Many times after we have experienced a brain injury we get down and feel as though we have been dealt a bad hand. Sometimes we, understandably, develop an attitude, lamenting our continued bad luck when we can no longer find anything positive in our lives.
We desperately want to feel those good vibrations like we used to, but we’ve been thrown a curveball: brain injury makes us feel like we are in a deep hole, clawing and grasping at the walls as the hole collapses around us.
To make things worse, we’re left remembering those times in our past when those good vibrations used to wash over us and make us feel vibrant and alive. We want to get the old times back, but have no idea if we can do it or where to begin.
It’s easy to get caught up in our situation and cry out, “Why me?” There are so many bad things happening to us, one after the other, and we feel unable to recover.
Here’s the thing: although it’s hard to accept that we might have some control over how feel when our lives are so upside down, those good vibrations need to come from within, and we do have some control over them.
The Story of J____
Long after my TBI, when I was volunteering at a rehabilitation hospital, I met a young man named J_, who had been severely affected by a brain disease. J_ was confined to a motorized wheelchair and had difficulty with movement, speech and cognition, yet he soldiered through life, doing the best he could.
J_ volunteered in the mail rom, and having him roll into our department to deliver the day’s mail was always cause for some lighthearted banter and good feelings. He was always upbeat and fun to talk to, even when faced daily with a very difficult situation.
After speaking with him a bit, I learned we were from the same town and he had been manager of the high school wrestling team, a couple or years after my son had been captain.
One night I took him to the movies and we spent some quality time talking about our ideas on life. Sadly, only a couple of weeks after that I arrived at my volunteer job to learn that J_ had been found dead in his home, of natural causes. I immediately felt the void, and I wasn’t the only one.
There were many people at his memorial service, including the President of hospital. The number of lives he touched, simply because of the way he lived his life, went far beyond anything he could have imagined. I think he would have been gratified but embarrassed that he had such an affect. Sometimes, because of the nature of brain injury and how it affects us, we go about living an insular and self-centered life, without any idea we can have such a large affect on other people.
I have thought about J_ regularly over the last ten years. His life was really tough, but we could all see he was going to give his best for as long as he was here, and doing that, he found a way to give others the good vibrations I hope he also felt.
I never had to battle the demons he was forced to confront every day, and I don’t know if I could have done it with the grace and dignity he did, but clearly, J_ chose to leave the darkness behind and seek the good vibrations that can be so hard to find. He was an example to me of how one can face their life, even under very trying circumstances, and how one can make a difference in the simplest of ways.
Living My Life
The way I look at it, because of my brain injury, I was booted from the rat race that so many normal people find themselves in. Being kicked out of the rat race may be thought of as either good or bad, lucky or unlucky, but what it meant for me was that I was going to have to find a way to get those good vibrations by being, rather than by simply achieving in the workaday world.
I was going to have to search for the good in order to live a fulfilled life.
This is something we each have to deal with: finding a personal path to good vibrations that leads us to fulfillment and a satisfying life.
Although things in my life haven’t worked out the way I had once thought they might of, searching for and finding my path gave me a mission and a powerful perspective on life. I can say today that I am able to feel those good vibrations. I feel them through my experiences, the people I have known and who I am; and by not relying on what I have accomplished.
I have learned to take comfort and pride in who I am, and because of who I am my life has been blessed with new meaning, and I feel I have access to knowledge and a depth of feeling that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.