I was pumped to the max. An IV drew a heavy-duty dose of steroids from a plastic bag and into my veins so my brain wouldn’t swell too much. I felt my thoughts levitating while my body beneath lie there, unable to move at all. But my mind…whew whoooo! Look out world! I imagined myself on stages all over the world regaling folks with the miracle God had done.
After spending four days in ICU, I flew home with my head stapled and wrapped in gauze. I wore a pair of glasses nurses had repurposed with a piece of frosty plastic taped over one lens to help me see one of everything instead of two. I was in a wheelchair. God’s grace was with me, and I almost enjoyed the trip. After all, I was alive!
The next few months I slept almost upright while the swelling in my brain went down. Insomnia from the steroids gave me plenty of time to think and plan my next move. But I had no idea if I would ever recover, or if I did, how much. The roaring waterfall had not left my head. I could not walk. Everything seemed weird, like I had experimented with some sort of psychedelic. I just wanted to come down, but for all I knew, there would be no end to this trip. My doctor kept warning me I would be going into a depressive episode soon, but it never came. A strong sense of purpose kept hope alive.
Six months later, not a lot had changed. I had graduated from a walker but could not walk without hanging onto my husband for support. My vision was no better and the waterfall had turned into an alarm clock buzzer that sounded off in my head many times a night. When I mentioned it to my neurosurgeon he remarked, “People commit suicide over that!” (Thanks for that, by the way). So, I thought that as long as I was just laying there doing nothing, I might as well work on my masters degree.
I applied to Capella University, a mostly online school headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They had a three-year long CACREP accredited program (a must for state licensing) in Mental Health Counseling. Perfect. The program would require a couple of week-long residencies and both a practicum and an internship, but what the hey? I had nothing else to do.
For the first year I lay in bed with a laptop on a pillow and a pirate’s patch over my left eye. I held my textbooks about five inches from my good eye to read the tiny text. During the second year, the first week-long residency came up. I flew to Phoenix, AZ and tooled around in a power chair to get between the conference room, my hotel room and the dining room. By this time I could walk, but my balance was horrendous and my fatigue level was so bad that walking to my room would have used the next 24-hours of energy I had to spare.
I continued with my courses, and the following year I attended my second residency in Minneapolis. I ordered the power chair, but found when I got there that I didn’t need it as long as I really paced myself. My eyesight was a little better, and I was able to wear glasses with prism lenses to correct the double vision. The tinnitus was much better too. I was really starting to enjoy my life again.
Then I had to do a 10-hour a week practicum. I chose to work for Florence Crittenton Home for Pregnant and Parenting Teens. I loved my work with teen girls and their babies. I watched a birth for the first time. But that 10 hours exhausted me. Still, I persevered.
Later that year, things stopped seeming so off-kilter to my brain and I was even able to drive again. I finished up more courses and then needed a 30-hour a week internship for four quarters. I got a great internship in the college counseling center and had the opportunity to co-teach a college course in emotional intelligence. I worked with students who presented with various problems and diagnoses. I also sat under a private practice therapist.
Finally I graduated, having earned a solid 4.0…twenty-two courses in counseling under my belt and many hours of practicum and internship. My energy level grew slowly, and it seemed I had just enough energy for each challenge.
After graduation, I worked for two years for a community agency working with abused, neglected, and mentally ill teens and children. I earned my 3000 hours for licensing, and then went into private practice. In the meantime, I became certified in a very specific type of therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). I now run an adult and a teen DBT group and have a full practice of individual clients.
As I write all this, I know it probably sounds as if I’m bragging about what “I” was able to accomplish. But that is not at all what is in my heart. I know that without the help of the Lord in my life, I would not have had the perseverance, the patience, the sense of purpose, or the strength to do any of it. There were many times I wanted to quit. But, as I’ve told many people, I could have no more quit as I could have stopped the process of giving birth to any of my three children. I believe I received a “gift” of perseverance.
I still have many more ideas and things I want to do. But mainly, I wanted to share my story with you, dear readers. If anyone has been tossed around by the storms of life and believes it’s too late to make a difference in this world, believe me when I say, “It’s Never Too Late to Become What You Might Have Been.” Thank you all for sharing this journey with me.
“It’s never too late to become what you might have been.”
~ Attributed, possibly erroneously, to George Eliot
Linda Lochridge Hoenigsberg, MS, NCC, LCPC, LMFT, DBTC (I know, ridiculous, right?)
PS: My plan is to start this blog over again at the beginning. This blog has been viewed over 8000 times by folks in over 40 countries. My list is tiny but if my story changes one life or gives one person hope to keep going, the hours I have written this have been worth it to me. Please leave a comment below and let me know if you have any questions or just to give me a quick shout out…and take advantage of the free e-book on the right. You can always cancel your subscription afterwards. ;o)