Twenty-eight years ago today I was held-up on my way to pick up my cab and shot in the head at point blank range. The bullet remains lodged in the frontal lobe of my brain. This is not a depressing day for me, not at all. In fact, as others who have survived similar moments have said, today is a second birthday of sorts.
What is worth noting is that it would be 10 years after the shooting before I would hear the words, brain damage. My experience is not unique. I know people with brain injuries all over this country and many went years before hearing the words brain injury, traumatic brain injury, TBI. Many of us were left to deal with the effects of brain damage not knowing that brain damage was the force behind the problems we were grappling with. We were, in a sense, managing life blind folded, hands tied behind our back. We did our best, but it is hard to be successful when you don’t know or don’t understand what it is you’re up against.
All this is why it is so important for any state with a brain injury program to make sure those who design an implement the program have a solid working knowledge of the brain.
But this is not my reason for writing this today. My reason for writing this today is to share some thoughts with you. There is little doubt in my mind that you too have faced or are facing challenges that feel as if they have total control over every aspect of your life. I am here to tell you they don’t. They really, really don’t. The truth-telling, right-sizing equation goes like this; because something feels like it has total control doesn’t mean it has total control. It simply means it feels that way.
Believe me, there were times the damage to my brain felt all powerful. There were times too that the idea of returning to life after the combined experience of some kid put a gun to my head and firing and then another guy puts a gun to my head less than nine months later had so much power I did not step foot out of my house for nearly a year. Were it not for some close friends who were my neighbors at 286 East 2nd Street in NYC, I don’t know how I would have stayed clothed and fed. In time, and with treatment, and the support and love of close friends, I began to reclaim my life and leave the house.
And then there is this, you have a relationship with life and all the elements that come with life. I have a relationship with my brain injury. I have a relationship with the the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that is, today, my number one opponent. There are still days I can’t get myself to leave the house. The point is, these relationships are no different than relationships between two people. They can be healthy or unhealthy. The challenge is this. Don’t let the elements of life that look to impeded your freedom to be you of have decision making power. Relieve them of decision making power every chance you get. There may be times you can’t. Okay. Relax. Don’t worry. Get some sleep, wake up the next day, do your best.
The last thing these life-impeding elements deserve is to be behind the wheel of your life. That is your rightful place.
Thanks for listening. Take care of yourself. Remember to live.