February 28 | The Practice |
In September, Erin Murray – a Boot Camp instructor at our studios in Chicago – graciously shared her story with the YogaSix community. Her message was dynamic, she spoke about the power of positivity less than a month after she had brain surgery to remove a tumor from her cerebellum.
Back in September, Erin said, “this experience has brought out more positivity in me.” And, in that article, I responded with the following: “Take a moment to stop and think about how powerful that is — instead of shutting down or becoming overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty — Erin made the choice to be optimistically positive.”
When I last spoke to Erin in late August, she was recovering at her parent’s house. Fast forward five months and Erin is back to work full-time and she is teaching her beloved Boot Camp classes at YogaSix South Loop. To wrap-up the February Challenge, Erin agreed to share her story to help us put things into perspective.
That is where Erin is at in her own life today – staying grounded in the perspective she gained from her surgery. Right after her surgery, Erin said, “I was so high on life – all I could think about was, I’m alive.”
As Erin returned to Chicago and to her job, she realized that she may be slowly returning back to her old routine, but she was “never going to be the same the same person again.” For her, that has presented new challenges. In her own words, “No one can tell what just happened if you just look at me…So, I have more or less just become a forgotten story. There are a lot of emotional challenges that come along with people not understanding and friends not checking in. I am still not 100% – it takes 12-18 months to recover.”
In spite of her hardships, Erin is dedicated to finding the silver-lining of her experience, she said, “if I can help one person, then it was worth it.”
Yet, she has to work to keep that perspective today, “the further I get away from the surgery, my perspective starts to dwindle back to my old perspectives. I feel better than what I did but not how I felt before and because I am feeling better I get frustrated because I wish it didn’t happen to me.”
To cope, Erin has learned, “don’t compare”:
“I am learning not to say ‘well other people have it worse’. Instead, I am taking my time and dealing with my own stuff… Just because someone else isn’t walking right now doesn’t mean that it’s not hard for me… I’m learning it’s okay to admit that ‘I’m not okay’. And, it’s not selfish or a failure to admit that I’m not okay. This is the road with no short cuts – I just have to learn to be patient.”
Since Erin has been forced to be patient with herself, she has learned several life-changing lessons. Erin realized that before her surgery, she held herself to unrealistic expectations that actually detracted from her quality of life.
Eager to get back to teaching, Erin was nervous about what her students would think of her physical limitations. She said, “I had to put my ego aside – before my surgery, I identified with my peak level of fitness so returning back to the studio was a challenge.” Nevertheless, Erin learned that “my surgery rallied and motivated people more – my level of fitness [pre-surgery] made me unrelatable and unapproachable. Now, people are less intimidated to come talk to me.”
Allowing herself to show up as she is – instead of requiring herself to be ‘the best’ – Erin has developed stronger connections with her students!
Shortly after Erin returned to teaching, tragedy struck her family for the second time – Erin’s grandmother unexpectedly passed away from a brain tumor at the end of January. Similar to Erin, her grandmother was “very healthy”. Erin explained:
“My grandma was symptomatic but it was thought to be of old age. The day before, she was active and playing golf, the next day, she had a seizure. The seizure was caused by a tumor that was ⅓ of her brain. It is so surreal for my family to have to go through this experience differently. I am still in disbelief that it happened…I’m lucky to have one hell of great family, blessed that they’re my support system”
Erin said, “my grandma’s tumor put my surgery in perspective – I tried so hard to not think about about death before the surgery. It made me realize how fragile everything was – I am lucky. I am so fortunate.”
Determined to use her experience to help other and to memorialize her grandma, Erin is committed to staying healthy and setting realistic expectations:
“We, as a culture, are so busy. We make sacrifices to stay late at work and to accomplish things.But we never sacrifice things to take care of ourselves. We feel guilty if we can’t live up to our personal expectations – we feel guilty when we put our health first. I’m not out of the woods and I am not ashamed to admit that today.”
Follow Erin’s journey on instagram: @ErinMurr. In 2018, she is sharing her story in a published book and she is leading Boot Camp at Willis Tower on May 19th. She will also encourage you to slow down and enjoy life’s greatest gifts – the little things and every single step.