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This 'fear' stuff is an interesting process. One minute you're as confident as anyone on the planet and the next you're quaking in your boots. As I write this column, I'm firmly entrenched in a pair of very unstable boots.
You'll remember that I had told you that Le was again looking for work and that our family (yes .. it's a family even if the children are four-legged) was probably facing another move. The good news is that Le has found work. The bad news is that it means moving again. That reality didn't really hit home until recently when a firm nibble on the house came in. As much as I hate to admit it, I was happy when we couldn't reach a settlement. I don't want to move again .. we've been in Mobile for two years now and I'm finally able to make it to the grocery store without getting too lost (of course, getting lost inside the store is a different story). I am just getting comfortable with my doctor and my dentist. Even more frightening than the physical aspects of moving are the emotional ones. Loss of skills gained takes quite a toll. Just the fear of losing ground has a price. I've paid my dues .. I don't want to have to keep battling this brain of mine. I want to settle into a routine and stay there until I'm old and gray. Routine allows me the luxury of hiding some of my deficits. I don't want to have to look at the ways in which my abilities are so altered.
There's alot about this move that is similar to my coming to grips with my injury. Those first six months or so were spent in a fog. An unpleasant fog to be sure but one that was tempered by the fact that I kept thinking that I'd wake up and everything would be fine. The permanence of the injury was much too abstract to me to consider. The professionals kept reinforcing that belief because my injury had been 'mild.' I knew that things would snap back to normal .. those absent friends would return and I wouldn't even be resentful .. my career would recover from its slight setback and move forward .. my husband and I could go back to being the two fiercely independent people we had been before the wreck .. I would return to looking at challenges and new happenings with anticipation and only a slight nervousness .. the rage and the grief would fade away and life wouldn't be nearly so raw anymore.
Six months was a turning point for me. I developed a problem with suicidal depression six months after my injury. There were a lot of reasons for it (all related to the accident and the subsequent injury) and I ended up being put into a psychiatric hospital for several months. My anger and frustration became much more focused during that stay .. not for the help I got but for the help I didn't get. The one benefit of my 'incarceration' was that it gave me the determination to fight the fear. The fog of oblivion was starting to lift. I was moving into a state of acknowledgment. I had problems and I needed to start making accommodations if I was ever going to start moving forward. After accommodation came acceptance. I suppose, if I want to be technically correct, I should say that acceptance is a moving target. I'm in and out of that state on a daily basis.
I'm sure you're asking what all this has to do with moving and fear. Well, I believe that the process of learning to live with a brain injury occurs in distinct stages and so does moving. For me, fear is an integral part of all those stages. Fear of failure, fear of defeat, fear of injury, fear of embarrassment and so forth. On those days when I've been successful in accomplishing what I want, its presence doesn't bother me. I'm more able to deal with the doubts, the weariness, the disappointment, the fear. But, on those days when I just don't seem to be able to accomplish even the simple tasks, it overwhelms me.
We've received another offer on the house and fear is again overtaking me. It is making me forget how far I've come in the last seven years. It's erasing the images of survival and successes.. surviving the hurts of the brain injury and surviving the last move. So, I must work very hard to remember.
When I first moved to Mobile, it wasn't unlike those first months of injury. While most of the objects in my world were similar, they were changed and seemingly out of my reach and ability. In my 'old' life, adding a column of numbers was a snap. In my 'new' life, I first had to struggle to remember how to use the calculator. In Houston, the house was familiar and I knew where I was when I woke up in the dark. In Mobile, it was the same furniture but the container was different so I was in a constant state of confusion. That's a silly example, I suppose, but it will just have to do. My accomplishments in the years since I was injured don't look so great on paper. In reality, they could even be considered embarrassing if they were being balanced against what I was capable of before the accident. After all, what's the big deal about getting to the grocery when I must rely on lists and notes and, sometimes, maps. However, I remember that seven years ago that wouldn't have been anymore an option for me than editing a magazine, giving a workshop, cooking a meal for my husband or talking to a friend on the phone. Now I attempt them all.
The phone has just rung and it's the real estate agent saying that a deal has been struck. Sometime in the next two months, I'll be moving and that means beginning my stages all over again. The foggy haze, the awareness, the acknowledgment, the acceptance, the attempts. Am I scared? You're damn right I am! Do I want to climb into my bed and pull the covers over my head? Yep! Will I quit? Probably not .. atleast not yet.
Sometime back a friend shared something he uses to encourage himself. It is taped to my desk so that I can begin my day with it. It's from an epic poem by 20th Century English poet, Christopher Logue. It doesn't make me any less afraid but it does give me hope.
"Come to the edge."
Maybe what is more important than all of the 'stuff' put together including the presence of fear is the fact that, inspite of it all, I continue to try. Maybe the point of life with or without a brain injury is that we continue to fly in the face of fear. Without guarantees or guidebooks, we continue to get up and try to be farther ahead in the evening than we were that morning. In the end, maybe it will be the effort itself upon which our life will be graded rather than the accomplishments. If so, here's to us all.. those of us who stand on the cliff and test ourselves inspite of our fears and those who encourage us inspite of their fears for us because they know what we are capable of!!
Survive with Pride!
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