Expanded Consciousness: More Meditations on Brain Injury

Expanded Consciousness: More Meditations on Brain Injury

Mike Strand

This second book by popular columnist Mike Strand delves into the mysteries and challenges of living with a brain injury. Using short essays to explore and express his personal thoughts and experiences, he offers insights, perspective, and support for survivors of brain injury, their families, and caregivers. With a mix of humor, grace, sensitivity and awareness he tackles the ever changing challenges for survivors as they rebuild their lives. Topics covered are as diverse as climbing stairs to marriage to getting cable. This is a book that you will go back to over and over again no matter where you are in the journey of brain injury.

Read an interview with Mike Strand

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Full Description

It’s often said that no one can know or understand what it’s like to have a brain injury until you are that person. But Mike Strand’s book, Expanded Consciousness, goes a long way toward revealing what it’s really like to be a survivor. Using his format of short essays, he delves into the frustrations, challenges, rewards and disappointments that he – and many other survivors – experience. He takes you into the world and mind of brain injury and you will find his book engaging and revealing whether you are a survivor, family members, caregiver or professional.

ISBN# 9781931117654
Pages 100
Year 2013


In 1989 I was on my way home from work and was broadsided by a semi-truck. Of course, I don't remember the event at all, and blame could be placed on either party. I don't waste time and energy assigning blame. The first responders at the scene were all guys I worked with at Andersen Windows and they knew me. They tell me when they got to me they assumed I was just unconscious as I had no apparent injuries – I wasn't bleeding and nothing looked broken. My truck was all smashed on one side and had been booted a good seventy-five feet, so they were somewhat astonished I didn't look worse.

Then they took my vitals and discovered that they couldn't find any blood pressure and that I was barely alive. They had recently acquired a pneumatic splint and that was the only reason they were able to keep me alive until I reached the hospital.

The hospital they brought me to was a Level 1 Trauma Center and I was fortunate to be taken there. I spent ten days in a coma and several times my temperature spiked over 108. The staff were quite sure that I would be severely retarded if I ever came out of my coma and they advised my family to start looking at nursing homes for me to transfer to, in the event I lived.

As I drifted out of my coma I was transferred to the rehab floor. I spent a total of eight weeks in the hospital and many months in out-patient care. Ultimately, I completed my rehab and was released from watchful eyes. That was when my real odyssey began.

Brain injury does not fit into the normal pattern of “treat and release” that so many other health conditions operate in. Additionally, unlike many chronic health conditions, brain injury is not something that people can "see." Many people with brain injuries people look normal. On top of that there is the stigma that since people are released from care, they must be all right.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The most common reaction when a person is told they are done with rehab is, "Hey, I'm not better!" Actually, it is more of a gradual realization that grows on one after time. The realization comes some time after when the person finds that they aren't able to function as before. Real recovery, from an individual's perspective, begins when rehab ends. When all the guards and protections, real and figurative, are removed. This is a path that is trod, for the most part, alone. It is different for everyone.

I offer my 20+ years of experience with brain injury recovery as a resource for others. I would like to have been able to offer this to myself when I was just out of the hospital. How I would have treasured and devoured such a book, a book from my future self explaining how to get through it all! But such time tricks are not to be. I can however, offer this book to others. Some of your experiences will no doubt be different, but many will likely be similar.




Routine Reality

Wrapping Your Mind Around It

Meditations on Purpose

Traveling and Brain Injury

Asking is not Begging

Ego and Confidence

On Making Friends

Dating and Brain Injury

Visual Noise


Brain Injury and the Last Days of Pompeii

Deconstructing Happiness

Digesting Grief

The Four Things

Making Assumptions

Lack of Occurrence


Brain Injury and Marriage

Learning to Trust My Senses

The Pilgrim

Helping Others

Your True Self

Eye of the Storm

Rational Expectations

Ambushing Myself

Stress Management


The Diving Bell

More Notes from the Diving Bell

Hard to Know

The Imposter


Brain Injury is Too Convenient

A Balance of Humor

Just Kinda Goin’ With It

The Good in Looking Back

My New Superpowers

The Infinite Strength of Compassion


Getting Cable

Visualizing Wellness

Friends and Caregivers

My Brain Injury Stream of Thought

A Waking Dream

Explaining Cognitive Deficits

Loss of Ability


The Edge


Wrapping Your Mind Around It

“What is it like to have a brain injury?” If you haven’t actually been asked this, you know that people are wondering it. The only thing harder than trying to understand brain injury if you’ve never had one, is trying to explain it if you have.

Nothing makes you feel more isolated than when someone tells you that they know just how you feel. That they too have a terrible memory, or that they too get confused. The fact that they think they know how you feel only underscores how far they are from that fact. The next time someone tells you that they have the same problems you do, earnestly suggest to them that they get a neuropsychological evaluation so that they can identify their disability and get correct medical help. They will laugh it off of course, and joke that perhaps they ought to. Then you can tell them THAT is the difference between you and them.

I’m not seriously suggesting that you do that. They are just trying to be polite and offer solace. No point in throwing it back in their face.

Every once in a while, a situation or example occurs to me that brings to light some aspect of brain injury that most people can identify with from their own experience. One of these is the concept of “wrapping your mind around a concept.”

Everyone has these moments; times when you’re so tired and worn out that you just can’t grasp the situation. The time and place when you know that if you just walk away, maybe get some rest and come back fresh, that you will be able to handle it. That in the morning the answer will seem so obvious that it is hard to believe that you couldn’t see it last night.

That is what brain injury is like. All you know is that constant nagging feeling that the answer is right there, but you just can’t see it. Except there is no walking away from it; no coming back fresh. Day after day, month after month, year after year, all you know is this constant off-center feeling. This unbearable maddening certainty that the obvious is staring you right in the face only you just aren’t seeing it, and more than likely, you never will.

Even after fifteen years I still feel this way. I definitely have a much better grasp of the obvious than I used to, but it happens often enough that I miss something, or totally misread a situation, that I realize I’m not out of the woods yet.

It is not easy for me to accept that I need the help of others. It does not sit comfortably in my self-image that I cannot always trust what my senses are telling me, or more accurately, what my brain is telling me my senses are telling me.

I will look to my sense of compassion for my sense of worth.

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