Several weeks ago, someone posted an anonymous comment on my blog asking, "Now how about your thoughts on FEAR?" (Although they posted as "anonymous," I can guess who this person is, considering that they referred to being at the Brain Injury Conference. I think it's the same person who asked me why I'm not blogging as often, but I could be wrong).
So here are my thoughts on FEAR (in relation to TBI, not in relation to seeing a scary movie or riding a fast roller-coaster).
For the first 8 years after my injury, fear consumed me. My active personality lends itself to the idea that we are all in control of our own destiny. I liked to accomplish, get things done, follow-up, be in charge, problem solve, mult-task and make things happen. This wasn't something I really worked at, these traits came naturally to me and I enjoyed this stuff.
After my injury, I still wanted to be this person, I still tried to act like this person, but I wasn't any good at being this person. Suddenly, I was no longer in control of my destiny. I was lethargic and constantly cognitively exhausted, plus I always forgot what I was supposed to do and how I was supposed to do it.
If someone asked me to do something, I was fearful that I'd fail, or worse, that I wouldn't be able to accomplish at the same level as before. That statement makes it sound like I'm referring to something difficult like the time I spent a week alone in Paris (after TBI), which I kind of am but my fear really refers to that time when I fell running to the bus one morning because I forgot to tie my shoes, or that time back in college when I went to a dance club with my friends and couldn't do anything but sit in the corner because the noise and too many people made me feel like a metal bar was shot through my head (you may be reading this thinking, "I hate dance clubs too" but any TBI survivor reading this will agree that it's not the same feeling).
Bottom-line, after my brain injury, my strengths became my weaknesses. Suddenly finishing a task became a great feat, problem-solving and multi-tasking took an excessive amount of brain power. I feared failure in everything because I wasn't good at any of the things that I used to be good at.
This kind of fear doesn't consume me any longer (which is why I used the past tense this entire time). I'm more frustrated by my injury than fearful of it.
I've reached a new level of acceptance in my recovery. Up until about five years ago (the time I moved from MN to UT), I wasted a lot of energy ignoring my deficits and trying to push past my injury. I tried to be that same woman who loved to multi-task, problem-solve and take charge. In retrospect, I cringe at the silly things I said and did after my injury/post hospital because I was so brain-tired, overloaded and out of my mind half the time. I tried to be the same person in MN because I was with the same people, doing the same things as before my injury. When I moved to UT, I embraced my new self. I started fresh and reinvented me because everything was new.
I feel like I'm sort of babbling but I guess what I really mean to say is that I'm now comfortable in my TBI skin because yes some of my previous strengths have become weaknesses but I just have to work a little harder (okay let's be honest, work A LOT harder) to make them strengths again.
I also see that I've developed new strengths after my injury. My new self is softer, more willing to help and far more understanding of another person's struggles. I no longer feel the complete need to control my destiny because I now see that sometimes things just happen and we can only do the best we can to accept the consequences if they are beyond our control.
(AGAIN, I'D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR REACTION IN A COMMENT TO THIS POST IF YOU READ IT).