by Linda W. Arms
Since my brain injury I have become rather sensitive to healthy people complaining about being bored, not knowing what to do and are just “killing time”. There are so many of us who have had an illness or injury where our options of doing anything are severely limited. We struggle to get better. We struggle to do the things we did before. We struggle to do things like other people. We are happy when we can do a simple thing without too many problems, even stirring a bowl of instant mashed potatoes! There are people living with SEVERE handicaps and illnesses who appreciate the moments they are given and find joy in little things. Killing time cannot be in your vocabulary whether you are healthy or struggling with an illness or injury.
I am fortunate in that my brain injury was not as devastating as those of some other people I have met. It has also been over 7 years since my accident during which I worked hard to get better. I tried doing things I did before and continued to do many of them even though it was very difficult. I keep looking for new goals to increase my level of improvement. I want to live life. I want colorful, rich experiences. In my journey back from the despairing first years after my injury, I feel I have reached the mainland of living where I can participate more fully. I don’t want to kill time and I absolutely hate it when I hear other people who say that. How sad! Just think of the poor victims of the recent bombing in Boston or the shooting at the Aurora movie theater. They lost their lives. Their time is “killed”. I’m sure they would like to have had the opportunity to trade places with some of the living that are “just killing time”.
A couple of summers ago I participated in a week-long camp for people with brain injuries. I was a volunteer acting as a buddy to a camper who had a much worse brain injury than I did. My buddy was injured decades ago at around the age of 19. He was in a serious car accident that occurred because something in the car malfunctioned. He was in a coma for several months. Today he lives with a caretaker but he participates in life by going to camps and has other activities to stimulate him. He has terrible memory problems and many other cognitive problems. BUT HE LIVES LIFE with a smile. He is not bored. He does everything he can do with the cognitive capacity that he has.
Another camper I met who was truly an inspiration was another young man who received his brain injury when he was a toddler. He was in a coma for 2 years. Thirty-some years later, he is in a wheel chair, he cannot speak, his motor skills are very, very poor. He has to be fed or food cut up for him. He is always dependent on someone for everything. When I first heard about him coming to the camp and then actually met him, I thought, oh my God! How do you interact with someone who is so severely handicapped. I felt so bad for him. But you know what; he had so much joy in his beautiful eyes and in his face when he participated in all the camp activities. He and I connected in the last couple days of the camp and I thought he was truly an inspiration to living a full life given whatever limitation life has given you.
So my point is – no matter where you are at with your brain injury – keep going. Live life, enjoy life, try new things and don’t just sit around “killing time”. Be happy you’re alive. Be happy you have options in living a fulfilling life and finding joy even if you have limitations.