“Your life seems so perfect.” It was messages like this one from so many young women on Instagram that finally drove author Ruthie Lindsey to write her new book, There I Am, an autobiography detailing her incredible life story. If you’re looking for an inspiring read in these trying times of pandemic and economic changes, stop and enjoy this deep dive on Ruthie’s personal journey with our interview below…
At seventeen years old, Ruthie Lindsey is hit by an ambulance near her home in rural Louisiana. She’s given a five percent chance of survival and one percent chance of walking again. One month later after a spinal fusion surgery, Ruthie defies the odds, leaving the hospital on her own two feet.
Just a few years later, newly married and living in Nashville, Ruthie begins to experience debilitating pain. Her case confounds doctors and after numerous rounds of testing, imaging, and treatment, they prescribe narcotic painkillers—lots of them. Ruthie has become bedridden, dependent on painkillers, and hopeless, when an X-ray reveals that the wire used to fuse her spine is piercing her brain stem. Without another staggeringly expensive experimental surgery, she could well become paralyzed, but in many ways, she already is.
Ruthie goes into the hospital in chronic pain, dependent on prescription painkillers, and leaves that way. She can still walk, but has no idea where she’s going. As her life unravels, Ruthie returns home to Louisiana and sets out on a journey to learn joy again. She trades fentanyl for sunsets and morphine for wildflowers, weaning herself off of the drugs and beginning the process of healing—of coming home to her body.
Raw and redemptive, There I Am is not just about the magic of optimism, but the work of it. Ruthie’s extraordinary memoir urges us to unlearn the stories of brokenness that we tell ourselves and embrace the wholeness, joy, and healing that lives inside all of us.
Your aha moment in your book There I Am:
There were quite a few, but a big one was when I realized that I was created to heal. My pain has been getting worse every year for 15 years and I am the only human that has ever had a wire in their brain stem. So I had no hope of ever feeling better. Learning about the mind-body connection and how my body was holding emotional trauma that added to my chronic pain, gave me a new hopefulness to believe that I could heal. After learning journaling techniques, experiencing EMDR and other healing modalities, I began to feel so much emotional and physical pain relief.
What do you most want people who are in a helpless or overwhelming situation to know?
Healing is for them. They are not broken, they never were. Broken, messed up things may happen to them, but they themselves are whole and deserving of the good and beautiful that life has to offer.
The more you go on this healing journey, the more you have the opportunity to unlearn limiting stories that you’ve believed for a long time. We get to remember what is so right with us, and not what is wrong with us.
Whatever horrific thing you are going through right now, or have gone through, or will go through, this is not the end of your story. This can become an invitation to go so much deeper, to come home to yourself and do this really beautiful healing work that we are all so deserving of.
You are loved, you are whole. Healing is for you!
You were already sharing your life’s learnings speaking before getting published. How did your message change/evolve when you really had to put it in black and white on the page?
It changed drastically. Actually, the book I sold to S&S was a booked called Salvaged, Building A Beautiful Life With Broken Parts. I really believed I was broken. I thought my body hated me because it had been the source of so much pain in my life.
Writing the book, I essentially had to re-traumatize myself, going back into all really painful traumatic life events. I felt like I was right back there, my pain felt worse than ever, I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt hopeless. And because I was so desperate, I ended up going on the deepest healing journey I have been on to date.
Our limbic brain does not know time. That’s why triggering experiences can feel like we are right back in the original trauma, as though it were happening right now. But because it doesn’t know time, we can go in and do massive healing work on that trauma as though it were happening right now, and our brains don’t know the difference.
So for example, through EMDR, I was taken back to the original wreck and in my mind I was able to take care of my terrified self and take her out of really painful experiences and allow her to know she wasn’t alone and I was there for her. I was able to comfort and caretake for myself today as though it were happening at the exact moment! I gave myself the opportunity to heal!
How can friends and family help when this happens to a loved one. what are your thoughts on this?
We can’t “fix” anyone. It’s not our job. Only the person going through the painful experience can do the real, raw healing work for themselves. What friends and family can do is keep showing up. Be mirrors of love and hope and healing. Be a support system, while not taking on the persons suffering as their own. Hold space and listen and love – even when the other person has nothing to offer back. I had so many who did that for me and loved me and believed in me, way before I believed in myself. They were mirrors of the love, divinity, and healing that was always inside of me.
Favorite books, poets, music, sites or other resources on this topic:
· The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk is a MUST
· Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
· Following Dr. Hillary Mcbride to learn about embodiment practices
· Listening to Sounds True meditations and beautiful teachings on healing and coming into the present moment
Find more resources on dealing with trauma and emotional health issues with our stories here.