Part 1: Updating My Brain's Software
Reflections on the Three-Year Anniversary of my Brain Injury + America’s Self Sabotage + A Life Update
“That which we do not bring to consciousness appears in our life as fate.” – Carl Jung
This is a story in three parts:
Updating My Brain’s Software
Three years ago, on August 3, 2018, I fell down a flight of stairs, cracked my skull on a hard tile floor, and almost died.
I woke up in a CT scan machine in the ICU hours later not knowing where I was or what happened to me. The doctors said I was lucky to have survived. I had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury: a basal skull fracture with bleeding on the brain and frontal lobe damage.
Read More: Ouch, My Brain is Broken by Molly Beane, May 16, 2019
My life as I knew it ended that day, even as my body survived. Nearly every structure I had built for myself has since dissolved.
Recovering from a brain injury is excruciating, non-linear, and lonely.
Brain injuries create chronic illness. Symptoms can linger for years, but I look normal on the outside so it’s not easy for people to empathize.
I could wax lyrical about symptoms like losing 25 percent of my body weight a single year because of vagus nerve damage, headaches, tinnitus, nausea, vertigo, mental health issues, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, memory loss, cognitive overwhelm, dyslexia, and others.
But I won’t. You get the point.
This isn’t a story about the symptoms.
This is a bigger story about how dangerous it is to cover gaping wounds with bandaids. Allow me to explain.
In 2016, I went to rehab. I had developed a tough armor to survive an abusive childhood and multiple sexual assaults, and as time passed, I needed an ever-increasing supply of booze to keep myself from unraveling.
I got better after I quit partying… but only halfway.
Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard on myself during and after rehab. I went to therapy, read self-help books, and meditated. I found spiritual practices that offered strength and nourishment.
But I didn’t go deep enough.
My healing only skimmed the surface and before I knew it, I was repeating the same old pattern in different ways.
Work replaced alcohol. I was preaching self-care but not practicing it. I slowly felt the familiar hollow feeling creep back in as I worked longer hours, trying to force success and driving myself mad in the process. By 2018, I was a mess again and it took the Universe literally banging my head for me to wake up.
It All Falls Apart
The brain injury seemingly set off a chain reaction of devastation in my life.
Within a few months of my accident, my beloved stepfather, John Kuhr, was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. It slowly paralyzes you until you die. We don’t know why people get it; it seems to strike at random. It is 100 percent fatal and there are no meaningfully effective treatments. Life expectancy post-diagnosis averages two to four years.
John was more than just a stepfather to me. I thought of him as my dad. I wouldn’t be where I am in life today without him. So I spent 2019 trying unsuccessfully to keep it all together while frequently traveling between my home in California and my parents’ in Ohio. Of course, my business began to contract. My marriage eventually failed. My health was deteriorating. John died in February 2020. The pandemic’s arrival was the cherry on top.
This was my dark night of the soul and I almost didn’t survive it.
This time, my life was so demolished that I had no choice but to surrender and do the deeper healing; the shadow work. No more coddling or spiritual bypassing. I sat with feelings I had spent a lifetime trying to escape. I dissected the roots of my guilt and shame. I examined thought patterns and searched my blind spots.
Then naturally, I had to let go of everything I thought I was, had, and knew.
I am learning that because I hadn’t integrated emotions associated with my trauma, those wounds were subconsciously driving me. I was unknowingly perpetuating cycles of abuse toward myself and others. I couldn’t trust my intuition enough to heed the wisdom of red flags. Ego and insecurity impacted my decision-making.
It was as if I was cut off from my true nature and I couldn’t accurately perceive my own best interests through this lens.
I was self-sabotaging.
Armed with this knowledge, I began choosing better and my life started to improve. It feels like I’m reprogramming my brain, or at least updating the software.
This is a long process and I’ll be working through it for the rest of my life. But I already have twice the amount of energy compared to this time last year. I am happier and more peaceful. My mental health no longer interferes with daily activities. The intensity of my symptoms has eased. Life seems to be opening up in new ways. For the first time in a long time, I feel hope for the future again.
It feels like a Glow Up!
This three-year anniversary is meaningful because it feels like a resurrection of sorts. I am coming back to life – and better than before. The brain injury took so much, but it came with the priceless opportunity to finally heal that which has been holding me back. The journey is just beginning, but now I’m on the right track.