Bob Millsap

@bob-millsap | contributor
Bob has endured a life filled with adversity and loss. After decades of struggle, Bob gained the tools to emotionally recover and view all aspects of his journey with perspective and gratitude. Now a primary purpose of his is to share his experiences in order to assist others in effectively navigating through their own journey. Follow my journey at my blog, Ten Thousand Days. Link is below.
Bob Millsap

Memories Were My Fuel to Stay Alive as I Battled COVID-19

“People’s memories are maybe the fuel they burn to stay alive. Whether those memories have any actual importance or not, it doesn’t matter as far as the maintenance of life is concerned. They’re all just fuel. To the fire, they’re nothing but scraps of paper. It’s the exact same thing. Important memories, not-so-important memories, totally useless memories; there’s no distinction — they’re all just fuel.” – –Haruki Murakami, “After Dark” One of my favorite singers, Wes Eisold of the modern-day goth band Cold Cave, posted this quote by Haruki Murakami recently. It’s been on my mind ever since as I often think about my fight for life. Fifty-three days in a hospital bed where I never had the strength to even take a single shower in that time. The use of high-flow oxygen and high-powered drugs helped keep me alive. But my positivity, patience, zero fear, and my quest to keep the negativity away also helped me to survive. When I think about this quote, it helps me recognize what a strong part my memories played in living. I heard from dozens of people during this saga. Many of them I was reconnecting with for the first time in many years. The common thread to all these conversations was that we talked about things that had happened in the past. Good times, bad times, times I felt the need to apologize for; it didn’t matter as the memories were keeping me moving forward. I thought of things I hadn’t thought of in decades. I’m sure it often made no sense why I was even bringing some of these memories up. Music was the center point of my survival. I literally listened to music non-stop the entire time I was hospitalized. For years, I have said that music is my therapy, and I’ve heard it said that music is one of the keys to unlocking your brain’s deepest memories, as music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that plays in our head. Well, that movie played non-stop throughout my entire hospitalization. Music kick-started thousands upon thousands of memories that ranged anywhere from the previous week to 50 years earlier. It allowed me to savor what a complicated, painful, yet good life I have had. I quickly understood that if my life was ending, that was OK, as I could truly say that I’d lived it to the fullest. But the gravitation to memories generated the understanding that it was worth fighting for my life to continue. So, fight is what I did. I stayed in this positive state of recollection the entire time I was in that hospital bed. I’d tell stories to any staff that entered my room, or with any friends that visited, called, or texted with me, especially appreciating those people that actively engaged in the trips down memory lane with me. It all must have seemed bizarre. But there was much more to it, as these memories were the scraps of paper for the fuel that was keeping me alive. Follow this journey on Ten Thousand Days.

Bob Millsap

What 30 Years Widowed Means to Me

Thirty years. For me, milestone anniversaries always add an additional layer of reflection and perspective. I think back to those significant, fun-filled days leading up to November 13, 1990. We didn’t have a care in the world. The future was ours with an unlimited amount of potential and happiness ahead. We often talked about how blessed we were to have the next 60 years together. I suppose we’d say 60 years because it was a good, big round number and it would put us into our 80’s together. We couldn’t imagine anything else. When Dana died, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I had to now live 60 years without her. It seemed like an impossible task that I could in no way accomplish. The local newspaper hounded me after her death. I gave the reporter one quote and told him not to contact me again. I said, “How do you put into words the loss of the person that you planned to spend the next 60 years with?” Thirty years. That number has loomed large in 2020; as it signifies to me that I am now halfway through the journey. I am a survivor. It’s been a journey that’s ebbed and flowed with many tests, trials and tribulations. Once I found the strength to use gratitude as the driver to enable me to understand that I’ve been blessed rather than cursed, my journey has finally become filled with purpose. From very early in my grief journey I told myself that I needed to be the person that Dana would be proud of. I needed to live my life with her sunny disposition and legacy in mind. I have always known that this is what I needed to do. But for years I couldn’t find the ability to do that, as anger and self-pity consumed me. This added a layer of guilt, as I knew that I wasn’t anywhere near the person that I needed to be. I still have plenty of self-improvement work to do, but these next 30 years will be driven by a positive purpose to be of service. Once I started telling my story and sharing my experiences, I realized that I will be that person whose resilient perspective I needed to hear 30 years ago. Thirty years. I find myself with a feeling of triumph. Triumph that I have finally become that person that Dana would be proud of. Follow this journey on Ten Thousand Days.

Community Voices

My Blessings of Joy

I am now approaching day 70 of staying home.

I’ve often tenthousanddays.blog/2017/08/13/my-story about how not many years ago I began the ability of seeing and expressing gratitude within my life. Once this ability presented itself, I have been able to look at life completely differently.

Prior to this I teetered between feeling sorry for myself and being angry at the world for my misfortunes.It took my wife, Shelly’s, tenthousanddays.blog/2018/01/22/my-wifes-inspiring-battle-wi... in 2013 for that to change.

She almost died.

With grit, positivity and persistence she taught herself to both walk and talk again, while never feeling sorry for herself or being angry. So much of her life was taken from her, yet she refused to view it as a negative.

I have been a different person ever since.I can now find joy in the simplest and most basic elements of life.Being home every day for nearly 2 months has been an opportunity for me to slow life down to the basics and essentials and focus on joy and gratitude in the most elementary of ways.

I am blessed to be able to work in an industry and for a forward thinking, people first company where I can completely work from home.

I am blessed to be busier than ever.

I am blessed not to have to worry right now about how to put food on the table or pay the mortgage.

I spent years with the reality of that worry being at the forefront of my mind and the basis of my tenthousanddays.blog/2019/11/16/resilience-and-perspective-revisited.

Having been there, I have great empathy and understanding for the millions that are helplessly facing the panic of that worry today.

I am blessed to be in Arizona, where I have spent 10 to 12 hours each day sitting at my computer on the patio moving through countless emails, Zoom meetings and phone calls.

I am blessed that I have been able to turn my backyard into my makeshift office. Some days I am able to work on the homestretch of writing my book early in the morning as the sun rises. Other days I jump right into my busy work day. Being a former long-time grocer, I am always up super early, which gives me the opportunity to see the beauty and solitude of the sunrise.

I am blessed for the ability to get lost within the music.

Music has always been the basis of therapy for me. Listening to it provides a calm and a center that reminds me that everything will be alright. I am particularly drawn to watching those that are doing performances from the safety and solitude of their own homes.

I am blessed that I am able to help keep Shelly safe and calm.

With her TBI (TBI) and severe post-traumatic stress (PTSD) this pandemic has triggered a lot of fear for her. I am doing all that I can do to keep any additional undue stress or drama at a minimum.

I am blessed than our two sons are doing okay.

Dylan will be 25 this month and he is busily working from his condo in central Phoenix. I am grateful that his job as a graphic designer can be completely done from home too.

We have gone to the Coachella Music and Arts Festival together ten times since he was 11. Last year was unreal as I went to Coachella as his guest; as Dylan was one of a handful of artists selected out of thousands of applicants to design artwork on a recycling bin to be to be displayed at the festival.This year he was invited back as an artist. The festival was postponed until October (if it happens at all this year). So in addition to his day job, while social distancing he busily worked on this year’s artistic creation from home.

tenthousanddaysblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/my-blessings-of...

tenthousanddaysblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/my-blessings-of...

Taylor is 19 and a college freshman. The last two months have been a challenging adjustment for him. It took him several weeks to get the groove of classes online and by Zoom.  He is home almost all of the time now. I can’t imagine being 19 and stuck at home only with Mom and Dad every single day.

Our bonding time has been priceless as we stay up late some nights talking deeply in the backyard or playing countless rounds of board games such as Scrabble, Sorry or Yahtzee with Shelly.

He is a collegiate athlete that has an offer to play football in the fall. Will there even be football in the fall? I know that weighs heavily on his mind.

But his positivity from home has both surprised me and made me proud. I am blessed that I have been able to help keep my parents safe.

My Mom is 80 and my Dad is 83. Every week Shelly and I have been getting groceries for them, making sure they have all that they need to be able to stay safe at home. I can’t help but worry that as we deliver the groceries and visit each week that somehow we bring the virus into them; so we keep our distance (outside of a few lapses in judgment with a couple of quick hugs over the past several weeks).

I am blessed that the power of family is stronger to me today than ever before.

I am blessed that I had a wake-up call to focus on my health.

Seventeen months ago I was diagnosed as a type-2 diabetic.

Rather than be disgusted with myself for allowing myself to get to this situation, I made the commitment to change immediately. Realizing that as Shelly’s caregiver, I need to be here for the long-term.

I eliminated carbs and sugar from my diet. I no longer eat anything between meals and I practice portion control. I cut my alcohol intake to just a few beers a week.

I turned my blood sugar and A1C numbers around quicker than my doctor had ever seen before.I have lost nearly 40 pounds. I am now within one pound of being in the 170’s for the first time since I was in my 20’s, nearly 25 years ago.

I am blessed that this diagnosis happened.As with such an improvement in my health, I find that I have the ability to focus on the big picture of joy and gratitude even more clearly.

I am in my 30th year of being a widow. Milestone years always seem to provide the opportunity for me to self-assess more deeply.

For the first time in these 30 years, I feel as if my fiancé, Dana, would finally be proud of the person that I have become.

That’s an accomplishment that I am grateful for and proud of.

As we navigate through these uncharted waters in these unprecedented times. I can’t reiterate enough our need to be kind, patient and grateful.

There are those that are stuck inside their home with nobody to talk to day after day.

There are those that have worked extremely hard to provide for their family, only to see the effects of their hard work completely evaporate in two months.

There are those that do not have adequate resources for food or shelter.

There are those that have lost or are losing a loved one with the added sting of not being able to say goodbye, or have the opportunity to mourn and grieve in the way that they would in normal circumstances.

There are those on the front lines putting themselves in danger to help and serve those that desperately need their help and service.

I never truly know the story behind any of the strangers that I encounter each day, so I keep reminding myself that I need to focus on always being kind.

As well as focusing on counting my blessings for those simple things that bring me joy.

This was originally published on my blog, Ten Thousand Days, tenthousanddays.blog

Bob Millsap

Using Art to Express Emotions About Traumatic Brain Injury

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The goal this month is to make people more aware of the causes, symptoms and prevention of traumatic brain injuries. Over 3.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. My wife Shelly recently surpassed the six-year anniversary of her injury. Her life has been forever changed by this. I can’t stress enough how life-changing a TBI can be for the survivor and their family. Shelly received her injury when a bottle of homemade ginger ale fermented and became a bomb that exploded in her face, knocking her out for over 20 minutes. The cognitive symptoms were slow to develop, but within two weeks she was unable to walk or talk. Her recovery since has been a slow road of patience, determination and hard work. She has come so far, but she still has so far to go. We constantly find that people want to focus on the weird circumstances that led to her injury. It’s almost as if they are trivializing and finding humor in the accident. They focus on the novelty of the story, whereas I wish the focus could be on her and how difficult her daily life has become. Shelly was recently asked to become involved in an an amazing international project called Unmasking Brain Injury. Its objective is to have each person living with a brain injury create a mask depicting the hidden feelings behind their brain injury, in an effort to raise awareness throughout the world and to give survivors a voice. The goal of the project is to identify the feelings associated with the survivor’s brain injury, using the mask to help develop and describe their story. They translate these feelings into shapes, colors, images and words to develop and create their particular mask. This project is increasing awareness and educating our communities about the impact and prevalence of brain injury. I was really excited for Shelly to become involved in this project because she is unbelievably artistic and creative. I knew expressing her new reality through art would be very powerful, therapeutic and helpful for others. But I was not prepared to be as impacted by what I saw once her mask was complete. The tears rolled down my face as I saw her perfectly express the description of her life since the injury. It’s such a poignant presentation of her journey. Inside vs. outside. The thoughts she has, but forgetting the words before she can say them. The many forgotten memories of her past. Once great at math, now unable to multiply in her head. Very few friends coming around anymore, which has led her to feel frustrated and alone. The brick wall is a symbol of the barrier she feels between what is inside her brain and what she can actually do. She tries to push through the barrier, but it is strong and won’t budge. She feels disconnected from her emotions and feels foolish because she can’t do the things she once could. The way the world around her makes her feel “stupid” at times is like a dark cloud hanging over her head. The cross symbolizes how she has continued to stand strong in her faith. At times she feels empty and sad on the inside because people don’t understand. They say, “You look fine, you’re 100 percent better.” She wants to scream “I am not!” She is not who she was before. She struggles each day to do things. She puts on a smile and looks OK, but she is not. She feels broken. She wants to tell people to please shut up and quit whining about the trivial stuff. She doesn’t believe she’s strong, she’s just made the choice to stay positive and keep moving forward. I am constantly reminded that Shelly is truly my hero.

Community Voices

At Home with Gratitude

As I work from home, what I am working hardest on is staying positive and grateful as the world navigates through this uncharted territory.

We are seeing plenty of bad; just turn on the news, or scroll through your Facebook feed and you will see it. A lot of it.

But I am choosing to focus on the good. And I am seeing a lot of that too.

Settling into my new normal from the comfortable confines of my home, I am trying to create healthy and positive routines.

I am up early each day and on my laptop; feeling blessed that I have so much work to do and that I can do it all from my couch.

I am stocked up now with enough groceries to last us without leaving the house for at least three weeks, probably longer.

With Shelly’s brain injury and PTSD I constantly remind myself that my most crucial job is being her caregiver. Her brain is always on high alert, balancing near panic mode in the most normal of times.

So the uncertainty of this pandemic has her PTSD in overdrive. Yes, I was one of those putting some focus on stocking up the refrigerator and pantry over the past week. Not to hoard, but to make sure we had enough of what we need for the upcoming weeks. Without this reassurance, Shelly’s PTSD would immobilize her with a wave of fear, panic and terror.

My top task is to keep this trauma at an absolute minimum for her.

I am trying to be mindful of her space and the routines that she has in place each day, while creating new ones as I try to gracefully ease into being a constant within her space.

Sixteen months ago I was diagnosed with type-2 Diabetes. From the moment of diagnosis I have taken this with the utmost seriousness.I totally changed my behavior and my way of life. I have eliminated carbs and sugar from my diet, which has tested all aspects of self-control as I basically live in a bakery (Shelly is a baker :)).  I have lost 38 pounds. I am 53 years old and this morning I weighed less than any day since I was in my 20’s.

I keep hearing and reading the reports that I am in an extremely high-risk group to have major complications. This has my attention as I am taking all the precautions that I need to take.

When I received my diabetes diagnosis I thought of Shelly before anything else. Complete panic hit me as I realized how important it is for me to take care of myself, so I could continue to be around to take care of her.

The diagnosis was the exact wake up call that I needed.I am now stuck at home with a months-worth of food at my fingertips. But I am committed more than ever to keep the weight off and not give into any temptation of snacking between meals. I am 5 pounds away from my 1994 wedding weight of 175 pounds. I am determined to come out of this weighing less than that.

I am in a position now where to only leave the house for Shelly, the dogs and I to do our multiple daily walks through the neighborhood.

Music is my therapy, as well as my passion. I have been amazed and inspired since I began staying home seeing artists provide their art from the comfort of their homes. They are doing this as a way for themselves to cope with their own isolation as well as giving back to us in our time of need.

Each evening, as we unwind from the day, Shelly and I tune into YouTube to watch Ben Gibbard (front man of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service) as he conducts a daily 50 minute performance from his home studio in Seattle. He is in the homestretch of doing this every day for two weeks.

It definitely has provided a calming effect for us.

www.youtube.com/watch

No matter what your music genre of preference is; by now you can find someone every day doing something with their art similar to what Ben is doing. I suggest taking the time to explore this.

I am a Mortgage Loan Originator; which is a fancy name for a Loan Officer.

I lived through the past economic downturn. In a lot of ways I hit what many would call rock-bottom. It has taken me all the way until now to finally feel like we have recovered from that as a family. Our industry, like so many others, is obviously in chaos, so I can’t help but worry about what’s next.

But I always try to stay focused on the things that really can be controlled and what really matters most.

I know more about grief than any other subject.

So I can’t stop reflecting on all of those that have already lost loved ones from this virus, and those that will very soon be losing those that are the most important thing to their world.

This makes my heart hurt, as I know so well what a life sentence grief provides.

I worry about Shelly.

I worry that I can keep doing my part to keep her safe. I am again blown away and inspired by her positivity, resilience and perspective as we hunker down into this together. But I do worry about her getting sick, as a widow it is only natural for my mind to go there.

I worry about our sons Dylan and Taylor.

They are grown now. As much as I wish I could keep them locked up safe inside our home, I can’t. They have their own lives. Shelly and I have provided the foundation for them to make wise choices.

But I worry that they are always safe.

I worry about my Mom and Dad.

They are in their 80’s and settling into the new home they downsized into just a month ago. Although it’s only 13 miles away. It feels a lot further now. I am in close touch, making sure they are taking the necessary precautions and have what they need.

It’s important right now that we focus on the good that is all around us.

We are resilient people. We will collectively be stronger than ever before.

Even though we may be physically apart, we will get through this together.

Inside us is the strength and perspective to fight to stay grateful and positive.

A version of this was originally published on my blog, Ten Thousand Days tenthousanddays.blog.

Community Voices
Community Voices

Today's the 29th anniversary of her death.

In honor of that, here's my story....http://tenthousanddays.blog/2017/08/13/my-story/

Bob Millsap

Using Art to Express Emotions About Traumatic Brain Injury

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The goal this month is to make people more aware of the causes, symptoms and prevention of traumatic brain injuries. Over 3.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. My wife Shelly recently surpassed the six-year anniversary of her injury. Her life has been forever changed by this. I can’t stress enough how life-changing a TBI can be for the survivor and their family. Shelly received her injury when a bottle of homemade ginger ale fermented and became a bomb that exploded in her face, knocking her out for over 20 minutes. The cognitive symptoms were slow to develop, but within two weeks she was unable to walk or talk. Her recovery since has been a slow road of patience, determination and hard work. She has come so far, but she still has so far to go. We constantly find that people want to focus on the weird circumstances that led to her injury. It’s almost as if they are trivializing and finding humor in the accident. They focus on the novelty of the story, whereas I wish the focus could be on her and how difficult her daily life has become. Shelly was recently asked to become involved in an an amazing international project called Unmasking Brain Injury. Its objective is to have each person living with a brain injury create a mask depicting the hidden feelings behind their brain injury, in an effort to raise awareness throughout the world and to give survivors a voice. The goal of the project is to identify the feelings associated with the survivor’s brain injury, using the mask to help develop and describe their story. They translate these feelings into shapes, colors, images and words to develop and create their particular mask. This project is increasing awareness and educating our communities about the impact and prevalence of brain injury. I was really excited for Shelly to become involved in this project because she is unbelievably artistic and creative. I knew expressing her new reality through art would be very powerful, therapeutic and helpful for others. But I was not prepared to be as impacted by what I saw once her mask was complete. The tears rolled down my face as I saw her perfectly express the description of her life since the injury. It’s such a poignant presentation of her journey. Inside vs. outside. The thoughts she has, but forgetting the words before she can say them. The many forgotten memories of her past. Once great at math, now unable to multiply in her head. Very few friends coming around anymore, which has led her to feel frustrated and alone. The brick wall is a symbol of the barrier she feels between what is inside her brain and what she can actually do. She tries to push through the barrier, but it is strong and won’t budge. She feels disconnected from her emotions and feels foolish because she can’t do the things she once could. The way the world around her makes her feel “stupid” at times is like a dark cloud hanging over her head. The cross symbolizes how she has continued to stand strong in her faith. At times she feels empty and sad on the inside because people don’t understand. They say, “You look fine, you’re 100 percent better.” She wants to scream “I am not!” She is not who she was before. She struggles each day to do things. She puts on a smile and looks OK, but she is not. She feels broken. She wants to tell people to please shut up and quit whining about the trivial stuff. She doesn’t believe she’s strong, she’s just made the choice to stay positive and keep moving forward. I am constantly reminded that Shelly is truly my hero.

Bob Millsap

Using Art to Express Emotions About Traumatic Brain Injury

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The goal this month is to make people more aware of the causes, symptoms and prevention of traumatic brain injuries. Over 3.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. My wife Shelly recently surpassed the six-year anniversary of her injury. Her life has been forever changed by this. I can’t stress enough how life-changing a TBI can be for the survivor and their family. Shelly received her injury when a bottle of homemade ginger ale fermented and became a bomb that exploded in her face, knocking her out for over 20 minutes. The cognitive symptoms were slow to develop, but within two weeks she was unable to walk or talk. Her recovery since has been a slow road of patience, determination and hard work. She has come so far, but she still has so far to go. We constantly find that people want to focus on the weird circumstances that led to her injury. It’s almost as if they are trivializing and finding humor in the accident. They focus on the novelty of the story, whereas I wish the focus could be on her and how difficult her daily life has become. Shelly was recently asked to become involved in an an amazing international project called Unmasking Brain Injury. Its objective is to have each person living with a brain injury create a mask depicting the hidden feelings behind their brain injury, in an effort to raise awareness throughout the world and to give survivors a voice. The goal of the project is to identify the feelings associated with the survivor’s brain injury, using the mask to help develop and describe their story. They translate these feelings into shapes, colors, images and words to develop and create their particular mask. This project is increasing awareness and educating our communities about the impact and prevalence of brain injury. I was really excited for Shelly to become involved in this project because she is unbelievably artistic and creative. I knew expressing her new reality through art would be very powerful, therapeutic and helpful for others. But I was not prepared to be as impacted by what I saw once her mask was complete. The tears rolled down my face as I saw her perfectly express the description of her life since the injury. It’s such a poignant presentation of her journey. Inside vs. outside. The thoughts she has, but forgetting the words before she can say them. The many forgotten memories of her past. Once great at math, now unable to multiply in her head. Very few friends coming around anymore, which has led her to feel frustrated and alone. The brick wall is a symbol of the barrier she feels between what is inside her brain and what she can actually do. She tries to push through the barrier, but it is strong and won’t budge. She feels disconnected from her emotions and feels foolish because she can’t do the things she once could. The way the world around her makes her feel “stupid” at times is like a dark cloud hanging over her head. The cross symbolizes how she has continued to stand strong in her faith. At times she feels empty and sad on the inside because people don’t understand. They say, “You look fine, you’re 100 percent better.” She wants to scream “I am not!” She is not who she was before. She struggles each day to do things. She puts on a smile and looks OK, but she is not. She feels broken. She wants to tell people to please shut up and quit whining about the trivial stuff. She doesn’t believe she’s strong, she’s just made the choice to stay positive and keep moving forward. I am constantly reminded that Shelly is truly my hero.

Bob Millsap

Using Art to Express Emotions About Traumatic Brain Injury

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The goal this month is to make people more aware of the causes, symptoms and prevention of traumatic brain injuries. Over 3.5 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury each year. My wife Shelly recently surpassed the six-year anniversary of her injury. Her life has been forever changed by this. I can’t stress enough how life-changing a TBI can be for the survivor and their family. Shelly received her injury when a bottle of homemade ginger ale fermented and became a bomb that exploded in her face, knocking her out for over 20 minutes. The cognitive symptoms were slow to develop, but within two weeks she was unable to walk or talk. Her recovery since has been a slow road of patience, determination and hard work. She has come so far, but she still has so far to go. We constantly find that people want to focus on the weird circumstances that led to her injury. It’s almost as if they are trivializing and finding humor in the accident. They focus on the novelty of the story, whereas I wish the focus could be on her and how difficult her daily life has become. Shelly was recently asked to become involved in an an amazing international project called Unmasking Brain Injury. Its objective is to have each person living with a brain injury create a mask depicting the hidden feelings behind their brain injury, in an effort to raise awareness throughout the world and to give survivors a voice. The goal of the project is to identify the feelings associated with the survivor’s brain injury, using the mask to help develop and describe their story. They translate these feelings into shapes, colors, images and words to develop and create their particular mask. This project is increasing awareness and educating our communities about the impact and prevalence of brain injury. I was really excited for Shelly to become involved in this project because she is unbelievably artistic and creative. I knew expressing her new reality through art would be very powerful, therapeutic and helpful for others. But I was not prepared to be as impacted by what I saw once her mask was complete. The tears rolled down my face as I saw her perfectly express the description of her life since the injury. It’s such a poignant presentation of her journey. Inside vs. outside. The thoughts she has, but forgetting the words before she can say them. The many forgotten memories of her past. Once great at math, now unable to multiply in her head. Very few friends coming around anymore, which has led her to feel frustrated and alone. The brick wall is a symbol of the barrier she feels between what is inside her brain and what she can actually do. She tries to push through the barrier, but it is strong and won’t budge. She feels disconnected from her emotions and feels foolish because she can’t do the things she once could. The way the world around her makes her feel “stupid” at times is like a dark cloud hanging over her head. The cross symbolizes how she has continued to stand strong in her faith. At times she feels empty and sad on the inside because people don’t understand. They say, “You look fine, you’re 100 percent better.” She wants to scream “I am not!” She is not who she was before. She struggles each day to do things. She puts on a smile and looks OK, but she is not. She feels broken. She wants to tell people to please shut up and quit whining about the trivial stuff. She doesn’t believe she’s strong, she’s just made the choice to stay positive and keep moving forward. I am constantly reminded that Shelly is truly my hero.