My 19 year old brain

Jeff sustained a brain injury when he was 19, in his guest blog he talks about his challenging journey to regain confidence in himself.

Jeff
Jeff blogs and tweets to help others build their confidence after a brain injury.  You can read his blog 'TBI Survivor' and follow him on twitter @ttbisurvivor Please note: all opinions expressed in our blogs represent those of the author only. One of the drawbacks about having a brain injury when you are 19 years old is that you end up living most of your life with that “damn brain injury”.   One of the good things about having a brain injury when you’re 19 years old is that you have a lot of time to adjust to that “damn brain injury.”  The way you choose to look at occurrences in your life plays a large role in how successful you are in realizing your goals, and in the quality of your life. We, human beings, are equipped with the ability to exercise both judgment and free will; and the importance of the choices we make and the attitude we make them with cannot be overstated.  We can guide ourselves towards success based on these choices, or we can spiral down into the dark, negative world where failure is guaranteed. Luckily, I had some understanding of this, and thus, I was able to make decisions I feel were beneficial to me after I awoke from my coma.   I could’ve looked at my car accident and coma as a way to rob me of my anticipated great future.  On the other hand, I could accept this twist in my plans with more of an open and welcoming mind.  Both roads would be very difficult, but only one would lead to the kind of fulfillment I was looking for in my life.  I spent virtually the entire first month of my junior year of college unconscious, but when I did awake from my coma, I was clear on one thing; life was going to be different and I was going to have to adjust.  Exactly what was going to be different, and how different “it” was going to be, I didn’t know.  I did have this feeling that stuff had changed dramatically in me, that is, my actual core had changed, and I was going to have to spend a certain amount of time learning about myself again.  I was going to have to enter this “new period,” with two rules; number one, I was not going to be able to dwell on the way things had been, and, number two, I could see that I was going to be open-minded when it came to learning about myself.  This path I chose for myself would prove to be, at different times, difficult, impossible, infuriating, enlightening, and life-sustaining. So, the first decision I made after I woke up was to return to college for the second semester.  I didn’t know how, and I didn’t exactly know why, but one thing I did know was that I was not going back to college to achieve anywhere near the level I had been at previously.  Instead, I looked at college as a big laboratory, where I could experiment, learn, grow and develop into that person I was going to be for the rest of my life.  Nobody said to me, “You are ready to go to college.”   In fact, I knew I wasn’t ready for school, but I knew I needed to be in a place where I was being challenged to use all my faculties to the best of my ability. I also knew my focus was going to have to change.  The idea of achievement, in terms of grades, took a back seat.  In fact, I was supposed to get an academic award for the previous year, but I decided not to go to the ceremony to accept it, for the simple reason that I knew I was not that person anymore. I had to move forward with what I had, and I worked hard and took risks to learn what kind of “stuff” I was made of.  The hardest part wasn’t losing what I once had, or closing the door on what I used to be, it was learning and shaping what I was to become.  I was going through one big, complicated and painful transition in order to define myself and move forward with my life.  These types of transitions are always difficult, but this transition, coming at a time of incredible uncertainty and confusion, was the hardest. I was right about one thing, and that one thing was that college was a great laboratory.  School was like a cocoon, and as long as it wasn’t my courses that I failed, I could experiment and fail without major repercussions.  The real learning for me, then, occurred outside of classes, and it was through trying and failing that I learned, gradually building myself up to a place where I could feel confident in myself again. That “damn brain injury” never happens at an opportune time, but it always happens at the “perfect” time, which means that it’s up to you, through your choices, to make sure it is the right time.
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