TBI – Survivors, Caregivers, Family, and Friends

Archive for the ‘Guest Bloggers’ Category

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger: Erin Lieben

Inspiring Other Survivors

by

Erin Lieben

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Girl Blogger cartoon_picture_of_girl_writingIt’s okay to lose hope sometimes. We will never be the same as before. You’ll get used to the “new you,” and you’ll be a tough, beautiful, brave individual who knows what it’s like to feel hopeless. And, that is what makes it all worth it – because you can give hope to others.

bigstock_hope_2576413Tell other survivors that it’s okay to be the “new you” and to not necessarily meet the status quo or the goals they were striving for before their brain injury. Tell them to just make a new game-plan and to be exceedingly thankful for the little things they previously took for granted.

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Erin Lieben – Brain Injury Survivor

When I present my story to others, my goal is for them to feel inspired. I don’t want pity, and I don’t want to bring others down. I’ve been given a gift, and I’ve worked like hell to be able to pass that on to others. There is always hope.

Cherish each passing moment as if it’s your last – because you know that it very well could be. It might sound crazy, but, when I’m at my lowest, that’s the time when I can lift others up. And, it lifts my spirit as well! My heart is with you all.

 

Thank you, Erin Lieben.

 

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Erin Lieben.)

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger: Ric Johnson

Meditation After a Brain Injury

by

Ric Johnson

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Boy Blogger thI didn’t meditate before my injury, and I don’t remember what caused me to start meditation. Whatever it was, I’m glad meditation and I became friends.

Many people tend to think that meditation is a “religious” practice. Meditation is actually a broad variety of practices, and the most commonly heard practice is called “mindfulness.” Do I have to get into a yoga pose? Do I have to start saying “Om”? No, I don’t. Nobody needs to.

For me, meditation is actually the practice of focusing on the moment. After my traumatic brain injury, staying focused was (and still is) the hardest part of daily life. Meditation helps me to continue moving forward. I don’t need to clear my mind or empty my thoughts when starting a session – that seems to happen by itself. The longer meditation becomes part of your life, the easier it becomes.

I try to meditate twice a day, especially during a “hard” day. Most of the time, though, I meditate only once – other things seem to get in the way. I try to carve out 30 minutes for each session, but 15-20 minutes is pretty much the normal length I’m able to use. Not sure if 30 minutes would give me better results. Results are really based on the ability to continue to meditate.

I use the breathing-meditation method. We all breathe, so no equipment is necessary. I can do it anywhere and anytime. I only need 15-30 minutes. After waking up, the first thing I do is look at my calendar to see what the day brings. After eating breakfast, I set the kitchen alarm for 30 minutes, sit down and relax in a comfy chair, close my eyes, and listen to my breathing. My breath is the object of my attention. I begin to feel and hear my breath flowing in and out of my body. I use my normal breathing pace. Breathe in – breathe out; breathe in – breathe out; and on and on until the alarm sounds. Like everybody else in the world, I can get distracted by anything. Or, my mind just wanders off (by itself). When that happens, my breathing can bring me back to meditation. Yes, I have start all over again. But that only takes a few seconds, and I’ll be back in the groove.

My second meditation of the day is between lunch and dinner. I actually do the same routine as before, but most times there’s no alarm involved, so I just do it as long as time permits. Those two sessions really help break the day into manageable pieces. I have even meditated in my doctor’s office while waiting to be called for my appointment. I have found that playing music or a white-noise CD just distracts me, so I need to be in a quiet room.

What does meditation give me? I think awareness is the gift meditation gives me. Awareness of the present moment and awareness of my body and mind. When I began meditation, I thought I had to count my breaths to succeed, but that’s not true. Meditation really takes being aware and focusing on your breathing – focusing on feeling the air going in and out of my nose, feeling my lungs expand and contract. My mind opens up to let those feelings become positive thoughts and to block negative thoughts.

If you would like to see if meditation is your cup of tea, find a good place and a good time to give meditation a chance. There are also many websites to get more information – just Google “breathing meditation.” It is not a miracle drug – it’s a place for your mind to open and relax. Meditation hasn’t cured my brain injury, but it does make most days good days.

 

Ric Johnson
13+ years TBI survivor
Facilitator for the Courage Kenny Brain Injury Support Group
Member of the Speaker Bureau for the Mn. Brain Injury Alliance

 

Thank you, Ric Johnson

 

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Ric Johnson.)

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

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger: Ed Steeves

Making a Choice

by

Ed Steeves

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boy Blogger thI had a month to get ready. Yet mentally, it seemed a short time to prepare, but I would have gone immediately if it were possible. It had been such a long time coming, honestly. I was sitting around being idle for way too long. To be completely honest, this was one of the bravest things I chose to do, so I had to be strong. It was like getting the courage up to jump into the deep end, while uncertain about how cold or how deep the water is.
dive-in-poolFor the very first time in well over five years, I felt that the choice was completely up to me. I wondered if I should just consider playing it safe – dip a toe in and try to slowly get into the water, all the time staying at the edge of the pool. Or, if I should take the chance – go for the adrenaline rush.

I was tired of chickening out – of playing a fool. For the first time in a very long time (well, to be really truthful, possibly for the first time in my life), I made a choice for me, with only myself to thank or blame. I could have cut the tension with a knife.

suitcaseSo, off on my trip I went, with no end in sight, with no final destination set, but I knew I would figure it all out. I wanted to begin to live my life without all of the restrictions. Did I feel I was ready for that?

Ed Steeves - Brain Injury Survivor and World Traveler

Ed Steeves – Brain Injury Survivor and World Traveler

Without any doubt!

I headed off on an amazing adventure – to see who I could become and to travel the world. I followed the path that I dreamed of: the Philippines, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Australia, New Zealand, and more. I was ready to see the future into which I had been hurled. I found myself, did some soul-searching, and tested my limits.

 

Thank you, Ed Steeves.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Ed Steeves.)

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! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Karen Dickerson

Never Give Up!

by

Karen Dickerson

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Girl Blogger cartoon_picture_of_girl_writingOn March 2nd, 2014, I was involved in a car accident that changed my life forever. My speech was slurred; I couldn’t read; I couldn’t even write my own name.

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Karen Dickerson – Brain Injury Survivor

Two months after my accident, I was so proud to write my name again that I signed divorce papers I couldn’t comprehend. I also signed so that my brain injury wouldn’t be used to take my children away. For fifteen years, I was married – and in an abusive relationship. I had three children, and I was left with nothing. Not even child support. I had lived a fairly comfortable life, financially speaking. I just wanted out and couldn’t take the confusion of court proceedings, but yet I couldn’t understand why. Everyone said I looked “normal.”

I struggled to feed my children. I swallowed my pride even when I was standing in line at a food pantry. I walked dragging my left leg to my speech, physical, and occupational therapy sessions, thinking that my leg problem would just go away in a few weeks. A friend helped me buy a car with what little money I had. I spent a few cold nights sleeping in it, confused as to where I was, what I was doing, and when my next appointments were. I’d yell at anyone who crossed my path – losing friendships. Family left me all alone. I fought with my auto insurance company for my rights in a no-fault state, and, after several months, I finally received compensation for wage losses.

I’m not sure how it happened (as things are a complete blur at times), but I finally found a good doctor and a nurse case-manager to help me. I was put into a neuro rehab program an hour away from home. (I had to let my children go live with their dad.) Seven days a week, I learned basic living skills and tried to control my anger and frustrations and emotional outbursts. I had constant legal issues, as I was beginning to realize that what I had signed in my divorce was not what I thought. The settlement was not good for me. As a result, I had to fight for my children and for child support. After a few battles, I won their support! After getting through those struggles, I finally realized I needed to take this TBI (traumatic brain injury) head on and fight to get my life back.counsleing

I was angry that I couldn’t do the simple things a child could do, and I was frustrated that I had tested intellectually as lower than high-school level. As hard as it was, I learned coping skills to control my damaged frontal lobe and to try to focus. After my rehab program ended, I moved back home to be with my children. I went to all my therapies (three times a week) and to numerous tests and doctors. I got my kids to and from school every day. I learned how to cook again. After almost two years, I was finally beginning to live a somewhat normal life again. I was even able to meet a wonderful, humble, and understanding man. What were the chances that his own brother-in-law had a TBI? The new man in my life knew exactly what I was going through and accepted my flaws and deficits.

I then started to get interested in learning about this misunderstood injury. I attended the BIAMI (Brain Injury Association of Michigan) meetings in Lansing, Michigan. Using social media as a tool, I advocated and educated others. Hearing good vibes from all over the country and the world, I began to realize how many people just like me were out there. I had to do something about brain injury, as I was so misunderstood and I was tired of being called “crazy.”social-media

I began to excel in all my therapies, which moved me into vocational training. I was asked to put my résumé together. I did – I looked at it and saw that I never had the opportunity to go to college. I was a single mom at nineteen, and I married someone who wouldn’t allow me to grow. I could have gone back to real estate, but how was that helping people? I could have returned to the ophthalmology career that I had for years, but I was limited by the small area I live in. I had already worked for the one surgeon, but he told me that he didn’t trust me with his patients anymore because of my TBI.

th-1As hard as occupational therapy was for me, it was also fun. I gained friendships with my occupational and speech therapists. Even if I couldn’t do their tasks that day, they were still there for me to talk. They comforted me and encouraged me to keep on going. I looked into the OTA (occupational therapy assistant) program and thought Why not see if I can try it? With my disability, there should be some accommodations, and, after what I’ve been through with so many occupational therapy sessions, I thought I might just know a little about it!

I took the test and was accepted to Baker College! (Two years and five months post TBI.) I went to orientation yesterday and teared up as I walked on campus.

Karen Dickerson - Brain Injury Survivor & College Student at Baker College

Karen Dickerson – Brain Injury Survivor & College Student at Baker College

As I sat in a loud room with others picking their classes, I struggled to drown out the noise, as audio is still a daily struggle. The abbreviations and so much on the class schedule – even with military times, were problematic. I thought for one second I can’t do this. Then I remembered all those times I did “do it,” and I focused and got my class schedule done. At 39 years old, a TBI survivor, a domestic-abuse survivor, and a mother of three, I am a college student!

This program is offered near Grand Rapids, Michigan, over three hours away. As I checked in, I met the president of the college, and he noted where I was living. All I could say was, “I’m going to do this.” It is in my heart. God has gotten me this far. I will NOT give up!

SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Deb Angus – Just Blew Me Away

Just Blew Me Away …

by

Deb Angus

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Girl Blogger cartoon_picture_of_girl_writingMy husband and I used to be avid bicyclists all throughout the trail system here in Calgary (in Alberta, Canada). Sometimes we would be out and about for the whole day, putting on as much as 50 km (31 miles). Mostly this was back in ‘83 to ‘88. Then we bought a house. The trail system wasn’t as good in that neighbourhood. As a result, we only went sporadically over the following years.

Even that came to an end in 2001, when I sustained a TBI (traumatic brain injury) at the hands of a distracted driver who hit us while we were stopped at a red light. Because of ongoing balance issues, I no longer had the desire to ride my bike again. (So sad the things we lose because of TBI.)

Deb Angus - brain injury survivor and author of “Regaining Consciousness: My Encounter with Mild Brain Injury--the Silent Epidemic"

Deb Angus – brain injury survivor and author of “Regaining Consciousness: My Encounter with Mild Brain Injury–the Silent Epidemic”

Then in 2006, I had an idea about someday getting myself an adult tricycle. That way I would not have to worry about my lack of balancing skills – especially when you have to do a shoulder check (scanning over your shoulder without making the bike swerve). But because we were then living in apartments, storage was an issue. My dream of getting a trike never came to fruition … until this year!

My husband was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer in March 2015. He died April 1, 2016. It has been pretty rough. We had been together for 37 years. I have also been dealing with my own kidney failure since August 2013, and I do peritoneal dialysis every night for 8-9 hours. The waiting list for a transplant in our province is 6-8 years, so I have a ways to go yet. With my husband’s passing, I wanted to start doing things that would get me outside more often and be more active. I also wanted to do something to keep me busy for our wedding anniversary and my birthday, which were coming up on June 30. So I came up with a grand idea that if I could find a “folding” trike, I could then store it in the back of my car. And that is exactly what I’ve done. I wasn’t able to find such a trike locally, so I had to mail-order one and put it together.

Deb Angus - Brain Injury Survivor and her Trike

Deb Angus – Brain Injury Survivor and her Trike

On my very first ride, I drove down to the area of the city where my husband and I used to live back in ‘86 and ‘87. Talk about a trip down memory lane! Within seconds of riding my trike, I felt like I was 32 years old again – whizzing down the tails we used to ride with wind blowing through my helmet and hearing the birds singing and chirping along the way. The freedom I felt at being able to ride again … was fantastic! Then tears came to my eyes because my husband wasn’t here to enjoy this with me …. But as I was heading back to the car after about an hour of riding, I noticed in big letters written in chalk on the asphalt trails the words Love U. I knew then that my husband was there in spirit. I felt that he was so proud and happy that I had finally managed to get my trike and that I will enjoy many more great rides.

 

Thank you, Deb Angus.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Deb Angus.)

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!

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SPEAK OUT! . . . . . . . . . . . . . Guest Blogger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ed Steeves – Standing Still

Standing Still

by

Ed Steeves

presented

by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

 

Boy Blogger thNo matter how great it sounds, we can’t go back. No matter how much we may want to, that bridge has burned. The past has passed for a reason. We need to accept that it is over. We can only take the lessons we’ve learned.

Now we have a choice, since we can’t change the past or return to it. We can’t get the past back and never will. So, the decision that we have to make is Will we move on into the future, or will we simply stand still?k20874676

I, for one, will go forward with my life. I have decided that, somewhere ahead, there is something better to find. Because, if we just stand there and stare at what’s dead and gone, we will surely lose our mind.

The thing we fail to notice at times is that, no matter how amazing the past was, the future is better. The past, sadly, is occupied only with our memories, and it’s our prison. Only in the future can we all be free.

Ed Steeves - Survivor

Ed Steeves – Survivor

It’s OK to take some time to reflect – to forgive and move on. I’ve finally given up on all that’s there in the past.

But remember that life is still alive in the future, and we are never certain how long it will last.

Thank you, Ed Steeves.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of Ed Steeves.)

 

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! Guest Blogger . . . David A. Grant . . . . . . . . . . . . . You Gave Me the Life I Was Destined to Have

You Gave Me the Life I Was Destined to Have

by

David A. Grant

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski

Boy Blogger thI’ve been thinking about you again and wondering how life has been treating you.

Last night, Sarah and I were at the high school. We went to watch fireworks.

Like we do most every year, we set up our blanket, then walked the oval track for a couple of laps. It’s a great place to people-watch.

The bleachers caught my eye as I looked up to one of the top rows – to where I was sitting when I saw you graduate.

David A. Grant - Brain Injury Survivor & Author

David A. Grant – Brain Injury Survivor & Author

You had no idea I was there at your graduation. How could you?

Except for the day we met shortly after the accident, we’ve not seen each other.

One of our own kids graduated the same day that you did. It was just another of those “chance meetings” that have too often come to pass.

I never expected to hear your name on the loudspeaker that graduation day.

Nor did I know how deeply my PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) ran as I fell into my seat, unable to even stand for the rest of the ceremony.

A while back, I wrote that if I had the chance, I might just thank you for changing the very course of my life.

Today, I would most likely not thank you.

fireworks-animatedBut I need to be very clear, I am not angry, nor do I hold any resentment. To hold bitterness in my heart is to allow myself to be run over again and again – every day that I breathe.

Life is just too short.

Sometimes things just happen.

Sometimes newly-licensed teenage drivers run over cyclists. We both know that better than most.

It’s a safe bet to say that you did not plan your day by saying, “By today’s end, I’ll have T-boned a local cyclist.”onbicycle

It’s weird and hard to put into words – even for a guy like me, but I am living the life I was destined to live.

You just played a small, rather impactful part.

Kind of like a long line of falling dominoes, you knocked over the first domino when you struck me that cold November day back in 2010.

And from there, that line of dominoes has continued to fall. It’s circled the globe a few times … and, one-by-one, the dominoes fall.Dominoes

While I can’t thank you for hitting me that fated day, I can now see that it was unavoidable. It was destined to happen.

Over the years, I have come to realize that I have lost my life. I spend a lot of time living for others.

A few years ago, I was able to find you on Facebook. You were in college then.

Lest we forget, you were only sixteen when we first met.

You looked like a typical college kid – happy, clean cut, smiling … ready to embrace your future and all the promise that it holds.

I looked for you again today. Not in a creepy kind of way – more so, just to see how you are.

After a few minutes, I gave up. You were nowhere to be found.

I suppose that’s best.

You most likely don’t wonder about “that guy” that you hit while you were still a kid, but occasionally he thinks about you.

I have no need to forgive you as I never condemned you. Funny how that works.

If Fate saw our paths cross again, I would most likely not let you know who I was. No greater good would be served by it.

But here, in the faux anonymity that comes with today’s world, I wish you well … and I wish you happiness.

Peace.

About David A. Grant

David A. Grant 2 101115

David A. Grant – Brain Injury Survivor & Author

David A. Grant is a freelance writer, keynote speaker and traumatic brain injury survivor based out of southern New Hampshire. He is the author of “Metamorphosis, Surviving Brain Injury,” a book that chronicles in exquisite detail the first year-and-a-half of his new life as a brain injury survivor. His newest title, “Slices of Life after Traumatic Brain Injury,” was released in 2015.

David is also a contributing author to “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries.” As a survivor of a cycling accident in 2010, he shares his experience and hope though advocacy work including a public speaking as well as his weekly brain injury blog.

David is a regular contributing writer to Brainline.org, a PBS sponsored website. He is also a BIANH board member as well as a columnist in HEADWAY, the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire’s periodic newsletter.

David is the founder of TBI Hope and Inspiration, a Facebook community with over 15,000 members including survivors, family members, caregivers as well as members of the medical and professional community as well as the publisher of “TBI Hope and Inspiration Magazine.”

 

Thank you, David A. Grant.

Disclaimer:
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.

(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)

(Photos compliments of David A. Grant.)

 

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.

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