Presbytery Meeting

The presbytery meeting vote came out the way I had hoped with a vote of 143-99. I made a short statement which turned out to be a 1 1/2 minute sermon. We voted on this same issue two years ago and I spoke then. I was stressed and vowed I would not speak this year because of this. However, when I attended a meeting of those working for it’s passage, I discovered no one planned to express my thoughts. So I decided to go through the stress again.

Unlike many brain injury survivors, I am able to do most of the things I did before. I have to do things differently and this does frustrate me. For example, I get overstimulated very easily now. Too much light, sound and things I never thought about before, can overwhelm me. I don’t go to malls now except to run into one store that I know how to get to. Spatial orientation (sense of direction) is a huge issue for me and I can’t count how many malls I tried going to when I lived in Atlanta but I got lost and/or overstimulated in every one.

At this point, it’s important for me to say that everyone with a brain injury is different. Some folks must use a wheel chair, others cannot speak and still others have vision difficulties. Some folks can handle a lot of noise and others don’t get lost very often. I remember going to a party for brain injury survivors in Atlanta and others could handle the music. It drove me crazy and I had to keep leaving the room to get out of the noise. It’s best to treat everyone who has a brain injury as the individual people we are. Don’t assume we are all the same because we are very different. This is important to remember for anyone with a disability. For example, all folks with visual impairments are not alike.

I’ve always liked to preach. Even now, I enjoy it. When I was an associate pastor in the church, I didn’t preach often and it took me forever to write a sermon. Sometimes, I would practice and practice so I could say everything just right. Even though a sermon is not a performance, my performance background helped me immensely. So of course, I practiced my sermon relentlessly. Other preachers told me that with experience it gets easier and one gets into a “groove.” I decided to seek another call where I could preach more and have a chance to get into this “groove.” I had applied to several other churches and even had a couple of interviews right before my accident. My husband had to field several phone calls from churches interested in me while I was still in the hospital.

So I will never know what it is like to get into a “groove.” I’ll never know if I was capable of preaching on a regular basis. This is a loss and my little presbytery speech put this to the forefront again. In spite of the stress of my speech, I’m glad I did it. I struggle with what this all means. I think I will speak for certain things, knowing that I’ll have to put everything in place in order to do it. For example, I didn’t attend the full presbytery meeting because I knew I would be overstimulated. Since driving on the highway is still a challenge, I arranged for someone to take me there. I’ve always had trouble asking for help but now in order to function, I must do this.

I’m interested in any thoughts you might have. If you are a brain injury survivor, what things are different about you now? Do you grieve your losses? Do you have difficulty asking for help? Even if you’re not a survivor, feel free to comment.

Stressed Out!

Prior to my brain injury, I worked as a parish minister and I always did too much. I look back on it now and realize how unorganized I was. I could function though because I remembered what pile I put something in and could find it. Now I remember making a note about something but I can’t find the note anywhere. I end up wasting much time trying to find the note and when I do find it, I don’t have time to deal with it!

I’ve been reading “The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living” which contains excerpts from the works of Father Thomas Keating. Each day has a passage of the Christian Scripture which one can meditate on. I tried meditating on the one suggested but my mind kept remembering a different passage. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see everything has become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17) Contemplative prayer is a new way to pray for me. I want to make sure I don’t take a passage out of context but in this type of prayer,
one meditates on a passage and lets the mind go where God takes it.

I thought about how I am a new creation now after my brain injury. I can work really hard and try to do everything I need to do and get stressed out or I can lean on my higher power which I call God. I’m trying to give up my concerns, ie an upcoming meeting of a church group where I plan to speak for one minute, this blog, my new Smart phone (Geez, these are hard to learn how to use! I’m trying to learn how to access the Internet on it as well as basic things like simply hanging up the phone!)

But I am a new creation now. I’m trying to give my worries and concerns to God. It sure is hard to let go of things, that’s for sure. But this is how I am now. God will help me and I don’t need to think I have to do it all. If I mess up a few things, that’s okay. God loves me anyway. I just need to have love and compassion for myself.

Noggin Notions

Sometimes I wish I was more computer literate. I also wish I knew more about creating a blog! I chose to use Blogger because it seemed simpler to use than some of the others. A friend came over and helped me set it up. When I was in rehab, I learned there are three parts to memory. One has to get the information in, store it and then get it out. After my neuropsychologcal and other testing, I learned I can get information in and store it but getting it out is really difficult. So if someone tells me how to do something on the blog, it will make sense to me and I can do it right then. I might even be able to remember how to do it several minutes later. However if I don’t write it down, I can’t get it out of my brain.

It’s been a while since I have thought about memory so I’ll write a more complete post about it later. Let’s get back to the blog. I plan to look at the informational section on blogger to see if I can figure it out. I have to find what I need, then print it out so I can have it next to the computer when I’m working. I think I’m going to write a list of my questions and ask someone who knows blogger, to answer them. If I don’t write the questions down as they come to my mind then when someone can help me, I won’t remember the questions!

I’m trying to use this process to get to know how I function better. I tend to write things on pieces of paper and leave them everywhere. When I need the information, I can’t find it. I know I have to be organized in order to function. Prior to my brain injury, my office was always a mess but I could remember where things were to find them. Now everything must be labeled and orderly or I am unable to do anything. This is definitely an area of growth for me. I was unorganized before but I could deal with it. Now this is not an option.

I’m interested in your stories about memory, organization or blogging. (Is that a word?) Feel free to comment.

Fatigue

Since my TBI in 1996 I have taken a 30 – 40 minute nap around 12:30 every day. I have it down to an art form, complete with knowing which kind of ear plugs work best for me. I even have a timer so I won’t sleep too long. They aren’t a luxury and I always hate when someone says, ” I wish I could nap like that!”

The problem is I couldn’t function if I didn’t have a nap. Without one, my brain stoped working completely and I’d lose my temper at the tiniest things. I couldn’t think and I’d have difficulty maintaining my balance. Whenever I had a day long function I had to make arrangements to find a couch somewhere to lay down. This really has been a burden. I’ve napped in the back seat of my car on several occasions. I’ve slept in closets, floors, couches and beds. Staying at hotels was often a challenge trying to work with check-in and check-out times.

In addition to these daily naps, I would get overstimulated easily. This is often a problem with brain injury survivors. I couldn’t handle a lot of commotion and in the beginning, I always found a quiet corner in a room away from the hustle and bustle around me. Even today, the ubiquitous televisions drive me crazy. I found that putting ear plugs in to block out all stimulation allowed me to “rest my brain” a bit.

To my amazement, I recently stopped taking a preventive migraine medication and my need for this nap has disappeared. When I first was treated for these, I tried a huge variety of preventives and this was the only one that worked. I still have migraines and am trying acupuncture to lesson them. Fatigue was a side effect but I took the bulk of the med at night. It never occurred to me that it was the reason for my daily nap.

This is all new to me so I’m trying to figure out how to manage it. I still need to put my ear plugs in for about 10 minutes or so and sit somewhere quietly periodically throughout the day but not having to take the nap has given me more time. I was sluggish before my nap and it took me a while to get back to living my life afterwards. There always seems to be a challenge when one has a TBI even after 14 years! I remember when I had been a survivor for 5 years and thought I was done improving, folks who were 15-year survivors told me they are still growing and changing.

I am interested in how others have managed their fatigue and if it is a problem. I’ll write about over stimulation another time especially since this has been quite a challenge for me.

History of my TBI

On August 26, 1996 I was a passenger in the car with my husband, Michael Galovic, driving in Atlanta, Georgia. As we turned left, we were hit by an oncoming car. We were admitted to two different hospitals since I needed more specialized care. I was in an induced coma for a week where my brain was monitored for swelling. I then moved to a different hospital which had inpatient rehab. There I began the process of learning how to eat, speak, walk and think again. At the end of October I moved to an inpatient rehab center where I continued my rehabilitation.

Lack of awareness is often an issue when one has a TBI and I was no exception. I was bound and determined to continue working as a Presbyterian minister. I continued my rehab as an out-patient and following this, I volunteered as a chaplain at several facilities hoping I would go back to working as a minister. I was able to visit folks, write sermons, lead bible studies but it took a lot out of me. I began realizing that I probably would not work as a paid minister again.

I have since moved to Asheville, North Carolina where my husband took a job in the counseling profession. I do some pastoral visiting at the Presbyterian church I attend. I also attend another church affiliated with the UCC/Alliance of Baptist churches which meets on Sunday evening. I am a progressive Christian and was drawn to this second church because of the many socially active folks who attend there. I have learned that my brain gets more tired now (mental fatigue) so I sometimes attend one or the other Church and not both.

I decided to write a blog about my experiences living with a TBI. I hope other survivors can relate to my stories and will share some of there own.