GAR Molly Weisgram | Guillain-Barre Syndrome

 

Molly Weisgram is a gifted author who earned her undergraduate degrees in English and Psychology and her master’s degree in Communication Studies from the University of South Dakota. She has also studied with the Centers for Spiritual Living and graduated from its Spiritual Practitioner Program. Molly’s debut book is titled The Other Side of Us: A Memoir of Trauma, Truth and Transformation. It tells the inside story of her husband Chris’ devastating illness, how she and her four children survived his deep and sudden decline in health and Molly and Chris’ inspiring and remarkable journey towards his truly miraculous recovery to rebirth.

 

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:

  • Chris’ rapid and sudden slide into the rare disease Guillain-Barre Syndrome that caused him to become a quadriplegic on a ventilator in a matter of days.
  • Why Molly told Chris that “This is going to be the best thing that’s ever happened to us.”
  • The power of positivity and perseverance when you transform adversity into positivity.
  • How Chris and Molly had become different people when he was finally able to return home.

 

SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS MOLLY AND CHRIS:

  • How were you able to communicate with Chris when he could no longer speak?
  • What are the beautiful truths you learned during this challenging time?
  • How did psychotherapy help you, Chris and your marriage throughout your ordeal?

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Molly Weisgram And Chris Maxwell: Miracles Still Do Happen – Their Journey From The Unimaginable Depths Of Calamity To A New Life Filled With Deep Truth, Growth And Transformation

 

 

 

 

 

I’m speaking to you from my studio in West Orange, New Jersey. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to interview Molly Weisgram, a gifted author who will be speaking to us from Fort Pierre, South Dakota, where she lives with her husband, Chris Maxwell, and their four children. Molly earned her undergraduate degrees in English and Psychology and her Master’s degree in Communication studies from the University of South Dakota.

She has also studied with the Centers for Spiritual Living and graduated from its spiritual practitioner program. Molly’s debut book is titled The Other Side of Us: A Memoir of Trauma, Truth, and Transformation. It tells the inside story of her husband Chris’s devastating illness, how she and her four children survived his deep decline in health, and it shares both Molly and Chris’s inspiring and remarkable journey towards his truly miraculous recovery.

I’m looking forward to interviewing Molly about her real-life story of the power of positivity and perseverance, how she transformed diversity into opportunity, her faith that carried her through and her miraculous healing to rebirth and so much more. In case all of you are wondering, this handsome fellow who joined pretty Molly is Molly’s husband Chris Maxwell. He surprised me by joining in on the show. I welcome him to chime in as I ask Molly probably too many questions, but I know that you’re all going to enjoy this fascinating interview. They have quite the story to share with all of you. Molly and Chris, a warm, heartfelt welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for having us.

Thank you so much. I’m glad I could join.

I am too, Chris. It’s truly my pleasure. Let’s begin with both of you or Molly, would you like to tell us about your lives together and your four kids before Chris got so ill?

Chris got ill. His diagnosis of Guillain-Barre syndrome happened on February 14th, 2019, Valentine’s Day. At that point in our lives, we were a young family trying to get acclimated to four kids. Our baby girl was 8 months old at that time, and we had also 3 boys before her, 8 years old, a 6-year-old, a 3-year-old, and then our baby girl. We’ve figured out how to be parents of three.

You then add another one to the mix, then you’re trying to figure out how to be a parent to four as well as juggle the things you do in work, life, feeding, bathing, and getting everybody on a good schedule. We were in the midst of that wonderful chaos, but it was chaotic. Certainly weren’t thinking that our life was about to take that dramatic U-turn.

What happened to you is so incredible. Chris had a very rapid slide into the rare disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which question becomes a quadriplegic on a ventilator in a matter of days with no promise of full recovery. How did you and the members of your family cope with the painful details of this tragedy striking when you least expected it?

It’s the first piece of information. Chris had been experiencing some symptoms, but relatively minor. Maybe a little mysterious, some tingling in the hands and feet. He was playing City League basketball and feeling a little bit less coordinated, but easy to say, “I’m getting old.”

I was 42 and it was happening.

It was with information. At first, it was a shock, but what information do we have? When I say shock, it was Chris who let me know one night that, “I’m now feeling the best.” I was like, “Are you going to go to the doctor?” I challenged him to it. I was like, “What are you going to do about it?” We got all these kids and I’m going to go take this kid to the bath and whatever. He said, “Yes, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.” I was like, “That is impressive. Sounds good.”

It’s not my usual MO on going to the doctor.

I’m getting that feeling.

Yes.

From there it was no big deal until suddenly I could sense in Chris some real anxiety. I even asked, “Do you want me to go to the doctor with you?” He said, “Yes, actually I do.” From there, Chris had a full day of tests to the point of everything looking pretty good. Our physician said, “Something doesn’t add up with the way that you’re speaking and some of the things I’m seeing. While the tests are coming back, it’s normal. I don’t feel right about it. You should get a spinal tap next.” At that point, I was like, “We’re totally going home.” Who wants a spinal tap? I would say, “Let’s see how it goes.” Chris had no hesitation.

You were scared.

Yes. A little bit of an awakening.

I was like, “What’s going on?” Absolutely. As I started fear-dreaming of these strange sensations and feelings. I’m starting to sense and know something is wrong, but not knowing what is wrong. Even when something came back right and having that not feel right. Hopefully, the good news of this test not showing anything, still knowing something was feeling wrong. It was odd for me to succumb and give in to the process. It’s an odd example of what I was going to have to do very much so down the rest of the path. Definitely, it’s a feeling that I had at that moment before we knew what it was.

Even when you knew what it was, you were already experiencing having to let go and give up whatever was going on, which is so frightening when we feel we are losing control.

It is so frightening. At the same time, we were so blessed. Talk about being able to have gratitude at an early point in the process of something very unnerving or setting you off kilt or to have such care, love, and support that came into your life. A physician that was a friend investigated it to the nth degree to find out what the problem was to get to the bottom of it. Not everyone is gifted with that when they go through what we went through. We were lucky that it only took a day to get to the bottom of it.

That’s true. A lot of folks with Guillain-Barre might go to the ER several times over a couple of weeks.

Was it that day or the following day that you were diagnosed?

The following day because he had Chris overnight for observation in the hospital. Even that spinal tap came back clear, he said, “Honestly, I feel something is not right. I don’t want you to go home and have a traumatic situation in the middle of the night with your four kids.” At that time, we were like, “This seems so crazy. Why are we doing this?” We said, “We’re going to be fine. We’ll see if we can sleep it off.” We literally went home to see the kids who were being cared for by my parents. He walked into the house and said, “Molly, we have to go back.” He was almost like a drunken stagger. You couldn’t quite control your legs or something.

How scary. How awful.

I could feel myself aging. It’s like I’m aging rapidly right in front of us. It was a feeling of losing more control and not wanting to be in that space of how are we going to get me to a safe place if we need to.

What a thing to happen in front of your kids too. That was probably smart to go back. When did you find out what it was? How did they figure that out? Was it that night or the next day when you slept at the hospital?

The next day, the physician came in early that morning and did a reiteration. It’s a new physician to us. We hadn’t seen him the day before, but he reiterated, “Here’s what went through our chart. Here’s what’s happening. Here are the symptoms and the tests.” I consulted with a neurologist and he tested Chris’s reflexes in his knees and there were none. He said, “This confirms that this is Guillain-Barre syndrome. You might have some therapy. Every case is different, but most people come back to their life and recover.” We’re like, “We can do this.” He said, “We’re going to life-flight you to Sioux Falls. It’s three hours away where the tertiary care center is.” That’s where we’re like, “Okay,” and then it was, “This could be severe.” I’m not sure which one we’re going with.

It’s the strange situation of having comfort that I don’t have tumors in places that are causing pressure. It isn’t cancer that I was fear-dreaming about as all of this was happening to me. Getting that diagnosis and realizing we’re going to have to get care flighted away and having to succumb to this process, it was strange letting go in an unknown place to land.

Is this a virus?

It’s caused by a virus or bacteria. It’s an autoimmune response or syndrome. Your system is triggered or confused to attack your nervous system versus the virus or the bacteria that are in your body. Guillain-Barre syndrome attacks your peripheral nervous system, so all your nerves are outside of your central nervous system, and it starts from the outside in. That’s why you get tingling in your toes and feet and up through your legs and then into your fingers. It then works its way into the center of your body.

GAR Molly Weisgram | Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Guillain-Barre Syndrome attacks your peripheral nervous system. It causes tingling from your toes, through your legs, and to the center of your body.

How scary. Molly, when you got that diagnosis, you looked into Chris’s eyes and you said, “This is going to be the best thing that ever happened to us.” What consistent shared understanding did this statement represent for you and Chris, and how did it buttress each of you through your heartbreaking ordeal?

That’s not probably a very typical thing to say, and it’s not something I would think not. It’s not something I came up with. This was a practice of ours. Everybody has challenges in life, and we’d had a couple of our own prior to this, but we’d also had the gift of some deeply personal and spiritual work. Years’ worth of it, and both are very jointly interested and passionate. Certainly, I didn’t come up with, “We got a diagnosis. This can be awesome.” It was about digging into that belief system that all is well even when it doesn’t appear well.

The growth that you were inspired to do through these difficult times is making you exactly who you’re supposed to be at the exact right time. It was a framing. We had been pretty careful and intentional about the way we framed things. What I’m thankful for is that we’d had that practice. I have to come up with that in one of the more difficult times of my life. We had been practicing that, and I’m so thankful because it did create a different way of looking at our experience throughout what became shy of a year worth the hospitalization.

Chris, I know Molly went to a spiritual center. Were you spiritual when you guys met? Was this something that you grew into from knowing Molly?

We both grew up with great modeling of faith and a belief system. Everyone started going on our own paths and we did it individually before we met each other. As we grew together, you’re still doing some of that individually, but we started having our joint spiritual past together.

It probably grew you together because you saw the world in a similar way.

Yes.

I was going to ask you. I’m wondering if this is what sustained you. Molly had to sustain your diagnosis and balance the well-being of your four kids aged 8 months to 8 years and advocate for Chris’s business. What was your business, Chris, so people know?

It’s a management and consulting firm.

She had to do that. I’m sure that was not exactly her expertise and worry about your financial stability and more. What is that? What sustained you in this positive way that you looked at things, Molly, without having four nervous breakdowns?

That’s interesting. You asked, how did you cope? I’ve heard Chris say a couple of times, “I continued to be challenged to let go.” For me, on the caregiver side, I found myself wanting to hold on tighter. I wanted to control what I could control and be very intentional and thoughtful about that. I couldn’t see beyond the headlights, but I could see what was within that space. I could make the best decisions that I possibly could. From a sustaining perspective, when you continue to make the choices that are within your realm to make, you can continue to learn. You can then continue to somehow expect that something good or right or big is supposed to happen through this experience. It’s not this victimhood that perhaps there’s something powerful in it and trusting that that may be true. That’s sustaining.

When you continue to make choices within your realm, you can continue to learn and expect something good to happen. Share on X

That’s amazing. I have to give you many kudos for that because most people would go right into the pity pot and you didn’t do that. You sustained yourself and coped. What both of you were going through was in a different way. You’re going through horrible challenges.

She is one part Superwoman. She left that part out.

There has to be something to say about you two if she chose you though.

That’s nice of you. I didn’t say that for that turnaround there.

It’s okay. You’re a lovely couple.

We’ve had that mindset. We built and grew it together. You’re always in choice and you get to find that place to choose how you respond to it. That’s everything is for us. This is the best thing that is going to happen to us and could have happened to us. That allows you to make choices that are for your best and highest. I know Molly. Getting control of everything and getting your arms around everything was so much of it. She also let go. She let people support her and support us and had to trust in so many things. Not being able to do that or having the ability to do that can push you into that pity place and that place of overwhelm.

I could still relate to it because there are so many elements of my story, which our audience know about my story and what happened to me. The way I chose to handle it once I became more enlightened about what it was all about. I admire what you did. I relate to what you did. My next question is, please talk to us about what you learned about changing your perspective, which you called looking through the proverbial glass of those who love you.

I feel like perspective is something that is a gift, especially through adversity. We have our lens and our range of seeing. There’s nothing to apologize for or to be boastful about. It’s where you’re standing and I feel that adversity stretches your perspective in a way where you can’t help but see things a little differently. Even from the way that you might appreciate where other people are coming from because of their vantage point as well. I feel like this looking through the glass of how people see you, to me, that’s something from the book that comes from the idea of communicating in crisis. For me, what I learned when you’re going through an experience like that, it became a very traumatic and moment-by-moment thing that was happened for a long time. Chris ended up on a ventilator within five days.

GAR Molly Weisgram | Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Perspective is a gift, especially through adversity. It stretches in a way where you can’t help but save things a little differently, even from the way that you might appreciate where other people are coming from.

Tell us about the journey because there came a point where Chris couldn’t even speak anymore. You created a very clever way to communicate with each other. Take everyone through the trajectory of the things that happened.

We were in the first spine unit for five days as Chris was brave in losing his body, losing the thing that you so identify with. All of your functions are from arm and leg movement. By the time we were flown to Sioux Falls, there was no more walking for Chris. Not even heavy legs. Maybe you could stand for a day or two, even to the point where he could no longer use his hands, lift his elbows, or hold onto a fork.

He’s not able to go to the bathroom. Every time you take a sip of water, you’re not sure you can swallow to the point where Chris talked about this band around his chest. It felt like there was this band. With Guillain-Barre, every case is different levels of severity. Chris ended up with a severe case. This band around his chest was him feeling his diaphragm no longer activating, which was then a traumatic moment where you see someone not able to breathe anymore and you’re screaming for help. He ends up being taken to the ICU and intubated. The waiting place I find it to be one of those tough spots, mostly when you’re trying to control something that you are no longer in control of. We ended up being in a waiting space with Chris, who by the way was totally conscious.

You’re a prisoner in your body. You’re cut off from everything you could think. For you, how you sustained yourself through that?

It became a strange dance with reality and wanting to connect and communicate. It was a dance of holding on, letting go, and finding those things that kept you connected to that vision and that thing that mattered most to you. Also, letting go because there were going to be journeys off into the unknown mentally when I would not be with it in ways. The physical change as well as the mental change, the things that my body was doing, the nerve connections falling away, and how that impacted things mentally and physically was quite the journey.

I want you to describe how you communicated with Chris when he could no longer speak. That was quite dramatic.

You have an awake patient who can’t speak, who’s in incredible pain, and all you can do is guess what he’s thinking or needing. You’re desperate for a communication method. Speech therapy was extremely helpful in suggesting that we tape a laser pointer to his glasses, hold up an alphabet board, and see if he couldn’t spell out his thoughts and needs. He could. In fact, he’s incredible.

I was hungry for it. I wanted it so bad. I’m a talker at times, and I like to communicate, engage, and relationships. Being in that place, I wanted it and it was such a gift.

You must have been frightened inside of yourself like, “Am I going to die? Is this going to be all that there is too?” Did you have an abiding faith that you would get through this?

If we go back to where it started from and the doctor is giving me the diagnosis of this is Guillain-Barre syndrome, the great part about it when they give you that diagnosis is they tell you 90% to 95% of people can get back to close to where they had been before.

You had that hope.

They give you that hope. I’ve said many times, “Don’t take anyone’s hope away no matter what.” The other side of it that we talked about is my wife told me, “This is going to be the best thing that’s ever going to happen to us.” I was in my head, thinking about the book we were going to write and this great thing it was going to be. We were on this journey together. It wasn’t fun. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t enjoying it.

I know, but look at what you’re going to help. You’re going to help so many people with your experience. It took nine months. You were in various hospitals in significant therapy nine months before you became restored and miraculously able to walk again, Chris. You two learned beautiful truths from this. Are there any of those beautiful truths you’d like to share with us or special things that you learned together from this?

Personally, there are several. To me, I have a new perspective on suffering. The word suffering gives me the creepy crawlies before this. Suffering is a mentality. Chris and I went on this same journey, but very different paths so I can own my path. It’s so hard to understand, even though I was with him every step of the way the path that he went. It’s fair to say that we both suffered and it was suffering. It’s about depth. In my book, I talk about suffering as a sand shovel digging a hole deep into your heart. It’s grainy and harsh and it hurts. I also think it’s creating an opportunity for depth within you to see different and feel different. It’s scary and uncomfortable, but to trust that depth serves. To me, I have a new way of seeing suffering. I’m not looking forward to doing it more.

Suffering is like a sand shovel digging a hole deep into your heart. It’s grainy, harsh, and hurtful. But it also creates an opportunity to see things from a different perspective. Share on X

Life doesn’t guarantee that you’re not going to suffer. In fact, it guarantees to some degree that you will but do we have to label it all bad? Maybe it’s easy for me to say because I have my husband sitting next to me. Another beautiful truth is, in some ways, we’re not the same people that we were before or we’re very much the same people but we have different stories to tell about ourselves and what we’re capable of doing. For me, one of the most beautiful things that I experienced is to know my kids differently. This is one of these very hard things because Chris and I traveled the same disease very differently. Chris didn’t get to be with his children for a year while I was getting to know our children in a much different way. I don’t want to say deeper.

You were bonding together through this crisis. You’re down about it and they had to grow up more quickly.

Another one for me is this idea of community. Community is a word that we’re all familiar with and the experience of the community. The way in which our family showed up for us, I’ll never forget it. In fact, it’ll be one of my great joys in this odd way to know that love, the way that our friends and the people that are honestly acquaintances in our small town, and the way that they showed up for us. I’m wholly touched forever by that connection and care.

I had the same experience, Molly, because when I had the accident, a lot of people showed up for me. I was not used to it. I was used to being a person who took care of other people. It was an experience to let go and have people help me. I realized at one point, it was also a gift to them because they wanted to do something. They were learning from it also.

I can remember Molly coming to me when she was at that point of sharing. It was shared with her, “Let them help you. Let go and let them support you. It’s good for them because they want to be able to do something and it will be good for you as well.” I can remember you talking to me about that.

The other thing that I’m in awe of about the two of you that I admire is that you were open-minded enough to let psychotherapy help you individually and with your marriage. Would you like to share that with people? This is called Grief and Rebirth and this is all about healing and you did it in every way that you could. You healed physically, but you also went to psychotherapy. Tell us about that and the difference that made for you.

I will advocate mental health counseling. I will holler off mountaintops. It helped me so much when Chris was diagnosed. We were at the hospital for six weeks before I came home to care for my children because it was such a dramatic catastrophe. We didn’t know in which way we would be going, but I literally couldn’t go home to my kids to care for them. I knew they were safe with my family. I’m thankful again for community healthcare. People who are in the caring field say, “This is available. Don’t forget that this is an option.” I always say, “It’s on my list.”

When I saw my children struggling in a different way than I had seen and they were acting out, it was the clincher like, “I had to do this.” Not only did I go to individual counseling for myself, but we signed the kids up. We went every week and they love it. In fact, having that instigating reason to go, as we continue that relationship with counseling can only help them. You can name your feelings. When you can identify that you are having an emotional state or you can work through these things, it has helped adjust to all of the changes that we continue to have in our life.

I can’t say enough about mental health counseling. To me, that trauma was very confusing. As I said, I tried to control as much as I could. That was the way I was staying upright and the way I felt like I was contributing. I also turned off my emotions at that time because they weren’t helpful. They weren’t serving me in the way that if I succumbed to all those feelings, they could have buried me at that time. My coping mechanism was to stave them off.

With all those feelings staying within you and not expressing them, that could bring about illness on your part.

Absolutely. Counseling for me was the place in which I could explore what I am doing. It was a great mirror and a great place to hold space for the things that I was thinking and feeling. Some of them are very confusing and conflicting. All of a sudden, I could be mad and then I would feel down and then I could be thankful for this. I was all over the place. It helped put an understanding to me that sometimes when you cope and you do shut things off, maybe anger feeling comes. That’s the one that’s easier to access. It was all perspective-giving that this is a normal thing. You’re traveling a path of grief and these things pop up at certain points and this is where you happen to be. It was very balancing. It was not disorienting. It was orienting.

GAR Molly Weisgram | Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre Syndrome: Sometimes, when you cope and shut things off, it is much easier to access anger.

I’ve been through it. Do you know what else it did? Honestly, it’s a gift you gave your children because they will always know that no matter what happens in life, they have that as a resource. A lot of people don’t know that.

It’s amazing. It can change everything and yet it’s so not invasive. I don’t know how you look at it like that. We could take meds and pills. I’m not saying that’s not an okay option, but while it does cause you to have some bravery, it also is pretty non-invasive. When Chris came home, we were thankful that healthcare providers had given us a heads-up. They’re like, “You’ve had an amazing recovery. We’re so proud of you and your attitude and all these things. Just so you know, it’s not always easy when you go home.”

Since I was already such an advocate for mental health counseling, we took on preventative couples counseling. I can understand why that might be scary for couples if they don’t have an easy way to enter. Again, what a beautiful gift you give each other and yourselves. We both went through the trauma. We’re going through those individual things and then we’re trying to push two of these. We blend two of them together. If this is a path you navigate, it’s the wilderness.

You came out of this consciously creating something even greater than you had before you went into it. What did your rebirth look like? What was that conscious new creation like? What did you learn? What changed?

We are fully still in the middle of it as well. I would say our rebirth started from me at the bottom of the valley. The valley of death as we called it, where we said, “Let’s keep walking through that valley of death.” That was at that low point. We walked through my recovery getting to this point of coming home. With that guidance and that direction from healthcare providers, it is a continual journey of coming back together. We’ve talked about it and Molly wrote in the book, “Trauma is 1,000 points of separation and recovery is 1,000 points of reconnection.” We’re in the process of that reconnection.

Trauma is a thousand points of separation and recovery, but a thousand points of reconnection. Share on X

As Molly talked about, she went through her journey and I went through my journey and we went through one together. All these separate experiences are a continual journey and reconnection. The trauma I felt pulled so many things to an acute point for us that maybe others are dealing with the trauma are dealing with in their life. This mental health process and this ability to have therapy together, both of us doing our separate therapies, continues to allow us to churn up and work on the things that are going to matter most to us as we spiral upward.

It’s wonderful.

We want to fall forward.

It’s marvelous. It’s admirable and I hope people are tuning in because it’s so wise what you’re doing. I again have had the same experience at some point in my life. I am so totally with you on what you’re doing and what you went through would pull a lot of people apart. What you’re doing is bringing you together in a beautiful new way with new understanding and compassion. That’s coming from outside help you’re also getting. It’s wonderful. The beneficiaries are your children and your families.

What I have learned up to this process so far is you are constantly healing from life. What a gift. It’s about coming home to yourself. You can’t contribute as much as you can to a relationship until you’ve come home to yourself as well. It’s that constant coming home so you can give your very best to all of your loved ones. I’ve talked about this in my book. We were ripped apart at the roots. We’ve grown together. We’ve been married for many years. We were ripped apart and we learned that we can survive.

We survived that and then we’re transplanted back together. That’s an effort. Our daughter picked a dandelion and she’s three. She blew it out and I said, “What did you wish for?” She said, “Love true.” First, I said, “Disney got to you. There’s something so beautiful about that. It’s this play on true love versus love true.” What an actionable and beautiful gift when you can love true. That means the deepest levels of authenticity in ourselves and what we bring together through our transplant.

GAR Molly Weisgram | Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre Syndrome: What an actionable and beautiful gift it is when you can love truly. It means going to the deepest levels of authenticity in yourself.

When you go through grief and rebirth, it is a loving true of each other. It is a restart and rediscovery. We are in the middle of it. We’re still figuring out what pulled us apart, how we’ve been pulling apart, and how we’re coming back together. It hasn’t all been easy. There’s been a lot of surprises in there for us and there are things that continue to pop up. The key is to keep walking. That’s what we’re working on doing. It is continuing to move forward together.

I don’t know if this is what other people will feel, but what I’ve noticed, at least in our experience and I’ll own it for me, is this trauma tears you apart and you go downward slide. In Chris’s recovery and our recovery, there was this building up. You come home and it’s almost like you dismantle. You’re disassembled again into pieces and you’re then putting it back together. I almost feel that the second decline or slide down. It’s where you almost dive into your deeper issues even before the trauma. What that is while difficult is it is the opportunity.

Right there is the opportunity because we live in whole different ways of trying to navigate around the things that hurt us at one point. We’re trying to not have that hurt again. While it doesn’t feel good to be disassembled, this intentional opportunity to say, “We’re going to put ourselves back together.” I don’t mean there’s only one right way, but in a way that’s the truest for us in our expression. There is a real opportunity in that. It takes a lot of patience and it’s not easy, but the opportunity is great.

Is this what you call the hero’s journey?

I played around with that because my chapters turned into a poem, which was a neat realization to see. It’s about the idea that home is the destination. It’s always the destination. The hero’s journey is Joseph Campbell’s idea of always having to leave home in order to become dissembled and have a great challenge. It somehow comes back home anew after you’ve conquered the challenge to figure out how you integrate what you learned and who you are now.

To me, what I didn’t realize until I was diving into my epilogue was that last chapter, we made it home. Now, the great opportunity and challenge is to figure out what to do with all that you learned on the journey and all that you became on the journey. I truly believe you don’t take that journey as a bad detour. If you look at it in a different way and say, “I became who I’m supposed to be for my next thing,” then there’s the reason why you open yourself to who you are now in the healthiest way of thinking.

It’s what you’re doing now. Do you know how many people you’re reaching through this show? You’re inspiring all of them. You’re teaching them about the value of counseling, the value of your positive attitude, and all. It’s so important. What’s admirable, Molly, is you wrote on the blackboard of your kitchen “room to heal.” It talks about mind-setting. It’s a reminder to live happily ever after. That it’s a continual process. What would you like to tell us about the importance of healing and knowing that living happily ever, as you’ve been saying, is a continual process?

The room to heal was a reminder to all of us. We have four little kids, but it was a reminder to myself as much as it was to Chris. This is not an easy thing to come back in. I’m not saying that without the full recognition of our amazing recovery and Chris’s amazing physical recovery. We did not lose everything through this terrible journey, and yet you still come home and it can be difficult. There was COVID and all of the other things that were happening basically upon Chris’s return. I wanted to think, “I want to live under this illusion of safety again.” This Guillain-Barre that we talked about is the naive bubble of safety.

I want to go back to that a little bit. This idea of framing and that idea of all of this, even when it hurts, is part of giving yourself the grace and the space to work through putting the puzzle back together. When you can allow that patience and that grace for each other and for yourself, allow the magic to happen because it doesn’t always happen overnight. Once again, there’s a huge opportunity. An important reminder that it takes time and then a year later, you turn around and you think, “Look how much has happened?” Three years later, you go, “This patience and this attitude of healing.” Healing is, to me, there’s this post-traumatic growth opportunity. That is how I want to look at healing.

GAR Molly Weisgram | Guillain-Barre Syndrome

Guillain-Barre Syndrome: When you allow patience and grace for your partner and yourself, you allow the magic to happen.

I want to look at it as in my soul was refined in a very difficult way for a reason and I’m going to continue to make those next best steps to what is healing to me. In some ways, that’s about deep authenticity and recognizing it for me and Chris. It’s fair to say that when we had to start coming to this idea of healing, it was how were we coping beforehand. I coped with control and made sure everything was in its spot. Chris coped amazingly enough with positivity. Again, I’m going to protect my space.

Don’t take my hope away. I got to keep going. I’m going to take my momentum forward. I cannot be pulled back. You then start to go, “We’re now in the same home and space for the same objective.” My rigid control and his powerful positivity somehow are bumping into each other. How do we now take off our armor piece by piece and can we call that growth? Can we look at it in a way that we keep bumping into each other and what in the heck is going on?

Can we look at it as this is taking down armor to the vulnerable parts of us, which are scary to expose because there was a reason why we put that armor on? It’s been interesting for me. As I said, counseling turned off some of my feelings in the recovery part. What I realized is until I started to embrace maybe sadness a little bit, because I didn’t want to feel sadness, that’s probably why anger would come up faster. I was protecting my sadness because that’s what would cripple me.

You would feel the most vulnerable with that.

Absolutely. I realized that I think feelings are on the spectrum and if you don’t allow that sadness, you don’t quite get to feel the joy either. This has been very interesting, allowing and creating the safety for that vulnerability for that sadness to come out in an odd time, but then, get to reap the benefit of a fuller range of emotion. Honestly, that’s worth it.

I know it’s freeing. Your book is so wonderful and I can’t recommend it more highly to everyone who’s tuning into the show. Tell us all the ways that our audience can connect with you, and can get your book. Let it reap.

The one-stop spot is where I’m going to share my website and that’s MollyWeisgram.com. I have a blog there. That’s where you can be directed to purchasing the book and where my social handles are as well. That’s the easiest.

Chris and Molly, what is your tip for finding joy in life?

I’d say gratitude and being grateful for all. I’ve told people, “If there’s one thing I learned right away at the bottom of that valley of death when I was coming back to consciousness was you could look left and look right quickly. See people that had it much worse than you where relationships didn’t show up for them or their health was worse. All kinds of reasons.” I realized how grateful I could be even in that lowest moment where I had to let go and lost. All those things fell away. It’s always gratitude.

Molly, have you got something to add to that?

There’s something about being careful about what expectations you’re bringing. When I say careful, I have a Post-it note on my computer that says, “Just wait, this is going to be good eventually.” The idea is if something comes onto your plate that you’re not thrilled about, instead of telling all of the stories about the reasons why it’s awful, maybe allow space and some trust about how it might serve you somehow and some way for some bigger purpose.

If something comes onto your plate that you are not thrilled about, see how it can serve you somehow instead of telling stories about why it is awful. Share on X

Molly, I love this quote from your book, The Other Side of Us. “I hoped we’d never take our lives for granted again. I hoped that we’d always recognize that we live in choice and I hoped we transcend the before making something greater in the after.” The Other Side of Us: A Memoir of Trauma, Truth, and Transformation teaches that a belief in something bigger is key. The purpose is paramount and hope is powerful. Thank you both Chris and Molly from my heart for sharing your incredible journey of uncertainty and trauma towards deep truth, growth, healing, and transformation leading to rebirth.

Many in our Grief and Rebirth audience now surely want to read your raw and inspirational book that will no doubt stir and encourage them to the depth of their souls. Make sure to follow us and like us on social at @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. As I like to say, to be continued, many blessings, and bye for now.

 

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