Living Well with a Disability

Since my TBI diagnosis I have been going to a few support groups in my area. I have a strong desire to meet people like me. People that understand and know what I am going through. Somebody I can relate to. No judgement, just understanding. But I have not been a regular attendee. I am very sporadic at showing up.  Because……… that would mean I have to admit that I have a disability. Most of the time I am in denial of my different abilities, and going to these activities would mean I have to admit that I am disabled by my moderate/severe TBI and chronic pain and fatigue. You can’t see my disability, so that makes it very easy to hide. I have become a master of disguise.  So when one of my friends from my support group sent me a Facebook message wondering why I wasn’t at the “Living Well with a Disability” class, I rolled my eyes and thought to myself, “….because, I don’t belong there”. My friend went on to say that the class was really good and that I shouldn’t miss it. Damn. So, I talked to my husband about it and now that I am writing this I think I may have been the victim of a plot to actually get me to the class.  So, my husband says ” if nothing else, you should go because Serenity wants you to go. She likes you and wants you as a friend” Oh damn again! Fine, I will go, but only for Serenity.  I am very stubborn. God bless my husband for knowing how to handle that wonderful quality in me. So I went. And I will never be the same.

All the therapies, all the exercise, the diet changes, the medications, the Dr. appointments, nothing has helped me embrace who I am now more than the seven incredible people you see in the picture above.  They look like everyday average people, but they aren’t. They are the strongest group of people I have ever met in my life. They would kick your ass in a competition of inner strength. Soon, I wasn’t going for Serenity, I went for me.  I never missed a session. This is why.

Every session began with treats and small talk. Not your normal small talk.  Not ‘oh the traffic was horrible today’ or ‘I’m having such a bad hair day’ or ‘my car wouldn’t start today’.  I can almost guarantee that when you think you are having a bad day, theirs was worse. One was telling of her ordeal and red tape of trying desperately to get a seizure dog and getting denied and starting the process over again. Another was telling how hard it was to even get here, in her wheelchair, she was exhausted before class even started “But I’m here” she would say with a big smile on her face. Yet another rambled on about random things and would not stop until guided to, his injuries to the frontal lobe of his brain do not tell him he should stop talking, he spoke of the trials of getting and keeping a job.  Another cannot live with his wife due to their disabilities and talked often about living apart. My friend Serenity talked about the fact that her husband left her because of changes in her personality from her Traumatic Brain Injury and the struggles of keeping a job with a TBI. And another had to keep leaving to go outside and smoke because he couldn’t sit still and had to take breaks. You see, all of us have brain damage of some kind. So our small talk was very different from what you usually hear.  I listened to each one of them talk about getting through their days with a disability. I was amazed and took it all in.  Finally I had found people like me. Here I was feeling sorry for myself and hiding my disability every chance I got. They embraced theirs and faced it head on everyday.  Real, hard challenges. No complaints.  And they talked about it openly and with a positive attitude, just like it was an average day for them. I needed to find out how they do that, and I did.

When we eventually got settled,  our leader would go through a chapter in our book and we would discuss it together.  We went through chapters together like Goal Setting, Beating the Blues, Healthy Communication, Physical Activity, Eating Well, and Advocacy. I was fairly quiet for the first few sessions, just taking it all in, amazed by the incredibly strong people I was surrounded by every Tuesday, once a month for just a few hours.  The course was really good. Serenity was right. But what each one of us brought to the class was even better.  I soon realized how much they had to offer with their experience and wisdom. We all have a disability but what we were all able to bring to class was the good stuff. Sure the book was great, but it led to some incredible discussions on how to really deal with life when you have a disability and all the challenges that come with it, with people who go thru it everyday. When I felt comfortable I began to talk more about some of the issues I dealt with and in doing so I began to embrace the woman I am now and not hide my disability. And in return for opening up, I got a wealth of information, encouragement, love and support from each person. I have a huge amount of admiration and respect for my class mates. They are some of the strongest people I know and I was lucky enough to get to experience their strength. They always had a positive, never give up, tried and true answer for things I used to think were roadblocks. Instead of giving up, they took a deep breathe, gathered all their strength and courage and went around the problems and found another way to accomplish things. And they shared it with me. Thanks to Serenity and my husband for getting me up off my stubborn, feeling sorry for myself butt, and into class, where I most definitely belonged. Funny thing, I don’t feel sorry for myself anymore.


~ by gonefishindd5 on July 29, 2011.

2 Responses to “Living Well with a Disability”

  1. Once again you remind me of why I admire you so much!!! I’m so in awe of how eloquently you share your journey through your post-TBI life. I’m proud to be counted as one of your friends!


    • Elaine, I’m so glad you think my “sailor talk” is eloquent! I just tell it how it is, and I love that you are enjoying reading it. I love it more that you are my friend. I always look for your beautiful red hair and smile!



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