In yesterday’s article, My Experience Living with a Traumatic Brain Injury I shared the “skeleton” of my experience living with a traumatic brain injury. In today’s article, I would like to put “meat on the bones” by sharing a more in-depth explanation of what I experienced during my lifetime. On February 18, 2007, I began a series My Journey thus Far to share what I learned through my process of growing up with and the impact of living with a traumatic brain injury and an invisible disability. In today’s article, I will elaborate on what I started in February 2007. What I bring that is unique is that I have 48 + years post injury, have worked diligently on my own holistic (body, soul, and spirit) recovery process, have a master’s degree and have worked as a master’s level rehabilitation counselor in various settings.
What I share in the below article may give you once hidden insights into your living with a traumatic brain injury and an invisible disability, as well as serve, to inspire you to keep on keeping on as you live your life with a brain injury and an invisible disability.
During my lifetime, I have been confronted with challenges, obstacles, and disappointments. In the scope of this brief autobiography, I will share some of these events and circumstances. The purpose of sharing my experiences with you is not to blame, shame or to point a finger in anyone’s direction. I have found that little benefit comes through such behavior. Living life on life’s terms, to me, means that I deny the notion that I am a victim of my circumstances. I have also arrived at some simple but profound conclusions. It is my belief that I cannot hope to know until I have learned the lesson. These lessons have often come through the pain of struggle. I have also come to believe that life is best understood backward, and that is good enough just for today. I also believe that perfection is a myth that if sought after will only bind one’s soul from being able to celebrate the journey and process.
Pursuing excellence, on the other hand, encourages creative expression, and creative expression gives meaning to all life.
With this being said, I will begin. I learned at an early age that good was not quite good enough. I was also led to believe that my meaning and purpose was connected to what I accomplished. Because my best was seldom good enough, I rarely believed that I was quite good enough because I did not live up to expectations. In the context of measuring up to expectations, I was led to believe that it was my responsibility to take care of other people emotionally before I could hope to have a sense of well-being. If someone was out of sorts emotionally, I internalized responsibility for their distress. Consequently, I would attempt to fix them emotionally. If I could not appease or “fix” them emotionally, I would be blamed for their irritability, restlessness, and discontentment. I would then in turn shame myself for not being able to “fix” them emotionally and in the process feel abandoned.
These combined messages kept me confused, bewildered and anxious for many years as I was rarely able to meet their expectations and/or able to “fix” people emotionally. A significant event occurred when I was 10 years old that further complicated my ability to read, anticipate of understanding where other people ended and I began. My family was in a motor vehicle accident. We were in our Volkswagen Beetle on our way home from doing some shopping, when a woman traveling in the opposite direction, in her Cadillac; ran off the side of the road, hit a pole and then ricocheted over 2 lanes and across a grass median before hitting our car in the passing lane going in the other direct. Upon impact — the Cadillac hitting our Volkswagen Beetle — I was catapulted from the back seat, behind my father who was driving to the inside of the windshield on the passenger side.
On the way forward, I fractured my left femur (thigh bone) on the back of my Dad’s bucket seat and then hit the windshield. As a result of making contact with the windshield, I sustained an open skull fracture. The consequences of my skull being fractured resulted in damage to my right frontal lobe (executive center functioning), a severe brain contusion (bruising of my brain as it was jostled against the inside of the skull), and some brain stems involvement/damage. I was in a coma for 3 weeks, traction for 6-7 weeks to set my femur and then placed in a Spica or full body cast for 4-5 months. Shortly after being placed in the full body cast, I was transferred to another hospital where I underwent brain and skull surgery. In the follow-up to the brain surgery, I underwent a battery of tests (EEG’s and cognitive/ psycho/social) to determine the damage to my brain from the accident.
The results from these tests were given to my parents. My parents were told — that due to the extent of my brain injury — I would probably not be able to succeed beyond high school. My parents made the decision — at the time — not to reveal the findings of these tests results. I did not become aware of the results from these tests until after I obtained my Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling — some 29 years later. 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 the impact and significance of my brain injury would lie dormant for many years.
From the age of 10, I sought to resolve to have 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 boatload 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 that I received; I had a difficult time trusting anyone, including myself. As a result, I bought into the notion that I was on my own to figure things out.
Because I grew up not knowing how my life was being impacted by a traumatic brain injury and I was living with an invisible disability, I experienced a sense of alienation from both other people and myself, as well as a feeling of isolation. 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 a scapegoat — 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 in my attempts to be enough.
Perfectionism — believing that I had to be perfect to be OK — fueled my low self-esteem, my insecurities and my sense of low self-worth. Perfectionism drove me to do more, in an attempt to be enough so that people would not go away. Perfectionism led me to believe that if I was good enough people would not go away and as a result, I would feel safe and secure.
In my attempt to be perfect, I strove to over achieve. 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 for not meeting expectations. The reason why I dreaded being shamed, blamed and abandoned was that to be abandoned by anyone 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 had 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 victorious overcomer 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 then attended Asbury Theological Seminary for 1 year to pursue the ministry.
As with other educational pursuits involving practicums, my time at Asbury Theological Seminary was cut short due to learning disabilities. Learning disabilities, that interfered with my ability to read people and situations. Learning disabilities that interfered with my ability to understand and follow sequences of instruction. The impact of which I am glad that I did not give up. The impact of which resulted in my taking 10 years to obtain my Undergraduate degree and obtain my BA and 3 1/2 year with 2 different graduate schools to obtain my Master’s degree. The impact of which, unbeknownst to me at the time; which resulted in many of my disappointments and experience with discouragement. The impact for which I set off on my earlier crusade to root out the reasons for my difficulties. The impact of which, I was highly motivated to look for the solution to the reasons why…
Reasons why I had difficulties interacting with supervisors, peers, and clinical placements. In my pursuit, I was led to begin attending support group meetings. My journey with these support group meetings started some 29 years ago. As part of my journey, I have had the opportunity to grow in my awareness. Although I was still in denial concerning my traumatic brain injury, I discovered that there were factors that contributed to the difficulties that I had been experiencing. Among these awareness’s, I have come to realize that I can not “fix” people. I can not make people “OK” with themselves, no more than they can make me “OK”. With my awareness, I discovered that I was the only one who could make me OK with myself. I discovered that I no longer needed to make people OK with me be OK with myself. With my awareness, I discovered that I need to keep my side of the street clean.
Keep my side of the street clean while allowing and giving other people the dignity to keep their side of the street clean. Through my process, I discovered that I could be a channel of God’s kindness and mercy, as I allow Him to work through me; but only God can intervene to fix people and situations. I can be a “channel” or “conduit” that brings about healing in other people’s live, but I am not the source of that healing. I can only give what I have been given and God is the only One who can change hearts and lives.
For many years of my life, I bought into a denial system that did not allow me to accept my reality – being a traumatic brain injury survivor living with an invisible disability. Not only did I buy into that system, but I sought to justify and defend the denial system. In the process, I had no idea that I was living with limitations and deficits that impeded my ability to be successful in the traditional sense. Because I was unable to maintain employment – because of my unknown deficits and limitations – I experienced a tremendous amount of financial insecurity. Nevertheless, I attempted to gain and maintain employment in a variety of settings and positions. Although I was unable to maintain these positions and stay gainfully employed, these varied positions gave me insight into a holistic awareness of human need, which has subsequently given me insight into receiving and offering hope
In practical application, I have worked as a mental health aid/counselor within a 28-day residential chemical dependency treatment center for dually diagnosed individuals. I have worked with in a day treatment and partial hospitalization program to assist adults living with various kinds of diagnosed mental health issues. I have assisted families and individuals while working within the field of nursing – certified nursing assistant and didactic / clinical training on the licensed practical nurse level. I have assisted individuals and families in pre-need planning while working within both the cemetery and funeral industries. I have worked with in the ministry before and while I attended seminary. As a master’s level rehabilitation counselor and a certified rehabilitation counselor I have sought to empower individuals living with disabilities in both the private and public sectors.
To gain insight into my 2 experiences, as a client; with the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, please was these 2 video presentations, by clicking on these links: My First Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Experience and My Second Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Experience.
Although I was deemed to be unemployable by the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and no one seemed to want what I had to give, I still had a desire to be of service. With time and as I began to accept my reality, I began to realize that my varied life experiences — my educational endeavors, my vocational pursuits, my recovery process and my experience of living with adversity — all gave me a strong foundation upon which I could build to be of service. I began building on this foundation through my first book — Table Topics for the Soul — Journey to the Heart – which is registered with the Library of Congress Copyright © 2006. I then wrote an autobiography to chronicle my experiences and what I learned through living with a traumatic brain injury and invisible disability from the age of 10. Although neither were published, both were a foundation to build on.
With the encouragement of a friend on February 6, 2007, I continued to build upon the foundation that had been laid. After doing extensive research I decided to create a blog on WordPress.com. With the encouragement of my martial arts instructor – Sensei – to name my blog with my mission and vision in mind I settled upon the name of Second Chance to Live. Second Chance to Live provides practical solutions and strategies for living our lives on life’s terms, one day at a time — as we move toward our dreams and our destinies. Second Chance to Live provides hope for anyone who has been touched by adversity. Second Chance to Live reminds us that our circumstances are meant to build us up, not to keep us down. Because I was committed to being of service, Second Chance to Live gave me the avenue and medium to use my gifts, talent, and abilities in ways that work for me.
To gain insight into what I encountered and overcame in the process of creating Second Chance to Live you may read my 2 part article Back Story of Second Chance to Live, by clicking on the following 2 links:
Since creating Second Chance to Live, I have written and published 1602 articles, some of which have been published in professional journal both domestically and internationally. See my Publications and Honor page. On July 29, 2011, I began creating and uploading video presentations to YouTube and to date I have created 315 video presentations Second Chance to Live 2dogbull. In the summer of 2014, I created a list of categories on a variety of topics for both my articles and video presentations Article and Video Presentation Categories. Earlier this year I created 10 eBooks and made those available free Second Chance to Live — My 5 eBooks — Free for Download for download. On June 16, 2015, I launched another website to share what I have identified to be “blocks” to hope and ways to create hope in our lives. The website, Create a Spark of Hope.
To gain an even more in-depth look into my process and journey, please visit this article that I wrote in preparation for a keynote presentation by clicking on this link: Back Ground Information for Keynote Presentation Craig Phillips Founder and Creator Second Chance to Live Southwest Conference on Disability 2013.
You have my permission to share my articles and or video presentations with anyone you believe could benefit, however, I maintain ownership of the intellectual property AND my articles, video presentations and eBooks are not to be considered OPEN SOURCE. Please also provide a link back to Second Chance to Live. In the event that you have questions, please send those questions to me. All questions are good questions. I look forward to hearing from you. Copyright 2007 -2017.