5 Lessons from the Worst Year of My Life

Written by Kelly O'Brien

In the past two years, I have been through more upheaval than some people will experience in a lifetime. My life changed in 2010 after a bad reaction to a flu vaccine, a fall, and blow to my head.

Right after the shot, I felt extremely disoriented, which my physician at the time passed off as anxiety.

I tried to explain to her that my vision was blurry, I was nauseous and couldn't even walk straight. She said I was simply anxious.

Within days, I was playing with my dog in my condo and collapsed, hitting my head on the bathroom floor. I laid there unable to move for about 20 minutes, before I crawled to my bed waiting for a friend to arrive. Soon after, I was in the Emergency Room and informed I had Post Concussion Syndrome.

Little did I know, I had so much more....

I was left with a rare and challenging health condition which changed the life that I knew, and resulted in financial devastation, the termination of a 14-year career, and the loss of many friends along the way.

My pain was as indescribable and as intense as it sounds.

That said, I gained the perspective that can only come from a crisis. I made genuine friends who are amazing. I met a man and fell head over heels in love, which was beyond unexpected.

I was just coming out of this storm when I was hit with a devastating health setback resulting from a recent surgery. I can only describe the past two years as being tossed about in a series of waves in a raging ocean: you emerge, swim towards the shore, get knocked down yet again. You emerge again.

I plan to rise up until I am out of the storm.....and I will.

My hope is that if any of you are going through an unusually challenging time, you will read this article and realize that you have no reason to feel total despair.

I hope you feel uplifted, encouraged, inspired and that sparkle in your eyes returns!

Here are 5 Things I Learned in the Trenches:

1. There is beauty in suffering.

People love to root for the underdog, but most don't like to be on the front lines while the underdog is grabbling to get back on top. They want to be there for the ending to cheer on the triumph!

But let me share something else that I learned. If you are in a crisis like I was, you're going to meet people who will want to join you for the ride. These friends, family, significant other, co-workers, etc. are going to choose go along the journey with you.

You all will learn so much through suffering that you will ALL be strengthened in ways you couldn't have been otherwise. It's a beautiful process that brings you closer to your true self while your faith in your higher power - mine being God - will be so solid that eventually, nothing will shake you.

I encourage you to dig deep and find the beauty in what you are experiencing.

2. Worrying is your biggest waste of time. 

I have been filled with worry along this journey back on top. Worry is such a confidence killer. It creates unnecessary insecurity and let's face it, insecurity is yet another time waster. We all know, this yet we worry anyway.

When dealing with loss, you worry Will I ever feel normal again? Will I ever be able to do all of the activities I love? Will I get married and have a baby? Will my boyfriend stay with me through this? 

You can worry yourself into absolute utter sickness, stress and push people away as a result.


Life is short. Please do not worry about what will happen "one day." Trust me, it is harmful. I just pulled myself out of worry.

Starting today, focus on the JOY of the hour, the minute, the day. Focus on what you can do today to make the dream you want come to life. Stay focused and when worry rears its ugly head, respond to it with a positive affirmation, a Bible verse, a quote that resonates...repeatedly until that worry goes away. If you have to repeat that affirmation 20 times a day, do what you need to do to not give in to worry.

3. Lucky me. 

This one will be hard to wrap your head around, but give me a chance to explain. I believe that certain people are chosen to go through experiences for a reason. Guiliana Rancic, for example, has educated thousands of women about breast cancer due to her struggle and public platform.

She has saved lives across the country: pretty powerful! From her worst life experience came her biggest blessings, ultimately a much stronger relationship with her husband and a baby that has proven to be a miracle.

They received their dreams in a manner which was dramatic, horrifying, and challenging. It took emotional and physical fortitude of both of them to emerge on the other side. Bill Rancic stuck with her through what I imagine to be an incredibly challenging time. This is so inspiring to me.

There is a reason you have been chosen to go through the trial that you are facing. I promise you there is. There is something that you are to give back to everyone as a result. You're lucky to have been chosen for the trial you are facing because if you give back, others will receive the inspiration they possibly need. You are the only one who will give back to others the unique gift you were chosen to give.

4. I will never give up. 

This one is simple but I have learned to never give up. I have learned to take breaks though to allow myself time to grieve, rest and regroup. You must get back up, though. You must.

If you do not feel like it, get up anyway. I have learned that I will personally never give up until I am fully back on my feet...even if it takes a lifetime.

Giving up is lame and you will regret it. Your worth the fight so, fight like hell and you will win.

5. It's OK to honor who you are in the process. 

Someone recently said to me, "You are so intense!"

I took offense to that, but then I realized, you know what, I am intense right now because I am going through a truly intense time in my life! And you know what else? That's OK.

I will be laidback when I feel laidback. Be who you truly are and feel what you feel. The people that love you won't mind and the people that do, don't matter. I love that saying! The key is to be authentic and that's good enough. Surround yourself with people who are going to lift you up and love you as you are today versus expecting you to be who they want you to be. Being true to yourself even through a trying time is empowering.

Honor yourself no matter what happens.


What have you learned while you were in the trenches? What can you teach others as a result? You are here for a grand purpose and to fulfill a role! How fab is that?!!

Life is short - lose the worry - and if you can inspire others, get your sparkle on and do just that!!!!

Much love,

Kelly Lynn

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