Pushing Past Self Limits Alexandra Melichar

Self-limits are not a new concept. There always have been and always will be self made barriers that hold us back. Self-imposed limits are unique in that we are the only ones who created them, and in turn are the only ones that can breaks through them. We are the ones to shackle ourselves to our own fears and perceived barriers. Whether public speaking, showing others art, or getting out of bed every morning, it’s up to ourselves to successfully accomplish the tasks that are put before us and find something to shatter those chains.

Even though it is up to ourselves to destroy those limits, that doesn’t mean we have to take the journey alone. Finding a support system can be the key to successfully reaching your goal. Not only can supportive friends and family help you stay the course, but they also help keep the situation light-hearted and not seem so imposing. A support system is there to pick you up if you stumble, cheer you on when you succeed, hold you accountable for your actions, and provide a foothold for beginning your journey.

At some time or another, everyone has come face to face with a self-limit. This confrontation with ourselves can be hectic, but it can also be incredibly rewarding when we face it head on. Every limit has its own challenges and risks. The fear of the unknown, of whatever changes shattering a limit may bring, is often what holds us back. Facing our fears head on and believing in ourselves and everything we are capable of is the key to pushing past self-limits.

“Believe in your infinite potential. Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself. Believe in yourself, your abilities and your own potential. Never let self-doubt hold you captive. You are worthy of all that you dream of and hope for.” -Believe in yourself, your abilities and your own potential. Never let self-doubt hold you captive. You are worthy of all that you dream of and hope for.” ― Roy T. Bennett

In April of 2016, I was riding my bicycle to work when I stopped at a crosswalk and made eye contact with an oncoming car. He stopped and waved me forward, so I went. A car coming from the opposite direction didn’t see me and I was struck at 25 mph. I was not wearing a helmet. My body flew over the hood, the back of my head cracked into the windshield, and I fell to the asphalt where my skull cracked once more. I was unconscious on impact. A good Samaritan called 911 and administered the little first aid they could, staying with me until the ambulance arrived.

The accident happened on a Thursday, and I regained awareness on Monday. Although I hadn’t been asleep during this time, but I wasn’t exactly awake either. Every few hours I would open my eyes, wiggle my toes for the doctors, take medication, then go under once again. When I opened my eyes on that Monday, truly aware for the first time in days, I saw my mother, father, and boyfriend all sitting in a hospital room with me. I didn’t know what had happened, just that I had one hell of a headache. What I heard amazed me.

I was struck by a car and transported to a hospital with a brain trauma unit via Flight for Life. I had no bodily injuries except a scraped knee. But my head? It didn’t fare as well as the rest of my body. I had gray-white brain discoloration, brain bleeding, two hemorrhages, a hematoma, a temporal skull fracture, a sinus fracture, a base skull fracture, a split in the back of my scalp, broken incus, a busted eardrum, and until I had surgery, was deaf in my left ear. My brain had been draining itself from that ear, but then my eardrum closed itself off and blood started pooling under my skin. The first two days, I was on nothing but morphine and saline. I lost seven pounds.

The first day, doctors couldn’t tell my parents whether I'd live or die. Soon they said I would live, but also believed I might would be mentally handicapped and require 24/7 care. Then they said I would need weeks of rehab, and it would be months until my brain could function normally again. And then, on Friday, I was released from the hospital. No one could explain it.

I went to rehab just to appease my doctors. The neuro rehab therapists were shocked. I passed all tests within seconds and received above average marks. They thought my accident had occurred over a year ago when really it had only been the week before.

Despite all of the positive news the rehab therapists gave me, I couldn’t let go of the things my doctors had said. Whispers of self doubt had been planted in me the day I woke up, and they were starting to grow. Would I ever walk normally again? Would I hear again? Remember words? Not have headaches? Drive? Think as quickly as I used to? A quiet voice deep inside said no. And I listened.

I resigned myself to my new body and way of living. I told myself that things were as good as they were going to get, and lashed out at those who tried to help me. My thoughts dwelled on the accident and I quickly became bitter with life. How can I be happy, I asked myself, if my mind is just a shell of what it used to be? Resigned, I sat for weeks, angry at life and adamant that nothing could be done. I wouldn’t admit it at the time, but deep down a shred of that anger was at myself. Then, to my surprise, along came the one thing that finally made me realize the error of my ways and push myself through all of those silly little limits I had created.

When I say a scavenger hunt helped me reach my full potential, it sounds a bit strange – but this scavenger hunt, G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S., isn’t your ordinary hunt. They don’t call it “The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen” for nothing. Thousands of people from around the world create teams of around fifteen people and come together for a hectic week in August filled with art, crazy activities, acts of kindness, and community involvement. Each year, the winning team gets to go on a trip to an exotic location with the G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. founder, Misha Collins.

A few weeks before the accident, I had decided to create a team. In the process, I gained 13 incredible new friends who were there for me during every step of my recovery – even if I had gone days without talking to them. They got frustrated with my anger or stubbornness, but helped pick me up when I was feeling low. Despite being from Australia, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and the Philippines, it felt as though they were always by my side, and that was before the hunt had even begun. They didn’t know it, but they were my support system. Every day they encouraged me to push myself and celebrated my successes and milestones with me.

It took me awhile to realize that they were supporting me as much as they were but once I did, I found myself taking more risks. The concept of a support team was foreign to me. I thought that I was on my own in my post-accident journey and that I would have to face everything on my own. Once I acknowledged and accepted their love and support not only did I find my self-limits weakening, our team was also strengthening. That attitude became the basis for our journey together and my own personal journey. I no longer felt alone in the world because I knew they were there for me.

As a team, we knew we probably wouldn’t win the trip with Misha; it was our first year participating and we still had to get the hang of things. We set our sights just a tiny bit lower. Every year, a G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. coffee table book is published, full of picture submissions that really impressed the judges. If we couldn’t win the trip, then we wanted one of our submissions to be in the book for people to admire for years to come.

The day we decided to aim for the coffee table book was the day something flipped inside of me. I had given myself something to work for without even realizing it. Sometimes to break through limits, you need more than just a personal “want” – you need a springboard. Some sort of external force that can cause you to rethink things and see your limits in a whole new light. If you find a springboard of your own, use it to help shatter them with a force you never thought possible. Use it to fly higher than you ever dreamed of, and discover an inner greatness that you always had. I finally found my springboard, and when I stepped onto it, it felt like I was opening my eyes once more.

I started setting goals for myself – a sort of mental strength and endurance training to make sure that I was ready when G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. week rolled around. Every night I went for short walks to help straighten out my feet and lower back; within a month I was walking over a mile each night with no problem. I drove my car around our block, then down a nearby street, and then to the grocery store and back; finally, I drove on the freeway without any trouble. Though it was the last thing I wanted to do, I eased myself into walking by busy streets and crossing intersections by myself again. Each day when the vertigo hit, instead of closing my eyes and waiting it out, I did what the therapists said and colored until my eyes stopped shaking. Slowly, the bouts of vertigo became less frequent. Weekly counseling sessions helped me relearn what emotions were and what certain feelings meant. I started learning Spanish to increase my memory and became over 50% fluent in just three months.

By the time the hunt began, I had made a complete 180. No longer was I exhausted, sore, and cranky. I woke up energized and ready to tackle my tasks. G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. happened only three months after my accident, but I can honestly say during that week I did things I never thought I would do, let alone after almost losing my life. My team and I made bikinis out of corn husks, painted a portrait while scuba diving, rapped about a historical figure, fed the homeless, and ate green eggs and ham in a boat with a goat– and that’s not even a quarter of it.

During that week, I successfully completed over twenty tasks on my own. When it was over and I sat on my couch, bored and wondering what to do next, I realized something I never noticed before: I had limited myself. I had been the one holding myself back the entire time. Not the accident, not the doctors, not the medical bills, but me.

One day, weeks later, I checked my mail and was greeted by the G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. coffee table book. And when I got to page 118 and saw our sand castle trailer park featured loud and proud, I realized something else: I was also the one to break free of those shackles and soar.

“Everything has boundaries. The same holds true with thought. You shouldn't fear boundaries, but you should not be afraid of destroying them. That's what is most important if you want to be free: respect for and exasperation with boundaries.” ― Haruki Murakami

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