Those who know me know that I am not one to candy-coat life. Over the years that I have written about brain injury and PTSD, I’ve covered topics like intimacy, suicidal ideation, fractured families, and more. The loss of my verbal filter has affected my writing as well.
While I’ve seen others carefully curate their online activities with carefully selected images and posts that all speak to perfection, I cannot in good faith do this. No one will ever call me disingenuous, something that makes me oddly happy.
At the time of this writing, I find myself in a very tough spot. In fact, it feels like the toughest spot since I began my journey. To put a timeframe on this, I am now over eight years post-injury.
My accident left me with not only a TBI but with PTSD as well. I was bequeathed with these seven letters that have forever changed my life.
Over the last six months, since tragedy struck my family again, my PTSD has been getting incrementally worse every month. Last month, I hit a low point and realized that it was time to seek professional help again. I sought out a local doctor familiar with using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to treat my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am still very early in the process and have hope for the future, but ‘in this moment,’ life is quite painful.
In one respect, I am blessed as my default setting leans very much toward the positive. I consider myself hard-wired to look at the glass as half full, but PTSD really ramps up my brain injury symptoms. And when my PTSD is off the charts, you can well imagine that life gets hard.
Right now, my days are defined by overwhelming brain fog, cranial pressure enough to make me cry, word-finding problems that make speaking all but impossible, and the very act of just being alive hurts.
How can I possibly stay positive?
Remarkably, it can be done. Mindfulness helps. The first thing I do is look at my life with a bit of detached perspective. I try to step outside of myself and see things for what they are. The fact is that I have a brain injury. That’s pretty much indisputable. But in the bigger scheme of things, my fate could have been so much worse.
Let’s look at the facts…
I have a new circle of friends that never would have been part of the fabric of my life had I not been injured. I have a sense of purpose in my life, heretofore unknown. Fate has seen fit that I have had the opportunity to serve humanity by using my experience to help others who share my fate. My wife Sarah and I are still married. Better still, we are still friends. I have relationships with some of my children. The list goes on.
Recently, I read a statement that gave me pause. “There is someone out there who would be very happy with one of your bad days.”
Over time, I realized that a bad day for me might actually be a good day for someone else. On those tough days, thinking about what is positive does not come easy. It takes a lot of work. Both my TBI as well as my PTSD are invisible to everyone but me. Most of my struggles are invisible as well. The challenges on bad days are hard enough. Wrapping negative thinking around them makes it even more challenging. But realistically, making the extra effort to see the positive is worth the effort.
Over the years, I have learned so much about life after brain injury. Sure, I’ve read books and articles. I’ve spoken with professionals of all kinds. The survivors in my life continue to teach me. But my biggest lessons are the ones that simply come with living my day-to-day life as a brain injury survivor.
And like I remind others when the road gets tough, I have a 100% success rate of getting through the tough days. As I learned years ago, this too shall pass!
For more information on EMDR check here.