5: The Land of TBI

5: The Land of TBI

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injuries

The Land of TBI

To be a hero or a heroine, one must give an order to oneself.

~Simone Weil

It’s a Godforsaken place, the land of the brain-injured. The world has changed; it has accelerated to beyond warp speed. With the volume turned up WAY TOO HIGH and the artificial lights, all Broadway spotlights making you cringe and beg for earplugs and sunglasses. The trees swaying with the wind makes you unsteady. In Harvard Square, the sea of people coming and going makes the solid brick sidewalk morph into a floating dock. How can I feel seasick walking on land?

I made it! I’m at the pharmacy, ready to get my medication. I stand in line. My body feels heavier and heavier as I wait for my turn. Finally I give my identification information to the pharmacist who asks if I have any questions. I give him my CVS card, I swipe my debit card. There are so many steps and so much to keep track of. The people are waiting behind me. I am slow. I need to put everything back in the right place in my purse or I will freak out not finding it later.

Finally done with my medication purchase, I pull out my shopping list. Looking at a shelf of shampoo, I am overwhelmed by the infinite choices. And how do I calculate my coupon value? What is best, a dollar off or the 2 for 1 special? Come on brain, it’s just math. Simple math. But my brain won’t work. Oh how effortlessly she ran before. Oh the glorious before. Stop, don’t compare. What am I doing here? Oh, right. Figuring out the shampoo prices. No, I can’t do it. Forget it. I have to get out of here.

I’m too tired, exhausted. Even my mitochondria are depleted. I am crashing, no reserves, not a drop of energy. Oh no, I really have to sit down, I feel really sick. I pray to all the Super Heroes, “Please, teleport me home to my bed, now! My body is betraying me left, right and center. What is wrong with me?”

The real kicker is that I look normal. I look like absolutely nothing is wrong with me. Some of my friends don’t even believe I’m sick. “You sure do look great,” they say. I think to myself, “I am not even a human being anymore.”

Patience. So many people tell me to be patient. Why doesn’t the pharmaceutical industry encapsulate patience in a little pill? I need really high doses, 24/7. I couldn’t tell you how many hours I spend resting, waiting and waiting. Rest. My brain needs lots of rest. I’m generally not a couch potato kinda gal, folks. All this resting, all this waiting to feel better . . . . my sense of self, my identity is evaporating.

If you are feeling stranded and forlorn in the Land of TBI, try some of these survival tidbits:

Develop a Super Compassionate Self: Sounds dorky but the sooner you excel at this, the easier your life will feel. Super Compassionate Self has special daggers and arrows to take down and destroy toxic opinions, thoughts and attitudes from within and a special shield for external toxicity. Super Compassionate Self is always on the lookout for anything that will make you smile, laugh or feel better. SCS makes the time for relaxation, pleasure and enjoyment because these are mandatory to help offset the poisons in the Land of TBI.

Energy Voids: This is a normal weather pattern in TBI Land. Don’t take the weather personally. On “extremely nasty bad flu with a really mean hangover” days, just stay in bed, take your healing tablets, drink soothing beverages, and be mellow. These are refueling days and if you don’t take them, you will hit the Wall. Unavoidably you will be forced to hit the Wall. You cannot hide in your flurry of errands or cleaning or working or whatever you seem to think you must do. Denying that the Wall WILL find you, will often make you hit it harder. You are NOT rewarded in TBI Land for going beyond your limits. You are actually penalized. You will have ugly consequences like migraines, nausea, vomiting, prolonged fatigue lasting longer than you could think possible for a living person. You may have severe anxiety attacks or feel tremendous despair. Like the Dementors in Harry Potter, these emotions can suck the life out of your soul.

Antidotes: Hoard excellent Nurturing Catalysts. Fresh flowers near your bed or resting spots, peaceful music or nature sounds, soothing smells like lavender candles or favorite teas. Regular massage or citrus lotion to rub into your hands and feet. Nurturing Catalysts are more powerful than they appear and they have tremendous synergistic capabilities. DEFINITELY the more the merrier! Laughter, truckloads of laughter or clouds of laughter, get regular doses.

Paradox Reigns: Awareness that life is much more complicated and much more simple at the same time. Many priorities will change drastically, many people will never understand, you have things to be grateful for. You will love more deeply and curse more emphatically and your favorite ice cream will taste even sweeter. It is wise to become as flexible as possible with your concepts of everything. What used to be fun can now feel like very hard work. What used to be work could be something you wish desperately you could do. Taking a shower can some days feel like a huge task. A cup of tea can feel like a friend. Sunshine on your face, like a vacation.

A new life 101: Study and learn the intricacies of your limitations, live as much as possible in this zone for optimal energy efficiency. Be outrageously impressed with all that you have experienced in the Land of TBI. You are way more advanced than any Candy Crusher. You are one tough cookie. Not as a video character, IN REAL LIFE. You are your own hero.

Bask in your exquisiteness and the genuine glory of YOU. Just the way you are. Yup, just exactly the way you are. Right now. You “be” amaaaaZING!

~Catz LeBlanc

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