Letting Your Brain Injury Go

I KNOW it’s not just me but something as simple as buttering toast or smearing cream cheese onto a bagel can be extremely frustrating, and I’m guessing other brain injury survivors experience the same frustration.  

Doing something which should be simple like tying my shoes can turn an okay day into anger and frustration. There have been times I can tie my shoes easily and other moments I can’t seem to do it right. I know this is something other brain injury survivors experience due to paralysis and I’ve seen them doing the same frustrating exercises during my days in physical rehabilitation but dang, give a dog a bone!

For me personally, when I’ve experienced frustration from struggling to butter a piece of bread or tie my own shoes, it’s sent me down a tunnel of irritation asking myself, why?

Why did this happen to me?

What did I do to deserve this?

After having thoughts like these I started to wonder why I was angry at my brain injury and the effects that came from it?

From that point, I asked myself if I ever fully forgave my brain injury for happening and if I truly let go of the anger and feelings that come with experiencing something so debilitating and life altering?

I still don’t think I’ve fully let go of feeling like a victim and I believe many other brain injury survivors feel the same way. To be honest, I wouldn’t be comfortable with completely letting go of feeling victimized or angry at my brain injury. That anger has given me an incredible drive and an attitude I wear like a cape because nothing can knock me down.

Nowadays when unfortunate things happen to me, I react with the mindset of, I can overcome this, I survived worse.

If a brain aneurysm can’t take me out the game, I’m not sure what can. But then again, I’m trying to do things for a living and for fun which bring me happiness and joy. Life is too precious!

You, Anger & the Hulk

ANGER – is something that at times, seems uncontrollable. It’s like walking down the street with the sun shining at your back and an ice cream cone in hand when all of a sudden, you trip on a crack, twist your ankle in half and spill the mint chocolate chip all over your new white shirt only to unleash your inner Hulk that’s been bubbling under the surface waiting for a moment to hate everything. From there you spiral into a tirade complaining about the city and their lack of civil obedience for having cracks in the sidewalks. You shout at the ice cream store because the ice cream wasn’t cold enough or didn’t meet your level of expectations, when in reality it was perfectly fine. You get angry at the sun because on any day to get ice cream all over your new shirt it happens to be sunny. Now you’re hobbling like a zombie from the Walking Dead because you twisted the crap out of your ankle and you’re mad because of the beautiful weather.   

THEN- you start hating on yourself for tripping and spilling the ice cream. You start thinking backwards about every moment you screwed up in life and how stupid you are. You keep doing this until you run out of hatred for yourself and you’re too tired to walk to the bathroom. Damn.

WHAT IS ANGER?

I did a quick google search and the first thing that popped up said “A strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.”

Two results further down said:

“Anger is one of the basic human emotions, as elemental as happiness, sadness, anxiety, and disgust. These emotions are tied to basic survival and were honed over the long course of human history. Anger is related to the “fight, flight, or freeze” response of the sympathetic nervous system; it prepares humans to fight.”

  • Psychology Today

I feel like the second definition above makes sense, however I think it’s missing something. Anger is not always about fight, flight or freeze in my opinion. There’s more to it, and don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t consider myself an angry person but there are times it stews within making me feel evil. I almost like feeling angry at times because it gives me an edge and when I keep it internal and never unleash it on other people it’s powerful, I guess. That is until the anger starts affecting my health and stability. In those instances, I talk with a friend or family member about it to gain clarity.

I don’t think this is the case for everyone as there are people, you know who I’m talking about, who come off as angry and I think they enjoy it.

We forget that perception is reality and if we’re always coming off as angry, well people are going to assume you’re angry and unhappy. However, as we know, anger can be a good thing. It can give us the motivation to climb over the hill that is holding us back, and for that we should thank anger. Even if anger can be an unpleasant feeling, it’s okay in moderation if you have control over it.

Control is something we all seek and if you’re like me I often feel like I’m in a fight to balance control. However, if I’m able to control my emotions and how I react to situations out of my control, that gives me the power. It’s kind of liberating if think you about it. Having the feeling and confidence that no matter what happens in life you know you’ll overcome it. The inner confidence of knowing you’ll find a way over the mountain.

It’s a cliché but life is full of peaks and valleys and if you can learn to control yourself and your anger you’ll be just fine.  

CLOSING – I want you to ask yourself: Do I have control of my emotions and anger during life’s peaks and valleys?

Do I have control?

In all honesty, I hope you found motivation in this story, whether you’re a brain injury survivor or not. I hope you can find the strength to control setbacks in your life and take command of future waves of anger.

  • Trevor

DO YOU HAVE CONTROL?

CONTROL- is a weird thing, especially how it relates to our lives. It’s like trying to catch a fly with our bare hands. You just can’t seem to get a hold of it. I haven’t had complete control of my life for what seems like forever and life has been a continual circle of unfortunate events. Some good, some bad and some terrible like my life was dangling on a string as if I’m a tight rope walker. I’m okay with walking the tight rope, I think it’s kind of healthy at times, but I’ve never been sure how to react during unfortunate incidents until most recently. During this recent unfortunate life occurrence something interesting happened.

I laughed. I laughed my ass off. I thought of all the disappointment and failure I’ve had, smiled and laughed, and you know what?

It was great! I wish I could cry because a good cry would probably be healing too but I’ve never been much of a crier. I’m a man, LOL.

I think I’m figuring life out even though it’s impossible to fully understand. Life is really a mystery. We are all consumed in our own heads and think everyone else is examining our life as much as we do ourselves. But the truth is, everyone is in their own head concerned with their own problems. So why should we care about what others think when everyone is concerned with themselves?

Am I right? Would you agree?

Yes, I am a brain injury survivor and I like helping other brain injury survivors because I’m lucky to be in the position I am but am I doing it for the right reasons?

Could I take this to the level I hope and dream of or am I going to cower to what I think others expect?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see….

Will I take control? Will you take control?

Can anger be a good thing?

Last week I posted the question to Facebook, Can anger be a good thing?

I was unsure how others would react.

Would they think I was angry?

Would they think I was unhappy?

Would they be concerned about me?

I then realized I shouldn’t be concerned about what people think or how they perceive me and posted the question.

The amount of reactions and comments I got surprised me, making me think anger is something many others deal with or at least have strong thoughts towards.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”

– Socrates

I’ve had moments of anger in life making me feel like I have no control or power. That’s the worst feeling, having no control. Especially when you do everything right and bad things continue to happen. Then again, what’s considered bad is subjective and to some knocking over the salt shaker can screw up their day and to others they believe everything happens for a reason – I’m starting to lean towards the latter.

GOING TO MY PAST- I remember when I had my second brain injury and the doctor told my parents and I there’s nothing he could do to save me and to basically take me home to die. Now I admit, when the second brain injury started happening the words, are you shitting me, ran through my mind several times.

It’s easy to ask why? Or Why did this happen to me?

However in all honesty when those thoughts ran through my mind I often thought, if it didn’t happen to me it might happen to someone else and I’d rather have it be me than one of my family members.

I feel like I was built to handle it, as crazy as it sounds.  

During the second brain injury I was in such a state of disbelief and pain I’m not sure I could even recognize anger because I was so vulnerable but, it was in there. I have to believe the entire situation scared the living day lights out of my parents and probably made them angry, especially when that doctor told me to my face, a 16 year old boy, I was going to die.

Later, during this journey there were moments where I was ready to die and was okay with it. I just wanted the discomfort and pain to go away.

Laying in a hospital bed with tubes running through your body is no way to live.

After the doctor said there was nothing he could do, my parents, rather than stew in anger used it to get me a second, third and fourth opinion which was a trip to Akron, Ohio, a laser surgery in Buffalo and brain surgery in Ann Arbor.

So, to answer my question, can anger be a good thing?

Yes, hell yes! If you channel it correctly and use it to accomplish a goal!

Let’s Stop the Gossip!

I’m sitting on my orange couch trying to think of something to write for Brain Talk however my creativity is at a halt. The truth is I’m tired and so is my mind. Oh well, I might as well give it a try. Like Wayne Gretzky said, you miss every shot you don’t take!

I’ve been fascinated with people lately and the story behind who they are and how they became that way. Everyone is so different and there are truly no two of the same people, duh!

What I specifically find interesting is why people talk crap about another person’s flaws behind their back. The reason why this bothers me is two fold.

  1. First and foremost, can’t we talk about something better than discussing someone else’s mishaps and flaws? I can probably think of twenty different things so just stop. It doesn’t feel good and I hate the thought of people talking shit about me behind my back so why would I want to do it to someone else.
  2. The truest thing in the world is people cannot choose the person they are born to be. Some of us get lucky and are born the gifted athlete making millions who enjoys donating money and volunteering in their free-time. Others draw the short end of the stick and are born with no ambition and are setup to go down the path of drug addiction. Or some are born with a twisted pedophile’s mind.

Now, I’m not condoning anyone but the body and brain we’re born into is the person who we become and we don’t really have a choice. I mean, people can make decisions but at the end of the day, you are who you are. I bet you a million dollars a drug addict or pedophile would give it all up to have the talent of Tom Brady, J.J Watt or Tiger Woods.

Now, Tiger Woods is a prime example of being born with athletic talent and addiction issues. You can get both ends of the bargain, I guess.

So, in closing, he next time you’re with a group and you’re talking negatively about someone else try to stop the group and change the conversation to something positive. Remember people can’t chose who they are.

How about don’t talk about anybody. Do anything other then gossip. I guarantee the conversation will be more fun and will make you feel better. It has to be good for your brain. There’s no way it isn’t!

I hope you enjoyed this article. What are your thoughts on gossip? Do you do it? Did you realize how stupid it is? Do you regret it? Do you think people have full control of who they are?

Do you find the humor in life?

Let me tell you something. Life almost never goes as you plan. I wish life worked out like I plan but for some reason it doesn’t, and that’s okay. In my mind I believe the setbacks and getting knocked off my feet is humbling and makes me stronger.

At this moment I kind of want sleep but I’m writing this blog and that makes me happy. The post 4th of July slumber has kicked in and I’m wore out from bathing in the sun and overeating delicious meats and treats that make my stomach say “oh child, that’s good, gimme more!”

But let me milk you one last time!

Also, my head hurts because I’m tired or it’s sensitive due to having a brain injury once upon a day but I’ve been miking that excuse like Besty the cow for years, sorry Betsy. You’re a good ole girl and I love you but you gotta go!

The truth is I make a lot of jokes about my brain injury and the disability that came with it. Even though I’m very mobile and strong enough to feel like I don’t have a disability I like to find humor in the flaws I have.

Regardless of what happens in my life I’m always going to find the humor and that’s something no one can ever take from me!

So let me ask you, do you find the humor in life?

When to tell others about your Brain Injury

I’ve often asked myself when is the right time to tell new people I meet about my brain injury and the traumatic experience from it?

Common situations: First dates, job interviews, new friends, coworkers

The truth is there’s no right or wrong time to tell others about your brain injury and or disability. I do think however, it’s important to make sure it connects into the conversation. You don’t want to bring it up out of the blue.

Let me give you a good example when to bring it up:

I remember during a job interview when the man across the table from me asked that I tell him a moment or experience in my life that I was humbled.

I responded, to tell you the short version of the story, when I was 14 I had a brain AVM and was hemorrhaging. The doctors didn’t think I’d make it through the night and I ended up being in a coma for 6 months. I had to learn how to walk and talk all over again, and a year later it happened again due to residual issues. I ended up surviving a 10 hour brain surgery that was life or death.

Now, that was an appropriate time to share my story, but for common situations I don’t always tell people. If it comes up during conversation, great. If it doesn’t, no big deal.

I’ve noticed that when I share my story with someone who I’m not necessarily connecting with, it brings us closer together. I don ‘t know if it’s because they didn’t understand who I am or that I shared an intimate story with them? Nonetheless, you’ll know from your gut instinct when the best time is to tell others about your brain injury and disability.