Anissa’s Story

“WHAT HAPPENED TO ANISSA?”

This was posted about twenty messages into a thread of emails back on November 17, 2009.

Earlier in that thread I had let everyone know that I would be leaving shortly, that international calls were outrageously priced, and who to contact in case of emergency.  I was out shopping for a media cruise I was taking with other bloggers, preparing to leave the very next day.

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The email thread went to all the writers of Aiming Low, a group blog I had helped to found and run.  We’d just come back from Boston and New York, where we had our first big jobs and we rocked like Van Halen.

(David Lee Roth Van Halen, not Sammy Hagar Van Halen)(That’s important in case you didn’t know).

What happened was devastating.

After a lunch by myself, I stood up to throw away my trash.

My legs gave out.

Embarrassed, I tried to stand again.

My legs totally crumbled.

I was no longer embarrassed.  I realized this wasn’t just a night of too many mojitos choosing to show up.  This was serious.

I was having a stroke.

An ambulance ride, my family assembled, lapsing into a coma, then another stroke.

Some of my dearest friends came to Atlanta from Florida.  Some of my blogger friends came from behind their screens.  And while I was sleeping through a coma, the Internet became involved and we did things like used my name as a trending topic on Twitter, took my numbers from 3000 followers to 7000 followers and when my husband was forced to blog my condition, there were some 50,000 readers daily.

I know. CRAZY!

I spent time in a coma.  The doctors told my husband to bring my children in to say goodbye.  He did, but I wasn’t done yet. Twenty minutes after the children left, I started fighting again.

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I went from a coma to a hospital bed.

From a hospital bed to a nursing home.

Then the nursing home changed to a rehab hospital.

From the rehab hospital to Vegas.  Wait.  Scratch that.

Then I went home.

From November to February I worked towards one goal.

To go home.

I remember that day, opening the door and knowing I was home.

To be perfectly honest, my husband had to open the door and push me through, but I WAS home.

The hard work was just beginning.

There was getting the house organized so I could get my wheelchair around.  Moving the office downstairs so I could write and have a bit of myself back. Sears graciously donated a washer and dryer when ours stopped working, front-loaders so I could actually DO the laundry again. Making the kitchen work the best we could with the space we had.

Everything became therapy.

From exercise with a walker to folding my own towels.  One-armed. Crooked, but folded.

And I started writing again.

With one hand instead of software that worked with my voice.

Knowing it was a way to measure how much I changed and progressed, I wrote. Every day.

“Things have changed since i woke up from the coma.

in good ways – I managed to miss all of winter.

in bad ways – I’ll  pay to see the new Twilight movie.  Oh,  I’ll pay.”

That was part of a post I wrote after I first came home.  Bad punctuation, bad sentence structure, admitting I’m a Twilight fan…at least I was writing when they said I wouldn’t wake up.

“I went to BlogHer.  I wore them every day.  I ate at a Atlanta meet-up.

I finally couldn’t stand it anymore. They were crooked and they were cloudy.

I felt bad considering I’d just gotten these glasses, my first pair, a few months ago.

Practically new.

The appointment took hours.  I had the full eye exam, complete with whining kids and snapping parents. “

This is part of a post I wrote a few days ago.  BIG difference.

I write every day.

I exercise every day.

I parent every day.

I try to be a little more normal every day.

I have three kids.  In a wheelchair, with a right leg that doesn’t work the way most right legs do, a right arm that moves funny when a few months back it didn’t move at all, a face that’s crooked with an eye that doesn’t go back and forth correctly, I’ve always been a mom.

I have worked viciously for every bit of my independence.  I take pride in making the progress I do.  I let myself cry when it feels like too much.

And, believe me, it does sometimes.

It’s hard to make people understand that you can be thankful for the breaths you’re given, and still grieve the things you had to give up…

Playing hopscotch in the driveway.

Making castles of Lego’s.

Cuddling with your arm wrapped around your loved ones.

Dancing the night away.

Singing at the top of your lungs.

The beach.

You let go of those things because you know that you have one thing.

DRIVE.

It’s what makes me go to a doctor who hurts me.  It’s what makes me ask the therapists to teach me the things that suck, like how to get off the floor. It’s what pushes me to exercise when I’m tired. It’s what motivates me when I really want to just stay in bed and let others take care of me.

If I ever give up the “drive” – and by “drive” I am not talking about a Buick, although that might be fun – I might as well not have woken up.

That’s not what I want my children to learn.

It’s not what my husband fought for.

It’s not why I came home.

My drive will take me far enough to walk some day.

My drive will see my vision correct itself.

My drive will hug my kids with both arms.  With no help.

And I’ll write when it happens.

I’ll share when things happen that make me happy. But I’ll also share those moments when it all comes crashing down. I have times when I have to choose between what I am and what I wish I was. You can feel sorry for the way life has handed you your deck of cards or you can work until you’re able to shuffle again.

I hope you choose the way that’s hard.  That’s uncomfortable. That’s painful.

The way to more rewards than just walking.

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Bio: Anissa Mayhew, 36, was a wild game hunter in the wilds of the jungle.  When she got bored she became an international spy. Then to top it all she became the mom of three, a wife and started writing. Then things got really exciting when Anissa had two strokes, went into a coma and ended up in a wheelchair last year.  She’s been writing about her fight to recover, her love of coffee, and finds her reasons to still laugh.

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Ladies, what do you think about this resilient woman of incredible strength? Did you learn anything about yourself and your own attitude and approach to life? Or simply feel free to leave Anissa a comment.

xoxEDxox

50 Comments
  1. Anissa, I am crying as I read this story. What a nightmare. Thank you for showing us that we can come out on the other side but still grieve hardships. You are an inspiration. I am going to follow your blog. Thank you Erica for bringing this story to us.

  2. I followed your story during your whole ordeal. I cannot even begin to imagine what you went through. I am so happy to see you are writing and moving on with your life. You’ll do everything you spoke of here. I have confidence in you. Your drive will take you all the way home.

  3. Anissa, thank you for gracing my Blog with your presence. I am so thrilled that your message will get out to my readers. I agree with Jody Rachel… I cry every time I read it. You’re a force to be reckoned with!! I hope to meet you in person one day. 🙂

    1. It means the world to know that people still care and what happened to me can have a positive impact on lives.

      And don’t cry, all that makeup, gone to waste!!!

  4. Anissa wow. You’re too young to have experienced all this by this age. I’m glad to see your doing so well. You have such a beautiful family and so much to live for. Enjoy each day.

  5. Anissa, you are such an inspiration. You show us all what it’s like to keep going, despite what seem like insurmountable objects in your path. It certainly helps me keep things in perspective when I start feeling sorry for myself! Keep writing, keep going, keep driving. I think I speak for more than myself when I say we really appreciate the window into your life that you provide with your writing.

  6. You’re an amazing woman, wife and mother. You’re setting such a great example for your children (and everyone you met online and in person) to follow about how to get back up, dust yourself off, and move forward, when life kicks us in the knees.

    You’re a true inspiration,
    Lisa @pbajmom xxoo

  7. (crying) what an amazing, inspiring, story!! Oh my gosh…… I am just left breathless about everything you have endured and your WILL and stregth to CARRY ON! I am so inspired by your story. You have no idea. Don’t give up the fight. Don’t give up the hope, your hope! Don’t give up your WILL! If docs tell you that you can’t do it, you prove them wrong!! I know you CAN!
    My sister was in a horrific car accident, all of her docs but 1 told her she couldn’t or wouldn’t……but she DID!!!
    She proved them ALL wrong!
    And you can too!!!!

  8. You are one of my twitter friends and just saw your post. I decided to press the link and read your story. Please continue to stay the light that you have been. Although I have not had a stroke, I am dealing with terminal breast cancer at 35. My mother and sister have passed away from this horrible disease. I love it that you continue to fight….I will continue to hold my candle for you as you continue you on with your encouraging words!

    Stay Blessed!

  9. Anissa… I loved following you even before your stroke. When I had heard what had happened to you… I immediately went to see if there were updates on your blog. And there was your husband. I wept for you and your family. The strength that your husband showed through your whole ordeal was amazing. And now… here you are… writing again. Keep your drive. You’ll play hopscotch in the driveway once again.

  10. Ok, so I had heard that I needed to follow you and I did but I hadn’t heard your story yet. Now I know why. Thank you for being an inspiration and for showing us what strength really is.

  11. Anissa, you have more balls than any man I know. You were impressive when I met you in July of ’09 – you’re even more impressive now. And, like anyone who has ever met you, I just adore you.

    You know, that last bit sounds a bit …. light in the loafers. I, the Goddess, and Annie (LM, my Love Muffin, she who was once known as SWMBO), know better.

  12. You. Are. Amazing. Keep fighting, keep living, keep being YOU. You have so much to give your family and this world… thank you so much for letting us in to witness how incredible you are.

  13. I need a pack of those Kleenex you were talking about the other day. You are so AMAZING! I thought you were so way cool sitting with you at the Evening of Hope and Peyton was eating butter for dinner- you taught me then what matters most and you still teach me each day!!!! I am so in ahhh of your freaking strength- big HUGS!

  14. Anissa, I’ve been following your story since that awful day last November when I saw a tweet from Shauna Glenn – and then became riveted by Peter’s posts. Now your humor (rehab to Vegas – hahaha!) and great tidbits like this:

    “You can feel sorry for the way life has handed you your deck of cards or you can work until you’re able to shuffle again.”

    There are just no words to describe the impact you have on all those who read and follow your story. Thank you so much – you and Peter – for sharing the ups and downs of your journey with all of us. Oh, and I’m watching for the book — it will be a best-seller for sure! 🙂

  15. You said that so well, I couldn’t have expressed my thoughts any better. The only thing I think you left out was courage, on the part of both Anissa and Peter. I too am one of the many who had no idea who Anissa was, but I now look forward every day to her Posts. Go Anissa!!! ~ Anne

  16. Anissa, Every day the first thing i do is to look at your blog and rejoice with you or pray for you or laugh at you. I am believing that God will completely heal you in time. You have allowed yourself to be totally vulnerable; that is something that I don’t know if I could do. You are just an amazing young woman and I know that I speak for multitudes of others when I say that.
    Keep striving for the courage and strength you have and you will be honored and restored!!
    Your children will rise up and call you blessed; you are remarkable!!!
    Love and many prayers

  17. Hi Anissa,

    This post is amazing. It really gave me chills that when you wrote “Twenty minutes after the children left, I started fighting again.”

    I’m kind of lost for words, but wanted to let you know that I’ve been a big admirer from afar. In my world, you are a total rockstar. Your strength, your humour, your persistence. When I saw you and your husband at BlogHer, I wanted to run up and give you both high-5s, but I wasn’t sure who I’d embarass more.

    I can only imagine how difficult and dark life can get some days, but the fact that you get up out of bed every day and make progress is, in and of itself, so motivating to me (yes, I’ve managed to take your life and make it all about me! ;))

    Don’t ever stop writing. Don’t ever change.

  18. So thankful to see your tweets in my timeline again! You motivate me to be a better woman. You are an inspiration. You are teaching you kids life lessons the will make them awesome adults! thank you for sharing with the rest of us!

  19. Hello Anissa,

    I am always on the look out for “current women” and you are definitely one of them. You are such an inspiration!!!!! Your post radiates energy!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    You have a new friend!

    Keep it up! You can do anything you put your mind to!

    Hope you don’t mind if I share your story with my readers.

    Olga

  20. What an inspiration. Thank you for reminding me of all the blessings I take for granted. Best wishes to you in your continued work towards recovery. You are amazing!

  21. I admit, I have not been on this webpage in a long time… however it was another joy to see It is such an important topic and ignored by so many, even professionals. I thank you to help making people more aware of possible issues.Great stuff as usual.

  22. I think this is one of the most vital info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things, The web site style is wonderful, the articles is really great : D. Good job, cheers

  23. In our culture alcohol is so “normalized” that it is really hard to think about drinking in a way that reflects how dangerous it really is. It is stories like yours that will hopefully bring back some clarity about the isssue.

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