January 16, 2019 Ten Year Later…

It’s been 10 years since the moment that re-arranged my life; the fraction of a second when I thought, no, at that moment I knew, that I was going to die. I can still feel the terror that took over me, but 10 years have passed and here I am.

Today, though, I don’t want to relive the horror or focus on all of the subsequent struggles. 

Today, I want to celebrate being alive and reflect on what I’ve learned.

I’m not alone

A few years ago, I joined two Facebook groups intended for people with traumatic brain injury (TBI). It took me a long time to decide to join. For years, I didn’t want to admit that there was something I had, that I couldn’t fix. 

I posted a brief summary of what had happened to me. Immediately there were responses from people welcoming me to the site, to this community, and thanking me for sharing my story. I began to feel like this was more than a remote, digital place, disconnected from me. As I read on through the posts, I saw myself: the same questions; similar worries and familiar fears. 

            I’m tired all the time. 

            It’s been 5, 10, 15, years and I’m still tired. Does anyone else feel this way?

            I used to be an avid reader and now it’s hard from me to concentrate. Anyone else feel this way?

            How can I explain to my friends, wife, husband, children…that I can’t do all the things I used to do? I don’t want to  go to dinners or events because I can’t stand  the noise or the crowds. Its’ so hard to talk about this over and over again.

            Does anyone else have ringing sounds in your head, Tinnitus? What does yours sound like? What do you do about it?

           I hit my head on a door. I’m worried. Should I be worried? I have a headache, but I often have headaches. I feel dizzy. My family thinks I focus too much on my TBI. What should I do? 

 

Wow! I felt exhilarated knowing that I wasn’t alone. I’m not weird or strange. I have kindred folks I can connect to anytime. I only need to log in, say what’s on my mind and scores of people will read my words, nod and say:  This is me.

I don’t need to apologize

            Regardless of how a traumatic brain injury happens, its’ effects remain a part of everyday life. People used to ask about my accident and I would snap, “I didn’t have an accident. I was assaulted.” I wanted it known that I did nothing to cause my injury, as if that somehow purified me and made the injury more acceptable. I thought the word “accident” minimized what had happened to me and somehow implied that I bore some responsibility for my injury. I was frequently explaining my state of mind, or apologizing for being tired or forgetting a word or getting lost or being unable to follow directions. When I realized that I had to shape my life in a way that gave me the most tranquility and comfort and that, in fact, my life did depend of my own actions, I stopped apologizing. I stopped apologizing for the evident symptoms TBI; I stopped explaining that my invisible symptoms could also be debilitating; I stopped apologizing for making decisions that I thought were best for me; I stopped apologizing for discussing my injury or declining to talk about it. I stopped apologizing.

I have so much to be grateful for, but I’m not grateful for having a traumatic brain injury

            I’ve written a book. I have many friends. My life is less complicated than it has ever been. I experience incredible love from scores of people. I am so grateful for the bounty of my life. It is true that the assault and injuries have opened up new worlds to me. I’ve learned a great deal about brain science. I am much more cognizant of how trauma alters daily life and impact classroom learning. 

I’ve learned to live with and around something terrible that happened to me. I don’t, though, assign any deeper meaning to what happened.

IT did not enlarge or enhance my life. 

I have come to understand that we each have a great capacity to choose our response to dreadful happenings. Even in the bleakest situation, we have some power of response, and in doing so we define ourselves, rather than being described by an event.

 I am very grateful for this empowering insight.

There is, of course, so much more to say, learn and hear. Please share your own insights and questions. 

I’ll post again in the next week or so.

JoAnne

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