Survivors SPEAK OUT! Raquel (Rocky) Gloden
Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
My name is Raquel Gloden. I go by Rocky.
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
I live in Arizona, east of Phoenix; my email is email@example.com.
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
I had my last TBI (traumatic brain injury) in October 2013; I had concussions prior to this last one – it just happened to be the worst. I was 35 years old when it happened.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
I was enjoying an outing with my family. I stopped to take a picture of my children, and when I stepped back to get a better view, I slipped on some sort of substance on the marble floor. I bounced the back of my head on the floor a couple of times – and that was it.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
I went by ambulance right away and had it checked. I was told that it was a concussion and to take some ibuprofen and that I should start feeling better. I followed the doctor’s recommendation, but it got worse instead of better. I ended up back in the hospital a week later for other issues associated with it. They advised me to go get it checked out further.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
Other than a CT (or “CAT”; computerized tomography) scan, I did not have any other emergency treatment.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
No. I am very fortunate not to have been in a coma.
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)?
I did outpatient vestibular and occupational rehab.
How long were you in rehab?
I did this for a couple of months.
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury (e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
Oh wow! This is a loaded question. I have balance problems. I have vision issues. (I see double now.) I was diagnosed with symptomatic ADD (attention deficit disorder). I now suffer from depression. My personality has definitely changed – some good, some not so good. I try to maintain a positive outlook towards everything, but it is often a challenge. Before my medication was regulated (and before it was determined that I needed medication), it was much more difficult to function (from what I can recall). Oh yes, I have memory problems now too.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
My life has changed. Is it better or worse? … I don’t know. I am no longer employed at the career I had for fifteen and a half years – that is scary. But, I get to be home with my children for now. I think it is all in the way I look at it. There are many things I will not be able to do anymore that I would have liked to. But, not many people are afforded the perspective and opportunity that I have either.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
I miss the old me. I was very outgoing, loved to be around people, and was almost always happy. I could multitask better than many. I could solve problems and issues within seconds.
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I was able to find out who my friends really are. I am able to help create the person I want to become. Most of all, I get to be with my children.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike the headaches, double vision, depression, ADD, and the lack of understanding. Those issues that are personal – I can find a way to deal with them. The lack of understanding is the worst. It feels as though I am not listened to sometimes and, even if I am, I feel like people just don’t understand.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
I have a great support-team that includes my family and dear friends. I go to counseling weekly, and my counselor is very supportive. I have been learning about being more mindful, which has also helped immensely. Recently, I have found that the TBI community is very supportive as well. Many times I think that I have not truly accepted my TBI, but I am getting there.
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
Yes, very much so. There are some relationships that do not exist anymore. This was mostly due to my ending the relationship. I had a new perspective after my TBI, and I do not feel I have time for people who will bring me down or whom I feel uncomfortable around. This was not usually the other person’s fault, but I am not the same as I was. I need my TBI to be accepted, or I do not need them in my life. My home life changed for sure. My children saw the incident, and I deal with that trauma every time we walk by a wet spot on the ground. My husband is a wonderful man and very supportive. I was the breadwinner though, and this has had to change. He is such a great man – he has not complained one bit. He supports me in all I do. I am fortunate to have my mom around me too, and she is a huge support; my dad was very supportive before he passed away in 2014. They all have encouraged me to continue creating myself.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
As I stated before, I am not as outgoing. If I can, I often avoid situations in which there will be loud noises or too many people. This means that I don’t go to as many parties or social gatherings, and when I do, I do not stay like I used to. I don’t think I have as many friends as I thought I did.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
My main caregiver is my husband. He is at home with me. My mom helps a lot too, especially with the kids when my husband is at work. I believe a caregiver helps when times are tough, and he or she encourages positive thoughts and actions. To me, a caregiver assists when needed, but is not enabling. A caregiver encourages independence.
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
My future plans … I would like to speak about TBI and help people to better understand. There are subjects that people do not talk about at all, and I would like to bring light to them and to help people understand that they are not alone. I would also like for others to understand the hardships that follow TBI survivors – even when other people cannot see them.
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.
I wish that I would have known when I was younger how concussions would have impacted me long term. I remember pushing it when I previously had concussions. They were not treated the same as now either, and I wish I knew then what I know now. Take care of your brain – it is the only one you will ever have.
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
My advice is to stay strong, but still allow yourself to cry. It is hard, but as long as the hard times decrease and the positive times increase, you are on the right track. Also, you are not alone. I know people may see you and think that there is nothing wrong, and they may even think it is all made-up, but the people who know you – the people who truly matter – know. And you know. And that is all that matters.
(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.
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(Photos compliments of contributor.)
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