Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

December 31, 2019

Stoke and Poke

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 8:28 am

As we get set to usher in a new year, I was thinking about how exciting New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are to some people while, for so many others, this is a time of somber sadness.  For the excited and the celebrating folks, they possess something so crucial and so vital to any of us.  They anticipate and THEY ARE LOOKING FORWARD…

They have hope.

Hope is like love and friendship.  We can live without it but there isn’t much joy in the existence.

So many of us lose our hope when our injuries linger.  When stubborn symptoms refuse to release their stranglehold on the lives we had created.  When we start to run out of things to try in order to enjoy further healing.

Over the years of my life, I have found that hope is like a campfire that needs stoking.  We have to keep feeding it, tending to it, poking at it from time to time.

Do you have hope?  Are you feeding it and tending to it and poking it?

My one brother likes to say, “If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting.”


We can’t hope for love and yet never go meet anyone or try a dating site or go to a club or accept a date invitation.  We can’t hope to get in shape and yet never start walking or join a gym or go down into the basement where that old treadmill is collecting dust.  We can’t hope to save a bunch of money if we never trim a cost or look at our budget.

We have to do our part.

When it comes to brain injury, I hear of so many who are downtrodden after hoping for months, or even years, that their injury was going to heal itself.

We have to feed it, tend to it and poke it a little.

There are a lot of ways to improve our lives after brain injury.  There are a lot of different and complicated challenges with this injury where we can find ways to get better.   Sometimes it can feel hope-less because we ball it all up under one umbrella of brain injury and we think that one act of healing will solve all our problems.

That doesn’t usually happen and the success is usually tucked in the muck, tangled in the details somewhere.

Can we do it?  Heck, with all we’ve been through, I’d bet on every one of us.

So, how do we feed hope, tend to it and poke at it a little?

We tailor-make our lives to succeed around our symptoms.

Try to identify one area surrounding your injury that is causing you the most grief.  Is it that your disability check doesn’t cover enough?  Is it that your family and friends have abandoned you because you cannot control your rage?  Is it that you suffer such maddening brain fog by the end of the day that you cannot even function?

What would make your life better?

Too many times we tend to think that, all of a sudden, our injuries will heal and everything will return back to normal.

For most of us, however, the reality is more about finding solutions to particular problems, allowing us to reduce the impact of our injuries on our lives.

We can still hope for overall healing but, in the meantime, we can create our own success stories.

Perhaps this is the new year to fashion a little extra income to help with the bills.  Maybe you can find a smallish job that doesn’t jeopardize your disability status.  Or maybe you can sell off some things lying around the house.  Perhaps you can downsize your car or your cable bill.

If you are struggling with your anger, maybe this is the new year to get some help from a therapist, to reach out to a doctor for new medication options, to research homeopathic strategies or to really investigate what or who is making you so angry.

Too much brain fog at the end of each day?  Maybe this is the new year to rearrange your schedule, to really look at all the things that drain your cognitive energies like too many options, too many devices on at one time, too much stimuli or a job that just takes too much out of you.

It only takes a little progress to reveal the giggling hope hiding underneath.

I hope you will treat yourselves.  I fear that you have no idea how powerful and remarkable you are.  When you’ve been through so much already, I hope you will treat yourselves to a new year that washes over you with hope.  Hope that you have fed and tended to and poked at, creating your own wins and your own evidence of hopeful you really are.

I have known you now from around the world, battling your battles, making your better ways.  You stoke and poke my hopes every day and I hope you will receive mine in return:  I am hoping that you are about to greet your best year ever, in every meaningful way.

Happy New Year!  Love, Kara


December 12, 2019

How Do We Do It Now So We Can Enjoy It Best?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:57 am

I often hear, and I know myself, how the onrush of the holiday season can overwhelm and confound for most, no matter their brain and brain injury status.

Circumstances dictate change, certainly.  But change is not the awful word we often cringe and cower from.   It simply means:  how do we do it now so that we can enjoy it best?


There’s no sense failing at a Christmas, or any time, that no longer is realistic.  Whatever the reason, we do best when our strategies take into consideration our capabilities.

There’s no secret as to why all the news shows caution against snow shoveling for people who are normally non-shoveling adults, those who are overweight or who have health conditions.   A strategic change, in that circumstance, would be to hire a teenager to shovel the snow.  Or a professional snow removal company.

We don’t get extra points for miserable, careless, dangerous or dead.

How do we do it now so we can enjoy it best?

Some of us get caught up in how we used to pull off Christmas.  Whether it was the hundreds of cookies we baked or the parties we hosted or the presents we could afford to buy….

It’s super-great to have those memories.  But, for most of us who now suffer restrictions to our abilities, cognitive, physical, financial, social and otherwise, the best gift we can give is the one to ourselves.  And to those who love us.

Change the now so we can enjoy it best.

I love the memories I have of childhood holidays.  I love the recalling of full homes and lots of relatives and neighbors, food and drink and good cheer.  Boisterous celebrating.

Those are awesome memories.

But most of the people have gone now.  Our family is smaller.  My home is smaller.  We no longer drink and drive.  We barely drink at all.  We don’t require mounds of presents and we understand that most of us no longer send out holiday greetings cards.

And that’s OK.  What now?  What next?

I love my Christmases now.  The strategies I enlist to accommodate my brain injury allow me to fashion a wonderful holiday season without suffering regret or remorse for what can no longer be.  I have changed my now so that I can enjoy it best.

I still go to the same Christmas Eve party I’ve attended since being a freshman in high school.  Only now I drive myself so I can leave when I need to.  I don’t drink there.  Where I might miss my parents being gone, it is the drive to that party on Christmas Eve when I spend special time with them.  I talk to them and sing to them and just sing and be grateful for all the ways they gave me a past I adore.  And all the ways I still insert their best into mine now.

The things I miss from people now gone are like the things I miss from a me…now gone.  It is a wonderful, healing truth.  A warm salve.  A gift beyond any.

We look to the past and treasure it’s gifts.  We move on then.  We step to the future to create more memories that we will, one day, recall in fine measure.

Nothing has to be the same forever.  Nothing can be.  Brain injury or not, we all change and move and age and lose those who created our first memories of Christmas.

Celebrate them.  Take what you can from the best of back then and honor it in your unique way.  Take the best of who you were back then and honor that, too.

We are terrific.  We are alive.  We are given this time to live.  To really live.

Don’t change because ill-intentioned Fate held you down and force-fed you change.  Change because it’s OK and healthy and wonderful to do things differently so we can enjoy them best.

See those people but maybe do it for a shorter length of time.  Bake those cookies but maybe a single batch instead of the hundreds.  Hire the snow removers.  Have a single cocktail instead of the pub crawl.  Slim down the menu.  Have celebrations on different days when you can’t all make it for one.  Steal moments of joy for yourself.  Moments of peace and glee and warmth.

I wish you and yours the simple, delicious gifts of warmth.   A safe nest.  A full belly.  Music that moves.  Memories that enrich.  Activities that bring joy.  Moments that delight.

I wish, for you and for yours, wonderful days of choosing ways to enjoy this time best.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Love you.




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