Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

October 20, 2018

Defined By Your Elbow?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:19 am

When you look at your body, your mind and your life, would you say you are defined by your elbow?  By an unusual ankle?  How about your spleen?  Anything remarkable about that spleen?

There are certainly people who are defined by small parts of them which have made huge impacts.   There are people who are defined by their extraordinary voices, pitchers and quarterbacks with rocket arms, dancers and boxers defined by quick and incredible feet…

A lot of times we, ourselves, define people narrowly.  We picture them and just one image comes to mind:  Tiger Woods in his Championship Sunday red shirts and black slacks or Whitney Houston rocking that National Anthem.  Michael Jackson doing the Moon Walk.

We sum them up.  We condense their whole.

Too often, we, ourselves, end up being defined by our brain injuries.   We join those who have suffered catastrophic events in their lives and we summarize them as they were this or they were that until X happened…

We do that to ourselves, too.

Part of the great goal in recovering successfully from these injuries has to do with that old spleen of ours.  That odd kidney.  That one elbow.

It is to force the definition more broadly.

If we look at a person and only see their amazing voice, their incredible arm, their lightning-fast feet, their blazing serve, then we tend to write them off when those superior tools fade and when they are cast aside by the next new singer, golfer, boxer, dancer.

But there is so much more.

Those people have parents and siblings, spouses and children.  They have homes and pets and neighbors and interests.  They celebrate birthdays and question their futures and fear their next chapters and dread their failings.

We are all so much more than one elbow.  One kidney.  One event in our lives.

Most people will experience a discreet event when their lives took a major turn.  A divorce, a spouse dying, a hurricane that ravaged their town and splintered their home…

And yes, suffered a brain injury.

Our goal, as we move ourselves to and through a successful recovery, has to do with defining ourselves and our lives as a set of parts.  Like a body.  A collection of things that happened to us and made us who we are going forward.

A story of life.

It helps to take some time, here and there, to remind ourselves how we are so much more than just these injuries.  How can you define yourself in ten different ways?

I am a spouse, I am a homeowner, I am a writer, I am a sports announcer, I am an audio narrator, I am a University of Michigan football nut, I am Swedish, I am an Aunt, I am a woman, I am a sexual abuse survivor, I am a recovered brain injury survivor…

What are you?

Many stars and artists learn, like we do, how much can fall apart when all that is prioritized is that one thing.  Our lives are like our bodies:  if we feed them only steak or we feed them only sugar cereal, they will fall apart at some point.

We have to nourish all the parts.

Recovering successfully after brain injury is a daunting project, yes.  It is consuming.  But you’ll find encouraging symptoms of successful recovery when you recognize how you need vegetables and fruits and desserts and chicken and bacon in your diet to please all aspects of you.  To feed and to nourish them.

If you can define yourself, right in this moment, as ten different things, encourage yourself to feed and to nourish them all as equally as you can.

Brain injury can only be the one priority for a while because, like a pitcher’s arm or a boxer’s hay-maker or a singer’s voice, the rest of a person’s life has to be rich enough to sustain that person.  It has to be large enough to absorb him or her…

When that voice goes or that arm fails or that brain injury stops healing.

What’s next?



  1. Thank you for your inspiration. I was injured in July of this year with a closed head injury. My recovery is slower than I expected. I like being able to read past writings on days I need them.

    Comment by Karen — October 20, 2018 @ 10:09 am | Reply

    • HI Karen! So sorry to hear you were hurt. I’m sure it has swamped you with all kinds of emotions, fears and anxieties. You are early in this with, let’s hope, lots of good healing coming your way. Stop by here any time. All of us here are cheering for you and wishing you a complete recovery. Let me know how it goes, OK? Best to you, Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — October 20, 2018 @ 10:20 am | Reply

  2. Another excellent post Kara. Good work to get people to look past the most obvious and for the things they can be happy for/with.

    Comment by Mark — October 20, 2018 @ 12:10 pm | Reply

    • Thank you for the kind words, Mark. Hope you are well. :))) Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — October 22, 2018 @ 3:52 pm | Reply

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