The Story of Your Life


Brain Injury Blog by Barbara Stahura

March 2, 2011

The Story of Your Life

(excerpted from After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story)

“‘What is your medicine?’ I was asked.

“‘Story. Story is my medicine,’ I answered.”

                                             Deena Metzger, Entering the Ghost River

Telling Your Story

As a person with a brain injury, you have been hurt and traumatized by something most people haven’t experienced and can’t really understand. Whether your brain injury is the result of an accident, surgery, infection, military service, violence, stroke, medical emergency, or any other cause, you now must deal with a number of challenges you never imagined. One major challenge you face is making sense of a life disrupted and perhaps changed forever. Another is being accepted as a person who still has value and whose life still holds meaning and purpose. Yet another is revealing a new self to people, perhaps even your loved ones, who don’t realize or understand the internal changes the injury caused in you (just as it is possible you do not understand these changes, either). And, since every brain injury is as unique as the person who experienced it, you will face your own individual challenges.

However, no matter how many challenges your brain injury has created for you, one thing is certain: You have a new story to tell.

jouranling3Being natural-born storytellers, we humans assign meaning to everything. So, usually without realizing it, we build our lives from the stories we tell ourselves and each other. Like weavers, we combine ordinary and significant events alike into stories that tell us who we are and where we belong in our world. When we answer the question, “What did you do at work/school/home today?” we are telling our story. When we tell someone about our trip to Hawaii or to the nearby zoo, we are telling our story. When we explain a terrible or a delicious moment in our lives, we are telling our story. When we dream about a desired future or struggle to understand our past, we are shaping our lives through the stories we tell to ourselves and to others. We also hold many unspoken stories in the deepest chambers of our hearts, some of which can embrace us like a lullaby or burn us like acid.

Creating a New Story

An injury to the magnificent, mysterious brain can upset the familiar story of a life in ways no other injury or illness can.  You may face not only challenges with your physical abilities but, more essentially, you may find yourself wrestling with difficult mental and emotional changes. So much you knew about yourself—the wealth of information you depended upon to lead your life—can blur or disappear, leaving you stranded and struggling in an unknown place. You can feel as though you’ve been kidnapped to an alien planet where nothing is familiar, and where you can feel lost and in danger. You might even feel as though you have disappeared.

Fortunately, story can be your medicine, as Deena Metzger says. Creating a new story after your injury can allow a measure of healing (even years later), help rebuild your life, and offer much-needed hope. Like laying stones to form a path, you can use your own words and insights to guide you through a now-unfamiliar world. By giving voice to your deepest self after the trauma of a brain injury, to whatever extent you are able, you can forge a new understanding.

Journaling to Tell Your Story

One powerful method of telling your own story is to use a simple writing technique called journaling. Journaling allows you to express your innermost thoughts on the page, free of judgment from anyone else. You can journal in only minutes a day, or you can spend more time. With journaling, you can write for yourself and keep it private, or you can later share your entries with others. You can write while you’re alone, or you can write as part of a group.

Journaling prompts

For people with brain injury and those who love them:

  • If I could tell the story of my life after brain injury, I would write…
  • The major way my life changed after brain injury…
  • Story is my medicine because…

Next time: Coming at the story sideways

See Barbara’s website at and her blog at

One response to “The Story of Your Life”

  1. sandra says:

    Dear Barbara
    Thank you for this article ..been trying to do this called the day i entered a parallel world where I spoke words which others became angry at and I want to do something to help children adjust you giving the prompts very good will use these

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