Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beautiful Inspiring Article on Writing Post-Injury

This came via Twitter and was so beautiful I felt I had to share it.  Enjoy & share the encouragement/inspiration!  :)

http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/writing-to-calm-and-compose-the-injured-brain/

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Step One: Changing Focus

Beautiful Montana Sky Sunset














For anyone who has walked the 12-Steps, you know it begins with admitting we are powerless over our own, or, our loved one's addiction, and our lives have become unmanageable.

Some have inserted the words "powerless over other people, places, and things" to the only true power they/we have, is to change our own lives.

Unmanageable.  Webster defines unmanageable as "difficult to manage or control".  As reason would have it and introspection could only show, I was not managing my life, and with TBI, that is dangerous territory.

Another part of the 12-Step process later on is a fearless and moral inventory.  Soooo, how was I doing with my self-care?  Exercising?  Eating healthy?  Regular sleep schedule?  Daily routines?  Not so much.  I cannot control anything that has happened or will happen, I can only control the little bits of life entrusted to me right here, right now. 

For my own health, it is best for me to remain quite distant from my family because I know from experience I am not one who can detach and be in close physical proximity.  There are things I still do not know or understand about my upbringing that I will address with a licensed therapist to help me heal. 

I control only my behavior, but, I am clearly affected by the behavior of my family members, learning detachment for me, is definitely a process.  So much of my identity was/is tied to what I did or didn't do, did I earn approval, etc.


So this is also a slippery slope to not get pulled into the guilt treatments, the constant barrage of how I'm not good enough.  I saw with exacting clarity some of what my Dad is experiencing and I felt compelled to do something.  I had to take a long time to figure out what, if anything, I would do. 

When I saw Dad's face light up when he took my Sister-in-Law's camera to take a picture that sure got me thinking.  Initially I was going to send him my camera I've had for less than a year.  It's a big deal buying a new camera, my last one I had for over ten years so this one would have to last a long time too.

I thought about it.  A lot.  I was going to, but couldn't.  The part of me that has begun to heal could not do it and in came a battle of conscience.  Dad would not give us the best, the best was always reserved and guarded, for him.  I could not give to Dad what he was unable to give to us, a very difficult, but also strikingly clear conclusion. 

I could not send him my new camera knowing the cost it would be to me and I may never see it again.  I have been falling in love over and over again with Montana sky, taking photos often, as the beauty changes daily! 



So, I sent him an older Kodak video camera we found that also takes pictures.  Dad never called to thank me, he did thank me the Sunday when I called him and that was enough.  I don't want to live with regrets, it was something I could do, and, feel good about.  He was tickled pink!  From what my brother relayed to me, my Dad was pretty emotional about the whole thing.

This became a pretty big emotional drain, thinking through all this stuff, dealing with the past.  I finally came to peace.  In with the camera I handmade a card, the border was black and white in an attempt to draw filmstrip, and wrote, "Lights, Camera, Action!" on the front.  Inside I shared that I saw his eyes light up and that got me thinking that Dad needed a camera, that he wasn't actually retired, but now the photographer of his "new digs" as he loved to call the place.  I thanked him for sharing his love for photography with us, and that every time I take a photo, I think of him.

This is tough stuff, not just the knowing we're heading toward his death and I, wanting to remain authentic to my new self, but all that stuff that happened...I am researching therapists and will go with the one who have the ability to walk people through the trauma, and, get successfully to the other side.  I'm here to do the work, go to the places that scare me, and heal.

So for now, I blog when I am inspired, have something worthwhile (and hopefully helpful too) and, go back to Step One...managing my life!  I have to get those basics back into play as my foundation or I have no strength from which to live or give...and don't we all do better running on a full tank?  :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

FREE Webinar this Friday: Concussion and the Perfect Storm

Received this via Twitter:

Presenter is Dr. Richard Ellenbogen. To learn more about Dr. Ellenbogen, here

Register here

I've registered and hope to 'see' you there - free information rocks!  :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Traveled, Trauma-triggered, Tongue-tied, Tired, and now Talking


[For those in a tender place or who have gone through trauma a time or two before, you have the option to not read this post.  There are *not* gory details, but more, wound(s) needing ventilation.  I am also fully aware by staying silent I go against the possibility of a greater good, a deeper level of healing for self and others.  Had this happened to anyone else, I’d tell ‘em to let ‘er rip, let it out!]

A trip back home was in the plans, the timing was to be when Dad moved to his new place and we could offer him the best support.  My hip going out delayed me getting anything done around the house in preparation for the trip, so we went a week or so later than expected.  With how busy work was getting for Richard, we managed two days to visit, hoped to get things squared away with banks and lending institutions, and two long, hot days of driving to/from.

Going home, seeing family is always a stressor, always has been and chances are, it always will be.  I’ve mentioned a time or two before that it took me years to get to the point where I could attend family gatherings without getting physically sick.  

Anyway, I needed to get Power of Attorney stuff taken care of and postponing the trip was not looked upon favorably by family, indeed a damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario.  I began having violent nightmares before the trip; the sleep I did get was poor, at best, when you’re at that place.  I would try to nap during the day to catch up, but even there, the nightmares found me.  I became weary of both no sleep and being terrified to sleep.    

No matter what I did, there was no relief.  In addition, I was tormented by memories of a rape that occurred in 2005, why, I would not know…

We visited Dad in his ‘new digs’ as he loved calling it.  He was tired, but good.  He held my hand like a man drowning.  He’s NEVER held my hand before.  I am 45-years-old. 

We had a family dinner one evening; in attendance were my Sister-in-Law, two Nephews and one Girlfriend, two of my Brothers, Dad, and my Step-Mom, Richard and me.  Awkward doesn’t quite express it. 

We all sit there in the strained silence, my Sister-in-Law tries to make anxious conversation asking Step-Mom questions and she’s clearly annoyed.  These are all people if I weren’t related to I’d have nothing to do with, we have nothing in common.  I’m also there struggling because I promised to help, but my conscience doesn’t want me trying to shrink myself to fit their small impression of me, or trying to be who I used to be, etc.   

We’re the old religious stereotype where the women do everything and the men pretty much just show up.  Shallow?  Yes.  Uncomfortable?  Beyond belief!  Exhausting?  Totally!

Richard and I literally reminded each other of the accomplishments or hurdles we made it through, and the rest will be easier.  True, those difficult family interactions are drains of epic proportions.  Times like these I joke about being ‘my enhanced version’ which means I’m jacked up on caffeine 24/7 just to get through.

But, counter to that drain, there were invigorating times of being back to my old stomping grounds.  Being in a familiar place where my brain ‘knows’ where things are or at least which direction we’re facing, well, it’s a nice feeling.  It is strange how some things just ‘click’ with our memories and while I enjoyed it, it would not last, so I tried to neither hold on or dread, just breathe in the moment.

We left early, early Sunday morning as Richard had to be back to work early Monday.  In tow are several boxes of Dad’s files for me to go through.  I will now be taking on his finances.   

Visiting with him I clearly see his Dementia, confusion, fatigue, depression, and forgetting.  I get it.  I am not afraid nor do I get pulled into a sadness of him deteriorating.  He is 89 years old; he has had a long, good, active life with much to be thankful for when he can be or is able to choose.

We get home and the nightmares continue.  Still jacked up on caffeine, I spend a long time with those files trying to get a handle on things and come up with a strategy for all this.  In a way, I feel like my struggle to survive and work through the broken systems post-TBI has prepared me for this.  I wasn’t, however, prepared for a letter dated in July 2005 my Dad wrote to me but never sent.

He tells me things I’ve never heard before about how Mom and Dad both wanted a daughter, they’d tried eight years to conceive but could not, so began the adoption process.  I always heard from Mom it was she who wanted a daughter, Dad was content to stop adopting when he had his three sons.  He would tell me most of my life he never wanted a daughter, period.  He would tell me in this letter how I was Mom’s special girl and through her I became his ‘special girl’, how he and Mom would talk about the things I did each day.  Wow.  Nice to know at age 45…I seriously thought I was the family problem until I reached age 25.  Mom died when I was 16 and I remember the distinct knowledge my world died with her.  Dad could say what he wants but the reality was something much clearer and less kind.  

At any rate, even with those unsettling things he said, the real zinger was his concern about my dating choices.  Seriously?  Really?!  Where in the hell would I learn about men in the first place?  I learned about a woman’s role, I learned nothing how to be strong in myself as a unique and meaningful human being.  I was a role to be filled, not a person to be loved, nurtured, etc.  The equation looked like this, act as a different person and perform well = loved and accepted.  If not, he would tell me in that horrible tone of voice how he was so disappointed in me.  

In Spring 2005 I made the irretrievable misjudgment by telling my Dad and brother about a horrific date rape.  Yes, people.  Date rape.  It is far more common than we give our consciences room to fathom.  By nature, by my growing up in a home with domestic violence I became highly self-protective, never truly feeling safe in the presence of another human being because I didn’t know that was an option.  

The rape was by a person I knew and trusted for YEARS – he snowed everyone in my life at that time, they were happy for me feeling I was finally in a good place with someone who would have my best interest in mind.  He offered to step up and help me keep from losing my ‘nest’ as he called it.  He showed my Birthfather his huge motor home with Italian flooring that we’d come visit him in Georgia.  

I was, at that point in life, in my third year post-TBI and at rock bottom.  I had lost my steady job, friends, and was struggling with the new work I was trying to do. 

I would learn terrible things about what humans can do to each other.  There are reasons why the word ‘horrific’ exists.  The perpetrator was the worst, but those who blamed me only added to my pain and I seriously considered suicide…yes, I understand why sexual assault victims, those who have been trafficked, victims of child rape, PTSD survivors, why they kill themselves.  There is only so much a person can take.  And to blame?  Wow.  

I will address that unlovely event another time…

Since returning home, having gone through the family stuff, I found Dad’s letter.  Why in the hell didn’t he just destroy the damn thing?  When we had been at Dad’s, my oldest brother, whom I share Power-of-Attorney title with said he was real proud, Richard seemed like a good man, he had his doubts in the beginning but welcomed Richard into the family.  I remembered being a little taken aback by it, but also didn’t breathe it in either, for that is life with my family.  I did, however, ponder for a moment in my heart, if that is what being supported by a family member feels like.  

It wasn’t until later his comments of ‘having been concerned about my dating choices’ hit home.  He wasn’t telling me I’ve done well, turned over a new leaf, or had some great epiphany in my life, he blamed me for the damn rape too!

Holy shit, Batman, this is enough drama for a lifetime.  

I have been depressed beyond all measure since returning home and unearthing this most unlovely discovery.  I have tried stuffing all that baggage and trauma back down where it was stowed quite nicely until recently, but the truth of the matter is something like that changes you.  You don’t just go on with your life.  I felt responsible, yes, me.  I blamed myself…but I kept following that stirring, you know, that voice inside that just doesn’t go away, that has its own truth no matter what circumstances look like?  

I have been completely unable to function outside of eating and trying to sleep.  All extra-curricular activities like blogging and reading blogs was pushed aside.  Fight or flight mode, once again.  I don’t know if it was PTSD or the family all getting together that pushed me over the edge.  I only realized very recently how far gone I had been, so numb, so shut down.  The sun was shining, birds were singing, the sky was beautiful but I could neither see it nor feel it.  I felt lost, like I didn’t even know who I was anymore…

I have lost a lot of faith in religion, family, friends and people during my tumultuous years post-injury.  The thing about trauma is it will shake all the fluff that is man-made and doesn’t mean a damn thing and cleverly rearrange everything we once called ‘priority’ or ‘right and wrong.’
What is helping me get out of this bad place was trying to see everything as though it had happened to a treasured friend.  For that, there is only compassion and tears, well-placed anger, and honoring a hurt or hurts that only served to terrorize me as long as I kept them hidden.

Maybe if I can ventilate this a little bit here, I can get back to being more of myself again.  I began to feel a crisis of identity, not knowing who I really was anymore.  I’m still not out of the woods quite yet, wondering if I’m needing to speak to a professional again to help me through this patch, I don’t know.  

The nightmares had subsided for a time and reoccurred just today, but, I did have a wonderful dream about being at a Buck Brannaman horse clinic in between.  I realize I have an insatiable need for Vaquero horsemanship, the spark was lit years ago and its okay for me to love something.  So much of my growing up years, I wasn’t exactly encouraged to get involved with horses although I jokingly say ‘horse’ was my first word.  

I write to get this out in hopes I can get back to reading the blogs of so many people whom I admire beyond words.  You probably have no idea how your courage, strength, hope, perspective, collective wisdom inspire me.  It is you who I have to thank for being strong enough to write again.  And for those wise, courageous, noble souls who counseled me from 2005 on, your kindness and treasured heart-gifts are remembered every single day.  I give what I can where I can because of all that has been given to me and transformed my life.  

This is also for those innocent souls who have walked through this path, or are now entering into it. 

It was never my fault, it will never be my fault. 
It was never my shame, it will never be my shame. 

It was never your fault, it will never be your fault. 
It was never your shame, it will never be your shame.