Living With Brain Injury – Part V: Where Are the Employees?

It would be interesting to learn how many people living with brain injuries are in management positions  in the companies providing services to people with brain injuries living in the community. Not many. I can think of one provider that has an individual with a brain injury in a management slot.

The last company I was affiliated with was the Belvedere Brain Injury Program in Albany, New York, and, sadly, in Syracuse too. In the end, not a pleasant experience. Once their substance abuse program got underway and a plethora of survivors began to complain they were being denied their right to choice, I began advocating for them. I was soon told to leave.  I have no reason to believe conditions have changed and  no one running the show  has a brain injury. But this affront aside, the larger picture begs the question, how many people with brain injuries are in management positions in companies like Belvedere? Given that the answer is hardly any, the next question is,Why not?

Is one of the reasons why not may be that many still cling to the belief that those who live with brain injuries can’t do the work? Not so. Bob Woodruff, as good and decent a man as God ever created, lives with a brain injury and is back at ABC News dazzling in his work as always. Is another reason that some companies know that someone with a brain injury might not take kindly to the way survivors are treated by the company?  It’s kind of like creating a group of companies to provide services for veterans and not having any veterans on staff.

Keep in mind, there is such a thing as warehousing in some community-based programs.

Wouldn’t you think that any company providing services to people living with brain injuries would work hard to  get  people with brain injuries on staff because, deep breath now, they might be well suited to tell you what it is like living with a brain injury and thus help you design a more effective program?

Perhaps I’m not the one to ask. After all, I have a brain injury.

Breaking Mountains

It is time to come alive again and break me some mountains.

It has been my history to take on what for me are formidable physical challenges in response to life’s meaner blows.

Many years ago for example I joined and went to the McBurney YMCA on 23rd Street between 7th and 8th avenues in New York City almost daily as a way of breaking free of a year’s seclusion. A seclusion I’d gone into after being shot up and held-up at gunpoint in a matter of months.

Years later I would run two marathons in two weeks as a response to my mother’s 1992 suicide. I am a slow poke and with six marathons under my belt I’ve never run one under five hours.

And then there was the 175-mile bicycle ride in 2003 and the 1,000-mile bicycle ride in 2004 to strike back at my own brain injury and give hope to any and all who’ve sustained brain injuries or been beaten-down in any way by life. I did those rides while working for the Belvedere Brain Injury Program based in Albany, New York. I am not linked to Belvedere anymore for reasons I won’t go into – for now – bit I can tell you I wouldn’t recommend the program to a cadaver, much less a living being.

The year 2008 was in many way one of the most brutal I’ve been through in a life that by any standard has had its fair share of brutal years. As I’m sure you, my dear reader know, when life knocks you down you find out quick and certain who your friends are and who are, well, full of shit.

For me 2008 and some of 2009 was cement-thick with depression. A kind of physical immobility took place, I had been frozen still by life, largely as a result of treatment inflicted on me by the above mentioned Belvedere, more specifically, its owner, John Mccooey. My days would consist of staying tucked under blankets, sitting at the computer trying to write, reading, watching movie after movie, and, other than a weekly workshop I would facilitate with some extraordinary people, and attendance at meetings linked to a 12-step program I belong to, that was a out it. The all of me had grown still.

Like a slave breaking free of chains and shackles, I have begun to break free in the past few months, so much so I plan on breaking mountains. Let me explain. Back when I was getting into the intense bicycle riding I named the task of reaching the top of a steep climb, breaking hills. I’d see a steep climb coming up and say, I’m breaking that hill.

And so it is with mountains. There is the 3500 Club in the Catskills, a club you become a member of when you climb all 35 of the 3,500 foot or more mountains in the Catskills. Four of them you have to climb twice, once in warm weather, once in winter. I began this quest a few years ago and plan on resuming it in three weeks.

Next, or maybe even along with, I will take a run at being a 46er, someone who has climbed the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondack Mountains.

I will call the task of reach summits, breaking mountains. Like I said, it is time to come alive again, and break me some mountains.