Quite Lucky

Just tell yourself. Duckie, you’re really quite lucky.”

This quote is from Dr. Suess:”Did I ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?”

I frequently don’t recognize how lucky I am to be alive and able to participate in life as much as I do.  The brain injury changed my life and I am often overwhelmed by the changes and how much they really suck.  Yet, I am lucky.  The injury could have been devastating.  I rolled a car three times down an embankment and hit a tree. 

No matter how bad things are, there is something good- no matter how small.

Perhaps I’m lucky because I experienced brain injury.  I had to reassess my life and make changes.  Because I have difficulties, I’ve learned that I have to allow people to help more.  I can’t be as self-sufficient.  Is this lucky?  Yes.  Simply because I didn’t let people into my life very much.  I have more insight into mental and physical health disabilities.  I live it.  These experiences will make me a better social worker if I ever get to the point that I’m able to work- or volunteer.  

I’m lucky to have supportive friends and family: to have a wonderful cat and be able to foster three ferrets for a family.  Brighid and the ferrets always bring smile.  Brighid is also a little healer.  She’s responsive to pain, both physical and emotional.  I’m lucky to have a solid income and a place to live.

I have so much more than others.  I’m lucky.

How To Handle It

Today’s journal prompt is “what can I do for myself when I’m in physical or emotional pain?”

Part One: Physical Pain

Managing physical pain depends on the cause.  Is it acute or chronic?  The key to managing pain is listening to my body.  Acute pain is caused by either injury or soreness due to overdoing an activity.  An example of overdoing something is when I run a longer distance than usual or am adding muscle mass at the gym.  An example of acute injury is spraining an ankle.  Both are managed the same way with a couple of adaptations: RICE.  Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevatioin.  

Meditation for the Day

Words and quotes speak differently depending on mood and experience.  When I began this post last night my focus was on how one person can make a difference.  One doesn’t have to be famous or rich in order to touch the world.

Tonight I see the mosquito.


Problems buzz in my head: sadness, fear, confusion, loneliness.  They itch at my consciousness.  I swat at them, trying to kill them or at least chase them away.  They come back and I feel their bite again.  They may be small in the grand scheme of existence and life.  But they carry a disease called depression.

I have depression.  It makes a huge impact on my quality of life.  There are times that a crushing sense of hopelessness ride on my heart and soul.  I withdraw from people and activities, I don’t enjoy life, I have no interest in anything.  I exist.

Depression in one of the most common mental health problems in the United States.  Approximately 14.8 million adults are depressed at some point in their lives. Depression is correlated with suicide.  Depression responsible for over 2/3 of the 30,000 suicides reported in the United States annually.  (1)

There is hope.  Depression can be treated.  My life is not always dark. At times I experience a sense of peace.

I receive care by a clincial social worker and a neuropsychiatrist.  They are “small” in the world.  However, they touch the lives of many and help them heal, or at least have a better quality of life.  My friends and family are also sources of support and change.

I practice Tai Chi, yoga, and meditation.  I stay physically active. Small things.  Yet they make a difference.

Perhaps some day I’ll swat the mosquito.  And it will be the “small” people,and actions that will get me there.

(1) Depression Statistics





Fartlek  Humor

Finding humor in difficult times makes it a bit easier to cope.  This may be about running but I hope it still brings a smile or at least a groan.  Groaning can be stress relieving as well.

A brief explanation of the word “fartlek.”   In Swedish, fartlek means “speed  play.” The idea is increase your cardio threshold and reduce recovery time.   A fartlek is an unstructured run with the pace alternating between easy to hard effort for varying distances/time.  The runner decides when to do the pickup and for how long. It’s a workout form that I enjoy.  

Fartleks on Ice

The ice on the ground glinting
Fartleks mean a bit of sprinting

It has become its own game
Scored by five; this is the aim:
A five is when you run without a hitch
While two is when you land in a ditch

With a four you slip once, without falling 
A one and you land flat and sprawling 

Somewhere in between is the three
More careful of score you must be

You really don’t want to score a zero
That will make your ortho a hero

You will be off the road to injury recover
It is such a pain, such a bother

A dreadmill is the wise choice to run

But the extra challenge makes the workout more fun.
A four I scored by golly
 I wasn’t hurt by my folly

One more time to score a five
Always a perfect score I’ll strive.

Depression, Anxiety, PTSD, and Brain Injury…

Oh, My…..

This started as a blog about recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury and morphed into one about depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  Or did it really morph at all? They all are tied together in a complex knot of emotion, brain functions, and physical responses.  

The statistics on the number of people with depression varies slightly between research studies.  I’m going with the statistics found on Brain Line.  One in ten people without brain injury will suffer from depression.  Three in ten brain injury survivors will develop depression.  Sadness and grief are normal reactions to brain injury.  Depression is more serious and lasts longer. Developing depression is more common if the survivor had a previous experience with it.  Depression can be a chronic, life long medical problem

According to Dr. Marchand, the risk of recurrence — “relapse after full remission” — for a person who’s had one episode of depression is 50 percent. For a person with two episodes, the risk is about 70 percent. For someone with three episodes or more, the risk rises to around 90 percent.

Depression Relapse

Many of the symptoms of depression and brain injury overlap: fatigue, slow cognition, problems with concentration, lack of energy, sleep changes, irritability. Anxiety is common after brain injury.  It also goes hand and hand with depression.  

Whelan-Goodinson, R, Ponsford, J, Johnston, L and Grant, F (2009). Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, Vol. 24(5), pp 324-332.

This research found that more than 60 percent of people with a brain injury had psychiatric disorders up to 5.5 years post-injury. Many of these were new cases of depression and anxiety and were not present prior to injury. The authors suggest that individuals with TBI should be screened for psychiatric disorders several times post-injury regardless of pre-injury psychiatric status, so that appropriate help can be offered.
Anxiety and Depression

Depression and anxiety may develop right after the injury or years later.  The can develop in any survivor, no matter if the brain injury was mild, moderate, or severe.

I had depression prior to the injury.  I followed the pattern of  depression relapse several times over decades. It is more serious and does not respond to medication as well post injury.   I never noticed anxiety symptoms.  If anxiety existed, it wasn’t at the level it bothered me or interfered with my life at the same level as the Dreaded D.  I now live with the burdens of anxiety and depression. In addition, I have panic attacks if overwhelmed. 

PTSD can develop as a result of the cause of the brain injury.  If it was a preexisting condition,it may worsen.  It is an anxiety disorder brought upon by trauma.  There is an overlap of symptoms of brain injury, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, depression.  

Sucidal thoughts are frequent. So many times I just want to give up.  It’s overwhelming. 

I was obsessed with figuring out what symptoms were caused by what issue: Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and/or brain injury. I finally came to the conclusion that it really didn’t matter.  I had to deal with the issues.  Currently I am in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  I’m also working with a neuropsychiatrist to figure out medications might help.  It’s frustrating because my brain just doesn’t respond as before.  There is physical damage that cause changes in the neurons along with the development and effectiveness of neurotransmitters .  

It’s opening Pandora’s Box.  Chaos.  

Quote of the Day

One of the hardest lessons of life is letting go.  Whether it is guilt, anger, love, loss, or betrayal.  Change is never easy. We fight to hold on and we fight to let go. ~~ Unknown 

This quote is a path to develop a happier life.  We hold on to so much pain and sadness because we can’t let go.

 Depression and PTSD are both rooted in worldview, self beliefs, and experiences we have in life.  My struggle with PTSD and depression started with a betrayal of trust.  After the event, I never quite trusted people again.  I like people, I have friends, I love my family.  But, I still keep a sense of distance between myself and them.  For example, I never had a romantic relationship.  I’m fairly happy single but I sometimes wonder how life would be different if I allowed myself to trust, and maybe love, again.  I just can’t get there.  

My world view changed.  So did my self-image and beliefs.  I always pushed hard against these and for years it more or less worked.  Often PTSD issues from a traumatic event in the past are made worse, maybe triggered, by another trauma.  The more trauma, the more thoughts and beliefs are reinforced .  They become so strong they are reality for that individual. This is what happened to make my PTSD worse.  The car accident.  I don’t have any PTSD issues regarding the accident.  Yet, it triggered the unresolved crap in the past.  The coping and management skills I used are gone.  This is in part due to the actual physical damage to my brain and in part because of yet another trauma leading to an increased sense of danger, weakness, and helplessness. 

Depression often appears with PTSD.  Preexisting depression is worsened or new depression is developed.  Depression is also about distorted views of self and/or the world.  As my PTSD worsened, so did my depression.  

Eveyone needs to learn the lesson of letting go.   

“It’s not that we can’t let go of the past.  The past can’t let go of us.”  PTSD is a trap.  It’s an attempt to stay safe.  We don’t let go because for us it’s a matter of survival and safety.  Those “protective” beliefs and the physical responses become wired into the brain.  We hold on.  But we hunger to let go. 

It’s not as easy

People say happiness is a choice.  Let go of the past.  Stop thinking.  It’s not as easy as it seems.  Everyone struggles to choose to be happy.  Life is stressful, there are disappointments, there are challenges and strife.  Sometimes there is trauma.  The choice of happiness is harder for people facing mental health issues.

PTSD, anxiety, depression.  They’re in your mind and in your head.  The negative thoughts, the fear, the distorted views of life all combine to shroud life in hopelessness, darkness, loneliness.  The burden is heavy and yet it’s nearly impossible to put down.  My soul shrinks or whithers on the vine.

One cornerstone of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to recognize the distorted thoughts that feed the symptoms and challenge them.  It seems easy when it is said.  It’s not so easy to apply.  Depression and PTSD lie.  But the lies appear as the truth because the worldview is twisted. There’s just enough accuracy to the protective, skewed world view to make it even tougher to challenge successfully. The skewed thought creeps in when it’s least expected.  

Being happy isn’t a simple choice. It’s work.  It’s choosing what I need to do to heal every day, especially when the “fuck its” set in.  

It’s oversimplified to say happiness is a choice. Some people are struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other conditions that make it challenging to find peace and joy.  But challenging doesn’t mean impossible. It’s more accurate to say, “Happiness takes a lot of choices, some of which are hard to make.” Like the choice to accept ourselves and our struggles, the choice to accept responsibility for getting help, and the choice to do things that are good for us even when- especially when- we feel like giving up.  

Lori  Deschene

Peace and joy seem like an impossible dream right now; one disconnected from the reality of a world of chaos, fear, hate- both externally and internally.  The choice now is to keep going, do the things that are good for me, get over my bullshit about actually accepting help instead of trying to deal with it myself.  

Maybe joy and peace are daily choices for everyone.  No emotion or situation is permanent. I’ll try to choose something different.  Maybe I’ll eventually build some peace and joy again.  Or at least get things better than “fuck it.”