Survivors SPEAK OUT! . . . Alisa Marie
by Donna O’Donnell Figurski
1. What is your name? (last name optional)
2. Where do you live? (city and/or state and/or country) Email (optional)
New Hampshire, USA
3. On what date did you have your brain injury? At what age?
October and November 2012
But, my very first concussion was in 1998. I was 30 years old.
4. How did your brain injury occur?
The event in October 2012 was a fall caused by vertigo. In November 2012, I was cleaning under the pool deck. I went to get up and banged my head, causing me to be knocked out. I don’t remember what happened in 1998.
5. When did you (or someone) first realize you had a problem?
My boyfriend at the time found me unconscious under the pool deck.
6. What kind of emergency treatment, if any, did you have?
I was taken to the Emergency Room, and I had rehab. I had to live with my parents for a while because they had to take care of me. I thought it was the year 2005 and my children were 5 and 10, but it was 2012 and they were 13 and 18. Also, I was going through a divorce, and my house was in foreclosure.
7. Were you in a coma? If so, how long?
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 had occupational and physical therapies as an outpatient and speech therapy both as an outpatient and as an inpatient.
– How long were you in rehab?
I’m not sure because I’ve been in a lot of rehabs for head injuries. I was in three in 2015. My last rehab was in 2018, as my last concussion was in 2017. (I slipped on clothes on my floor because my perception was off.)
9. What problems or disabilities, if any, resulted from your brain injury(e.g., balance, perception, personality, etc.)?
I struggle with many issues: balance, perception, personality, cognitive and executive functioning, memory, staying on task, aphasia, and impulsivity. It’s hard to make decisions and hard to be organized. I lost my independence. I lost my license for cognitive reasons back in December 2013.
10. How has your life changed? Is it better? Is it worse?
I’m an artist, designer, and poet. I am also trying to have my own business, Alisa’s True Colors. I began melting Crayola crayons in 2013 when Emily, my younger daughter, showed me how to apply wax to canvas using a blow dryer and a fork.
This was helping me as art therapy, where I could take physical and emotional pain and turn it into something colorful and bright. It was all I could focus on for a while. I didn’t know it then, but the seeds of Alisa’s True Colors were being planted. It helped me learn and adapt to the new me. I was creating my ability out of my disability.
11. What do you miss the most from your pre-brain-injury life?
Freedom and independence
12. What do you enjoy most in your post-brain-injury life?
I have come to realize that we hold within ourselves the power to heal. I have learned we don’t need a superhero to save us; we need to be our own hero in our own story. We need not to be afraid to chase after our dreams. And, if one door closes keep looking for the open ones.
I am learning happiness, calmness, and patience. I am accepting the new me, and, with my limitations, I am finding new ways to adapt. I have let go of the past and my old ways of thinking of what I believed of myself.
I have gained wisdom, knowledge, self-confidence, and the courage to look fear in the eyes – to truly know that being a survivor means being a fighter and not to give up no matter how dark my world gets.
I want to awaken others to their true colors by helping them accept their new life after trauma – to help them heal through art.
13. What do you like least about your brain injury?
I dislike that I can’t stay on task or stay organized. I am forgetful, and I talk strange sometimes because I can’t remember the right word. I regret the loss of close family and friends who don’t understand.
14. Has anything helped you to accept your brain injury?
Art and poetry 🙂
15. Has your injury affected your home life and relationships and, if so, how?
For a few years, I lost what empathy was. My emotions were all over the place. I had a lot of anger and resentment in me. You find your own “True Colors” with a brain injury or from a trauma where it can get very confusing when you are trying to find your true self. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that sometimes you see the “True Colors” of your loved ones. We can look fine on the outside, but no one can see our brain on the inside all messed up trying to find a new way of living.
16. Has your social life been altered or changed and, if so, how?
Yes. I have social anxiety at times, and I’m embarrassed when I talk and can’t find the words or when I can’t stay on task.
17. Who is your main caregiver? Do you understand what it takes to be a caregiver?
Me, myself. and I
18. What are your plans? What do you expect/hope to be doing ten years from now?
I hope to travel around the world with my story and products and to teach my art. And, I hope to also donate money to the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire and other non-profit organizations.
I had to lose everything from suffering traumatic brain injuries due to repeated head injuries. I also had to deal with being diagnosed with viral meningitis in March 2015. Then in the year 2016, I lost my home, and all my personal belongings were discarded because of toxic environmental illnesses. I’m surviving by designing.
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.
This isn’t the ending to your life; it’s a new beginning. We all are creative. So, you just must keep trying new things, whether it be writing, poetry, drawing, photography, ceramics, embroidery, knitting, singing, or dancing. There is so much you can do – you are not your disability or a diagnosis a doctor gives you. I never gave up hope. I kept learning and reaching for my dreams when all I saw was darkness
20. What advice would you offer to other brain-injury survivors? Do you have any other comments that you would like to add?
Every struggle, every life-lesson is a gift because it makes you go deeper into yourself to find your “true colors” – your inner strength, courage, wisdom, and confidence.
I want others to see and know that there is beauty in the darkness, that there is beauty in your pain and tears and heartache. There is beauty in the ashes. There is a rainbow after the storm. I hope people see my True Colors as a message of hope and faith and love, to give them the hope and courage and strength to show it is possible to overcome the battles we endure in this lifetime.
I never went to art school. I have no degree – just education from repeated concussions and my life-situations. My art saved my life and is continuing to do. It helps with built-up resentment, emotions, grief, and physical pain. Art teaches that you are a new person after your injury, and it teaches how to adapt to your new life. Art is my therapy. I take the physical and emotional pain I feel and I turn it into something beautiful and bright on the canvas.
Never give up!
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
(Photos compliments of contributor.)
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