TBI, writing and circling the wagons

Recently I joined a Facebook support group for TBI survivors. Over the last week, I’ve been reading the posts regularly and its eye-opening how many TBI survivors there are out there in the world. I got so excited when I was accepted to the group that I almost immediately started posting links to this blog. But I never really gave a thorough explanation of who I was and why I and, notably, this blog should be in a group focused on positivity and encouragement for TBI survivors. I mean let’s be honest, this blog can be pretty dark at times, especially when I write a post about Him. But we’ll get to that.

See, I’ve lived 14 years with an ABI. I should note that it is simply inexplicable to me why there is a distinction made between an Acquired Brain Injury and Traumatic Brain injury. I mean, aren’t all brain injuries acquired? In fact, they are and this is the web site that proves it.

It escapes me why there is a distinction made between and acquired brain injury and a traumatic brain injury. I guess because the word “traumatic” gets your attention, by God. Anyway, this post isn’t about the minutiae of all that. It’s about writing and my journey. This blog has always been about my journey living with a TBI for almost 14 years and being a recovering alcoholic for almost 7 years. It has served as an important safety valve for me because I have been putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard as it is these days) for a long time. Until, that is, I suffered my TBI in 2005. Then the wheels fell of the wagon.

When I had my first neuropsychiatric evaluation done a few months after the craniotomy to remove two abscesses from my brain, it was determined that I was markedly deficient in every category on the test, yielding an IQ that was drastically lower than before I got sick. I then embarked on an 8-year bender through the tunnel of alcoholism that lead me to my parents’ door where my then-girlfriend had deposited all my stuff and told my parents to deal with me because she was done. My parents presented me with two options. I could go to rehab or I was on my own. And, as I always say, the stinkin’ thinkin’ of my already-damaged alcoholic brain led me to actually ponder this decision for a moment. Here were these two people, who had taken a very big gamble two years before by cutting off contact with me because they couldn’t watch me continue to spiral down to my bottom, willing to foot the bill for me to dry out and get better, and then there was the option of … what? I didn’t know. So, defeated, my father and left shortly thereafter for a treatment facility where I spent the next 28 days. You can read a little about that experience here .

After I got out of rehab, I moved into a ¾ house where, a few months after I moved in, I enrolled in the veterinary technician class at a local community college. One afternoon, I was having serious doubts about whether I should have taken on such a heavy burden when suddenly, I had a vision. That vision took the form of a persona I’ve come to call, simply, Him. He represents the part of my psyche that takes my TBI, my alcoholism, my insecurities, fears, anxiety and dread and tosses them all in a blender and basically pours me a tall, cold glass of suck. He shows up when I go over to the Dark Side and the reality of my alcoholism becomes very, very real. Any recovering alcoholic will testify that it’s this torturous state of mind where we can’t drink but we can’t not drink because the suffering of this reality is just a little too overwhelming. And the people who have racked up any amount of time sober, whether it’s a week, a month, a year or multiples of years, will, to a man, tell you that this state of mind passes but while you’re in it, good freakin’ luck pal, cuz you’re on your own.

If you have read this blog and this post in particular this far, I salute you because this is where I start telling you things you might not already know. My ability to write somehow made it through the bacterial meningitis I suffered 14 years ago and, I have been told and kinda think so myself, made it better.

At the present time, my mom is working on her half of the book we are writing together about this whole, long sordid affair starting with the phone call she received one day about my then-fiance taking me to the hospital. We still don’t really know what the manuscript is going to look like when we are done but we do know we’re going to self-publish it. And I personally know that revisiting this painful time in all of our lives (because when you suffer a TBI and/or horrible alcoholism, it effects everyone close to you. It took me awhile to even acknowledge that, which kind of explains at least part of the alcoholism in the first place.) We also know that my memories of the past are so mixed up and discombobulated sometimes that we’re gonna have to have a disclaimer right at the start of the book that absolves me of any responsibility to anyone at all ever who may remember things differently because they are probably right and I’m probably wrong. That’s not the point. The point is what I write is my perception of how things went down; it’s testament to how sick I was.

But really, that’s only one of the points of writing the book. If I have learned anything from suffering a TBI, it’s that the reality that the rest of the world experiences is often very different from the way my mind perceives it. Hell, I spent at least 20 minutes in a broom closet at work yesterday weeping uncontrollably about something anybody else would have just shrugged off and gotten on with their lives. I honestly couldn’t tell you why I was so upset about something that later took 5 minutes of conversation with a friend to resolve in my mind. But it did. Sometimes, all the Zymbalta in the world ain’t enough to keep the demons at bay.

My contribution to the book is my world. It is reality according to me when really, He was doing the talking. And anybody who has suffered a TBI will know exactly what I am talking about.

Meanwhile, I trudge through the grunt work of my own project. By the end of the year and hopefully sooner, I will launch a knew website with an adjunct podcast and YouTube channel that will hopefully be of some value to others who have suffered a TBI and/or alcoholism. The TBI portion will include everything from TEDtalks to articles to books and podcasts I have catalogued so I can share them with other people who have suffered a TBI. The alcoholism portion I’ve still got some work to do fleshing out but will include personal journal entries as well as input from other alcoholics (with their permission of course) and what I have learned leading a sober life thus far. He will appear all across the website because He was my first proof that I could still write. And He also represents, in different manifestations and different forms, the Dark Side of every other recovering alcoholic and addict who faces the specter of battling addiction every day. The third component of the Blog-to-be-Named-Later will focus on meditation. For reasons I won’t go into here but you can read about here.

I have been a practicing Zen Buddhist for 6 years and meditating every day, often more than once per day, has opened my eyes in so many ways to the beauties of this world that only be experienced sober.

So, members of the TBI Facebook group I joined a couple weeks ago, I hope that explains my story better than just posting links to this blog. Sorry about that. I just got a little excited. Please poke around this blog as not everything is all TBIish serious. I’m a pretty good writer I think, that’s my one special thing as Dirk Diggler would say. There’s some pretty good stuff here. At least, I think so.


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