Gabby Giffords


Gabby Giffords squelched all talk about whether she would run again for another term in Congress by resigning this week. I must say, I am not at all surprised. A part of me was fearful that she would run again for lack of awareness is very common for TBI survivors. I thought I could go back to full time ministry and figured I would be able to do this after resigning as an associate pastor. I volunteered as a chaplain at a retirement center thinking eventually I would go back to full time ministry. After doing this for several years, it became clear to me this wasn’t going to happen.

She has received much attention in the press. I can’t imagine having to deal with the challenges of TBI while being so much in the public eye. I would love to see her recover to the point where she could work as a congressperson again but I really doubt that will happen. I remember my TBI therapists tried to steer me away from ministry but I wouldn’t listen. I was convinced I would be back.

I think I am ultra sensitive to any talk about working as I did before. I want Gabby to go back to Congress while at the same time, I would be jealous if she did. Thoughts would probably flood my mind. “Why did God let her go back to what she loved, but didn’t allow me to return as a minister? What is wrong with me? Did I not try hard enough?” Today I just have to tell myself to stop thinking this way. It serves no purpose and I only feel worse when I do.

I looked at that “Welcome to Holland” piece again. (Feb. 9, 2011) It helps me see the things I have gained among the losses and how the pain of this is never going to go away. I’m also reminded that in many ways, I’ve become stronger. Gabby and other brain injury survivors in the public eye are helping folks become more aware of this injury and that’s a good thing. Every brain injury is different and just because someone else can return to what they did before, doesn’t mean everyone can. (And if I’m totally honest with myself, I don’t know a single survivor with an injury as severe as mine, who has been able to return to the job they had before.)

Today a friend gave me a wonderful gift. She made some moon earrings for me to wear. Moons are a powerful symbol for me and I will wear them as a reminder of the moon which shines brightly in the dark sky despite everything.

What are your thoughts about Gabby Giffords? If you are a survivor, what has changed for you and what has if anything, remained the same or gotten better? See top right for commenting instructions.

Fifty


My fiftieth birthday was on October 5. It’s hard to believe I’m 50! I saw this tongue in cheek picture above about turning 50 and it made me smile.

What does turning 50 mean to me? In my forties I kept thinking about how much farther other people had come than me. Now I’m thinking about getting involved in the Wall Street protests happening in New York. There are groups forming in all different cities across the country and there is one here in Asheville. (http://occupyasheville.org/) I’m not too sure about the movement but I want to check it out. There is a General Assembly that meets every night at 7 pm downtown and I plan to go tonight.

I’ve been visiting the facebook page and it looks like several interesting things are happening. The movement consists of a whole lot of young people and I had a discussion with several others about age on that page. They all said they would never go back to being younger again. As I sit here now, I must agree with them. I’ve gained a lot of wisdom and I wouldn’t want to give any of that back. I might be all grown up now but I’ll never stop growing and changing.

I’ve been feeling a little down about being a TBI survivor so I looked at the essay Welcome to Holland again. (see 2/9/11) I especially like “But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, ‘Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go…..’ But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.”

Since I do not work, I’ve had time to check out the facebook page for this Wall Street thing. There is a lot of material there and I’m glad I had a chance to look at it. I also had time to bake bread today. I do love putting my hands in the dough and then tasting it when it’s all baked. I never would have done this if I had gone to Italy.

If you are a brain injury survivor, how old are you? Do you like being here in Holland instead of Italy? See top right for commenting instructions or email me directly at puffer61@gmail.com

Grief

Twenty years ago I learned about Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief. At the time, they made sense to me. However, several years ago I couldn’t understand why I seemed to be back in the early stages of grief surrounding my TBI. Shoot, I’d already gone through all the stages so I thought I was free and clear! Kuber-Ross made it sound like once one gets to the final stage, acceptance, the grieving period was over.

My neuropsycologist at the time, told me he thought grief wasn’t so neat and simple. He saw it more like a coil and not stages at all. One continues to go back through the process over and over again. Of course each process of grief gets easier as the years move on but the feelings don’t go away.

I’m reminded of this now as I feel sorry again for all I have lost. I thought I was over it all but I guess I’ll never get completely over it. Recently I was asked to help facilitate a Sunday School class. I do have some thoughts about the class and being in this position would allow me to implement some of my thoughts. The only problem with it was I would have to do a lot of organizing and securing other teachers to lead each session. Due to my TBI, organization is difficult for me since it is part of the activities of the frontal lobe. Since this part of my brain was injured, I try to do organizational things as little as possible. As a result, I turned the position down.

However, I do realize that it is easier for me to relate to others who are going through losses. I thought of this the other day when I was visiting an older person who has lost much. I could really relate to her feelings since my feelings are similar. I see this as one thing I have gained in the midst of my many losses. I can now relate to others who are going through tremendous loss and I think this is difficult for many people.

How do you grieve for your losses? Do you feel stronger now then before your TBI? What are some of your losses? See top right for commenting instructions or contact me directly at puffer61@gmail.com

Welcome to Holland

I was organizing my files on brain injury when I came across a poem I had clipped from the newspaper years ago. I share it at the risk of taking it out of context but Emily Perl Kingsley’s poem called Welcome to Holland resonated with me.

“I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared the unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. Michelangelo’s “David.” The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The flight attendant comes and says, “Welcome to Holland.” Holland?” you say. “What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.” But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place. So you must go out and buy new guidebooks. You must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy, and they’re bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.” And the pain of that will never, ever, ever go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.”

I know folks who’ve said, “I’m glad God allowed this brain injury to happen to me. I’m a much better person now.” I respectfully disagree. God doesn’t allow things to happen so we can learn something. It’s the other way around. God uses what happens so we may become closer to God and to the people around us. Besides, I wanted to go to Italy! I had studied and trained to go to Italy and the pain of being here in Holland is not ever going away.

But here I am in Holland. I’ve met some remarkable people that I would never have met in Italy. I’ve had experiences that could only happen here. Every now and then I meet someone who has been to Italy and I grieve again. But if I spend hours brooding and mulling over my losses, I’ll never get to enjoy the extraordinary things that are here in Holland. And Holland has some very extraordinary things.

How is your life different now after your brain injury? What do you miss? Is there anything extraordinary now that wasn’t part of your life before? As always, all comments are appreciated or contact me directly at tamara@indylink.org