Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Hero Returns

I have died, yet here I am. I am not talking about any near death experience. There was no light to go to, there was no comforting voice welcoming me or telling me to go back. No, I died. The person driving my pick-up truck was killed in the accident. The body that they kept "alive" at the hospital is inhabited by a different person.

            In the classic Hero tale, a person dies or leaves, returns, and is changed. Sometimes this change is subtle, sometimes it is quite profound, but it is quite clear that they are different and not quite of this world in the same sense as everyone else.

            It is also never a trip taken lightly and the passing of the person is mourned, the returning Hero is often times not really accepted because they are so different yet eerily similar.

            That is how I would describe myself after my accident, eerily similar. I am most definitely not the same. With Brain Injury, the twist on the classic Hero's tale is that the new incarnation is not initially superior, far from it! The so called Hero is, in fact, quite dependent and needy. And so, with fits and starts, I began to construct a new me. I did not try and reconstruct the old me, that was not an option. This took a couple of years to realize and come to terms with.

            It was in the act of reconstructing myself that I realized two important things. The first was that I could not be what I was because that would require this new person to not have a brain injury; the notion of "recovery" became quixotic. The second was that I had an opportunity, both rare and unheralded, to become a better person.

            Enter the Hero.

            I had no idea what the Hero would be like. Piece by piece and hurdle by hurdle I reconstructed my identity. I succeeded at things I would never have attempted before, achievements where the effort did not seem commensurate with the result. Things that I would have considered not worth trying. Things that I would have called too hard. Accomplishments where the result, no matter how gratifying, paled in comparison to the willingness to persevere.

            In this process I become not the end but the means to the end. I trade a life for the living of a life. I am this or I am that becomes simply, I am.  The power of 'I am' opens a door to a myriad of bright possibilities. I was static, I am dynamic. I can't always succeed, but I can always try. These are the guiding principles of the Hero.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Cars Like Brains

How many times have I had to explain to people that I am tired? More accurately, how many times have I had to explain why I'm tired or why I can't do something because it makes me too tired? For me this inveriably occurrs not after an episode of physical exertion, people get that, but at other times when it is mental or cognitive exertion that has worn me out.

For me, cognitively taxing activities are those that require my focused concentration, either requiring my mental attention on a specific task, or more commonly, requiring fine motor skills. Sometimes it is a combination, with results not unlike playing a video game at a really challenging level for a long time, leaving one dazed and confused, even disoriented.

The simplest way for me to explain this to somebody is to liken it to a car's engine. When it is in tune it is efficient. As the engine gets out of tune it loses that efficiency. It is hard to start. Moreover, it uses much more fuel to go the same speed as other cars. Eventually, if it is not tuned up it completely quits and it will not run anymore

My brain is the same way. It is very out of tune. If I try and do the same work as other people, my brain uses many more resources to accomplish similar tasks and the result is less. If I don't listen to it, it gets more tired, fatigues at a higher rate, and even shuts down.

One key difference is that a car can just get a tune up, a brain cannot. My brain can heal and recover, but it will never run. Actualkly, it is a lot like the vehicle I was driving when I was t-boned by a semi-truck. They totalled it. It could never be fixed to run like it did before the accident. I lived, but like my truck's engine, my brain will never run like it used to. It runs differently and less efficiently.

I don't dwell on that fact, but I do acknowledge it. I have to acknowledge it because that is the only way I can make my peace with it. Until I acknowledged that my brain was damaged and it would never run like it ran before I could not begin the monumental effort of trying to achieve my new personal best.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

My New Superpowers

            I have acquired some new superpowers. Like most superpowers, I acquired them as a result of a mishap. In my case it was not exposure to radiation and or a chemical spill, it was not even X-rays from space or exposure to a meteorite; it was the result of being hit by a semi-truck.

            As is typical, it took a while for me to discover and learn to use my superpowers. Just like in the comics I did not welcome my new superpowers at first. Just like in the comics I hid them and was ashamed of them. I did not want to admit that I was "different."

            My first superpower is that of "Radical Acceptance" or as I call it "Epic Grace." It started when I first accepted my injury, fault became immaterial because it didn't change anything. Once I forgave myself I could forgive the world. Once I forgave the world I could forgive anyone and anything.

            My second superpower is "Unique Perspective." I have died and yet I live. Nothing really seems like a big deal anymore. I have lost everything, anything I have now is a bonus, each day is extra, tacked on beyond what I would have had. I no longer fear death.

            My third superpower is "Indomitable Will." After my brain injury everything became very difficult. There was no easy way to do something. If everything is hard then it doesn't matter what I try, anything can be done. If I can learn to walk, I can run a marathon. If I can learn to talk, I can learn a new language. It is all the same.

            So with this trio of Superpowers I make my way through the day. It not only makes my life easier, it makes life easier for all those around me. These superpowers are special too, as they can only be used for good; no matter what my intent, the result is always positive.