Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

December 16, 2008

Forever Seeking “Normal”

In my travels around the country speaking to the brain injury community, and during the time I’ve spent counseling survivors on line, I’m so often confronted with people who are so heart broken and frustrated and angry because they are no longer “normal” and will, likely, never be.

I tell them how normal they really are.  Normal that they would be frustrated and heart broken by an injury that takes so much.  Angry.  Scared.  Brain injury is no gig for sissies.

But I remind them that they are normal in a bigger way.  That NOBODY gets through life unscathed.  Nobody.  Everyone has or will have that condition, disease, accident, injury or event in their lives that knocks them sideways and turns their life upside down.  It’s one of the prices we pay for the gift of living.

I tell them, “Don’t be normal.  Be better than normal!!!”  We haven’t been put into a box because of this; we’ve just broken out of it.  Armed with a unique perspective on how quickly life can change and how blessed we are to still be alive, the survivors of this injury and like conditions/situations get to learn what many don’t learn until far later in life.

This is a gift.  An opportunity.  A door blowing wide open.  It’s a chance to decide that life really is too short and that there is no time for bad relationships, grudges held and mean spiritedness.  Truly.   What’s the point?  How many years is enough to stay in a bad marriage, to hate a loved one for a misdeed you can’t even recall, or to keep taking back that rotten bastard promising never to hit you again?

People are seeking the greener grass that doesn’t exist.  Nobody is normal and everyone is.  Nobody struggles like me and everyone does.  It’s life.  And sometimes life comes knocking sooner and sometimes later but it does come knocking.  And it might wear a hundred different coats but eventually it breaks everyone’s heart.

Beginning to successfully recover from brain injury, regardless of how many symtoms persist, occurs in that moment when you lay down the anger because it no longer serves you.  When you stop counting things lost and start noting things gained and left and still available.  When you start laughing at yourself again.

I often think of brain injury recovery as waiting for a bus.  You sit at the bus stop waiting and waiting and waiting for the bus to come.  To be healed.  To be returned to the life you chose.  And then…one glorious day, you simply get up and start walking.



  1. It’s true — we get to be better than normal. I can’t tell you how many people I come across, every day, who “should” be fully functional, but for some reason are really struggling with life.

    As a multiple TBI survivor, I consider myself extremely lucky to understand the source of my difficulties, and to have access to information that lets me adapt and change and address my shortcomings in a constructive way… and reach out to others who are in the same boat, but are less fortunate than I, with my wealth of life experiences.

    Recovery comes in so many shapes and forms. And it has lots of blessings, along with the curses. Awareness and the willingness to do something on my own behalf, for me, is one of the biggest blessings.


    Comment by brokenbrilliant — December 21, 2008 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

  2. I stumbled on your website from searching out sites to get page layout ideas and WOW! I have read your book about carrying the fork and I have to tell you it helped me so much in my own journey with TBI. You encouraged me so much to keep moving forward and accept the “new normal” leaving the old me behind, accepting the me that will be emerging from the cocoon as a beautiful butterfly giving life to all places that I seem to flutter by and land on. I’m currently working on gathering my prayer journals and notes together to as a devotional book for others with TBI to enjoy all my life experiences (good, bad and drop dead funny!)
    Thank you

    Comment by Vickie Rankin — December 29, 2008 @ 2:39 am | Reply

  3. Kara,
    You are truly and inspiration – to those with TBI, and those who aren’t experiencing it. I read your words and I reflect on my own life and my blessings. I will be passing this blog onto my friend with TBI but also to another friend who recently went through Electro Shock Therapy and had to re-learn how to walk and talk and even use the bathroom. So many of our struggles are comparable and more “normal” than “normal.” Thank you once again, Kara, for sharing your wisdom. Much love and admiration. C.

    Comment by Cathy Gothro — January 7, 2009 @ 1:23 pm | Reply

  4. What an inspiring blog! I have just printed and bookmarked your site. Although, I do not have a brain injury..your beautifully written blog has ministered to my spirit in countless ways. May God continue to bless you. Thanks for posting.

    Comment by Sherry Saarinen — January 7, 2009 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  5. My Mom (now 62 years old) was in a horrible car accident when she was 20 years old. She was literally thrown out of the car and onto the pavement, her head hitting first. She had a brain concussion and 2 fractures, over 100 stitches, a broken left collar bone, and was in a coma for a week. At the hospital, the priest even gave her the “last sacraments,” because she was not expected to live.

    Since then, she has married, had 5 children, and now 6 grandchildren…
    My Mom is a beautiful person, inside and out. She has an upbeat friendly personality, incredible patience, a great sense of humor, and knows no strangers. She has always put her needs/wants to the side for her family.
    My Mom has been my true inspiration in my life, and I have always thought of her as a miracle.

    My Mom struggles with the thought of the accident being 42 years ago, and still having short term memory loss, struggling with decision making, trouble balancing, difficulty thinking when being caught “off guard,” etc. all on a daily basis. Recently having a mild stroke… her brain scan showed her brain was literally 1/2 black on her x-rays. (My Mom jokes that she does pretty well for having half a brain.)

    Along with everything else, my Mom has very low confidence and really struggles looking on the bright side of it because of dealing with this for 42 long years…

    I’m writing because my Mom has been my inspiration for my 29 years, and I think you have the potential of being her inspiration:)

    I’m trying to find your book… I’ll be printing your motivational blogs for her…
    Where will you be speaking next? I would love to surprise her with a trip for us to hear you speak.

    My Mom is a wonderful person and deserves someone to help her find a postitive outlook about the situation and to be at peace with it…

    Comment by Erin — January 18, 2009 @ 6:59 pm | Reply

    • Hi, Erin. Please see personal email I sent to your address. Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — January 18, 2009 @ 8:21 pm | Reply

  6. As I was reading this blog, there were a number of ideas presented that have come up for me a number of times since my injury. Sone of these ideas really bother me. I didn’t feel like I was given a blessing after I woke up from a coma in hospital with a broken neck, skull fracture, diffuse axonal brain injury, broken clavicle, severe degloving trauma to my left arm that drs were unable to stitch dur to all the tissue lost, the 7 blood transfusions for all the blood lost, broken ribs, collapsed lung, damaged pelvis, and the list goes on. All a result of getting t-boned by a dump truck. I don’t feel blessed, I don’t feel thst I was given a gift, and I certainly don’t feel “lucky” to be alive, which I hear more than I care to admit. In believing and accepting the idea that I’ve been given some sort of special gift and ability to really appreciate love, life, family, and friends, I’m essentially saying that the Jodi I was before my injury was somehow ignorant. That idea has an underlying message that says people that haven’t experienced a life-shattering trauma don’t “get it”. I don’t feel like I know some special secret that no one else does. It has taken me years to say out loud that I have a brain injury. I had so much fear related to the stigma that is attached to brain injury, that I was afraid of myself. After 4.5 years of rehab, that I still work very hard on, all I want is to maybe surprise someoneto see it is possible to move forward after catastrophic brain injury. I’m comfortable sharing my story with people, and while some are amazed, others are intimidated, and feel guilty. I don’t want people to feel that way around me simply because I experienced a huge trauma. I just want to be proud of the hard work I’ve done, be happy with improvements I continue to make. Thank you. Jodi

    Comment by Jodi T — December 3, 2009 @ 4:38 am | Reply

    • Thanks for writing, Jodi. I’ve sent you an email to your personal email address….Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — December 3, 2009 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

  7. Hi Kara – I was in a bicycle accident 6 months ago and now am recovering from a ‘mild’ brain injury – at home with a great husband and 3 kids. I loved your blog (it made me cry) – because I am now realising that I will have to find a new normal. I am at the stage of just accepting I have an injury – my life has gone from action-packed working mother (I ran a marathon last year!) to recuperating (endlessly) at home. I am fighting depression because it seems everyone is out there achieving and living life, and I am just staying here, just recuperating. I feel such a burden to my husband – I am emotional, more agitated, stressed and not able to do what we used to do. Everyone says I will get better, but, maybe this is as good as I will get. I agree with what you said, but I’m not sure how to get myself going. I’m going to go back and read the blog again now. Thanks, Jill.

    Comment by Jill — June 24, 2011 @ 12:24 am | Reply

    • Hey Jill, check your personal email!! 🙂

      Comment by karaswanson — June 24, 2011 @ 1:19 am | Reply

  8. I never do this. Like never. But I am whooping for joy in finding someone not overwhelmed or consumed by this freakin’ brain injury business. Being asked all the time “how’s your head?” drives me. lol. How about the rest of me? I love my friend who actively ignores my antics. I feel like a real live person and not a just a catalog of symptoms. Admittedly, my cognitive processes increasingly suck in ways I never thought possible, but I am determined to find my way. I know I have to be realistic, there is no magical formula, but I can oh so gently push. I did keep hoping to wake up one morning and just be me again. Woman in waiting? Now, I am up from the bus stop. One foot in front of the other, though as you know, that alone can be a challenge! No matter. While you were making me laugh (yoga) (winter) I was heaving a sigh of relief. I was looking for hope in proactive living. I found some of what I need here. Thank – you!

    Comment by M. — July 15, 2012 @ 1:19 am | Reply

    • No, thank YOU, M. You have made my day. Sounds like you are doing great. Cheers to you! You sound like you have a great perspective and look at life, even as it has changed so much for you. I’ll bet you are going to soar. :)) Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — October 8, 2012 @ 11:25 pm | Reply

  9. I recently found this post from a friend. I recently wrote my own journey recovering from a TBI. It takes awhile to accept the fact that you are forever changed and to start putting one foot in front of the other! Sending you continued healing energy!

    Comment by Amy Z — January 28, 2015 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

    • Hi, Amy! Glad to have you here. Thank you for the healing energy. Please see my comment to you after your other post. You are going through a helluva thing. Rally your good support people and your belief in yourself, your healing angels and all of us here who are cheering for you!! :))) Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — January 31, 2015 @ 9:05 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: