Well, let’s be honest, a brain injury is not going to turn us into a Superman. We all know that Superman got his powers because his rocket ship crash landed on Earth, where the yellow sun made him superhuman, physically. This is different from our situation.
I’m also not talking about the documented cases of a someone’s brain injury “unlocking” quite amazing abilities. There are people who have become math geniuses or incredible artists, people who can run for miles, barefoot, on snow covered roads in sub zero weather. Others who become musical virtuosoes or very skilled painters as a result of their TBI.
This is called “acquired savant syndrome,” and although it has been studied, not all that much is known about it. These savant syndrome cases are extreme.
Instead, I am speaking to the vast majority of us TBI survivors who must find a way to succeed after a brain injury. We are “Joe Average”, who lived normal, everyday lives until one day we experienced a TBI and life changed. We are the people who are trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of our lives.
Oliver Sachs, in his writing, has shown that ordinary people are capable of adapting to adverse circumstances which others mighty consider “deal breakers” or “life wreckers”, and become extraordinary, finding a way to flourish and live a fulfilled life. These people don’t all have “brain injuries” per se, but they have a “condition” or have had some type of “episode”, where something happens to their brain.
Finding Your Skill
I, for one, have approached my brain injury since day one by trying to find out how my TBI “made me special”. That was a far better way to approach it than, “How my TBI messed me up.”
Most of us who have experienced a TBI are consumed with thoughts of “What I can’t do anymore.” I remember when I was in the rehab hospital learning how to walk, and my therapist, who was holding my belt loop, asked me “Aren’t you amazed at what you can do?” My answer still echoes in my mind, “No. I’m only amazed at what I can’t do.”
This kind of thinking, while driving me forward, probably would not allow me to unlock my true capabilities. To do that I needed to be open to the changes I had experienced in such a way that I could “use” what happened for my benefit.
That is what we all need to do, unlock and expand upon our capabilities to find an untapped skill. That’s what I mean when I say, “Finding a superpower.”
No skill or power is going to fall from the sky and hit you on the head, saying, “Here I am!” A light bulb may go off in your head at one point, and you might have a revelation about what direction to take your life in, but after that it’s all dedication and hard work.
Finding and perfecting your skill, above all, involves the hard work of learning how to focus. Now, having the ability to focus can be a difficult thing after brain injury, and you have to put yourself in the proper frame of mind just be be able to learn how to focus, so it’s not easy.
For me, that involved blocking out distractions, making my life as simple as possible, and limiting unnecessary interactions. I don’t clutter my mind with things I don’t feel are necessary. In some ways, I artificially hold myself back, but that is so I can move forward on other things I think are important. Think of it as though you’re in college, without the partying: you’re studying for a degree in Brain Injury and it is taking all your energy and time.
The power we want to learn to focus on is the power your brain injury has given you: to be who you are. You have been through a life altering experience and have gained an insight and wisdom that can’t be taught.
Gradually, as you learn to focus, you gain the power to be who you are, to trust yourself and the insight you have gained and cultivated. That is what makes us super.
Insight is something that often takes time, building in the back of our minds as we strive to live a fulfilled life. Most likely it will come when you are up looking in other directions and just living your life. It comes with a belief in yourself, and acceptance that, “My life looks different now.”
This is not simple. It’s work to feel comfortable in your own skin; comfortable enough to trust both yourself and the insights you have, but you have earned it. Yes you have.
Know yourself and look for the things that make you super.