When you are in the middle of the loneliness and frustration of fighting the TBI battles, the greatest feeling might be the feeling of security, belonging and peace you get when somebody has your back. When an individual has
your back, you feel protected and awed by their willingness to stand up and support you; they encourage you when times are tough and when others seem to be against you, and they always give you the benefit of the doubt because this person trusts you, even when you don’t trust yourself.
This person is a Champion.
We don’t want people to feel sorry for us, or for people to do things grudgingly out of obligation, but we would all love to have someone in our lives who does things because they have a kind, understanding heart, and offer a helping hand at a time when we could use some assistance.
A champion is a rock in the middle of all the uncertainty and confusion that comes with Traumatic Brain Injury, an anchor to hold you in place and keep you focused when everything seems to be drifting away, and a beacon that’s stays lit in front of you to help you stay on course. A Champion doesn’t have to be a superhero, he just has to be there.
Finding a Champion is not easy, but they are out there. I was lucky enough to have Champions at crucial times in my life.
Two of my Champions come to mind.
The first was my boss when I worked as a disk jockey. I really didn’t know how I got the job in the first place, since I slurred my speech due to my brain injury, but we had somehow made a connection during the interview. Nor was I sure how I kept my job; there was the time he stormed into the studio when I was on the air, and told me not to read the news or talk too much. In addition, I did “brilliant” things like lock myself out of the building at 6:00 AM, and I once set the transmitter on fire.
I got the answer to why I wasn’t fired when I was leaving town after two years, and I asked him, point blank, why he didn’t fire me.
“Because I never saw anyone work so hard,” he said.
The second Champion is my brother, who picked up a ton of slack for me when we worked together in the family business, and has been a tireless supporter…even creating this web site for me.
Finding and keeping a Champion can be a critical element to anyone’s success, but when you have had a brain injury, a Champion is, possibly, your greatest gift.
So, how does one find a Champion?
You can’t place an ad in the newspaper for a Champion and you won’t find a Champion by asking for one. You also won’t earn a Champion by virtue of the things you do. A Champion will be attracted to you and come willingly into your life because of what you are, as a human being, and by the way you live your life. A champion will be attracted to you by what you stand for.
Champions are like respect in that they must be earned.
Not just anyone has the gumption be a Champion, and they’re probably going to appear when you least expect it. That can make it hard because you might not be ready. Sometimes, you may not even understand when a person is trying to be a Champion, or that someone wants to help you.
I know that there have been several people who, I realized only much later, were offering to help, but at the time I did not understand exactly what they were doing in my life. Sometimes I didn’t see a Champion because I was stuck in the old ways of doing things, and was not ready to open my eyes.
It’s also possible that, no matter how hard you work, you may never attract a Champion. That’s the harsh reality. However, you are left with the knowledge that you can be proud of the way you live, and you can feel good about yourself because of what you stand for.
As it was pointed out to me recently when I was speaking at a support group in Quincy, MA, it is necessary to be our own champion, and advocate for ourselves. This is a great and important point, because when it comes down to the nitty gritty, the only ones who we can really count on are ourselves.
However, we need to keep in mind that, ideally, we don’t want to do this alone. We want to learn how to ask for help and accept help from those we trust, and be part of the social framework when possible.
We are left doing it alone much too often, and a Champion can help us not be so alone.
Champions can see how hard you are working, and that you seem to be doing things for the right reasons, and you are trying your best; and even if you mess up they see what kind of person you are, and they have an idea of what you have had to overcome.
Although they want to be of assistance, a Champion isn’t going to just “give” you stuff. A Champion will make your life easier by supporting you to be your best. A champion will make sure you get a fair shake, which is all we really want. Ideally, we want a chance to succeed and prove ourselves in an environment where we are not being judged, not being stressed and are supported through thick and thin.
Meet my friend and fellow survivor, Paul McMahon and the book he was written:
PAUL MCMAHON, THE FALL…
On the 30th of March 2014 I fell 3.5 stories from a building in Sydney and into concrete. The accident occurred at a friend’s house on my 28th birthday party evening. I flew through the air hitting an awning after one floor and then a tree.
This major accident could have been my peril but I survived and am now writing a book of the survival. The recovery story also includes a one month trip around Australia, representing my thrill for travel.
I was injured by breaking my left leg, left arm, possible lung damage and a damage to the left side of my skull.
There was original fear that I may not walk or indeed be unable to talk. The usual recommendation is that brain injuries take around two years to heal, with a minimum of six months recovery.
Over the months since I have healed well, with only a small scar above my left eye to indicate what had happened.
The story shows that despite the worst accident possible you can still venture into tranquillity and prosperity. This is a positive story.
My brain injury was the worst feature to stop my recovery. I have recently had a neuropsychological test and I am fit to return to work. This is not the final stage, I still require the recommendations and clearance from a doctor.
How fortunate you were (and are) to have had such support! I’m happy for you and, I truly envy you. I suffered three TBIs within a period of 2 1/2 years and was met only with: resentment for the burden my injuries created, and rejection for all the ways in which I was “changed” (and had become “less than…”) Indeed, if I have had any champion at all, it has been my Self – and my indomitable spirit.
I believe that “recovery” is an illusion in the sense that it implies that we are moving “BACK” toward some previously existing state. In fact, that is NOT even POSSIBLE. Actually we’re still just GROWING – from a new starting point, certainly – and most often in new and very unexpected (unanticipated) directions.
Not one of us ever really “recovers” “Who We Were.” It’s literally impossible…
We CAN, however, continue to work hard to grow Who We Will Become! THAT IS the business of Life to which we were already attending when Life itself “interrupted and distracted” us – sending us off on what we considered “a tangent.”
In fact, it turns out that, (for those of us fortunate enough to be able to see and understand it,) THAT “tangent” “distracting us” from our “Real Lives,” ultimately becomes The New Direction within which we shall henceforth continue to conduct the ongoing “business of Life.”
In many ways it’s not so different from an unexpected pregnancy, winning the lottery, or needing to start over after a natural disaster. Our Life Path is inexorably altered – and so are we. We never CAN recover Life as it was “before.” We must, instead, continue growing our lives AND our Selves as best we can, still moving FORWARD, just from the perspective of our new reality.
I find it most helpful not to dwell on anything which I’ve “lost,” focusing instead on those new vistas which have been opened to me. And if ever I catch myself feeling disappointed that I must climb some mountain I already climbed before – long ago – I quickly remind myself that the mountain may be the same one, but this time my approach and my equipment are completely different, thus making it a brand new experience. NEW…Except I have the benefit of all I learned when I climbed it once before. THAT CAN give me an advantage…if I CHOOSE to see it that way.
Thank you, Jeff, for all your thoughtful writings.
Jeff Sebell says
Suzanne, Thank you for writing. Your indomitable spirit certainly comes through loud and clear, and you have some great thoughts on life after brain injury. It’s not easy to be positive, especially when things are not easy at home. I appreciate you sentiments, and actually, my next blog is related to lot of what you say.
Thanks again, Suzanne.
Jackie Moore says
Thank you! I needed to read this today. We recently opened the first Traumatic Brain Injury resource Center in the state of Ohio and it has been a struggle for me. My injury date is 6-6-2011. Last night I was exhausted my husband is exhausted, you know the drill, we shared a few loud words etc. So this morning I was trying to figure out why I am doing this. Because the lonliness and discouragement can influence us when we least expect it and I just needed a sign from GOD to tell me to suck it up and get back to work. You article was my sign. Thank you for the inspiration to get back on the horse and move forward again. Everyone with TBI needs a champion and I am hoping that we have created the place for each person to have the opportunity to find one. And by each person I mean survivors, caregivers and every other person that walks through our doors. Because after all, we all need a champion.
Jeff Sebell says
Thank you so much for the nice words. I’m glad that perhaps I could help some way. Hearing what you said really makes this all worthwhile for me. And thank you for all the work you’re doing with the resource center that you are setting up. You are doing important work that will make a difference. Thanks again