In the past few weeks, I was liturgist at GCPC and I preached at Circle of Mercy. These experiences got me thinking about my speech and how it was right after my injury. In many respects, I am very fortunate since the part of my brain that handles speech was not affected but I know survivors who have great difficulty speaking.

I remember attending a support group in Atlanta. One meeting was rather intense because we were talking about the future of the Brain Injury Association of Georgia and emotions ran very high. At one point, a voice yelled,”Stop fighting!” It came from a man who used a wheelchair and always spoke with great difficulty. He continued haltingly and it took him a long time to get the words out. “We’re all on the same side!” No one said a word for we all knew he was right.

Although my speech isn’t a problem now, I did have to train my brain to speak again. I don’t remember much about the very beginning but I’m told at first I didn’t make much sense. I think this was more cognitive than the actual mechanics of speech as I tried to find a way to express what was inside. As I got better I began practicing saying lists of words trying to get my speech clear again. I knew my voice was important as I assumed I would go back to being a minister again. At first I was paranoid about speaking from the pulpit. Of course I didn’t have many opportunities but when I did, I recorded my speech just to make sure it was clear.

I’m happy to say my speech is as it was prior to my brain injury. I do have difficulty “thinking on my feet” so sometimes my responses are slow. How is your speech now? Is it difficult for you to get words out? What sort of exercises did you have to do to improve it? Directions for commenting are above on the right or contact me directly at tamara@indylink.org

Dividing my Attention

attention, resting brain

Before becoming a brain injury survivor, I never realized how difficult it is to filter out noise. When I’m in a room with many people talking and I’m trying to carry on a conversation with someone, I must be able to block out all the other voices. My brain was injured in such a way, I’m unable to do this now. I hear a blur of voices and am not able to hear the person trying to talk to me. I’ve learned to position myself in a room where I am in a corner and not in the middle of the room.

This sounds like a small thing but it’s amazing the number of events I must attend where there is a large group of people talking all at once. My former church had a fellowship hall where folks gathered to talk after worship and I could never go there. At the time I had to take a nap after worship (see 1/24/11) so I couldn’t go there anyway. I try to avoid these settings but sometimes it’s just not possible.

Last Saturday my husband, Michael, was invited to a birthday gathering for a woman he knows. About 10 of us met for horsdoeuvres and jazz music at a local restaurant. It was a low key affair and I really wanted to attend. At first, the band played quietly in the background but even quietly was too loud for me. We sat at one long table and I had difficulty talking to those who talked to me because of the music and the other people talking at the far end of the table.

The music got louder so folks could dance but I can’t stay in a situation like that for very long. I didn’t see a place outside where I could sit quietly with my ear plugs in to rest my brain. We had to leave after 1 1/2 hours because I couldn’t take it much longer. I felt bad since I knew Michael could have stayed longer and was having good conversations. I still don’t know if I made the right decision in attending that night.

Even after all these years, trying to be active living with a brain injury is a challenge. I have to make choices and sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve made the right one! I guess I’m glad I have a choice since so many brain inury survivors do not.

If you are a brain injury survivor, how do you try and be active? How do you manage the many challenges? See above right for commenting instructions or contact me directly at tamara@indylink.org

Poor Brain Injury Survivors

overstimulation, resting brain

I’m on a team of folks working with a man who was homeless but now lives in an apartment. The program is called “Hope to Home” and it consists of folks from various faith communities. It’s difficult living in regular housing once one has lived on the streets. The man with whom I am working, has a college degree and has held several jobs. He doesn’t need much of the help that others need, so working on his team so far has been easy.

I made it clear that I have no sense of direction so taking him places was not something I could do. He gets food stamps but they have been cut since he is now working more. At our last meeting no one was able to take him to get the supplemental food offered. After being sure he could give me directions to those places, I volunteered.

At the first church we had to wait in a long line of people who needed food. I could feel myself getting overstimulated even though it was early but I’ve learned when I can push it and decided this was one of those times. Numbers were passed out and my friend was number 34. We were ushered in to the fellowship hall where dozens of food boxes containing milk, meat, canned and boxed food lay on tables. Fresh vegetables were available as well as personal care items and some deserts.

Someone said a prayer and I thought they would begin handing out food since this was why everyone was there. Instead they spent about 30 minutes asking trivia questions about mothers. The person with the correct answer received some flowers. The questions often had wrong answers IE Who was George Washington’s mother? Answer: Martha Washington. Several folks around me rolled their eyes. It was clear they had come to pick up the food, not spend 30 minutes answering a stupid quiz just so people who donated a bunch of flowers could feel good about themselves!

As time went on and on and on, I knew I was going to have to leave the room to get out of the stimulation. I went outside, found a shady spot, put in my ear plugs and “rested my brain.” After a while my friend came outside and we went on to the next place.

Now as I write this, I’m angry. I know there are many poor people who have brain injuries. I could not have waited two hours in a noisy room for food. I could not have survived living outside on the street. I could not have made it without my disability benefits. Far too many brain injury survivors do not have these things. I guess this means that those of us who have these things, must try and support the survivors who do not.

What sort of financial and other challenges do you have? How can you support other brain injury survivors? See above right for commenting instructions or contact me directly tamara@indylink.org

The Woman at the Well

preaching, stress

I preached my first person sermon on the woman at the well yesterday at Circle of Mercy. It went well. I had written it a couple of weeks ago but I wasn’t happy with it. I practiced it Saturday morning and it hit me what was wrong. I made some changes and it improved greatly. I was still nervous about it but it went pretty well. It was a bit theatrical but it was fun to preach. I hope I wasn’t so into the experience of being the character that I lost track of why I was doing it! I do believe God spoke through me though.

Having a smaller plate now is a real challenge. In a perfect world, this sermon is all I would have on my mind. Unfortunately other things have come up. I’m working on a team with several other folks who are supporting a man who was homeless but now has housing. Others on the team can drive him places which is great since my sense of direction is so challenged. At our last meeting, no one was able to take him to the various food pantries to pick up his food boxes tomorrow so I’m going to do it. I need to remember that he knows where we need to go and all I have to do is drive him to the various places.

On top of that, I’m leading a foot washing for the homeless women who stay at Grace Covenant four times a year for a week. This is going to be a wonderful event and I look forward to it. The problem is these three things have stressed me out. I wish they happened in different weeks but I want to do all three. I hope I haven’t taken on too much!

I will use everything I know about handling my stress. I have not been spending time in contemplative prayer which always helps me. Plus I need to stick to my time schedule and not get too perfectionist about things. I wanted to write more about my challenges around preaching my sermon but I’ll have to do this later. For now, I”ll work on the foot washing service, pray and swim this afternoon. This should help me relax.