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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.