Getting back up again

I got online access to full-length The Crash Reel, and I’ve been trying to watch it, for the past three days. Here’s the official trailer:

My time has been limited, and my internet connection hasn’t been that great, so I’ve had to start over a couple of times, and re-watch parts that I can’t quite remember. The thing with my memory is, I lose out on the later parts in movies sometimes, because I can’t remember exactly what happened before. When I’m watching with another person, I can “cue” off their reactions to get my bearings. But watching a movie by myself is another experience entirely.

If nothing else, watching this over the course of several days has given me time to think about what I’ve seen, which is good. Watching Kevin Pearce’s life before, during, and after his traumatic brain injury, reminds me a lot of my own situation — albeit on a much smaller scale. I think a lot of us who get injured in the course of “doing what we do” (versus people who get brain injured because of what someone else does – like a car accident or an assault) have similar qualities.

Watching footage of Kevin’s life before his injury, there’s that focus and determination and drive to really push the limits… to be better… to get better… to take calculated risks, and then to revel in the success when it goes well. There’s that heady euphoria that comes from being IN IT and feeling that rush, that adrenaline, that focus. There’s that clarity that comes from being so completely in the moment that’s second to none – and it’s such a welcome relief from the confusion and contradiction that can rule the day, when there’s not that intensity of focus.

Whether it’s snowboarding or a profession or some other activity that brings us to life and rewards us, we push it. We test our limits. We constantly push past what we (and others) think we can do and take risks in the process. The risks Kevin Pearce took were in the snow, riding a board. The risks I take have to do with the limits of my energy and amount that I can do. In both cases, they can — and did — result in near-catastrophic traumatic brain injuries.

There might be a big difference in the types of activity that got us here and the severity of the results, but the end result — whether the brain injury is “mild” or “severe” — can be devastating, when we lose the things that mean the most to us… namely, our ability to push limits and throw ourselves whole-heartedly into what we do, without concern for risk or complications.

That’s probably the hardest thing for me to deal with after TBI — the loss of the ability to just act without thinking, to immerse myself in what I’m doing and really leave myself behind.  I want to be able to just drive and drive and push and push, and not have to stop and think about every little thing. I want that fluidity back. I need that carefree immersion back.

But I’m not sure if it’s ever coming back. It may never. And that’s pretty tough to take.

I suppose it goes along with getting older, whether you’ve had a TBI or not — growing up and looking beyond my own immediate need for gratification and learning how to block out the “static” of my life without risking life and limb. We all have to make adjustments, over time, to keep ourselves safe and get to grow old… learning to deal with a TBI is like getting a lot older almost overnight, in my experience.

But knowing that doesn’t make it easier. It makes the process seem inevitable and inescapable and like a monstrous burden… which makes me even more inclined to push myself, to block out the pain and confusion and static and sensory overload and all the things that have been part of my life for so long, that I just have to get away from.

I need to get up again — get my spirits up to the place they once were. I need to really invest myself in my life, and I need to have a fulness in my life that a lot of people (maybe most?) don’t need. I think that’s one thing that makes folks with action-activity-based TBI a slightly different breed than passive-TBI folks — that we have this passion and love for life, this burning desire that propels us forward. I still have it, I still need it — but the ways I express it have had to change.

That’s the hardest thing for me — to figure out how to do all that living without putting myself in harm’s way. How do I block the static interference and soul-sucking things out in a way that doesn’t endanger me? How can I find that sweet spot of focus, without hurting myself even worse the next time? How can I get myself back in the game — in one way, shape, or form — without running the risk of screwing myself up, yet again? I’ve come close to re-injuring myself a number of times since 2004 — the most recent, this past Thanksgiving, on the 9th anniversary of my last and most serious TBI, no less. That’s the ultimate question, and I’ve found a few answers. But I have yet to find a comprehensive solution for this — finding that elusive something that gives me the same sense of completion, satisfaction, and my Self, as the life I had before my TBI in 2004.

I’m still working on it. And speaking of working, I need to get out of my head and go forth into this new day, get some chores done before everything closes down for the day. Find some absorption in what I do, and get myself on the good foot.

Getting back up again

The Crash Reel is in theaters as of yesterday, and I’m going to see if I can find it near where I live. I really want to see it all in one go.


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.