35: Taming the Hurricane

35: Taming the Hurricane

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

Taming the Hurricane

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

~Jimmy Dean

It was like a bomb had gone off. There was nothing much left to the home I shared with my wife and kids in a Southern Florida county. It was gone. Just gone. Hurricane Andrew took not only my home, it also took the peace I’d managed to tenuously keep for years since my severe traumatic brain injury.

I’d found an employer who understood my issues and allowed me to work in and organize my own space, also be solitary and take breaks when I needed them. My wife seemed to have accepted my behavioral quirks and would tell our children, “Don’t mind him—you know how your father is.” Things were status quo and were moving along as well as I and most of my friends and family could imagine.

But then there was the storm. And our home was gone.

We had insurance and could rebuild. We hadn’t lost anyone we loved. There was much to be thankful for, but the storm had planted its own eye in my mind, and like Andrew itself, it was slow to start but building in intensity.

I hadn’t lost everything, and I knew it on one level, but my brain couldn’t comprehend the overwhelming change and big picture. The wider the picture got, the wilder my brain swirled. I began to cry uncontrollably every day. It seemed gone. All gone. We could rebuild the house but something in my own house of emotional cards seemed shattered. I feared it was for good.

That’s when I discovered the power of meditation and support groups. It started out accidentally. For relief I’d go to a quiet room and “Zen out.” It seemed to help somewhat although the peace wouldn’t last for long. I began researching and found out that meditation was similar to what I’d been doing, but more focused. It could build neural pathways and allow the brain to rest, rebuild, and stay focused on the present moment.

There are many ways to meditate. I tried going to a Buddhist retreat to practice, but it was hard to stay focused on that place between breathing in and breathing out; focus is hard for me with my TBI. I could see the potential though. I knew I couldn’t give up. Giving up is easy, but it’s the most important impulse to fight.

I found a place called Centerpointe. It offered a program that not only allowed me to meditate more deeply than traditional meditation methods but also to experience the benefits of meditation quickly, which is what I really needed. I found success with their approach thanks to the dual scientific and spiritual focus. When I put on the headphones, the first feeling I have is immense relief. There are no problems in that place. In fact, at times there are euphoric feelings that last all day.

I’ve actually had people ask me, why formal meditation? Why not just go into the room like I did before and take some moments of peace? I found there is a difference between the two. There is a calming structure, a discipline that helps me function emotionally and also helps my brain develop other neural pathways to deal more effectively when faced with skills I need but had lost due to the TBI. It’s planned relief rather than feeling you have to run away and isolate yourself.

Like the accident that changed my life and brain forever, I can’t say I’m glad Hurricane Andrew happened, but I can say that what seemed like another misfortune led me to something I needed so that I could be the most whole I could be. Although the winds of life will always swirl, I’ve found how I can tame the hurricane.

~Pete Daigle

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