Ella is a personal development blogger, habit coach, motivational speaker, and stroke thriver. As someone who overcame the huge life changes that stem from having a stroke at the young age of 14, Ella pushed herself forward and used her experiences with stroke to bring awareness and positivity to the stroke community.
“There’s no way this is anything more than a standard migraine,” I thought while clutching my head sitting on the bathroom floor in tears.
I was confused because I never experienced headaches or migraines, yet what I was feeling in that moment felt like my head was about to explode. I decided to suck it up, so I grabbed a book from my locker and headed to my fifth period grade 9 drama class. I walked into class and immediately passed out from what I thought was simply the pain in my head. What actually happened was a malformed group of blood vessels in my cerebellum had just ruptured, and the “migraine" I felt was my brain absorbing the blood.
On that day, January 10, 2008, not even 3 months after my 14th birthday, I experienced an arteriovenous malformation rupture in my cerebellum, and 2 hemorrhagic strokes. And boy did that screw up my plans of playing soccer professionally and being a big shot lawyer.
Since the damage occurred on the left side of my cerebellum and right side of my cortex, I lost some control over the left side of my body. I also experienced balance loss, a period of short-term memory loss, a diagnosis of dysarthria, and some peripheral vision loss. Rehab consisted mostly of physiotherapy, the use of a walker (which was not fun whatsoever), and frequent appointments with a speech pathologist. And although I was 14 at the time, athletic, healthy, and gung-ho on rehabilitating, a couple years after my injury I noticed some lasting effects. “Why can’t I solve math equations as quick as I used to? Why are the passes with my left foot on the soccer field not going the direction I want them to? Why can’t my left hand grip the barbell like my right hand when I do deadlifts at the gym?” Although these effects were minor, stacked on top of each other, they began to get me down. Long story short, I spent years upon years wondering if my broken brain meant I was simply a broken person. I constantly teetered the line between feeling worthless and feeling gung-ho about recovery. Eventually my teetering became 1-sided and I couldn’t bare the self-hate anymore…
Finally, in June 2017 (brain injury awareness month in Canada) I spoke out for the first time and conducted my first independent public talk on brain injury awareness. I briefly touched on the physical effects, but most importantly I discussed the mental rehabilitation + personal development that led me to become a vibrant person again. After my injury I came to recognize the beauty of existence. And through the power of habit and a lot of hard work, I learned to retrain my brain to become the person I am today.
Here I am today, grateful for my brain injury that taught me to love my life. If you’ve ever hit rock bottom because of a brain injury, mental health, or any other experience in your life, I want you to know that with the right doses of self-care, self-development, and self-discipline, you too can retrain your brain!
I now blog and speak on everything I’ve learned in the past 11 years of retraining my brain after my injury. I also coach others on using the power of habit to help them retrain their brains as well!
Years later, I can finally say I wake up each morning happy. I couldn’t be more grateful for the gift of my brain injury.
We are grateful that Ella has lent her voice to the community in light of bringing positivity and acceptance to a severe neurological disorder. To keep up with her you can find her at www.ellasofia.ca or by following her socials @ellasssofia
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