Sometimes it takes the words of someone else to wake you up.
And while those moments can definitely be humbling, they can also be moments of great growth. This story I write today starts out one way, but you may be surprised by where it ends up.
A while back, I made a commitment to myself. A commitment to claim a part of myself that I’d been shoving under the rug a bit.
July will mark 4 years since I slipped at a restaurant and fell forward into the corner of a free-standing wall.
It changed my life completely.
But you see. On the outside, I look the same.
I spent weeks and weeks in a quiet dark room too light sensitive and sound sensitive to have it any other way. The pain in my neck (whiplash), head (concussion), shoulder and hip (out of place) was an 11 on a 10 scale. But the worst was that the world spun around me constantly. It would not stop spinning (vertigo). Every movement made it worse. And lying flat was out of the question. I had to be perched upright with pillows 24 hours a day. Weeks turned into months as I slowly climbed my way back to health. But even as I recovered I found I was not the same.
I had lost my ability to balance. Walking through the house without running into walls was hard. My math and spelling skills declined to about 4-grade level. My body and brain felt sore and tired ALL of the time. And as the months went by, I slowly sunk into a very depressed state.
It was the love of my partner and a few friends, a very wonderful concussion specialist, and the personal tools in my self-help “toolbox” that got me through the rest of that year.
I give that back story for any of you that don’t know it. Maybe you are new to my list, or maybe somehow you just never knew it.
BUT, If you have ever read my concussion story before, you know how grateful I am for the experience. Completely and utterly grateful.
Despite my depression and pain, as I sat around doing absolutely nothing (because that’s all I could do). I began to think. And ponder. And wonder. And as I felt better… to dream and plan. As I healed, to acknowledge my body and my brain in brand new ways. Because frankly, my brain and body would have it no other way.
So, while I had to learn to balance again and made myself re-learn multiplication, etc. I was also studying about the brain and nervous system and putting the pieces of the puzzle together for myself. I learned about post-concussive syndrome and traumatic brain injury (TBI). I had to learn it on my own because there are SO few people out there talking and educating about it.
I began to put it together in the concepts of movement and healing, and then into learning to love every bit of my imperfect self. I taught myself to be kinder and gentler to me and even to laugh at myself when my brain did (does) silly things that I don’t expect. All of that learning and convalescing of my own body/mind has made me who I am today.
If only you could see the newness inside of me.
Are you wondering where this story goes?
Sorry, trying to get back on topic.
Here’s the thing. I didn’t talk about it much during the first few years, because I didn’t want people to think I was feeling sorry for myself. But, that was hard because it made me feel a little invisible. My TBI affects me every day, all day (if you could see the spelling mistakes in this article as I write, lol). And it probably will for the rest of my life.
When I did begin posting or talking with people a little more about it, sometimes the response was great and other times, it was downplayed to things like.
“Don’t worry, memory loss is just a part of aging. Get used to it.”
“It’s anxiety, try to relax a little.”
Then, I would cringe and wished I’d never posted or spoken about it at all.
I tell you this because there are SOOOO many people who have had a head injury in their life, are impacted greatly, and don’t realize that weird things going on with them can be attributed to their head trauma. People you know.
I’m amazed at how many people have been affected by a TBI. After my accident, my uncle told me he’d been thrown off a horse in his youth and hit his head on a rock when he landed. He was never the same. His brain was completely different after that. But back in those days, he wasn’t even taken to a doctor.
It’s becoming a bigger deal this day in the realms of soccer, football, and hockey sports. So thankfully the word is getting out. I’ve been following some amazing people on Instagram the past year. Doctors, therapists, and TBI survivors that have been sharing their stories. It has helped me to see that it’s good to chat about it openly. I find it incredibly inspiring.
But where is the dividing line between acknowledging something, but also not being held back by it?
That’s the question and the main point of this article.
So yes, while I can laugh at myself because my brain makes up funny words, or I can’t find the particular word or name I’m looking for. That I use a calculator for math because I don’t trust most of my calculations. That I can’t look at things that move too fast, like video games or sometimes even birds flying because it makes me dizzy. (or that I just had to re-spell the word “game” 6 times from that last sentence) J
What I can’t do, is allow it to define what I’m capable of.
And that is what I did the other day.
Do you remember how I opened this piece?
Probably not, as it was ages ago and I went off on a million tangents (although each piece was important to the story).
Here it is again.
“Sometimes it takes the words of someone else to wake you up.”
And while those moments can definitely be humbling, they can also be moments of great growth.
While claiming my story (which was good for me), I also inadvertently allowed my story to claim me (which wasn’t so good for me).
Here’s how it went down.
My husband and I were having a conversation.
He was trying to help me figure something out technologically for my business. I explained how hard it would be for me to switch my brain off and on that quickly to do what he wanted and I needed another solution. (long story).
But what he said in response REALLY ticked me off! He said- “You’ll get it. Just practice.”
When I think about it now, it cracks me up!!
But at the moment, I was absolutely indignant. These are the thoughts that ran through my head (yep, I went there).
“He knows my struggles! How dare he! He can’t see inside my brain, he doesn’t understand!” “I’m finally coming to accept my brain and where it’s at!!”
Do you see where I’m going?
I had allowed myself to accept that my brain would not be able to do it. I found myself taking the easy way out.
It’s embarrassing to even write that. It’s not who I am at all. It’s not what I believe or what I stand for. I know I am capable of anything.
I have devoted the past 4 years to the shear study of the body and brain. I have an awesome brain. (that is not said in a bragging tone at all. We all have awesome brains.)
But this article isn’t about that. It IS about how my tiny decision to acknowledge my TBI slowly grew into acceptance of that being me. And I didn’t even see it coming. My brain, while I wasn’t paying attention, turned my bit of “claiming” into an excuse not to push myself.
ACK! Such a humbling moment.
After much contemplation, I realized something else. I’m not actually always kind to my brain. Not the way I am to my body. It didn’t really occur to me before, you know? With all that I ask of my brain, it really deserves some extra love.
Wow! Mind blown (figuratively, of course)!
My husband’s one single (kind) comment changed my whole outlook.
“You’ll get it. Just practice.” He said.
It’s laughable now. Thankfully.
And it was exactly the kick in the pants that I needed, without even knowing that I needed it.
And so, new thoughts are emerging and new practices. All from that one little moment.
I CAN acknowledge my TBI.
I can understand that my brain doesn’t always work the way I want it to, but I don’t have to accept that it will always be that way.
I CAN talk about it. I feel it really is important that people know and get a basic understanding of Post-Concussive Syndrome and TBI for themselves and their children. But I can do it in a way that is inspiring. To them and myself.
I will NOT give in and simply believe that this is as good as it gets. Nope. Never.
I’m now officially on a brain growth quest for myself. My brain may be a little funky. But I can choose to keep growing it, or I can accept defeat and allow it to decrease with age.
I do not accept defeat.
Just because I own that I’ve had some trauma to my brain, does not mean that I am owned by that trauma. There is a distinction. A big one.
To finish up… Are you wondering how I’m giving my brain that bit of extra love I was talking about earlier?
I’m now using Holosync daily (it’s like brain training- A one-hour meditation that feels like 8 hours to the brain).
Staying on top of my supplements.
Learning Qigong and choosing to make it a daily practice.
And I’m taking a training (of course). To learn new memory tools and create a super brain. (It’s really incredible!)
One sentence said in an unexpected moment, changed so much.
And I’m perfectly grateful.
March is TBI Awareness month.
Thank you for being aware.