It’s an amazingly beautiful day today. I didn’t get enough sleep, last night, and I’m feeling foggy and a little ill, but nonetheless, the outdoors awaits.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I got my Sense-of-Self back. It has been back for at least a year, now. After feeling like a stranger in my own skin for years and years, I finally feel like me again.
How did this happen?
I think it’s really been about habit. Developing good routines I can do, every single day, and also developing the discipline to follow through with things. It’s been difficult, but it’s been worth it.
As an example, this morning I took care of a Sunday task that I often leave until the end of the day. It drags me down all day, filling my mind with dread, and sapping my energy. But it needs to get done, every single week. No exceptions. So, this morning after my breakfast, I just sat down and did it. I spent maybe 20 minutes on it, following a series of somewhat complicated steps that have to be done in a specific order. I mess them up, now and then, but this morning I was totally focused on them. And I got them all done in good order.
And by 8:00 a.m. I was done with that, and ready for the rest of my day. I felt so fantastic, I was trotting around the house, and my spouse wondered why I was so chipper.
It’s because I did that unavoidable task exactly the way it was supposed to be done. I followed my own detailed instructions. I did my weekly duty. And the successful and smooth completion of it all left me feeling with a real sense of accomplishment, as well as a renewed sense of myself as a capable and … well, good human being.
I firmly believe that TBI robs us of a Sense-Of-Self by changing our internal reactions and our long-familiar capabilities, and thus making us into someone we don’t recognize. Even the slightest of changes in our accustomed inner experience of life can make us feel like a stranger to ourselves.
But when we re-learn how to do things, and we grow accustomed to the experiences we’re having with them — when those experiences become familiar to us again, just as our old experiences were — we can once again recognize ourselves… and get on with our lives as the capable people we once knew ourselves to be.
TBI recovery is very much about re-acquainting yourself with yourself. It might be a whole new you, in some ways, but it’s still you.
I’ve been checking my site stats over the past few days, looking over the different ways people have found their way to this site, over the past few years. One thing that comes up a lot is questions about concussion and intelligence — being stupid after a concussion.
If you’ve recently (or not so recently) had a concussion, and you’re feeling really stupid, know this:
You are not alone.
A lot of people feel stupid after a concussion. In my case, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to convince me that I’m NOT stupid, even to this day when I know that I’m no less intelligent for the head injuries I’ve had, than the next person. After all, I have done some pretty lame-ass things in my day, that just looked, well, STUPID. And it never occurred to me that the concussions I’d…
This piece is still as important today as it was when I wrote it earlier this year. It’s absolutely critical that people get the right information right away after a concussion or mild TBI. Understanding the nature of the injury and taking appropriate steps can mean the difference between healing well and prolonging your recovery. I messed everything up, so I paid the price for years, afterwards. In some ways, I still am.
Follow the links with each topic to see a extended discussion of each.
These things took me years to learn. Actually, people knew them, but nobody thought to tell me. And the people who knew them, either didn’t tell me right away, or were not within reach of me.
Now, thanks to the interwebs, I’m passing them along. And I’m writing a short guide for people who also need to know this. It’s not long. It will have pictures. It will be basic and (hopefully) easily digestible, so even a “freshly” concussed person can use it.
Here they are:
You’ve had a brain injury. Not once, when I was concussed, did anyone ever tell me that I had a brain injury. Not when I fell, or got hit, or got tackled, or was in a car accident. The idea that my brain was injured — and…
2. Where do you live? (cityand/or state and/or country)
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I acquired my brain injury in 2006. I was 35.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was attacked outside a nightclub by some customers I had thrown out of my pub the previous week.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I knew something was wrong when I woke up the next day. I was admitted to the hospital and then released the next morning. A friend found me unconscious and in a pool of blood and vomit. I was rushed back to the hospital. A few weeks later when I was released, I thought I was OK, but I kept forgetting things. I set the kitchen on fire three times in one week because I forgot I was cooking. Once I even went to bed and left a full meal cooking. I knew then I needed to be around family “for a week or two, until I cleared my head.”
Twenty years ago today, my friend Tamara Puffer and her husband Michael were driving home from an after-dinner outing for frozen yogurt. When another car slammed into theirs, their lives were profoundly and permanently altered. Tamara spent two weeks in an induced coma, followed by months of rehabilitation, relearning how to walk and speak, read and dress and eat.
Tamara had recently left her career as a professional violinist and was serving her first church as an ordained Presbyterian pastor. Her theology was deeply shaped by the homeless people she worked with as a volunteer at the Open Door Community in Atlanta. She embraced the Gospel as good news for people on the margins. After her accident, she reflected, “In one life-shattering moment I went from feeling like someone in control—with a clear career path, the privilege of choice, and a measure of power—to being an invisible person on the…
This is a great perspective. I can relate to a lot of things said here. I have to stop and deliberately focus my attention on what people are saying to me, before it makes sense. Sometimes that means I ask them to repeat what they said a number of times. I can get away with it by telling others that I’m busy thinking about other things and I need to change gears. That way, it doesn’t look as much like a deficit.
Most of us have a lot going on inside our heads, to begin with, so people tend to understand that.
Still, I’ve had to “retrain” my spouse to slow down and also not get angry at me when I seem like I’m not listening. I need time to shift my attention and really understand what’s going on. That’s preferable to not bothering to understand at all, and saying “Mmm-hmmm” without even trying.
First of all, the storm never came.
Second, today I read a very interesting article written by another brain injury survivor. In the article she talks about how she was caught off guard when a friend told her to “Quit using your brain injury as an excuse”. Her friend told her this after she asked her to repeat something.
After some very helpful feedback yesterday, I decided to go ahead and put a “Donate” button on my blog. You can see it in the right-hand column of the page. I’ve been thinking about doing this for a long time, but I never got around to it. I’m a firm believer that, of all people, brain injury survivors need access to information and connections that’s comprehensive, accessible — and free.
Experiencing a brain injury, or sharing your life with someone who’s had a TBI is taxing enough, as it is. And I think there’s a special place in hell for people who prey on TBI survivors and their families. I’ve had the mixed blessing of getting clunked on the head a bunch of times, along with a love and passion for writing. So, the two of them have combined to produce this blog. I’m committed to carrying the message that
Brain Injury Recovery is Possible.
I should know. I’m doing it.
and spreading that word as far as I can. I’ve been doing it on my own, since ’round about 2008, and as unlike me as it is, I’m actually reaching out to ask for help in doing that. Ideally, I would love to support myself through my writing and this work, but that’s not going to happen overnight. I have a number of writing projects in the works, which I very much want to get done and get out there. It’s just one step at a time with this plan of mine. And if I just keep at it, I believe I can get there — and learn a whole lot in the process.
Putting up a “Donate” button is a first step in that direction. Eventually, I may get to where I can focus on this work full-time. But for now, I’ll simply live my life as it is, share my experiences and lessons, and give others the chance to pitch in, if they like.
Ultimately, though, this is not about me. It’s about you. It’s about the readers. It’s about reaching out to others in a frank and hopeful manner, to offer insights into how brain injury recovery progresses — or regresses — and what can possibly be done to help the process along. It’s a complicated thing. It’s a very, very human thing. And more needs to be written and shared about it on a regular basis.
Whether or not money comes in, I will continue this work. It’s needed. I wish to high heaven I’d had access to this, when I had my last “mild” TBI in 2004 and everything started to fall apart in my life. But I didn’t. I had to learn from too many costly mistakes — which are still dragging me down, to this day. I would hate for that to happen to anyone else, but I know it does. And many people have it much, much worse than I. It’s heartbreaking, really. Absolutely crushing, to think of the level of human suffering — much of which happens because of lack of access to the right information at the right time.
Early intervention with the right information can help to reduce the impact of mild TBI / concussion.
It can help people with recent brain injuries understand their injury and make better choices about how to manage their lives. It can help keep recovery times to several months (sometimes weeks), instead of the years and years that some people experience.
And that’s part of my mission — to get brain injury recovery information to recently concussed individuals quickly, before the desperation sets in and/or they start making the kinds of decisions that will either further endanger them or prolong their recovery.
Beyond the initial “acute” period, I want to provide support and encouragement to individuals who are recovering from mild TBI and are confused about what they can expect, and why it’s taking so long for them to heal.
In the long run, for those of us who have prolonged periods of difficulty, struggle, and various levels of catastrophe, I want to provide an insider’s view into what it’s like to piece your life back together, after others have given up on you, or flatly refused to help you anymore. That happens all too often. I’ve lived it. I’m still living it. And it breaks my heart to think that others have to go through this… “experience” (that’s my nice, polite way of putting it).
So there it is — why I do this, and what my mission is.
I realized today that I’ve been feeling depressed and defeated over my old neuropsych moving away. I really did enjoy working with them, and they gave me so much good, encouraging information to work with. They gave me a weekly shot of hope, like no one else ever had. Losing them was a pretty big loss for me, and five months later, I think I’m nearing the end of my grieving period for that loss. I think it takes about six months to regain your footing after a significant loss. And yes, it was a significant loss for me. I’m just now realizing that.
But I’m ready to get back to work. And getting clear (again) about what this blog is really for, is a good place to start from. It’s a very good place, indeed.
So, if you also believe in this mission, and you’d like to help me get the word out, you can donate below. You can make a one-time contribution, or contribute monthly. Any amount is welcome. Thanks!
Over the past years, some of my readers have asked if there is a way to support this blog and the work I do here.
I’m committed to sharing the details of my recovery after multiple mild TBIs with those who need hope, inspiration, and basic information about what it’s like to be concussed — and recover successfully afterwords.
It’s something I’m committed to. Is this something you’d be willing to support? I’m looking for ways to do that, but before I start, I want to see if there’s any interest among my 900+ followers.
Would you be willing to contribute something one-time? Monthly? Yearly? How much would you be willing to contribute? This is important work, and support from readers can help me do even more. I’m just not sure what a reasonable amount might be. I’m hoping you can help me out with this.
I just got a notification that my conference call in 15 minutes is cancelled. Glory Be! I really hate conference calls. Especially at 8:00 on a Friday morning. It’s hard for me to hear, sometimes, and I hate having to pay such close attention at the end of the week. I’m wiped out, just running on fumes… and trying to be functional on a phone, this early in the morning is a real task.
But now I don’t have to do it, because the person I’m supposed to talk to has a conflict and can’t find another time till Monday.
Fine with me. Now I can relax and just settle into my work for the day. I have a couple other unavoidable conference calls later today I need to prepare for, and I also have some critical stuff I need to get done by the end of the day today.
I’m so glad it’s Friday. I’ve had a very long week, and I need a break big-time. Last weekend was chock-full of socializing and interacting, and I didn’t have a chance to catch up with myself — or my sleep. I’ve been struggling to keep up with my sleep, getting less than I need. I’ve really been feeling it, so I need to catch up this weekend. Cancel my plans. Just settle in to doing the basics. And give myself some breathing room.
It’s a simple plan with a simple mission. And it works for me.
So, breakfast last Friday was good. I enjoyed the talk I had with my old friend, and it didn’t last forever — just an hour. That was enough.
We traded a couple of emails, since then, but they’re definitely off in their own world, again. And I’m in mine.
I suppose that’s fine. The two of us tend to grate on each other’s nerves, if we’re around each other too much. Plus, I like my alone-time.
I haven’t had much of that, lately, though. I’ve been unusually social, with a lot of people checking in with me, and people at work really warming up to me. I’m not sure how I feel about it. I kind of like being by myself, alone with my own thoughts. Being around other people can be very demanding, especially when they’re very different from me, and I have to work hard to keep myself from saying critical things about things that are important to them.
I really have to watch myself, at times.
But it’s worth it in the end, because I don’t alienate everyone in a 10-mile radius. That’s a plus.
I’m really sore this morning, and I didn’t work out. I had an especially vigorous workout yesterday morning, then I changed up my afternoon workout to focus on my core. Now my back and hips and stomach and sides are all crazy-sore, and making any movement reminds me that — hey, there are actual muscles there.
And that’s cool. It’s just not very comfortable, right now.
Work is strange. Everything is heating up with the impending merger, and we’re all scrambling to explain what we do. I think a re-org is imminent. Maybe? Who knows? They keep moving the date for when the thing’s going to be a done deal, so I’ve given up guessing when that will be. It seems like every time I mark it on my calendar, they move it. So, maybe if I don’t mark it on my calendar, the date will stick? Who knows? It’s all such a mystery to me, it might as well be guided by magic and superstition. I’m too far down in the food chain to know much of anything, anyway.