Every one has a story to tell, but Mike Strand’s book Meditations on Brain Injury is more than a story. With short essays of 1-2 pages, it is ideal for survivors with cognitive challenges for long complex reading, as well as for caregivers and families with busy schedules. This book is more than a story. He takes you into not only his life as a survivor who has rebuilt his present and future, but he also encourages readers to examine their lives.
No matter where you are in your journey of living with a brain injury, this book is a valuable source of support, hope, and inspiration. You will find that, “You are not alone.” Here is someone who understands what you go through every day. He has been there. He knows.
In the words of Mike Strand, “I do have one wish. I don’t want this book to be a ‘coffee table book.’ I want this book to be a ‘bathroom book.’ I want this book to be read, marked up, and annotated. This is the perfect book to pick up whenever you have a spare moment to glance at a page or two.”
It will make a difference in how you look at your life.
About the Author
Getting the Most Out of Rehab
Making Sense of Brain Injury
Sense of Self and Sense of Accomplishment
Sense of Memory
Sense of Compassion
A Tip for Faster Recovery
Act Happy to be Happy
Giving Yourself Credit
On Being Well Liked
Learning to See
A Memory Like All Others
Meta-cognition: Thinking about Thinking
On Being Dependent
A Routine Gift
Self-Image and Brain Injury
The Really Scary Thing About TBI
The Sleeper Awakens
Owning Your Brain Injury
Towards a Better Life
Why Support Groups Are For You
A Near Horizon
Sorrow to Wisdom
A Borrowed Identity
How Others See You
A Final Meditation
Making Sense of Brain Injury
I am sharing my years of experience post-TBI in the hopes that others may find bits and pieces that facilitate their own personal growth.
These are things that I wish someone had told me during my first few years post-TBI. The words “years post-TBI” are important for a couple of reasons. The word “years” is important because it places a realistic time frame for growth.
The words post-TBI are important because I don’t like the word recovery. The word recovery is a palliative that obscures the true nature of a brain injury. You are not who you were so there is nothing to recover. You are a different person after a brain injury and trying to be who you were is like trying to be someone you’re not and that is a prescription for depression. To thine own self be true.
Being a new person means that who you were is gone. This is called a loss of sense of self. Overcoming this loss is hard enough, but to enjoy the fruits of growth post-TBI you must discard your second identity. This is your “TBI survivor” identity. The most difficult part of this is the voluntary aspect. You have to decide that you want to be more than just a victim of brain trauma.
Let’s be realistic, it is a very hard thing to see past your brain injury. No one can see it and you can see little else. This is, in my opinion, one of the primary reasons for support groups. Being among others who can understand your loss helps to validate your feelings and this allows you to move on and heal. Moving beyond my brain injury and continuing to grow and develop as a person is the passion that fills my day. I am not ashamed of my brain injury, I am proud of how far I’ve come. I don’t advertise my brain injury, but I don’t hide it either. When you are ready to start your life anew, I hope the following articles can help.
I have read a lot of books and accounts by individual survivors of traumatic brain injury, but none caught my attention like Mike Strand’s book. With powerful, insightful and often humorous essays, he captures the essence of brain injury in a way that no one else has. Regardless of whether it has been a week, month, year or decades since your brain injury, this book is a must for you and your family.
Prior to age 26, Mike Strand says he spent his life “consistently under-achieving based on his abilities, and over-questioning in lieu of accomplishing.” He also described himself as an intellectual who “was dismissive of others.” Today, though, his list of accomplishments includes writing two books, becoming a wedding officiant, teaching yoga classes, building houses for Habitat for Humanity, learning three languages, and studying physics. He also strives to be kind and caring, saying that now “my heart compensates for my brain.”
These changes were hard-won. Broadsided by a semi in 1989, Strand sustained a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) that left him in a ten-day coma. After that, he required a year of grueling rehabilitation therapies just to be able to walk, talk, read, and write. In his new book Meditations After Brain Injury (Lash & Associates Publishing/Training Inc.), he writes about his ongoing transformation. These essay were originally written for the newsletter of the Brain Injury Alliance of Minnesota in order to help others, he says. But along the way he discovered that collecting his thoughts on paper was helping him gain clarity and continue moving forward.
Because many people with brain injury find it difficult to read long pieces, these essays are short, rarely more than two pages. But Strand manages to pack them with a whole lot of insight resulting from two decades of post-injury self-reflection. He writes in a friendly, engaging tone, with obvious empathy for fellow survivors of brain injury. Yet without being preachy, he’s adamant that living a post-TBI life takes courage, giving up self-pity, and letting go of the past in order to move into the future. He doesn’t like the term “recovery” applied to brain injury, saying it’s too limiting and inaccurate.
Post-TBI, you’re not even going in the same direction,” he says. “It's like after your accident your car was facing another direction, and driving straight back is never going to get you where you were. You have to find acceptance. If you’re trying to recover, you’re not accepting. Recovery is impossible because you’re changed. Take stock of what you’ve got, look at where you want to go, and start working toward it.”
These honest, straightforward essays cover topics ranging from getting the most out of rehab and making sense of brain injury to understanding anger and moving from sorrow to wisdom. They are valuable reading for people with brain injury as well as for their families and friends who want to have a better understanding of what brain injury can do. His message is that while brain injury may be the end of the life you knew, it’s not the end of what your life can be. As he writes, “As difficult as it is sometimes, I have to ignore what I’ve lost and focus on what I’ve gained. Now, the only reason I look back is to see how far I’ve come.”