Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

May 19, 2011

Up The Road The Skies Are Clearing

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 1:01 am

I’m excited to be invited to publish my blog entries in the Grosse Pointe edition of the cool online newspaper, Patch.   The people at Patch are so warm and welcoming.  Very determined to bring clean, valid reporting to their readers.  I’m proud to join their team.  It is my goal to contribute a brain injury blog that helps survivors and their support people navigate the new roads they now find themselves traveling.

I have been blogging now for three years.  Usually when I create a new blog entry, it is the plated version of  a theme whose ingredients have been simmering for days, even weeks, in my head.   I try to make myself open and aware of common and repeating messages telling me they’re waiting to be noodled over.  Needing to be organized.   Hoping to be shared.

Lately I’ve found myself returned and returning to the beginning of my recovery from the traumatic brain injury I sustained in 1996.   Several times recently, in various ways.   Some gently prod, whispering in the quiet.  Others poke and pinch, screaming their blind curses.

Because I’ll be presenting to a brain injury group in a couple of weeks, I quick-paged through my book for the first time in quite a while.  Several new survivors have contacted me these last weeks with their early struggles of recovery.  And, finally, I gladly accepted the invitation to bring my brain injury blog to Patch.

As I read through early chapters from my book, I was reminded, certainly, of how long the journey and how utterly painful, wrenching and life-changing.   But I was also reminded of how long the journey and how utterly joyful and successful, rewarding and life-changing.

New survivors vent and lament their newfound barricades, preventing easy travels along familiar streets.  Instead they continue to encounter detours and delays, frustrations and heart-breaks.

My message to those individuals new to brain injury, whether they are injured themselves or are supporting a friend or family member, is one that readers of my WordPress blog and attendees at the conferences where I speak have long heard:   Up The Road The Skies Are Clearing.

From here, fifteen years up the road, I shout back and report that the storm clouds DO move past.   The darkness lifts.   The sun makes its way through the clouds once again.  The bitter winds of winter turn to gentle warm breezes dancing through the curtains once more.

For most of us, the greatest challenge after brain injury is to embrace change.   Change no one wanted, no one sought, no one invited.   Change that doesn’t tiptoe or graciously, tenderly caress.   But, instead, change that barges and charges, ripping through our lives as tornadoes do.   Cursing clumsily and smelling and rotten and rude.

It is my firm belief that we CAN change, can recover, can create new lives that work and succeed.   Lives we can be proud of.   For we have changed and adapted countless times in our lives.   We’ve started over.   We’ve learned new skills.  We’ve lost and we’ve taken what we still have and moved on.  We’ve found new love after heart-break.   We’ve found new jobs after layoffs…

From elementary school to middle school.   From high school to college.   Getting into the work force.   Inviting in roommates and partners and spouses and children and parents.  

Change does not pick on the brain injured alone.  We are not special in our plight.  The need for change is no new symptom kept for those of us now differently-abled.  

Change finds everyone.   Change shows up every day at every doorstep and asks for entry.  It wears the coats of a hundred diseases, a thousand conditions, a million stories.

Even as I write this, the lilacs glow in the quiet of night.  The apple blossom and cherry blossom trees flutter in the cool breeze.  Tulips soar and Blue Jays return and it is Spring again. 

Another winter we’ve beaten.   Another winter survived.  Another winter behind us.

It is Spring again.

To the brain injury survivors who stumble across me on WordPress or who now find me on Patch,  I welcome you and your supporters to a community that cheers your every painful step toward a new, fabulous life.   We happen to think YOU ROCK!

We won’t return to the darkness.   We won’t climb back into that hole.  But I swear we’ll keep calling from the light.   Begging you forward.   Reaching out hands and hugs and promising you that, yes, Up The Road The Skies Are Clearing. 

It’s Spring again.  The winter, again, behind us.   You can do this.   I’m cheering for you!


  1. Congrats on the Patch thing… I am and will be eternally grateful to the more experienced survivors who held out a hand and promised me there would be clear skies ahead…even though I couldn’t believe it at the time, it was priceless. I hope to find ways to pay it forward.

    I wish you every success in getting good words out there.


    Comment by Christa — May 20, 2011 @ 7:32 pm | Reply

  2. Thank you Kara. I will listen to your cheers in my head as I battle depression one more time in this overwelming darkness.

    Comment by Nathalie — May 21, 2011 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

  3. Your book was the first cheer that I could interpret, much less believe. The most powerful rehabilitation I have gotten this past year is to keep talking to and reading work by people with brain injuries. Sure, I did some good work in the rehab clinics, but your book, your blog, the comments people post: this is where it makes sense and I do not feel judged or medicalized. You should be published in every paper and journal.

    Comment by Cheryl — May 24, 2011 @ 11:12 am | Reply

  4. You’re the bomb, Cheryl. Love having you here. 🙂

    Comment by karaswanson — May 24, 2011 @ 11:14 am | Reply

  5. Hi Kara…My husband is a client at Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Institute in Mason, MI. You recently spoke at their annual Brain Injury Symposium in Lansing, MI and I have heard all the clinicians at Origami rave about you. I have ordered your book and look forward to reading your blog. Keep up the good work! Brain injured people, and their caregivers, need all the support they can find.

    Comment by Julie Yonnick — June 3, 2011 @ 7:09 pm | Reply

    • Hey, Julie. That means a lot to me that you’d take the time to stop by and tell me these things. Thanks so much. How is your husband doing?

      Comment by karaswanson — June 5, 2011 @ 9:46 pm | Reply

      • Hi Kara,

        Thank you for replying. I am sure you must be a very busy lady and I appreciate the time you took to reply.

        My husband is doing well. He fell backward off the tailgate of a pickup truck and hit his head on the pavement. He had 2 skull fractures, a sub arachnoid hemorrhage, bleeding throughout the brain and then started seizing … the seizures caused more damage as you can imagine. He was on a ventilator and was in the hospital a total of 25 days. He is 62 years old.

        Origami has done wonders for him as far as therapies as concerned. He will always have nystagmus, tracking problems, memory loss, slow processing speed … and major bilateral hand tremors. It could be so much worse and we are thankful that he is doing so well.

        I have learned so much these last 13 months. Unbelievable how fragile our brains really are. I am so happy that you are spreading the word about TBI. It really is a silent affliction, and more research and attention needs to be brought to this devastating illness.

        Keep up the great work. You are an inspiration to all!!


        Comment by Julie Yonnick — June 6, 2011 @ 7:38 pm

      • Wow. That sounds like a very serious injury. Glad you are happy with the progress. Like you said, it could easily have been so much worse. Here’s wishing you continued success and progress. Again, thanks for the kind words. Kara

        Comment by karaswanson — June 6, 2011 @ 11:50 pm

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