“We need a way of living the truth, without telling the truth.” Profound statement, I wish I had written these words. “Downton Abbey”
Why do we hide parts of our lives when a life of transparency is much easier to live? What causes the shame in our lives, when it comes to medical injuries or other visible challenges? Or hide – living double lives from pass abuse at the hands of people who should be trusted? Why do we burden ourselves with the cloak of shame, hiding from the world, sometimes living a duality mirrored in a social face stating, “life is great, I have no skeletons in my closet (besides myself)!”
The above statement meant, I had to change this article in format to be palpable for LinkedIn and other major online posts. Why, a tiny bit of the sensitive sensibilities, wishing the right message to be told to inspire, not for the reader to cringe – but to be encouraged. For Life is Personal! All areas of life, including and especially the work arena, where we have laws for the “disabled” and yet we are fallible humans. We cannot get around the differences in appearance.
This article is personal, it is about the trauma you cannot see! It is about the excruciating fatigue and confusion of TBIs (traumatic brain injuries). These injuries are prolific in our society and the causes are multiple. Over 3 million annually and climbing rapidly.
Life is personal, shame has no logic, only a deepening burden or worthlessness we subject ourselves to, in the shadow of shame and loss of confidence. We are taught to achieve perfection and nothing else is acceptable. Some state, “this does not apply to me, I accept people and admire them.” Ah-ha, how often do you roll your eyes, stop listening to someone who is experiencing a difficult time in life and say to them – “that is negative.”
Do we know what perfection is? How could we, it does not exit! Yet we insist on an elusive measuring device. Many of us have found – when we acknowledge our imperfections they become our life’s greatest assets; for we move to heights unknown in overcoming the inadequacies and flaws. So why do many of us hide the most inspirational part of our lives? We manufacture the gremlins into monsters, instead of allies.
With these words I am highlighting my own closets, for there have been many life traumas. Candidly, I have never suppressed the recovery process from trauma, for that is the focus, recovery, the tormenting evolution.
There are a countless post concussive and PTSD syndromes. And solutions are multiplied by the millions of injuries that occur every year. This is a TBI series; most are caused byway of falls or car accidents. The research began during multiple wars, by medical teams examining the serious enigma in behaviors, with suicides on the rise. We must seek solutions. Beginning with – understanding, compassion and acceptance.
TBIs are nothing short of wretchedness, anguished misery – frustrated –debased – discouraged. Lives are lived in duality – the injured person is the same person inside without the ability to function on the surface, where the public views only confusion; judgment follows! Each action pulverized with failure, shattering the faith and confidence of its TBI victim.
Trapped in their brain, a prisoner (!) held captive in a once mobile body that should function, but now has lost its balance or grace, words or short term memory; incapable of a short congruent conversations. Reaching for a glass of water – knocking it off the counter – fragmentation is the glass and the self-confidence. Watching a simple action vaporize. Simple actions implode into shard memories. Transient amnesia; watching one’s entire life dissipate in front of their eyes, all memories of the past, this moment, familiar family – friends – places – past and future, gone! Reading a book becomes impossible. Losing the whereabouts at home, may leave the person in a puddle of tears. The long enjoyable conversation on the phone immediately lost as the receiver is cradled – the conversation vanished into dimensions unknown. Unaware of the burning pot on the stove when walking out of the kitchen.
How do I know these factors? Life is Personal: I have had 9 TBIs and recovered!! Simultaneously undergoing many painful surgeries, replacing broken, torn and splintered parts over my entire body. I am BIONIC. A “cartoon like” fall on black ice and asphalt, took 11 years to recover. I was humpty dumpty in a millisecond. A short version to a Medical learning curve of 11 years? There are none – it is the endurance, resilience – and determination to recover. Why, I wanted to live!
I know the suicidal dark valleys, walking alone on this journey, pain – confusion – no income for a decade. At times wondering will I ever be the same? Will I have marvelous conversations once more, without losing track within the first sentence? Will I be free from the prison of my brain, losing my way through my home or forgetting how to drive to a friends’ house? Being scuffed at (!) for my clumsiness. I became medically sequestered.
After engaging over 40 some doctors and therapists, interviews and discussions; I would ask with great angst: “I need you to be the better side of me.” Some therapists needed to be needed; codependency was not my desire. First I wrote a 6 page post concussive symptom outline, some doctors threw into the trash as I left their office. Some wish to medicate only, this does not resolve TBIs problems or difficulties, I adamantly refused. Labeled a “difficult patient. It is my life I would say and I will confront the demons.”
Out of 40, I found 9 doctors and therapists who helped ease the suffering. Conquering the tormented grueling years, with sessions in “Brain Spotting,” Two surgeons who replaced parts of my leg and full knee; both shoulders and back. Two physical therapists who worked on the multiple sprains, torn left hip tendons and muscles. I heard and saw my hip pop and watched the thigh muscle ripple upward as it tore from my knee. Consumed in pain for 8 plus years, and to heal the brain trauma simultaneously! Worse, I could no longer enjoy a lifelong passion, riding my Arabians.
What kept me from committing suicide? My only consul and emissaries were; my Arabian horse, KlassicAmir and my dog, a Blue Heeler named Sadë.
Anger and disgusted fueled the fire inside to recover while fatigue consumed me. My body and brain had worked to exhaustion. A laborious task healing a broken body and brain. How could I come back to the world mentally disfigured? I must recover and prove myself worthy. Worthy of what? I had to live the person inside, express her on the outside without all the quirks!
Could I ever be the same? NO! I would go beyond all dreams and expectations.
Facing the agony of suicide offered me a day of profound experiences. I found life when gazing into my Sadë’s soft brown eyes, how could I leave her? We then drove to my Arabians boarding stalls. As I approached KlassicAmir, his head shot upward – ears perked, turning to the side he looked down at me. A soft half blind eye that I saved from rupturing the previous year whispered unknown words.
I reached out – grabbed his beautiful soft neck and held on for dear life. Shoving my face into his fur, I cried out!! “I don’t have the courage to kill myself!”
My thoughts: it is not fair for my Sadë or KlassicAmir, I don’t have the courage!!
We all have the ability to overcome the worst of odds. When doctors hand a death sentence, a friend and writer lived on past 9 years and wrote several books in “believe in yourself.” A man who was told he would be crippled for life and never recover from the doctors’ lips – transformed himself, alone, through yoga. Have faith in yourself.
The pain from the surgeries are now meliorated. I could use my body with greater agility. Riding my KlassicAmir with supple adroitness. Recalling the first day I would ride KlassicAmir after four (??) years, not able to lift his 22 pound saddle. One day I left my Aztec cane home, traveled to the boarding facility with Sadë, climbed gently out of the car determined. Walking to his paddock, he nickered and whinnied, he knew it was time. I had forgotten how to tact up my Arabian. My boarding neighbor watched me with a careful eye, giggling when I had to admit, “I forgot, does this go first; how do I cinch the girth?” As I walked KlassicAmir to the arena (where others we chatting), immediately mounting – leg over with feet into the stirrups. A lovely fall day. I took a long aromatic breath of my Arabian’s perfume. Experiencing the oneness as we trotted along the side rails. The breeze in my hair – streaming through his mane – the warmth of the sun, the movement of his muscular body, as my thighs and calves remembered without hesitation their gripped position.
The running movement I longed for, all came rushing back as if there had been no time lost. We came to a halt at one end of the arena. We stood for a moment, breathing in tandem, the leather aromas of my saddle touched familiar senses, my muscles feeling their tone, the wondrously intimate (without spoken words) relationship with my Arab – for I found my soul in my horse’s eye.
The same person who giggled and hour prior asked: “MicheleElys how does it feel to be ridding your horses again? Without a moment’s hesitation I stated boldly, “I don’t know which is better, great sex or riding my horse.” A cacophony of giggles ensued while Klassic and I stood in the sun, bathed in the moment of sheer ecstasy.
That day I did find my soul, my heart, my life – in a horses’ eye. It was not fair to my Arabian or Sade to end our lives due to trauma, this was my final decision.
Another year of diabolical work, recovering physically, working the deflated muscles and a new mindset, changing sabotaging behaviors. Taking all my past education in psychology and behavioral sciences, two trusted psychologists, weaving through every neurological video I could find. I could not read due to the head trauma. GRIT, determination, demanding my body and brain work again “change my thinking, change my life” was my mantra.
The healing process: I wrote a book which is now in the editing phase (Brilliance Disrupted), started my blog and a children’s’ book, Sammie Kewl Kat, then giving presentation on the in’s and outs of TBIs. My last physical procedure was in April, moved back to Colorado in June. Taking all my past talents and skills from the past, combining the personal knowledge in trauma recovery. When I say I understand, these words are stated with conviction!
Letting go: Move On – Forward – No Looking Back!! I see life differently – the impossible is achievable. The necessary tools: mustard all determination and GRIT. When past friends or acquaintances asked where had I been for these past years? I state with poise: “I took a break from regular life and explored a little.”
It is important to share successes, and not wallow in victimization – keep your dreams, accomplish the goals set; be hungry for life.
Building bridges to connect. Connecting life’s detours and challenges. Bridges are all around us, if we stop to listen and see them. Bridges construct life goals, we reaffirm life’s detours are plausible. Why the photo of a young girl bareback on a horse? It is the very symbol of balance, trust in power, and faith in our frailness as humans! Walk into life knowing there are detours and yet having faith in, we Can!
It is time to view and treat all people with dignity, not broadcasting the differences, the abnormalities, instead lending an eye towards the brilliance yet to be discovered!
This article is the first in a series on “Trauma-recovery – Achieving the Impossible.” In tandem with the series, “A Legacy of Women.” Please, do ask questions and leave comments, for every person inspires me to look deeper and exchange valuable content.
DEDICATED TO BEHAVIORAL SOLUTIONS FOR THE BETTERMENT OF LIFE. ©
About the Author: MicheleElys is a Neurobehaviorist ~ Writer ~ Educator ~ Keynote Speaker.
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