A Different Path
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
My traumatic-brain-injury story is different from some. I didn’t have a wonderful life that suddenly was transformed by tragedy. I had violence in my early life that forever changed me. Because no one spoke of my damage or the violence that caused it, decades passed until I was finally able to understand what had happened. In the meantime, I spent years painfully searching for an answer. I wanted to know why my handwriting was not only not neat, but how it seemed regressed to an age much earlier than my actual age. I sought to understand why spatial concepts were so difficult for me to comprehend. I yearned to know why colors and patterns made me sick to my stomach and why motion sickness affected me in vehicles, rides, and even something as gentle as a swing. After years of doctor visits, neuropsychological testing, therapists, alternative practitioners, and even nutritionists, I finally found an answer.
My first experience with vision therapy was helpful and did improve my handwriting, but it did not eliminate my issues. Syntonics (phototherapy) and prism glasses made huge differences in my life! My spatial orientation changed dramatically, my coordination improved, and even my tolerance for colors and patterns improved. I had no idea how powerful the visual system was or how much of the brain was involved in causing my visual system to fully function. My traumatic brain injury (TBI) had done damage to areas of my visual system, which cascaded into my motor functioning as well as into my proprioception and tactile senses. Syntonics, or light therapy, gently and consistently shifted, and continues to shift, major obstacles for me. There are many optometrists in the US who do vision therapy, but I’d like to think mine is someone quite special. Her down-to-earth manner and genuine kindness radiate to her patients, as well as to her team of professionals in her office. Dr. Amy Thomas, located in Tucson, Arizona, has shown me amazing paths to my healing. She would never choose to take credit for healing anyone. She would, I believe, be willing to accept responsibility for helping patients heal themselves.
For the neuro-typical people of the world, let me say that few things are more annoying to lots of us with TBI than the following: “You don’t look like you’re brain damaged. You seem so normal. I know exactly how you feel.” Um, no you don’t! Everyone’s walk with TBI is a unique one, in my opinion. I had doctor after doctor tell me that my sensitivity was something I just needed to get over and deal with if I were to get along in life. My teeth still grate over that one! The reluctance of so much of our society to acknowledge sensitivity, neurological challenges, intensity, and deep emotions pains me. There are times for me when even sunlight can cause a round of irritability or other intense emotions. Medical professionals who discount the feelings and experiences of their patients are missing a huge amount of information that, if they allowed, could change their practices.
My life-path has not been easy, but it has caused me to not take little things for granted. I lost the ability to drive for a brief time, and, because of my new therapies, I am slowly getting my independence back. It’s interesting to note that as we get more reflective, we often begin to see what is most important to us. One of my strongest passions is to never give up. I was determined to find an answer to what happened to me and, even more so, to improve the quality of my day-to-day life. The second is one I continue to pursue. On days that seem filled with grief and loneliness, I remember that there are still wonderful people in the world. For me, these people have helped me to get up when I fall and to remember that tomorrow is another day.
To learn more about Sue, please visit her website/blog at Platypus Expressions.
Thank you, Sue Hannah.
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
(Photos compliments of Sue Hannah)