Thursday, June 25, 2015

Riley? Shannon?

I guess I might as well share a little bit of humor to begin this post. Yesterday I had a modeling gig, so I got up, showered, washed my hair, did other things that I hate doing, etc. Then when I got out of the shower, I started putting lotion on (which may be of value to mention that the primary reason I was even putting lotion on was because I'm burnt - bad - and peeling like crazy - not because I enjoy nurturing my body :P). Then, I realized that I still had hairy legs. I thought, "do I really have to get back in the shower-tub and shave? I'm going to a modeling thing, yes, but... Most the time I have pants on anyway, but crap, this is a fitness shoot, so I'll likely be in yoga shorts. Ah crap, back in the tub we go..." My mom thought it was funny enough to give you all a laugh.
     Now, to the purpose of the post. Many people ask me "What do you want me to call you now; Riley, or can I still call you Shannon?" The answer is much more complicated, but let's say both, either, depends. Let me explain. First let's see if I can tell you exactly what I told my 6 year old nephew. The reason why I decided to go by Riley is because after the accident my brain makes much slower, stupider, decisions. That is not who Shannon is. So I don't want people to correlate Shannon with who I have become because of the TBI. I guess the biggest influence in all of this has been my loss of everyone who loved Shannon before the accident. If nothing else, I want those people to stop correlating the person who they knew and loved with the person that they see now.
    Both? How does that work? Well, I've decided that to the general public, (again I'm not legally doing anything) my last name will be Shannon. So if you call me Shannon, it will be like you know me professionally, or from the army or something like that, no worries. Either? I would like to be known as Riley - at least to new people - specifically peers - but I am not upset at all if you call me Shannon. I will address later some other reasons why I would love if you call me Riley though. Depends? This is vital. If you have ANY ill feelings towards me, anything that just kind of gets under your skin, please, PLEASE call me Riley. I WILL NOT be offended, I promise. Besides, I won't know why you are making the effort to call me Riley; I won't know if it's for this reason or for other reasons (like what I will mention below). There is a difference for the people who know my spirit - the true me, for those people, it genuinely doesn't matter what you call me in the slightest. But, Shannon L Blackham was a much higher person than having people hate who she is, and I'm sick and tired of allowing the TBI to take that away from her. So I ask you to associate who I am today with the name Riley, because technically Riley is "Shannon affected by a TBI." And moving forward, I will always be affected by a TBI, whether it shines as Shannon or as a complete jerk, I'm being affected by a TBI.
     The hardest thing is for me to see myself as a different person. But especially when I am a total jerk, I am a different person - because of the TBI. I am a different person when it comes to my abilities. It is hard as heck that I can't do so many of the things that used to be automatic before the accident, but truth is that I can't. I need to accept that and move forward. I can't graduate with a Bachelor's degree in 3 years with an A average like I had always planned. I can't even read music anymore let alone play marimba at the state competition level. I can't even join a men's football team like I had always planned! :) The idea of Riley is to stop comparing myself to what I used to be. I used to tell everyone, don't compare yourself to other people, only compare yourself to what you could do yesterday. But now my yesterday is always going to be before the accident - hopefully until I make the change inside myself to Riley. As Riley, I think I might want to try a bunch of things again; things that have been too difficult because of how much I remember I used to be able to do them. So as much as I want to transition to Riley for the appearance towards other people, it's just as much for myself. The transition to Riley is a stepping stone for progress and success. It's hard to view yourself as someone different when everyone continues calling you to the past. This is why I would like you to call me Riley.
    But, once again, let me reiterate that I will NOT get upset if you call me Shannon! When introducing me specifically, I would love if you would introduce me as Riley. But even if you call me Shannon, it's my new last name anyway, so who cares! I feel very strongly about both - being called Riley and keeping the name Shannon - so it honestly doesn't matter. ~~Riley Shannon~~
P.S. Please vote on my hair!

Saturday, June 6, 2015


There are many things associated with severe TBIs that are misunderstood and highly overlooked. There are many things associated with severe TBIs that drive others out of the person's life. There are many things associated with severe TBIs that I wish I could change. Unfortunately, you can't eat a whole elephant in one bite. So we take it piece by piece and ask for help when we get stuck. This particular piece gets me stuck a lot, and I have just blamed the TBI. But today I look at it and say, my dear Heavenly Father, please help me do whatever it is that I need to do so that I do not have this consistent problem. This problem is a little thing we like to call negativity.
Negativity, by definition is "a tendency to be downbeat, disagreeable, and skeptical. It's a pessimistic attitude that always expects the worst." Granted, history has given me every reason to be full of negativity. Not only that, but after a severe TBI, one's brain tends to automatically find fault in everything. I cannot escape it, negativity fills my life everywhere I go. In fact, I am physically incapable of thinking positively. Unfortunately, negativity is the absolute enemy of  anything good happening in your life. It seems as though every time I start something new and exciting, I might get a tiny bit of hope, but that hope gets squandered out because of negativity. Negativity is my worst enemy; negativity is Shannon's and Riley's worst enemy; because negativity will bring you exactly what you expect - the worst.
I could highlight ways that negativity has influenced my life, but that would likely be really boring and possibly annoying. (Negativity in action) But besides any of that; that is not the point of this post. This post is a call for help. This call may remind some of you of times 5 years ago; let me remind you, a TBI like mine never goes away. A TBI like mine will always require lots of help. So today I am asking you to join me in fasting this Sunday specifically for Heavenly Father to either dispose of the automatic negativity that immediately registers in my brain, or for Him to show me how and help me do it. I know it's short notice, but I figure it's fast Sunday already. This is one of the largest struggles someone post TBI will ever have to face, but I hope that Riley will not have to live with it her whole life. Thanks to you all.