Finding inspiration

I have had an enormously frustrating ten days for a number of reasons.

So finding tremendous inspiration in a phone call with another survivor on Monday has helped me focus on the inspiration (rather than the frustration).   I needed that!

Because of my injury, I deal with a lot of frustration on a daily basis.  I continue to have many problem solving skills and difficulties with new learning, getting things in sequence and difficulties with organization in my brain and in my environment, to name a few.  Technology often stands in my way rather than helps me.   I routinely have to compensate around my frustrations and I have to work at not letting the frustration I experience get to me.   Sometimes I am more successful than others.

When I have a bad week, my problem solving skills decline.    And thus my frustration can increase, sometimes to unmanageable levels.

And all that can happen with no help from events outside of me.   When events outside my control create increased frustration for me, I have to work even harder to stay as calm and even-keeled as I can.  I learned in formal outpatient rehabilitation that my problem-solving is actually better when I am calm, so finding calm and staying even-keeled behooves me.

To make the frustration I have been dealing with in the past 10 days (from outside) more concrete, I am going to share some of  the details.

My cell phone service has been horrible for the last two weeks.   My service has been dropping calls like crazy.  And, I have horrible reception right now, even when the calls aren’t being dropped.

At first, I compensated by stopping making calls.  But then, I felt like a prisoner to my phone.    When I started using the phone again, I would start the call by telling the other person that my reception was terrible and to please bear with me, as there was nothing I could do about it right now.

Alittle background here about the importance of my phone to me.     To solve problems, I need to use my phone to call others for support and friendship and to get suggestions from others that I cannot think of by myself. I need to call repair people for problems in my home.   And I need to be able to understand what others say, which is sometimes difficult for me with clear reception because of the lingering subtleties of my injury.   Understanding others is much harder when the phone reception is bad or is cutting in and out.  Plus having to redial the phone and figure out where I was in the process, is just trying to my patience.

I called my cell phone service  7 days ago and complained and listened to them for 30 minutes.   My husband had been complaining for me before then.  But, I realized I really needed to do it for myself because the bad service was so annoying to me that I knew it would make me feel better to talk with them directly.

After my call with them, I lost my voice to larynigitis.  I couldn’t talk for 3 days!   So things got worse before they got better.

I could go on and on about my increased frustrations during the time I couldn’t talk.     However, I really want to talk about the solution.

Once I got my voice back, I called Mark Palmer for a conversation we had scheduled before I lost my voice.   I had been introduced to Mark through my volunteer work at the Brain Injury Association of America in the Washington DC area years ago.   I wanted to reconnect with him this week as he had presented the first Webinair by a survivor through a new Webinair series hosted by the Brain Injury Association of America.    The series is funded by the Butch Alterman Fund and seeks to address top issues of survivors and their family members.

I had missed the Webinair when it aired in December and I hope to watch it when its posted electronically, soon.    The title was Realistic Hope.    I wanted to talk with Mark about how it went for him and what he learned from doing it.

What was the inspiration that Mark gave me in our conversation?

First, he helped me work around my technology issues for the conversation!   Mark made his career in technology after a severe brain injury changed his life in his early teens.

So he patiently advised me as to how to use my skype connection so that we could avoid the phone issues.    He was so patient, and gave me time to find my skype password and walk me through the skype website which came up on a screen where I couldn’t find a place to type in his skype information.  His patience alone was tremendous and the exact mix of attention and space that I needed to problem-solve.

Together (and with both of us showing each other tremendous patience) we kept looking for a different compensation when my first attempt on my computer didn’t work.   Since he was on an Apple machine, he couldn’t walk me through what my machine was showing.     I realized that I also had an apple machine, an Ipad I am learning to use, so when Plan A with my computer  didn’t work, we moved to Plan B on the Ipad.   And all of a sudden, we were connected!!!!  Bingo.

I want to say more about Mark’s work after I have seen his Webinair.

But for now, I want to tell you what has stayed with me the most from his conversation:

1) Mark thinks in a very holistic way about problems.  It was inspiring listening to his thinking.  When you think outside the box, you come to conclusions that solve problems in a bigger picture way.

2) Mark’s outlook is amazing.    Mark said that he’s been 30 years with out seizures.  He said that if the people who helped and supported him had given up on helping him to be seizure-free during the 20 years it took for him to be seizure-free, they would have robbed him of those 30 years.    That is quite an outlook!

3) Mark’s story about the way he looks at his journey to be seizure-free reminded me of the gift that finally being able to drive after 15 years of hard work on re-developing my driving skills gives me.   Many people supported me with a lot of baby steps that I had to master in order to be able to drive again.   And if they hadn’t done that, I would not be experiencing that gift everyday when I drive my son to school or run errands.

Mark put me back in touch with a feeling that I have when I am in the inspired place–that I have had a lot of recovery from my brain injury.

And one of the gifts of that recovery, when I remember it, is that if I can get better from brain injury, I can do anything!  I have been greatly challenged, and I have risen to the occasion.  That is a great feeling.

The day after I talked with Mark, I called my cell phone carrier again.

This time, I successfully argued for a cell phone extender — a piece of technology that will improve my cell phone reception in my house while towers around me are upgraded.   Thank you Mark!

To all the survivors who have modeled for me better ways of doing things and who have inspired me with their actions, thanks a million!


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