A lot of time has passed since my brain injury. Now in year seven as a survivor, I marvel at how far I’ve come, as well as how compromised I remain.
After I was struck by a teenage driver back in 2010, the physical injuries slowly healed. Bones mended, bruises faded, lacerations healed, and after a few short months, I looked pretty much like pre-accident David.
The memory of that fateful day slowly faded from most who knew me. Sure, David had that accident years ago, but look at him now – he looks great!
In The TBI Guide by Dr. Glen Johnson, the doctor makes a startling prediction. He states that within the first year or two after a brain injury, most close friendships fall apart. I can recall reading that and thinking, “Not me!” How naive. Time has proven him correct.
We are going to skip the small talk today and fast-forward to 2017. The good doctor was right. I did indeed lose many close to me. With a TBI, the collateral damage is high. But as he also shares in his TBI Guide, old friends are slowly replaced with new ones. And so it has come to pass for me. Many souls now dot the landscape of my life who never knew me as I used to be.
But with that comes a challenge. You see, I still have bad days. By looking at me, you’d never know that it was a “bad TBI day.” Today happens to be one of those days.
Let me tell you a bit more about a bad TBI day and why a bad TBI day is different than it was a few years ago. Just last night, I only got a couple of hours of sleep. Like many others, my injury stole my ability to sleep. In fact, I’ve only had one uninterrupted night’s sleep since late 2010. There were no PTSD nightmares last night. I am grateful for that. Even without the nightmares, sleep eluded me. No meaningful sleep all but guarantees a tough day.
Today is one of those days that I just need to get through. My head is full of pressure, feeling very much like it’s packed full of ten pounds of cotton. My ability to focus is all but gone. Low-grade vertigo will define most of the day. It’s best I speak to very few people today as my ability to speak crashes with meteoric force on the tough days.
As they say, it is what it is.
So why is it different now than it was a few years ago? I’ve found that learning to live as a survivor is a bit like learning to dance. There is a one-two rhythm to it all. I embrace the good days, do reasonably well through the average days, and on tough TBI days, days like today, I hunker down like a turtle pulling into his shell, and simply roll with it. Having the benefit of living over 2,000 days as a survivor, time has shown me that virtually every tough day passes. Today will be no different. It will pass.
Frequent contact with other survivors now defines my life. Often, I hear a friend say that they are having a tough day. In fact, I think that more than one person turns to me when the day is tough – perhaps looking for a bit of hope and inspiration. And I share the same thing with them that carries me through the tough days. “You have made it through every tough day of your life. You’ll make it through today!”
Ever so slowly, I am learning to roll with it. It doesn’t take away my challenges. Many will be lifelong. But by being mindful of the fact that today will not last forever, I seem to get by. And on the tougher days, just getting by is a huge victory in itself.