TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for December, 2015

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Faces of Brain Injury – Amy Zellmer

SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury – Amy Zellmer

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 Brain Injury is NOT Discriminating!

bigstock-cartoon-face-vector-people-25671746-e1348136261718It can happen to anyone, anytime, . . . and anywhere.

The Brain Trauma Foundation states that there are 5.3 million people in the United States living with some form of brain injury.

On “Faces of Brain Injury,” you will meet survivors living with brain injury. I hope that their stories will help you to understand the serious implications and complications of brain injury.

The stories on SPEAK OUT! Faces of Brain Injury are published with the permission of the survivor or designated caregiver.

If you would like your story to be published, please send a short account and two photos to me at neelyf@aol.com. I’d love to publish your story and raise awareness for Brain Injury.

Amy Zellmer (survivor)

Amy Zellmer 3 Survivor 101015They say a picture says a thousand words. It’s been nineteen months since I fell on a patch of ice and landed full-force on the back of my skull. I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) plus whiplash, torn muscles in my neck, shoulder, and chest, and I also dislocated my sternum. What the photo doesn’t show is how I wasn’t able to do any exercise – even mild – for the first year. Just walking around the grocery store was enough to leave me spent for the rest of the day – let alone carrying in the bags of groceries. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I lived pretty much in my bed or on the couch for over a year. I would do photography sessions a few times a week (because that’s my only form of income, and I had bills to pay) and pay the price for two days – icing my body and popping ibuprofen like it was candy. Even just six months ago, I couldn’t properly stand up straight – let alone do strength training. And let’s not forget about the horrible vertigo and balance issues that came with the TBI. But I finally decided that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! It was time to DO SOMETHING – anything! So I started doing yoga for 10-15 minutes a day. At first it was hard – really hard. I could do only very basic, simple stretching poses. I would hold onto a chair for any pose that required standing so that I didn’t lose my balance. But you know what? IT HELPED! It started me on a path to gaining back my strength and endurance.Amy Zellmer Survivor 1 101015

AND NOW LOOK AT ME! I am working with a fab trainer. We are using weights and resistance to get my body back to pre-injury status. It feels so good to be able to walk standing fully upright, and have the strength to carry my groceries into the house. I feel absolutely amazing, and my symptoms are subsiding (the physical ones; Amy Zellmer 2 Survivor 101015the neurological ones are still present). I know it seems impossible when you’re in the darkest days after a TBI. I’ve completely been there. But, man, you take back control of your life when you finally start to step out of it and say, “F… Y.., TBI!” If I can do this, I know you can too!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

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So, Whaddya Think? “Concussion” Now in Theaters

So, Whaddya Think?

“Concussion” Now in Theaters

by

David Figurski and Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

(Note: This is our second opinion essay about Dr. Bennet Omalu and his research with brain trauma. The first was published on this blog on December 17th.)

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4The much-anticipated movie, Concussion (trailer), is making current and former players of American football, their families, parents, fans, and coaches think about what is really happening in a sport that has become a large part of American culture. The movie has the same goal as we in the brain-injury community have – greater awareness of the delicate Concussion Movie 2.jpgnature of the brain and the ramifications of brain damage. The movie was released on Christmas Day, but it has made much news before its release.

The movie, which unsurprisingly is not sanctioned by the National Football League (NFL), tells the true story of the Nigerian pathologist, Dr. Bennet Omalu, and his discovery of the relationship of a neurodegenerative disease, which Dr. Omalu named “chronic traumatic encephalopathy” (CTE), and American football. Dr. Omalu studied the brain of Hall-of-Fame center, Mike Webster,

MikeWebsternfl

Mike Webster – Pittsburgh Steeler Pro Football Hall of Fame

who died at age 50 homeless and with dementia. As shown in the Frontline documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis (available free online), the movie shows how the multibillion-dollar NFL didn’t want to hear of Dr. Omalu’s discovery. The league’s questionable committee on concussions immediately attacked Dr. Omalu. It is a classic “David-vs.-Goliath” story.

David & Goliath.jpg

David & Goliath

(Dr. Omalu said in his Frontline interview, “You can’t go against the NFL. They’ll squash you.”) Former players have sued the NFL, arguing that the NFL knew of the dangers to the brain, but didn’t inform the players. In a class-action lawsuit, the NFL has recently settled for approximately $1 billion in medical expenses, but that settlement is being appealed by former players as inadequate.

Concussion Movie

Dr. Bennet Omalu – pathologist – discovered CTE with Actor, Will Smith

Will Smith plays Dr. Omalu in Concussion. Will Smith, a former football fan whose son played high school football, recently admitted that he has not watched a full game of football since he made this movie. Peter Landesman, the movie’s director, played football into his sophomore year of college, but, knowing what he knows now, he would not let his children play the game.

The movie is a “must-see.” (video)

 

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

As I say after each post:

Feel free to leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

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If you like my blog, click the “Like” button under this post.

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(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

On The Air: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brain Injury Radio . . . . . . . . “Another Fork in the Road” Panel: Party Night

On The Air: Brain Injury Radio “Another Fork in the Road” 

with

Panelists: Caregiver, Lisabeth Mackall and Survivor, Daniel Mollino

Topic: Party Night

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Brandy Hunter and her mom were originally scheduled for this show time, but the season, and several personal issues prevented Brandy and her mom from joining me on this show. She will be rescheduled for a later date.

So now it was scramble time and the holiday season is no easy time to recruit panelists. Folks can barely get accomplished what they normally have to do without throwing in an

Lisabeth Mackall Book 061215

Caregiver, Lisabeth Mackall – author, 27 Miles: The Tank’s Journey Home

extra activity. I was fortunate to have five of my regular panelists agree to do the show with me and we decided to make it a holiday segment. It sounded like a lot of fun. Then shortly before the show three of the panelists had to decline because of health issues. I

18 Daniel Mollino 060615 copy

Survivor, Daniel Mollino – cross-country cyclist

quickly checked with my remaining two panelists and they were still committed. Phew!

We did the show and sipped our virtual eggnog. We talked about traditions past – and new traditions we have each incorporated into our lives after brain injury took over. We looked at holiday issues through the eyes of survivor, Daniel, Mollino and caregiver, Lisabeth Mackall … and we had a lot of fun. I hope you will take some time during this holiday season to relax, sit back, and listen to the show.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

See you “On the Air!”

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/braininjuryradio/2015/12/21/another-fork-in-the-road-party-nite-with-daniel-lisabeth-and-me

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

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So, Whaddya Think . . . . . . . . Should We Let Children Play Tackle Football?

So, Whaddya Think?

 Should We Let Children Play Tackle Football?

by

David Figurski and Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

So Whaddya Think Brain th-4Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian pathologist who discovered the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) by his study of the brain of Hall-of-Fame center Mike Webster, is making news again with an Op-Ed published in The New York Times. Dr. Omalu’s essay is entitled Don’t Let Kids Play Football. He says that our society has laws forbidding the sale of tobacco and alcohol to minors. There is legislation that mandates bicycle helmets for children. Football Player HurtWhy not protect children’s brains by prohibiting children from playing American-style tackle football? Dr. Omalu writes in his essay, “The risk of permanent impairment is heightened by the fact that the brain, unlike most other organs, does not have the capacity to cure itself ….”

Omalu & Will Smith

(Dr. Omalu’s CTE-discovery story and its impact on American football is told in the much-anticipated movie, Concussion, which will be in theaters on Christmas Day. Dr. Omalu is played by actor Will Smith. As grippingly shown in the Frontline documentary, League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, which is online and free, the National Football League – NFL – immediately attacked Dr. Omalu and tried to get him to retract the published paper.)league-of-denial-raster-br10-81-550x377

There is strong evidence that not only concussions, but also the large number of sub-concussive hits common to players of American football can lead to CTE, whose symptoms may appear as early as in the late teens. The symptoms of CTE include memory loss, reduced intelligence, depression, aggressive behavior, dementia, and suicidal thoughts. Both a college football player and a young professional player committed suicide, and they were found to have CTE. A high-school football player committed suicide. CTE has also been detected in the brains of players of high-school football.

NFLlogoThe NFL is concerned with the growing awareness of brain injuries in players of American football. If players, their families, fans, coaches, and/or parents think that CTE is common among players, a seemingly sacrosanct part of American culture and a multibillion-dollar industry would be put into jeopardy.

To get in front of the concussion issue, the NFL has aggressively promoted its image as a forward-thinking and safety-conscious league. The NFL has donated large sums of money for concussion research. The league has changed the rules of the game to discourage a player from using his helmet to make tackle or to prevent a tackle. It has established a “concussion protocol” to keep a concussed player from practice and/or games until he has been approved to return to play. The NFL has concussion-spotters present at every game and this year has empowered them to stop a game. (However, that protocol failed shamefully and dramatically in the recent instance of quarterback Case Keenum near the end of a tie game.) The rule changes are good progress, but can the NFL actually prevent brain injuries and save the game?

Current and former players have been affected by the brain-injury issue. Some players have had to retire early and fear imminent brain disease. A rookie linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers quit after one year of a four-year contract. (He is returning the signing bonus for the remaining three years.) He said that playing professional football, with all its potential for wealth, is not worth the risk of brain injury. football-brain-injuryLegendary former quarterback Joe Namath has said that, if he knew then what he knows now, he wouldn’t have played. Keith McCants, former NFL linebacker said, “We were paid to give concussions. If we knew that we were killing people, I would have never put on the jersey.”

The brains of several former players, including Hall-of-Fame linebacker

junior-seau-1024x682

Junior Seau

Junior Seau and four-time-Pro-Bowl safety Dave Duerson – both of whom committed suicide, were found to have CTE.

duerson

Dave Duerson

Boston University’s CTE Center has found CTE in 88 of 92 (1, 2) autopsied brains of former NFL players. (Dr. Ann McKee of Boston University says that this is a ridiculously high rate even for a sample of brains in which the individuals showed some signs of brain disease. DOF has written about a simple fix for the claim of bias. In the meantime, there was a report that was consistent with Dr. McKee’s fear that CTE is common among football players. Frank Gifford, Hall-of-Fame running back, apparently died of natural causes, but his brain showed CTE.)

Frank Gifford football

Frank Gifford

Should children play American football with all that is known? Obviously there is much more to be learned, but should society wait to protect the children? Children trust their parents and coaches. Dr. Omalu only wants society to protect the brains of young children until those children are able to understand the risks to the brain from playing Brain in football helmetfootball and to make their own decision of whether or not to play. Boston University’s Dr. Robert Cantu said that a child’s brain is developing until age 14. Should children be subjecting their developing brains to high impact hits? One study showed that sometimes the force of a young child’s hit can reach that of a college football player.

football player catching ball

One argument for safety in American football is that the equipment, especially the helmet, is much improved. The helmet does a very good job of protecting the skull, but does nothing to protect the brain. There is no helmet that can prevent a concussion.Concussions-sports-concussion-crisis

As you might imagine, Dr. Omalu’s position is highly unpopular. Danny Kanell, former NFL quarterback and now ESPN commentator, claims that Dr. Omalu is waging a “War on Football.” Many fans and parents agree with Kanell because they believe that CTE is not common among football players. (DOF has written how this issue can be resolved simply. Dr. Omalu is an author on a paper reporting the accurate detection of CTE in a living person using a special PET – positron emission tomography – scan. The NFL needs to have all of its players scanned.) If Dr. Omalu’s suggestion about not letting kids play tackle football were adopted, one effect would be immediately obvious. The NFL would see its pool of young players dry up, so the talent we now see in the NFL would no longer be seen.

Bennet Omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu at screening of “Concussion”

It is unlikely that Dr. Omalu’s suggestion would ever come true. But he has the stature to get people talking, and the discussion has already changed. More people are becoming aware of the danger to the brain of playing tackle football. The NFL is concerned with the movie Concussion because it will increase society’s awareness of the danger. (In an article about an early showing of Concussion to former players and their families, the Huffington Post writes “… the wife of former tight end Taz Anderson, said the movie made her question whether her grandchild should continue to play the sport.”) Recently Bob Costas, a renowned sports commentator, said that American football is based on violence. The league has no way of fixing its problem with head trauma.

If you’ve ever seen young children playing tackle football, you will realize that society must do something to protect its children.

So, Whaddya Think?

Let’s get a dialogue going. Post your comments in the Comment Section. Directions are below.

So . . . what do you think? Is there something you are passionate about in this Brain Injury (BI) world? Do you want to be heard? Your opinion matters! You can SPEAK OUT! on “So Whaddya Think?”

Simply send me your opinion, and I will format it for publication. Posts may be short, but please send no more than 500 words. Send to Neelyf@aol.com

I hope to HEAR from you soon.

As I say after each post:

Feel free to leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Please follow my blog. Click on “Follow Me Via eMail” on the right sidebar of your screen.anim0014-1_e0-1

If you like my blog, click the “Like” button under this post.

If you REALLY like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it intact with your enemies. That works for me too!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

 

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jenn Von Hatten

Survivors SPEAK OUT! Jenn Von Hatten

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Von Hatten, Jenn Survivor & Hanna 121315

Jenn Von Hatten – survivor and daughter, Hanna

1. What is your name? (last name optional)

Jenn Von Hatten

2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)

Trenton, Nova Scotia, Canada     jlvonhatten@gmail.com

3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?

My brain injury happened on Valentine’s Day 2011. I was 35 years old.

4. How did your brain injury occur?

My brain injury resulted from a motor vehicle accident caused by freezing rain.

5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?

The paramedics found me clinically dead at the scene. The doctors wanted to airlift me to the Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) Health Sciences Centre in Halifax, which is the biggest hospital in Nova Scotia. But the freezing rain affected the rotors on the helicopter, so I had to be taken by road ambulance.

6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?

The pressure in my brain needed to be monitored to see if I needed surgery. I also lacerated my liver. Fortunately, I did not need surgery for either. I also fractured a rib and three vertebrae.

7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?

I was in a coma for seven weeks. First, I was in a coma from the accident. Then I was in a medically induced coma because of my fractured rib and vertebrae. I managed to develop pneumonia, and I had a tracheotomy.

8. Did you do rehab? What kind of rehab (i.e., inpatient or outpatient and occupational and/or physical and/or speech and/or other)? How long were you in rehab?

I was transferred to the Rehab Centre in Halifax around Easter 2011, and I was discharged in July 2011. Besides being a patient at the Rehab Centre, I’ve had to go to physiotherapy and occupational therapy. My spastic muscles affected my speech, so I also went to speech therapy.

9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury
(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?

Von Hatten, Jenn survivor Son Liam 121315

Jenn Von Hatten – survivor and son, Liam

My balance has been severely affected. I used to be in a wheelchair, due to fractured vertebrae. I’ve since “graduated” to a walker, a quad cane, and a mini-quad cane. I’m a Fall Risk, and I get the Disability Pension.

10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?

I have joint custody of my seven-year-old daughter, Hanna. I am no longer able to work as a nurse. My life has definitely changed, but I can’t say if it is better or worse. All I can say with certainty is that my life is DIFFERENT.

11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?

I miss being able to work as a nurse the most. As much as I would like to a work as a nurse, I know I would NOT be safe – mentally, in terms of remembering if I gave a client medication or treatments, or physically.

12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?

I enjoy my time with Hanna. It is her time, as I don’t work anymore. I now have a cat, Spunkster, which I got from the local SPCA. When Hanna’s not with me, I hang out with Spunkster.

13. What do you like least about your brain injury?

I had graduated as a nurse only seven months before my traumatic brain injury (TBI). I had wanted to be a nurse for over fifteen years. At least I can say I turned that dream into reality! I sometimes miss being able to drive. My rehabilitation doctor says I still cannot drive, as my reflexes are not up to snuff. However, I can say that my driver’s license has NOT been revoked!

14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?

Becoming a nurse was my dream. I finally realized that, just because I am no longer able to work as a nurse, I STILL AM A NURSE! Being a nurse is STILL a part of me.

15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?

My youngest daughter’s father threw me out, as he said he was not happy. I remind myself that not many relationships survive a TBI.

16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?

I don’t really have a social life, except maybe for going grocery shopping. I go by cab, so I interact with the cab divers, who are husband and wife. They own the cab company, and they are now good friends of mine. I prefer to interact with people in small groups.

17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?

Von Hatten, Jenn survivor daughters Emma and Hanna 121315

Jenn Von Hatten – survivor and daughters Emma and Hanna

I am my own caregiver now. Yes, I do understand what it takes to be a caregiver, as I used to be one. When I was in school to become a nurse, I worked as a CCA (Certified Care Assistant). A CCA can also be called PCA (Personal Care Assistant) or PCW (Personal Care Worker).

18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?

My plan is to be helping others who are TBI survivors or caregivers. I can provide info and support.

19. Are you able to provide a helpful hint that may have taken you a long time to learn, but which you wished you had known earlier? If so, please state what it is to potentially help other survivors with your specific kind of brain injury.

Understand that a person does not need to be working (and therefore getting paid) to be fulfilling whatever he or she was meant to be. Find other ways – perhaps volunteering.

20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?

Figure out what you like doing and makes you happy. If you can’t remember, that’s OK – find out. (It’s what I wish I knew back in the beginning when I was first dealing with this.) Find out what you like and makes you happy RIGHT NOW! Everybody, brain injury or not, is constantly evolving.

 

(Disclaimer: The views or opinions in this post are solely that of the interviewee.)

If you would like to be a part of the SPEAK OUT! project, please go to TBI Survivor Interview Questionnaire for a copy of the questions and the release form.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of contributor.)

As I say after each post: Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Commentanim0014-1_e0-1 below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it intact with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

 

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . Itty-Bitty Giant Steps

SPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty GIANT Steps

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Itty-Bitty GIant Steps for BlogSPEAK OUT! Itty-Bitty Giant Steps will provide a venue for brain-injury survivors and caregivers to shout out their accomplishments of the week.

If you have an Itty-Bitty Giant Step and you would like to share it, just send an email to me at neelyf@aol.com.

If you are on Facebook, you can simply send a Private Message to me. It need only be a sentence or two. I’ll gather the accomplishments and post them with your name on my blog approximately once a week. (If you do not want your last name to be posted, please tell me in your email or Private Message.)

I hope we have millions of Itty-Bitty Giant Steps.

Here is this week’s Itty-Bitty GIANT Step

Otto Rodriguez (survivor) (submitted with permission by Otto’s sister, Sylvia Rodriguez Witt)…

Rodriguez, Otto Survivor 121115

Otto Rodriguez, Survivor

Otto sustained a diffuse axonal traumatic brain injury on February 28, 2015, due to an assault. Otto had to relearn to walk and talk, and he continues to learn independence. Before his injury, my brother was a marathon runner. Recently he and I completed a 5K together. Otto completed the 5K in an hour.

Rodriguez, Otto Survivor & sister Sylvia Witt

Otto Rodriguez, Survivor & sister, Sylvia Rodriguez Witt

I write this to offer hope to those in the early stages of this journey. Each day, my brother continues to heal. It is slow and requires patience. But with love, support, and patience, it is possible to loosen the grip of this awful beast, otherwise known as “TBI.” This holiday season, I am thankful for resilience, patience, and perseverance. Stay strong survivors!

YOU did it!

Congratulations to contributors!

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

As I say after each post:anim0014-1_e0-1

Please leave a comment by clicking the blue words “Leave a Comment” below this post.

Feel free to follow my blog. Click on “Follow” on the upper right sidebar.

If you like my blog, share it intact with your friends. It’s easy! Click the “Share” buttons below.

If you don’t like my blog, “Share” it intact with your enemies. I don’t care!

Feel free to “Like” my post.

 

 

Another Fork in the Road Holiday Stressors

Fork in the Road copy“Another Fork in the Road”

This category is an extension of my radio show, “Another Fork in the Road,” which airs at 5:30 pm (Pacific Time) on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month on the Brain Injury Radio Network. (See the “On The Air Show Menu” category for a list – with links – of all my shows, which are archived and thus always available.)

On the 1st Sunday of each month, I host a panel of brain injury survivors, caregivers, and/or professionals in the field. On these shows, my panelists and I examine topics pertaining to brain injury.

On the 3rd Sunday of each month, I host guests – brain-injury survivors, caregivers, or professionals in the field.

Since I spend countless hours in preparation for each show, I decided to share the knowledge that I gather with my readers.

Another Fork in the Road

Holiday Stressors

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

The turkey and stuffing are gone, and the winter holidays are around the corner. For most folks, the holidays bring happiness and cheer. Extra gaiety is seen in office parties and large family-gatherings. Secret Santas are chosen and Hanukkah candles are lit, Menorahbut for many survivors of brain injury, the holidays are a stressful time, leaving them anxiety-ridden, exhausted, and distressed.

Survivors of brain injury may become melancholy as they remember their lost lives – lives in which they weren’t impaired, lives in which their freedom was at their fingertips, lives in which they were independent and didn’t need to rely on others for their every need. This supposedly joyous time may not be so happy for many folks. The holiday stress can be exaggerated for those living with a brain injury, compounding a survivor’s unhappiness and sometimes causing severe depression. The hustle and bustle of the holidays can definitely add disorganization and chaos to anyone’s life, but for those who live on a Sad GIrl 2daily basis with the confusion that often accompanies brain injury, the holiday season can be an utter nightmare.

The holidays bring many additional activities, like baking dozens and dozens of holiday cookies to give as gifts to family and friends. Entertaining friends might be fun, but decorating the house and preparing food and drinks for guests can be a daunting task. Entertaining out-of-town guests complicates that undertaking even further – arranging sleeping areas with sheets and pillows and extra blankets and towels. Then shopping – ah, shopping – braving the malls with their Women Shoppingwide-eyed, crazed shoppers and their cacophonous noise is not for the faint of heart. The uncertainty of whether Great Aunt Sally will love the little pink unicorn that you found in the bargain basement of Marky’s is tying up your brain in knots. For those who live in colder climes, weather may play a role, as blizzards and freezing rain make it difficult to leave the house and add the pressure of when to get the shopping done. The cold, gray skies can make life seem dreary, altering even the best of temperaments. But the holidays can be conquered, and a survivor can have fun if he or she tones it down a little and takes the holidays in itty-bitty steps.

To help ease their holiday doldrums, survivors of brain injury should try staying in the present or looking to the future. Survivors shouldn’t compare themselves and the current holiday to holidays from the past. It’s normal to feel the loss of one’s “old” self. It’s normal for a survivor to feel sadness at what once was and now is no longer. But if this is the “new normal,” then the survivor needs to make the new normal a better place to be.

Little Christmas TreePerhaps the six-foot tree that a survivor trekked out into the woods to cut down can be replaced by a three-foot artificial tree – something that can beFamily Eating assembled in less than an hour, instead of enduring the stress of an all-afternoon trip. Maybe the family-gathering to eat latkes must be limited to the immediate family to minimize the chaos that a large gathering might cause.

The holiday season is a good time for a survivor of brain injury to pull back. The survivor can make the holidays simpler and avoid their commercialism. So how does a survivor of brain injury still accomplish these goals? Here are some suggestions.

 Plan and Organize

ListMake a list of the things you want to do, and prioritize. Choose to do only one activity or job each day. Decide when you are best able to do the job. Are you better in the early morning hours – when you have more energy? Or are you like me – alive at night? That’s when I get more done. Everyone’s different, and only you will know what works best for you.

Pace Yourself

Baking Cookies-819562Don’t set your expectations too high. That is a guarantee for failure. Instead of baking ten dozen cookies in one afternoon, spread out the job by allowing several afternoons to accomplish the task. Or better still, make a smaller portion of the cookies. Set your sights lower. By planning and pacing yourself, you can avoid becoming overwhelmed, depressed, or simply exhausted.

Keep It Simple

Gift Bags 2Instead of wrapping a present the traditional way with giftwrap and ribbons, pop the gift into a pre-decorated box or a gift bag and stuff some colored tissue paper around it. It will be lovely, and it is so much easier! Do you really need to have a twenty-three-pound turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings? Probably not! A simpler meal will taste just as good and will be enjoyed by all simply because you are spending precious time together.

Accept Help

Wrapping Gifts

Usually family and friends like to offer help, especially during the holidays. Let them! Let them help shop for or wrap presents. Let them help cook dinner or bake cookies. It will be a lot more fun and actually make the holiday a more joyous occasion.

 

Make a change

Try something different. Plan a new routine or create a new ritual.

With some small steps, life during the holidays can be tolerable – maybe even fun. You just have to open your mind, look at life differently, and begin to make “new” traditions.Stress Free Holiday

Click here to listen to my show:

“Holidays – Less Stress – More Fun,” on “Another Fork in the Road,” on the Brain Injury Radio Network.

 

This article was also published on the following online magazines and journals.

Holiday Stress and Brain Injury” on Lash & Associates Publishing

Brain Injury – Surviving Holiday Stress” on Disabled Magazine

“Holiday Stressors” on TBI – Hope and Inspiration (coming soon – in press)

 

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

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