After a TBI: The Hardest Thing as a Survivor

By Tanya Smith, TBI Survivor

The hardest thing of me, a survivor of a Traumatic Brain Injury, to do since this ordeal began is not to judge myself on what I can’t do.  Today I don’t let those emotions, the anger, control my days like I used to.  There are times when it will catch me by surprise, and it’ll still get to me.  I am fortunate that I haven’t let my stress get to me to the point where I’m a drunk swallowing my guilt and anger in a bottle telling myself that this drink is deserved because of my hell; or an illegal drug user reasoning each inhale or injection.  For that a lot of thanks go to my parents and extended family because I wasn’t surrounded by that stuff.

Another thing I am grateful for is that I didn’t, or haven’t, let my disability control me to where I got caught up in a crowd of partiers, after or since my injury, just so that I could be in a group of people “socializing.”  Remember I was only 15, and I was at the beginning of experimenting with alcohol to just fit in with the kids and young adults who are convinced that this is the only way to mingle.  My brain wasn’t injured to that degree to where I slumped to that.  Being a drunk of getting stoned is something I’ll never do.  When we gave our speeches at highschools my Mom  would emphasize to the classroom full of students how alcohol destroys brain cells when it is abused.  This is why the body gets drunk and is slurring or puking all over the place; and how using illegal drugs does the same thing to our body.  When kids are young they think they’re steel and none of the bad stuff will ever happen to them.

As a survivor I have to recognize when these emotions try to consume me, the depression, and focus my attention on something else so I will get over the episode.  I try to get involved with stuff I like to do.  Mom taught me to play the acoustic guitar when I wasn’t even able to write yet.  Fortunately for me playing the guitar has been a great solace for me.  When I took classes at a community college I learned how much I like writing.  How others have complimented me on this skill and persuaded me to take on this challenge of putting a book like this together to help others.

Fellow survivors this will be something that can bother you the rest of your life, your TBI, or you can come to terms with your ordeal and be grateful you are still alive.  Don’t dwell on what you couldn’t do.  Be VERY grateful for everything you still can do.  Don’t concentrate on your mistakes.  Notice them, learn from them, and move on.  Every human being makes mistakes, we are no different.  I used to let my anger control me; now I control it.  Recognize the depression before it mounts, and subside it with pleasing tasks.  Don’t let yourself concentrate on what you can’t do.  I used to let this anger control my days, and let it mount to where I’d have an explosion.  It wasn’t fair to my loved ones to put them through this.  And I wore out the excuse that it wasn’t fair to me either.

Mom would sit me down and tell me, ‘Life isn’t fair for anyone.  How do you think your Uncle Ronnie felt?  He didn’t let his anger control him.  He lived his life to its fullest.  He left us with a great big smile on his face knowing he was an asset to our community.  Mom couldn’t repeat this bit of advice to me often enough…Be grateful for all you can do because this one serious injury doesn’t mean another one won’t happen.  We worked with survivors in California who had sustained more than one Traumatic Brain Injury.

Please don’t let your disability overwhelm you to the point that you’re a drunk, illegal drug user, or that you commit suicide.  We ALL have something to offer this world.  This is the reason we are still alive.

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