I recently pictured myself sitting down to write a book that would tell my whole life story. In this imaginary scene, I quickly decided that two chapters would be enough to cover everything that’s ever happened to me.
The first chapter would be called “Before My Brain Injury” and the second, obviously, would be called “After My Brain Injury.” However, soon after I started writing down my story, I began to feel uncomfortable with the name I’d chosen for the second chapter because it felt like I was being dishonest with the people who would read the book. The word "after" indicates a sense of finality. It gives the impression that something has ended - but I knew very well that my brain injury hadn’t. It had never left me - nor would it ever. So I knew that I needed to figure out a better word for this final chapter! Now, because I'm not the greatest wordsmith (Honestly, most of the time I feel like I possess the vocabulary range of a toddler!), I decided to use Webster's Dictionary to assist me in my search. And I finally found the perfect word - “wake.”
I would call chapter two “The Wake of My Brain Injury.”
When I was growing up, I always thought of “wake” as being "the water behind a moving boat” Maybe that’s what you think of as well, and if that’s the case, I know wake probably seems like a strange choice of words. Well, I found another definition for it. Wake also means "the aftermath or consequences of something.” When I read this alternative definition, it seemed like the right word to use as a replacement. That’s because “the aftermath or consequences" of my brain injury is something I will be dealing with and trying to figure out for the rest of my life.
Let me give you just a short preview of what you can expect in my book’s second and now appropriately titled final chapter.
- I try to do many of the things I used to be quite good at, only to find I no longer am.
- I try doing much of what I previously liked doing, but many of these don't bring me the joy they once did.
- I return to my medical practice, a job I knew and loved, but after just three years, was suddenly forced to retire.
- I look exactly the same on the outside but feel completely different on the inside.
- I worry a lot about what other people think of my "disability," suspecting others believe I might be fabricating or exaggerating my injuries in an effort to gain sympathy and attention.
- I often second guess myself and my effort, wondering if I would have had a different outcome if I had just worked a little harder in my recovery.
- I am not nearly as confident as I used to be and have a difficult time making decisions, always worried I'm making the wrong one.
- I start doubting my ability to be the husband and father my family needs me to be.
- I begin to deal with many emotional problems (i.e. depression and anxiety) that I’d never dealt with before.
- Because of my short term memory problems, I'm forced to rely on various coping mechanisms that I never had to before.
- I become very rigid in my daily routines and get flustered when something doesn't go as planned.
- Fatigue becomes a major problem for me, especially after activities that require a lot of thinking.
- My communication skills aren't as good as they used to be, often struggling with finding the right word to say and with maintaining focus during conversations.
- I sometimes lack what they call "social IQ," meaning I occasionally say or do something without fully thinking about how it could affect me or others.
I’m well aware that after hearing all that you are probably thinking, "What a depressing way to end a book!” However, I would encourage you to please give this book and its second chapter a chance because that's not all that happens while I’m in the wake!
- I begin to discover new skills and strengths, ones that even in my wildest dreams, I thought I'd ever have.
- I start finding meaning and purpose where I never had before.
- "Perspective" becomes something I consider quite often and I start understanding how much it determines my attitude.
- I no longer look at comfort as being the ultimate goal and begin learning to embrace the uncomfortable, even seeing it as sometimes necessary if I want to grow and mature.
- Although remaining as "normal" as possible was my previous goal, I no longer strive for it, but, instead, start learning to embrace being "abnormal."
- Going against everything I used to believe, I start understanding how there truly can be “strength in our weakness.”
- I always understood humility as something I could just think about but now realize it's something I need to practice as well.
- I no longer take things for granted, realizing it could all be gone in the blink of an eye.
- My Christian faith starts becoming more real and genuine to me and I become more courageous in living it out and sharing it with others.
“The Wake of My Brain Injury” hasn't been an easy place for me to live and it certainly isn't a place I would recommend visiting if you don't have to. But if you ever find yourself in a place similar, please trust that something good can come from it. I truly believe that your wake can serve a purpose and it may very well be the place you needed to be all along!
*** I actually did end up writing a book that tells my story! However, it did end up being longer than two chapters. The book is available to buy at findingnormalbook.com.