Word of the day Two

Humility: the quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble.



For me, humilty is treating someone with respect, no matter their job, religion, or other factors.  I still struggle with this concept, especially around issues of religion.  It’s fine to disagree but remain respectful.  My beliefs are not superior to anyone.  What abilities I have don’t make me better than anyone.  I might run faster than other people but that doesn’t give me the right to critize someone who is overweight or not in shape.  My education doesn’t make me better than the person working in fast food.

Everything we have, we can lose.  All that remains are ethics and morals.

What is humility for you?

Some thoughts

Brain injury for some is a journey of loss, acceptance, and hopefully, eventually, peace.  It’s finding a new way to live.  But, I still grieve the past. I think I may always grieve what I lost and what “could have” been. The thought of “no longer” sucks.

It’s not that I can’t travel that bothers me.  It’s the concept that I am restricted.  I can no longer decide to take a weekend trip to Spokane.  Or decide to visit family in another state.  However, I find the thought of the restriction bothers me more than the restriction itself.  I am happier at home, with my routines, in my familiar environment.  I function better.  When I am gone, I miss Brigid and the peaceful cuddle time or just having her next to me on the couch.  I miss the laughter of playing with Bobby and Kaliyah, trying to keep up with their antics.  I just hate the concept of “no longer.”

I still run but not  marathons.  I focus on what I can do and the enjoyment and love of running I still have.  Yet, I miss marathons and the intensity of training and activity I used to take for granted.  Maybe someday I’ll finish another marathon.  But, right now it’s “no longer.”  I still run and still enjoy it. That’s important.

No longer can I be in the military.  No longer can I perform music.  At least for now, I can no longer drive.

My life seems to be more defined by “no longer” than what I can do.

I came to realize that there will be no full recovery.  I won’t ever do what I did before.  My focus is no longer recovery.  It has to be figuring out what I can do now.  Now what?

Trying to find the positive

The past few weeks were tough, mentally and emotionally.  I try to keep a positive attitude and not focus on the negative.  It’s not easy.  I know I’m sliding down the depression hole again.  However, I think there are things I can do to prevent going totally to the bottom- again.  Thus, trying to be positive.

Currently I have two real issues that are pushing the depression.  I’m still grieving losses from the brain injury.  It’s ongoing.  There are things that improved but so many that haven’t- and probably won’t.  This may be what I have going forward.  So, as I learned in the Marines, “Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome.”  How do I adjust for and accept the changes?  There’s a difference between acceptance and giving up.  I still hope for improvement.  I work towards it.  But, I want to fully accept that this is where I am now.  There may not be changes.  The other problem is fear for the future.  I put in my medical retirement paperwork.  Work is one of the things that needs to change.  At least for now, working is not a healthy activity.  I am worried about what will happen with the retirement and after.


Mindfulness: focused awareness of the present moment.  Staying in the now rather than worrying about the past or future.  They can’t be controlled.  We can only take action in the present moment.  The awareness allows us to experience life in the fullness- the feeling of sun on our faces, the smell of the campfire, the bite of autumn coolness in the morning, colors of the leaves, and other.  It’s a stance of acceptance of the moment.

Be where I am; be still in the moment.


Hope, Courage, Determination


Hope. Courage.  Determination.  Without these three qualities, I would have quit striving for healing and improvement.

Hope is elusive.  There are dark spots in life where it seems nothing will ever get better.  The road of brain injury recovery is filled with potholes and valleys.  Yet, there are also the mountain peaks, where I see how far I have come.  Hope allows me to see the possibilities I still have in life.  It allows me to dream of the future instead of only seeing my past and what I lost.

Courage is facing fear and adversity without retreating.  Fear:  constant anxiety that never quite leaves.     It’s a backpack of rocks, weighing me down, but it can’t be dropped or left behind.  I can only work to reduce how much it affects my life. If I want to continue to function and have any sort of meaningful life, I have to ignore or work through the anxiety of being. Just being is anxiety.  I face it every day.  Some days are harder than others and there are days I hunker down in my house most, or all, of the day because I just can’t face being outside.  Yet, I still run and complete life chores.  It’s exhausting but needed.

Determination.  When I was first injured, I faced a long and uncertain recovery.  No matter how much I wanted to quit, I kept moving forward.  I still move forward.  I don’t want to stay where I am right now.   Running marathons before I was injured developed a strong sense of determination.  There are times in training and the race that the body is spent.  What is left is determination to complete the run.  Now, it’s determination to live life to the fullest, not allowing fear or uncertainty to trap me in the quagmire of fear.

I may never improve beyond what I have now cognitively and physically.  Hope.  Courage. Determination.  I may come out the other side stronger and wiser than before.


Grieving TBI

Traumatic Brain Injury changes life. It is hard to believe that my injury happened three and half years ago. My symptoms have improved a bit. However, my continuing issues have brought the dreaded change.

Recovery from a significant injury is complicated. Not only is the TBI patient working through the physical injury, there is also a component of emotional challenge as well. Sadly, some changes are long term,perhaps permanent.
There are three major parts of recovery. The first consists of the initial diagnosis and treatment. Here, the healing process starts. For the majority of people with mild brain injury, the brain heals with few, if any, ongoing problems. The next step is rehabilitation of the ongoing issues. The deficits are discovered by testing. Then, a treatment plan is formed. Someone can be working rehabilitation for months or years, depending on the severity of the injury and subsequent damage. Eventually, progress slows to infinitesimal. The third stage begins: acceptance and adaptation. We adapt to what disabilities we still have.

All the way through the process, there is grief. In many ways, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief apply: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The stages are not necessarily done in order and often people repeat parts of the process.

Since my injury, I have experienced every stage. At first, I didn’t understand how badly injured I was. In part, I think this was a physical part of the injury: my judgement was off. Yet, as my thoughts cleared, I continued to reach for goals the just weren’t attainable. My military career ended with the accident. I refused to believe it until my medical retirement happened. There are times I think I can still get back to who I was before.

I spent a long time in anger. At myself, at the Universe, at medical providers, at life. Periodically, I still wonder if the initial diagnosis wasn’t missed, would I still have the level of loss I do now? Letting go of anger is a journey and process.

Bargaining: Just let me heal enough to work and run. Please. I’ll never ask for anything again. This stage didn’t last long.

Depression: I look to the past and feel depressed my life as I planned it is over. At times, I think the accident left me damaged, in a strange half life where I still see who I was but I can never reach that person again. There were times I wish the accident had just killed me. I am sad for all the losses brought by injury. As time passes, the sense of hopelessness receded. I understood where I was and that I still had a purpose to living.

Acceptance does not mean quitting. When one accepts what is, not what they wish it could be, it opens up more energy and focus on improving the situation. When someone is in denial, the energy goes to hiding from themselves, and others, the truth. It prevents any movement forward, because the individual is stuck. With acceptance, one can move forward. Life may be different but it can still be rewarding.

I still slide into the anger and hopelessness of depression periodically. I practice mindfulness meditation to help me through. Mindfulness is seeing and experiencing life, in the moment, without judgement. Staying the in the moment helps me not future trip, seeing the worst possible outcome of my situation. Or to focus so much on the past that I get stuck in the anger and hopelessness of what is no longer. I still see my life as “BI” (Before Injury) and “AI” (After Injury).

Acceptance and healing are both journeys, not destinations.

Keep hope.

Riley’s Fundraiser


Truth of Happiness

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”-    Thich Naht Hanh (Zen Master)

I came across this picture on the LOL Cats website (http://icanhascheezburger.com/).   The website is usually good for a smile.  People caption funny or cute pictures.  It’s more than just cats.  It includes other themes such as heroes, dogs, politicians, fails, etc. 

The picture provides some ironic truth.  On one hand, you could view the cat in the “fortress” as delusional.  “Rainbow markers will keep you safe?”  Uh huh.  Nods.  And where is your medication? 

However, there is some accuracy to the statement.  Our attitudes impact our moods.  In a sense, we can choose to build a rainbow wall by what we choose to think about and how we choose to act.   We color our reactions, emotional and physical, by how we view the situation.   People have commented about my positive attitude towards my injury.  My recovery is directly influenced by my attitude.  For example, going to WalMart is still an overwhelming and anxiety provoking experience.  My friends took me grocery shopping there today.  I got some of what I needed but experienced overload shutdown.  I stayed in the store and got most of what I needed but I’ll have to pick up some additional groceries tomorrow.  I see this as an accomplishment.  Instead of avoiding something that challenges me, I went pursued it.  The new neuro-connections that my brain needs to make are formed through a combination of experiences/ actions and rest.  By allowing myself to experience physical and emotional discomfort, I provided an opportunity for my brain to work on the neurons.  The trick is to do this safely and to allow for my limitations.  If I avoided going to the stores or out in public, my recovery would be slower.   And I would be more limited.  For me, that would be a depressing situation.

This is the concept of “acceptance” in mindfulness.  I accept the fact I had the accident.  I accept my injury and the limitations.  But wait!  I just said that I’m challenging the limitations and working towards improvement.  How is that acceptance?  My injury is what it is.  I don’t necessarily like it.  So, I work to change it.  Acceptance isn’t always remaining in the status quo.  However, you cannot change what you don’t accept.  Think about this.  If you want to change, you have to recognize, and accept the situation.  Otherwise, energy is being wasted in denial, anger, fear, and avoidance. 

Often, we find ourselves captive to powerful emotions.  As humans, we are emotional beings.  Emotions are healthy and natural.  There are emotions that we term “bad;” anger, jealousy, fear, lust, to name a few.  But, each of these “bad” emotions have purpose.   They provide information about our environment.  There’s something going on that we need to pay attention.  Fear can indicate danger.  Anger can be a healthy response to an argument.  It’s what we do with the emotions that matter.  Do we dwell on them?  Do we lash out with them?  Do we hide from them?  Or do we notice and accept they are present?  Accepting the emotions for what they are reduces their power.  It also helps us to address the situation. 

Those emotions such as love, happiness, and enjoy are to be embraced.  Laughter is healing.  Laughter is powerful.  Life, for all its challenges, is meant to be embraced.  We cannot always be happy.  Life is balance also.  For joy, there is also sorrow.   Even in sorrow, there will again be joy.

Grey the dawn rises
Dark clouds burst soaking the earth
Dancing in puddles