moving forward

navigating through the life that was and moving into the life that is

Living with a disability…and letting the healing begin

on August 23, 2012

At some point, having a brain injury just became a characteristic I used to describe myself.  I’m 5’7″, have long brown hair, hazel eyes, right handed, and have a traumatic brain injury (TBI). I’m not sure when I decided it was something I could just put into that category, but I now know that it is not just a descriptive factor of who I am. It is a disability. With this new knowledge, I began to educate myself, because somewhere along the way I either did not hear or did not get taught about what having a TBI means for the future.  So as I reeducate myself, I would like to share that I am learning so it can help those who interact with and love me better understand me.

When you experience a head injury and are brought into the hospital, they do something called the Glasgow coma scale looking for eye response, verbal response, and motor response.  The highest you can score is a 15, meaning a mild brain injury.  The lowest you can score is 3, meaning a severe brain injury.  I recently found out my score was 4.5, putting me into the severe brain injury category.  Now, I am aware that the people who saw me in the hospital those first few days, saw the severity of my condition.  However, having no memory of those days and having asked very few questions about those days, I never realized that my injury was so severe.  75 % of all brain injuries are in the mild category and only 10-15%  are in the severe category that mine was in.  Here is some specific information and I have put in bold what is the most important thing for me at this moment.

Every brain injury is different, but generally, brain injury is classified as:

  • Severe: GCS 3-8 (You cannot score lower than a 3.)
  • Moderate: GCS 9-12
  • Mild: GCS 13-15

Mild brain injuries can result in temporary or permanent neurological symptoms and a neuro-imaging tests such as CT scan or MRI may or may not show evidence of any damage.

**Moderate and severe brain injuries often result in long-term impairments in cognition (thinking skills), physical skills, and/or emotional/behavioral functioning.**

For more information go here: http://www.brainline.org/content/2010/10/what-is-the-glasgow-coma-scale.html

All of this learning comes up because I tried to return to work again and although there were some great moments where I felt like a great teacher, the 8 hour work day was mentally exhausting.  I never knew that you could be so mentally exhausted.  As a result I have been beating myself up over not being ready for work.  The inability to accomplish these high expectations for myself has led to some pretty serious depression and anxiety around feeling like a failure.  Then all of the sudden, I began asking questions!  Why am I unable to do this? What really happened to my brain? How does the TBI factor into what is challenging me?

My initial discovery -> I realized that in NO WAY should I have been trying to return to work yet. Since my release from the hospital, I have just been pushing forward, being as intentional as possible in my healing.  And there is nothing wrong with that, I have come so far.  However, I have been assuming that all it would take is my devotion to the wanted goals in order to achieve them. In reality, my brain was severely injured. Every good intention and want and need in my body is not going to make some goals achievable yet.  My brain needs time and I need education on living with a severe traumatic brain injury.  My brain injury was in the left frontal lobe and I am realizing that all of the executive functions that stem from there are not just going to return one day.  They are not going to return simply because I want them to. Cognitive skills are a struggle for me right now and I need to learn about how to work on them. In order to be able to fully commit to this, I am taking a leave of absence from work. And this time instead of feeling like I have failed, I am feeling empowered, like I am finally doing the things that I need to do for this new life that I have.  Letting go of the past life for now until I figure out how this new me operates and works. 🙂

So you thought you had to keep this up
All the work that you do
So we think that you’re good
And you can’t believe it’s not enough
All the walls you built up
Are just glass on the outside

So let ’em fall down
There’s freedom waiting in the sound
When you let your walls fall to the ground
We’re here now

This is where the healing begins, oh
This is where the healing starts
When you come to where you’re broken within
The light meets the dark
The light meets the dark


8 responses to “Living with a disability…and letting the healing begin

  1. Jenna says:

    Sandra, you continue to amaze me. You’ve exemplified such grace through your journey. Whenever you feel like a failure reread your posts and see how far you’ve come!

    “There are no failures – just experiences and your reactions to them.”– Tom Krause

  2. Jeremy Draper says:

    You Are A Champion!!

  3. Phil Stevens says:

    You are a brave and incredibly smart woman for taking sound advice, adhering to the support of good people and setting out to understand your physical limitations. I am proud of you sister and am truly honored to be your friend.

  4. Aunt Margot says:

    Once more, I say “I believe in you.” What I am learning is that this new you is unfolding all the time. Thank you for allowing me to be part of your experience. Love, Aunt Margot

  5. Jan says:

    May the love and grace of Jesus continue to flow into your heart as trust in Him as He reveals your identify in Him.

    18. When I said, “My foot is slipping, ”
    your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
    19. When anxiety was great within me,
    your consolation brought me joy. (Ps. 94)

    This was the verse of the day and believed so apropos with your thoughts. Never give up or give in….you are worth fighting for, but it is okay to step back and take a rest in Him. The Lord is teaching me that He does not expect perfection only the pursuit! Thank you for sharing your journey with us.

  6. Peggy Elenbaas says:

    You made the right decision. I’ll pray you keep having good days and God holds you tenderly in his arms.
    Peggy Elenbaas ( Dee’s sister in Seattle)

  7. Ashani O'Mard says:

    May God continue to lift you up and keep you!!!

  8. […] After a few pre-planning days, it was meet your teacher day. My classroom was prepared, I was prepared, and it was a wonderful day.  That Monday, August 6th, school began.  Every day started perfectly, but by the end of the day, the cognitive fatigue I felt was tremendous.  As teachers know, the day does not end when the students go home. We stay late, we take work home, think about work when we are not there, just like any other job.  As I began to feel fatigue both mentally and physically, I began to really take a look at the time I had allowed myself to heal.  All teachers are exhausted those first few weeks of school.  This year was my 6th year of opening up this very same classroom and I knew it would be hard and I thought I would make it through.  Sometimes, however, life does not go the way you expect or think it will go and I was starting to understand that.  I am blessed to have worked with amazing people who saw me struggling way beyond anything they had ever seen before.  What came next is perhaps the most difficult part of my journey…I decided with the help of my principal, parents, and counselor that I needed to leave work. I can not explain what this did to me but it was not good.  I had to fall a little further before I could move forward and that following Monday I entered a partial hospitalization program for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I remember when I heard that partial hospitalization was the suggestion. What?!? Partial hopitalization? What does that mean? What it meant was a day program at a mental health hospital.  The decision was ultimately mine and after much reflection, I decided to attend.  I won’t go into all the details of the program, but ultimately what I began to see is that while I was certainly depressed, more of my struggles had to do with what had happened to my brain.  So I started asking for answers to all the questions that I had either heard early on and forgotten or had not wanted to hear. After 4 days in the program, I wrote this… Living with a disability…and letting the healing begin […]

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