By Ann Nicolopulos
Mother of Former Shepherd Center Stroke Patient
The clock is ticking. How many days have you been on the journey that you never wanted to be on in the first place? For me, it has been more than 2,181 days. And “they” say time heals all wounds. Really?
Does time really heal all wounds? I would love to meet whomever said that it does. Perhaps I am missing something.
Maybe, just maybe, I’m the one who has the problem. Something must be wrong with me because literally, in one quick flash, I can be pulled back to the day when I discovered life wasn't going to turn out the way I had planned.
Those life-changing, blindsiding events are introduced to all of us in a myriad of ways. The accident, an injury on the field, a stroke. . . different circumstances, yet the results are the same. We are thrown into a battle to figure out how to move forward in life.
After the allowable time of grieving, our journey becomes a concealed battle. Oftentimes, I walk into a social setting, with a smile on my face, yet on the inside, tears flow throughout my heart and soul. Does anyone see my grief and loss? I quickly regain control of the sadness and remind myself to simply breathe. And to keep smiling.
The so-called normal world just doesn’t get it. How could they? After all, you only know what you know.
I politely listen to ordinary conversations as people describe their life problems and issues. Silently, I am screaming, “I would love for that to be my greatest concern in life!” Yet, I must remind myself that more than 2,181 days ago, their issues were my greatest concerns, as well.
This is exactly where the disconnection takes place between those of us who have faced life-changing events versus the rest of the world whom we perceive, often falsely, as living ordinary and normal lives.
Today, as this ever-changing journey has evolved, I am now starting to develop a new realization and awareness in recovery, which begins with this acknowledgement: I now claim, without any apologies, that there are things that happen in life that we will never get over.
And it’s OK. We are not crazy or weak, just brokenhearted.
This acceptance allows us to begin climbing the stairway of life, a life that has hope and joy, in spite of the circumstances. It takes a great deal of courage, persistence and purposeful actions to move forward. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts, but the good news is that at each step, God teaches us a valuable lesson while helping us to become a victor and not a victim.
ANN NICOLOPULOS of Anderson, S.C., is the mother of former Shepherd Center patient Jake Nicolopulos, who experienced a stroke when he was 18. Ann and her husband Craig have two children, Gina and Jake, and split time between South Carolina and San Mateo, Calif. Ann enjoys writing and connecting with other families of the acutely injured. Jake lives in San Mateo, is working part time and continuing with therapies. Ann’s blog is available here. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Ga., is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation and is a 152-bed facility. Last year Shepherd Center had 965 admissions to its inpatient programs and 571 to its day patient programs. In addition, Shepherd Center sees more than 6,600 people annually on an outpatient basis. For more information, visit Shepherd Center online at www.shepherd.org