Some acts are obviously courageous: a person runs into a burning building and saves a life, or a bystander dives into a lake to save a drowning person. These are dramatic examples of courage and bravery, when people make spur of the moment decisions and put their own lives at risk in order to save others.
There is, however, another, harder to see type of courage, and to appreciate it you’ve got to pay attention because this isn’t dramatic and doesn’t get lot of press. I am talking about the “we have no choice, wake up in the morning and do your work” kind of courage: the kind exhibited by TBI survivors who get up every morning, and slog through their confusion, frustration and anger to fight the daily brain injury battle with no fanfare and no immediate reward.
Think about that. People like you, TBI survivors, live a brave and courageous life simply by facing the battle, head-on, each day; the difficulty and commitment of which is something few people understand.
Your courageous-ness needs to be acknowledged, and that is what I am going to do right now.
The Courage of the TBI Survivor
A courageous person doesn’t usually consider themselves courageous or special. Rather, they act out of a feeling of obligation, or need, and because of this, true courage is often marked by humility. While it is normal and healthy for people to feel pride in themselves or feel good about what they have done, it is a characteristic of courageous people to just do their job because that is what they do, and to not consider themselves especially courageous. They are just trying to live their lives the best way they can and do what they think is right.
In the case of you, the TBI survivor, each one of you exhibits great courage as you attempt to rebuild your life. While it would be nice if others could see that or were able to understand what you go through, it’s much more important that you understand that you are fighting an honorable, courageous battle, and that the rewards you get are a product of being in that battle, and they are priceless. You should also know that other people will probably never understand it.
The TBI survivor’s rewards for being courageous are: 1) be able to live your life in a manner you find fulfilling, and 2) the knowledge and the feeling you get from knowing you have accomplished something great, even though others may not see it.
There have been very few times in my life when I have been acknowledged for what I have done; not because people don’t care, but simply because others just don’t understand. One time, I was speaking with a girl I had just met in college and the conversation shifted to the fact that I had been in a coma for a month. She stopped, looked at me and said, “You must be the strongest person in the school.”
I can remember being completely floored and not knowing what to say. I sheepishly shrugged my shoulders and walked off. That was so nice of her to say, and so completely unexpected.
How I reacted was an example of how we can be affected by our self-image. I couldn’t accept a compliment from her because, in my own mind, I was a long way from what I had been before my TBI, and not worthy of such a compliment.
That is a huge issue. Many of us can feel so unworthy and downtrodden, it is not only hard to let compliments in, we blame ourselves for too much and apologize too often.
When people pay you compliments; try to really listen to what they are saying. Don’t deflect them or refuse to believe them. Try to understand the magnitude of what you are doing. So many of us think we don’t deserve it because we aren’t what we used to be before our Brain Injury, and that we are not worthy of praise.
But you are.
You all are courageous and you are worthy
It’s hard to measure or see, on a daily basis, the results of your courageous-ness. Progress can be agonizingly slow. Add to that the fact that you aren’t performing up to our old standards, and it makes accepting any type of praise difficult. No matter how well you are doing things, it never seems good enough.
However, each day you grow. You learn. You become.
The courageous-ness you exhibit is not for a one-time event. It is on display every day, starting when you wake up and drag yourself out of bed to fight an invisible and silent opponent. In many ways life becomes a grind, one that’ll chew you up and spit you out if you let it; but you battle. You fight for your dignity and your life, and by being engaged in that fight you gain so much. That’s a hard thing to explain to someone, but you know.
Your courage is not rewarded, and is, in fact, many times overlooked, mostly for the following reason: people are unable to recognize it. Most of you heroes toil in obscurity for what you think is important; simply because that is how you need to live your lives.
There is dignity and honor in the way you live your life, and you should be proud of every thing you have accomplished.
It is an honorable battle and an honorable life.
Believe in the battle and believe in yourself.
Jeff, thank you! I’ve never thought about my daily battle as being courageous, but you are so right. In 2011 I happened to catch a Glenn Beck segment on the meaning of the word courage. It forever changed my life as I was able to understand that I had courage and could walk from a domestic violent marriage, even with being a brain surgery survivor. (Within a year my kids and I were free!)
I am forever grateful to the meaning of courageousness, so thank you for reminding me that it applies to our everyday struggles too.
You are the best!
Ellen Beaudin says
Thank you, Jeff, for this wonderful post! You hit all the right points; that most people don’t get it, that I’m doing the best I can and it doesn’t feel like enough, changes in self-image. I used to feel like a fairly confident, successful professional and now, if I get showered and dressed and do 1 thing (go out to a therapy appointment, pay a bill, vacuum my apartment), it’s a successful day. I hope it’s okay to print your post and share with others.
Jeff Sebell says
Thank you for reading and commenting. Of course you can share it. Jeff.
Thanks so much for this!
I appreciate the comments. You’re right…..NO ONE UNDERSTANDS! We went to visit Son #3 and his family out of state and basically, he and I got crossways! I had difficulty connecting the dots and became angry at him.! He, in turn, returned the ANGER back to me!
March 25, 2019
Marcia Jones-Lowe says
Thank you. I never even had courage in my vocabulary when speaking of brain injuries. My son and I both have a brain injury. He had his 5 years before me and has lived 23 years with continual headaches that feel like a knife going through his head. His brain stem was injured. My injury might show more but I talk more, which exposes my deficits.
Today I started THE therapy. Transylvania Magnetic Stimulation. Hopefully it helps. It’s successful with depression and anxiety, but could help headaches and other things symptoms.
I will let you know if it helps.
Jeff Sebell says
Good luck with your new therapy. I hope it makes a difference. Jeff
Good morning Jeff. Firstly, thank you for taking the time to send out information to people who suffer from TBI. I had a bad car accident in 2006 and suffer from a TBI. As it was so long time ago, I often feel that it was like an illness that I got over, but in reality I am only fooling myself. During my journey, I have noticed that few people are sincere about having a TBI, whilst the rest of the world doesn’t really give a damn. Should they? Most people feel that those where the cards you were dealt, deal with it. I do struggle daily and man do I have a short fuse but people don’t understand and I sometimes feel like wearing a shirt that says “I am different please don’t push my buttons”, just so that I can give people a heads up. I have been on medication since the accident but they are now starting to take their toll on my body (Kidneys, Liver and Brain). There is not much I can do about this and I often find myself thinking about death, not that I want kill myself but more over that the time is coming. When you live in a country like South Africa where the country is falling apart, we look at trying to emigrate but who would employ someone like me. Is this a confidence issue or really a problem that I have? I had to sequestrate myself as I spent loaned money without understanding the reality of its consequences. I am still very carefree with money. I do suffer a lot from anxiety and I am a sales rep who only works on commission, which I suppose is not a good mix. I have tried finding alternative work, but my earnings everywhere else would be a third. So in order to keep my family fed, clothed and the likes I have to stay where I work. My Mom and sister are in the UK and they want me to come over, which is possible as I have UK passport. My wife on the other hand doesn’t want to leave as her family is here. If I didn’t have a daughter, the decision would have been made some time ago. to leave. Anyway I am blessed but never really see things through anymore, which creates enough problems in itself. My faith and family keep me going but things get really bad when money is low, which confuses me as I don’t serve money but rather try to serve God. Nevertheless thank you for people like you who assist with your e-mails in figuring out this thing we call TBI. Blessings, Brad.
Wow!~ Powerful and encouraging and so true.
I see my husband everyday being courageous. His recovery has been so remarkable I often forget he struggles or hides what’s going on inside. Thank you reminding what I need to see everyday and be grateful for every moment of everyday.
Corinne Rogan says
Hi Jeff, I’m a TBI survivor and am Running for Ms Senior California, 2019. TBI is my platform.
So happy 2 C this blog.
It’s so lonely & hard, but gotta stand tall & have some self respect.
Jeff Sebell says
Keep fighting the battle and good luck!! You’re not alone. We’re all in this together to support each other.
Corinne Rogan says
Jeff, I was a Finalist in the Ms Senior California of America pageant in San Diego earlier this month.
Am On The Road for TBI Survivors!
Jeff Sebell says
Good for you!!! Best, Jeff
Thank you jeff, for reminding us how great we are to battle on year after year, trying to reshape our lives with less equipment to do so. 23 years in, Im finally getting to step seven with some tasks. Just keep going people! I used to be a communication consultant but trying tog et understanding and the right help has been the hardest thing ive ever done and ive been through plenty of hard things =- recessions, 2 parents dying at once etc etc! I feel now I am beginning to find better words/pieces of paper, to at least get some understanding. and I am more able to go back and say that was not okay, the way you treated me later on, when people act as if I am ‘lazy’ when i am brain fatigued. finding ways to not let yourself be disrespected is hard and takes a long time but worth the battle, for sure, thanks jeff for your blog.