Trying to figure out this new life is not a task for the faint of heart. Just try to fathom the task of having to rebuild your entire life from the ground up. Now add to this a bit of cognitive loss, a dash of challenged comprehension, a teaspoon of aphasia, and you’ll ask, “Have you seen my old life?”
Piece-by-piece, like a ginormous jigsaw puzzle, I’m trying to make all the pieces from my past life fit into this new life. But some of the pieces are missing. More than a few are broken. There are even pieces from an entirely different puzzle in my box.
Over the last few years, I have come to the slow realization that there is no way to wholly rebuild a life shattered by traumatic brain injury. There will always be a few pieces that are missing.
I’ve not been shy about airing my opinion of being called “permanently disabled” by a well-respected neuropsychologist a few years ago. For several years, I’ve beaten his diagnosis into the ground. From every possible angle, and quite publicly, I’ve tried to fight it. But I’m done fighting. I’m throwing in the towel; this kid is just too weary to fight the inevitable truth.
Slow-by-inch, I am coming to grips that there is a shadow of truth to my diagnosis. My fighting has been nothing more than the death throes of my old life with a bit of ego preservation added in for good measure.
As more time passes and new perspectives are gained, I must humbly admit that I do have challenges. I have lost the ability to do many things that came easily to me in my past life.
I have been DIS-abled.
Though she may have been doing it for a while, I now hear my wife, Sarah, speaking more openly about my challenges. She is growing through our shared experience as well. I came home just the other night to catch the tail end of a conversation that included talk about “David’s challenges.”
I listened for a couple of minutes as she shared her view of my life, as she spoke about it out loud, as she validated that we are both forever changed.
Part of me felt relief. It gets exhausting trying to pretend to be uninjured. There is no quip or joke here. I work quite hard to create my own personal illusion of normalcy. A lot of energy is expended, and internal resources are tapped to deny my TBI.
Maybe it’s time to let go and jump into this new life with both feet. I’m coming up on five years with TBI, and I’m still trying to get the puzzle pieces to fit.
When will I ever learn?
Yes, here and now, I will openly admit that I am partially disabled.
There. It’s out on the table. Dem’ bag of bones is open. Hello world, time to take a look - this is my life!
But the story doesn’t end there. If you know me – really know me - then you already saw that one coming.
While I am partially DIS-abled, I am totally RE-abled.
I won’t even begin to get into what was lost. That would be more than a bit depressing. It would be a “Pass the Prozac, life sucks” monologue with no happy ending.
Ah, but being RE-abled means that what was lost has been replaced by something new.
Being re-abled means that I have a newfound compassion for others who share my fate. Being re-abled means that my experience makes me uniquely qualified and useful to serve others. Being re-abled means that much of the fear is gone from life. I’m living every day with a TBI. If I can do that, I can do (almost) anything.
Life really is all about attitude. If I looked solely at what I’ve lost, I’d live in complete and hopeless despair.
But if I turn the tables and look at my new re-abilities, my world brightens, and hope returns. And we all know how I feel about hope.