A Traumatic Brain Injury ~ Life Before and After

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March 2017

A Traumatic Brain Injury ~ Life Before and After

According to the Oxford American Dictionary, the word “trauma” is defined as “emotional shock producing a long lasting effect upon a person”.

“What the hell happened to my hair !!” ~ first words out my mouth when I regained awareness from a coma”.

A dedicated reader, hard-working and very responsible person my entire life ~ it all changed in a matter for moments with no knowledge this would ever happen, it just simply happened beyond anyone’s control. Here is my story as much as I can collaborate the details. Enjoy ~

So the story begins in a small upscale Catholic community outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The youngest of 5 children, good parents and a funky dog named Huey. My Dad was a milkman and Mom stayed home to manage our household. We were the all American family until it all fell apart. There are simply situations in life you can control ~ and those you cannot… but life is a gift and these experiences occur to teach valuable life lessons along the way. Some were pleasant and some were not, they range from being in the church choir to attending AA meetings with my family, writing this novel, if nothing else will help others in life. That is my ultimate goal.

I spent 30+ years in the accounting and finance departments of both residential and commercial construction, an industry that was very profitable with an amazing staff of owners and employees. I was always in a position of trust and I took that role very seriously ~ with the credentials to prove it. The bad news is that I had too much responsibility, too much on my plate. Let me be more specific…

One normal day I was headed back to work after my lunch break and was experiencing a very bad headache which was out of the norm for me. The headache got so bad while driving that I decided to pull over on the side of road. I got out of my vehicle and collapsed to the ground. This is all I remember because someone called 911, Flight for Life arrived and took me to a facility in Denver, Colorado where I spent 95 days recovering and encountered around 3 million dollars in medical bills. No joke, this is exactly what happened!

The Brain

As it turns out I was born with 4 brain aneurysms in my brain, all of them ruptured at the same time which, in turn, caused me to have a massive stroke as well. We are talking major brain surgery to repair the damage, a metal shunt is permanent in my head to keep it all in place. After this horrible ordeal, I walked out of the hospital to start the 2nd phase of my life.

The repercussions of this ordeal include learning how to walk, eat, think and drive again. I am 53 years old, raised a son myself and never gave up on life ~ nor will I despite what I have become today. That is simply “who I am “. A very good friend of mine always make laugh when she said “honey, life’s a bitch and then you die”. Well, that being said we all know life is tough and it only gets harder as we age!

The Aftermath

The rehabilitation process is very intense but the medical professionals are amazing to say the least. Dedicated and hardworking individuals that I owe my life to ~ no shit, they are dedicated beyond words. And my family, well they did all they could from a distance with the exception of my one brother, Kevin, He was with me night and day during this whole process, grateful he lived close by and was able to put his life on hold and be there for me. I owe this man, big time!!!

Let’s talk music………. who doesn’t know all the words to Stairway to Heaven??? Amazing how the lyrics of music stay in your brain regardless of what happens.

The Deficiencies Following

Cataracts, where the lenses in your eyes are no longer functional. A cataract requires a one-day medical procedure to put a permanent lens in the eye to correct the vision, this was a very successful procedure with the exception of a dark/permanent blotch in my left eye. And of course I wear cheaters to see close up but that is an age factor anyway, then there are memory issues which is typical after a TBI ~ if you survive the ordeal. Mine in particular are short-term issues. My long term memory of very accurate but short-term sucks! I have to write everything down in order to remember it ~ but it works perfectly!!   Tinnitus is also a side effect, nasty non-stop ringing in the ears, annoying but true.   The left side of the brain stores short-term memories while the right side stores the long-term memories for any individual. In my situation, the left side of my brain was badly damaged and a portion of it had to be removed. This accounts for extreme short-term memory issues!   I will spend the rest of my life writing everything down in order to remember it, but it definitely works so I will always use this tool in order to keep going. And yes, I repeat myself a lot when I speak ~ same situation here. I say something to someone, 10 minute later I say it again. This individual will respond with “hey, you just told me that!”, why are you telling me this again??? Of course I feel like an ass for doing this but it’s not on purpose. I hear the same dialog from my very own family, in my opinion that is disrespect! So I very recently have decided to keep my distance from my 1 sister and 3 brothers. They of all people should be more respectful and compassionate but that’s not the way they are. I can’t change them but I will always love them ~ right, wrong, indifferent they are my family that means everything to me regardless of how they feel about their little sister…. their loss, I’m a damn good person who experienced a medical catastrophe.

The Disability Process ~ Let’s Talk $

Now that you are aware of the deficiencies that coincide with a TBI such as mine, I will now focus on how to financially survive this catastrophic ordeal, having worked for 40 of my 53 years was a blessing in disguise, all those nasty payroll taxes that are taken out of a person’s paycheck are for a reason ~ I know all about taxes! The Government takes these taxes out of your paycheck and they sit in a “bucket” for various entities. Applying for and actually receiving disability from the Social Security Administration is a very painful process but well worth the effort. You will need a medical professional to sign off on the paperwork as well as going though multiple test with Social Security to prove your deficiencies. It’s a make it or break it deal ~ you either win or lose this one but well worth the effort regardless. You get back what you put in ~ priceless!

As I sit here, listening to one of my heroes ~ Bruce Springsteen ~ I enjoy sharing this horrible experience with anyone willing to read it. I lost my husband, son, personal belongings, 1/3 of my brain and a very good job yet I am still here and very glad to be alive each day of my life. I will attend a TBI support group forever but that’s a good thing because there are people in this world who are far worse off than I am. I appreciate all of them.

Cognitive Deficits

The word cognitive is defined as “of or relating to cognition; concerned with the act or process of knowing, perceiving, etc.: cognitive development; cognitive functioning. 2. of or relating to the mental processes of perception, memory, and judgment”.

Learning and memory deficiencies can come in many forms depending on the brain damage. Being to rationalize common day to day circumstances is a primary step in the process. One of the most challenging adjustments to make is coming to terms with your “past self”. As silly as this seems, it is very true ~ let me explain. The ability to recall something that was just said may be lost but the “memory” of who you were before the brain injury will remain. Make sense? The memory of your past self is the focus of who desire to be once again. Whether or not this is a realistic goal is uncertain but what this attitude can do for a person is motivate them to accomplish goals. Success is not the answer ~ commitment and motivation will take you far in life. Denial is tough to digest but you must accept the fact that you still you ~ confront this fact of life so you can grow, learn and continue with life. Take it from a woman who has been down this road… I had it all, everything you can imagine and within 1 day I lost everything I busted my ass to accomplish. That is truly how precious life is. Problems with cognitive impairments can lead to problems in decision making. This is hard for me on both a personal and professional level as I have always been a decision-making responsible individual, that is no longer who I am. It’s only been 3 years since my traumatic brain injury, I am as rehabilitated as I can be so I simply come to terms with what I am “today”. If I didn’t, well then I would not be here, acceptance of who have become is a large part of rehabilitation. I lost family, friends, money and my home. I will attend a support group for the rest of my life simply because it is a reminder of those who have suffered worse that I am really doing OK. Understanding why an individual might behave the way that they do is important for rehabilitation and maintaining relationships, I learned this the hard way and found out who truly was my friend and who not. I had no choice in the matter, it was doing or die! I honestly believe I come to terms with who and what I am ~ not easy some days but realistic regardless. My family thinks I’m nuts, they show me NO respect, If I had had $1 for each time I was treated like a doormat, well I would be a rich woman! Their loss bot mine, I know who I am. I am able to recall specific details from 25 years ago, yet I am unable to recall information from 2 days ago. That’s just the way it is…… life’s a bitch but that’s just the way it is

I have found some statistics I would like to share:

Activity                                                                 %Requiring Assistance

Manages own finances                                                                                 68.3

Shop for groceries                                                                                           54.6

Drives a vehicle                                                                                                 53.2

Prepare own meals                                                                                           53.5

Cleans the house                                                                                               47.6

Grooming                                                                                                              41.6

Baths Self                                                                                                             38.3

Washes dishes                                                                                                     37.9

Dresses self                                                                                                          34.8

Uses telephone                                                                                                    33.3

•             Capacity for new learning which includes memory, learning style and environment.

•             Planning and organizing is very difficult, can be done yet it takes much longer.

•             Distractibility is somewhat of an issue in general for most people but is stronger for a person with a brain injury. The ability to quickly get back on track is difficult to do.

•             Both physical and mental processing takes much longer to accomplish.

•             Starting one task and being asked to stop, start another one is very challenging to do, memory issues play a part in this task. Shifting mental gears is extremely difficult for an individual with a brain injury. Not impossible, just very difficult. In my professional opinion people look at you, see your qualifications, education and physical presence they ASSUME you are who you are. The mistake I made was being honest with an employer about my TBI and asked for a lesser position then they offered me. It turned out to be a very stressful situation. From the work hours, environment and complete disrespect from the majority of the people there. I was used as a “scapegoat” for more than 1 unpleasant situation simply because of my inability to defend myself in a professional manner. Sad, but very true and I learned a lesson in all of this ~ honesty at times is not always the best policy in life. Go to work, do your job and make no personal connections with anyone!

Attending to tasks can be accomplished but not as easy as necessary. Being distracted is a big problem with a TBI person, simply because the ability to multi task in a work environment is tough…. beyond words. I would put an item down on the table, walk away to go to another project as instructed and “forget” where I placed the item! I would retrieve it and keep on working as expected but the “glitch” of remembering was a challenge. Even though I was told to always ask for assistance from coworkers, I would not do it after a few months simply because the back-talk from others was painful to hear. People would “assume” I did not get it… shame on them!   Assuming only makes an ass out of them. Cognitive rehabilitation focuses teaching an individual “how to learn” using consistent techniques and processing information. They downfalls of this type of therapy are attention, concentration, memory, learning, arrangement and communication skills. All these are vital for any type of success and if you struggle with these tasks the job is much harder. Visual conception is very important; you have to “see it” to remember it.

A brain injury is thinking with thinking with speed bumps, your long term memory is on the left side of the brain, short term is in the right side. Personally, I am glad the damage to my brain occurred on the left side although it sucks to have short term memory issues it is a good thing to have a lifetime of long term memories still intact. I would be devastated beyond words if I was unable to “remember” a lifetime of experiences and memories,

Disorganization is an issue all the way around. It is important for supervisors to be available to assist when needed without getting irritable in the process. Employer support is a vital component for success yet this is not a realistic notion. The hierarchy in the business world starts at the tops and rolls downhill, everybody knows that, not rocket science.

I am an individual who has held a job for over 20 years yet on the post-injury side of me, I have gone thru more jobs than I can count in the past 3 years, Sad, but true. Research reports I have read indicate that person with traumatic brain injury goes through and average of 6 or 7 jobs post injury before settling into one that meets their needs and is manageable. Easier said than done. Simply because I am no longer able to do what I once did for a profession does not mean I am unable to do something else. I simply have to find the right situation, plain and simple. It’s out there and I will go get it!

Life, Friends, and Family

Life is different in many ways. People in one’s life My say that they understand you, but do they really? My answer to this question is NO. This response is based on many experiences I had, not just words out of my mouth! I remember everything about the day that my TBI happened, all the way down to the color of nail polish I was wearing, where I pulled over on the side of the road and what I ate for lunch that day, yet I am unable to remember what day of the week it is at this point. Funny thing is, the people who attend the monthly TBI support group that I go to are unable to do anything on a day to day basis, most are in wheelchairs yet they are glad to be alive ~ I appreciate that attitude. Attitude will take person far in life!

I have been married twice in my life, first marriage ended badly but I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful son out of it that I raised myself while working my ass off to pay the bills. He is currently 28 years old, my best buddy and a good man. My second marriage is somewhat of a different story. I was married to a controlling man for 16 years, for some reason we became legally separated after 15 years with joint custody of our now 14-year-old son, who has A.D.H.D., a brain deficit he was born with that requires a daily prescription of Adderall in order to keep his brain “focused”. Children with A.D.H.D. tend to perform poorly on tasks such as working memory, that’s the short term memory position that allows a person to retain information. The daily prescription he takes improves this deficiency to assist with him stay focused and on task in daily life. A.DH.D. is an excess of Diophantine in the brain. It’s very controversial by medical standards but the end result is still the same regardless. The sad side of this issue is that the drug he takes is for a lifetime.

Our relationship was going pretty good all the way around The day of my TBI all relationships in my life changed…. ALL of them. Dad took the son, the other son lost our home and possessions in the process and moved into the hospital with me, no choice. That was the beginning of the end, after this long medical process I was released wondering where to live. I was lucky enough to have good friends who took both of us in for over 2 years, we lived in many different places until we were finally able to afford a place of our own. Multiple jobs and living places has been what I have endured in the past 3 years yet I keep on going. It is obvious to me that I survived for whatever reason.

My 14-year-old son is a different story. Smart, good looking, obnoxious, self-absorbed and no clue as to what life is all about ~ at least not yet. And disrespectful as well. I deal with because I have no choice, he went to one of my TBI support groups with me and still was ashamed of me. It sucked! He has been, in my opinion, brainwashed by his Dad. He thinks only what he is told to think~ imagine, he does it well yet he has no mind of his very own. Sad situation yet it is what it is, I have tried to undo this process and have failed. I will try when he matures in life and hope he learns to understand and respect me. If not, it’s a big loss for both of us. The last time I went to visit him at his Dad’s place both of them put their ears against the bathroom door as I was using their restroom imagine the look on their faces when I opened the door and caught them! Well that started another pile of shit with me, I was so offended with what they did and their horrible excuse as to why they did that I walked out the front door. Enough is enough!

My family even struggles in dealing with their baby sister, they are pleasant to me but not much more than that. None of them wanted to participate in my rehabilitation one made any attempts to participate in the TBI support group I attend. All I can do is simply be glad I still have a family yet I keep my distance from them ~ with one exception, that is my oldest brother, his wife and wonderful family. They accept me for I have become since this ordeal and I am thankful for that. It’s one thing to say I am doing well ~ it’s another to understand d what I had to go through to be well on a daily basis. I don’t fault them at all, it is what it is. I only wish I had more family support and relationships in my life.

My close friends on the other hand “get it”. Maybe because we have been down man y roads in life together or maybe they know the old and the new me ~ regardless, they still treat me with the love and respect they always have. Everyone has a bad day, that’s just part of life, but I feel it’s important to keep quality relationships going strong.

The medical staff had to put an alarm on my bed, just to keep me in one place! Seriously, I will never stop moving, that is how I have lived my entire life  When you look at both sides of the coin, you see the whole picture in my opinion. Yes, I am motivated, funny, appreciative, and respectful of others. Yet, on the other side of the coin I have lost many jobs, money and relationships since having a traumatic brain injury just 3 short years ago. I guess to sum it all up, I have learned valuable yet unpleasant life lessons along the way. Lessons I will never forget in life. Those who have still appreciated me along the way and those who have treated me like a damn doormat!   I keep my distance from those individuals that treat me like a doormat, regardless of who they are. I have very little tolerance for people’s bullshit and disrespect in life. Having been in the workforce for 40 years, I know people and how they function. I do my thing, bother no one and keep on going despite ALL my deficiencies. A kind word and respect goes a long way with me, if I encounter people that do not feel this way ~ well, I keep my distance from them regardless of who they are in my life. Just that simple! If I had a dollar for every rude comment that was made directly to me ~ well, I would be a rich woman! I will forgive, but honestly, I never forget. This includes my family too, doesn’t matter to me. I have paid my dues and earned my stripes in life. I have accepted who I am today and make the best with what I have left!

A camera in the Brain

Would a person truly want to remember everything in life? I wouldn’t! I believe that some things in life truly are better if forgotten.

Things NOT to Say to Someone with a Brain Injury

1. You seem fine to me.

The invisible signs of a brain injury — memory and concentration problems, fatigue, insomnia, chronic pain, depression, or anxiety — these are sometimes more difficult to live with than visible disabilities. Research shows that having just a scar on the head can help a person with a brain injury feel validated and better understood. Your loved one may look normal, but shrugging off the invisible signs of brain injury is belittling. Consider this: a memory problem can be much more disabling than a limp.

2. Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough (you’re lazy).

Lazy is not the same as apathy (lack of interest, motivation, or emotion). Apathy is a disorder and common after a brain injury. Apathy can often get in the way of rehabilitation and recovery, so it’s important to recognize and treat it. Certain prescription drugs have been shown to reduce apathy. Setting very specific goals might also help.

3. You’re such a grump!

Irritability is one of the most common signs of a brain injury. Irritability could be the direct result of the brain injury, or a side effect of depression, anxiety, chronic pain, sleep disorders, or fatigue. Think of it as a biological grumpiness — it’s not as if your loved one can get some air and come back in a better mood. It can come and go without reason.

It’s hard to live with someone who is grumpy, moody, or angry all the time. Certain prescription drugs, supplements, changes in diet, or therapy that focuses on adjustment and coping skills can all help to reduce irritability.

4. How many times do I have to tell you?

It’s frustrating to repeat yourself over and over, but almost everyone who has a brain injury will experience some memory problems. Instead of pointing out a deficit, try finding a solution. Make the task easier. Create a routine. Install a memo board in the kitchen. Also, remember that language isn’t always verbal. “I’ve already told you this” comes through loud and clear just by facial expression.

5. Do you have any idea how much I do for you?

Your loved one probably knows how much you do, and feels incredibly guilty about it. It’s also possible that your loved one has no clue, and may never understand. This can be due to problems with awareness, memory, or apathy — all of which can be a direct result of a brain injury. You do need to unload your burden on someone, just let that someone be a good friend or a counselor.

6. Your problem is all the medications you take.

Prescription drugs can cause all kinds of side effects such as sluggishness, insomnia, memory problems, mania, sexual dysfunction, or weight gain — just to name a few. Someone with a brain injury is especially sensitive to these effects. But, if you blame everything on the effects of drugs, two things could happen. One, you might be encouraging your loved one to stop taking an important drug prematurely. Two, you might be overlooking a genuine sign of brain injury.

It’s a good idea to regularly review prescription drugs with a doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask about alternatives that might reduce side effects. At some point in recovery, it might very well be the right time to taper off a drug. But, you won’t know this without regular follow-up.

7. Let me do that for you.

Independence and control are two of the most important things lost after a brain injury. Yes, it may be easier to do things for your loved one. Yes, it may be less frustrating. But, encouraging your loved one to do things on their own will help promote self-esteem, confidence, and quality of living. It can also help the brain recover faster.

Do make sure that the task isn’t one that might put your loved one at genuine risk — such as driving too soon or managing medication when there are significant memory problems.

8. Try to think positively.

That’s easier said than done for many people, and even harder for someone with a brain injury. Repetitive negative thinking is called rumination, and it can be common after a brain injury. Rumination is usually related to depression or anxiety, and so treating those problems may help break the negative thinking cycle.

Furthermore, if you tell someone to stop thinking about a certain negative thought, that thought will just be pushed further towards the front of the mind (literally, to the preferential cortex). Instead, find a task that is especially enjoyable for your loved one. It will help to distract from negative thinking, and release chemicals that promote more positive thoughts.

9. You’re lucky to be alive.

This sounds like positive thinking, looking on the bright side of things. But be careful. A person with a brain injury is six times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than someone without a brain injury. Some may not feel very lucky to be alive. Instead of calling it “luck,” talk about how strong, persistent, or heroic the person is for getting through their ordeal. Tell them that they’re awesome.

Written by Marie Rowland, PhD,

Imagine what it could be like to receive an email every ten seconds and never be able to take a break to read your emails immediately? No matter how sharp you are or good your computer is ~ you would soon be overwhelmed with clutter in the mind!

Memorization techniques are used by very natural photographic memorizers in a person’s brain. Yes, it is a good quality to have a photographic memory for remembering important information, but on the other side of this coin are the downfalls of this quality. Having a steel trap memory retains information that can interfere with recall and attention skills. A person can become overwhelmed and frustrated with all this data in their brain! Think about how much information ANY human being stores in their brain on a daily basis, run-of-the-mill daily agendas are only retained in your brain for a short amount of time, aka, the short-term memory. Only a small fraction of memories become permanent ones. This is because of a molecule in the brain that stores information only has so much storage space.

Holiday Blues

If you live in a cold environment it is normal to suffer from: hibernation” if you are not able to get out and work or socialize.   The correct name for this is called SAD, Seasonal Affect’s Disorder. Along with the cold weather, the reduction of sunlight reaching your brain through your eyes causes depression which in-turn causes feeling sad during happy times such as Christmas for example.   This would more common in Alaska than Florida due to the environment. As daylight is decreased the brain automatically responds by increasing the melatonin in your brain, this is chemical that helps a person fall asleep and contributes to depression in the winter months. In addition to this being mobile is also a problem that refrains a person from getting around in the community. Difficult to use a wheelchair in the snow and ice. This also a big safety issue that should be avoided at all costs. Driving is the best way to be mobile but the individual behind the way must be legal and capable to drive safely. My son had to teach me how to drive after my TBI, that’s how much a person can forget after a traumatic brain injury. Good thing that it only took a few hours to acclimate me to dry     driving again something I have done my whole life! I don’t drive far but knowing I can get behind the wheel and go places needed is great.   Get out when you can, social interaction is healthy for you!!

Learning How to Remember

Verbal encoding can help in memorizing information. Am simple picture or word written down truly assists with short term memory improvement. Let’s use a banana, apple and a mango. Now take the first letter of each fruit and what do you have? BAM. This will help you remember and word backwards to what each fruit was! Simple yet very effective. People with brain injuries have “aura” before the injury occurs, the aura is a cluster of feelings stored in brain that assists with remembering vital information, telling ya, the brain is an amazing tool1 I am confident that it gets taken for granted but then again, you never know what you have until you lose it, common sense tells me that one.

A matter of timing? The right the left brain are two separate entities but there is constant communication between the brain’s two sides. If there is a brief delay in this process, the dominant side of the brain receives the same information twice. To amount to somewhat of a mental diploma, double all the information in your thoughts.

A traumatic brain injury, well in my case, was caused by too much responsibility and stress in my work and personal life so now I have switched gears and changed it all. A TBI greatly affects a person’s ability to continue acting in their ore-injury family role. It all changes, just like that! A person who is a solid income earner may be suddenly unable to any income and may require constant care putting the family in financial strain. Been there, done that myself, My medical bills were in the millions of dollars!Needless to say, financial incentives play a major role in determining the level of functioning for a person with a traumatic brain injury. If the individualize is unable to work this can be a motivation to get better as soon as possible. As in my case, I have worked for 40 years and I have always loved to work. Actually, I get bored not working ~ that being said I will continue to do whatever necessary to improve the skills I have left in order to keep going….. hard for me to do. Lack of family support is a big problem both personally and professionally.   I have been honest enough with employers which turned out to be a BIG mistake… that put me in a situation of being a scape goat in the business world, which sucks! I was recently blamed for something I did not do yet I was cornered in a room with 3 managers and forced to put this ordeal in writing. I had no choice so I did it to survive the ordeal…. They took advantage of me and used it to their advantage, aka they had to cover their ass!   I understood the entire ordeal, yet when a person has their options taken away all one can do is make the best choice quickly to resolve the problem. It was just awful but I had no choice, I took blame for something I did not do in order to get out of that room. I worked my ass off got this company for 7 months and this is how I was treated in the long run. Valuable lesson learned for me. I will not be honest again about my traumatic brain injury and take a lesser job to make ends meet. I will do what I have always done ~ go to work, do my job, go home. I will avoid building personal relationships on the job as I have done for many years simply because they can come back to destroy a person ~ I will not allow that to ever happen again! No job or amount of money is worth the tress or humiliation of this ordeal.

Most families go through stages in reacting to a head injured family member the Begin stage was full of love and.gratitude for survival and returning home, that was a short has at least.   Expectations of me on a personal and professional level had not changed despite the fact that I had changed. Eventually families confront thee concept that this individual will never recover. My personal situation was not of support, it was ;get the f out of over lives”. So I walked, destination completely unknown. The only blessing was that the weather was till warm… I lived in a park under a bridge, a homeless shelter and eventually stayed with friends until I was capable of coming up with a plan for a decent place to live. Not just a roof over my head, but a place that was once again mine! To keep what I had left of my personal belonging and start my life over. That is exactly what I did… been a long process, will never have as much as I once did, but at least it’s a start. I still have no vehicle to drive because I sold to a friend that really needed it more than I did, so I use the two feet I have and walk if I need to go somewhere. It sucks in the winter but I still do it. I have a hard time sitting still anyway ~ I am a mover of a woman but am learning to change my “old” self into my “new self.   By far the most challenging mission I have ever been on but I keep working at it each and everyday, \not sure how to give up. Actually, I will never give up ~ my life was spared and I appreciate that fact, regardless of what I have become. I still cook, drive, work, and am respectful to those in my life that treat me the same. Even before the traumatic brain injury I was just like this… now I am slower, more thoughtful and keep my distance from people I don’t know well, they are the ones who have stabbed me in the back before. I keep to myself which is the choice for now. Not what I prefer to do but the best decision for now. The TBI Support Group I attend is amazing, I am blessed to be able to attend when I can. The group director is an amazing woman who is a very group leader for our group. One of the main things in this group that inspires me the most is how the members keep going despite their deficiencies. I am talking about adults in wheelchairs that reside in an assisted living facility. I could not live in a place such as this simply because I am too independent of a woman. I don’t need a constant reminder of what I have become, I am very much aware of who and what I am today. The sad fact is that when a person has been facilitate to their fullest potential, the reality of a head injury is that any rehabilitation can be temporary. It’s a lifetime, ongoing process to be “normal” again. Acceptance of a person’s strengths with a TBI is very, very hard because there is a constant comparison of the past and who they once were. I constantly shift mental gears to avoid focusing on this aspect, it’s a major pain in the ass to conquer but I am almost there. I would say that I am about 75% thinking in the right direction. I wish I could just get over it… that would be too simple for me. My long term goal is to be 100% adjusted to what has happened and enjoy the rest of my life.

Acceptance of strengths after a TBI is difficult for me because no matter how much effort I put out it just doesn’t seem to be good enough for certain people. I need to just sever those ties and keep on going. Honestly, if had 1 dollar for every time someone was a disrespectful ass to me ~ well, I would be a rich woman!. Amazing how many people think lack of motivation is the key reason why someone with a TBI is not successful in life, how little they truly get it. I wish not what happened to me to happen to my worst enemy ~ it is just the fact. Funny thing is, I look, walk and act like a perfectly normal human being, but underneath this surface is a woman who have to write everything in order to remember anything! It works but it’s a hard fact to live with.

The brain is like a bowl of Jello, and cannot be compressed yet it can shift when violently disturbed as with a head injury. Although this is an unnatural movement that causes negative effects, it will not be destroyed in this process. Remarkable!

The brain is not medically designed for failure, it simply is not.

In my particular ordeal, I lost the left side of my brain which stores short-term memories.   Losing this part of your memory is very difficult to contend with on both a personal and professional level. The good news is the right side of my brain which stores long-term memories is fully intact. I will spend the rest of my life writing everything down in order to remember it ~ but hey it works beautifully. Not too bad in my opinion considering the alternative! I would rather be as deficient as I am then unable to communicate, cook, drive and keep s decent job. Not nearly as I once was but I am completely okay with the entire situation. Those who cannot or will not accept for who I am today ~ well then that is there deficiency, not mine! People are good to have in your life but a monumental pain in the ass to deal with on a daily basis. I still deal with them, just on a more selective basis. This is just fine with me, I have worked and dealt with money, people, and attitudes my entire life. For the moment I am perfectly content keeping to myself and enjoying life! No stress….. which is a major problem in anyone’s life. Too bad my family treats me like a “doormat” ~ their choice and their loss. I will continue to keep on going regardless of what people think. If a traumatic brain injury and stroke didn’t take me down, well then a human being will not have the pleasure of taking this girl out  I’m not as smart as I once was but I’m alive and doing just fine. Can’t ask for much more than that in life! Will continue this life adventure as it continues to unfold. Hang in there readers ~ I will keep you intrigued!

How to keep a positive attitude despite many deficiencies? Instead of focusing on what I once was and had I have redirected my thoughts towards what I still have and which direction I am going in life. I have very specific goals to accomplish in my life and I fully intend on doing so, with or without any assistance along the way. I am still the level-headed ambitious person I always was…. Not as quick but still pretty damn good. I have seen people far worse off than I am and they keep on going ~ so why shouldn’t I ? I look at it this way, there are always people worse off, count your blessings and work with what you have, it’s as simple as that. I am not one to bitch about what I have lost yet appreciate what I am able to accomplish each day. There are those people who appreciate others and there are those that simply do not. Despite short-term memory issues, my ‘gut instinct” is as sharp as ever, I truly believe it compensates for what I have lost, I am 100% convinced of this. NO ONE in this entire world knows me better than I do. I will live by those words for the rest of my life. I get it….. 100%. I explain myself to no one but GOD, he is my support system ~ always has been, always will be. Was raised in private Catholic schools which is an excellent foundation for any person. I was blessed that my family was committed to do this for us, it is what gave me the right thought process in life. My parents busted their asses to make sure all 5 of us had what we needed in life ~ and for that, I am thankful. Sucks that they are both gone but I am a parent and adult myself, been responsible since I was a teenager so I get it. Too bad kids in this day of age are completely different. They text, they do not read books and they have negative attitudes and potty mouths! Boy have times changed. I’ve worked, succeeded, raised children, prayed, gained, lost and I keep on going regardless….. And yes, I repeat myself a lot via language and emails too. So what….. at least I don’t forget everything and everyone! I cover my own tracks, always have and always will. That is the way I do business. C YB ~ cover your basis, always!!

I have no idea on the face of this earth I am going to write this lengthy novel, publisher informed me it has to be a minimum of 100 pages! That’s tough for anyone to accomplish let alone an individual that has suffered a traumatic brain injury! As always, I will do the best I am able. In my opinion, you do your best to succeed, that’s all a person can do. I also have no concept of time, meaning days tend to blend together in my mind ~ another reason to write everything down! If I can’t read it, I simply won’t remember it. Plain and simple ~ how many of us forget stuff? My guess is that the majority of the human race do, I’m no different, I acknowledge these deficiencies which is a big part of acceptance. My family today are not an active part of my life. They understand understand how I am, but I honestly feel in my heart that they tolerate me simply because I am family. I love them, respect them, but we are not part of each others lives. Sad but true…. I have long since come to terms with this, I have accepted it long ago.

Sleep disorders are common with TBI, I take Meltonin to help sleep. It’s an over the counter supplement that works beautifully. Without it, the brain never shuts down making it very difficult to get any rest. The brain was designed never to fail! I believe that was God’s master plan when he designed the human being.Basic ailments are magnified with a TBI. In my case the “tinnitus” aka ringing in the ears is very common in older adults yet for me it is magnified by 150%. So what that means is that ringing in the ears is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard!   Seriously, it is distracting beyond words yet I manage to “tune it” each day, otherwise I am not able to concentrate or focus at all. It’s a pain in the ass but I have to deal with all the side effects to keep on going. I have long since given up on why God saved my life, I simply keep on being grateful that I am able to function and live.What does an engine in a motor vehicle do? It starts up, runs, and gets the vehicle operable, just like a brain .Without an engine in a vehicle, nothing works right? The brain is the same way, it operates the human body. Of course there are things beyond a person’s control that can disrupt or destroy a human brain such as in my case, my suggestion is to use what is left. The theory is ~ if you don’t use, you loose it. It works, I am living proof of it. This novel is very therapeutic for me to write. It reminds me each day of 2 important factors. 1) I am blessed to be alive and 2) I have come to accept the “new me” as opposed to constantly wanting to be the “old me”, A tough rode to climb both personally and professionally but can be done nevertheless. A tough nut to swallow, has taken me 3 years to accomplish this task…. When I look in the mirror and I want to cry,,, I used to be so smart and beautiful ~ I still look good but inside is a hollow shell… hard to admit but necessary to come to terms with. Everything in life happens for a reason ~ all one can do is move forward with life.I will go to TBI support groups for the rest of my life, no because I have but simply because I want to be part of the group. I have always had a method to my madness… just part of how I was raised and part of who I am. Like my Mom used to tell me “ if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Leaving Colorado ~ Change is good

Talk about major life changes, like I haven’t been through enough ~ the next major life change is a decision I have put many months of thought, work and effort to accomplish ~ that’s the type of person I am ~ I do nothing half-ass ed and never will. Does not define me as a human being, I know many, many people in this world and those who know me underneath the surface will back me up on my words. Honestly, I forgive but truly never forget. If I hadn’t busted my ass for the past 40 years I would not be where I am in life. Everything I have in life, I have earned. And that includes relationships that I have had with certain people in my life for decades. Again, it’s not what you do in life, it’s how you do it that makes or breaks you as I am living proof of this statement. No bullshit, life is NOT to be taken for granted.

Having lived in Colorado since I was 10 years old, my son and I are moving to a community outside of Lake Michigan, close to the water and in a beautiful and more affordable location all the way around. We have a place to live and great jobs waiting for us! In less than 2 weeks I will be there. So I left my home and moved to Michigan with my adult son, better economically and closer to my family and life-long friends. 1 week ago my one and only sister passed away from brain cancer… I had just sent her a book I bought her, a card, then I called her ~ 2 days later she was gone… my best friend is in a better place! Yet I cant help falling back on my original hearsay ~ why did I survive my medical catastrophe and she did not? Yes I am still alive, look good, and am very active but the “new me” is nothing even close to what I once was. The hardest part of this whole ordeal is accepting who you are versus you once were. Has taken me 3 years to accept this fact of life but I have done it regardless. Had no choice, it’s due or die ~ so my life goes on despite my ordeal ~ I have no choice but to continue on. True, there are moments in my life I wish I would have passed away simply so that I did not have to deal with the day to day bullshit that life hands out but it is not longer in my hands so I simply let go and let God take control ~ there is always a higher power that determines our destiny.. Always!

I keep my faith and keep on going regardless ~ what other choice is there? If anyone ever figures this out I want to be the 2nd person to know the answer to this question… how does one continue to function with only 2/3 of brain and extreme cognitive deficiencies…. I truly want to know how to make this happen! Honestly, I will have to write everything down for the rest of my life in order to remember basic, simple information. I am grateful that it works ~ otherwise I would really be in a bad situation. A normal person goes right back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night but not this girl…. Another deficiency of a traumatic brain injury! Once my feet hit the floor my brain gets going, and once that happens I cant stop thinking or moving around. Even at 4am ~ my brain just gets rocking…. Good news is I go to bed early as I am an early riser ~ get as much as out each day as possible.

The basic components involved in short term memory that definitely work

Are as follows:

•             Brain exercise, a more healthy brain is better for short term memory ~ use it or loose it.

•             Interact with people, conversations, play chess, do puzzles

or anything that keeps your brain in an active state.

Stimulate your mind when you are alone as well, do not sit around

And watch TV, read a book, write a book or engage in crossword puzzles.

Even listening to music stimulates the brain! I do a multitude to activities

To keep my brain active and it truly works!

Focusing and Associating:

Focus on what you want to remember, people tend to assume they have

A short term memory problem when actually they have a problem with

Concentration issues and are easily distracted. Block out distractions and

Simply focus and concentrate of what you want to remember.

My ultimate solution ~ write it down!!! Keep an daily agenda of everything that

You need to do, print it out and write it down. I keep multiple copies everywhere and it truly works. On the flip side of the coin, I was married a 2nd time and have a 15 year old son that I have very little knowledge of and not much of a

relationship with either.

His Dad and I were married for 15 years, I made all the money, paid the bills and the

House payment while he sat on his ass trying to figure out what to do….. then he made a BIG mistake, cheated on his wonderful wife (me) and that was the end of that! I gave him the boot and told him to hit the road….even with a traumatic brain injury I remember all that nonsense…. Some memories simply do not go away despite all the effort to forget them and that’s okay ~ they were stored in the memory bank for a specific reason so I do not question it ~ I simply go with the flow. My teenage son lives with his Dad and I moved away recently, needed a change of venue so I stated a brand new life with my adult son ~ he is my rock! One of those circumstances in life that occur without any explanation.

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