My Hideout: TBI Survivor

via Daily Prompt: Hideout

How would one define the word hideout? In the old western movies it was a cave where the gangster went to hide from the law.  In some movies it is a closet where the woman tries to be unfound by a perp that is about to accost her. But, my hideout is simply my home.  As one who has survived a Traumatic Brain Injury I am home most days now. It is my hideaway, my refuse from the storm of life of which I am a part of.  As the world about me continues I am alone most days with my hobbies and the sounds of the television or radio.

I hideout from the overstimulation of the world. I hideout from those who see me in public and challenge me by asking if I have driven knowing that I have a TBI and had been asked not to.  I am also challenged by those who wonder if I yet have an income (have gotten disability yet) and of my lawyer thinks I ever will.  I hideout from the sounds of life; the rooms full of multiple voices, the yells of the person in traffic and the screaming parents in the store where I used to love to shop.

I hide out.  I hide from most all of you; those who are going about life  your typical day to day lives. Those of you who complain about having to go to work and about how your pay check just doesn’t cover all of the items you want.  I hideout and wonder when or if I will ever see a pay check again.  I try to use up things we have and do not shop like I used to. I don’t want to be a burden.

I am getting better at coming out of hiding from time to time.  I like to be with people who see me as myself and not as a person with a disability. I like people who at least attempt to understand.

My hideout might not be forever, but for now it is where I feel safe. I am blessed to have my hideout and someone I love to share it with.  I am not a villain in a movie or one hiding from a perp. I am just one who seems to be seeking where she fits in now she is not her old self.  In time, I will come out of hiding and meet the challenge straight on. I am getting closer. But until, you know where I am at.  I’m home in my little hideout.

 

Dedicated to all who have a TBI or care for someone who does

 

 

 

Rollover in town :Against the Odds

via Photo Challenge: Against the Odds

If you had told me that day that I would end up in an SUV on its side after rolling three times I would have told you that you were crazy. I had never known that a large SUV could be pushed over by a mid sized car traveling at 25 mph in town.  I know!  I still cannot believe it! Here is how I know. I was in the back seat on the passenger side of the car when the person driving the SUV I was riding in unknowingly ran a red light. An oncoming mid sized sedan did not brake and drove into the back end of the SUV right behind where I was sitting. As the car hit it went into the rear wheel well and thus acted like a wedge as it continued up and under us. The vehicle I was in rolled over and over and landed on the passenger side. Lying there against the door I saw that parts were broken away and began looking for my cell phone to call for help. As I did so my friend in the front seat began to scream thinking she could smell smoke. Still seeking my cell phone I tossed aside the tools that had flown from the back storage area and hit me in the head aside. Picking up my phone I heard a voice outside the window. It was a fireman! We had wrecked within a block of the village fire department. In moments there was a flurry of activity. Being unable to extract us from the vehicle without cutting off the top they tossed in blankets for us to cover up with and began cutting with multiple tools finally lifting off the roof. I was the last one to be extracted from the SUV. We were all taken to a Trauma Center and live today with residuals from that occurrence.  Against all odds we rolled in the city from coming in contact with a vehicle going 25 mph. I thought that was impossible. But it is not. It is just against the odds.

 

(The photo is not of our accident – I was unable to take pictures that day)

Sound in a TBI World

via Daily Prompt: Sound

Sound, how does one define something so international and at the same time so personal?  Sound is all about us. In fact, we are constantly in the midst of some type of sound and are very seldom in a void of sound.  For me, sounds can be soothing or they can be the opposite. Since being in the rollover and being diagnosed with a TBI sounds are louder and my ability to filter out multiple sounds in a room to focus on one thing can be quite challenging. For instance at this moment I can hear the wisp of my pressure cooker on the stove, my TV babbling in the background, my computer keys clicking and my canary singing. It used to be that I could block out the secondary sounds and focus on my task at hand. Now, I must turn off something or leave a room to find solace without sounds. How can I have so much on and write? I can’t. I just muted the TV so that I can concentrate.

What sounds are more tolerable? Sounds that are not loud, repetitive, or brash are comforting.  I love to hear the laughter of a child, the song of my bird, the sounds of nature, the sooth music from my radio.  Those things comfort me and aid me in being able to cope in life.

What sounds are bothersome?  The sounds of traffic are difficult for me.  If I hear brakes squealing I panic. Loud banging music is another one. When someone pulls up next to us when I travel and their head banging music is entering my sound zone, my personal space, the pulsation of the beat pains me. It is not that I do not want you to listen to your type of music. It is that your music makes me ill, physically ill.  I need to begin to carry ear plugs with me as that is the only way I know to block it out. A crying baby or an upset child that is wailing is another one. The high pitched sound is hard for me to handle now I have a bran injury. Group conversations are very hard. To try to block out one train of thought to hear another one is not easy. Most often I get up and leave the room as the multiple sources made me shaky and uneasy.  Loud sudden noises now startle me more than ever before. Those make me literally jump out of my seat. Those are the worst.

Sounds are those things that can soothe us or stimulate us. At times they motivate or remind us of something/someone from our past.  For me, in many ways sounds are like they have always been. But in other ways they are so different.  As a TBI survivor I am learning each day how to live a life filled with soothing sounds and how to modify my life when in the presence of sounds I can barely tolerate.  Be patient with me as this is all new to me.  I pray for those of who live with a TBI. May you find solace in gentle sounds as I have.  HUGZ

Love Unconditionally

Today is a day filled with most focusing on love. It is Valentine’s Day.  Having been married for 39 years now the traditional aspects of this day have become much more simplified at our house. At first there was an expectation of a gift or token given and received on that very day. If there was no gift I became distraught and upset, feeling unloved.  As the years passed I began to see the love of my spouse through varied eyes.  I began to see that we did not need one day a year to buy gifts for each other as we gave freely to one another every day. The act of his getting up to go to work to make an income to put food on the table is an offering of love. My preparing a meal or fixing a pair of pants that need hemmed is in the same category. Love is not something that we prove to one another in actions of store bought gifts but in everyday simple things.  I love how he opened the car door for me at church for years. I love how he accepts me even now when I have a traumatic brain injury and cannot do many of the things I used to. He loves the new me and he loved the old me. He accepts that I am one with him and gives daily. That is unconditional love.

Unconditional love is something that I have learned more about since the accident a couple of years ago.  My husband accepts my TBI and all but there are those who look at me and state that I don’t look like anything is wrong with me.  They might even think I am trying to trick the system to get money for no work.  Does a disability need to be visual?  Is there something wrong with me? Or am I a new me designed by God and one being challenged to rise to the new life I now coexist with. The Bible tells us that God is the potter and we are the clay. He molds us and shapes us into various things in our lifetime. At one point I was a student, then a mother and a teacher, now one who is home unable to drive yet giving back by blogging and making crafts to sell online.  There is nothing WRONG with me, it just that I am a new being in Christ. I am not disabled just re-enabled. I cannot write a book but I can blog.  I cannot drive but I can walk and go places with my family.  There is not anything wrong with me or about me. I am me. I am a new me with potentials just like always. Don’t look at me as someone you have to help or support. I don’t want your pity. I want your friendship and your unconditional love. I want you to treat me the same as you always did and know that I am getting used to this new me more and more each day.  I love you all unconditionally just as Christ loves me.  I pray that you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day and that you are blessed with many who love you unconditionally.  HUGZ

 

Lush Souls in Haiti

via Daily Prompt: Lush

As we walked the winding roads toward the area of the waterfall I could not help but see many carrying water jugs on top of their heads or bundles of laundry in their arms. Women and children all working in this lush jungled area seemed to not be burdened by the weight of their wares even though the extreme heat alone was taking me for a loss of strength.  Moving on and seeing the floral vines draping the gated entrances to the homes of those with means to afford them caused me to ponder why so many lived in such poverty and others with such means to support their riches alongside them.  Glancing within those locked gates revealed huge homes, some with armed guards at the gates. Broken glass bottles and objects that would cut you lined the tops of fences and gates. Those who had wanted to keep out those who did not. Moving on we came upon the area where the stream from the waterfall began.  Here clothes recently washed lay drying on the rocks awaiting being carried home to where there was no running water nor pipes. Women knelt on bended knee by the water side washing their loved ones belongings by hand all the while watching their children bathe nearby. Young men stood awaiting a possible young lady coming near to bathe. Further back the spillway area of the falls came into site and the walking became more difficult to  maneuver. Rocks were wet here and fresh moisture abounded.  Something you did not see where we slept. There the only fluids were those from the local homes. Waste water mixed with occasional rain were things you avoided when walking. Soon the sound of the falls became audible. Our tour guides began to desire to run to get there. We were all hot and the cool waters were quite desirous.  Taking off my shoes, placing my feet in the cool waters,  I began to photograph the lush vegetation all around us.  The trees and shrubs were thick and made me think of when I taught my students back in the states about the rain forest.  Birds chattered, seeming to laugh, as the young tour guides climbed the rocks and slid down on an area that was smooth from erosion. I watched these young men. I knew that they had survived the earthquake in Haiti just a few years before and that they lived in homes unlike most in America had never seen. I watched them laugh and giggle as they slid again and again down the Disney resort like natural falls. I smiled knowing that here they seemed to love life unlike any I had ever met.  Here, in the lush waterfall zone I learned that their life was filled with struggles but also full of joy.  In life they worked hard and played hard. They had to carry water to their homes, they ate infrequently, had no medical support nor an infrastructure of a modern country but what they did have was this lush respite to which they could come if even but for a short tour with an American. It was there I was surrounded by lushness. But it was not just the vegetation that I found it in. It was also in the souls of those young men.

Three Choices

Some days it feels as if my life has taken a major turn.  I look at who I am compared to who I was and see many similarities and at the same time major differences. I have to admit most days I have spent feeling sorry for myself and rolling in the mire of being one with a traumatic brain injury. Then one morning I saw a quote that helped me see how I had been living with the idea that I had no choice in the matter of my future.  This quote stated that when life gets us down we have three choices to select from. You can let what is happening define you, destroy you, or strengthen you.  I read this insight a few times and then began to realize that I had been focusing on two of the three choices.  I had not yet thought about how what had happened could strengthen me.  I had been too focused on the I can’t side of life to see the I can side of life.  So many people telling me I can’t do this now, or you will never be your old self but nobody, including myself,  were focused on what I now could do.  I began to look back through old albums of my childhood and began to see the things that I have loved since I was little. Things that since being a parent and having a career I had let go. It was then that the lightbulb went off. My retirement was forced.  I had not been given the choice to be happy with the idea but to merely accept it along with not being able to drive and more. If I had retired as I had wanted to I had planned things in my head that I would have done.  I would have sang, crafted, spent time with family, traveled to foreign lands and more.  My injuries were restraining but most of those things that I held so dear were still possible.  In that moment I saw my future in a way that strengthened me. I was now headed into the future with a new way of looking at things. I was going to be who I had wanted to be when I retired, just with some limitations. I was going to move on and get stronger because of it. It was that day that I decided to make this BLOG part of my life to help others while healing myself. HUGZ2all – You have choices as well.

It Will Be Okay

             Yesterday I heard the words that nobody wants to hear.

             “Pam,  you have known that you have a traumatic brain injury.  We have tried therapies and medication. Your progress has been good. But, we are at a place where your recovery will not go much farther.  You have to understand that the brains cells have died and they do not come back. You are closer to the old you than you were, but getting all the way back is not possible. “

            In my heart I knew this was coming.  I had researched and gone to everyone I could find to help me. It had taken me over a year to find therapists that understood and could guide me. There I had learned so much about who I am now, in the post accident part of my life.  I was glad that I had the personal strength to look for help myself. In so doing I had healed more than I would have, but also I learned that I had been pushing myself too hard.  I was over stimulating my brain and making things worse.  Driving was one of the ways I was doing so.  I miss driving.

“Pam, I will send a recommendation to your general physician for a sleep apnea test to see if that might be the reason you are so tired in the mornings.  But, I must say that even if that comes back positive it will not help much. Other than that we are done here.”

I sat there not wanting to get up from my seat.  I had no income, could not get cleared to work and now no other ways to get back to the old me.  I wanted to cry but, as usual, held back the tears and got up to leave the room. Walking to the exit the nurse asked if I needed to schedule an appointment and I told her no.  Taking a hard candy from the dish on the counter I unwrapped it, popped it in my mouth, and walked out of the door. The taste of the rich butterscotch jewel enveloped my taste buds as I walked to the elevator and later out the door. I had no place else to go.  No cure.  The old me had died.  The new me was taking over.  My standard self pity party began rising up inside.  I wanted to crawl in the back seat of the awaiting truck and hide.  I did not want to tell my husband that I was no longer going to be able to work and help him with the bills.  Looking up I saw he had fallen asleep reading his book in the front seat of the truck. If it had not been so cold outside I would have gone back in for a bit to let him live in the not yet knowing that he would have to support me the rest of his life. I wanted him to not have to endure that more than anything. I gently knocked on the window and watched him awaken and unlock the door.  In hushed tones we talked as the taste of tears co-mingled with the butterscotch in my mouth.

            “I’m so sorry.  There’s nothing else they can do.” The words stung as they came out. He had worked so hard to put me through college and now this. I ached to the core knowing the financial burden I had placed on him.

            Looking at me with his blue eyes that I love so he spoke. “Life is like that sometimes. We will be okay.” 

            Now the tears let loose. Here in this place of love and safety I broke down.  I grieved the old me and all that we had lost. But I knew in my heart that we would be okay. That life is like that sometimes and we must muddle on through the muck and mire to find the hope that awaits us. There is a light at the end of the path.  I pray we find it soon.