The accident happened in 1967. At that time, there was a limited understanding into neurological rehabilitation, at least in my circumstances. Consequently, I was on my own. I taught myself how to walk, talk, speak in complete sentences and was mainstreamed back into elementary school. I went on to graduate — on time — with my high school class in 1975.
Because I was able to perform and succeed academically and was able to overcome many obstacles, the impact and significance of my brain injury would lie dormant for many years. From the age of 10, I sought to resolve having an unknown invisible disability (being an individual living with a brain injury) with a belief system that convinced me that I had to be perfect to prove my worth and value. Needless to say, the injury to my brain consistently impeded my ability to be perfect.
Consequently, I developed a pervasive sense of shame, a low self-esteem as well and a boat load of insecurities.
My belief system — at the time — led me to believe that I was intrinsically defective at the core of my being. Because I bought into the notion that I was defective — I did not believe that I could be loved unconditionally by anyone — much less the God of my understanding. Because of the come close — go away conditioning I did not believe that I could trust anyone. Consequently, although I was told that I could trust, I believed — on a core level — that I had to figure things out for myself.
In the process, I experienced alienation and isolation. I felt alienated and isolated from other people — and myself — because I could never quite figure out why I was unable to measure up to the expectations. In my striving to measure up to the expectations — to avoid being blamed, shamed or scapegoated — I found myself caught up in perfectionism. In my efforts to live up to being perfect, I developed a grandiose sense of responsibility as I attempted to overcompensate for not being perfect. The cycle to be perfect — yet not being able to measure up to expectations — set me up to be what I have heard called a human doing.
Perfectionism — believing that I had to be perfect to be OK — fueled my low self-esteem, my insecurities, the impact of living with a brain injury and an invisible disability and my ongoing ability to trust anyone, including the God of my understanding.
In addition to over achieving, I resorted to people pleasing and approval seeking. When people pleasing and approval seeking proved to be ineffective, I tried to anticipate what others expected, wanted or needed through mind reading. Needless to say, I found out that I could not read minds. Consequently, all too often I found myself saying, “I am sorry” for everything under the sun. In the 6th grade my English teacher gave me an assignment to write, “I am sorry” 500 times thinking that would somehow stop me saying, “I am sorry”.
I also tried to control outcomes and force solutions, so that I could avoid the pain of being shamed, blamed and scapegoated. The reason why I dreaded being shamed, blamed and abandoned was that to be abandoned meant that I was inherently bad and defective. At the bottom of the spiral of believing that I was bad and defective was a dread of self-annihilation — not suicide — but the feeling that I simply did not matter. The fear of abandonment — emotional and physical — drove me in my attempts to avoid feeling as though my life has NO meaning, value or significance.
My attempts to ward off my fear of abandonment and my fear of annihilation only seemed to reinforce these fears. The strategies only seemed to reinforce what I had been conditioned to believe — that I did not just make mistakes, but that I was a mistake and that there was nothing that I could do to change that reality. In my anguish and desperation — to find out why I was unable to measure up to the expectations that were set for me, to rid myself of the fear of abandonment and annihilation and to prove my worth and value — I set out on a personal crusade.
In this pursuit, I became obsessively involved with various churches. I spent countless hours saturating myself in bible study, scripture memory and listening to a wide array of teachers –from charismatic, full gospel, fundamental, non-denominational, and denominational churches — and their leadership. I attempted to apply what I was learning, but continued to fall short. Some would say that I just did not do enough: pray, read, or believe. To that notion, I would say, “You have no idea what you are talking about my friend”.
My interest was to do whatever it took to become a victorious over comer and at the same time to be of maximum service to the God of my understanding and to my fellow-man. In this pursuit, I went on to obtain my undergraduate degree in theology from Oral Robert’s University. I attended Asbury Theological Seminary for 1 year and then went on to obtain my master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Kentucky.
In my experience and because of my learning disabilities related to my traumatic brain injury and the impact of living with an unknown invisible disability, it took me 10 years and 4 different majors to obtain my undergraduate degree and 4 years and 2 different graduate schools to obtain my graduate degree.
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