Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gimme a break!

"You deserve a break today...So, get up and get away to McDonald's." Remember that? I know you youngsters don't. I agree with the first part, but the second part, not so much. You do deserve a break. I deserve a break. We all deserve a break, dammit!

This practice has to first originate with ourselves, to ourselves. I used to be terrible at this. I was my own worst critic although I have had some pretty enthusiastic cheerleaders over the years from which I could always draw fresh material. I do take responsibility for willingly playing the starring role. However, my brain injury has taught me how to be kind and compassionate with myself and others.

At first, I tried very hard to not act brain injured. Didn't work. With barely understandable speech and poor mental functioning, this was an exhausting effort, and I did not fool anyone although I was not even cognizant enough to know it for a while. I soon found that I could not even begin to keep this up, and allowed myself to be brain injured. This was the beginning of the crumbling of the wall that I had hid behind all my life, and the beginning of being authentic with myself and those around me.

I had to be very forgiving of myself when I drove around the neighborhood beside mine in a panic for thirty minutes because I couldn't find my way home. I had to be kind to myself when I threw my credit card at the cashier at the grocery store because my fine motor skills were lacking. Along the way I have learned to be gentle with myself and even laugh. Imagine that.

Thank goodness, I don't make anywhere near the blunders I used to, but, just this past week, I had a brain blip. I am doing some intensive neurofeedback called Brain State...more on that later....amazing stuff. I did 2 sessions a day for a week. When I went for my afternoon appointment on Tuesday the door was locked and no one was there. I figured they had gone to lunch. I sat outside the door reading a book for 30 minutes until they called me on my cell, and said "Did you forget your afternoon appointment?" I had turned in a different entrance and was at the building across the parking lot. Oops! In my defense, all the buildings are cookie cutter identical.

In the past, something like this would have mortified me and ruined the rest of my day as I replayed it over and over in my head kicking myself and calling myself not so nice names each time. Now, I chalk it up not only to the brain injury but to also to just being human and shrug and let it go. I actually can keep myself very amused at times.

I have often wished I had a big bandage on my head because, even early on, I looked "normal." I like to think hip and street smart even. Indulge me here. A (stupid and rude) person actually asked someone with me one time "How much has she had to drink?" At the airport alone once, I beeped when going through the metal detector. I had no idea why or what to do. The guy had to rather disgustedly explain it, in detail, to me until I took off my belt and put it in the little tray.

These experiences and this learning process with myself has allowed me to extend the same kind of compassion to others. It is so true that we never know what challenges someone is facing by their outward appearance. You just never know. My initial reaction may still be somewhat judgmental and assuming, but then I have learned to step back and look at the same scene through a filter of kindness. It is amazing how the view drastically changes. It also makes me aware of the many presumptions I make about something when I really have no idea.

Try it! Give yourself and the others in your life a break today and not the kind with cheese. We see things not as they are. We see them as we are.


  1. I used to be my own worse enemy. I would describe myself at that time of my life as a "defeated perfectionist." I wanted to be perfect at everything I did and strove to accomplish that superhuman feat, knowing full well I would fail. Knowing this and then not living up to the standards I set for myself made me feel like such a loser. I couldn't love myself even if I succeeded at some task and was sure nobody else could either. I am so glad I'm not like that anymore. Now I love when I make mistakes. It makes me laugh and I get to laugh a lot.

  2. Tony, I can totally relate. I look back now and think "I was pretty awesome," but I was never good enough then in my own eyes, and I let others in my life who only reinforced this. You know what? I am still pretty great...better than ever even.

    It does not matter if anyone else thinks so. What is important and makes a huge difference is that I think so.

    I am so glad you have found this in your life and continue to feel it and live it. Ahhh! There is the joy and peace! Namaste.

  3. Hi Debbie,

    Sorry I'm so late to your post! I really enjoyed it!

    Wow, I relate to this on so many levels. Good for you for not being hard on yourself. And, I absolutely agree with the gift of being able to see the world with new eyes and extend compassion to others.

    I like the "big bandage on your head" thought, too. Just yesterday I made a remark to a friend about that -- I might not have a cast on my leg (for example), I look just fine, so it's hard for people to understand what's going on in my brain, especially for strangers.

    I love what you're doing here at your blog, Debbie. Thanks for taking us on your journey and giving your experience a voice.

    I hear you, sister!

  4. Lori...anytime is great! Thank you for your encouraging words.

    I did not realize how much I would have in common with others with all kinds of different challenges. However, it is this realization of commonality that fosters compassion and connectedness.

    I think we should get tee shirts made that say "Gimme a break. I have (fill in the blank.)" The bottom line is that everyone could fill in the blank with something.

    Our challenges are really gifts in disguise because they allow us to see this.