I’m a memoir reader and thrive on personal stories that showcase the human capacity for love, growth, and resilience. There’s no better place to find these stories than in the TBI community. TBI survivors and their caregivers are challenged at every level, and yet most people face these challenges with determination, grace, and fortitude.
Not everyone can evolve through the experience of a severe injury and the drastic life changes that accompany a TBI in a way that he or she defines success, but many do. Today I wondered why. Why do some people keep striving while others give up and stop trying?
While wondering this, I kept remembering back to my own husband’s experience. After his injury, many friends offered help, but after a year, when Hugh’s injuries were not so visible, help fell away. Hugh had always been athletic, and that was on his side, but as I thought more about this, I realized that it was more than his athletic tenacity that kept him going. He remembered words—words that meant a great deal to him, spoken by people who meant a great deal to him.
Hugh’s daughters, Mary, and Anna, told him every day how much they loved him, and so did I. Love is the ultimate motivator, and constant reminders help after TBI, when a person feels needy, changed, and sometimes unworthy of love because he is no longer the same.
On one visit to our home, Hugh’s close friend Kevin told him, “You can do anything you put your mind to. You’re the most stubborn guy I know.” Hugh embodied these words, and when he felt like giving up on something, he remembered what Kevin told him and tried again.
A beloved occupational therapist once told Hugh to “Suck it up,” a phrase often used in bike racing. These words really spurred Hugh on. Caution: not everyone will respond to this phrase the way my husband did!
Hugh’s father told him, “You have so much to live for. You’re the smartest man I have ever known.” Determined to regain his ability to think clearly, Hugh took classes he wasn’t sure he could pass. His father’s words gave him the confidence to try, and we’re sure these rigorous classes helped him rewire his brain.
And then there were the words Hugh said to himself when he made up his mind to push his mind and body as hard as he could to reach his highest potential: If it’s to be, it’s up to me. He repeated these words every day.
Sometimes, words are all we have to offer when we can’t make problems go away—when we can’t fix what’s wrong. When heard at the right time, from the heart, mere words can change the way we see our possibilities and ourselves. And even if nothing changes, reaffirming words make us feel better, and that’s worth something.
Please share the words that make a difference to you below in the comment section, and thanks in advance for sharing!