Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

March 22, 2019

“You’re Crippled…Get Used To It!”

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 8:00 am

“You’re crippled.  Get used to it!”  With all the uncountable things I’ve forgotten, that comment, said to me by a balance specialist more than twenty years ago, stays.

I wept in his office that day.  He abruptly left after proclaiming what he did.  His nurse came in and held me while I cried.  She apologized for him.

I have never forgotten.

Over the years I have realized the truth in it.  Yes, his delivery was disgusting.  His utter lack of compassion was appalling.   But, by definition, crippled means “unable to walk or move properly” and that is true.

What I also took from that moment was significant in my successful recovery.

For one, a doctor gives you his diagnosis, his prognosis, his best guess, his opinion based on your facts and his experience.   Some will prove true and some won’t.  Some diagnoses will beat us and some we will overcome.

But it is simply a capturing of a moment.  One that can change in a million ways.  It is up to us to respond.  To apply.  To investigate.  To try and prove false.  To continue to create a better outcome than we are sentenced with.  To get other opinions.  To try more than we’ve tried.  To try differently.  To change, as we have to.

In my mind, I am not crippled at all.

The other significant thing that that moment, crying in his office, taught me….was that we can avoid many many hurt feelings when we choose wisely the sources from which and from whom we seek compassion and understanding.

Survivors have told me for more than twenty years how they are so devastated that their spouses or their kids or their parents or doctors don’t understand what they are going through.

How could they?

We cannot keep hitting our heads against the wall, so to speak.  We cannot expect that a person without a brain injury would understand what it’s like to have a brain injury.

Yes, they can love us.  Yes, they can support us.  Yes, they can comfort us.  Yes, they can show compassion for our struggles.  But it’s not fair to them and it’s not fair to us to expect them to understand what this is like.   They simply cannot meet that need.

We go to a restaurant when we are hungry.  We go to a gym when we need to work out.  We go to a salon when we need a haircut.

You wouldn’t go to a priest for understanding of a troubled marriage.  You wouldn’t go to a middle schooler for understanding after you got a divorce or lost a child.  You wouldn’t go to a civilian for understanding of the nightmares of fighting war.

While they might have comfort, compassion, even sound counsel or guidance…they will not have understanding.

The people in our lives cannot be expected to give us what they don’t have and it’s not right for us to ask.

There are, sadly, countless people in our community in whom to seek understanding.  Support groups on Facebook.  Meeting groups in the community.  TBI Conferences…

Blogs by sexy gals eating cupcakes :)))))

Just please do not seek understanding from people who cannot gift it.  You can’t get your hair cut at a restaurant….Nobody needs the additional frustration or hardship or hurt feelings.

No, I won’t ever forget that time in that doctor’s office.   I wish I could remember where my keys are, instead.  But, for as much of a cad as he was and how cold he proved to be, I have sifted through it to find the good.  To make it mine.

What do they say?  Forget the pain;  Remember the lesson.

We will always welcome you here.   We will always meet you and greet you at the door with warm armfuls of understanding.

Happy Spring, everyone!!!


March 7, 2019

Up To Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:50 pm

Our stories will be written, with or without us.  By those we’ve impacted.  By those left behind.

Some will measure us in a simple timeline.  This is where we started.  We did this then.  We did this then.  We did this then…

Some will measure, instead, using deduction from evidence of how we spent our time, where we spent our money and with whom we chose to be with the most.

Some will measure us through a narrow lens of their personal experiences with us.  Who we were to them, what role we played and during what decade or time period we were in their lives.  They will sum us up through their own perceptions and with their particular biases and slants.

Many will decide they don’t care what anyone thinks or that, hell, they’ll be dead when all those judgements are passed.  True enough, that.

But for those of us who wish to write the stories of our lives….for those of us who wish to make clear the intentions and choices, high points and struggles…for those of us who wish to leave no doubt in those we feel most strongly about…

Then that’s a great starting point for brain injury recovery.   For any recovery.

I’ve heard so many people tell me how they fear being remembered just for their brain injury, just for their nasty divorce, just for their felony conviction, just for their cancer diagnosis, just for their dead child, just for their horrible weight gain, just for their addiction…

Just for their failure, just for their loss, just for their bad luck, just for cruel fate.

For each of us then, before we go and before we leave the end of the story to others, let’s ensure that there is no murky confusion.   Let’s clear up and clarify and decide and own.

We can say someday, someday….and they will report that, too.  We can dig heels in after disappointment, after being cheated, after being damaged.  We can sit with our anger, our indignance, our stubbornness, our pride.  We can build walls around us that keep out fear and danger and the chance of being hurt.

They will report that, too.

Or we can work to ensure that, no matter the measure and no matter the measurer, we will certain the outcome.  We will trust the stamp.  Because we chose good people around us who read more than the headlines.  Because we tried at good and, even when we failed, we tried at good.  That we made sure and certain that the ones most important to us knew, undeniably, how we cared for them and cheered for them, supported and loved them.

If it matters to you then don’t let bad be the last thing they see, the last they know, the last that they measure.  Not brain injury, not dark intentions, not unkind words, not cruel actions.

They WILL remember.  In some measure, in some way.  It’s up to us how important it is to have a hand in what’s written, to color the timelines, to warm the memories.  To put good, positive, memorable, fun, loving distance between the darkest of our hours and the brightest of our days.









March 6, 2019

Let Me Share a Secret….

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 1:39 pm

If any of you play computer games on Facebook or from some other gaming app, you know how addictive they can be.  I’ve been playing two specific games for years now and I’m almost embarrassed by how high my levels are.  LOL.

The one game is particularly enticing.  It invites me in with its bright colors and fun characters.  When I pass a level, it sings to me and sends me gifts and colors dance and rockets shoot off.   It’s fun.  It makes me feel good.

Sometimes I come across a real hard level.  A bugger.  I’ll try and try and it seems like, for the first couple dozen tries, I run out of lives or moves and I am not even halfway to the goal.  It is frustrating and I’ll roll my eyes and throw up my hands.  Sometimes I will “punish” the game by taking a few days off from it.  I’ll try to make it jealous by enjoying the bings and sings and flings and things from another game.

And then I return.

Little by little, I get better at those bugger levels.  Each new morning I am given  game tools to use for that level.  After a few days off, I return to many tools and, often then, I am able to whoop that level and move on.

Some of the levels are easy breezy.  I fly through four or five of them before I bump up against a new bugger level and I’m back to the frustration of it.

There have been times I have enlisted the help of my friend, Linda, because she and I are wired so differently.   She is a musician and a tech guru.  I am not blessed with prowess in either of those fields.  Sometimes, on a level that I have struggled with for a month, she can just click click click and it’s done.


Sometimes, yes, there are swear words.

Through the several years now I’ve played it, the message repeats and is always the same.  Some levels will be easy.  Some levels will stop me for days, weeks and longer.  Some levels will need a differently-wired brain to go at it from a different viewpoint.  Some levels will require that I wait and seek out additional tools to help me meet that particular challenge.

And always, always, the feeling of progress and achievement and fun make me feel terrific and I return again.

Oh….and that secret I was going to share from the title of this blog entry?

The secret is:  That’s how successful recovery works after brain injury.  We keep at it.  We return again.  We take some time off when we need a break.  We return.  We enlist the tools available to meet the demands of harder levels.  We get help from people who think differently than us.  We celebrate our victories.  We enjoy the colors and the sounds and the gifts.

And we go at it again.

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