Keep Living

I wrote this over the weekend in light of the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain

Suicide hits really close to home. My paternal Grandpa committed suicide when I was three years old. I’ve never said that publicly but I am now.

I never really grieved that death until I was a teenager and found out how He died. Because at three I just knew He died not the how.

Brutal honesty, there’s been more “wanna give up” moments than I can begin to count. However I’ve seen the hurt left behind and the guilt left on loved ones. First thing first it’s not your fault if someone you loved commits suicide.

You can’t make people keep living if they want to die. That’s a scary place to be. Wanting to die. I’ve been there. I’ve written the note.

I’ve also wanted to live and had to fight with everything I have just to survive. Life is a gift and the good moments make up for the bad ones.

If you’re in a dark place, find someone to talk to. If you feel like you can’t find someone I’ll be your someone. I mean that, even if we never talk or haven’t in years, FB message or DM me on twitter, leave a comment here, however you can get ahold of me do it and I’ll be there!

Also, never underestimate the power of the little things. Keep living even if it’s just so you can hear your favorite song again or watch your favorite movie, eat your favorite food… whatever it is find your reason even if it’s temporary.

Eventually pain fades even when you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel keep breathing. The world is a better place with you in it! I promise!

-Hannah

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Butterflies

Butterflies the animal not the feeling, have always been one of my favorite things.

Actually I love the feeling too, because it normally means something great or exciting is going to happen.

Back to the animal though, I think they became my thing because they’re free. I remember in 2nd grade we took a field trip to go see a butterfly exhibit and I was in heaven.

My teacher at the time who remained one of my favorite teachers ever kept talking about how she’d never seen me smile so much. I smiled a lot as a kid, but this was something special.

Second grade was a big year. I walked independently for the first time the summer before second grade. We never said anything to the school my parents just told me I’d know when the time was right and whenever I felt like walking independently I could.

So one day after recess I was in class with just a friend and my teacher I let go of my walker and walked to my desk. It wasn’t a conscious decision it just happened.

Anyway a few months later was when that field trip happened and I walked the whole day. This was a big deal. I walked with my walker but in the past my wheelchair would’ve been necessary for something like that. Nowadays I know how to conserve energy so I wouldn’t attempt something like that. However second grade Hannah was so proud of herself.

Anyway my point, im not even sure I have one but butterflies have always symbolized strength and freedom to me.

I will literally stop whatever I’m doing and yell “butterfly” and point out any that I see. Whether that’s on someone’s shirt or an actual one flying by.

I think they also mean change and hope. Metamorphosis is one of my favorite concepts it always has been. That a whole lot of hard things can happen and you can still end up with a beautiful result.

Life is hard and it hurts a lot at times but it’s also beautiful. That’s what butterflies mean to me.

So the next time you see a butterfly I hope it makes you smile even for a second.

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– Hannah

 

Survival

I’ve been my toughest critic the past year. I really miss my Nashville life. To the point that typing that sentence made tears well up in my eyes.

I know, that I had no choice but to come back home and put my health first. Nashville will still be there and the majority of people who I love there have been great at keeping in touch and letting me know they still care no matter what. I’ve also been reminded the city isn’t going anywhere more than a couple times.

I feel like I’ve “just survived” the past year or so and that’s what’s eating at my soul. I know from a logical standpoint surviving is a big deal! Life’s thrown so many curveballs my way that surviving is a huge achievement.

In my heart though I miss my life. I miss everything. Even my journalism classes. Never thought I’d say that. I miss being able to make plans and actually keep them. I miss a life that I’d created.

I miss being able to do whatever I want whenever I want and not having sickness keep me from it.

I think one of the hardest things about facing your own mortality is the mental game that comes with it. At least from my experience you begin to question everything you’ve ever done and everything you’re doing.

Whether I wanted to or not I’ve had to get comfortable with surviving. At least come to terms with the fact that’s enough for now. Sometime back I said to Dad “I’m just surviving now so I can thrive later.” I’ve tried to hang on to that silly little motto.

I really hope there’s a point in the future where that’s possible, the thriving part. Right now though it’s one second, one minute, one hour, one day at a time. Truthfully even that seems overwhelming at times.

But, I really believe that time will come where all my energy won’t have to be poured into just making it to tomorrow. If there’s one thing all of this struggle has taught me it’s that I can do even the things that are terrifying.

So yeah, sometimes it’s okay to “just survive” because it means someday there’s the opportunity to thrive.

– Hannah

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Rebuilding

“Sometimes you have to break things in order to rebuild them better. Hoping your world is one of those things ”

Five months ago I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’d been blindsided by a diagnosis that explained a lot of things I’d been ignoring. I knew it was going to get worse before it had the chance to get better. It did! It got worse than I ever could have imagined.

Things are getting better though. I’m proud of myself and I honestly don’t know the last time I felt that way.

February I was spending what seemed like practically everyday in a different doctor’s office.

The picture of why things became so bad so fast was made clearer when I found out I’d inherited a gene mutation from Mom that has caused her a lot of issues. Also a compounding thing from Dad that luckily he doesn’t have symptoms of.

Yet, in the moment it felt like my world couldn’t possibly be put back together. That’s when I was told the quote I started this post with. If life had to get hard I at least have people who help pick up the pieces. Fred has absolutely been pivotal in me not giving up over the past six months.

It still crosses my mind to give up. I think that’s human. However, I’ve promised a few people I won’t and I don’t break promises!

This post is all over the place but I think that’s the state I’m in right now. Still processing everything and fighting knowing the fight isn’t over.

Honestly will I ever be “healthy” again? I don’t know but that’s the goal! Everyday is another opportunity to try to get closer to that goal.

Everyday is a new battle. There’s a lot more smiles and hope though and that makes it a lot easier. I’ve always been a smiley person yet the headache stole my joy to the point I couldn’t even fake a smile.

What’s next? Well the 14th I have surgery to get a port placed. Basically permanent easy IV access. This is a good thing, soon no more PICC line! My skin can’t wait for a break from having tape and be tegaderm free.

DOING ALL THE SCARY THINGS, so life will hopefully be a little easier in the long run. I’m so tired but I’m actually sleeping. It’s a different kind of tired than sleep can fix. It’s mental physical and spiritual exhaustion.

Life is slowly being rebuilt. I actually have the attention span to do things again. Lately that means spending an hour or so requesting “Criminal” so hopefully Fred gets that number one song!

It’s Spring and Summer is just around the corner. My favorite time of year! June typically means a week in Nashville and I’m hoping to make that happen again.  We’ll see.

Our pool was opened this week. Kinda funny actually, it needs rebuilt too. We had to replace the liner and in true Pike Family fashion the new one wasn’t the right size so it’s being reordered. We all got a good laugh when they said they’d have to remake it.

There’s this theme lately, people assuming typical and usually. When I was in the hospital recovering from brain surgery we heard the words “typically and usually” more times than I can count. I’m not typical my body is in a constant state of survival mode so it took me longer to recover. Likewise our pool isn’t typical either we made it just six inches too shallow for a diving board. That’s the reason the new liner doesn’t fit. It’s not typical.

That’s about all I’ve got to say right now. Talk soon.

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– Hannah

Recovery

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There’s this idea that once someone has been discharged from the hospital they’re well. This is the farthest thing from fact. Real recovery doesn’t take place inside a hospital it takes place at home.

Today is two weeks post op and for the most part I’m doing good. It hasn’t been easy at all. Slowly my body is learning how to function with normal cerebrospinal fluid pressure.

Those first few days post op were hell. That’s really the only way to describe them. I couldn’t sit up without wanting to scream and if I did my legs would go into the worst spasms I’ve ever experienced.

Having Cerebral Palsy just complicates everything. My body’s reaction to pain is to spasm. In turn just making the pain worse.

Slowly day by day I started to improve. Turning in bed easier, sitting the head of the bed up more, walking to the bathroom. All baby steps that happened in the hospital. Ultimately leading to being able to be discharged and back home. Surgery was on a Tuesday and the following Monday I was finally free.

Being home has been amazing. Even though it still has its challenges and there’s still pain and nausea. The simple things like going and getting a snack or drink when I want, just because I want to.

My bed, my pillows, my fan, my dog. All along with the support of my parents and grandma (who paused her life to come help us) create the perfect environment for real recovery to take place.

Today is a big day, I start Physical Therapy at home in a few hours. PT is a normal part of my life, this will be good though because they’re coming to me instead of me going to them. I’m hopeful this will help me a lot to gain confidence and control of my life again.

Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps. This became my mantra through all of this and more than anything it’s a reminder to myself that I don’t have to have it all together and that’s okay.

Live A Story Worth Telling

– Hannah

The Setbacks Leading To The Comeback

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This is a hard time of year for me. It’s filled with defeated moments. Five years ago today I had to drop all my classes because I was too sick to keep up after being hospitalized. The unknown then is now very much know as Chronic Pancreatitis.

Two years ago I was in the hospital in Nashville after having fought so hard to be better. I was finally going to my dream school. I had a good group of friends. I’d also started taking on some pretty cool opportunities.

I’d had surgery six months before that was supposed to “fix” my liver and pancreas issues. I don’t regret that surgery it saved my liver. It was defeating to then at the end of the semester to be forced to come back home to regroup and get answers.

It took a long time and suffering to get that Chronic Pancreatitis diagnosis. Now though the treatment has been very effective and most days I can eat without pain.

Then as many of you know in December there another shoe that dropped. A routine eye exam led to yet another setback.

It’s been a hard year. Multiple brain MRI’s CT scans and more needles than I can count. In the form of spinal taps, blood draws, and IV’s.

Psudo Tumor Cerebri, what’s that?! It’s when your brain is drowning in spinal fluid to the point it mimics a brain tumor. You get all the symptoms. Vision loss, headache, balance issues, relentless vomiting, pain.

I have surgery scheduled for Wednesday. To place a shunt and alleviate the pressure on my brain.  I’ve never looked forward to surgery the way I’m looking forward to this it means hope and relief.

Yesterday, in preparation for that surgery my best friend shaved my head. We had fun with it, it was a freeing experience. We carved the name of my favorite song and a butterfly in the side of my head. It was my turn to take control. I’m donating my hair because if it had to go it might as well do some good!

So what’s next? I really don’t know. I hope getting back to Nashville. Living life that doesn’t include constant pain. A boyfriend? (Really hoping for that). Graduating college and building a life I’m proud of.

For now though it’s one day at a time. One foot in front of the other.  Remembering that somedays it’s okay to just survive because that means there’s most likely a tomorrow.

Live a good story

-Hannah

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L I F T E D

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“Just enough to get your head above the water, Just a step to get your feet on solid ground”
These three people mean so much to me. They did something I’m pretty sure they weren’t planning on. They gave me my will to live back.

We’re rewinding a few years but the first time I ever heard Lifted… I needed hope when hope was missing. So to hear “When it feels like hope is missing even just a little bit can be enough to raise the corners of your mouth” In a song I can’t even explain that moment.

So glad I was a fan of the people to my left and right and took a impromptu trip to Nashville to see them and ended up meeting the guy over my shoulder by total chance. I fangirled when he said he wrote Lifted. He had no idea how sincere I was that it’s my favorite song. He’s well aware now because I remind him often.

I’m sure most of you can identity a song that’s changed your life. The best thing is I had the opportunity to tell the people who created that song that it changed my life. Music, is powerful! It heals even if it can’t fix it, it makes things better even if just for the 3ish minutes it plays.

This song, it’s my go to on the darkest nights and the brightest days. Trust me when I tell you it’s saved me from giving up more times than I can possibly count.

Two Story Road is about to take the world by storm. Fred, has a song climbing the charts. They deserve all this and more .

They’ll write other songs that’ll make more money and get more notoriety. They’ve already accomplished the ultimate goal though making something that makes a difference.

Brandon, Jamelle and Fred this is your thank you note the best way I’ve ever articulated it.

Love Always,

Hannah

P.S. Amber if you read this thanks for being game for that crazy adventure trip to Nashville.

So What Now?

In life most people fear the bad. Bad news, bad grades, losing a job, rejection, failure. We all at some point have experienced times when that fear becomes a reality whether that’s a short period of time or it seems never ending.

Sometimes if we’re lucky we expect the shoe to drop, we can see the bad thing lurking out there in the distance. Those are the times coping is easier because you are mentally and physically prepared for the curveball life is throwing.

More often than not though everything is fine and then it’s not, in an instant your world changes. It’s in those moments true growth happens, when you learn how tough you really are.

The first week of December I went to the eye doctor for a run of the mill appointment and left with the news that something serious was wrong. In the weeks since then there’s been lots of questions, lots of tears, and lots of doubt. You know, no one excepts the worst from the routine things.

Fast Forward to now after too many sleepless nights, medical tests, prayers and mental breakdowns, things are clearer now but still just as frustrating.

So what now? There’s only two options fight like hell or give up. So I’m fighting because there’s too much to live for. Too many good things to see and experience.

Fighting sometimes looks like laying in bed because doing anything else is impossible. Somedays that’s good enough because surviving today means you’ll most likely see tomorrow. Other times fighting looks like using every ounce of energy to get through whatever the day holds.

As humans we get so caught up in everything but honestly all we can do is take each day as it happens cherishing the good and hanging on through the bad. Tomorrow can worry about itself. We have to get through today to see what happens next.

The next time you feel slapped in the face with something you don’t think you can handle… remember you’ve handled all the trials and triumphs so far and are still here to tell the story!

Live a story worth telling

-Hannah

“It’s been a little while”

You know, physical pain eventually manifests itself in mental demons. This is a story of one of my darkest days, a story I’m still here to tell.

February 2017, Every bite of food even water made me sick. I had a headache from hell too. It’s an awful reality when the very thing  you need to survive is very thing that’s killing you.

One evening, I decided I just wanted the pain to stop. I hesitated though for a moment & looked at my phone. I was surprised to see an unexpected message from a friend.

“Hannah been thinking about you-it’s been a little while” followed by “how are you?”

Looking back now I cringe because in my reply I said “There’s really no good way to answer that”. They were unaware how truthful my reply was.

I tore up the note I was holding and got myself back together. Promising myself even on the darkest days. To remember I’m still breathing which means I still have a purpose.

In the midst of your own pain you can’t see it but people still care. Be kind to yourself and remember you are loved even when you feel unloveable.

If you find yourself in a similar situation I encourage you to find a temporary reason to keep living. Sometimes that’s something trivial wanting to see a movie, or listen to an album you haven’t heard yet.

The most ironic part of life is the pain you’re feeling now will fade even when you don’t see a way out. Choose to keep going.

Why every birthday is a celebration of surviving another year

I rarely share this and to many of you you’ve never heard what went down 22 years ago to lead to my August 12th birthday. My dad decided to share what shaped our lives that day and I’m deciding to share his words here!

Hey Guys!

Certain days and events shape our lives. Below is a reflection on one of those life shapers in my life 22 years ago. August 12, 1993.

…..with the lives of both my wife and daughter hanging in the balance. The bullets below outline the timeline between 6pm and 6pm
· 8/11/1993 –
o Noon – a beautiful day. Have taken the day off work and taken my wife out to lunch. She’s 28 weeks into her pregnancy with our first and only child.
o 6pm eastern – onset of symptoms preeclampsia
o 10:30pm eastern – full eclamptic seizure at our house.
Medically my wife stopped breathing for the next 45 minutes. No blood-flow to her or our baby. Her body is shutting down.
o 10:40pm ambulance arrives – I pick up all sorts of large furniture to move out of their way. {no idea how this happened}
o 10:50pm ambulance leaves, taking an alternate route to nearest hospital [We learn later that there was a massive wreck that had shut down the interstate. If we had left for the hospital earlier, all this would have happened in our car……]
o 11:15pm eastern – wife begins to breathe via life support and oxygen gets to our baby for the first time in 45 minutes
o 11:30pm eastern – it’s clear that our child had to be delivered or there was no chance for either of them
· 8/12/1993
o 2am – my wife is transferred to Christ Hospital where she worked as a Labor & Delivery nurse
o 4am – my wife enters the Operating Room. Many of her co-workers + me are in the OR … fearing the worst. I pray it’s a girl because they’re stronger!
o 4:45am – our Daughter Hannah is born. 12 weeks early. 3lb1oz. kicking and screaming I’m thankful we had names picked out so I didn’t later get in trouble……..
o 6pm – Hannah struggles to breath, is placed on ventilator, and is transferred to NICU at Children’s Hospital in Cincinnati.
I now have my wife in ICU at one hospital, my daughter in ICU at another
My wife with more IV lines than I could count, and my daughter on full ventilation to keep her breathing
· 8/20/1993
o I’m given the news by both my wife and daughters doctors that they think they will both live
o There is discussion that our daughter may never see, hear, walk, talk….

That day Hannah, showing her gumption and will power, turned over in her isolette
· Mid-September 1993
o Both wife and daughter are home

· August 2015
o Hannah moving to Nashville to continue studies in Journalism/Communications. Lauded by University of Cincinnati professors as award winning writer with a special passion and ‘voice’ in her written and oral communications.