March being Brain Injury Awareness Month, I started thinking about awareness and what that meant to me. I thought, not just about others’ awareness of TBI, but the impact better self-awareness, awareness of our own situation and ourselves would have in helping us live the life we want.
Those of us who have had a TBI often get caught up in our day to day struggles and short term issues which sap our energy and frustrate us. These are the things that are right in our face and steal our confidence. Looking back at my own situation, I can see that the first decade and a half following my brain injury was a time of ignorance of what was possible in my life, coupled with a little too much acceptance of my situation. This may have been fueled by the general lack of knowledge of Brain Injury (it being the 1980’s), but was also driven by something missing in me; a definite lack of awareness of my personal power, and the role my lack of personal power played in my life.
I made my first attempt to recapture myself and begin living my life the way I thought I could, fifteen years after my brain injury. The change that I instituted came about, not through an awareness of my brain injury, but an awareness and understanding of me; that I had the power within me to make my life better. This power was not magically dropped into my lap, but was always there; like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, when she found she had had the power to go home all the time in the ruby slippers. She just had to learn how to use that power.
The change I made didn’t have anything to do with where I was living or where I worked. In fact, it had nothing to do with “doing” or accomplishing anything, but it had everything to do with “me”, and with “who I was”. At the time, “who I was”, was a married man with two children who worked as sales manager in a family business, and I was doing my best to forget about my brain injury despite having reminders pop up constantly.
In response to feeling awkward, slow, easily confused and having poor judgement; as well as feeling unsure of myself, not confident and frequently overwhelmed, I began a simple exercise. When someone asked me how I was, I would respond, “Un-believable!!”. The truth was I wasn’t really “Un-believable!!”, but I was determined to take the bull by the horns, and be that way.
There is great power in this word when you say it like you mean it; emphasizing the “Un”, and putting a pause in between “Un” and “Believable”. Practice it a few times. Scream it. I found that the more I said, “Un-believable!”, the more I believed it, and I learned one other thing that was very interesting: people I said it to wanted to be “Un-believable!!” too. They wanted what I had. Some would say wistfully, “I wish I was Un-believable,” and I would tell them they could, they just had to say they were.
Another thing about this word; I stayed “Un-believable!!” even when I messed up. One little mess-up couldn’t change the way I was.
Finding and believing in something positive can be difficult after a brain injury. It is possible, but you have to dare to think big and be stubborn. If you were to take a step back, look at all you have been through and what you have to battle every day, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that alone makes you truly, “Un-believable!!”. Don’t shy away from yourself and your capabilities, but claim success. Believe it and it will be so.
****On a side note, I would like to point you to the blog of someone who has done an “Un-believable!!” job of living his life after brain Injury. Please check out Papa’s blog at www.papas-travels.blogspot.com. Thanks, J
I have always believed in the concept of positive affirmation of self. I think that is how I have come so far after my injury even though those around me were telling me to get on SSI because I “couldn’t do it anymore.” ‘IT’ being work, parent my children, own my house and reside in the state I had lived in my whole life, and every other ‘normal person’ activity. Unfortunately, a recent incident has pointed out the social and cognitive issues that were neglected during my physical recovery. I can write thoughtful, intelligent communication; however, face to face I feel completely inept socially, closed mouth, uncomfortable and afraid of the possibility of the occasional inappropriate response. Although I am working on these issues with mostly successful outcomes, it seems that I am unable to continuosly maintain the belief that I will someday feel confident and intelligent among my peers again.
Jeff Sebell says
Kara, you bring up some very good points. “Recovery” is different for everyone, and it is so, so complicated. Being able to re-learn important skills is but a first step in what can be along process. I know I’ve struggled with the “idea” of being recovered, while feeling deficient in certain important areas. I know you aren’t alone in finding out you need to work on stuff. I went back for cognitive therapy 25 years after my injury. I found the social thing a tough nut to crack, and I’m still not there. However, I truly believe that as long as you are authentic and true to yourself you owe it to yourself to keep a good attitude and go out there, fight the battles and do your best not to let other peoples’ attitudes bother you. I know it’s really difficult, but part of the being Un-believable!! is having pride in yourself and your accomplishments, and no can can take that away. We just have to know we are always doing our best.
I feel like people look at me like I am from outer space. I find some comfort in reading blogs from others who have been there and whose written experiences and opinions give me some feeling of normalcy. I won’t give up. Thanks for being here for us all.
Donna O'Donnell Figurski says
Great post. You advice would benefit anyone, but it is especially good for brain injury survivors, who may have lost confidence in themselves.
That small word, “UN-believable, packs a lot of power. Amazing, wonderful, great, and terrific are a few more words folks can choose from to lift themselves up.
I’m sure that staying positive will help in the healing.
Thanks for your words.
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
Mary Jo schaffer says
I am still so emotional about things I am crying now just reading about what all you say I feel the exact the same way! I wanted to take my life away a few times so I wouldn’t bother them anymore. I am going to achristian counselor now and she has helped me so much Every day is different ny I try to get by each day I have the love of my family and friends to keep me going I thank the good lord above for giving me this second chance in life now to the thanks of all you I don’t feel so crazy and I use to say I was so stupid
Jeff yours is the only brain injury site that isnt about detached technical issues, but reflects back to us the literal reality of what we are experiencing inside and when having to deal with life.
Im fifteen years in myself. i think that at the beginning it may be hard to develop thought strategies of how to cope and change our behaviour. I know in my case this way of doing things has never worked. I await that wonderful moment!
I know how excruciatingly hard the social thing is for us. But the bit of good news I want to share is that over the years you learn little bits of ways and words that start to compensate, to act as a safety net. The things you get wrong are fewer every year, even if you haven’t recovered.
Surprise! ‘confidence, especially with brain injury, turns out to be something to do with all those little steps you learn. Over time they build up and you do get a bit more confident every year, and develop a thicker skin about the people who don’t understand.
Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and try and think is there anything better than how I was last year, and things WILL improve, you WILL slowly feel better inside yourself.
thanks so much Jeff, I am telling all my brain injured friends about your site. And thank you others for sharing too.