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Sunday, November 2, 2008

My thoughts on FEAR

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.



Kate said...

I read it and I am glad to have been a part of your life here in UT.- interesting that the word verification for this comment was "blesses", you talked about your strengths becoming your weaknesses, I think that has to be something extreamly hard to deal with- but you have done amazingly well, you are someone who blesses all others around you.

veganwannabe said...

Hmmm. I have to say that the first six months I had a lot of fear: fear of being in a car on the highway, fear of crossing the street and other physical fears. Oddly it wasn't until I was off all the pain meds and could think clearly that I started to have other fears: fear of not being able to be a librarian again, fear of not being as smart or productive, and I had and still have a lingering fear of going down stairs. I also had a panic attic at the dentist's office, one year after my accident. I had never been very comfortable at the dentist...and just couldn't handle it.

Now, I'm pretty good. I have the occasional flash of worry that I won't be able to do my job as well as I would like. I fear loneliness since my accident was followed by the end to an 18 year relationship. But overall, I figure what ever comes up I will navigate.

It's interesting to hear your story because I also "ran away from home" (my words) and left the Twin Cities and moved to Portland where I didn't know a soul. Left behind accident girl and got a whole new chance to make friends who wouldn't see me as before and after. I got tired of that.

I really enjoy your posts. They've been helping me process a lot of my own thoughts. I went to a counselor for a few months last year; but, I still have a bunch of grief to deal with. Wishing you the best. Ann

Jennifer Mosher said...

Veganwannabe - btw, I had a total fear of walking downstairs (balance and I have double vision - do you?) but since I've began practicing Yoga, I have almost zero fear of walking down the stairs because my balance is soooo much better. It's incredible, the difference that Yoga and exercise has made for me. Most days I feel like a normal person (normal as in not-brain-injured)

veganwannabe said...

I do not have standing balance issues nor double vision. After the accident when I would stand at the top of a flight of stairs, I would have a little film run in my head of me falling. Sometimes when I'm going up stairs, if I don't hold the rail I feel as if I'm going to fall backwards. I had that technique where you are sitting up on a flat surface and you fall back into the PT's arms and she adjusts your head. I can't remember the name of it but it cleared up 98% of my balance issues.

My rehab doctor told me to do yoga or pilates to build back my strength, which I haven't done. I have to have some one on one yoga instruction because I can't kneel or put my right palm on the ground (no downward dog!!:))

I am reading Head Cases and there is a chapter in there about a woman who uses meditation to improve concentration. I was a meditator BA and should try that again.

I feel "normal" most of the time too. Have a great day.