Recently, some friends asked me to join them at a local bar for a monthly get together. I chose to decline because I try to avoid situations that make me feel brain-injured.
I would feel brain-injured because I try to avoid driving late in the day, so I would have to ask for a ride. Sure, I have many friends that would not hesitate to give me a ride, but then it becomes difficult when I am tired, a little after getting there, and I ask them to take me home. Again, they would do it without hesitation. The problem is that this makes me feel brain- injured. The fact that I have a brain injury never leaves my mind, but it also isn’t too glaring after all these years. Until a situation like this comes up. First, I must be driven around like a child, but even more than that, it is the knowledge that sitting around a table amidst a lively conversation and the bustling of a popular local nightspot is not something I am really capable of enjoying anymore.
Chatting with friends is something I enjoy immensely, but it has to happen on my terms. I would need to enter, chat for a few minutes, and then excuse myself, go home, and sit in a low light room with absolute quiet for a while. Entering into this scenario by arranging a ride and subjecting myself to overstimulation makes me feel brain-injured. Having to leave early makes me feel brain-injured. Having to ask someone else to leave an enjoyable night out and attend to my limitations by taking me home makes me feel brain-injured.
Being on my own, following my routines, allows me to avoid this feeling of constricted opportunities that my brain injury has circumscribed my life with. I like to go to my favorite local coffee shop in the mornings. I am at my best early in the day. I can engage in conversations with a variety of people, and most importantly, when I begin to fatigue, I can pay up and just go home. Life is good.
I enjoy playing board games. Many of my friends enjoy playing board games. The most likely times that we can get a group together is weeknights. By night, I have trouble focusing on the game. This means that everyone has to come over to my house and I have to play host for every gaming session. Most of the games that we enjoy playing take two or more hours to play. All of this is extremely difficult for me. This makes me feel brain-injured. So now I very rarely game with my friends.
Nowhere made me feel more brain-injured than when I worked at my factory job. Every day, I was choosing between saying I couldn’t do something and then having to worry about my job, or doing a job that required all the things that I was no longer good at like working fast, working with small pieces and tools that required focus and fine hand-eye coordination, working for eight hours a day with only two ten-minute and one thirty-minute break. My brain injury became my identity. I was “that brain-injured guy.” After working for nearly twenty-five years unsupported in this factory I was let go. This was a gift. I think it was by getting out of that situation that I began to discover how much of my life I could live and not be limited by my brain injury. I believe that leaving the factory made it easier to avoid situations that make me feel my brain injury.
It’s not always this bleak. I really enjoy playing disc golf. I have a couple of friends that can play it with me in the late morning and early afternoon. It is something that I enjoyed doing before my accident that I was eventually able to come back to. For all the time and effort that I have put into playing (over 30 years), I should be much better than I am, but I have a brain injury. I have made peace with this. That I can play at all is good enough for me.
I hope that others with a brain injury can see this as well. Some days I feel as if my entire life is ruled by my brain injury. Where a resounding “No” squelches every opportunity! However, I have many more days where I feel that my life is not ruled by what I can no longer do. Instead, I affirm how much I can “be.” Not be good or be bad, but just be.
I can just be me.