Take a look at yourself


It seems like there is a common thought that I have heard a lot of lately. It doesn’t seem to matter whether I am talking to someone individually or if there is a group of people. The common thread is success. Everyone defines success based on the success that other people have accomplished or failed at. How often do we sit back and define success on the things that we have done in our own life. The small things to the biggest success in our life. Take a moment and think about that and see what you come up with for success and what you may think have been failures.

I will give you my take and you will either see me as crazy or think “hmm never thought about it like that.”  If there is a supposed failure I will insert it behind each failure. When I was 12 years old I played Little League and I made the all-star team. I chose not to play at age 13 because I was afraid I would not be as good when I played with the older kids. I started playing me’s softball at the age of 15 and was a pitcher and catcher. I had a rocket for an arm to the point where not many players would attempt to steal on me. I was a senior in high school when I decide to join the military. I became a paratrooper with 58 jumps and went to War by the time I left 6 years later. I became a firefighter and got the first full time opening available. I then was promoted to Lt. at the next open position. I am a state fire instructor, a state water rescue instructor. I am good at my job. My wife and I have been married for 24 years. We have raised two wonderful daughters. I am very easy to get along with. I have been to Canada, Mexico, England, Ireland, Italy. Germany, the Netherlands, Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia. I was sent to New Orleans Louisiana with another firefighter from our dept. Our dept was requested from the state fire commissioner to send two personnel. I was the first to put my hand up even though I knew we were going straight in to hell when we got there. I coached girls softball for 11 years from the little league level up to the high school level. That is a pretty big list of success I only listed one failure. I see what most people see as failure as a lesson and an opportunity to improve.

I have been faced with a tremendous hurdle when it comes to a TBI. I felt like a failure. I thought that I was letting my family down, my friends down, my employer down, and my community down because they rely on us when they are having a bad day. I often sat in my house and felt sorry for myself and telling myself that I did not deserve this after the life that I have lived and being a part of helping people. I came. Once I allowed myself to snap out of my own pity party I saw that I had a bigger purpose in my life and success was right in front of my nose I just didn’t want to see it. I survived my injury because my work here is not done yet. I have had to change my course a little bit but I see that as a success. I have started this blog to share my experience and I know for a fact that I have helped people. They have emailed me and told me how I have. That is a huge success. I belong to a TBI support group where I share my experiences with the survivors and the caregivers. It is only my experience and I do not pretend to have the answers for others, just my experience. I get on that page every single morning and say “Today is going to be AWESOME because…….” then I fill in the blank. Others have responded to it by sharing how their day is going to be AWESOME. That is a great thing to hear!!! I talk daily online to numerous people that just want to be heard. I gave a presentation at the PA Brain Injury state conference and I loved every minute of it. To me that is the definition of success. I dont care what kind of cars people drive or the house that they live in. That is only the shell of successful people.

I want to wrap this up by saying that you may think I am puffing out my chest and talking about myself. That is exactly what I am doing. I have been a success and I am proud to share it in my mind and with the blogging world. Take a look at yourself and I bet you will find the same AWESOME success that I have in your own life!!!

 

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Will the water ever be safe?


English: This CT scan is an example of Subdura...

English: This CT scan is an example of Subdural hemorrhage caused by trauma. Single arrow marked the spread of the subdural hematoma Double arrow marked the midline shift  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a traumatic brain injury  when you hit a down spiral it seems that things are brought to light quicker and the reaction that you have can be a little more painful. I use the word painful because the other word I want to use has slipped my mind temporarily. Tonight I was at work for our yearly CPR training and I heard a minimum of three comments about things taking longer to sink in for me. I know that they were done in with the guys not knowing that I have been in a spiral. It really makes you feel like an outcast when injury to the degree that I had becomes the joke of the day. I can definitely handle a smart remark or two but it was beyond that in my mind. Then came a couple of hearing jokes. I had to ask for something to be repeated once or twice because I could hear someone talking and with the instructor talking I could not focus on the topic. I did not take kindly to that and I almost let the filter slip which would have certainly been bad.  Finally one of my co workers asked “do you need counseling?”

He is a very good friend of mine but that statement in conjunction with the others was pushing me over the edge. I had to get up and leave the room for a minute. A couple of minutes by myself and I was able to continue on. I have been trying to put myself out there when it comes to trusting people better. Don’t get me wrong, I would trust these guys with my life, and I do in our profession, but when do you pull yourself back and how do you make your mind quit wondering what they say when you are not around? In every day life I don’t much worry about what people think of me. I am who I am and if you don’t like it then you are missing out on a great person. With that being said when it comes to work, I have to know that they trust me and I definitely care what they think. Being in a leadership role I am a firm believer that trust and respect is earned and I don’t think there is an issue with trust and the guys do work well with me. After tonight I am second guessing myself which should never happen. I have worked hard to get where I am and this injury has been a set back but I don’t think it was a deal breaker. I have a little soul searching to do there.

Away from work I have noticed a few things that I need to or want to change. Change is not always easy, especially when you are having doubts with yourself. I do not doubt myself hardly ever, before or after the accident. Well now I am doubting myself more frequently but I can explain why. This is not a good time to question me about how I fee,l I know that for sure.

Don’t ask me if I need counseling, don’t say “are you sure this from the injury?” Don’t say “well that comes with age.” I am not stupid and I know what my own body and mind are going through. Someone who has never been there will never understand and should not pretend that they do. I just want people to understand that even after two years, there are still things that this injury control about me. It controls my taste, my smell, a part of my hearing, and a part of my mind. Either help me deal with these things or keep your mouth shut while I deal with them. I hate to be so blunt, but I have to draw a line in the sand somewhere and I have now taken my stand. I don’t know where “My Fall to Life ” is going.

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A different outlook on a critical injury


A couple of days ago I had an email conversation with a very nice and smart fellow blogger. She said that if there was a way for me to show a different point of view to this injury that it may shed a little more light to a complicated time in someone’s life. I am going to take that conversation to heart and I am going to try to do that in this post. I am going to attempt to explain what I saw as my families reaction, as well as actual reactions that my family had.  Everything that I have written in this blog to this point has been shoot from the hip style of writing. I sat down with the lap top and I went after it. This post is going to be a little different. It may take me a day or two to tell this point of view in an effort to be as clear and concise as possible. Please be patient. Hopefully it will not be too long and still hit all the points I want to hit.

The first part of this is the obvious. A families reaction to this type of injury or life changing event as I say sometimes will be the same for everyone. You will be afraid, confused, worried, tearful, mad, and sad. You will ask “why has this happened to our family?” Of course there is no answer that you will hear that you will make you as a family feel better or understand such a quick and unexpected tragedy. You will do everything within your power to make it go away. The only thing that will make it go away is time, compassion, understanding, and the ability to accept what has happened and look forward to better days. Sometimes I suppose that won’t even work, but remember I am only speaking from my families experience.

The second part of this is a little more complicated to understand unless you are the one who has had the injury. There are going to be alot of emotions running through your head, and as much as you the family are trying to help an injured adult, they may think that you are holding them back or treating them like a little child. I had alot of these emotions going through my head for sure once I was able to use my brain again for something productive. What a family or spouse needs to understand is everything that you are doing for the best of reasons may be beating the injured one down in their mind. I am not saying that is the truth, I am just saying that when I was injured I had those feelings. I was full of guilt thinking that this was my fault, also for my children to have to watch me when my wife was at work. I had to be followed around the house when I stood up. I had to have my food brought to me, I had to be bathed, and actually dried off and dressed because I could not bend over to put my own socks on without excruciating pain. This causes alot of guilt for a man that is used to going to work everyday  providing for his family. I was the rock that all of my family depended on. Now I am literally a rock that can’t get off the couch by himself.  I was full of grief for seeing my family in so much emotional pain. I tried to make it all go away for them.  Actually I was making it worse by trying to do too much which scared them and made them work harder.

As a family caregiver, you may get yelled at alot. “I can do it myself” or “just leave me alone” were common for me. Leaving me alone was nothing more than just stop talking to me for a few minutes. When this kind of injury hits your family remember that the only thing the injured may have control of their opinion. Do not take their opinion away from them. You don’t have to agree with it, just acknowledge it. The injured may want to speak for an hour at a time about things that have no relevance or may not want to talk all day. I wanted to talk so badly about what I was feeling but I felt that it would cause more grief to my family. I stayed to myself about it which made me withdraw completely some days. Its ok if they decide not to say much today. Its ok if they get a little angered, or frustrated, or sad, you most likely have done nothing wrong. It is a cycle that I went through that had no rhyme or reason.

I did do things that I was not proud of of. Most of it I have no recollection of because of the nature of my injury but it did happen.One that stands in my mind is a story that my wife has told me on a couple of occasions and I do have vague memory of. She had taken my medication and hid them because I was messing them up and taking the wrong ones at the wrong times. She would get the proper pills out and give them to me when needed. When I first went to get my pills and they weren’t there and she told me what she had done, I picked up a large down throw pillow from the couch raised it above my head and slammed it to the floor. I have been married for 23 years and my wife has never been afraid of me. She told me that she was afraid of me on that day. She had put those pills in a safe place for a very good reason but I could not see it that way at that time.

Be ready for a mix of emotions that you have not seen before. You will see plenty of tears, anger, sadness, guilt, some happiness and gratitude as well. There are plenty more and I could name them all day. Just be ready for the unexpected.

Just remember that you do not know what they are feeling or what they are going through. Also remember and make them remember that you are going through it as well, just in a different way. Do not allow them to continue to pity themselves. Encourage them that it will get better and try to help them keep their held held high. You cannot make it better, but you can make it worse. Be very understanding while at the same time standing your ground. You do do not deserve to be talked to in an angry fashion. It is not your fault and let that be known. “I am sorry you feel that way but  its not my fault. I do not deserve for you to talk to me like that.” That is how it sunk in to me. I was actually causing a bad situation to get worse. Once I realized that,   things started to get better.

You can and will get through this and hopefully the outcome will be great. If there is anything that I missed or  did not say clearly, please do not hesitate to send me a message or post a comment. I will try to clear anything up as well as I can.

Lisa thanks for the idea to try to get this point of view across.