So life with a brain injury is no day at the beach; at least not for me.
In 2013 when I was injured in Key West and originally diagnosed with a concussion, I knew something wasn’t right. However, not belonging to the medical profession, and being 1000 miles from my family doctor who probably knew my medical history better than any one, it was what it was. I went back to the original hospital 36 hours later because symptoms were getting worse. They still stuck to their guns and said this is just the effects of post concussive syndrome.
By the time I got home, four days had passed and I was to the point that I could barely stand up. My words would get jumbled and out-of-place or slurred when I spoke and my dexterity and cognitive abilities where almost non-existent. I was having memory issues both of my long-term and short-term memories. In short, I couldn’t walk without bumping into or off walls. If I stood up and didn’t stand still until I was certain of up from down, I would fall when I started to walk. I couldn’t figure simple math problems in my head, and to try to use a keyboard at a computer made my head explode. Bright lights (day or night) hurt my eyes, and moving or spinning objects made me physically sick to my stomach.
Depression set in. Then in mid September I got lost during a walk in my own back yard. About an acre and a half of a single trail I MOW AND MAINTAIN, and hit my low. Suicide was going to be my way out. I picked up one of my guns from the nightstand, this one happened to be a 9mm loaded with a FMJ, and put it under my chin and started to pull the trigger.
Through the grace of God, in a matter of milliseconds, flash’s of my wife having to sleep in the room that I blew my brains all over our bed and our walls hit me. Then flash’s of my kids having to live in the home where their father killed himself started to bother me. Obviously I stopped and didn’t do it.
I am convinced to this day that this was God telling me that He loved me and there was hope for me if I trusted Him. I didn’t hear an audible voice or have some divine vision. I just knew that in the time from when I started that trigger pull, to the time before the gun went off, God changed my thinking.
So I have me “suicide moment”, then I break down in tears and tell my wife. She springs into action like a super hero (Hence my always referencing her as amazing), and starts calling doctors and people she knew in the medical community and got me into some amazing places for people suffering with my kind of symptoms. We started with a local psychiatrist who diagnosed me with clinical depression. From there we went to “one of the best” hospitals in Washington DC, that “specializes” in closed head injuries. I met with one of this countries top Neurologists, and the with one of this countries top Neuro-psychologists. It was there I was diagnosed with a Mild Traumatic Brain Injury or MTBI.
They prescribed treatments like vestibular physical therapy to help me re-learn to balance and walk. Speech therapy to help me re-relearn to speak with some normalcy, and counseling a couple of times a week so I wouldn’t consider re-decorating my bedroom in gray-matter-red again. Additionally they started a battery of tests that ranged from CT Scans, to MRI’s to x-rays and more that I couldn’t understand or even remember.
For 48 years of my life, I had relied primarily on myself. Sure as a child and adolescent my parents were the primary providers, but the lessons they taught were “that if you don’t do it know one is going to”. I don’t think these were conscientiously thought out, this was just the way it worked. Essentially, my self-worth came from within. Things I could accomplish, manipulate, provide, or make happen are what made me the US Marine, I can do anything, person I was. Cocky, arrogant, and full of myself. I was unstoppable.
Then in less than 1.5 seconds, God changed all that.
God convinced me in my “suicide moment” that my self-worth doesn’t come from me. My self-worth comes from HIM. God is the answer to all questions. I don’t have to worry about anything, because if I TRUST IN HIM, ALL IS POSSIBLE. As long as I can keep God at the center of my focus at all times, I can accomplish anything, despite my physical limitations. Does this mean I am superman, NO. But it does mean that my self-worth comes from Him, from being a child of the King.
Think about that in earthly terms, if you are the child of a king, what do you EVER have to worry about, anything? Nope, nothing at all. Your every whim and desire are met in a moments notice. Now just transfer that thought to our Godly King and the same principle applies.
Now to my Title Thought. Just because a person can look like they are fine, doesn’t mean they are. I don’t know if my head pain will ever go away. Doctors have not found a drug that makes my head feel like it is not in a vice. If you were to watch close enough, you would see, I have a difficult time walking a straight line. I tend to swerve towards my target. When I get excited or passionate about a topic, my words don’t work. I have to slow myself down, and focus to be able to express my thoughts. I still can not stand up and walk off. I need to focus on which is up and which is down when I stand up, other wise I will lose my balance and fall. Math in my head, forget it, gone. Typing, if I hit 15 wpm I consider that a good day. By the time I finish these little stories, my brain is exploding in my head. If I counted how many times I have to re-find the “home keys” after hitting the back button to fix my finger inaccuracy, you would be amazed. I have been working on this story for about 2 hours now, and about ready to wrap it up. If I don’t, my entire day will be a rest and sleep fest on the couch, because of the pain in my head. That is not fair to my family.
I guess what I would like to accomplish with this little glimpse into my life, is just because someone looks OK, doesn’t mean they are. Many people are way worse off than I am and I pray for them everyday. My hope for you readers out there is that you pray for people affected with Brain Injuries. Be patient when you deal with someone who “looks normal” but is moving slower than you want, or taking more time with a cashier than you think is reasonable. Instead of frustration and anger being your immediate response, say a prayer for that person. Say a prayer that whatever is causing their day to be less than you expect, they will find peace in God’s Grace.
The science is new, the treatments are few, and those suffering are many.
May God Bless you All!