Wednesday, May 23, 2018

8 Years - Unapologetically

It has been an interesting, incredible, fascinating, remarkable journey for the last 8 years - or at least that's what I'm told. Most of those 8 years, I don't remember; some of those years, my brain wasn't functioning enough to be a reasonable person - heck, that still happens sometimes. While neurons do not regenerate, my brain is constantly trying to find new albeit longer and harder pathways to do simple things. Even though the regular developmental processing of my brain was inhibited, I had to create new goals, new dreams, and possibly hardest of all: new expectations. I was not, am not ready for that. I still feel like I'm 16 in so many ways. I mourn every day the loss of all of my friends, hopes, plans, dreams, etc. I cannot do the things that I once could do (and for a long time thought that I still could do) but I feel like I should still be able to. I look normal on the outside, for the most part, I act normal and when something happens that isn't normal, I apologize like crazy. It doesn't make sense for these kinds of irregular things to happen to someone who doesn't have a TBI, and ironically my brain doesn't think I have a TBI. For what I have had control of, I've tried to rationalize, explain, justify all sorts of things.
This trip was so wonderful in so many ways. Wherever I was, whether it be in an uber in Taipei, at an orphanage in Bacolod, in the heat of extreme humidity, I was loved and accepted for who I was, despite any character flaws, physical flaws, or cognitive flaws. I didn't have to feel ashamed of any part of me; I was involved in things that I love and no one was questioning me about any of it. I decided it was finally about time to do what I've wanted to for a long time - embrace the compliment I received from Melissa Larsen "You are unapologetically you." I love this! I want to be unapologetic, unashamed, authentic, genuine; me. I've been afraid of offending, looking stupid, being ostracized, etc. But on this trip, I resolved to return to my roots, stop caring about what others think, embrace what makes me happy and be unapologetically who I am.
On my anniversary, I was exhausted. We were in Cebu city so that we could attend a temple, and I had been going so hard for 10 days without much sleep. So while I slept most of the day after we attended the temple, this day didn't seem so grim. It wasn't quite so dark and heavy as it has been in years past. I didn't feel the need to pretend to tell the world that the TBI had no effect on me. I felt like I could adapt with the TBI, do what I needed to do, find happiness where it needed to be found, and feel good in all of it. As much as this day always reminds me of how great my life once was, and how much harder it is now, my 8 year anniversary had a little different perspective. Being in foreign lands, worlds that are FAR less fortunate than ours, places where the gospel of Jesus Christ truly is a miracle, and knowing that I could stand as a witness made my decision to come back a little less painful. Please don't get me wrong, the pain is still there, and still very, very real; but having people look over all of my struggles and simply love who I am, that made all the difference.
P.S. more stories about the Philippines to come!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

For Reals. Finally.

      The time has arrived. I will finally have my associates' degree in 3 weeks. It is not much, especially for a straight A, top of the class, over achiever who graduated high school in 2011. But, as much as I don't believe it, it is remarkable for someone with a traumatic brain injury alone; despite the fact that mine was both a diffuse axonal injury and a subarachnoid hemorrhage; the intricate details that I received the lowest possible score on the Glasgow Coma Scale, and was on life support for 2 weeks while medical professionals asked why. It is remarkable that when all the doctors told me not to go back to school, I did; I went back to graduate with my class, still taking 3 AP classes. And I got another very invasive surgery shortly thereafter and tried to go straight to college. When that didn't quite work, I didn't give up though. I kept trying at school for years until I am at the point now where I finally have a degree. And yes, it may be a small, seemingly worthless degree, but given my history, it is a symbol of strength. It is proof that I have determination, I have drive, vigor and a love to further myself, no matter the difficulties. The social view of an associates' degree gets me down, and discouraged all too often. I need to remember everything that I've been through and the fact that I understand all of the medical terms I have described above and so many more is in fact, remarkable. The unfortunate thing is that I can't see myself in terms of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, nor can I see myself in terms of eternity, I can only see myself in terms of "lasterday" (before the accident). So I cannot see how far I've come, I cannot see how much I've grown, I still can only see how much I've lost. This is not something that I can just fix or change, this is physical damage that occurred during my injury - and neurons do not regenerate.
     After I have finished school however, then I will be going on to a completely different track. This is something I introduced a number of months back. I will finally be traveling to the Philippines. My dad and I will leave on the 3rd of May and travel for a LONG time before we finally arrive in Manilla. We will visit 3 different islands in the Philippines, but stay mainly on Negros, where my grandparents made great friends with people who give great services to other Filipinos. While on Negros, we will be staying in the city of Bacolod, visiting with Ben Candari and the Livelihood Assistance Foundation (of Philippines) as well as Ritchie Olivares with the Home of Hope (orphanage for abused, abandoned, and homeless children). This is where most of the donations will go, as Ritchie has asked for much help. However, there is still much need for donations, which could be made either directly, through gofundme ( or something like the following: write your testimony, draw a picture, have your kids or kids in your classes do those things, etc. Don't feel any pressure though, especially at this time of year, I of all people understand that other things take primary focus. I am so excited to serve my brothers and sisters of all ages around the globe for about 2 weeks in less than a month! My love reaches out to every nation, and I'm thrilled to see it in action!

Friday, March 23, 2018


I currently have 15 drafts of blogposts that I want to write. 15! But I also haven't posted much in a really long time, so something is wrong with this picture.... Well, it's called I have a TBI, and very limited resources. What do I mean by resources? Let me illustrate this reference we use so often.
An average person (someone without a TBI) starts everyday with 100% of their resources. Like this picture of a jar full of jellybeans. As you go throughout the day you use resources - thinking, observing, working, etc. So for this average person, getting ready for the day might take 2 of the jellybeans out of the jar. Going to school, maybe 20; going to work, depending on how much you like your job 10-50. Relaxing puts jellybeans back into said person's jar. That's an average person...

For me, and people like me (people with a TBI), we don't start with 100% of resources, probably more like 60%, like you can see in the picture to the right. For me, getting ready takes 15-20 jellybeans out of this jar; and there really aren't enough to take that many out. (Hence why I almost never get ready!) Going to school takes out at least 45 resources/jellybeans. By this time I've got practically none left, so you can see why I can't go to school and work at the same time. There are numerous things that drain my resources all the time as well; things like relationships (or lack thereof), messy areas, constant pain, and most importantly stimuli - including temperature changes, sights, noises, smells/odors, tastes, etc.  What makes things even worse is that "relaxing" can be extremely damaging as well. The way that the average person thinks of relaxing is devastating for me. The best way I can relax is by doing things that overly involve my brain (like Sudoku) or by watching Psych! Unfortunately however, neither of those things work every time. And even at that, it doesn't exactly deposit jellybeans back into the jar either, or at least not very fast.
So it doesn't take very long for my jar to get completely empty, when the average person's very rarely ever does. When the jar does get completely empty that's when I am too exhausted to do anything for myself - including fall asleep. Yes, it takes resources to fall asleep and sleeping in and of itself barely replenishes resources.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Low Update

Update on life: First of all I didn't realize how long it had been since I had posted. My life has been pretty bad for the last little while. I am not sure if I don't want to post because I want this blog to be a message of hope, or I don't want to be accused of just seeking pity, or being the victim, or simply because every second of my life takes enough of my resources that at the end of the day writing a blogpost is just more than I can handle. Either way, I have hit a low, and at times, this low has been deeper than it has been in years. I'm in school again which is always extremely difficult; this time I'm taking a few physically demanding classes which literally makes me come home and cry. I'm also in a Chemistry class that I think I really understand but I just found out I scored way worse on the test than I thought I would. And it's at 10:00 everyday - my schedule saying I should be up by 6:30 every morning - and for the first time in my life, I need to sleep in. I skipped this phase as a teenager, even as a post-TBI survivor for a very long time. But it appears my brain may very well be doing so much repair work while I'm sleeping that waking up early halts all that progress and sends me for a big loop. I have been without a roommate or friend for quite a while. Vocational Rehab also changed up counselors and my new counselor does not understand anything about TBIs. TBIs are very challenging to work with, but they are much, much more challenging to live with. We are still people and we deserve to be treated as such. Just because we (everyone with a disability) have limitations does not mean that we are any less of a person. I've known this all my life, and now I know it from firsthand experience. I still think critically, intellectually, logically and emotionally. I have greater limitations than most, but I also have greater empathy than most. I say all of these things not to raise my high horse but in an attempt to believe that I am worth something when everyone, everywhere, and everything around me tells me I'm not.
The real reason for writing this post: I do not feel like I could do my grandmother justice if I honored her in this post after everything I've just written about myself. So I won't do that. I will write a little now, and have a detailed post hopefully later. My last living grandparent, my maternal grandma passed away at 10:55 on February 1st. So many things that were unfortunate about the timing of all of this, including it was just over an hour away from my parents anniversary. For some reason my grandparents like to leave me right after a prophet leaves me too. So as if all of the losses from the accident weren't enough, let's add some more on.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

I Just Know

Unfortunately, because of the accident I have a loss of words all too often. I don't have near the vocabulary I once had and although I feel it, I cannot express it. Even if I do find the words, sometimes I fear saying them because it makes me different and people don't like different. But this particular thing is something that I don't have words for, but my knowledge somehow needs to be known.
I could attempt to convince you how the Savior works in my life every single day, but truth of the matter is, I'm not quite so capable of that anymore, especially if you're not willing to hear it. I can tell you of the miracles He and His priesthood preformed on me. But once again, I stumble over my words, I get lost in my speech, and it doesn't really matter if you're not listening. I could tell you the peace He gives to me when nothing else can, I could tell you how I've had answers to prayers in some of the craziest ways. I could tell you how he has saved me when I've felt the weakest. I can tell you that He is my Savior, my Redeemer, my Brother and my Friend. But can I really tell you why? Not exactly, I just know.

Do I understand all of the details of the gospel of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints? No! But does it matter? No! Because I know that this is the absolute truest form of His existence, His ministry, and His gospel. I know that He directs this church as His one and only true church on the Earth today. I believe, trust and have faith in everything the prophets and apostles say. Why? I have felt it, I have lived it, I have witnessed the blessings, but in the end, I just know. Can I tell you how I know? Sure, I can try, I can tell you of how the gospel changes my life and makes me feel of value and worth, most importantly how it always gives me the feeling of being loved. But when it comes right down to it, can I intellectually teach you of eternal things? Absolutely not! I just know. It's why every individual must search for a testimony themselves.
 I Just Knew
Can I tell you how I know there is a God? Well, maybe, but not exactly. I don't imagine how anyone can think that this world could have been created without a God. I mean sure there's the philosophy of the Earth just colliding with other masses and stuff, but where did all of that come from? When you think about all of that, you end up thinking about eternal things and it doesn't make sense with our finite minds. 2 Nephi 2:13: "And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away." But either way, I just know. How do I know that He is a living being? There are plenty of revelations and scriptures that say it, but in the end, I just know.
It Passes All My Understanding

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When the Brain Fatigues, the Whole Body Fatigues

     Our wonderful, marvelous brain that not even an incredible scholar understands controls our every movement. Our brain is the mastermind behind everything we do. This includes the annoying rituals of waking up, brushing our teeth, washing our hair, etc. to the unconscious work we do all throughout our lives; like breathing, keeping our heart breathing, digesting, etc. The brain is very connected to every other piece of our body.
     I'll get back to that in a minute, but having that been said, with a traumatic brain injury, one's brain is much, much faster to fatigue. While I do not believe my heart had any problems remembering to beat, I did have a number of problems with breathing so I was put on a ventilator. I had to work for MONTHS and MONTHS to get to a point where I could eat normal things because of the disruption with different parts of my digestive system. I do not have the balance that a normal person has let alone what I used to have. I walk on the edges of my feet where it creates more stress on your knees, foot, ankle, hip and back And these are the things that you are not supposed to think about! So add in the things that a functioning human being should do every day on top of that - wow, what a workout!
     So if our brain controls all of the things I just mentioned, as well as the ordinary thinking, driving,  exercising, going to school/work, cleaning, etc. wouldn't it make sense then, that a person who has to think overtime about all of the unconscious routines would wear out very, very quickly? Yes, and that's what happens to me ALL the time. It's also very frustrating at times however. Because I don't look like I have a disability, I don't give any "physical signs" that I should be fatigued, but when the brain fatigues, the entire body fatigues. What I'm saying is that there doesn't need to be physical signs, there doesn't need to be a reason why someone is overloaded. Sometimes, they've taken in more than they can handle for the moment.
     This is why it has literally taken me SO long to post. I have so many ideas and wonderful things I would like to talk about. But when it comes down to it, which is more important, updating the world, or trying to survive a little bit longer? I hope to post soon, update you on all of the things I've been thinking about lately, but hopefully in light of this post, you will try to understand if that doesn't always happen.
And don't forget to vote on the poll on the side of the webpage!!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Please Don't Blame Me

Trying to live my life on a daily basis is a never-ending battle. I go about things in ways that may seem unconventional or annoying, such as:
      I might be too annoying or too frustrating. It may seem like I never do anything or that I’m always too tired. I may get angry very quickly or walk away without warning. I may take too long to process words or always seem to get lost in my thoughts. I may seem selfish or too involved in my problems. I may seem too churchy or not enough. I may want more physical attention and less sexual; I might be stressed too often or get too overwhelmed to do anything – including clean my own apartment. I may wake up too many times in the middle of the night or not be able to fall asleep for hours. It may be because I love being with my family a little too much sometimes. I do have problems with social filters and cues. I do have problems with the volume of my voice. I do (or at least used to) have problems with the tone or fluctuation of my voice. I might be childish or upset that you don’t have enough experience. I may become upset over stupid little things. I may be very weak. I may never leave you alone, even after you've asked me to several times. It may be any number of things.
     But truth be told, I'm just trying to survive. Some of my methods are not fully thought out. Many of the things I do are out of impulse, or from deep emotions, like every blog post I've been wanting to post for the last month. The hardest thing about all of this is that it honestly does stem from the TBI. My accident literally was a desecration of my skull and destroyed parts of my brain. It was such a trauma that my body may never heal in some regards. The TBI does not have an ending; just because you cannot see it, doesn't mean that it is not there. My TBI is just about as real as it gets, but I do not use it as an excuse. In fact, doctors that have worked a lot with TBI patients commend me for continuing to work so hard against all of the struggles it adds to my life. But I still refuse to accept their commendation because I still make way too many mistakes. See, I will not ever allow myself to use the TBI as my "consequence-free ticket to life." I try my hardest to fight the TBI in all moments, but when I can't, I am sorry. It is not a result of me saying "oh, well I can blame it on the TBI. I don't even have the capacity to think forward enough to say "I can use my injury as an excuse!!!" This is a lifelong injury and I am going to have to deal with this every single day - people telling me I use the TBI as an excuse for everything.