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!”


  1. I am having one of those days where I just feel like, "I used to be someone great." No more denial, challenge accepted, but feet feel too heavy to move.

    I loved my job and I was good at it. I felt secure in who I was and about the future. I used to feel like I had already lived a pretty good life. So, if my time came, I was okay with that.

    This? This, I am not okay with. I guess sometimes I am great, even now. On days like today, I just don't get it.

    1. I know exactly what your talking about! I have good days where my brain writes checks that it can't cash on my down days. AAArrrrgh!

  2. The change from before to after is not an easy one, nor does it happen quickly or is it always consistent. Part of the struggle is that you are in the 'becoming' phase - and becoming is hard, especially as an adult, and even more as an adult who 'was already'. Children go through becoming more easily because they have no frame of reference AND society tolerates it - but teens struggle more - they are caught between enough awareness but not enough ground under their feet. In many ways, for a long long time, post BI is like being a teen. A frustrating experience with storm of up and down and inbetween, searching for place and identity. It can help if you think of this of the procees itself as the only goal.

    1. I agree, for an adult there is a phase where you basically go through puberty a second time, this is embarassing and uncomfortable as a teen, but people understand because its a teen, when you're an adult there is no such slack. Its terrible and is the source of many of my regrets for actions I cannot forgive myself for.

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