My Brain Injury Story: An Anniversary

Tomorrow, September 15, 2020, it will be the four year anniversary of the car accident that caused me to suffer many injuries, chief among them was a severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and a coma that lasted three weeks.

As a survivor of a traumatic event, the yearly anniversary is going to arise and instead of approaching it with doom and gloom each year, I would like to start the tradition of looking back on my progress and the positives that arose from a negative. In this blog post, I would like to discuss the changes in my life and the progress I have made since September 2016, with a focus on 2019-2020.

Programming note: The second Monday of the month is typically a pop culture recommendation, however because the accident anniversary is tomorrow I decided to flip flop the essay and pop culture recommendation. The pop culture recommendation will be next week.

Since this blog has been a good way for me to keep track of change and progress, I’ve decided to go through the year (September 2019 to now) and discuss what events occurred in my post-TBI journey this year.

Reflections on the years post-TBI prior to this year
Since I am just starting to do this blog reflection to review my yearly post-TBI progress, I thought I would start with a little summary of my story up until this year.

As I have said many times on this blog, I have always wanted to be a writer. When the accident happened in 2016 I had two Master’s degrees but I wasn’t working a job that used them. I was a chronic pain sufferer (daily chronic migraines, TMJ, fibromyalgia) who had let nearly two decades of constant pain wipe away any drive or ambition I had to pursue a writing career. I was at a crossroads where I needed to decide what to do with my career. And instead of being able to make a clear and concise choice, fate intervened and I was in a car accident that gave me a severe TBI, 3-week coma, fractured femur, shattered pelvis, and other injuries. It seems fate knew I was at an indecisive crossroads and smacked me clear into the next month (some coma humor for you).

Image from Pixabay.

As I say on this blog, I have been “writing my brain injury story” ever since the accident. Well, not really ever since September 15, 2016, since I was in a coma and I really didn’t start writing again until 2018 (when I initially started this blog as a short story writing blog). I also didn’t start writing my “brain injury story” in earnest until summer 2019.

Once I was at a point in my recovery when I could reflect and write about the experience I knew I needed to write my memoir (not because the world needs my story but because I needed to tell it) and I decided to document the writing journey on this blog.

In the summer of 2019, I attempted to write my entire memoir in the month of July (or at least 50,000 words during Camp NaNoWriMo). I didn’t succeed but I did write over 30,000 words and became really motivated to finish. I am still writing it but am still motivated, albeit more realistic about what it will take to finish.

After I was released from the hospital and transitional care, I was released to the care of my parents. While it’s trying at times being 41 and living again with your parents, we truly get along and have a nice time together. I initially started a second blog to document this time with parents (primarily consuming pop culture), but once I decided to focus more on creative writing, I stopped that blog, “Watching Pop Culture With My Parents,” and instead have it as one of my monthly features.

While the years post brain injury saw a lot of challenging and unforeseen changes, I’ve also experienced enough progress to keep me hopeful and keep me trudging forward and really that’s all I hope for… progress.

A timeline of the year I made using images from Pixabay.

Blog and Progress Reflection 2019 – 2020
  • September 2019: I start the year off on a humorous note in an essay called “Hashtag What’s So Funny?” In that post I discuss my ready access to my humor post-TBI.
  • October 2019: I had some fun posting content for Halloween. I started by writing and posting a Halloween short story where the characters and plot were suggested by my friends on Facebook. I wrote two stories this way. The first one was a Sherlock Holmesinspired story starring Selby as Sherlock Selby and her cousin Bella as Bella Watson. Sherlock Selby and the case of the missing bone. The second story was Clue-inspired and I set it in the setting of my family’s lake cabin. Murder at a Minnesota Lake Cabin: A Case of Minnesota-not-so-nice.
  • November 2019: Composed in October but not posted until November, I wrote an essay about how I perceive sound post-TBI. I often say what I am experiencing is like a horror movie in my head (and I never really liked scary movies). The essay is called: “The Sounds are Coming From INSIDE My Head.” Before COVID-19 gripped the world and kept most of us home, I wrote about Pop Culture Fan Vacations. These were destinations throughout the world that I want to travel to (inspired by various pop culture). Even though travel is deeply changed by COVID-19, I have high hopes travel will happen soon. Safely.
  • December 2019: It’s holiday season and time to be jolly. I wrote a post about celebrating after tragedy: Holidays of Good Cheer After Tragedy.
  • January 2020: I started a new feature on the blog called #CreativityForDays. It started as an extra weekly post and then just morphed into a segment within each Monday post. And I got into awards show season again and created another downloadable ballot for the Oscars. My parents and I watched quite a few nominated movies. I finally feel like I am getting back into the groove of things watching movies with my TBI and hearing loss. I wrote an essay describing the difference between pre-TBI me and post-TBI me as a moviegoer in an essay I called “The Two Moviegoers.”
  • February 2020: I shared a “mind map” I developed for my memoir. It isn’t the specific one associated with my memoir but a general one I developed. I am pretty proud of it because I feel it could really help others writing memoirs or personal essays.
Here is the generic mind map I developed.
  • March 2020: March is Brain Injury Awareness Month (according to the Brain Injury Association of America) so I dedicate every weekly post to writing about brain injury. I share brain injury related content in the form of: book review, pop culture recommendation, essay, writing update and an extra pop culture recommendation with an original short story. COVID-19 hits the United States and the world in earnest. My family cancels a trip to Maui because of the pandemic.
  • April 2020: I have been sending video messages to friends and one of them has two young girls. Sending messages to them inspired me to find a new hobby and craft. I made them a little picture book with an original story with pictures by me too. I discover that it’s a fun hobby that allows me to be creative. I discuss more about this new hobby in this blog post.
  • May 2020: It’s Selby’s third birthday on May 25th and I wrote & designed a children’s book for her called “Not a Panda.” The “book” is really just a blog post but it piques my interest in writing children’s books. That might be a viable thing to put effort behind once I finish my memoir. In the United States we experience increased awareness of systemic racism in the face of a killing of a black man by police (George Floyd).
  • June 2020: After struggling to focus enough during the world pandemic to write more in my memoir, I get my focus back and continue slowly plugging away. I discuss how I am Writing a Memoir In Times of Chaos in this blog post.
  • July 2020: On this blog I start a new weekly feature that I’m calling “TBIthursday.” It’s a weekly essay centered around a memory or thought related to my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The objective is to help me focus on my memoir and generate more content for it. (Visit here for a link to a page with all my TBIthursday posts.)
  • August 2020: After admittedly struggling for several weeks (mainly with how I am feeling about my hearing), I write a TBIthursday post about the evolution of my hearing post-TBI and it’s a big step towards acceptance for me.
General summary of the year
In addition to blogging, I am still working away on my memoir. I stopped posting word counts but my best guess is that I’m at around 66,000 words. I still have so much work to do, especially editing, and I feel like things could change a lot after I edit. I’m guessing that the final memoir will be between 80,000 – 100,000 words.

In addition to blogging for myself I have started to blog for a local organization as a volunteer. My Mom and I were working out with a personal trainer before COVID-19. We haven’t gone back yet but we will. My goal has always been to completely get rid of all walking assistance devices. I am close but still use a cane for longer distances. However. I am happy with my physical progress as it’s heading in the right direction.

One thing that I know will be an ongoing issue for me and may not get better is my hearing. After struggling for weeks this summer I realized that acceptance is an active process that I had treated with passivity. I’m now in a better place and ready to keep moving on and progressing through my recovery.

#CreativityForDays Weekly Project Summary

Even though Halloween may not have many if any Trick or Treaters this year because of COVID-19 (I haven’t read if “beggar’s nights” are happening or not), I still want to dress Selby up. Originally I had a costume for her already that’s a little hula girl. I got it when my family was going to Maui in March. However, COVID-19 hit the world and the United States very hard (it hit the USA starting in March) so our vacation was cancelled and we don’t know when we will get to reschedule. Therefore I am holding off on Selby wearing her hula girl costume and looked for something else. That’s when I found a skunk costume on Amazon. I PhotoShopped a picture of Selby into the skunk costume and below are the results! (I just ordered the costume… so look forward to the real pictures next month.)

A Selby Sweetie Conclusion

Here’s another image of Selby PhotoShopped into the skunk 🦨 costume. You know, for giggles!


16 thoughts on “My Brain Injury Story: An Anniversary

  1. I love taking the day of my accident as a day to reflect. I also traveled for my one year to a weekend of counseling and year two was supposed to be the Love Your Brain Retreat but Covid canceled it. I just try to reflect and do something positive on the day, especially doing things I shouldn’t be able to do like travel alone:) This year it was a weekend at the beach and full of reflection about how far I had come in the year, and the goods and bass and all we had learned:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good ideas. Since my accident was hard on my family in the beginning and I have no memory of it, the anniversary brings up a lot for them too. I think a nice picnic in the park with Selby and a nice walk would be nice. Reflection is good.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree, so hard for all involved. But I talk about it since I have no memory of any of it and it helps me. It helps me to process it all and understand what happened. I have zero memory of it, or the year prior and no memory really of the year after so it helps me to talk about it and learn from it. Picnic in the park with Selby, a walk and reflection sounds great. Everyone definitely processes things differently:)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “…remember that, even if the times had been more prosperous, they themselves would not necessarily have been more happy. He directs their attention away from quantity to quality…”. Ecclesiastes 4:6

    You are a blessing and sharing your talents have improved the lives of others.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The anniversary of my big-ass-bike-accident used to be a huge deal for me. At first I tracked the loss. Later the triumph. After that just an excuse to bring a box of donuts to work. Now I often miss it altogether. Life is funny and it takes a long time. The things that were once so important to me are gone and new things take their place. Sometime I wonder how my life would look without the physical trauma, the injuries and the TBI. But I’m also happy with my life so maybe it was all for the best. I’m certainly a better person now than I was before, but 26 years. I guess we all change in a span like that.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anniversaries always occasion reflection and goal setting, don’t they! I’m so impressed with how much you have accomplished in the last year, especially given how 2020 has rocked all of our worlds. I was cruising along with my memoir (I too have about 65,000 words and aim for 80,000 -90,000) until the pandemic upended things and really made me rethink why my story was important (or even if it was). Sometimes a break really brings clarity. Here’s to many more anniversaries for you, marked by reflections of great productivity in the prior year.

    Liked by 1 person

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