American Stroke and How to Become 10% Happier

Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations,7.56

The doctors told my parents to call all family and religious clergy as I laid helpless and in the hospital at the young transformative age of 14. I am now 35 and alive despite going through such a life-altering experience that could have killed me. So what did I learn? 

Don’t sweat the small things

It’s a cliche and you’ve heard it a thousand times but that phrase will forever ring true. When you think about it, what is the point of harping on the past? It’s not like I could change the events that happened to me with my brain bleed, like I a gambler wishing he could go back in time and not make that stupid bet that left him bankrupt.

I had an acquired brain injury.  It is what is.  

“Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting?” – Marcus Aurelius

The aftermath of a brain injury is an endless fight and it takes a great amount of strength to stay positive. Many brain injury survivors have asked me if things ever get easier and I'm not always sure how to respond. All I can say is you learn how to handle the new challenges you face everyday and some days will be better than others but it does get easier if you work at it.  

Even though I am unable to time travel back in time and fix the past, I am able to search for remedies, practices or (medicinal) drugs that could help improve my life and the lives of other brain injury survivors. 

I remember after my brain injury when I was released from the hospital and had to go to and from physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. At some point, I can’t remember when, I began playing out this anxious thought that if the car I was riding in didn’t get passed by the car next to us my mom would die or my dad die or my brother would die. 

What terrible thoughts to have as a teenager but the experience of my acquired brain injury and almost dying would put any person’s mind at unease. I’m not sure where these peculiar and horrendous thoughts came from but after talking with a doctor they put me on the antidepressant Lexapro. I didn’t even know what anxiety was and looking back I would’ve been better off with mindfulness training which would have taught me skills I would have for a lifetime to handle things like adversity, stress, anxiety and depression.

I haven’t been on antidepressants for a very long time but they served their purpose and that’s the value of medication, to heal you. I keep anxiety and bad thoughts at bay by practicing mindfulness and meditation and I urge everyone in the world to adopt these practices to their life because it will make you 10% happier. I read the book 10% Happier by Dan Harris long ago and it got me into meditation. 

What I am excited about!

Recently, I’ve been looking into ways to improve my life as a brain injury survivor, as well as the lives of others. 

I think cannabis and CBD have a lot of potential but what I am really fascinated about are psychedelics and their power to heal people with depression, anxiety, addiction and improving the lives of brain injury survivors. I interviewed a brain injury survivor recently who has been microdosing Psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms and it has improved her life greatly. If you want to learn more about that listen to my interview with her here.

In closing 

Try to view your traumatic experiences as something that makes you stronger. Wear your scars as a badge of honor showing that nothing can take you down, not even a brain injury or whatever you are going through in life. And try not to sweat the small things because if no one died, everything will probably be okay. Just do some breathing exercises, meditation and focus on the present!

Here is a great 9 minute guided meditation video by Sam Harris

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