From the minutes came out of the coma I immediately realized that I had to do something that previously I did not think was possible. I had to believe in myself and my process I envisioned to make a full recovery. I could have the best surgeons, therapists, and team of doctors behind me, however, I needed to believe in myself one hundred percent that I can accomplish without a doubt the opportunity I was given to make a phenomenal recovery. I may have people in places to push me in my week points however, I still need to trust my vision and do the hard work myself. Brad Henry said, “Trust yourself, and the rest will fall into place. Have faith in your own abilities, work hard, and there is nothing you cannot accomplish.” In the face of death I learned that there is nothing I cannot overcome. It starts with a choice to accept the journey and then see yourself at the end of the journey and then follow your footsteps to the very end of the trail. In the midst of this, you have to trust your abilities in the process.
Due to my brain injury I had to relearn how to take a dump, I am being 100% serious, I had a seizure the first few months when I did have a bowel movement, and I had to do it by laying on my side and going on a piece of cloth. At any rate, it at this point my feet started to turn in and go into a fetal position, as pictured, because my nervous system thought I was going to die. Furthermore, my head was still wrapped due to the bleeding from my skull and I had an I.V. that ran from my arm and it went into my heart. Anyways, one day I was in my hospital bed and the director of the Skilled Nursing Facility came in and said, “Today’s the day, you are being transferred to the acute rehab facility right now.” The medical team and I had a short graduation celebration and then I was escorted by ambulance to the aggressive rehab center where I learned about discouragement, never giving up, and being resilient against obstacles.
What I learned About Discouragement
Upon arriving at the acute rehab I was greeted by three neuroscientists and they asked me, “Let’s get straight down to this. I see you are on twenty-two medications and we are re-evaluating that matter and implementing a new recovery plan, does that sound good?” The staff at the acute rehab handed me a schedule and it said that I was going to get intensive therapy for three hours a day, I would be forced to get up and going to the day room for every meal, wake up every morning at 8 in the morning, and if I have free time I had to do laps around the building in my wheelchair. Additionally, we had no days off because on the weekends we were ordered to play board games, swim, or play with dogs on Saturday’s and Sunday’s However, the thing that made this especially hard for me no more hoyer lift for my transfers and learning how to use a toilet again. I knew this acute rehab was going to work me hard and was ready to give it everything I had in return. Below is my journal entry of how I overcame discouragement while at this facility:
I agreed to do everything because I knew it was for my own good and I knew I could do it but there came a time when I was putting so much effort that was still paralyzed from the neck down that I felt like giving up and quitting. I remember this day very well, it started with my sister visiting me in the hospital for lunch and I was sitting there unable to feed myself, my legs couldn’t move, and the feeling of hopelessness and defeat began to take over. Later on that evening my brother came to visit me and as I looked out from the hospital’s rooftop balcony all I could see was the world passing me by as the sun was setting and the day was coming to an end. I knew I was not going to give up, because I’m not a quitter and they never will be, but I do have to say that I began entertaining the idea of letting go. At this moment I went back to my hospital bed and began telling myself that in the grand scheme of things, many individuals individuals have similar goals such as becoming self-reliant, obtaining a state of affluence, and having a sense of belonging. Additionally, many people in life depend on their abilities, social status, interpersonal relationships, and assets to not only survive, but to make progress towards reaching their goals as well. So what happens when life takes a turn and life as you knew it becomes deceased? Knowing that crying over spilled milk does not change anything, the only productive thing you can do in adverse circumstances is move forward, continue making progress, and start repainting your pretty picture of life all over again. In other words, instead of being upset at the way things are, work hard for the way you want them to be. Everyday is an opportunity to be better than you were the day before. Additionally, adverse circumstances gives us the insight to strength we never knew we had, which gives us an opportunity to grow.
Never Giving Up
Bruce Lee said, “as you think, you shall become.” Our limitations are rooted in our thoughts. In our thoughts we picture our place in the world. The doctors wanted me to leave in a high powered wheelchair, I could not picture that for myself. When I came out of the coma I saw myself walking and all of the steps I took to achieve the vision. I utilize my thoughts to picture where I will advance to next.
This incident of being shot pulled me out of college, however, I remembered this quote from Leonardo da Vinci that said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.“ One of the obligations that we as a people have to ourselves is improve ourselves and continue to live evolve to the best of our abilities. Everyday we have plenty of opportunities to look inside ourselves and discover areas for self-improvement. With that said, there is never a reason for discouragement. Where there is life, there is hope, as you never lose hope yourself. Paulo Cohelho said, in The Alchemist, “When we love, we always strive to become better than we are. When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” You have to push yourself everyday to be better than the day before and, if you become discouraged, you are not pushing yourself hard enough. Continue pushing yourself beyond the thresholds of today because you know that the untapped potential within you is better than that.
Before my injury I used to practice yoga and the studio that I went to had this dangerously enormous painting on the wall with a Bikram Choudry quote written across it that read, “Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again.” I found inspiration in this quote once when I was laying in my deathbed, however, when I began therapy at the acute rehab, this inspirational quote found me. I was in rough place, paralyzed from the neck down, pulled out of college when I was at the top of the class, my mind-body connection was destroyed, I lost my ability to count, I did not know how to read or write anymore, my brain injury was causing me to lose my vision, however, this experience changed my life for the better. I say that being robbed at gunpoint and shot in the head changed my life for the better because it taught me that there is never such thing as a hopeless situation as long as you never lose hope in yourself. With that said, I embraced what Bikram Choudry said and learnded that it is never to late for a new beginning. Ultimately, in life, when one gap comes to an end, a new journey begins.
I began to question my abilities, however, I pushed beyond my threshold, and ultimately embraced the harsh transformative journey by always moving forward at all costs. What this taught me is that you will come across obstacles in life, both fair and unfair, and you will discover, time and time again, that what matters most is not what these obstacles or how you see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure. You will learn that this reaction determines how successful we will be in overcoming or possibly thriving because of them.
George Bernard Shaw once mentioned, “The people who get on in this world…Look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them. Where one sees a crisis, another can see opportunity. Where one is blinded by success, another sees reality with ruthless objectivity. Where one loses control of emotions, another can remain calm. Discouragement, despair, fear, powerlessness, these reactions or functions of our perspective. You must realize, Nothing makes us feel this way; we choose to either give in to such feelings or continue moving forward.
From my Journal at the Time
I heard a therapist say today, “we have to remember to be kind to ourselves.” When it comes to recovery I I know we want the healing to come faster than it is. However, we are on a journey and we must be kind to ourselves along the way. Maybe tomorrow will be the day you are healed but, it does not matter, you have to be kind to yourself today as well. We are on a once in a lifetime journey of meeting great people, learning new skills, and experiencing things very few people know about. This journey should be embraced. Nikki Giovanni said, “Life is not a problem, it is a process. Only continued vigilance will allow us to hold on to our freedom.” Everybody, whether in therapy or not, needs to work hard and fight for what we want. This TBI is a journey for the patient, caregivers, and families and it is very important that we spend time to do things we enjoy, disconnect, from social pressure, and be kind to ourselves.
- Always prepare ourselves for more difficult times.
- Always except what we are unable to change.
- Always manage our expectations.
- Always persevere.
- Always learn to love our faith and what happens to us.
- Always protect ourselves and our greatest interest.
- Always submit to a larger and greater cause.
- Always remind ourselves of our own mortality.
- And of course, prepared to start the cycle once more.