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Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor Story

  • Published: 2009-02-27 (Revised/Updated 2016-06-13) : Author: secondchancetolive
  • Synopsis: They were told that due to the extent of my traumatic brain injury I would probably not be able to succeed beyond high school.

Quote: "In addition to over achieving, I resorted to people pleasing and approval seeking. When this approach proved to be ineffective, I tried to anticipate what others wanted or needed through mind reading."

Main Document

During my lifetime, I have been confronted with challenges, obstacles, and disappointments.

In the scope of this brief autobiography I will share some of these events and circumstances. The purpose of sharing my experiences with you is not to blame, shame or to point a finger in anyone's direction. I have found that little benefit comes through such behavior. Living life on life's terms, to me, means that I deny the notion that I am a victim of my circumstances.

I have also arrived at some simple but profound conclusions. It is my belief that I cannot hope to know until I have learned the lesson. These lessons have often come through the pain of struggle. I have also come to believe that life is best understood backwards, and that is good enough for today. I also believe that perfection is a myth that if sought after will only bind one's soul. Pursuing excellence on the other hand encourages creative expression and creative expression gives meaning to all life.

With this being said, I will begin. I learned at an early age that good was not quite good enough.

I was also led to believe that my meaning and purpose was connected to what I accomplished. Because my best was seldom good enough, I rarely believed that I was quite good enough. In this context, I was also led to believe that it was my responsibility to take care of other people emotionally before I could hope to have a sense of well being. If someone was out of sorts emotionally, I internalized responsibility for their distress. If I could not appease or "fix" them emotionally, I would let them blame me for their distress and in turn I would shame myself for not getting it right. These combined messages kept me confused, bewildered and anxious, as I was rarely able to meet their expectations and/or able to "fix" them emotionally.

A significant event occurred when I was 10 years old that further complicated my ability to grasp social cues and be consistently successful inter-personally. My family was in a motor vehicle accident. Upon impact "the Cadillac hitting our Volkswagen Beetle "I was catapulted from the back seat to the windshield. I fractured my left femur (thighbone) and then hit the windshield. I also sustained an open skull fracture. The consequences of my skull being fractured resulted in damage to my right frontal lobe, a severe brain contusion (bruising of my brain as it was jostled against the inside of the skull), and some brain stem damage.

I was in a coma for 3 weeks, traction for my leg for 1 month and then placed in a full body cast. Shortly after being placed in the Spica or full body cast, I was transferred to another hospital where I underwent brain and skull surgery. I went through a battery of tests (EEG's and cognitive/ psycho/social) several months after this surgery.

The results from these tests were given to my parents. They were told that due to the extent of my traumatic brain injury I would probably not be able to succeed beyond high school. These results were never shared with me, until after I obtained my Master's Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.

The accident happened in 1967. At that time, there was a limited understanding into neurological rehabilitation, at least in my circumstances. Consequently, I was on my own. I taught myself how to walk, talk, speak in complete sentences and was mainstreamed back into elementary school. I went on to graduate "on time "with my high school class in 1975.

Since I was able to succeed academically and had overcome many obstacles, the impact and significance of my brain injury would lie dormant for many years. In addition to the belief systems that I had bought into concerning my worth, I now had an invisible disability that would hamper my ability to read people and situations.

I developed a pervasive sense of shame, a low self-esteem as well as a lot of insecurities. I believed that I was intrinsically defective at the core of my being, which also undermined my ability to rely on the God of my understanding. As a result, I thought that I was on my own to figure out why my life seemed to be insufficient. Consequently, I developed a grandiose sense of responsibility. This belief system set the stage for me to become a human doing, as I attempted to overcompensate for my low self-esteem, my insecurities and the impact of my invisible disability.

In addition to over achieving, I resorted to people pleasing and approval seeking. When this approach proved to be ineffective, I tried to anticipate what others wanted or needed through mind reading. All too often I found myself saying, "I am sorry" when I got it wrong. I also tried to control outcomes so that I could avoid the pain of shame. None of these strategies provided freedom from the affects of shame. These strategies only seemed to reinforce what I had been led to believe, that there was something inherently wrong with me. In my desperation, I set out on a personal crusade to root out the reasons why I consistently seemed to fall short.

In this pursuit, I became obsessively involved with various churches, saturating myself in bible study, scripture memory and listening to a wide array of teachers -from charismatic, full gospel, fundamental, non-denominational, and denominational churches / leadership. I attempted to apply what I was learning, but continued to fall short. Some would say that I just did not do enough: pray, read, or believe. To that notion, I would say phooey. My interest was to do whatever it took to become a victorious over comer and at the same time to be of service to God and to my fellow man. In this pursuit, I went on to obtain my undergraduate degree in theology from Oral Robert's University. I attended Asbury Theological Seminary for 1 year and then went on to obtain my master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Kentucky.

In my attempt to be of service to my fellow man / woman, I have worked as a mental health aide/counselor within a 28 day residential treatment center for dually diagnosed individuals and then in a day treatment / partial hospitalization program for adults with mental illness. I have also worked as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor within both the public and private sectors assisting individuals with different types of disabilities. I have also assisted families and individuals while working within the field of nursing, grief counseling, and within both the funeral and cemetery industries.

I have been actively involved in my own recovery process from the affects of inadequate modeling, the impact of the injury to my brain injury, and for my own distorted perceptions. In addition to my spiritual and academic pursuits, I have been actively involved in various 12- step fellowships for the last 20 years. I have found that being involved in such work has strongly contributed to and motivated me to seek personal empowerment. Moreover, I have tenaciously pursued ways to be of maximum service to God and others.

These varied life experiences, as well as my educational and practical work endeavors have provided a wealth of insight and a foundation upon which I have written my book, Table Topics for the Soul - Journey to the Heart. LC Registration #: TXu1-330-43h

My hope is that those individuals who may have lost hope, will see a new light. This light will then guide them to a renewed hope, an array of possibilities, and a new zest for living regardless of any present circumstances, disappointments or disabling conditions.

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