Note: I realize this #TBIthursday is actually being posted on a Friday. I didn’t plan ahead and ended up watching the last U.S. Presidential Debates instead of finishing my blog! 🙊
Since the third blog of the month is usually an essay and #TBIthursday is basically already an essay, I decided that this would be the week of two essays. The first essay is specifically about my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and the second essay is more general.
In order to get my creative juices flowing for both of these essays, I sought out some sage and wise quotes to get me inspired to write. The #TBIthursday quote is about change and the general essay’s quote is about survival.
#TBIthursday: Change your attitude
I saw esteemed poet and author Maya Angelou speak twice. She visited one of the schools where I went to graduate school. She wasn’t performing a play or singing a series of songs. She was just speaking. Honestly telling her story in her beautifully rich voice. And it was compelling and riveting. I hung onto every word and leapt at the chance to see her speak again (it’s why I saw her twice). And her writing and quotes are the same way (this is why I am using a quote from her as inspiration today). (Check out her website as it’s still being populated with great content by her son, Guy Johnson, even after her death.)
Angelou had a unique gift of phrasing and writing things in a way that was distinct and thought-provoking. She would take a phrase, thought, or word and rotate or spin it slightly askew to get you thinking about something in a different way. That’s why I am talking about this quote for my #TBIthursday essay: “If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
This quote spins me in a lot of different directions, but for this blog post, I am going to focus particularly on my life after my severe Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
Surviving severe injuries and trauma means that you are actively living this quote. I didn’t like that when I came out of the coma that I couldn’t walk, talk, hear, process thoughts, or FEEL, so with time and hard work in various therapies (Physical, Occupational, Speech, and Mental), I was able to change what I didn’t like (to a certain extent).
Changing what I didn’t like was what happened in the first few years after injury. I didn’t like that I couldn’t walk unaided so I worked very hard with a physical therapist and then a personal trainer to change that. I still use a cane outside of the house and for long distances, I use a walker, but for the most part, I walk unaided. After the accident, I was confined to a wheelchair, and it took me a long time to graduate to a walker and then a cane. However, much like Angelou’s quote, I didn’t like that I couldn’t walk and so I went about changing it. The next thing I didn’t like was that I couldn’t swallow or eat without some help and intervention. I remember being at the first hospital I was at when I was just out of my coma. When I graduated to being wheeled to an area where they served us breakfast I remember being horrified that to be able to drink my morning coffee, a thickener had to be added to it. This was to help me swallow and not choke. Let me tell you that coffee with a thickener in it makes the coffee seem very unlike itself (I wasn’t like myself and neither was my coffee)! I think that thickened coffee was enough to motivate me to work on swallowing through speech therapy.
There are smaller things I didn’t like and so I went about changing them and they are too numerous to mention. That’s really what physical, occupational, and speech therapy are all about: changing what you don’t like through various techniques and hard work.
The last major change in myself post-TBI was (and is) my hearing. This is probably the thing I dislike the most about my TBI life. And I have changed it quite a lot through speech therapy (or my injured brain has through time or both) but this is where the second part of Angelou’s quote comes into play. To manage this thing I don’t like (my hearing loss and hearing distortions) I have to change my attitude since I don’t know if the distortions and hearing loss are permanent. This has been what I have been working on the most with my psychologist this year and I think writing this blog and my memoir also helps. In particular, I think writing this #TBIthursday essay has helped a lot because it allows me to focus on what has changed and improved over time since the point of first injury.
Weekly Feature: Essay
I found this quote about survival that I would like to talk about for this next essay section.
Much like the Maya Angelou quote, I used for my #TBIthursday essay, this quote speaks to my TBI experience. Nothing about suffering a coma, severe brain injury with aural distortions, and hearing loss is normal. Then again I’m not normal so I should be able to swim in strange water! 😉🏊🏻♀️
This past year I feel like I can look back on how I was before my TBI with a lot more clarity than I ever have before. I have mentioned that before the TBI I suffered from daily chronic migraines, Fibromyalgia, and anxiety with panic attacks. (The panic attacks came in later years and I feel were a result of me having unmanaged pain.) Because I was forging ahead with living a life (even though at times it felt like a half-life), I was running around feeling like I was not managing things well. Looking back, I realize how hard I was on myself and that I did a lot with my lack of health and energy. (I never gave myself much credit for my two Masters degrees because I wasn’t yet in a career where I was actively using them. Well, now I’m giving myself that long-deserved credit.) Now that I am looking back on pre-TBI Laura, I realize that chronic pain and illness were the strange waters I needed to survive to be ready to survive the strange waters of living with a severe Traumatic Brain Injury. Anyone who has suffered from chronic pain or illness knows that strange things occur when you’re managing that chronic condition. And as someone who has horror movie sound effects going through her head constantly (the aural distortions from the TBI), I can tell you that living life with a TBI is even more strange… and yet, I’m surviving!
#CreativityForDays Weekly Project Summary
It was my Dad’s Birthday so I made a bunch of signs. I also made one of his presents (a PhotoShop combo of photos and imagery). I also made a Black and White version of a sign I posted on Facebook (our color printer ink has been recalled… so we’re printing black and white)!
5 thoughts on “Two Quotes and Two Essays”
It’s amazing what you’ve been through and survived, Laura. And thickener in coffee? (As I sit here drinking my first precious cuppa joe.) Yeah, that could make me walk on water if I had to, to get back to normal coffee. Keep up your great attitude!
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Thank you. Yes, the thickener was BAD!
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There’s a story told by Tara Brach (my wife’s Buddhist teacher) that is an old dharma lesson. In India, a new golf course was constructed at great expense. It was a beautiful course made for the wealthy. The only problem was the monkeys. They constantly ran out on the course and played with the golf balls, often times dramatically changing how the ball was positioned for the next shot. After trying countless remedies to keep the monkeys off the course—high fences and the like—they finally instituted a rule called “Play the Ball Where the Monkey Leaves It.” In Buddhism, this serves as a lesson/suggestion to not fight what is, but to simply adapt to where your ball was left. Angelou’s quote reminds me of this.
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I love this! Thanks for sharing this with me.
Adapting to the set of circumstances we are in is the most important and difficult game changer we face!
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