What a difference a year makes…

Well, it’s been a year, since I started this blog. It’s been a little over a year since I first came to terms with the fact that my psychological/cognitive/behavioral/emotional issues can be traced back, in no small part, to the array of head injuries I’ve sustained over the years. In a way, it was a relief for me to realize it. It was a relief for me to realize that the way that I was had a reason. That the way that I am can be explained. That I’m not the only one who struggles with this, and that I’m not the only one with the whole array of otherwise confounding issues that I have a really hard time explaining to others.

Thinking back, knowing now what I know, I’m amazed I didn’t put two and two together sooner. Then again, I had no reason to. In fact, I had plenty of reasons NOT to put it all together. This type of injury does a great job of hiding itself away. It’s the kind of injury nobody wants to have, not many people want to acknowledge, and not many people want to talk about — unless they have one. And even the people who have had TBI’s are not always able to discuss their situation clearly. Because the very part of us that grasps concepts and explores them and initiates discussion, is the part that’s broken.

Broken brain, indeed.

But at the same time, let’s not forget the amazing resilience of this organ atop our shoulders. As Norman Doidge amply illustrated in his great 2007 book The Brain That Changes Itself (which was the first book that made it safe for me to consider that I had neurological challenges and really has credit for helping me to objectively and intimately explore my issues), the human brain can — and does — alter itself, modify its processes, remap its pathways, in countless, subtle ways, so that the body it lives in can continue to function and participate in the world that feeds it.

When I started this blog, it was my intention to not only talk about my life as a high-functioning, long-term multiple mild tbi survivor, but to also talk about my life as a person. As someone who is more than the sum total of their individual parts. As a person whose mind and spirit remain remarkably intact, in spite of the injuries my brain has experienced. I wanted very much to show the difference between the brain and the mind — the difference between the organ itself and that mysterious, even mystical, part of the self that reasons and directs and drives and experiences and emotes and instigates and reacts and loves and, well, lives.

I wanted to show that even if you have gotten hit on the head, been knocked out by a fall or a blast, taken a hard hit and recovered more slowly — and very differently — than expected (or desired), or you’ve wrecked your car or crashed your bike or been thrown 50 feet by an impact, you still have value as a human being, and there’s literally no telling just how much of yourself you can get back — or how much of yourself my may discover for the first time.

I wanted to put the everyday life of an mtbi survivor out there, as best I could, so people like me — who are often isolated and confused and frustrated and in some ways utterly beyond help — can have a place to see their experiences mirrored, to hear their calls echoed, to have written proof that there is someone else out there who is dealing with this very challenging, often troubling, sometimes rewarding condition in a very present, very active way.

And I had hoped that maybe, perhaps, some psychotherapists and/or doctors and/or teachers and/or folks in law enforcement might stop by to take a look at this online journal to familiarize themselves a little bit more with what it’s like to be on the inside of a broken brain. Maybe, just maybe, they might be able to learn something from reading these words that they either are too proud to ask about, or they didn’t realize they needed to learn.

It’s all but impossible to know if I’ve succeeded at any of this. I’ve gotten comments back from folks about how reading my words has helped them, or that I’ve provided a great service to others. But the blogosphere is in pretty short supply when it comes to completed feedback loops, so I just have to trust that whatever I’m putting out there is of some benefit to someone, somewhere. The only real gauge I have of my contribution is thinking whether or not it would have helped me, years before, when I was really struggling with the after-effects of my accidents/falls/other injuries, and didn’t even know where to look for help.

I figure, if I feel like what I’m writing would have helped me, it may just help someone else out there. I know that, as of this date, over 8,800 page views have taken place. I’ve approved 103 comments. Akismet has protected me from 7,560 spam comments, and the most views I’ve gotten on any one day in the last year has been 125. I’m not the most popular blogger out there, and the vast majority of people out there have no clue that this blog exists. But I continue to post, doing my best when I can. And I hold out hope that this may be doing someone out there some good.

I know it’s helping me.

Because blogging, quite frankly, is an answer to my prayers. For many years, as a kid, and then as a young adult, I dreamed of becoming a published author. I told myself I was an artist and I was a rebel… never mind that my art often had more to do with relieving the pressures of living with undiagnosed neurological issues, than contributing to the outside world. I dreamed of putting my words out there for others to read, even if it meant not making a lot of money or garnering much fame. Money is nice, but fame I’ve rarely craved — and then, only in the eyes of those I hold in the deepest respect.

As my TBI-related difficulties soured and destroyed one publishing contact after another, one professional relationship after another, I slowly relinquished my dreams of being published, and I became convinced that I was pariah to the literary world. In many ways, I was. I mean, I had some really excellent opportunities to be published, but I could never follow through or get myself straightened out well enough to make good on them. I was beyond help. Literally. And everyone who dealt with me probably thought I had deep-seated emotional/psychological issues — with good reason.

Well, today I know better, even if they don’t. Today I know better than ever where I stand, and the parts that I don’t know enough about, I’m finding out about. And today, I can sit here in my “infirmary” — a makeshift bedroom away from the rest of the household, filled with liquids and pills and tissues and steam form the humidifier — and write words that will be seen. Because I’m online. Because I have something to say. Because others find me through search engine searches and WordPress tags and links that people email to them. I can look at my dashboard and see who’s looking for what information — PTSD, TBI, temper, employment issues, pain, emotional turmoil, overcoming tbi, mental illness and brain injury, and more — and I can speak to what they are looking for. From my own experience. From my own life. From my own corner of this big, wide, incredible world where everyone is pretty much grasping for answers, about now.  I can surf tags to find out who’s talking about what I’m talking about. I can surf other blogs to see what others are saying. I am anything but alone, in these days of WordPress interconnectedness, and for once in my life, I can know that I am joined with others, through even the finest of gossamer threads. But I am joined.

One of the interesting things about my TBI experiences and after-effects
is now it both connects me with the world and separates me from it. On the one hand, like Kara Swanson says over at her blog, a brain injury can teach you a whole lot about compassion and help you extend it to people who you’d otherwise dismiss, or diss. It can humanize you (as my partner says it has me, since I really came to terms with it over the past year), it can make you more approachable in some ways, and it can make you have much more appreciation for the parts of your life that function well, in the face of so much that doesn’t.

On the other hand, it makes interacting directly with the rest of the world pretty difficult at times. For example, I keep my identity secret in this space, because I don’t have the resources to navigate the intense interpersonal demands that personal familiarity makes on me. There’s something in my brain that just short-circuits, when there’s too much in put. I also don’t do much reaching out to others (which probably limits my readership) because I run out of steam and I fail to fully sustain my connections with other people. I end up looking/sounding a bit flighty, as well I am, because I not only lose my place with where I’m at in the contacts I’ve made with people (who answered whose email last? who commented on my blog post that I haven’t yet responded to?), but I also tend to forget about them, period. There’s a reason my blogroll is somewhat limited. I forget to update it. And I forget that I need to update it. Social networking is all very well and good, but it requires a level of involvement that I simply cannot sustain. And if I try — which I have, in the past — I just screw it up, one way or another.

Oh, well…

The bottom line is, in this space, I can write. And online, others can find my writing. Perhaps not as many as I would like, but enough to bump up my stats each day. I’ll just keep plugging, try to stay true to my cause, and sustain what level of honest detail I can, along the way. In the end, even if no one ever reads this, it helps me. Tremendously. And that, in itself, is well worth the effort.

Author: brokenbrilliant

I am a long-term multiple (mild) Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI or TBI) survivor who experienced assaults, falls, car accidents, sports-related injuries in the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and '90s. My last mild TBI was in 2004, but it was definitely the worst of the lot. I never received medical treatment for my injuries, some of which were sports injuries (and you have to get back in the game!), but I have been living very successfully with cognitive/behavioral (social, emotional, functional) symptoms and complications since I was a young kid. I’ve done it so well, in fact, that virtually nobody knows that I sustained those injuries… and the folks who do know, haven’t fully realized just how it’s impacted my life. It has impacted my life, however. In serious and debilitating ways. I’m coming out from behind the shields I’ve put up, in hopes of successfully addressing my own (invisible) challenges and helping others to see that sustaining a TBI is not the end of the world, and they can, in fact, live happy, fulfilled, productive lives in spite of it all.

3 thoughts on “What a difference a year makes…”

  1. BB, thank you for your writing. You are an amazing and unique individual and a survivor – be proud of yourself and celebrate every day as a new beginning.

    I am the mother of a young man who survived a severe ABI in 2006. He is a survivor and we take it day by day.

    Best wishes



  2. Thank you Mia!

    I do appreciate the feedback!

    Best of luck to you and your son. A good friend of mine has a son who experienced a severe stroke when he was a junior in high school. He is a survivor, too, and although he has been in assisted living for almost 20 years, and his mom sees him only a couple of times a week, she says that he is her greatest teacher of all time, and no matter how hard it has been for them both, she would never have wanted to pass up the experience of knowing him and having him in her life.

    It’s always great to hear someone say things like that, and remember that we all have something to offer, no matter how low we may feel we’ve fallen, no matter how small we may feel that we are. Each of us — I, you, your son, everyone — has some great gift we can pass on to others, be it a few kind words, of the experience of a lifetime.

    All the best in 2009!



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