“Purpose is about a process and a journey, not a destination. I can not know until I know and knowing just takes what it takes. There are no shortcuts, “silver bullets” or “magic potions”. By accepting that reality, I am given the gift of knowing by not giving up. I am given the gift of knowing by trusting the process, a loving God and myself.” Craig J. Phillips MRC, BA
On Saturday, May 16, 2020, I was asked to speak to the upcoming Fayetteville NC Brain Injury Support Group Zoom meeting on June 9, 2020 at 6:30-8:00 p.m. meeting. Topic: Finding Purpose after Brain Injury
Below is what LED me to find purpose after my brain injury.
Questions I Needed to Ask
Will I ever feel Normal?
What is my Destiny?
When will I Find my Destiny?
How will I Find my Destiny?
So where do I go from Here?
What is Very Important to Remember
You and I are not our brain injuries.
You and I are not defined by labels and societal stigmatization.
Our brain injuries were only an event that occurred in our lives.
Our brain injuries do not have to define who we are as individuals.
We are not our deficits or limitations.
What we Can Do to Empower our Lives
Grieve the impact of our brain injuries. Grieve the impact of what I am powerless to change.
Confront our Denial, Face our Anger, Work through our Bargaining, Embrace our Depression, Accept our Reality
Awareness, Acceptance, and Action
Rail Roads — Brain injury was a switch on the railroad of life, pointing me in a different direction. A direction in which I get to learn how to use my gifts, talent, and abilities in ways that work for me.
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Helen Keller
“Regardless of your lot in life, you can build something beautiful on it.” Zig Ziglar
“It is not as important what happens to us, as how we respond to what happens to us.” Craig J. Phillips MRC, BA
Concepts that Empower the Process of Finding and Living our Destiny
Learning Styles / Strategies — How we learn may have changed after we sustained our brain injuries. Get tested to find out how you learn –Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic or a combination of these learning styles.
Jigsaw Puzzle — Learning from one circumstance (puzzle piece) to be able to step on another puzzle piece. Puzzle pieces will connect as I learn each lesson.
Baking Cakes — learning to combine ingredients — Sensei gives me ingredients to put together to become a black belt
Tapestries — Each thread (combined threads) look like jumbled threads on one side of the tapestry, on the other side combined create a beautiful story.
Elephant Riddle — Question — How do you eat an elephant? Answer — One bite at a Time
Light Bulbs — Thomas Edison
Strike Outs — Babe Ruth
Circumstances — lessons, opportunities, more lessons and opportunities
Tortoise and the Hare
Bruce Lee’s Philosophy — Research your own experience, absorb what is useful, reject what is useless. And add specifically your own creation.
My Process and Journey
I share my process and journey during the past 53 years to encourage individuals attending the meeting. Encourage individuals attending the meeting to not give up on the process, a loving God, or themselves.
In my experience I need to grow in awareness, acceptance and action. I need to learn how to trust the process, a loving God, and myself. I need to be willing to do the foot work while letting go of the outcomes and timing. I need to trust that the pieces of the puzzle will connect at the right time and in the right order.
What it was Like, What Happened, and What is it Like Now.
Open Skull Fracture
I sustained a traumatic brain injury in a car accident with family members when I was 10 years old in 1967. Open skull fracture with right frontal lobe damage, a severe brain bruise with brain stem involvement. Fractured left femur. Was in a coma for 3 weeks. After waking up from the coma thought I had been in a bad dream. Remember feeling the right front side of my forehead and noticing it felt like a shallow bowl.
Fractured Left Femur (Thigh Bone)
Woke up to find that I was in traction to set my left femur. Remained in traction for 6-7 weeks and then placed in a full body ( Spica) cast for an additional 5-6 months. After the Spica cast was removed I attended several physical therapy appointments and then was on my own. I taught myself how to walk again, although the process was very painful. I remember limping for a long time because my left leg was shorter than my right leg.
Taught myself how to walk, talk, read, wright and speak in complete sentences by the grace of God, hard work, tenacity and determination. Once I learned how to walk, I underwent 2 EEGs and Psycho Social Testing. The results from these tests were shared with my parents, however they decided to not share the results with me. Once my external wounds healed the impact of my traumatic brain injury was never again factored into my difficulties. Was tutored at home for my 5th grade and main streamed in the 6th grade.
I would find out from my Mom the day I obtained and graduated with my masters degree that I was not supposed to be able to succeed beyond high school academically. The EEG’s and Cognitive/Psycho social testing showed I would probably not be able to succeed beyond high school academically.
I grew up believing that I was responsible for how people treated me. I grew believing that I was not enough. Experienced a tremendous amount of shame. Constantly said I was sorry for everything. My 9th grade teacher gave me an assignment to complete at home. Write, “I am sorry 500 times”, thinking that the assignment would stop me from saying I was sorry. I kept saying I was sorry.
I obtained my undergraduate degree in 10 years, 2 universities and 1 college. 4 different majors. Geology, Physical Education, Nursing/Emergency Medical Technology and Theology. I obtained my graduate degree in 3 1/2 years, 2 graduate schools. 1 year at Asbury Theological Seminary and 2 1/2 years at the University of Kentucky. I had a long 20 year history of being employed and then being fired, terminated or let go from those non-professional and professional jobs.
Difficulties in Undergraduate and Graduate Programs
Pima Community College
Asked to leave the LPN (license practical nursing program).
Oral Roberts University
Parents were asked to meet with the undergraduate program chair at Oral Roberts University.
Asbury Theological Seminary
Placed on probation for 1 year by the Asbury Theological Seminary due to a reference recommendation by one of my undergraduate teachers who I asked to write a letter of recommendation to include with my application packet to the seminar. Due to a poor evaluation by my J-term supervisor at a local hospital I was not permitted to start my second year at seminary. First had to undergo counseling for a year and then be reconsidered to continue my graduate studies with Asbury Theological Seminary.
University of Kentucky — Graduate Program in Rehabilitation Counseling
After not being able to complete my 1st practicums in the university graduate program, the program chair told me that he would remove me from the program if I did not successfully complete a 2nd practicum. Passed that practicum, but received a poor internship evaluation. Consequently, the graduate school program chair told me that he would not let me know if I would be allowed to graduate with my masters degree until the coffee an hour before the graduation ceremonies. I was allowed to graduate.
Was fired from my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th professional jobs after graduate school. Became a client of the Florida Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) while still working as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. This occurred while I was still on probation and after I disclosed to my supervisor that I sustained a traumatic brain injury when I was 10 years old. After my probational period ended, I was fired as a voc rehab counselor, but remained as a client of DVR. After a failed job placement I was terminated as a client of the DVR. I applied 2 times for SSDI in Florida.
Recruited to North Carolina as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor by an Insurance Company (Worker’s Compensation) in 1996. Was fired 4 months later. Applied for and was accepted as a client of the North Carolina Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. After completing the evaluation process I was told by my vocational rehabilitation counselor that I was unemployable in her report. I made my 3rd application for SSDI in North Carolina 1997-98. After my 3rd application and 20 years of getting fired from non-professional and professional jobs I was unemployable and disabled.
When I Reached a Point in My Life
In my experience, I needed to get to a point in my life when I realized that I was powerless to change how my life was being impacted by circumstances that were out of my control. When I reached this point in my life I was able to begin to confront my denial. By confronting my denial I was able to begin to grieve my reality. The reality of how my traumatic brain injury and invisible disability impacts my life and well-being. Apart from grieving my reality, I realized that I could not get on with my life. Get on with my ability to use what works for me.
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Helen Keller
Could no Longer Deny
In my experience, I had to reach a point in my life that denying my reality was more painful than my need to deny my reality in an attempt to prove that there was nothing wrong with me. In my experience, I found that I had to grieve my reality through the process of moving through the 5 stages of grieving – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I needed to grieve my reality so that I could begin to accept my reality. What I also discovered was that as I grew in my acceptance of my reality, I grew in awareness. My awareness helped me to take a different action.
Interest Inventories and Career Assessments
When at the university and college I took a wide battery of Interest inventories and career assessments in my pursuit of finding my purpose. In my experience, I found that all these interest inventories and career assessment tests proved to be helpful in clarifying, but not helpful in practicality. Practicality in that the results did not take into account the impact of the injury to my brain or my invisible disability. Career assessments and interest inventories pointed me in the direction, but I was the only one who could find out how to use my gifts, talents and abilities.
Told that I was Unemployable and declared Disabled
Because I was conditioned to believe that my purpose was tied to a job I felt at a loss after being told that I was unemployable by my department of vocational rehabilitation counselor and declared disabled by the social security administration in December 1998. Nevertheless, I still had desire to find and use my purpose. In my quest to find and use my purpose I started writing poems, an autobiography and a book that I attempted to get published. After a friend, told me my material would be “ripe for a blog”, I created Second Chance to Live on February 6, 2007.
Second Chance to Live gave me a medium to share what I have learned in ways that work for me, for people who want what I have to give to fulfill my purpose.
To read more about the back story of Second Chance to Live
The Gift of Acceptance
Below is a list of actions that my resolving and accepting my reality brought about in my life. What I share below is a work in progress for me. I have not arrived, but I am aware. Although brief, the bullets give me solutions to living life on life’s terms. The solutions have been birthed out of my struggle and commitment to my recovery process. As shared above, the solutions did not come overnight. The lessons that brought about these awareness’ and solutions came through hard work and commitment A commitment to not giving up on the process, a loving God, and myself.
- Pursue excellence, instead of being driven by perfectionism.
- Do the footwork and let go of the outcomes of my footwork.
- Trust the process, a loving God and myself.
- See that my circumstances are a way to build me up, not to keep me down.
- See that I am not my traumatic brain injury or my invisible disability.
- See that that the disappointments and disillusionment that I experienced for many years as important parts of my process.
- See how these events moved me from one piece of the puzzle to another piece of the puzzle in the direction of my destiny.
- Find ways to use what I could do through my gifts, talents, and abilities in ways that would work for me for people who would want what I had to give.
- Accept my inability to do some things because of my deficits and limitations and stop berating myself for my inability to do those things.
- Live and explore outside of the box that societal stigmatization sought to keep me in through dismissing, discounting, patronizing, minimization and marginalization.
- Begin to love, accept and celebrate who I am as an individual who is living with residual deficits and limitations from the injury to my brain.
- To stop fighting against myself while defending the denial system that kept me believing that I was bad and defective.
- Defective because of the residual deficits and limitations from the injury to my brain injury.
- To break free from the denial system that kept me feeling like a mistake because I was unable to not be affected by the residual deficits and limitations.
- To know when I was being bullied.
- Could accept the things I can not change, change the things I can, have the wisdom to know the difference and then be at peace with that difference.
- Make peace with a loving God and myself.
- Stop being the identified patient. For more information, please read my 2 part article: Traumatic Brain Injury and the Identified Patient — Part 1, Traumatic Brain Injury and the Identified Patient — Part 2
- See life is a process, a journey not a destination.
- Realize that all I could do is the footwork and then trust a loving God with the outcomes.
- Realize that my job is to learn “how-to” from various ingredients and then combine what “I learned” together to bake various cakes.
- Realize that there is no such thing as failure, only an opportunity to learn.
- So that I could see what I did not understand as switches on the railroad of life – that help to redirect my life to keep me moving in the direction of my destiny.
- Realize that what occurs in my life is meant to set me up, not set me back.
- Realize that the process (what I am learning) is more important than the destination (where I think I should end up).
- Stop living for the “when” in life, so that I could begin to live in “now” in life.
- See that my circumstances are not meant to keep me down, but they are meant to build me up.
- Learn from the lesson of the caterpillar and the butterfly. The struggle is essential to be strong enough to fly.
- So that I could learn from the Elephant’s riddle. Achieving goals, one bite at a time.
- Keep stepping up to the plate and not give up trying: Home runs, strikeouts (Babe Ruth) and light bulbs (Thomas Edison)
- Begin to see achieving goals is like gathering ingredients and baking cakes
- Realize that multicolored threads (many times jumbled) being used to create a beautiful tapestry (my life).
- Understand the parable of the “cracked pots”
- Understand the power of identification, to avoid the comparison trap.
- Share with traumatic brain injury survivors that there is hope. Suicide is a permanent solution for a temporary problem. Don’t give up!!!
- Realize that it is not as important what happened or happens to me, as what I do with what happened or happens to me.
- Realize that there is no such thing as a happy victim.
- Living beyond the box that societal stigmatization seeks to place me in through minimization and marginalization.
- See disappointment, discouragement, and disillusionment as an opportunity.
- Comprehend the principle of progress, not perfection.
- Realize that my dreams and my destiny were not out of my reach because of my traumatic brain injury and invisible disability.
- Learn how to trust my judgment instead of defaulting to other people’s judgment.
- Learn how to harness my adversity, instead of feeling defeated by my adversity.
- Allow my experiences to teach me lessons that prepare me for opportunities, that provide experiences that teach me lessons.
- Lessons, experiences, and opportunities are all pieces of my puzzle that are leading me in the direction of my destiny.
- So that I could make peace with my past, so that my past would no longer spoil my present.
- Realize that all I could do is the footwork and then trust the outcomes to a loving God.
- Realize that with all learning there is a learning curve.
- Accept that I don’t have to have or know the big picture to have peace in my life.
- Realize that the pieces of my experience will come together at the right time and in the right order.
- Trust that the “dots” will connect forward.
- Be able to distinguish between whether a social group was good for me or not good for me. If I was being bullied by the group.
Through my Ongoing Process and Journey I Learned Lessons. I created a List of Resources for share these Lessons through Articles, Video Presentations, Slide Show presentations, eBooks and Posters. Below are links to these Lessons.
Resources Created for and Available on Second Chance to Live
Below is a list of articles and video presentation titles placed in different categories. Categories designed to encourage and empower individuals in their ongoing brain injury recovery.
By clicking on the titles, the article will open for you. As you read the article (s) and watch the video presentations and questions come to mind, please share them with me. If the articles and video presentations help you, please leave a comment. Please also share your insights with me.
As you have questions, please ask. All questions are good questions and welcomed.
Demonstrations of My using the Principle of Neuroplasticity
In April of 2019, at the encouragement of a friend, I created a Facebook Community. Building Your Life after Traumatic Brain Injury Facebook Community. You are welcome and encouraged to join our inviting community.
For more Insight into my Process and Journey, click on the below Links