28: Don’t Give Up . . .

28: Don’t Give Up . . .

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

Don’t Give Up . . .

Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.

~Newt Gingrich

Last year I was nearly killed in a car crash. I spent three months in a coma, followed by a full year and a half in a wheelchair. Now I use a walker. I still go to therapy five days a week. Progress is slow but the important point is that I am still making progress.

I had run fifteen miles just an hour before the wreck. So now my goal is to run marathons again. I’m not nearly there yet, but having a goal is important to my recovery. As unclear as my future may be, I choose to focus not on what I can’t do because of my TBI but what I can do in spite of it. I may not be back yet, but I’m trying!

So to those of you who are facing physical, mental and emotional trials, whether it is TBI or any other challenge, I offer some words of encouragement and lessons I have learned along the way:

Celebrate each small victory.

For me, despite all of my physical challenges, I am now able to write again. That is certainly something to celebrate! It also helps me to express myself and hopefully help others with my words. I put together an anthology with Press 53 about people overcoming adversity. It is called What Doesn’t Kill You. I wrote a nonfiction short story for it called “Times I Nearly Died.” When the book was published, that was another reason to celebrate!

Maintain overall fitness in whatever way you can.

I get up every day and do a set of fifty push-ups and fifty sit-ups. Set a goal and focus your energies on working toward it. Mine is to run marathons. I am very lucky to have a great personal trainer. He comes three times a week and helps my body re-learn to move in ways that allow for walking and balance. Sometimes we work from home. Sometimes we go to the gym where my trainer works. It really is a breathtaking learning experience to be forced to admit defeat and begin again.

Focus on overall healthy living.

My trainer has helped me put together a healthy diet. We added fish oil, which contains omega 3 fatty acids which we’ve read can help in brain recovery.

Challenge yourself every day with brain activities.

The brain, anyone’s brain, needs stimulation. Otherwise—get ready for boredom and depression! Word games. Crossword puzzles. Anything that gets the synapses firing. For me, this means writing. It gives my brain a workout and clearly is improving my memory. When I first tried to relearn writing, I had so much memory trouble that I could not remember at the end of a given sentence what the beginning had been about. But I’ve kept at it with great results.

Bring out the dogs: It’s good for the soul!

Isolating yourself from others will make things harder, and it’s important to identify the supportive individuals in your life. Not that these necessarily have to be human. So . . . bring out the dogs! Silly as it may sound, it has been a fantastically rewarding part of my process to spend time with pets. Dogs in particular. It would seem that dogs are specifically designed for helping people with memory exercises. Watching as the dog gladly repeats fetching over and over again reminds me of the importance of repetition and perseverance.

Do not become discouraged: Patience!

Hang in there. The worst aspect of this entire ordeal has got to be the unavoidable fact that you have to relearn everything. And so, if there is one piece of advice I would give readily to anyone with a brain injury, it is this: The brain, while fairly elastic, is a complicated machine. Be patient! Patience is an essential component of this sort of recovery. So buckle in; you’ve got a long, slow road ahead of you, and shortcuts do not exist. Just call your friendly dog over and get ready to wait.

Sit! Stay! Good dog! One day, pup, we’ll run a marathon together. You just wait. I am dead set that one day I will run a marathon again. One day.

~Murray Dunlap

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