86: Silver Lining

86: Silver Lining

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

Silver Lining

Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.

~Marcus Aurelius

If only I knew ten years ago what I know now. Like all high school seniors applying to college, I wrote quite a few essays. While most of the questions were quite forgettable, one still sticks in my mind ten years later. The question, “Explain the saying every cloud has a silver lining,” wasn’t easy for me to answer at the time, and I’m sure I gave a hypothetical answer since, as a fortunate eighteen-year-old kid I hadn’t experienced many “clouds” in my life.

I got into college and received my diploma in May 2006 at the age of twenty-three. Two months later, on July 4, I made the awful decision to drive after drinking. As a result, I crashed my car, sustained a traumatic brain injury, and spent three months in the hospital.

After my discharge from Spaulding Rehab Hospital in Boston, I moved in with my parents in Cape Neddick. Four days a week I received tremendous rehabilitation services at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. As my rehab became less time-consuming I slipped into a deep depression. Even though I had an unbelievable support network of family and friends, I felt as if I were an outcast and a burden. I decided I wanted to start volunteering.

I contacted the Seacoast’s United Way branch, but couldn’t seem to find the right opportunity. Then I remembered being told about the Krempels Center in Portsmouth. The center runs a community-based day program for adults living with acquired brain injury from trauma, tumor or stroke. It struck me as the perfect opportunity: to work with a group that I was also a member of. I called and spoke with a staff member who told me to come in on Monday, Wednesday or Friday to check out the program. My dad dropped me off, nervous about leaving me, struggling to walk with one side of my body greatly impaired. I was nervous, too, but happy to have something new to do.

My plan of volunteering took a dramatic turn as I sat in on the program’s morning community meeting in which announcements were made and the day’s schedule was explained. I was amazed to see the diverse group of brain-injured individuals. Everyone was smiling, conversing and seemed genuinely glad to be together. This was what I had been missing out on; I had survived, but I wasn’t living.

Instead of volunteering, I became a member and still continue to be after three years. I am inspired every time I leave the center. I remember leaving that day, feeling part of the world again; in retrospect, I had found my silver lining.

~Jim Scott

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