lemon: Brain bleed (AVM)

Hi, i’m Gillian.

My life was completely turned upside down on the 20th of April in 2019. It was a regular Saturday until I had  a major, life-threatening brain bleed.  I was born with what’s called a AVM in my brain, and it ruptured.  

AVM?  Arteriovenous malformation….  An AVM is a cluster of tangled blood vessels—a jumble of connecting arteries and veins in the brain (think super sticky spaghetti). These vessels (the spaghetti), carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to your brain, not a small task and an extremely critical one to live.  Now envision that pasta in a pressure cooker (the skull) with sauce (the blood) and the sauce keeps growing inside, creating a dangerous amount of pressure which was essentially squishing my brain (causing an Italian Sunday dinner disaster in my skull)

Waking up from an emergency craniotomy (where they remove a hand size piece of your skull to relieve pressure and store it in a freezer) I had no idea I was temporarily paralyzed on my left side.  I thought I had a seizure, so it seemed very dramatic for me to wake up on a ventilator at 31 years old.  I didn’t realize until I finally left the hospital how fortunate I was to be alive with the capability of making a full recovery.  About 60% of AVM ruptures result in death.  The remaining survivors are most likely physically and cognitively impaired.

Through my long and slow recovery, I have found the beauty in this gift of trauma.  I can genuinely say that I’m blessed that this happened to me.  My gratitude in the universe is something I cherish every day.  I have a new perspective on life and do not take one minute for granted.  My life’s priorities have positively shifted.  I still struggle with the grieving process but my new outlook on life helps the healing process.  Sharing my story is also a great coping mechanism. By living out loud, I can expose these daily neurological struggles that people may face that are invisible to others. Awareness leads to less judgment and more understanding for us all to support each other along the way.

From this injury, my life priorities have shifted.  See before this “lemon” of mine, I was the girl that was that extreme multitasker.  I was the girl that said “yes” to any task, even those that would stretch non-impaired people-pleasers thin. I was always running at 300 mph. Now, due to my impaired executive functioning, my brain cannot do a billion things at one time anymore.  While actively rehabilitating my body and mind, I need to stay at a 20mph speed so I can do things well and stay fully connected.   I have learned to drive the speed limit (sometimes even slower to relish those sweet moments even more) to be present in every moment of my life.  I have learned to stand with my health boundaries of saying “no” and carefully planning out my day.  Every task is done with my full attention and brain power.  With this shift in energy and perspective, I have strengthened my relationships with family members and friends.  

Before, I was moving too fast to even realize or see ALL that I was missing (and wow was that a lot!)  Now, I have way more clarity than before.  I have never felt more alive or at peace in my life since this injury.  My hope for those who read my story is that they do daily tasks mindfully and drive the speed limit,   you may find more clarity as it will open your eyes to all of those microscopic moments that make life so magical!  I hope my “lemon lesson” encourages others to live a life of slowing down a bit, and being more mindful.  Everything I’ve been through with my brain and skull puts a new meaning to being a lemon-head!

insta: @gillianratto

Lemon Heads

lemon: ADHD

Hi, i’m Joshua. Many of my struggles finally made sense after a psychologist diagnosed me with ADHDmy junior year in high school. I feel grateful

Read More »

My Gift To You

Join the mailing list to receive my free
Wellness Check-In.

I use this daily to keep my mind clear when my bag of lemons gets a little too heavy. Inside, you’ll find ways to take back control when things feel like they are beginning to spiral. I hope it helps you in some way!