For those who don't me, I thought I would take the time to introduce myself and share a little bit about my story, how I started Aiyana Jewelry, and what designing and creating jewelry means to me.
My name is Brittney, I am 33 years old. I began making jewelry only a few years ago. Before making jewelry I would have never imagined that this is what I would be doing, and LOVE doing.
Prior to Aiyana Jewelry I was always a go getter, 'A' type personality, high achiever who put a tremendous amount of pressure and stress on myself. I studied the Sciences, put myself through College and University, had my own personal training company, worked with children with Autism, and bartended at 2-4 restaurants/clubs at a time averaging about 75/hrs a week. I left my parents at age 15 and began supporting myself with the help and intervention of some incredible people I consider earth angels, who always seemed to show up at the perfect time. I bought my first property when I was 22. Needless to say I was living a very fast paced life consumed by red bulls and caffeine just to sustain the life I had created for myself.
In 2011 everything came crashing down. After several misdiagnoses my health was rapidly deteriorating with a laundry list of debilitating symptoms; neurological, nervous system and autonomic nervous system related, as well as autoimmune, cardiac and cognitive manifestations to name a few. I could no longer go to school or work or keep up with my mortgage payments. Approx 6 months of spending once a week, sometimes more in the back of an ambulance and barely able to function I was diagnosed with a rare and life threatening Neuro-Immune disease which had quickly become systemic and had crossed the blood brain barrier caused by a rare retrovirus. I quickly learned there was no treatment or support available in Canada, and decided to move my life to California to begin intensive treatment where I would be administering 6 IVs a day myself through a Hickman catheter that was being implanted across from my heart in my chest. What seemed to be a minor surgery took a turn for the worse. I ended up in ICU in California for approximately one month where I was not expected to make it through, as they could not stop the bleeding out despite the 10lb sand bags, and coagulating medications. I was internally and externally bleeding out loosing 70 percent of my blood. After 8 blood transfusions and stabilization I was finally released, still very unsteady on my feet. I had the support of my partner at the time who became my rock, and stayed with me in California. He was everything to me, and we made a pact that we were going to get through all of it together. He was incredibly supportive, and there through every step of the way.
I returned to Canada having to pick up my medication at the Buffalo border every month to continue administering my treatment which was equivalent to chemo. This treatment was not covered or even offered in Canada. Between my family, and my-self we had spent close to half a million dollars in treatment to keep me alive. I did this particular treatment for approximately a year and a half. I moved from cousins, to friends, to friends of friends, all inbetween frequent hospital stays and nights in emergency.
My partner at the time and I finally bought a house, somewhere I could finally call home again. I felt like things were getting better with my health until one night, a month after moving into our home everything came crashing down once again. I was hospitalized again for a month, barely hanging on. My body was failing me in every way. I left the hospital no longer able to walk, confined to a wheelchair, and was on oxygen a great deal of the time to help me breath. My body would convulse if I was ambulatory or even with little movement. I had 24 hour care and support as I could no longer feed myself most days or lift my head off the pillow. There was barely enough life in me to speak on most days. My organs were slowing down, and my heart was weak and tired. I was witnessing my body degenerate and shut down the same way someone in their late 80s would before passing to the other side at the young age of 28.
I spent a year in a special bed upstairs of our new house which was supposed to be our new, happy beginning. It became a nightmare! My daily routine consisted of PSW visits to bathe me and feed me, nurses for monitoring, and staring out my bedroom window watching all our neighbours go about their day, until a very talented and dear friend who I am so grateful for began bringing me supplies to make bracelets with to try and pass time, and distract me from the pain and uncertainty. By this point I had accepted I was going to die, and I surrendered to transition out of my body which is the trajectory I was on.
A year of living like this my partner at the time could no longer take it, after 4 years of being together. The relationship ended very abruptly and suddenly, and he wanted me out of our house immediately. I couldn't take care of myself and didn't know where to go or what to do. I was still in a wheelchair at the time and could not even get down the stairs of our own house. I knew I would be considered a burden to anyone who would be willing to take me on, although there weren't many options. I was aware that the illness not only ravaged my body, soul, and mind, but it also took a huge toll on him and everyone around me. I would have never anticipated that being ejected from my home, relationship and everything I considered to be my security would in fact as a catalyst to propel me into a completely different direction which I am now forever grateful for.
My fears became a reality, and I now had to face it all alone. I had a severe nervous breakdown for the first time in 4 years since it all began. I decided to channel all my grief and uncertainty into strength and determination to at least walk again and permanently get off oxygen and assistive devices as it looked like if I didn't I was going to end up in the equivalent of a nursing home, which was unbearable to accept. A few months later, that's what I did! I began sitting up, then standing, then walking with a walker, and then eventually totally on my own. I would tremble and shake for a long time as I took each step, until I was able to walk with ease again.
In between once again living with friends, and moving from house to house things began taking a turn for the better. I had moved 13 times in 5 years. The healing process felt never ending, and often felt as if I was relapsing. I stayed focused and knew that my body knew how to be well, as I spent most of my life being perfectly healthy. I visualized, meditated, and stayed adamant about how I wanted my life to look. I began practicing Reiki, originally to help myself and my own healing journey, and quickly began infusing the jewelry with reiki I was then only making for friends and family. I still had a tremendous amount of grief, sorrow and loss that sometimes felt as if it was going to swallow me whole. I struggled with severe depression and Complex PTSD. The uncertainty, and trying to navigate through the darkness with what often felt like a flashlight that would only flicker on occasionally was like being lost, and not knowing which direction to go to find relief. I felt alone, and disappointed by a system that failed me time and time again. The memories and flashbacks were constant and triggered so very easily. I often felt like I was reliving the terror and torture I experienced despite every effort to move forward. A song, a smell, the season, a piece of clothing or food, it didn't matter how insignificant it appeared to be. My mind didn't know the difference and cascaded a flood of memories and emotions over and over again.
I focused on spending as much time outside in nature as possible as I felt a heaviness lift off of me and a sense of peace being by the water and surrounded by trees. I diligently meditated, prayed, did deep inner work, deepened my spiritual practice beyond any boundaries I could have ever imagined, and continued studying my passions: Neuroscience, Psychology, First Nations Traditions, and of course creating jewelry. Through what I believe to be divine intervention I was sent a very special person who helped guide me from the dark to the light. He taught me about traditional plant medicine, he taught me lessons about life and healing, and so much more. He worked with me diligently, and for him I will always be eternally grateful for.
It's been 2 years since learning to walk again and beginning my road to recovery. I searched and searched for the person I was before all the devastation which led me to look in places I would have never considered had I not felt so lost. I began to realize the old me had died, and it was time to rebuild and embrace the new me. It has taken me a long time to rebuild my body, spirit and mind and find myself again. I can't say I'm at the finish line, but I have come a long way and continue to move forward everyday. I am now able to completely take care of myself and am so proud to say I am in the clear and healthy once again. I have a business I am proud of, I am surrounded by the most incredible people, and am living a life I'm so very proud of.
The jewelry helped me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I was able to channel and transmute a lot my pain and hardship into something so meaningful and wonderful. I'm so proud that my jewelry is now able to help others on their journey. There is still a lot to learn and work towards, as well as dreams and goals I want to achieve. Going forward I now understand the importance of balance. Although I work towards my goals and dreams every day, I no longer live milestone to milestone. I listen to my body as it helps navigate me in the right direction. I appreciate moment to moment, and everything in between more than ever. Taking a deep breath effortlessly without the assistance of machines, walking with two strong legs that once no longer worked, eating foods I love and enjoy without them having to be pureed or having a life threatening reaction, being able to step outside freely, being able to sit in the drivers seat of my life once again!! Loving my body for doing the best that it can and carrying me from the brink of death to life once again, even though the battle wounds still may present themselves occasionally. I cherish it all! My perspective on life is forever changed, and I am so grateful for all the many blessings and miracles that happen daily. Not every day is perfect, but it's crucial for me to remember that there's a reason for everything, and even the 'bad' things often have some beautiful gems hidden in them. I know that among all the challenges, facing death more than once, loosing the life and everything in it I once loved so much, the universe has always had a MUCH bigger plan for me. I see that more everyday, as everything continues to unfold in often strange, but miraculous ways.
I told my story today in hopes it will inspire others. In hopes that when others feel challenged or defeated by life's adversities they will remember there is a much bigger picture. We as humans are often afraid of uncertainty, as what feels familiar and comfortable feels safe. I have learned that if we embrace the uncertainty and unknowing and trust in our inner guidance, and a force much bigger than us we can find the strength and courage to become resilient to whatever life presents us with.
My intention is to give others hope as they face challenging times and feel defeated by life, or when everything that they seemingly planned for their life never seems to work out despite their effort and commitment. I promise when things don't work out, or feel like they're falling apart there's almost always a much bigger plan in store! Never give up your faith, your beliefs, and most importantly never give up on yourself.