Living With Brain Injury – Part III: The Isolation Challenge

Isolating yourself from the world is an all too common occurrence among those who live with brain injuries, myself included.

For those who know me from a distance, this acknowledgement on my part may surprise them. I give speeches and facilitate workshops and seminars and so forth, but other than that, getting out of the house and into the world around me is no easy task, and, in the world of brain injury, I have a lot of company.

There are reasons I have three dogs and a vegetable garden. They all get me outside and once I am outside, away from home, and engaged in a task of some kind, I’m fine and enjoying myself. I love wonderful conversations and bookstores. I hope, for example, that heaven itself is a book store and there I will find an endless supply of books not published  on earth written by Dickens, Tolstoy and Steinbeck and others. I love the sound of laughter, especially the sound of a baby giggling; I’m not sure there is a sound anymore heartwarming than that.

But it is breaking the isolation barrier and getting out of the house in the first place that can be the “Mount Everest” challenge.

When I work with others – and on myself – the are some basic Life Growth tenets I teach. Life Growth is a life-management philosophy and protocol that gives back to the person their individuality and identifies the challenge – not the person – as the opponent. For example, I am not my brain injury. I have a relationship with it and I am the one who deserves to be guiding my life, not the injury. It is the same with isolation. It is not who I am, none of us who struggle with it have our character and worth defined or diminished by it. But, like in any relationship, we do have some say.

The very first step for those who face the isolation challenge is to accept that the challenge is real. It seems to me that any hope of gaining freedom from this or any challenge slips from our grasp if we don’t accept the reality of the challenge in the first place. I would not be celebrating seven years of sobriety this month if I did not accept that I deal with the disease of alcoholism. I would not be able to write these words to you if I did not accept my eyesight was getting bad and, as a result, got me some glasses that let me see the damned words in the first place. (Are you smiling? I hope so. There is no reason for sadness as we discuss this. Isn’t it kind of nice that we get to connect with each other like this, through words, isolation or no isolation?)

The emotional equation goes like this: You have to accept it in order to manage it and you have to manage it in order to get free of it.

What those of us who know us should not do is judge us. We get trapped in isolation for a reason,  not because we are lazy or weak and need to simply snap out of it.

As to why the challenge of isolation is so prevalent for those of us with brain injuries, I’m not sure there is any one set answer, though there may be. Part of the answer for many of us, I think, is this. When you are traumatized with a brain injury, no matter the cause, your it can’t happen to me syndrome is gone. The task then becomes taking part in life knowing these things can happen, so it is no wonder so many of us hunker down in the perceived safety of our homes and stay there.

But then here’s the question, the key question in my book, if we surrender to the isolation, then the very trauma and presence of our injuries now robs us of taking part in life.

Let me ask you, who do you think deserves to be in charge of your ability to take part in life, you or the injury? I vote for you – and – by the way – for me too.

 

The Kahrmann Advocacy Center

Some say its been a long time coming, but I’ve decided to form a not-for-profit company called The Kahrmann Advocacy Center.

There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is my ever-increasing awareness that grievance and complaint policies available to citizens are, in far too many cases, not worth the paper they are written on. There are some  instances where filing a grievance is tantamount to writing your concern on a piece of paper and then throwing it off a cliff. You’ll never hear from it or about it again.

Not acceptable.

All of us have a right to be who we are safely, with equality, in the world we live in. What I am talking about here is, in a word, freedom. The freedom to be who you are.

While the Kahrmann Advocacy Center may find its initial traction in the world of brain injury and the world of disability, its scope must, in the end, be universal. My dream is to see the center advocate for all those who find their rights infringed on. This includes, but is not limited to, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Gays, Lesbians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, people with disabilities, Veterans, and so forth.

In a recent speech I spoke about the importance of equal rights: “These rights – your rights – will die on the vine of hope if they are not given the water of respect and the sunlight of dignity.”

I’m hoping the Kahrmann Advocacy Center will bring a little water and sunlight to the world.

ANNOUNCING THE LIFE GROWTH BLOG



Some time early in the new year I will be rolling out the Life Growth Blog. It will be devoted to addressing human rights and hopefully provide a forum for you to write in and talk about what you feel are some of the injustices you and or others are dealing with.



In my lifetime I have seen the poison hands of injustice damage and in some cases destroy the lives of far too many good and decent people, including me. And while I am willing and ready to write about the injustices done to me (there has been a plethora of them over the past two years or so) this blog is for you too.


While I cannot save and rescue everyone, while I cannot right every wrong or straighten every distorted and dysfunctional bend in our culture, I can do my best to add my voice to the mix on behalf of others.


On this day in my country’s history, there are laws that seek to protect the rights of the disabled, people who are gay, lesbian, black, Latino, Asian, etc. But too often the laws lack bite, lack the necessary mechanisms to right the injustices they were meant to confront and address. I am firm believer that injustice brought into the light will ultimately perish.


I have worked in the field of brain injury for more than 13 years, and I have seen good programs go bad, struggling programs do good, and, in some instances, people in leadership positions who have everything on their minds but the rights of those they serve, the survivors and their families. What people with brain injuries face is an example of what too many people with disabilities face.


Hopefully, in this coming year, the Life Growth Blog will shed some light onto these things, and perhaps be a voice for all. Even those who provide services deserve to get well. If they don’t, then they deserve to get out.


The blog address will be: http://lifegrowth1.blogspot.com/



(Please note numeric 1 after the word lifegrowth)


Happy New Year to you all.


Peter S. Kahrmann

12-31-8

______________________________________________________