Surviving A Brain Injury

National Brain Injury Awareness Month
National Brain Injury Awareness Month (Photo credit: Army Medicine)

So, March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month (I just found this out yesterday).  Let’s add that to the seemingly endless list of “celebratory months of awareness.”  This one hits me at a personal level, however, because in 1996 I suffered a brain injury as a result of an overdose and almost died.

Now some people would say, “big freaking deal, you od’d!”  Well, the thing about it is that I did not want to wake up from an intentional overdose that I told no one about.  There was no letter, no teary-eyed phone calls.

I was twenty-three years old, frightened and disgusted.  I did not want to wake up.

But I did wake up.  I woke up and have been a different person since then.  I am not sure exactly what day I woke up as I have no recollection of any events immediately preceding my overdose, my hospital stay or my journey home.  I only know what my family tells me and then the snippets of flashbacks that float into my head from time to time.

My family told me it happened on July 19, 1996.  My 6-year-old daughter Sarah found my dead body.  911 was called and EMT’s worked on me for thirty minutes before they felt a pulse.  I was rushed to Frankford Hospital in Philadelphia and apparently was in a coma.  I don’t remember. Sometimes I think I remember, but then I realize that I remember what people have told me over the years, and in some warped sense those stories become twisted false memories.

I have a brain injury.  So at times I have issues with differentiating fact from fiction.  I have issues remembering things period.

When I overdosed (and died) I was not getting oxygen to my brain.  This affected the part of my brain that holds my short-term memory.  My long-term memory is intact, but my short-term memory is forever scarred.  If I can get information from my short-term to my long-term, I have it forever.

But that is the trick.  Getting from the short to the long.

I can’t remember:

  • people’s names.
  • directions.
  • what I read.
  • what people said.
  • grocery lists.
  • how I got where I am.
  • how to get home.
  • and tons of other crap that I forgot.

Now, this is par for the course for a lot of people.  But not for me.  It was never for me.  And now it is and some days I am fine and other days mortified because I feel like an ass.

I once wandered around the parking lot of the Willow Grove Mall for an hour because I could not find my car.

I once wandered around the floor of the Pep Boys Headquarters for almost an hour because I couldn’t find my cubicle.

I once drove around aimlessly for two hours because I got lost, stopped to ask for directions, and got lost again.

The list goes on and on, like I said.  But of course I forget all that stuff and I don’t remember anything unless it’s in my long-term memory or by association.

These days, I am a little better.  The doctors told me to do brain strengthening exercises like puzzles, reading, writing and stuff.  I write a lot and the other stuff I do, well, when I remember.

Do you know anyone that survived a brain injury?

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Let Bygones Be Bygones

Meditation For Tuesday, February 22, 2011

When we are young we learn about disappointment, hurt and anger.  As we grow most of us learn tools to handle these pains and letdowns.  Those of us who do not learn effective coping tools wind up holding onto resentments that hurt our own well-being.  Holding onto pain from the past hurts our future.

Emotional pain sticks with us longer than physical pain.  If we fall down and skin a knee, we may cry for a moment, but we get up, brush it off and keep on trekking.  However, emotional pain burrows inside of us.  We sit and we dwell and we think of ways to get even or we manifest misdeeds done unto us, letting it damage us continually until we are full of hate.

In the movie American History X, Edward Furlong’s character says, “Hate is baggage.  Life’s too short to be ticked off all the time.”  When I heard that line a light bulb went off in my head. He used a stronger word.. but you get the point.

When we are angry at others, or full of hate, the only ones we hurt are ourselves.  Most of the people we are angry at long forget that we were ever mad at them in the first place.  Others never knew that they had upset us or maybe they did and didn’t care.

So there we sit, in our dimly lit room, or driving our car, stewing over the injustices done to us by careless people.

Get over it.  When you keep your anger, you give away your power.  You are letting the actions or words of others dictate your well-being.  Why would you want to give someone else that kind of control?

If you are so upset that you can’t see straight, write it down, scream at the wall or punch a pillow.  If you feel you really must let the person know how upset you are, write it down first.  It is important that you do this so that you can read it over a few times and let the situation sink in a little.  Often, we realize we are overreacting and wind up tearing the paper up and never saying anything.

If you feel you must say something, it is important that you get it in your head in a way that will be effective in communicating why you are upset.  Calling someone names and rehashing things that have long been talked about can lead to an argument and more resentment.

Meditation for the day:  Letting go of resentment and anger kindles my wellbeing.

Gratitude

The days blur by as our to-do lists seem to grow in size like water infested sponges.  Then life happens.  An unexpected illness, a home repair or maybe your car dies when you are on your way home from work.  I can totally relate to this last one because that is what happened to me yesterday.

 As I sat in the driver seat, cursing everything imaginable with my ‘why me’ attitude, I realized that I was being kind of bitchy.  I mean, there are people who are less fortunate.  There are people who are unemployed and wish they were broke down at work.  Yet, there I was sitting in my car (which has fared me well so far) complaining to my girlfriend on the phone about all the injustice of the day while I waited for the tow truck.

 They say when life hands you lemons to make lemonade, which, I find quite corny.  But I get it now.  Make the best of your situation.  Know that whatever life throws at you, you can handle it.  If you feel the need to drop to your knees and scream at the sky, go for it.  After your brief collapse get back up and figure out how to make it work.

 I made a gratitude list last night.  I listed all of the things I was grateful for.  Some of the things on my list were: my career, money in the bank, AAA, friends and coffee.  Make your own list.  You’ll realize that things are going to be okay and you have a lot in your life that you may take for granted sometimes.     

 Meditation for the day:  I am grateful for the little things in life.

Ten Tips to Success in the Office

We are all guilty of violating the following ten rules of being a great office assistant at one time or another.  You live you learn, right?  How about: you live and you don’t get the promotion or the raise?  Quite a hard lesson!

1- Be pleasant.

Always be pleasant.  You may be having a really bad day.  You may have been stuck in traffic, recently broke up with your mate or maybe you are even PMSing.  This is of no matter to anyone you work with or any of the clients you come in contact with throughout your day.  Your job is to make the jobs of those you work with easier.  If you have an understanding boss, perhaps you could call, text or email him or her and just say, “Hey, I am going to be about 15 minutes late.”  You want to be in the best frame of mind possible when dealing with clients and your coworkers.  So does your boss.

2- Pay attention!

Not paying attention or trying to juggle our personal lives with work always shines through in one way or another in our completed tasks.  It is so crucial in these days of texts, tweeting and status updates that we keep up on the minute details of our projects.  Getting lost in the abyss of personal goings on in our lives can keep us from remaining focused. I once was in tears one day (un-work related) while working on an important project and my boss called me in his office and asked me what the hell was going on.  Clearly my boss could see that I was not focused.  Your boss can see the same!

3- Ask so you don’t look incompetent.

We’ve all been there.  Not quite knowing the gist of a report or project and due to embarrassment or pride decided to wing it instead of asking for more clarification.  This is not a good idea!  If your boss is super busy (which most are or they would not need us) the last thing he or she wants is a shotty letter, report or spreadsheet that they have to go over and splash with red ink because you didn’t get clear directions.  Repeat back to them what they have asked you to do in your own words.

4- Be punctual!

It seems to me as the weeks turn to months and the months turn to years there is more and more traffic on the road!  More cars, trucks, buses and motorcycles along with all of the work vehicles on the road can lead to a bumper to bumper fiasco in the hours of the morning (or afternoon).  Be sure to give yourself some extra time in the morning so that you don’t feel rushed.  Hollering at neighboring traffic gets your blood pressure up and now you’ve started your day on the wrong foot before even putting it in the office.

5- Dress for the office, not for the nightclub.

We all want to look good.  It is one of our basic instincts as women to look attractive.  There is, however a wallop of a difference between looking hot for the office and looking like you are trying to score in a nightclub.  Wearing too tight clothes, short skirts and shirts that are cut so low that one of your girls could pop out and say “Hey there!” at any given moment is a recipe for disaster (not to mention now being labeled “that girl”).  We are definitely judged by our appearance and we all know we can look mega hot and professional at the same time!  If you are constantly adjusting your clothes, you may need to adjust your work wardrobe!

6- Own It

To err is human, to fess up, divine.  Don’t push the blame.  Your co-workers will still be there the next day with the icy glare.  You’ll feel better if you own up to your mistakes not to mention being respected by those with whom you share the office.  Most likely, your boss will trust you now that he sees you admit your mistakes.

7- Eating

Isn’t it always the way; you just put that granola bite in your mouth and the phone rings!  We know how we are supposed to be snacking healthy.  It seems all of those healthy snacks sans yogurt are loud!  If you can, try to take time out for your crunchy snacks with the down time of the phone or take smaller bites.

8- Turn down… the radio!

Although you might be dishing on the latest by Lady Gaga or jamming some classic rock the entire office may feel differently about what they might want to listen to.  Try to keep the tunes or talk radio to a dull murmur.  If your work roomies can hear clearly from 10-12 feet away, chances are you’re rocking out a little too hard!

9- Don’t Be The Only One Laughing

Ahh… the electric chain letter.  Scroll down, make a wish, cross your eyes and oh yeah, send this to one hundred people in thirty seconds or your life will suck.  We all get them and are guilty of sending them as well.  While some chain e-mails are funny, the truth is they can be inappropriate for the office.

10- GO TO LUNCH

Take a break already!  It is so important that you give yourself some recharge time.  Try to eat lunch away from your desk.  Go for a walk if you are fortunate enough to be able to get out of the office.  If not, be sure to get away from your desk for at least 15 – 20 minutes at some point in the day.