Waiting and watching are the two words most often used by family members to describe what this time was like for them. The stress, worry and anxiety may feel overwhelming at times. It may be hard to concentrate or do even the simplest things. This period of coma is among the most difficult for family members because of its seriousness and uncertainty.
Hope is the holding on to the belief that there is light at the end of the tunnel. It is the desire for positive change and growth in the face of adversity. Hope is what sustains so many survivors of brain injury and their families and caregivers as they face the challenges of building a meaningful life and facing the future.
Concussion and survivor recovery stories told by Bonnie Nish and 19 authors, share personal experiences of support and hope. It has taken me a while to figure out in what context I wanted to frame why it was I wanted to pull this book together. Why in the middle of my own trauma would I start to think that Concussion and Mild Brain Injury: Just Another Headline was a good idea at all? Over the last few years I have had many gifts bestowed on me. Yes, some are the kind you can hold in your hand. Others however, are more cerebral and the kind you hold in your heart. Tonight I couldn’t find my keys and for an instant I could feel my stomach turn when I remembered last week having left them in the door for hours. It wasn’t that I was worried someone would walk away with them and use them later, it was that it was so reminiscent of that time in my life when I wouldn’t even have remembered putting them in the door in the first place.
Hope! As a brain injury survivor, Bill Jarvis knows how difficult it can be to hold on to hope when so much has been lost in one’s life and relationships. But he offers both hope and encouragement to survivors that it is possible to sustain hope and to build a positive future.
Winter can be a tough season for anyone but it can be exceptionally distressing for brain injury survivors. On top of struggling with the typical “winter blues”, brain injury survivors are struggling with a fundamental life crisis. Who am I and what is my value if I can’t do what I used to do, if my friends aren’t my friends anymore and I am a problem for my family?
Something you may not realize is that there is commonly a grieving process associated with healing from a brain injury. You have lost much of your “sense of self”. You don’t know how much you will get back and you may not know for a long time. There are often secondary losses as well – jobs, income, homes, friends, even family. These changes and losses all have a profound effect on a survivor, as well as their family and friends.
But like any other human being since the dawn of time, hardship has reared its head repeatedly. From the unexpected loss of family members to a bankrupt business, some heavy blows have fallen. This does not make me unique. It simply makes me human. I carry no hard feelings or resentment about any of my challenges or difficult experiences. In fact, at a deeper level, I can appreciate them as they strengthen me. As steel is tempered and made stronger by fire, so have the fires of my own life, including my brain injury, made me stronger.
It’s over six months since my last blog, and I’ve been a bit busy completing my PhD – which is now with the examiners. Phew! It’s been a battle with my constant brain injury shadows – the Brain Dragon that scorches holes in my memory, and doubles my vision and the Pain Monster isn’t much fun either! But it’s done and I’ve written three new chapters for the reprinting of my book ‘Doing Up Buttons’ and at last I can take a breath and spend a few minutes with you.
When a brain injury has altered your life or your loved one’s life, often drastically and always without permission, it’s important to find inspiration in your life. It will keep you going on those dark days, providing some much needed light and comfort.
According to my friend Meira Yaer, in her book The Process of Empowerment: A Therapeutic Model After Brain Trauma, inspiration is “part of the mystery of the creative life force in humans. Once interest is indicated, inspiration leads the way.” The elements of inspiration, she says, are awe, creative impulse, the healing power of nature, and joy.
What inspires you?
When people wonder why I do what I do, I tell them this…
Because in my perfect world, everyone would readily wear a helmet, a seatbelt, and drive their vehicle knowing the lives of many can be altered with one single moment of carelessness.
Retreats for wives of wounded warriors help women find support and address needs for emotional healing. As caregivers of veterans with disabling injuries and PTSD, they are experiencing compassion fatigue and secondary stress. Marilyn Lash is part of a team with Hope for the Homefront conducting weekend retreats across the country with the support of Operation Homefront.
The other day I was listening to one of Oprah’s Master Class programs on OWN, her television channel. She was speaking about Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor; a neuroanatomist who suffered a hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of her brain (www.drjilltaylor.com).
Dr. Bolte Taylor appeared on Oprah’s show. She had a profound effect on Oprah when she said that during her hospital stay, she wanted visitors to be responsible for the energy they brought into the room when they came to see her. Be responsible for the energy you bring. Be responsible for the energy you bring. This had as profound an effect on me as it had on Oprah.