How this Artist Overcame a Brain Disorder

How this jewelry artist overcame a brain disorder

I founded Woodland Metalsmith (formerly Metta Weaving) in 2013 following a pretty horrific car collision I was in.

chiari malformation surgery
This is me and Dr. Ellenbogen. He's a neurosurgeon at Harborview Medical Center that specializes in Chiari Malformations.
Following the wreck, I was no longer able to work my regular job and so I began to create as a means to pay for groceries and smaller bills... Not knowing it would one day fully replace my income! 

My Neurological Condition and How it All Started

In 2013, I was driving home, going about 45 mph down a main road. I was half a mile away from my house, when another vehicle approaching a stop sign along the road, didn’t look my way and flew across the intersection. 
Driving along in my little Hyundai Accent, I saw the car dash out and had almost no time to stop, I T-boned the huge suburban at almost 45 mph. For whatever reason, my airbag didn’t deploy and I hit my head hard on my steering wheel.
The collision happened so fast that I almost didn’t know what had happened. I had a giant goose egg on my forehead and could not see out of my right eye for hours after the collision, I remember feeling very disoriented after being pulled from my car. I sat on the side of the road wondering if I would even make it.
After riding in the ambulance to the hospital, the doctors had told me that I had a severe head injury, whiplash, seat belt burn and a sprained ankle.
I was in a lot of pain, and my car was totaled. The impact caused excruciating migraines, and chronic tension in my head, neck, shoulders, and back, and most days afterward I struggled to get out of bed.
I began to see a variety of doctors to determine the cause of my pain. After multiple MRI scans and testing, I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation a year later. Chiari Malformation is a condition that occurs when your skull is not formed properly and there is not enough room for spinal fluid to move through your spine, causing stiffness, pressure and pain in the head, neck and back.
This was a condition that I was born with and completely unaware of until I experienced physical trauma, which is fairly common with Chiari Malformations. The physical trauma had triggered something and made my condition worse.
I couldn't work, I couldn't do a lot of daily tasks. I felt isolated and had lost hope that it would get better.
Years later, in 2018, I decided to take the plunge and go in for specialist-recommended brain surgery. My neurosurgeon in Seattle, Dr. Ellenbogen, had recommended that I would be a great candidate for surgery. I was so afraid of going under and having parts of my brain removed. It took me a whole year to decide that it was the best option.
But I knew that nothing could be worse than the constant pain and depression this condition caused me.

Brain Surgery

During my brain surgery, there were several things that took place. I went under anesthesia, they removed part of my c1 vertebrae, cauterized my cerebellar tonsils to make room for spinal fluid to move, and closed it back up! Recovery was rough, I was in a lot of pain and I couldn't even go up stairs for weeks. Slowly, I started to feel better. The pressure in the back of my head was gone, my headaches weren't as bad, and soon enough, I was back to creating and living my life!

 
chiari malformation

How I Overcame My Brain Disorder

It was after the crash that I founded Woodland MetalsmithI started to createI found solace in designing and creating for myself and others. Back then my business was named “Evergreen Bohemian,” and I specialized mostly in weaving macramé jewelry and decor, my signature product then, was a beautiful Tree of Life Dream Catcher that ranged in size from 2” to 18”. 
My journey into business began with Etsy, I built a strong community of long-lasting friendships with a lot of my customers. With over 4,000 transactions on Etsy and countless reviews, my business continued to grow! 
Sadly, post-surgery in 2018, holding my arms up for long periods of time was too hard on my neck and arms. So I decided to look at other avenues of creating! That's when I switched to metalsmithing in 2019.
Craftsmanship is a constant adventure of learning and trying new things, I LOVE METALSMITHING with a passion. The process of hammering and blow-torching metals is so ancient and feeds my creative spirit.
Fast forward to now and things aren't 100% better, however my life is good! The back of my head is healed, and I've mostly recovered from the collision and surgery. I still have neck and shoulder pain and the occasional headache, however it's no where close to what it was before.
I’m living my best life with A LOT less pain.
Health and wellness are so important to me, I make self-care, my number one priority, exercise and meditation are part of my daily practice in keeping my mind and body healthy and happy.
Working for myself has also given me the latitude to take time for myself when I need it, which is really important for healing. There are some days, some weeks, that I can't create or even have the mental capacity to do design work. 
 
Since these experiences, I am an advocate for self-care and self-love. After all, if you don't take care of yourself, how can you care for others? – I put the energy of this philosophy into every piece as I make it, with the intent to manifest a little self-care ritual for you in each piece that you wear.
Thank you for getting to know me a little better, and for learning how Woodland Metalsmith was born.
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