Hi, and welcome back to Second Chance to Live. While listening to the news recently I heard several reporters comment on the topic of head and brain trauma. In the first incident the reporter mentioned that although a man had died and was without brain activity, he was revived and then remained in a 3 week long coma. The reporter went on to say that the man woke from the 3 week long coma and although he is having difficulty speaking he is OK. In the second incident, the reporter told of a woman who accidentally accelerated her SUV as she was pulling out of her driveway. As a result, her SUV went off of a 200-foot cliff and then rolled several times. The reporter went on to say that fire fighters were able to pull her out of her SUV. The reporter went on to say that the woman sustained some head injuries, however those injuries did not appear to be life threatening.
Both of these reporters illustrate a common misconception. In the process they minimize and marginalize the significance of brain injuries. I have heard other reporter’s state, she/he was in an accident, but she/he is OK; she/he just had a head injury. I do not know if these statements are made out of ignorance or a lack of awareness. The brain in each person is a massive computer that regulates every function that the body executes which in turn enables the individual to perform activities of daily living. When a person’s brain is damaged – for whatever reason – their lives are forever changed. So when you in the media and news outlets report on a soldier or someone else who has sustained a traumatic brain injury please do not exhibit a cavalier attitude toward their traumatic brain injuries. Brain injuries are forever. I can speak from personal experience.
My traumatic brain injury occurred in 1967 as a result of a motor vehicle accident and I remained in a coma for 3 weeks. Please read My Journey thus Far to gain further insight. My point is that I have experienced many subsequent events related to having an invisible disability. For sake of providing practical insight I will include a list of what I now know. Today I now know that I am an empowered being who is learning to live life on life’s terms because I know that my circumstances are not meant to keep me down, but they are meant to build me up!
I know that I was in a car accident.
I know that I fractured my left femur
I know that I fractured my skull
I know that I was in a coma for 3 weeks
I know that I had right frontal lobe damage
I know that I had a severe brain contusion
I know that my brain stem was impacted
I know that I was in traction for 5-6 weeks
I know that I was in a Spica or full body cast for 4-5 months
I know that I was not supposed to live the night of the accident
I know that I had brain and skull surgery
I know that I had follow-up testing after I underwent brain and skull surgery when I was 10 years old –EEG’s and other cognitive / psyche /social testing
I know that I was not supposed to succeed beyond high school academically
I know that I taught myself how to walk, talk, read, write and speak in complete sentences because of the injury to my brain
I know that I obtained both my undergraduate and graduate degrees
I know that I had ongoing difficulties interacting with people because of my traumatic brain injury
I know that I have difficulties learning sequences of information
I know that I get overwhelmed by too much information / external stimuli
I know that I have a hard time connecting the dots in complex situations
I know that I have an invisible disability
I know that I have been misunderstood too many time to count
I know that I need more time to learn and synthesize information
I know that I had many times in my life when to give up would have been much easier
I know that I am a not a victim
I know that my tenacity and persistence has benefited my ability to overcome barriers and obstacles
I know that I have come along ways in my recovery path from codependency, shame, people pleasing, approval seeking and feeling responsible for other people and their choices
I know that I had many jobs that ended — due to being let go, given the option to leave or terminated because I was told that the job and I did not fit
I know that I went for many years believing that I was bad, wrong or some how defective because I did not know I had difficulties reading subtleties and social nuances because of the damage to my executive center
I know that I was told that if I just keep my mouth shut, I would not have difficulties with people
I know that I have difficulties following instructions that involved sequences of information
I know that I have difficulties adjusting when the rules would change and I would be expected to adapt immediately
I know that I learn best through repetition when I can set at my own pace
I know that in my experience I had to learn what my role was in the family system so that I could break free of that role
I know that I had to begin to accept that I was a traumatic brain injury survivor before I could begin to heal I know that my circumstances and experiences are pointing me in the direction of my destiny
I know that I can not see my reality through the eyes of another person
I know that I can not convince anyone of anything when they do not have eyes to see or ears to hear
I know that I have been minimized and marginalized through out my lifetime because of ignorance
I know that I was criticized for not being more when I was doing my very best
I know that I lived in a world of debilitating shame and debilitating guilt for too many years
I know that in many instances I was expected to carry people’s shame for what they did not understand
I know that when people do not carry their own shame, they will seek to have other people carry their shame for them
I know that I am not responsible for how people chose to react. Reacting is a very personal choice
I know that hurt people hurt people
I know that I can not afford to live in another person’s denial system for me
I know that I have specific talents, gifts and abilities that are not subservient to my disability, deficits or limitations.
I know that I am not my traumatic brain injury, my deficits or limitations
I know that I am meant to succeed in life because of my disabilities, deficits and limitations.
I know that I needed to make peace with myself before I could be able to discover and celebrate my worth and value as a person who has been impacted by a brain injury.
I know that I had to embrace and love the child within me who grew up with an invisible disability without knowing the impact
I know that I am not a victim of my circumstances
I know that my reality can no longer be defined through the eyes of my parents, my peers, my teachers or my experiences.
I know that my worth is not based on how I perform, but who I am
I know that I am in peace with God.
I know that I can trust the process, a loving God and myself
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