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Kevin Pierce and I have more in common than we think

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Last night, I was scrolling through Facebook before I went to sleep, and I watched this video.

I knew that Kevin Pierce, the pro-snowboarder who was about to beat Shawn White in the Vancouver Olympics, suffered a TBI. He’s much different that me, however- he doesn’t have as much balance issues, was able to be a good snowboarder again less than a year after his horrific injury, didn’t have speech issues, etc- and I let that get in the way of our similarities. But then I saw this movie on Facebook from Lululemon, and the way I though of him completely changed.

There were a few poignant statements in the movie that really hit me. The first thing that snagged my attention was Kevin saying “Everybody knows me now as someone who had a TBI. They very rarely see me as something different.”  Because of the documentary that was filmed while he was recovering, The Crash Reel, people tied him to that- the terrible accident that happened to him. They never thought of him as the advanced snowboarder who could do amazing things in the halfpipe.

That’s how I think that people see me. I was very good at the work I did for the ski industry, and I was an pretty good skier. Now, people see me as the girl who suffered a TBI. It’s been very difficult for me to find a job (I don’t have one now), and I don’t ski like I used to. I’m very sad that a simple ski accident led to a significant decrease in workplace ability, and my life outside of the simple and boring one that I have at home is not as exciting as what I used to have.

Towards the end of the film, the comments by Gretchen Bleiler about how you feel alone and isolated after a TBI is dead-on. She said “You can control if you do it alone, or as a community.” I thought that I was abnormal for feeling this way, so it was good to hear someone else say it and show me that maybe that feeling is not too far off. I really enjoyed the TBIAlive community I had in Boulder, where it was great to hear an  experience from someone that happened the same as it would have for me. I hope to become involved with them again.

Recently, I had coffee with a high school acquaintance who suffered a TBI when she was living in DC, walking across the street, and hit by a car going 35 miles per hour. She kind of allowed me to believe that, yes, things are different for me that they used to be, but there’s a lot that’s still the same- my personality, long-term memory, and athleticism. She has trouble with loud noises, like I do, and gets lost very easily. All TBI’s are different, but it’s good to hear another completely normal person is also going through some of the same challenges.

Last night, I just came to the realization that I’m not horrible; things are just different, and I was overwhelmed by noticing that Kevin Pierce has some of the same differences. It was good to be reminded that he struggles too, and my high school friend also has some similar challenges. It’s good to know that I’m not alone.

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Changes

Tonight I’m thinking about how a lot for me has changed. Not having anything to do this week kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. I lack the connection that I felt I used to have. A lot of things have changed for me, and that’s why this lack of plans has overwhelmed me so much. 

Every week, I meet up with a bible study that Steve Hemphill introduced me to. While I enjoy talking with them and having bible study mostly once a week, I’m sad that I haven’t noticed a personal connection with many people outside that weekly meeting. I’m really sad that I don’t have a job right now, not many close friends, and not much to do. I realize that a lot has changed for me now, and I’m trying to accept those changes. 

That’s all. I guess I don’t have much to say other than me noticing them. 

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2016 to 2017

new-years

A lot has changed for me since my ski accident- moving to a new city, losing my job, not being close to friends anymore, and all the physical challenges (can’t run anymore, don’t have the balance to ride a bike solo, have trouble swimming because I have to tell myself to not breathe underwater). 2016 was the year that I was overwhelmed with these changes, and I struggled with them. So, rather than saying this past year was awesome, it’s actually been quite sad and frustrating for me.

I heard about this bible study group in the Springs (at Steve’s wedding in Seattle, who had a bridesmaid in his wedding who was roommates with his wife in college, and the pastor at their wedding was also a part of this bible study). It’s great to be connected with some people down here, rather than only knowing people in Boulder, Jackson, and Summit County. However, I haven’t felt that connected to the people in that group. Yes, there are great friends there, but we rarely have interaction outside of that bible study. There are a few people that I do see outside that group, but I guess my expectations are too high- I used to be so social before my accident, and with all the changes (location, friends, job, physical abilities) I guess I feel like I lost some of that. I live at home with my parents (which I have done for the last four years) because there isn’t anyone I’m that connected with that needs a roommate.

The job I have now is great- I was so bored trying to find things to do at home, so it’s good that I have a place to work. I did some social media for work before my accident, and now I help with it for TravelUpdate,  a website written by travel bloggers. I’m kind of realizing now that I don’t perform at work the same as I used to, and my memory was badly damaged. Ever since I was hired in June, I did things that I didn’t remember I did, and I was pretty short with my coworkers because I thought I remembered a “better” way to do things. My goal for 2017 is the be the best I can be at work- not doing things my own way. I really need to listen to what my superiors at work say, and actually do them.

The biggest thing I struggle with is loneliness. I don’t feel connected anywhere, and I realize that my hearing is another thing that was massively damaged in my ski accident. My loneliness might be based on that, but I don’t really know. Last night at bible study we shared our experiences in 2016 and our goals for 2017. Most of the people in the group said they travelled, found a new job, had exciting things happen in their personal lives, etc. The girl from Steve’s wedding said that she was happy that everyone had a great year and is really excited for the year to come. I was very honest and said “well, 2016  was one of the hardest years for me.” I told them how I struggle with loneliness, and I feel like I really need to find a community. However, there’s this new girl in the group who just moved here from Arkansas with her husband, and she has been one of the most friendly people in the group, and she’s invited me to do simple things with her just so we can hang out. I hope my bible study reacts to the loneliness I told them I was feeling.

If you’ve stuck with reading through this obscenely long post, thank you! The things I struggle with most are loneliness and work. With 2017 upon us, hopefully things will improve!

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Inspired to Improve Skiing

A few days ago, I saw a FB post by Jim Harris (another High Fives Athlete) who was paralyzed by a freak wind accident when he was practicing hang gliding to shoot some photos (he’s very talented photographer; see his work here). Although every injury is different, he wrote about how he thought he would be a much better skier after taking the summer off and allowing his body to recuperate. He wasn’t better, which was disappointing. Yet he used that issue as motivation for him to become a better skier. (He even skins up things- I used to do that all the time, yet haven’t tried since by accident. Maybe it’s time?)

jim
from Jim’s FB page

I have trouble with my right side- left turns are easier while skiing (because my right foot is downhill). What inspired me was that Jim talked about his frustrations, yet he had the willpower to push through them. Rather than being annoyed and disappointed that my right turn is more difficult, I will focus on that every time I ski. What prompted this was the thought that I could improve. Yes, I’ll be angry that these things happen (when they didn’t before), but instead of wallowing in despair about it, I can work to make my right turns better. That means putting more pressure on my right leg when I turn to the left side and bending my right knee more.

I’m posting this here because I want to be held accountable for it! I would not like to keep this idea to myself- I need YOU to ask me if I’m working on it, and if the left turns are improving. Hopefully, I’ll improve on that this season, and probably find something to improve for next season.

 

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New goals at work

Let me just start out by saying I’m so grateful to be at work again. However, things are much different for me now, and I haven’t really accepted/understood that.

At my current job, memory is a giant struggle. The other day, one of our bloggers’ photos were too dark, so I thought I was helping the company by lightening the photos and then re-uploading them. However, there were captions along with the photos, and I totally forgot to include them after my change. One of my coworkers (and my former boss) told me the blogger emailed her and asked where they were. She’s asked me not to edit a while ago, but I did it anyway. Also, my memory didn’t remind me that there were captions with those photos, so I didn’t attach them.

 

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Hotel Review: The Palace in San Francisco

What’s a bigger problem than memory, though, is my unwillingness to respect the requests I was given. I don’t know why I’ve gone above and beyond what they’ve asked of me, but I have. My goal is to understand their orders and not usurp them. I haven’t been happy at work, and this is the reason why. My goal is to listen and respond to requests when I’m asked.

What’s a bigger problem than memory, though, is my unwillingness to respect the requests I was given. I don’t know why I’ve gone above and beyond what they’ve asked of me, but I have. My goal is to understand their orders and not usurp them. I haven’t been happy at work, and this is the reason why. My goal is to listen and respond to requests when I’m asked.

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There are a variety of physical disabilities…

Since a spinal cord injury is a pretty severe injury, I often feel like TBI’s are overlooked. While SCI’s have to relearn, basically, everything, I think that injury is focused on more. They have to relearn how to shower, sleep, drive, hike, ski…

But I had to relearn those things, too. My TBI (although pretty severe, I think) resulted in a drastic change in my balance, so I have had to change how I shower, drive, hike and ski. I ride a bike on a tandem, I have to shower seated, hike with a pole (and I get very tired quickly), and drive with a left-footed gas pedal. My right side is weaker (because I had a left-side brain injury), so I often fall when I’m turning left while skiing, with my right leg the downhill one.

As a result of my accident, I also haven’t found independence yet. I live at home, haven’t found a job that I love as much as the one during my ski accident (although I don’t think anyone will ever be as lucky), don’t have my drivers license yet, and don’t have many friends in Colorado Springs.

For me, there’s a difference between capability and enjoyment.While I can’t do as many outdoorsy things as I used to (telemark ski, ride a bike solo for many miles, etc.), I still love them just the same.

That’s the end of my rant. I just wish people who’ve had TBI’s were given as much attention as SCI’s.

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Getting back to work

westin
Image from : travelupdate.boardingarea.com/review-westin-phila-presidential-suite

I was lucky enough to be hired about six weeks ago, but it’s been challenging for me to stay on top of things. Before my ski accident, I could (and would) do what I thought was needed for work, and I remember one time where a boss was really impressed with my work ethic and attitude. Now, I get to do the social media for a company that owns three travel-focused websites, and we work with bloggers from around the world. My main focus is TravelUpdate, and I do the Facebook, Twitter, and I started a Pinterest and Instagram account (that’s still in the works) for them.

However, things don’t come as naturally or easily for me now. I thought I knew everything about Pinterest, but I should have realized that, like Facebook, things change every week. I’m still learning how to make it best for our company, and I’m kind of frustrated that it takes more mental focus to get things done in the correct way at work. Social media thoughts don’t come as easily for me like they did before my brain injury, and rather be annoyed by that, I need to find ways to accept my limitations. I’m blessed that I have a boss who’s stuck by my side, even though I keep making these dumb little mistakes.

I guess that’s the takeaway from a brain injury. No, things are not as easy or simple as they used to be, and that has frustrated me. But rather than being depressed that things are not as good at work as they used to be, I’m fortunate that I’m still respected enough to get work done.

What are your thoughts? Have you overcame an obstacle at work- or in life? How did you rise above that?