Sensitive

A friend of mine tried to distract her daughter from watching a Humane Society commercial.  She is a sensitive kid and her mom was worried that the commercial would upset her.  Ella’s response:

” Yes, I am sensitive, but it’s my sensitive heart that makes me the perfect person to help others. If my heart was hard, I wouldn’t care. I hope I never stop being sensitive, even if that means sometimes my heart gets broken. Broken hearts can heal, but how do you fix someone who doesn’t care? 3 ❤ ❤ ❤ <3″ This is such a deep response from an 8 year old.  

Words of wisdom from an 8year old girl.
I was a sensitive kid.  Often my mother was critical of me.  She blamed my pain from being bullied as me being “too sensitive” and it would stop if I  would be like other kids.  It took me until I was an adult to realize that this was her attempt protect me.  Yet, as a child it only brought more pain.  I couldn’t depend on my mother for support.  I was lucky.  I had support from my brother and sister. The bullying pretty much stopped in high school.

Yes, I am sensitive, but it’s my sensitive heart that makes me the perfect person to help others. If my heart was hard, I wouldn’t care. I hope I never stop being sensitive, even if that means sometimes my heart gets broken. Broken hearts can heal, but how do you fix someone who doesn’t care? 3 ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

Ironically, some of the kids who used to bully me started coming to me with problems.  I listened and didn’t judge.  And I wanted to help.  

I became a social worker.  Social workers often work with people on the fringes of society: the poor, people with substance abuse and/or mental illness, aanjsed children.  Some work in other ways such as hospital social workers.  Our jobs require a bit of sensitivity to others.  I grew up to be in a field that focuses on people needing some sort of help.

Sensitive kids and adults need support from friends and family.  The sensitivity that leads us to help others also causes us to often be hurt.   If you are a sensitive person, do not let anyone make you feel guilty, weak, or useless.  We have an important place in the world.  Someone has to care.  We do.

Neuroplasticity and Recovery 

It has been long believed that the brain cannot heal from brain damage.  The first six months indicate all the healing that will happen.  This isn’t true.  The brain continues to heal through neuroplasticity.  This is an excellent article that explains what it is and how it happens.  This process will also improve the function of a “normal” brain.
Neuroplasticity

Unexpected Meditation 


I came across this quote in an unexpected place: Facebook.

It is so easy to look at ourselves and only see our “flaws” or “failures.”  Part of the beauty of nature are the “imperfections” that make everything unique.  There is no “perfect” rose or tree.  Each is different.

Perhaps what we see as “flaws” are nothing more than uniqueness.  We get so hung up on what society, family, friends, religions, etc say we “should” be that lose sight of who we really are.  Our physical appearance doesn’t really matter. Our clothes don’t matter.  Our jobs don’t matter in the sense of our value as a person.  We’re not our jobs.  Who we are is so much more than the roles we play.  We will never be what society thinks is “perfect.”  And it doesn’t matter.

We grow when we embrace ourselves as we are.  From there, we can set goals to who we want to become.  We accept flaws and imperfections while striving to meet our highest right; who we are as a balanced person.  When we see ourselves negatively because of flaws, that’s when we get stuck.  The mental chatter starts.  We view ourselves as “less,” “broken,” “terrible” and many other negative ways.  Change and growth then seems impossible.  Or that we don’t deserve good things.

I struggle a lot with the Committee of Negativity.  For me, it’s comparison to who I was before the injury.  I was a better person.  Or was I?  I did many things that I can’t anymore and I did other tasks much easier than now.  Like running.  I ran faster and longer then compared to now.  But, did that mean that I was a better person or a better runner?  Maybe.  Today, I run for enjoymentwith no pressure to go longer or faster.  Maybe this makes me a better runner.  I enjoy the sensation of my feet hitting the ground, the smell of the air, the feeling of my breath and heart rate, the sight of the mountains or a farmer’s field or the deer.  I’m more in tune and mindful than when I was so focused on pace and distance.  So, am I “better” now or just different?

why do we look at ourselves so negatively and buy into labels?

 

Two Dollars and 26 Cents

We all take things for granted.  Things like basic life skills: washing,  getting dressed, eating, walking,  etc.  After brain injuries, many people struggle with Post Concussive Syndrome.  The after effects of our brain injuries stay around.  Sort of like the smell of my running shoes in the summer.

Some  TBI survivors never function the same post-injury.  They need help with basic things. There is such a variety of how much people heal.  And it doesn’t matter if it was a “mild” TBI or one “more serious.”  A mild TBI is like “slightly pregnant.”  You either have one or you don’t.  The chances of after effects increases due the severity of the injury.


At times, it can be equally frustrating and funny what becomes a challenge.  Making change.  Really.  A skill I had in grade school.  I bought a snack and wanted to pay for it with some of the collection of change.  The amount? $2.26.  How many quarters?! What about these dimes, nickels, and pennies?!  Slowly I count it out.  Then again.  And again.  Totally confused.  Fortunately, the clerk knew me and gently helped me figure it out.  🤓  She is a psychology student.  It’s funny how the small things can be a challenge but other things still come easily.  I don’t think I’ll ever totally figure this out.

$2.26.

Wounded Healer

SERVICE DOG AT WORK

SERVICE DOG AT WORK


A friend mentioned that this blog provided helpful insight into brain injury and how people recover from serious injury. My words helped her to assist others in her volunteer work. It touched me to hear this blog was making a difference in people’s lives. I reflected on a term I heard long age, “wounded healer.”

In a sense, we are all wounded. We all collect scrapes, cuts,bruises, and breaks. The injuries are physical, emotional, and spiritual. They begin in childhood and continue throughout life. We feel the sting of rejection when we are not invited to a party or get cut from a sport team. Or perhaps the situation was more serious: bullying, child abuse or neglect. Physical assaults, lost jobs, divorces, betrayal,cancer, serious illness, Traumatic Brain Injuries; the ways we can experience brokenness are myriad.

Yet, the human soul is divine. We strive to heal. The simple bruises and cuts fade. We work to knit the shattered pieces of the broken parts of our lives back together. We do not want to remain broken; we search for wholeness. With the work of healing, we gain wisdom. I believe the Divine works throughout this process, guiding us, encouraging us, and often, healing what we cannot. Yet, healing still leaves scars of the battle. And, for some, the battle is ongoing with chronic medical or psychiatric conditions.

This brings me to the concept of the wounded healer. Who better to help others in the healing journey than those who have also needed healing? I find my experiences with TBI and depression have helped me in my social work practice. I have lived with depression for many years. I understand how challenging it is to get out of bed on some days. Even simple tasks take incredible energy and motivation to complete. I remember the first time someone introduced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to me. She used the term “thinking errors.” Oh, boy. My response was, “Man, I can’t even think right!” To me, my intelligence was always a strength. Now, this therapist was telling me I wasn’t even doing that right! I didn’t go back. I make sure to explain that concept in a more positive way! But, the point is, I learned from my depression how to work with others. I also learned that I have to deal with my depression to be effective. If I let the “Depression Monster” climb on my back again, I am not a good therapist for anyone.

To be a wounded healer, you have to work on your own stuff first and foremost. And you have to keep working on it. Growth is a continuing process. Recently, the Depression Monster has paid me a return visit. This is not a failure but another opportunity for growth.

I am truly wounded with the TBI. The healing is ongoing. The fatigue and migraines are the hardest for me to accept. Being active prior to my injury, the slower life I had to adopt is at times, frustrating. However, it has been a boon to the Veterans I see. I move, and think, slower. My more deliberate speech and relaxed manner translates into session. The Veterans don’t mind that I occasionally have to ask them to explain something again or I take a few extra seconds to respond. One Veteran recently said my slower response and speech made him feel “heard and understood.” Although Scout is my service dog, he also works very well as an ice breaker. Veterans ask about why I have a service dog. Most schools of therapy say that therapist do not disclose information about themselves. What I was taught is self-disclose only for the benefit of your client. I generally tell them about my TBI in general terms. I find the Veterans respond. I am not looking for sympathy or kudos. It is matter-of-fact. Generally, they talk about their dog or other pet, then we can get into why they are there to see a social worker.

We are all broken in one manner or another. Some are injuries that heal but leave scars. Some have chronic medical or psychiatric conditions. But, we all have something to offer. You don’t have to be a professional to be a friend to someone in need.

Whitman Mission

Whitman Mission

Hard times

image

I had my speech evaluation today.  It went ok.  I have delay in word fluency and some issues with concentration.  It was a long test with several sections. I now have weekly speech therapy. 

I am feeling rather sad and frustrated.  Every time things look like they’re getting better I get hit in the face with what’s still wrong.  I also ended up with killer migraine after.  My head is still a bit raw and I’m sitting in a dark room with only a small light. 

For a while this afternoon I just wanted to give up.  I found myself wondering why the accident didn’t kill me.  At the time, my migraine was at a 9 on the pain scale and it was keeping me from sleeping.  A nap usually helps with the pain.  I felt like I was a burden to everyone and not able to give anything back. 

It was a moment of hopelessness. 

The pain faded enough for me to sleep a little.  Better living through medication.   Once I woke up, the pain was gone. 

Right now, I know I will eventually heal from the concussion.  It takes time and i have to be patient.  I have more hope that i will be back at work and giving back.  I still won’t deploy.  I think that will probably bug me for a while.  Life takes some interesting turns.  I still want to go with my unit but know it won’t happen.  Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. 

Keeping hope alive
Waiting for a bright future
As healing dawns full.

Depression whispers
Horrors, bleak darkness forever.
Stealing hope. It lies.

Stepping Forward

I was absent from blogging for a few weeks.   It was a busy time for me.  I had several medical appointments, got a new kitten, and made the first tentative step in starting back to work.   In addition, I continued to slowly build my running stamina and weight training.

The medical appointments did not go as well as I hoped.   My test results on the vestibular (vision/balance) restest were about the same as  the first test.  This is frustrating, as I have diligently done the at-home exercises and physical activities that were recommended.   The main problems I still experience (and notice)  are depth perception, tracking rapidly moving objects,  and turning my head side to side.  A rapidly moving object crossing my visual path causes me to become disoriented, and at times, dizzy.   I have trouble “timing” traffic in the car.  I only drive short distances in town during daylight hours.  Living in a small town makes this possible.  If I were in a city, I wouldn’t want to chance the heavy traffic.  When I drive, most of my body turns when I check for traffic.  I try not to drive if a ride is available.  I’m fortunate in that most of the time, I can get a ride from a friend or my neighbors.

In real life function, I don’t notice the vestibular issues as much.  My body balance is almost back to what it was before the accident.  At the gym yesterday, I completed a jumping exercise that I was not able to do three weeks ago.  When I run, my balance presents some challenges.  To me, any level, or slightly down hill, surface appear to be going uphill, at approximately a 2% grade.  The difference between what my eyes tells me and my body experiences result in me being off-balance on hills.  LOL.  I’m the only runner I know who runs uphill, all the time, even on the track!  Running on the track isn’t a problem.  My body has pretty much adapted to flat and uphill surfaces.  There’s a hill near the track.  I run over to it, run up the hill, and walk down.  I plan to try to run in the graveyard at the top of the hill sometime in the next few weeks.  There are a few gentle, sloping hills.  If my vision doesn’t repair in this area, I’ll need to train myself to adapt.  I noticed the steeper the grade of the hill, the more I can see it correctly.  ie- a steep downhill looks like a downhill.  It just doesn’t look as steep to me as it is.  Lucky me, the reverse isn’t true.  Uphills still look like uphills; and steeper!

Rooks Park

 

The second medical appointment was with the neurologist.  He is encouraged by my recovery of physical balance.  He is concerned about my lingering slowed speech.  I have difficulty expressing myself verbally.  It is similar to speaking a foreign language.  I have to “look” for the right word to express myself.  It has improved.  I manage shorter, simple conversations easier.  I think my processing time of spoke speech is also slower.  I understand people, but it may take me a few extra seconds to get the meaning.  It’s worse if there are a lot of distractions or if I’m tired.  It’s also harder when it’s a complicated topic.  He wants to order a neuropsychiatric exam to find out where I function and where my issues are.   I’m not particularly happy about this.  This is one of the steps that indicate that I may have some permanent loss of function.  OR not.  Brain injuries are such fun!  Unlike a broken bone, they can’t be x-rayed, weighed, and measured.   Each injury is unique.

Two weeks ago, I spoke at the Behavioral Health Retreat for work.  It was a powerful experience for me.  The room was large and I had some issues with sensory overload and anxiety.  After the presentation, I ended up with a major migraine!  It was worth the headache.  I spoke about my experience with TBI and recovery.   Most of the staff has attended trainings I conducted in the past.   I stood in front of them, in my sunglasses and floppy hat, and spoke with a slow, stuttering voice.  My mind is here.  It gets lost on the way to my mouth.  My friend, Carol, helped prepare the presentation.  I had trouble with organizing the training.  That will improve.  I received a lot of positive feedback about it.  One individual mentioned a family member with a TBI.  She still has trouble with some “simple” life issues.  The staff member realized her difficulties are related to her injury.  That meant a lot to me.  I hope this helps improve their relationship.  Support means so much with TBI recovery.  I wouldn’t be doing as well as I am if I didn’t have the support of friends and family.   One ongoing issue presented itself: my emotions are closer to the surface.  When I spoke about the costs to me of the injury, and my military unit deploying, I cried a little.  This loss is one I will grieve.  It’s hard to explain to people who aren’t in the military.

The kitten and the ferrets are sources of ongoing amusement.  Brigid has gotten old enough that she is now playing with the ferrets.  She isn’t the easy target for ferret ambushes as she was when she first came home.  I need to try to get some pictures and video of the play.  Brigid and Kaliyah have become playmates.  They chase each other through the apartment.  Brigid also likes to wrestle with Taliesin.  I step in fairly quickly.  Brigid is gentle.  She’s not using claws or teeth.  But, Taliesin is almost bald from his adrenal and lymphoma.  His skin lost that extra level of protection.  He still seeks her out to play, though.  I can tell when he’s tired and stop the enthusiastic kitten.

Brigid and Kaliyah

 

Wind dancing in trees
Blowing through colorful boughs
Crisp apple scent. It’s fall.
 
 

Time has passed strangely for me since the accident.  It seems like years but it’s only been months.  Days are long and nights longer.  It’s a weird skew of my time sense.  It’s not awful to have this slowing of time.  In a way, I have become more aware of how fast it passes outside these walls.   I wouldn’t recommend a head injury to help explore the gains of slowing down the pace of life and being more aware.  But, I am glad to have gained this insight.  Life is too precious to rush.  To live is to truly be in the moment, fully.  Even if it’s not comfortable.

Taliesin Fall 2009