Learning to Have Interest in Yourself (Again)

When I first began this blog, my focus was about transitions and “recovery” from brain injuries, primarily traumatic, as I did not know about strokes, lesions, and aneurysms as being acquired brain injuries (ABIs). However, through my travels, I perceive that this post is NOT only about those who have had the same or similar diagnoses but those of us who have had traumatic changes, whether it be a move from a town with only one stoplight  to a metropolitan area, a job loss, etc. You see, WE ALL have traumatic experiences of some sort only they are different and have individual challenges. This causes us to isolate ourselves giving the reason “no one understands.” From my perspective that statement is both correct and incorrect. No one can be another person, so no one can totally understand. HOWEVER, WE ALL have troublesome times that may be a cake walk for someone else but for us, not so much.

 

My personal story is that I never really loved myself before the TBI. I thought loving oneself was narcissistic. I cannot tell you whether I was never taught or I never learned what may have been clearly articulated.

After the TBI, I hated this newer version of whom I involuntarily became. It sickened me that I had no control over it. It disgusted me when I learned I had become disinhibited with “no filters” for a time. So here you have a person who never loved herself who came to HATE herself.

Through time, I learned that I am still the same person; however, I am a different version of the same make and model. As aforementioned, I felt like a 2004 Dodge Ram that altered into a 2014 AMC Pacer. Dodge Rams are lovely trucks, and AMC Pacers, when they existed, were quite a shoddy car. I grasped at every single detail of how I still am “a Dodge Ram” but rather a newer version which has its quirks yet finer details as well. This took A LOT of work.

 

This leads me closer to the present. Back in 2014, I had brain surgery on the right side of my head, so my head was shaved as part of the surgical process. Following that, my husband shaved the other side so I would have even growth. He took away my “Shirley Temple curl” which draped on the left side of my face even though I asked him to leave it alone. Time passed, and eventually, my hair grew. Dan even commented how my hair had regrown some time later.  By that point, I did not care anymore. I stopped caring after about three to four months of looking at the length of my hair. Furthermore, I cared even less because I HATED who I had become.

About two months ago, I decided to not have short hair any longer… or at least not as short as I have had for years. I have been having a “bad hair month.” It has been BEYOND a bad hair DAY! My coiffure has been about as becoming as Albert Einstein mixed with Donald Trump. So, after a hint of my husband saying I needed to cut my hair, I shrugged the idea away and bought a curling iron. The Shirley Temple curls are back!

I had an experience that had me look in the mirror and appreciate my appearance. For someone who has almost always “been allergic to mirrors,” this says a great deal! So I had this wonderful moment with a flattering dress and my latest hairstyle while actually appreciating who and what I visually saw. After this moment, I told a friend, who in turn, responded that I am taking an interest in myself again. And so, I have been absorbing that, and from what I can tell that friend is correct!

I do not believe in narcissism. I do not believe in seeing myself better than everyone else. HOWEVER, it sure is pleasant to be taking an interest in myself again, to the point that I am going to fuss over my hair more than I did… not for compliments but to help continue and improve my own image and self-respect.

 

I want to thank my family and friends with whom I have communicated about the topics I have shared with them that are encompassed in this post. You have helped my travels progress without taking detours.  You have made a difference in this grain of sand on the beach.

 

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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.

Isolation, Self-Isolation Vs. Compensation Therapy

This portion was written March 27, 2016.

It has been 19 months and 2 days since my 20 foot fall onAugust 24, 2014. October 3,2014, I learned that I can no longer smell. My first reaction was shock. I learned when I whiffed my husband’schest to smell his cologne while we were watching a movie. I learned that it was not there. When we returned home, I picked up every bottle that had a scent: dishwashing detergent, bleach,shampoo,etc. Nothing..It was all gone. A short time later, I told my neurosurgeon about this find, and he replied that if it did not return six months from my accident that it was permanent. There was no warning of danger. There was no emphasis to keep eating and to find a way to enjoy it. Maybe he did not say anything because there is nothing he can do to fix a dead olfactory nerve.

As time passed, I learned I cannot “taste” flavor anymore. I learn that all I have is what my taste buds allow me to have and that flavors are stimulated from smell. This caused me to not want to eat. I would rather other people enjoy food than me “steal” it from them. After all, the enjoyment was and still is gone. Every time smell is mentioned, it has caused me to feel isolated. My response was to cut myself off even more, thinking that would reduce the pain. However, it only causes more pain to be isolated from the world and then to cut myself off from it even more.

My husband, Dan, loves fragrant flowers. He bought some for our new yard last spring. Every time the wind would blow and he could smell their fragrances, he would mention it. It is sad, I will not lie. Then, my granddaughter made remarks, so instead of letting it bring me down, I took her around our yard to smell every blooming bush we had. I did this for her, and I did it for me to help me to raise my head higher and at least for the moment not feel such loss.

This year we had mandevillas die over the winter. I decided to buy jasmine for my husband to give him what he loves: fragrant flowers. Was it difficult to open the store’s door? Yes. It was even more difficult to talk to the representative about my loss and my goal.. and how I cannot begin to sense what might be the most fragrant. I brought the dormant vine back, and we have planted it.

My whole reasoning behind buying this vine is to help me face what I will never gain. Furthermore, it is to give permission to my loved ones to enjoy what they have not lost. I do not have the end of this story yet; however, this seems much healthier than giving in to the natural isolation followed by me causing more isolation. I am the cause of this jasmine being in our yard, and I am the one giving pleasure to my husband. No, I cannot enjoy it as he can. Yet, giving to him beyond what I can personally experience does offer fulfillment. After all, I love him and my children so much that I do not want to keep them from pleasure.

I believe this is a concept that can be used by many, not just anosmics. We all have disabilities or deficiencies. We should not deprive others from what they still have. Furthermore, when we give to them in the ways we cannot appreciate firsthanded shows and gives loves beyond comfort; however, it helps us accept our faults ALONG WITH opens to door to forgiving ourselves of the shortcomings we have in our lives.


This part was written June 4. 2016.

I have given more thought into compensation therapy. I bought a jasmine plant for my husband for his pleasure and the hopes that I could slowly accept my olfactory nerve being dead for life. The thing is there are so many other people who have suffered loss or never functioned with all the senses and body parts as the average healthy human was born having. Writing about smell loss is not enough. Furthermore, this concept has not had enough articulation. Below is a list of losses and ways for each of them to be accepted and even vicarious appreciation that others have what we do not. I will be adding emotional issues onto this. As aforementioned, the array is vast and will take time for me to explore and articulate any conditions and challenges that come to mind to help us all to accept and forgive ourselves for things we cannot help. Furthermore, I will be posting ideas to help social issues, as they are correlated to many brain conditions, not to mention this may be how any one reading might already function without any biological / physiological reason known.