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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Understand Me!

A few months ago I attended a Memoir Writing Workshop at the University of Iowa, to help me find direction and focus for my book (I posted about this earlier on too). The workshop was FABULOUS (bolded, italic and red for extra emphasis). It gave me more direction in my writing than I'd ever hoped (let me just rave some more about the U of Iowa and what great writers come out of there).
Anyway, our instructor had us do several short-writing activities. The one that helped me the most was the time he asked us to describe what we hope our readers will get from our memoirs, but using only ONE WORD! It didn't take me more than a few seconds to think of my word and as soon as I articulated that ONE WORD, my goal as a memoir writer became clear.


I feel like so much about Traumatic Brain Injury is not understood. For several years after my injury, even "I" did not understand my injury. Most TBI Survivors (including me) have the following "troubles:" (this is my own simplified list accompanied by my own plain and simple descriptions, but I'll add a final note from something Dr. White, who wrote a Foreword for my book, told me that helped me understand WHY we are like this).
  1. Balance and coordination problems (walking downstairs takes an excessive amount of concentration so we won't fall, plus I have double vision which confuses my brain whenever I look down).
  2. Short-term memory loss (by lunchtime I rarely remember what I've eaten for breakfast and I hate, hate, hate when people ask me, "How was last night?" because I never have any idea what I did last night. A better question is,"How was Jared's wedding reception last night?" -which is what I did tonight, so hopefully tomorrow someone will be specific if they ask me about what I did last night).
  3. Sleep disorder (I can't remember the last time I slept more than 7 hours straight, regardless of how tired I am. More often than not, I sleep 5 hours straight, wake up dead-tired, and then force myself to fall back asleep which takes 2 hours, and then I sleep for 2 hours. Which is why I try my hardest to get 10 hours of bedtime. This torture sleep cycle is beginning to change for me, however, since I've tried to go to bed at the same time every night which sets my body clock and I stopped eating sugar and salt late in the afternoon or evening, exception tonight since I had cake and sweets at the wedding, which would explain why it's 11:30 pm and I am still awake. Guaranteed, I will struggle tomorrow with focus and motivation and horrible exhaustion. But I'll go workout at the gym and take a nap afterwards.) Sorry for all the run-on sentences!
  4. Brain Overload (too many people, too much noise, or unfamiliar surroundings make me feel, literally, like a metal bar is shot through my head. My brain HUUURRRRTTTS and the only thing that makes it not hurt is absolute silence in a dark room - -I sleep with ear plugs and an eye mask).
So back to my U of Iowa story and the fact that my one-word is "understanding", I just hope that anyone that reads my memoir will finish it with a greater understanding of the ramifications of Traumatic Brain Injury and cut us some slack. And I hope other Survivors who read it will be able to cut themselves some slack and know that they aren't alone.

DR. WHITE, in the Foreword he wrote for my book, explains WHY. He says, "She struggles daily with fatigue, memory loss, and attention because the injury disrupted her brain’s circuitry, has undergone a re-routing and simply isn’t as efficient anymore."

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