Ashley Clemmons, 30 years old, from Michigan, suffered a traumatic brain injury in an ATV accident at 14 years old, and was eventually diagnosed with bilateral, Atypical Trigeminal Neuralgia two years ago. She also has a postural fainting condition. You can also follow her on Twitter.
When I turned thirty-years-old in February, I didn’t think I would be moving back home with my parents and youngest sister. I didn’t think I was going to lose my boyfriend, dog, home, job, and my ability to drive… all in one year that hasn’t even ended yet. Keep reading, I promise, it does get better.
At the beginning of the year, I was still living with my boyfriend at the time, in his house, with the dog we got together. That was my life for over two years. Less than a month in, everything was different for me. My whole life seemed to change in the blink of an eye (actually, just a couple of weeks). Everything that I thought was keeping me going… gone. I was certainly in new territory because deep down I knew my illness and my ability to cope with it was a decent sized portion of the factors leading to that particular break-up and I also knew then and still know now, that there’s certainly nothing I can do to change that, except cope.
However, with moving back home and losing so many things I love; I found MORE happiness in a year than I had in a long time or even the previous year (bet you didn’t see that coming). When I moved home, my two younger sisters and I have become closer than ever. Even if my youngest sister did kind of get stuck with being my full-time caregiver, she is always graceful, sweet, and never complains about helping me. My parents have done so much to make me comfortable being back at home, by being loving and alleviating so much stress that only exacerbates my symptoms. Even my Aunts and cousins have gone out of their way to help take care of me thru the progression of my illnesses. This year I made so many new TN friends who are so strong, positive, and I managed to make some of my other closer friendships stronger.
Feeling forgotten or less important to your friends and family when you’re sick, can bury you with stress and guilt. Having bilateral, atypical TN and a fainting condition has strained my ability to be around some of my friends by choice because of how constant and debilitating my flares, tics, and attacks can be. When I learned to stop isolating myself, everything became easier. When I learned that teaching everyone in my life that this is something that is a part of me now, most everyone was understanding and sweet about it. I know my restrictions between my TN and my fainting condition make it hard to say, “Hey Ash, let’s go dancing”, but at least I’m trying to do everything within my limits. I’ve learned a lot about myself and new life since being diagnosed a couple of years ago. I learned whole-heartedly to forgive family and friends for not making an effort with me knowing my limitations. I realize everyone gets wrapped up in their own lives and busy; however, I’ve learned to be thankful for those people who didn’t stay in my life. I’m much stronger now because of them.
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