“Protection Mode”

For all but maybe two years of my life until the age of 38, there was at least some sort of abuse to which I experienced.

I am not one to banter about the past without there being a solution to a problem/ / fault about myself that I have learned. In other words, this is not a “Woe is me,” hand-wringing post.

Again, I survived and experienced abuse of every sort over the first 38 years of my life except the 2 years I was single.

This bred something underneath my awareness.

My mother did not like me writing, so I would hide my papers that I wrote in various places in my closet: in pockets of my clothing, etc. This was because I wanted to not be so robbed of me totally losing a facet of my life that was both therapeutic and exercising my individuality.

My first husband was physically abusive, so I hid my keys and cell phone in similar ways. The whole purpose was to have a way to leave if things were that bad based on my assessment.

Then, I left my first husband. Abuse ended with him. My parents were mostly out of my life, so that was less likely as well, not to mention, Dan (my present husband) knows and knew and guarded against anything happening to me or my children.

After I left my first husband and later connected with Dan, I WOULD STILL hide my keys ad phone! I was STILL SCARED even though my environment was immensely altered. I slowly shifted when my trust grew, and I realized everything was okay.

THEN, I fell twenty feet and obtained a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). On a side note, I loathe mentioning this as I do not want to have it sound like AN EXCUSE. THE THING IS THE BRAIN CHANGES after such an event. FURTHERMORE, it often relapses with memories, emotions, etc. I will say I did not lose my memory of the present; however, my emotions relapsed.

What does this mean? Well let’s go back in time, BEFORE my fall, I did try to protect Dan, the love of my life of… disappointments, etc. I did not share all information with him that I had come to know or of what I was in control.

Was this maniacal, and was I attempting to be deceitful? No, believe it or not. You see, I love this man far beyond what I ever felt for my first husband (note to those who do not know me: I did not say I loved my first husband). Finding Dan has been the best part of my life, and I value finding him and his love for me so much that I ERRONEOUSLY was not straightforward with all of the woes life brings. It’s like… I wanted to protect him like one of my eight children.

BECAUSE this was so much a part of my life in the past before Dan MIXED WITH the cognitive / cerebral transitions, I took this “Protection Mode” regarding him BEYOND what should be. More and more I am believing that “Protection Mode” should not exist so much amongst life partners.

My point in this post is to communicate one of the errors in my ways along with provide insight into how others may also have learned to cope and survive.

Please, if you are with your Soul Mate and he / she is good to you, this way of living should not be a part of how you operate. IF YOU DO NEED THIS to survive, please consider how unhealthy your life is and seek a way to create a new pay.

Five for Fighting’s “Superman” Rewritten

I won’t run and hide
I will never flee
I’m just out to find
The best in “the new me”
I’m more than a girl; I’m more than a Jane
More than a random face with a damaged brain
It’s not easy to be me

Wish that I could cry fly
Be filled with much glee
Reach up to the sky
Be as free as I can be

It may sound absurd but don’t be naive
I still have the right to weep
I may be disturbed but won’t you concede
We all have the right to scream
It’s not easy to be me

Grounded is how I aim to be.
It’s all right. I will get some sleep tonight

I’m not crazy or anything
I won’t run and hide
I am not that weak
We weren’t meant to ride
With clouds between our knees

I’m only a gal fighting a feat
Fighting for my life on this one way street
I’m only a gal fighting a feat
Looking for special things inside of me
It’s not easy to be me.

Changing Oneself Alters Perception of Others

It has been a little over twenty-eight months since I obtained a TBI, traumatic brain injury. Within the first year of my return to my family, it was apparent to other close loved ones that I changed; but it was not so evident to me. Upon returning home, I was given a list of restrictions, etc. which was very difficult to appreciate. The goal of the medical staff was for me to continue to improve and not have another “unhappy surprise.” Outside of being directed to wear a brace, I physically felt largely the same. Furthermore, my wittiness was as strong or grew stronger, meaning that it was EVEN LESS evident that there were changes.

I am very honored to have my husband, Dan, to have ever been a part of my life, let alone to endure through all of our trials and tribulations. One of the most traumatic and dramatic hurdles has been my recovery physically, mentally, and emotionally. (Note: I AM NOT claiming I am recovered to the point of being exactly the person I was before I fell.)

Through this time since my return home, my husband has, on occasion, told me what I “need to do,” whether it’s based on emotional changes or financial struggles. He and I have always been a team, but somehow, I lost part of “the we” (not to be confused with the Wii). In essence, when I have been told what I need to do, it has felt like there is / was a focus upon how I have changed, etc. I LOST SIGHT OF THE WE. This means that I lost sight and perspective of he and I still being a team. It has, until this week, always seemed like just another way to articulate how I am different and what I NEED TO DO to improve things.

Part of this discombobulation is that this was not articulated as a mindset of teamwork until very recently. For there was no onset focus stated in a way that kept me feeling secure and calm as I am coached on what I need to do for THE TEAM.

My reason for focusing on this is, just like with anything else, there are two sides to every coin. Furthermore, as my husband states, “What you focus on, you create.” I felt isolated along with feeling that there was focus on how much I need to change versus new goals for us as a team. This is because this was how I placed my attention. The flip-side of this is that my husband did not remind me that we as a team STILL ARE A TEAM.

I feel that with many physical changes that  there is a tendency to feel isolated. The thing is that the one feeling this way is often the one causing it him/herself, taking away the union that he/she has with someone. We mustn’t lose sight that we still are the same person, even if we have changed. Furthermore, those people who are advising us down a different or altered road means that those persons ARE STILL ON THE JOURNEY WITH US!!!! It is even good to inquire about that team still remaining. This would help the caregiver understand part of the fight; furthermore, it offers emotional support along with confirmation logically that this IS NOT something lost. (Otherwise that person or people WOULD NOT be communicating with you, let alone offering advice as to what should be done to improve life (for all parties involved.)

When we can become more in touch with whom we have not lost and not thwart ourselves away from them, due to feeling rejected, this adds to the comfort we have along with help the supporters to not lose love or appreciation for us.

People Change, Bodies Change, Minds Change, Memories Change

It has been just shy of 27 months since I obtained a traumatic brain injury. Upon my return home, I learned that I loss my sense of smell and flavor (anosmia). At the beginning of this stage, I was filled with anger, grief, and frustration. I will not lie; some of that is still there. I took pride in cooking whole foods and using recipes as suggestions regarding the herbs offering flavor. I fought eating and not eating. I won’t lie.. I still do.

However, along my journey I realized what I still have: textures and sensations in foods. Well, to be honest, the joke has still been it all tastes like chicken. When I have eaten or even prepared to eat, I have dissected the tastes (not flavors) of foods along with textures that they may offer to the point of writing about this here.

There is a new discovery. My husband has said, “What you focus on, you create.” Well, I have focused on what I still have. The result is my memories have altered. I do not remember the flavors of foods. I know to many this may sound very sad; however, that is not my goal here. I am here to offer encouragement, for the world (this condition included) is full of pain and grief. To not remember the flavor of foods is a wonderful thing, because WHAT I DO REMEMBER is textures of food and that I have appreciated even from childhood! I don’t remember the flavors of foods and the pleasure they brought. To be honest, I never really loved eating due to some early childhood experiences. There’s a song called “Don’t Know What You Got Til It’s Gone.” Well, you don’t miss things when you don’t remember them, which is far healthier than memories of what potentially will never be again. We cannot live in the future nor the past, and the best way to live is moment by moment and appreciating what you do have instead of hoping for what was and / or may never be (again).

The most miraculous thing in this experience is I did not cognitively purposely lose my memories of foods’ flavors. The only thing I did is to live in the present and try to appreciate my new life without smell.

I used to drive into the driveway of our old house from where I fell from its balcony. I pined for how and who I was. I pined for the memories that we created in that house. I grieved that I could not go back in time. I now no longer visit that driveway and peer on all sides of the house. I am focused on living in the present. The outcome is far healthier and more beautiful than focusing on what was and will never be again.

The mind is a beautiful thing. My mind has adjusted and programmed my memories based on my willful mindset of how I am living and aim to continue living: in the present.. not in the past nor the future.

If I can do this, then you can too. I will say this was done with the intent on living in the now; however, I was not directly looking to forget flavor. It happened unbeknownst to me. I hope that you will join me and find more joy  and peace in your life as well.

Claiming One’s Place Vs Circumvention

As aforementioned, I obtained a brain injury August 24, 2014 and nearly lost my life. I fell twenty feet from our former Victorian home’s balcony and had a subdural hematoma (7 inch brain clot), which had both my brain lobes on the left side of my skull.

I began attending monthly brain injury support group meetings May 2015.  It took me from October 2014 to May 2015 to even realize I had new challenges outside of inability to smell and loss of flavor (which most people call “taste). Upon attending these meetings, I met a young lady named Anna Pope who also obtained a brain injury through a car wreck. Every time we introduced ourselves, she always says she’s a survivor. I remotely heard her from day one; however, like all the other attendees, I would talk about “my accident.” Anna is a breath of fresh air to me. I am very particular about verbage, and after a while, I HEARD her. I heard she was not circumventing what occurred but instead CLAIMING her victory. Talking of only the accident is all about loss, whereas stating you’ve survived is about victory.

Time passed, and I followed Anna’s footsteps and began claiming I am a traumatic brain injury survivor. This matters. What you state and how you state it do matter. The more you claim victory, the more victorious you feel and become.

Years ago, I attended a Jubilee Church. There is a speaker by the name of Kevin Leal who repeatedly speaks of CLAIMING your life.. I am thankful that he sowed this seed and that Anna watered it. Because I now know firsthand that this is not a crock of bull. It is the truth.

Now, as of today, I just read about a fellow anosmic, Sarah Ramsden, who is a nutritionist. She obtained a brain tumor and lost all smell and flavor. She states she is a brain tumor thriver. So this is my new stance. What you focus on, you create.

My goal in this post is to help encourage everyone to not be bashful or ashamed for the lemons life has given you. You can let them sour or you can make lemon meringue pie among other things, whether sweet or savory.

Gratitude is bestowed to these wonderful influences in my life, for they have made a difference not just in a moment but in my perspective of myself and the world around me.

Anosmia and Artificial Flavoring

As aforementioned, I acquired anosmia versus being a congenital case. Therefore, I understand if those of you who have had aosmia your whole life either understanding or not understanding some of my posts about this condition regarding food and eating.

I have never loved food. The reasons are a whole different story. However, there are things I enjoyed before I had anosmia. There are some things about my former life that I have realized are still part of who I am and my preferences.

You would think that artificial flavoring would not affect anosmics, because we only taste from our taste buds and miss the 95% of “taste,” which is flavor. Here’s the thing. There are foods that have taste condiments, which offer more sweet, sour, salty, and occasionally bitter. Chocolate is the closest food to tasting as it was. HOWEVER, chocolate flavoring versus genuine chocolate DO NOT taste the same. I would think this is more known to us, as there is probably a way to offer the aroma of chocolate giving the one eating fulfillment, as flavor is a huge facet in eating to most.

Due to this realization of imitation chocolate flavoring, I have come to understand that artificial flavoring does matter. The point of this is that reading labels or what is written in fine print is pertinent if you are seeking to enjoy what you are eating. Furthermore, understanding that flavoring is not the same as the genuine food offering tastes is not the same. Therefore, at bare minimum understanding this can keep you from feeling disappointment that the food does not taste as you remember.

I do understand that hardly anything tastes what it did before becoming anosmic; however, understanding limitations along with having a moment of some pleasure eating is better than always being down in the mouth (pun intended).

Redefinition, Reinvention, and Stumbling on the “Old Me” Who is Still There

In many ways, there are injuries and events that change who we are. I could write about TBIs and all the changes that occur physically, emotionally, behaviorally, and more. However, I am going to slant this outside of the medical world before formally venturing there.

Twenty-six years ago I was a waitress/server. After I became pregnant with my oldest, I quit work so I could be a stay-at-home mother. After that, her father and I eventually visited the restaurant franchise where I was a server. Even though I was not in uniform, my mind and emotions took on that role, as if I was on shift at that very moment. I heard the orders being called to the cooks, the salad bar’s containers that needed to be refilled and more. I could not relax. Here I was a server and could not be a leisurely patron at this restaurant. I even found that at many restaurants I would still mentally be working. It was void of being able to relax.

After a while, I thought to myself how ridiculous this was and how I should place myself in the role of being a patron/customer. It developed to the point that every once in a while I request the server for something I would prefer, which took some gumption, as I always saw it as making the server be put under more demands and stress. In other words, I had to reinvent how I saw myself along with my actions at a restaurant. I have always been independent and have never reveled in being served. That waitress is still in me.. the older version of me is still there. I stack the plates, etc. when my party and I are preparing to leave and pay the bill.  Actually, it is comforting for me to do this for the server. I have had that sort of job.

So, I have a new me, whether I want her or not. When you have had a brain injury, things change. For some, there can be loss of limbs or ability to move a portion of their bodies in the same way they could. I have that a little but not as much as emotional, psychological and behavioral changes. I used to keep my thoughts and feelings totally to myself. I still do that some; however, I don’t do it all the time. I have come to learn that some of these changes are healthy for me, whereas “stuffing” all thoughts and feelings may be more amiable to everyone else, it is more unhealthy for the person doing this. So, the first step is to see the good sides in the “new hand” that life has given.

My injury took place August 24, 2014. My battle for the “old me” unknowingly began around October 3, 2014, as that was the day I was released from the hospital. I did not know I was fighting until around May 16, 2015. All I saw for so long is everything I am not anymore. It is as if anything I appreciated about myself seemed to be gone. HOWEVER, this is not true. I was a daredevil from the time I was a little girl. I pushed the bar with the restrictions with my return home. Yes, I know that going beyond what is recommended/advised by the medical field is not the wisest choice. I wanted to be free, and felt like all of these rules were caging me. Upon a recent conversation with my husband, I revealed all the different ways I have crept beyond the line or attempted to do so from decades ago. These are all fun moments to remember BUT NOT ONLY THAT! Just speaking about them HAD ME REALIZE SHE’S STILL THERE!!! Sure, I’m more vocal and I see how that can be frustrating. Yes, my daredevil side is there; however, THAT’S PART OF THE OLD ME! What that means is I’m not an alien to myself. Sure, there are facets about me that have changed, but I have loved music and singing since I had a gym set. I have been a daredevil for most all my life at least a little. So, I have changed. The grief is a lot less coming to grips with the facets and characteristics/traits of me that HAVE NOT CHANGED.I am not saying all my “old ways” are the safest or even advisable to maintain; however, there is more inward peace and acceptance of myself between the combination of understanding the good things that have developed and the fun ones that are still there.

The other beauty in this is the ability to dream and not only be redefined by the event itself but also to reinvent oneself. Part of my reinvention is to write about such things to help others.. not for accolades, just to help others in ways I may or may never know. In the past, I only had hats relating to my family (friends are family too) and not others. Now, I have invented the idea of creating a firsthand voice and responding to those I know and do not know. I would not be writing about anosmia or all these changes if it were not for that TBI. However, there is NEW compassion and NEW comraderie along with a NEW zeal to write my positive experiences to help all those others out there fighting their own battles. As aforementioned, no accolades are sought. Giving with no expected results is quite wonderful.

Overcoming CoDependence Regarding My Parents

I have not lived with my parents in over twenty-seven years. I remember the day I was made to leave.  It was February 14, 1989, with a  verbal “Happy Valentine’s Day” wish from my mother.

I was never allowed to have my own thoughts or feelings when I was with my parents without being chastised. It was considered “disrespectful” EVERY time. This is not to mention all the forms of abuse that occurred in their house.

My family consisted of my brother who was seven years younger than I along with my sister who is two years younger than I. When she was born, she was a normal, cognitive baby girl. However, nine months into her life, she had a TBI before it was as well-known as it is today, causing her to be both autistic and mentally retarded. She does not even know me or recognize me. My mother was caring for her at the time of this… “accident.”

When I ventured on my own, I craved my toxic mother and passive father, who had his own means of administering abuse. I cannot tell you why I missed them. Maybe because I wanted approval. I WANTED and CRAVED to feel loved by them, and that dream did not come true.

I am a military brat, although my father did live a civilian life for about five years. Within my eighteen years, I lived in four states and eight residences that I remember from the ages three to eighteen (there were more relocations before this, but I do not remember the houses or even the names of the towns).

When I was fourteen, we moved from Georgia to Alabama. Sadly, it took me until the fourth  year to adjust to Georgia, and it crushed me to move. I even begged for my parents to let us live there until I graduated, as it was spring of my freshman year of high school when we moved. At this time, my emotions were already on a downward spiral. That summer, I lost my virginity, and my mom walked in on me at the end of this act. In essence, MY PARENTS KNEW. About half a year or year later, we moved into another house in the same town. Between the move and what seemed to be my father not giving me attention at all, let alone he’d wipe my kisses off his face, it caused me to feel very unloved.. that he didn’t love me. My response was an occasional cry-out to my mother asking her if he did. She would always say “yes.” I never really believed it.

Around the age of sixteen or seventeen, it’s been too long to remember exactly when, my father finally started giving me attention. At first, it was innocent. I would get to sit by him in his chair while watching television. Then, it slowly changed. He was giving me the wrong kind of attention, as fathers should not do. I was quite confused. I craved and craved and craved to be loved, and now… it’s wrong. It’s the wrong kind of love shown. But how was I to stop his caresses and kisses? How? How could I turn down attention from this man who was my father, when I pined to be his daughter emotionally for two to three years?

One night he tried to take things too far. He wanted more than to caress me. The blouse I was wearing wound up with a button popping off of it, and I never repaired it. I could not. I told my father to leave my room. I think he understood this was passed the bar of weakness. To my recollection, he never made another advance at me.

A short time later, my father had to attend an NCO school, as the military aim to keep their enlisted educated. At that time, I wrote my father that these sorts of things would never happen again. On top of that, I told my mother what occurred. Eventually, it was blamed on me.

When I was eighteen, three months and three days old, I was banned to live with my parents and brother. Again, I would crave them. I would crave time and conversations with them. I have eight children, and I craved this relationship to be something wonderful for over two decades.

Recently, I had a dream that my youngest child, my son, was violated. My husband and I then talked about my father and my mother. My mother has tried full force to prove to the state of Florida what a bad and unfit parent I am with every claim being “Unfounded” by the representatives who investigate. Within our many conversations, my husband and I have deduced that my father has “covered” for my mother regarding my sister becoming brain damaged. My mother has covered for my father with his indiscretions (if I was at fault, why would I ever tell my mother and not just “keep quiet”?) He then told me  how I have placed my parents on pedestals, perceiving them to be “better” than they are. He talked of how unhealthy this was and how foolish it is for me to keep hanging on to them.

I take walks every day Dan works. It is an outlet. It is a way of “finding myself,” especially since my TBI and also to help me stay even keel emotionally. On the next day’s walk after his insight was bestowed, I settled on letting my parents go. After all, if my father loved me, THAT would have never happened. Also, IF MY MOTHER LOVED ME, she would have defended me. She would not defend the perpetrator, my father. She would EVEN understand the boundaries I placed upon my children, her grandchildren, regarding them not being alone with my father. HOWEVER, that never was the way it was. LOVE is not only sweet little words. It is actions… As my mother taught me, “Actions speak louder than words.” Their actions were not full of love. Even though I still, for whatever reason, love them, I am no longer going to emotionally be connected to them.

This story is not written out of spite. There is much humility that I felt before deciding to write this. This is for those cases THAT DO HAPPEN to adolescents, as they have enough battles with love and acceptance, let alone THIS SORT. I have not come across any stories regarding adolescents and family members and the emotional struggles it causes that young person. Adolescents are considered to be “young adults.” I agree with this; HOWEVER, EMOTIONALLY, I do not. This is based on a firsthand experience that I wish I had never had. I think it would have been easier and less befuddling if my father had never displayed such unacceptable behavior and, instead, just shrugged me off and have me keep feeling there was no love. I am not saying it would be a cake walk to live that life either; however, what I endured without even understanding from an adult perspective what transpired on emotional level, not including my own mother saying it was my fault, I have battled guilt off and on. The truth is I never wanted that sort of attention from my father. I wanted innocent hugs and pecks on the cheek.

It is sickening to think of how he heard I didn’t feel he loved me and then that being what he considered his “open door.” It’s sick that he would always make jokes that I was attracted to Charles Schwab, who was born in 1937… 9 years before my father was born. He would do this in front of my mother every time a commercial for his corporation aired.

My point is for readers to understand that adolescents are not emotionally adults. Loving one’s child has the above not even consideration, whether it’s blaming the child or preying on that child… NO MATTER the child’s age. That is still the parents’ child!!!!

I’m letting go, and I hope if there are any victims of this out there that you can let go too!

Appreciation Vs. Loss

I was released from the rehabilitation center for my TBI on October 3, 2014 after my accident happened August 24, 2014. Since that return home, there have been many battles. The primary battles have been regarding loss and change. TBI survivors often acquire Alzheimer’s or dementia. A local chiropractic neurologist linked that to depression. Upon talking to my husband, he stated that when one is depressed it takes all that person’s attention and that person becomes forgetful of everything outside of the topic causing depression. Ironically, patients with Alzheimer’s are better with schedules. They become adapted to the schedules and even less accustomed TO CHANGE or the feeling of LOSS.

I have not appreciated my husband enough lately. I have not tried to show this; however, I have pined and longed for “how we were” and “how Dan was.” However, how can Dan be the same? He almost lost his wife. He had to play both the mother and father role suddenly without his wife for about six weeks. I cannot be the same even if I try, at least not totally. How can Dan be the same? Why should I pine for something that cannot happen?

Amidst all this pining, appreciation has been diminished. Many TBI couples divorce. That TBI survivor does not act exactly the same or maybe that survivor cannot physically do what he/she did, whether math, see, smell, taste, hear, read, move, etc. Surviving such a thing and having cognitive skills with no new reference markers to who and how we are, there is a slower understanding of changes to the survivor. There is a slower understanding of to whom and what our loved one/s have lived and adapted.

Today, I talked to a friend about my fall and how my husband had to plan meals, be the business secretary again (I proudly took that role early in our relationship), adjust to a more confined, smaller house in the middle of the chaos while not knowing i I would keep breathing or have cognitive skills. I then relayed how I miss “that look” he would give me and some of “the feelings” that seem to outwardly be gone. They’re not gone.. they are changed.. in a new light, but they are not gone. However, without “the look” it has felt that way. However, coffee on the porch, calls when he is returning home, and even a milkshake now and then on his arrival.. those scream the love is still there and is shown in ways and methods that were not there in the past; however, back then, he did not have a job away from home. My point is I am on a path to regain appreciation of the “changed” Dan due to the “changed” me. I’m more outward with my feelings, and he is more outward with his. It may feel worse; however, if he stuffed his emotions like I had my whole life, THAT WOULD BE WHAT IS WORSE.

It is saddening to know I accidentally took him for granted and have not appreciated him as much as I can (and should).  Maybe I don’t give him a certain look and will give it again without ever knowing it was there or gone. Regardless, appreciation is a much better focus than on things and relationships that cannot return to how and what they were.

Pride in Oneself

“Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

I have always considered pride and vanity to be the same. I think that this largely stems from the fact that I was not allowed to share my thoughts and feelings I had and it be treated with acceptance. Rather, I was taught that my own thoughts and feelings were disrespectful. With such an upbringing, it is very difficult to even consider letting myself have pride. Recently, I was talking with someone who said that we all should have pride in ourselives, because when we are getting ready to die, we do not need to spend the last moments of our lives full of regret and woes. I have been pondering this lately, and I do understand his stance more.

I love giving to others. I aim to do so, not for accolades but to make a difference. If I was doing this with effort, then there would be little or no satisfaction in it. However, being I do this from my heart, it is quite therapeutic. I take pride in this being a part of who I am. If I were to do this for others’ approval, etc, that would be full of vanity. However, I am happy never having a popular name. We are all people, and helping souls one by one is wonderful. Sure, if I had the ability, I would love to help the masses. However, each one of us is merely a grain of sand. But one grain of sand changes the ocean floor depth, etc.t o

I am on a journey to having  a healthy pride in myself. I hope my children grow by leaps and bounds ahead of where I am.