Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Sleeper Awakens

Everyone is capable of much more than regular life asks of him or her. This is proved when you watch the news and they talk about some accident or disaster and the “heroes” that rise up out of the rank and file of every day life to deal with the traumatic event. Rarely are these people who have any claim to fame or greatness other than they were just there and they did what had to be done.

            This is not to belittle what they accomplish. In fact, it is a solemn salute to the great things that are regularly achieved by those who are faced with an overwhelming hurdle.

My brain injury was the bitterest pill I ever had to swallow. I always felt inwardly that I could handle anything that life dished out, as long as I had my mind to rely on. I somehow felt that if my mind were damaged I wouldn’t want to be saved. Coincidentally, that’s where I got hit, right in the mind.

Much to my surprise, even that didn’t make me give up. A part of me that I had never had to rely on was there when I needed it. In mystical terms this is that time when “the sleeper awakens.” That is that inner strength you never knew you had. This is Clark Kent diving into a phone booth and emerging as superman to save the day. This is that part of you that, when you find yourself trembling on a rocky ledge about to fall, screams “No!” and pulls you back. This is that part of you that finds the courage to turn around and walk the razor’s edge, face the fire, or just get out of bed.

Brain injury is your opportunity to be great. Most people live whole lives waiting for something to happen to them to make them great. Lucky us. We’ve been pre-selected for greatness. Hey, nobody said being great was easy. I am great-full. If I had anymore greatness I’d be depressed. My plate of great is overflowing. No more greatness for me thank you, I’ll leave some for the next guy.

Seriously, it’s all a matter of perspective. This is just one way to look at brain injury. It’s important to note that you aren’t great because you’ve had a brain injury, but you can be great because of what you do in reaction to your brain injury.

Most of us spend some time wallowing around in denial and this is natural. It takes awhile to accept that this really happened and you are not just having a bad dream.

 A sign that you’ve accepted your brain injury is when you first take responsibility for your injury. I’m not saying it is your fault; blame is irrelevant. Being responsible means accepting that recovery is no one else’s job more than yours. You have to decide that you want to get better. You have to decide that you want it bad enough to work at it. Being willing to work at it means that you aren’t going to be hung up on the end result. It means that you want recovery so bad that you are willing to work at it even though you have little or no success. There’s no point in giving up because you can’t go back.

I can’t guarantee you’ll recover successfully. I can guarantee that you will grow. It’s not reaching the destination that makes you a better person; it’s the journey. If we have an advantage over ordinary folks it is that we are on a seemingly perpetual journey that’s all uphill. To quote Bill Murray in “Stripes,” “Talk about massive potential for growth, I am the acorn that becomes the mighty oak!”

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Asking is not Begging

When to ask for help, when to accept help, and when to say ‘no’ to help. These are cross-roads we are all faced with in the path of life.

            The child within us would always like to get help. When I was very young I was watching a movie that was taking place in the 1930’s. A man’s family was hungry and cold, it was Christmas and there were no toys for the children. Help was offered and he turned it down. The narrator explained that he was too proud to accept charity.

            I did not understand this. I reasoned that if you wanted something and it was offered to you, then you should take it. Issues can be so simple to a child. They can seem simple because a child does not have the experience of life that teaches how to balance living in society with being an individual, which teaches there are costs other than monetary that have to be considered.

            These issues are seldom black and white, in spite of what we hear every day during an election year. Be this as it may, what are the options to consider when we, as TBI sufferers, are offered or need help?

            Pride, or as it is known in the modern vernacular, self-worth, is a valuable commodity. It does not injure your pride to ask for help when you need it. People are only too happy to assist most of the time, especially with small projects that are not overly time consuming. Asking is not begging. Helping another human being is its own reward. That is as long as it is voluntary. I would cross the line if I went from simply asking for assistance to demanding it. If I demand help I degrade myself as well as the person I’m asking. If I say “you have to help me because…” I am obligating them to assist me. If they agree to assist me they become my servant.

            I am explaining all this to illustrate that there is nothing wrong with asking for assistance when you need it. Some people have trouble asking for help because it seems like they are begging or that they are showing some personal failure because they are not an island unto themselves. Refusing to ask for help when it is obviously necessary only makes you and others miserable. The “and others” is a critical point here. I can’t impress how foolish you look to others when you obviously could use some assistance and you just won’t ask for it or allow them to help.

            However, getting help can be like taking a drug. It is fine if you need it, but it can easily be abused. It can become easier to get help than to do something yourself. It is easy to drift into the habit of always getting assistance. In the end this only makes you weaker. In order to maintain some semblance of self worth you begin to deceive yourself into thinking you need all the help you take and that you have it harder than others.

            This leads to self-loathing, when you loath yourself you can only loath others. This is no way to live your life.

            The magic of life is that you have absolute authority over so much of your world. You divide things into what you need and what you want. You decide when enough is enough.