March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and since I just got the first copies of my book Being Brain Healthy: What my recovery from brain injury taught me and how it can change your life last week, I guess it is time to be very public about the fact that I had a brain injury that changed my life.
If you don’t know me really well or you don’t read my stuff all the time that fact might have slipped by. I am not very public about all of this because I thought that saying that I had a TBI in public would make me vulnerable, destroy my credibility, and leave me looking oh so flawed.
I know that sounds dramatic but let me put this in perspective for you.
Imagine you are a strong, accomplished, professional who, one Tuesday after driving out of the parking lot of the grocery store on your lunch hour, was t-boned by a van and pushed into the middle of traffic at a very busy intersection… and your whole world changes. You are suddenly confused and overwhelmed and feeling oh so vulnerable. That lasts for about 18 months and although you come out OK, you are, without question a different person.
That vulnerable spot, the one where I felt so out of control is not a spot I wanted to re-visit. In the name of self-protection, I kept my brain injury an undercurrent in my writing and in my work but rarely front and center.
I have amazingly supportive friends and family who helped me see that if I wanted my message — that we all can be Brain Healthy by making positive choices and looking for those things that make us live and feel the best — to be relevant, I had to tell my story. So, I did and guess what? I am still OK.
I think the message I want to put out there is this: There is hope and by remaining positive it is possible to come out OK and even embrace the new person who emerges at the other end of the journey.
As I think about Brain Injury Awareness Month and those in midst of the fog, I am reminded of a few key things.
First, most of the time people with brain injuries look sooooo normal. It is those conditions that you can not see that are difficult for both those who are living them and those who are living with and caring for those who are living with them. Please, as my friend Kim Tackett says, Be Kind.
Second, living with, caring for, and cleaning up after someone with a TBI is hard, thankless job. Patience, understanding, and then more patience works…most of the time.
Third, honor those who carry the load. My husband, my son, and a few trusted friends are freaking amazing human beings and I did not always remember to thank them but, I am now. Every chance I get.
Finally, embrace the imperfections in any way possible. My dear friend Kathie (one of those trusted friends mentioned above) still has a scarf I made for her as part of my recovery work. It is a symbol of my imperfections — it is uneven and has holes but every stitch was knitted with every bit of gratitude I could muster.
Check out our resources page for organizations and links to support.
What experience do you have with brain injury?