Free to be Me?

True confessions now. I struggle with identity issues.

When I first married 20 years ago I told my husband I wanted to do something that mattered. He giggled and pointed out that everyone wants that. But I had a deep sense that I needed to do something that would personally touch people right where they needed it. I worked in non profit for 12 years and found great pleasure in my daytime routine. While working we had two children. I took, and still do, immense pleasure in being a wife and a mom to my family.

And then…well you know the rest of the story. I worked through several stints of rehab to regain the mental capacities that I once had. Much of my brain and personality remained intact, for better or for worse. But there were marked deficiencies, which over time became more prevalent. I am still one smart cookie, and am pretty sharp, but not as sharp as a tack. I find myself getting on a roll with a task or thought and then my brain screams “WHOA! STOP” and I’m back to square one. I could no longer work effectively and I focused my time on my family. Wife and mom first. I had a new identity and with a preschooler and an elementary aged child, they absolutely needed me.

As the children got older and were both in school, it was clear that my grandmother needed me. For eight years I cared for anything and everything that made her quality of life the best we could given that her quantity was just about forever (as she would say). I hardly had the time to adjust to life without her when my seizures showed their ugly side. I found myself the epileptic, at home. I struggled with how to effectively be a mom and a wife when I was house bound.

While at home I struggled enough with my own health, keeping up with the children’s schedules, arranging rides and transportation for all of us. I never stopped to realize that my role was shifting. I think my desire to work in non profit lingered but those doors were closed. I still yearned to make a difference outside my own walls but I was hindered by my health and by the personality changes that occurred from my brain injury.

When I started driving a few months ago, I hit the ground running. My husband warned me to slow down, but I’m very stubborn. I tried to tackle 2 years of errands and activities into two weeks. Bad plan. The proverbial wall? Yes, I met it head on. Yes, he was right, it was time to slow down and pace myself.

After all these years I am just beginning to come to terms with who I have become and who I will continue to grow into. I have mourned the loss of who I once was and worked to try to be that person again. I have felt broken. But that is not to be. That is not what God intended. There are certain situations in which I will never, ever be comfortable. I force myself to stretch because I believe I should not give up, but I am learning that I should not pretend.

This afternoon I was listening to the radio and the words “I want you as you are, not as you ought to be. Won’t you lay down your guard and come to me? … It breaks my heart to see you suffering… I am for you, I’m not against you… Don’t think you need to settle for a substitute when I’m the only love that changes you… Open your heart, It’s time that we start again.” BAM! I saw myself in those lyrics. I have worked so hard to be something I am not, and to figure out what my place is. I have never really fit any mold (shocker), yet I tried to make myself fit. God’s love is large enough to love me where I am and just as I am. He has never asked me to be something I can not be. His plan for my life is His, and He will give me the abilities that I need to accomplish what He desires. It probably should not have taken me nearly 11 years to learn this, and maybe I knew it deep down but it finally surfaced.

I don’t know where you may be. I don’t know the struggles and immense heartache you have faced. But this I know, God’s hand has never stopped being on my life. Often it takes me years to understand, and some things I may never fully understand. God will protect me as long as I keep focusing on Him and trusting Him. God is for me. He is not against me. My identity is in Christ. He wants me to be me, whether I am comfortable with that each day, He is. At the end of the day, if I can stand tall and be confident as the person God created, a label of identity is simply not important. God has already given me His stamp of approval allowing me the freedom to be me.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, April 2016



Overwhelmed with Gratitude

Friends and family, you have overwhelmed me with your love and support that you continue to show in a variety of ways. I really just have no words to express how you have filled my heart and reminded me that this will be ok. I have tried to respond to each of you individually but some days I have failed to get back to you. Forgive me for that and please understand that part of what I am doing is trying to be a bit easier on myself and lessen the pressure I have always put on myself to be everywhere and do everything regardless of how it might adversely affect my health. I am trying to simplify things as much as possible, with a rising 6th grader and a rising 12th grader while on drugs that make me certifiably crazy! I am going to miss Hunter’s first baseball games this season so if anyone wants to head up a highly obnoxious cheering section for my little catcher, I would welcome that! For now I am trying to be available for my family, prepare them for school and make sure I am comfortable with the plans for the kids while I am gone, especially not knowing how long I will be gone. I am reading your messages, your cards, your emails and listening to your voicemails. You give me strength to move forward into this phase and I am SO thankful for all the prayers being lifted on my behalf. People have already begun bringing meals and it is tremendously helpful. Stores are not exactly a comfort zone for me given recent events so the meals are feeding my soul. Thank you for the reminders that people are good, that people love and that people want to be involved and help us over this hurdle. Everyone can help by praying for one thing…answers. The last thing I want to do is put my body and my mind through this and not have any answers. I feel as if I am surrounded by a circle of love that is lifting me up and carrying me through this uncertainty and helping me overcome the stress and anxiety. You can always reach me via email at

I love each of you and I remain overwhelmed with gratitude that you are in our lives.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, August 2015

Learning to Loosen My Grip

We all do it. Don’t kid yourself. We want to control our lives. We want to be independent. We want to choose our ways, our days, our plans, our whatevers. While taking care of my Grandmother I listened to her talk about how frustrated she was about having to give up the way she liked things to be. I spent her last years helping her as best I could, among other things, make those things she could no longer do for herself as much like she would have done them herself. Some seemed so silly (who really irons cotton t-shirts?) but they were things that made her life feel normal and she too worked hard to continue normal life even when she was weak and frail.

She did not choose to be 98 and still living. In fact, and she would have been the first to tell you she would go to bed during many thunder storms and pray lightning would strike her, only to awaken disappointed in the morning. She would frown when the doctor would tell her nothing was wrong with her. What she did teach me was to learn to loosen my grip on independence and make the best of where you are. She woke up everyday, not always happy to wake up, many days wanting to stay in bed and cover her head with her covers, but she chose differently. She got up and she got dressed. Getting dressed included shoes and lipstick, always. Sometimes she wasn’t dressed until 2pm but she got dressed. And her bed was always made. Always. Except for one day, the week before she moved to healthcare and that was the week I knew for sure she had taken a turn and would be moving soon. After that she had round the clock help and bed was made every day, to her specifications, even if that meant it had to be made several times.

I am not here by my choice but I am following what my Grandmother taught me the best I can. Everyday I get up, make up the bed and I get dressed. I can’t say I always wear lipstick. Chapstick…maybe. I am trying my best not to be overcome by the fears that taunt me. I am trying my best not to be overcome by the embarrassment of having to ask for help or even worse the embarrassment of being turned down when I ask for help. I am trying my best not to be overcome by the embarrassment of having strangers stare. I am trying my best not to be overcome by confusion. I am trying my best not to be hard on myself. I am trying my best to learn to gently loosen my grip on my own independence and understand that it really never was mine to own anyway.

I am grateful for all of you that are being so patient with me while I try, because having been on the other side, I understand that it takes great effort from you as well. So, I thank you.

© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, March 2014

Sorting it out; a year later

A year ago I sat in front of this computer in complete anger and frustration. That’s when the seizures returned and I started the mad science lesson with medicine that really isn’t quite over just yet. A year ago I was mad at epilepsy and I was mad at brain injury and I was mad that they were messing with me again. Yes, I’m a control freak. I’ll admit it. Guess what? I can’t shake my finger at my own brain and tell it to shape up. Well, I can, but it doesn’t do any good.  I needed some time to release the anger and move on to acceptance before I could start working towards healing again. In so many ways that seems like yesterday and it seems like an entire lifetime ago. In all honestly, I’m not completely over my anger, I’ve just refocused that anger into something more worthwhile than self-destruction.

I have to give props to my family who put up with the likes of attitudes out of me of the last year that I probably would not believe I actually displayed. People who have never had to take drugs for your brain may never understand what it feels like to look in the mirror and not recognize the face, to answer a question and yet not understand your own the response, or to find yourself lost in the city you have called home for 35 years. I’m dealing with it all. I pound it all out in the pavement every week.

There’s one thing that I had hoped would come back over the last year, and it hasn’t. In fact, it has progressively gotten worse. I’m not so much mad, it just makes me sad. I lost a great deal of my ability to really express myself after my brain injury. I know…many of you may disagree, but Johnny, or my Mom or Sharon, (and they know it doesn’t hurt my feelings to be honest about it either) will agree with me on this point. They know. I lost the ability to verbally express myself, yet I found I could express myself through writing.  My blog was such a source of comfort and release for me.  But my new medicine has….well…I can’t find the words for it…now even my written words are a lot slower, or just not there at all. So now everything I feel, and experience stays pretty much bottled up inside me but is swelling in every direction. But I can’t comprehend the swells or begin to let the swells overflow onto paper, so the foam continues to bubble up. I’m not really mad about it anymore, maybe frustrated, maybe annoyed. The trade-off is that this medicine is keeping the seizures away. Seems like a small price to pay for life, right. I’m a mom, seizure free is my goal, I have to accept swelling foamy bubbles not matter how much they confuse me.

So, I’ll keep refocusing my ______ into something more worthwhile. Please don’t stop reading my blog just because I’m not posting as often, it’s just because I can’t figure out how to say what’s on my mind. I’m still busy though, If you haven’t already heard about my worthwhile venture…click the link below. I gotta do something to find a better drug than this one…this is the best way I know to do that!

Good thing there is a lot of pavement left in Huntersville and a lot of miles left on my shoes. I tend to have a lot of energy to burn, for good reason. Maybe one day I can explain.

Copyright © Gatewood Campbell, July 2012

My Beloved Montreat

This is my safe place, my peaceful place, where I am the most secure in my own skin. This is where life happens, and relationships remain, regardless of life. When life takes an unexpected bend, these are the people that hold you, in their hearts, in their minds, in their prayers and in their actions. They hold your hand and they carry you. This is where I am embraced and where friends help me embrace change. This is where it’s ok to ask the deeply personal questions, because it’s not invasive.  It’s an avenue to understanding, to growing, to succeeding and to thriving, for all of us.  The people of this valley have faced tremendous heartache and unspeakable tragedy. There are survivors from every hardship imaginable, and still they walk the same paths they have taken for years, hand in hand, with friends they once met as clubbies. When the bend in the road reveals a hard fought victory, those fellow clubbies will stand behind you, watching you, cheering for you, wanting you to have the stage and feel the thrill of success. The victories are so much sweeter because we have shared the battle with those wanting to bear the load. This is where love crosses generations. My mother’s friends love her, they love me and they love my children.  I share that love with their families. My mother made a lifetime of memories here, I made a lifetime of memories here and now my own children are making a lifetime of memories. Montreat is people, woven together, spanning years, spanning miles and all the while remaining connected.  Montreat is the point of origin from which we venture out into the world.  We know that when it’s time to come home, she, and her people will welcome us with open arms, eager to embrace us.  If her sweetness could be bottled and sold, we would all be rich. But if it were readily available, it wouldn’t be what it is. Her inability to be replicated is what makes us love her so deeply, and yearn for her when we’ve been gone too long.  My week in my safe place has come to an end.  I’ve run her roads, climbed her trails, dipped my toes in her stream and spent precious hours with people that I adore. I’m refreshed and ready to venture beyond her iconic stone gate, because I know that I carry her and her people, in my heart wherever life takes me.

Montreat, how I love you, how I love you, my dear old Montreat…

© Gatewood Campbell, July 2011