Hello and welcome back to Second Chance to Live. I am happy to see that you decided to stop by to visit with me. In my last article, An Article Comment: Why Gabby Gifford’s Frustrates Me I shared how denial impeded my ability to move forward with my life as a traumatic brain injury survivor. Please let me clarify why I left a comment and then posted the comment here on Second Chance to Live. I posted and published the comment because we as brain injury survivors are all too often minimized, marginalized, dismissed and discounted.
I wrote the comment not to minimize or marginalize anyone’s efforts to recover from the effects of a brain injury, but to advocate for brain injury survivors. In my experiences, as a brain injury survivor, I once bought into the notion that I was my brain injury. I had a difficult time differentiating between who I was as an individual and who I was as an individual living with a brain injury. Through my recovery process, I discovered that I was / am more than my brain injury. By addressing my denial and learning to accept myself, I started a new adventure.
Through my recovery process, I discovered that although I have limitations and deficits that limit what I can do, I discovered that I could begin to use my gifts, talents and abilities in ways that would work for me.
As I have shared through my 7 part article series, My Journey thus Far I changed majors (undergraduate) 4 times on my way to obtaining my undergraduate degree. I attended 2 graduate school before I obtained my graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling. I pursued career paths in the ministry, nursing, emergency medicine, chemical dependency counseling, public and private rehabilitation and in both the funeral and cemetery industries. Each of my efforts failed – not because I did not try, but because of the impact of my traumatic brain injury and invisible disability which was set in motion in 1967.
Because I ardently attempted to succeed both academically and career wise – with repeated and ongoing failure — I experienced ongoing disappointment and discouragement. Because I repeatedly found that my efforts to succeed were dashed by disappointment and discouragement, I saw my efforts as failures. Consequently, I found myself internalizing my failures as an indictment of who I was as an individual – a failure. I continued to berate my efforts and myself until I reached a point in my life when I realized that I could no longer deny my reality.
In my experience, I found that by confronting my denial, I was able to slowly stop fighting against myself. By grieving my reality, I was able to begin to see that I could use my gifts, talents and abilities in ways that would work for me. By grieving my reality, I began to see my “failures” in a different light. By grieving my reality and coming to a place of acceptance of my reality, I began to understand that my “failures” were not “indictments” against myself, but instead that my “failures” were in reality guides to direct my life. Guides to show me what I could not do, so that I could find out what I could do as an individual living with a brain injury.
I began to see my“failure’s” as guides, instead of as indictment’s against my worth and value as an individual. I began to see my “failures” as mechanisms, set in place to empower my capacity to empower my process. I began to see my failures as instruments that enabled me to empower the lives of individuals that a loving God would bring into my life. I began to realize that I could celebrate what I could do with my life, instead of berating myself for what I could not do as an individual living with a brain injury. With my awareness, I was able to stop fighting against myself for what I could not do as an individual living with a brain injury. With my awareness, I was able to begin celebrating myself as a unique individual who possessed vibrant gifts, talents and abilities.
Although we may have sustained a traumatic brain injury – and we may have limitations and deficits – we can learn to use our gifts, talents and abilities in ways that work for us. We can learn to use what we have learned to empower our process. We no longer need to look at what we can not do as failure.
Instead, we can look at what we can not do as guides. Instead of looking at what we can not do – as an indictment of ourselves – we can focus on what we can do as individuals living with brain injuries.
Consequently, we can stop fighting against ourselves. Consequently, we can be empowered and we can empower. Consequently, we can celebrate who we are as unique individuals living with brain injuries. Consequently, we can celebrate who we are as unique individuals who possess vibrant gifts, talents and abilities.
“I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” Helen Keller
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