Written by Emily who also runs mybruisedbrain.com: “I created this blog to share the valuable lessons I learned, and continue to learn, while struggling with a brain injury. I write blog posts to inspire hope for other survivors. We are immensely capable individuals despite our disadvantages. Be encouraged; we have a unique purpose in this painful, beautiful life after brain damage!”
It’s how a lot of us get hurt.
September 2013. I was a Senior undergraduate student at Washington State, ready to apply for medical school. With an excellent GPA and an outstanding resume, the odds of me soon becoming a bona fide doctor were in my favor.
In an instant, however, those dreams were put on hold.
A vehicle on the road going the opposite direction of mine turned carelessly into my lane. The result was my small car colliding head-on with an F-150 pickup.
A car crash is so unpredictable. Maybe a skull hits the steering wheel or the window.
Mine hit the air bag first and then the back of my head collided with the frame of the car. The scar on my scalp lies on the back of my head, covered by my hair, and invisible to the rest of the world.
Damage wasn’t just done to my hairline, however. The delicate brain underneath my scalp suffered a whip-lash like trauma, and the MRI scan revealed injury to the right frontal lobe.
Unfortunately, this damage is not only long lasting, but also invisible to the rest of the world as well.
“Ah, the frontal lobe…”, I think to myself.
Of course, now that I know what the frontal lobe is responsible for, I sometimes wish the damage could have been done to a different part of my brain. This part of the brain is responsible for such a broad range of functions. The frontal lobe is accountable for language, decision making, and memory. It establishes our social behaviors and emotional responses. It effects motor control and impulse control. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to have suffered damage to a different area of the brain; hard to imagine what it would be like if my entire personality hadn’t been completely altered in a matter of seconds.
This is the type thinking that dominated my intellect for the entire first few years after sustaining head trauma.
What IF my brain had been left untouched?
What IF I hadn’t left my house so early that day?
What IF I never suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury? Where would I be today?
I recently found a wonderful saying- a quote that sums up the majority of my mental healing over the past 9 months or so.
Russian author, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, wrote in the late 1800’s, “Do not be afraid of your difficulties. Do not wish you could be in other circumstances than you are. For when you have made the best of an adversity, it becomes the stepping stone to a splendid opportunity.”
I like this phrase because it reminds me that I actually have changed for the better. My difficulties haven’t been for nothing. I can now admit, and tell others with courage, that the struggle of having a brain injury HAS been my stepping stone for greater possibilities. It has taught me life lessons that are invaluable- lessons that I wouldn’t trade for anything, not even for my old life.
I have learned how to separate myself from self pity. Feeling like a victim is a choice, but so is viewing yourself as a warrior, as an overcomer.
I have learned to let go of pride and to accept my weaknesses, to endorse them, and to sometimes warn others if I think I could harm my surroundings.
I have learned to apologize to others when I cross boundaries and hurt others feelings. I tend to hurt others feelings often, though not on purpose. Apology is easy and straightforward. Guilty feelings are left behind, and I get to move forward.
I have learned not to seek approval from others. The only person I need approval from is myself. I am learning to love my new self.
I have learned how to thank others for their help. I whole heartedly agree with this quote, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart
I have learned the importance of rest and self-preservation. Besides our caretakers, we are the only ones responsible for the health of our brain every day from here on out. And since life is fleeting, each and every choice can make a world of difference in our recovery.
I have learned that faith is the most key ingredient to success. If you do not whole heartedly believe in your ability to overcome an obstacle, then you never truly will. All of the individuals, past and present, who have made a radical difference in the world, have only done just that because of zealous passion, utter longing, and true faith.
And most importantly, I have learned that my story can help others. The tale of my brain injury is something that should be shared. There is a better option than to hide away from the world because of embarrassment or shame about your deficits or weaknesses. There is always some other person in the world who can find comfort in knowing they are not the only person facing that struggle. Strength can be found when individuals with similar weaknesses come together to support one another. Your testimony can change a life, and if you give it a chance, someone might look at you one day and say, “Because of you I didn’t give up.”
My brain injury has flipped my life upside down. Sometimes I still try to imagine what my life would be like today if I was brain injury free. But then I remember, I am further ahead now than I would have ever been without these obstacles. I am more thankful. I am more honest. Jessica Walsh of 12kindsofkindness.com writes, “Sometimes you have to lose yourself to find yourself.”
Today, I feel as if I have been awakened. My eyes have been opened to the beauty of what a brain injury has added to my life, instead of taken away from it.
Love, Emily Rose Amner
^ Emily revisiting where her accident took place ^
^ Emily now ^
There is a great post on her website where she writes about meeting her rescuers! ‘I was able to look four individuals in the eye, and personally tell each of them thank you for coming to my aid.’