of 4 months since I had been home. I stopped thinking about the accident over my time on the boat and just grew from strength to strength…

I had not seen my mom since the accident and she was the one person in particular I just couldn’t wait to wrap my arms around. After weeks of her being my pillar of strength we were finally going to be able to give each other the biggest hug! Sometimes all you need is a hug from your momsy… I remember crying on my flight home at the thought of seeing her and my baby brother waiting for me in JHB airport… I cried in the passport line, I cried waiting for my bags and when I eventually saw them for the first time, you guessed it, I cried like a baby and just didn’t let go of them for minutes.

It was like months of suppressing my emotions just started overflowing out of me…

I was at peace, I was happy and so grateful to be alive and to be reunited with my family… I had the scars that were still healing, the physical scars…. I had gained quite a bit of weight, which when I landed I was at peace with, because I had the time of my life, I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted and against what I wanted I couldn’t exercise like I am used to, so I just threw myself into everything else that made me happy…. It was a safe environment with people who would never ever judge you and my biggest priority was to just be happy and I was!

Although I thought I had healed so much and progressed in many ways, the emotional scars hadn’t healed… All those boxes I had thrown into the cupboard with all my feelings and experiences from the accident were about to come pouring out of me… I had no idea what was about to come my way…. Where I thought things were only going to get easier things were only going to get harder and everything I was at peace with was all going to change and get the better of me…

It was as though my body knew I couldn’t handle dealing with both, so it let me deal with the physical healing overseas and when I returned home the emotional healing could eventually happen… From being at peace with everything and being so positive and focused and ready for my new life, all got turned upside down and I started drowning in all my emotions. I didn’t know where they were coming from and how to deal with them…

The aftermath of my accident and the true feelings and emotions it struck was far too real…

The aftermath…. The Healing… The realisation… post to follow x

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