My Journey with ABI

My name is Judy Johnston and my ABI story begins six years ago. When it happened I had spent most of my adult life as Judith A. Johnston, a professional, a Licensed Employee Benefits Consultant and Vice President of a Life Insurance Brokerage. It took many weeks of being in hospital before I came to understand that I had been a victim of a car crash. The injuries I sustained have left me with Acquired Brain Injury, impaired vision, recurring back and neck issues, loss of hearing, the loss of my sense of smell and balance issues.

It has been, and continues to be, a long journey to recovery, but I now call myself a survivor of a life altering event. Inside I am still that Judith Ann Johnston I was before the accident, and I am grateful for her qualities and strengths that have come through as I slowly make my way down this road I call my “New Normal”. 

Judy's Blog 

0 plays

Posted 15 weeks ago

How do we help ourselves to keep “virtually” in touch with others

These are difficult times for each and every one of us. Suffering the limitations a brain injury causes too many of us, compounded by this virulent Covid-19 epidemic, can make the outside world seem as if it is contracting our space even further. It can make us feel we just want to pull up inside ourselves and cocoon until this episode in history has slithered back into hiding.

Much too quickly I have had to learn that not dealing with the turbulence this is causing my family, friends, neighbours, therapists, PSW’s and rehab providers… essentially every one in each of our circles, can cause new challenges and struggles. You can’t wish it away. So how do we continue to move forward in this life’s journey with ABI?


It has been a process, but the benefits have been immeasurable. As my in-house support network of PSW’s, RSW’s and Therapists began to exit my physical life, due to social distancing, I became moody. Fatigue attacked me with a vengeance as I tried to do many of the daily household tasks that, in support of me, others had been managing. 

And then my days began to get better…

The first positive action I took was to work with my Yoga Instructor in setting up two hourly sessions each week. At that initial live virtual FaceTime session, my eyes were immediately opened to my new reality. A reality that I could have some control in. Once again I felt grounded, focused, and was able to add some much needed structure into my days. One by one I began to schedule times with my OT, Speech Language Pathologist, Social Worker, and Rehab Support Worker. Yesterday I attended an ABI group meeting using Zoom. It was good to see that we were all making efforts to temper the proverbial storm.

My speaking date at the Brain Injury Canada-Ottawa Conference has been moved to the fall. Today I will be recording my speech to the U of T graduating SLP’s for their last virtual class. This coming week I look forward to restarting my art classes with my art teacher via the internet. I am still thinking about upping my physical exercise to include walking and recumbent biking. It will come. 

Throughout this experience I continue to talk to my best friend at least every other day. I have friends and family I text or email. One of my brothers has started sending me pictures and text messages. My sister and husband continue to pick up my slack when I become “Brain Tired”.  Yes we need to remain in place, in our homes, in order to safely wait for the world’s return to a different but better “new” normal. That day will come and we will all be better persons for it.

Posted 55 weeks ago

Today is a better Day!

Inspite of the ongoing and tragic impact the covid-19 virus is having on each and every one of us, it is important to be open ito accepting and celebrating those seemingly little things in life that continue to pull us back towards normalcy.


Today has been that day for me. The Spring Edition of HOPE Magazine is now out and online and there, on page 17, is my article about “Our Creativity is Waiting to Re-Emerge”. Writing has been a way to put my struggles, challenges and successes into perspective. It also provides me with a historical measurement of time and events as I continue my journey along this new pathway.

Www.tbihopeandinspiration.com

I hope you will find something today that brings a smile to your face and warmth in your heart.

Posted 59 weeks ago

And then there are days when even I can’t face those obstacles

Throughout this six year journey of trying to find ‘myself’, it has not been without struggle as I find myself coming face to face with this new “other”person I have become.  In many ways the obstacles I have faced as an ABI survivor often cause me to feel lost, no longer maintaining that important sense of self worth of who I am and the value I have within society. Those essences of “ME”, easily and quickly disappear when I stumble, trip or am confronted with an obstacle, in this, my life’s journey towards recovery.

In that car accident my life changed in an instant. It didn’t ask my permission, I was not given an alternative option, or an agenda in how it would complicate my life, it happened and so I must learn to live with the consequences. As a result, when obstacles rise up before me, making me fall off kilter, often feeling that I have lost my value as a human being, and a feeling of diminished ability in being a partner to my husband, no longer being able to exercise my previous role as the matriarch of a large extended family,  and to have lost that easy going camaraderie I had with so many friends and colleagues and people who were my clients.

Today  I was faced with a double sided coin. I had the best news possible, an article I had written will be published in a magazine called HOPE. Then, on the flip side, an hour later, the other proverbial shoe dropped as I learned the Insurer was again requesting another Independent Examination, in my view a misnomer, by denying continuing my Speech Therapy until the need has been reassessed. My experience with these last assessments have been flawed.

I am wallowing in my despair, in my sadness, my continued inability to control my environment. I understand that my different therapy sessions are continually under review and their frequency changed or limited as I progress forward. What I want the people who decide these things to know about “ME” is that I am not a quitter,  to please come to understand the value I place on becoming and continuing, in some way, productive and creative in ways to replace what I so unexpectedly lost, my pre-accident quality of life, my love of my job and relationships, travel without having to have a caregiver to make sure I am physically safe. I have lost my freedom to meet life’s challenges head on in a humanizing way.

As I sit here there is a side of me that knows the light will shine once again, I know that, and the pain and anxiety will ease and I can again breathe. But at this moment it is dark out.

Posted 66 weeks ago

A Day, A Week, A Month… we do make it through!

We have all had them. A difficult day, week, month, that is challenging, a downer, an obstacle that we are unable to make our way through. Mine was this past month of December. 

It was a month filled with challenges, obstacles, not feeling well both mentally and physically. No different than what I experienced in my life prior to my ABI. But now I am living with the ramifications of an ABI, the steps to move forward can be like walking in quick setting cement. 

December was filled with a negatively impactful Independent Exam ordered by the Insurer, often a misnomer to call it an independent third party but I will not say any more. I had a serious fall, got a cold, endured the headaches from a constantly changing  weather pressure system, wrapping gifts (and, yes, by tradition, I also wrap all the gifts for our stockings), cooking our Christmas Turkey, and finally recovering from all the associated activities of the holidays.

Today I am on the other side of that difficult month. It is a new year, literally and figuratively, and I am feeling calmer and more grounded than I did a week ago. In the clarity of a new day I am able to see that those things that depressed and saddened me, that made me want to hide away from everyone, were filled with many positive outcomes. That IE is being reassessed, I am continuing on with my Yoga sessions, online Christmas shopping was my energy saver, this year I “did not” wrap our dogs’ gifts for their stockings, Christmas dinner was a  collaborative labour of love that involved my husband and sister, again remembering to breathe, and having the down time between Christmas and New Year was a welcomed respite.

We need to accept that life continues no matter what our mental, cognitive and overall health status is. There is always sunshine behind every dark cloud, and eventually it does break through, our mood lifts and life will continue to move forward.

Happy New Year!

Posted 70 weeks ago
tumblr photo
Posted 77 weeks ago

Our Creativity is waiting to re-emerge...

Think about what you liked to do in your youth. Was it writing in a journal, building model ships or planes, drawing, playing an instrument, anything that held you captive as you created something new or continued to build on an activity or avocation you truly enjoyed doing?

 In my pre-ABI life’s story I went to university, entered into the work force and continued to build on an existing family business, married later in life, while always trying to provide emotional and personal support to others that needed me to be there for them.  I believe that we were all impacted by the proverbial treadmill of the “daily grind”. Those seemingly routine activities turned into an avalanche of responsibilities. For so many of us, we become seemingly unaware of how we are impacted by allowing our pre-ABI life responsibilities to take away our “ME” time, pulling us away from those long ago life fulfilling and socially enriching activities.

In this journey of coming to terms with my brain injury, and the impact it has had on me, I am finding my creative side once again. It took time. It took the cajoling, suggestions and patience of those around me to allow me to find my way back to those things I did in my youth. Because of their support I am richer in spirit for finding my way back to writing, drawing and a new passion for painting watercolours. Each activity energizes me, making me think and feel a personal sense of “self-accomplishment”.

It may be something you did before your ABI. It can be something, that until now, you haven’t given much thought to trying it out.  What about working on a puzzle, reading, or putting energy into looking at and cataloguing past and present family photos? And, even if you need someone to help you with that activity, the positive impact to your well being is that you will light up when you are able to carry it through, by talking about it in a social setting, with self-pride.

Find your escape back to what you enjoyed doing in your youth and allow those experiences to help you move forward.

Posted 77 weeks ago

Finding myself going backwards...

In those moments of darkness, when I find myself having awoken in the middle of the night, the string of words and thoughts swirling inside my head flow smoothly and succinctly. As I talk to myself in silent sentences I am perfect and whole. No stuttering, my words link smoothly, and I continue to breathe easily as those thoughts flow. During the daylight hours it has been another story as I once again find myself struggling to communicate to those who enter my everyday world.

Having previously written about my summer and the relatively brief but disruptive impact of changing medications, I had failed to understand, and even acknowledge how it had impacted my speech. Yes I heard the staccato of my stuttering as I searched for increasingly more and more missing words. I heard my repeated apologies of “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” and those anxiety driven “okay… okay…okay’s” and yet I didn’t quite grasp how I was so easily falling back into those chaotic speech patterns that were as a result of my Acquired Brain Injury. That was until a recent joint session with my OT and Speech Language Pathologist brought it out into the forefront. 

Well before that meeting, my RSW, Janet, was constantly telling me to breathe as I talked. I would look at her, breathe, then continue on with my broken speech patterns. She worked hard at trying to get me to focus on what I was saying. We even spent an enormous amount of time doing meditations to temper the impact anxiety was having on me. And to work on my speech she had me reading a funny book about a group of senior “wanna be” bank robbers out loud. I knew what was happening… but then again somehow I don’t think I did. Sometimes it takes a team to intervene and help you get back on track! It was a “eureka” moment and I am grateful to have them all on my side.

As my mood improves, and those anxiety gremlins begin to slink away into the nether regions of my world, and I remember to breathe while listening to the string of words and sentences I am producing out loud, I know I am back on the road to recovery!

Posted 82 weeks ago

As Seasons Pass

It has been a funny summer, not funny haha but funny strange. Everything in the garden was 2 to 3 weeks behind. There were virtually no June bugs but the clouds of mosquitos were vicious. Even the momma Raccoon, Rockie, kept her babies out of sight until they were only slightly smaller than her. Every season has its challenges, expectations and triumphs. And so followed my summer.

After my March of Dimes presentation to a group of ABI survivors my summer seemed to roll out before me like a straight and narrow pathway. Other than planning for two day visits from our Bermudian son and his wonderful girlfriend, and our dear friends from St. Augustine, Florida, I felt it was a good time to work with my doctor to make adjustments to my medication regiment. No matter how much they tell you it will be a challenging couple of months, I now know you have to personally go through it to understand the disruption these type of changes can cause. Moodiness, increased anxiety, wanting to escape from your family, close friends, even your therapists, the impact of noise, changes in weather pressure… and so on, I felt my days had been turned upside down. Has it been worth it? A resounding YES!

 As we approach fall, a new season of change, I am slowly beginning to feel closer to the me I was in my “New Normal”. It will still take another couple of months of adjustments to my dosages of medications but the difficult moments are becoming shorter and easier to manage. So if you are experiencing changes and challenges, as you move through this ABI journey, it will become easier, believe me, as someone who is going through it now.

Posted 88 weeks ago

March of Dimes ABI Conference

It was with anticipation that I looked forward to my final presentation of the Spring Season before taking a summer break. The March of Dimes, in Barrie, Ontario, had asked me to speak about “That Omnipotent Beast… FATIGUE” at their conference for ABI Survivors. Fatigue is something that I know we all face in our daily challenges with ABI and I welcomed the opportunity to explore how my peers dealt with this beast. 

An invitation was also extended to my Occupational Therapist and Speech Language Pathologist to speak at the conference. From a clinician’s perspective they offered various strategies and ABI Resources available to anyone struggling with ABI challenges.  We are working on including those resources on my website, so please keep checking in.           

Of even greater value, to me, was the opportunity to hear others with ABI talk about their experiences, their challenges, their accomplishments… much of what they spoke about was laid out before us with a sense of humour and heart felt emotion. Thank you for letting me be a part of this worthwhile event. It was a good day for us all.

Posted 88 weeks ago
tumblr photo
Posted 88 weeks ago
tumblr photo
Posted 88 weeks ago

STRATEGIES FOR TRAVEL

abimyjourney:

Over the past 5 years the majority of my “ME” times away from home have happened on weekends. My husband slowly introduced me to the Buffalo and Rochester areas, the benefit being they are within 2 hours from our home here in Ontario. Throughout this time we have developed a routine that fits with my need to feel comfortable with where we stay, the restaurants we choose to eat at, spa time for me, and shopping at one clothing store chain where I always feel at ease when served.

My husband, Rick, makes the arrangements, books our hotel room, makes breakfast and dinner reservations where needed (a quiet table away from patron and staff throughways) and, if it was a spa weekend, before I learned how to book my treatments online, I would let him know what treatment/s to book for me. If we plan to visit friends when we are down there, knowing my schedule for having rests and not having late meals, he sets those up too.

So with the weekend trip away set, and the itinerary in place, I have time to think about what I need to pack for three days and two nights. No leaving things to be done at the last minute! This dance with ABI has taught me that the best way to pack is to plan, well in advance, what items will make up a complete outfit, including undergarments, and put them all on one hanger to be placed in a garment bag a day or two before we leave. When we get to the hotel room they get hung up in the closet in the order I plan to wear them. My only downfall is that I am a matching purse and shoes person, always have been, so they go in my weekend bag with the toiletries and medication I need. I wish I could travel with one pair of shoes and purse but c'est la vie! 

From the point Rick packs up the car and we head out on the road I know I can go with the flow. Routine, even when travelling or on holiday, is my strategy to help temper the unexpected appearance of ANXIETY into my day, or the encroachment of FATIGUE. When we arrive at our destination I will take a nap while Rick does some correspondence or, because of our familiarity with the front desk staff in case I need assistance, he heads out for some “HIS” time while always remaining in touch by phone. And that is okay, it is both of our time away. And if we are at one of the hotels that has a spa, I have my time being pampered while he goes for a drive around town until I am ready to head back to the room. 

For the trip home the worn clothing are hung back up on their hangers, then are placed in the garment bag, while the weekend bag is refilled with all its sundries. And, even if it takes a few days to unpack them once we get home, that is okay!

Posted 100 weeks ago

MARCH OF DIMES - That Omnipotent Beast... FATIGUE

On June 12th I will be speaking, in Barrie, at the March of Dimes ABI Conference. I am looking forward to talking to Survivors about the strategies I have learned from my own experiences, those strategies provided by other ABI Survivors, our caregivers, clinicians and therapists, in tempering the impact of FATIGUE.

Then, as I hope you will all do, I will take some time to enjoy the summer and time with my family and friends. My everyday routines will help keep me in sync until I head back, in the fall, in order to continue moving forward with my speaking engagements as I continue down this road.

Posted 101 weeks ago
tumblr photo
Posted 108 weeks ago

Making Scents of Being Back in Bermuda

I have always believed that a person has to be able to breathe in the essence of Bermuda to know you are here. On this trip I have come to learn that it does not have to be true.

I lost my sense of smell as a result of my TBI. During my first time back to Bermuda, 18 months after the accident, I grieved the loss of not being able to take in those memorable aromas that always greeted me when I landed in Bermuda, a combination of the perfume of its flowers, salty sea air, and the musty, earthy scent created by the humidity. Those wonderful smells were always my signal that I was back in Bermuda, my home away from home.

Last week my husband and I flew to Bermuda to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary, my second visit back since the accident. As we disembarked the plane, not having a sense of smell quickly reminded me a hole had been left where smell once played an important function in my life. I am no longer able to grasp how to pull whatever remnants, from memory, of a once strong and viable olfactory explosion that always seemed to welcome me back to the island.

That was until the second morning of our holiday. I was sitting, alone, out on the balcony of our room when I began to feel, see and hear other elemental essences of Bermuda as they enveloped me. They came in the form of feeling the breeze on my skin, my face being washed over by the warmth of the sun shining down, watching twitter-pated sparrows settle on the railing looking for bread crumbs, and listening to the unforgettable calls of the kiskadee’s . These were all things that existed on each of my previous Bermuda visits but which I somehow took for granted. Excitedly, I am now experiencing them in a new and welcomed way.

Instead of focusing on those losses I have been forced to accept as part of this new journey, I have found that there are other ways to help keep those memories alive. It is a demonstration that if we lose one sense through TBI our other remaining senses will heighten. We just have to be open to how our world changes and, by accepting those challenges, be able to change with it.


Posted 108 weeks ago
tumblr photo
Posted 113 weeks ago

March 2019 - Waiting for Spring

The Ides of March is fast approaching, and certainly, for me, it can’t arrive soon enough! It has been a long and unforgiving winter, and so I think we are all hoping for Spring’s welcomed arrival, giving way to warmth, flowers, and sunshine.

The ups and downs of living with an Acquired Brain injury have taken their toll on me. From the day after Christmas until now I have had to struggle with the pitfalls of that big Hairy “F” word… FATIGUE. The snow and ice have hampered my ability to get out and about. I have relied on people close to me to pick up items I need. I have been to the community pool twice this winter which is not a good track record. And so my somewhat self imposed isolation has worn me down.

Sadly I am guilty of letting some of my strategies in dealing with ABI fall by the wayside, as I am sure we all have been guilty of to some extent. At least until these past two weeks. I am beginning to feel I am slowly getting back on track. 

Two weeks ago I had high tea with 4 of my sisters. It was wonderful and I felt I was making my way back into the family circle. A week later I had the opportunity to talk about FATIGUE to small group of ABI Survivors. A feeling of exhuberance, sharing and joy energized me as we talked about various strategies on how to confront this beast more successfully. Then yesterday I had an outing with my sister and a friend. Companionship, settling back into the relationships I had before my accident, an outing on a sunny day, all helped to make me feel I was entering back into the real world.

And yet I know I will experience down days, days filled with the challenges of fatigue, changes in commitments or support, disappointments caused by unexpected denials or limitations. However, it is a journey as a brain injury survivor we must each take, one step at a time, one day at a time, where ever that journey leads us. Yes let’s take it one day at a time.

Posted 114 weeks ago

November 2018 ABI Conference

abimyjourney:

It was both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. To be able to share the impact of my brain injury on my journey towards recovery with medical and legal professionals, clinicians, survivors and caregivers was like opening the floodgates about my ongoing attempts in “Tempering Fatigue”.

Preparing for this speech took me over a year from the suggestion by my SLP to consider submitting an abstract, to processing the idea of speaking about “That Omnipotent Beast… FATIGUE”, putting it down on paper, then powerpoint, and finally practicing it with anyone who would listen. But the bigger story is that because of my occupation during my pre ABI life I spoke to small and large groups of people over a course of 30+ years. ABI impaired that ability for a long time. The difference now, as I find my way back to speaking to people, is that this is my story, and a story that many other survivors are able to relate to also. It was a team affair and I would like to thank everyone who had a role in helping me along the way, but finally to those who attended my talk thank you for allowing me to validate my trials and tribulations along this new pathway.

I have also come to learn that had I not continued the journey towards becoming Mindful and being able to Meditate, in order to quiet my brain chatter, then speaking to groups of people, no matter how small, would not have happened. It didn’t happen all at once but over a period of time so that now I have the ability to be able to ground myself and become more present in the moment.

Posted 120 weeks ago

Getting excited to speak at the Toronto ABI Conference next Thursday morning!

Posted 131 weeks ago

A Day, A Week, A Month… we do make it through!

We have all had them. A difficult day, week, month, that is challenging, a downer, an obstacle that we are unable to make our way through. Mine was this past month of December. 

It was a month filled with challenges, obstacles, not feeling well both mentally and physically. No different than what I experienced in my life prior to my ABI. But now I am living with the ramifications of an ABI, the steps to move forward can be like walking in quick setting cement. 

December was filled with a negatively impactful Independent Exam ordered by the Insurer, often a misnomer to call it an independent third party but I will not say any more. I had a serious fall, got a cold, endured the headaches from a constantly changing  weather pressure system, wrapping gifts (and, yes, by tradition, I also wrap all the gifts for our stockings), cooking our Christmas Turkey, and finally recovering from all the associated activities of the holidays.

Today I am on the other side of that difficult month. It is a new year, literally and figuratively, and I am feeling calmer and more grounded than I did a week ago. In the clarity of a new day I am able to see that those things that depressed and saddened me, that made me want to hide away from everyone, were filled with many positive outcomes. That IE is being reassessed, I am continuing on with my Yoga sessions, online Christmas shopping was my energy saver, this year I “did not” wrap our dogs’ gifts for their stockings, Christmas dinner was a  collaborative labour of love that involved my husband and sister, again remembering to breathe, and having the down time between Christmas and New Year was a welcomed respite.

We need to accept that life continues no matter what our mental, cognitive and overall health status is. There is always sunshine behind every dark cloud, and eventually it does break through, our mood lifts and life will continue to move forward.

Happy New Year!

Posted 70 weeks ago
0 plays

Posted 15 weeks ago

How do we help ourselves to keep “virtually” in touch with others

These are difficult times for each and every one of us. Suffering the limitations a brain injury causes too many of us, compounded by this virulent Covid-19 epidemic, can make the outside world seem as if it is contracting our space even further. It can make us feel we just want to pull up inside ourselves and cocoon until this episode in history has slithered back into hiding.

Much too quickly I have had to learn that not dealing with the turbulence this is causing my family, friends, neighbours, therapists, PSW’s and rehab providers… essentially every one in each of our circles, can cause new challenges and struggles. You can’t wish it away. So how do we continue to move forward in this life’s journey with ABI?


It has been a process, but the benefits have been immeasurable. As my in-house support network of PSW’s, RSW’s and Therapists began to exit my physical life, due to social distancing, I became moody. Fatigue attacked me with a vengeance as I tried to do many of the daily household tasks that, in support of me, others had been managing. 

And then my days began to get better…

The first positive action I took was to work with my Yoga Instructor in setting up two hourly sessions each week. At that initial live virtual FaceTime session, my eyes were immediately opened to my new reality. A reality that I could have some control in. Once again I felt grounded, focused, and was able to add some much needed structure into my days. One by one I began to schedule times with my OT, Speech Language Pathologist, Social Worker, and Rehab Support Worker. Yesterday I attended an ABI group meeting using Zoom. It was good to see that we were all making efforts to temper the proverbial storm.

My speaking date at the Brain Injury Canada-Ottawa Conference has been moved to the fall. Today I will be recording my speech to the U of T graduating SLP’s for their last virtual class. This coming week I look forward to restarting my art classes with my art teacher via the internet. I am still thinking about upping my physical exercise to include walking and recumbent biking. It will come. 

Throughout this experience I continue to talk to my best friend at least every other day. I have friends and family I text or email. One of my brothers has started sending me pictures and text messages. My sister and husband continue to pick up my slack when I become “Brain Tired”.  Yes we need to remain in place, in our homes, in order to safely wait for the world’s return to a different but better “new” normal. That day will come and we will all be better persons for it.

Posted 55 weeks ago

Today is a better Day!

Inspite of the ongoing and tragic impact the covid-19 virus is having on each and every one of us, it is important to be open ito accepting and celebrating those seemingly little things in life that continue to pull us back towards normalcy.


Today has been that day for me. The Spring Edition of HOPE Magazine is now out and online and there, on page 17, is my article about “Our Creativity is Waiting to Re-Emerge”. Writing has been a way to put my struggles, challenges and successes into perspective. It also provides me with a historical measurement of time and events as I continue my journey along this new pathway.

Www.tbihopeandinspiration.com

I hope you will find something today that brings a smile to your face and warmth in your heart.

Posted 59 weeks ago

And then there are days when even I can’t face those obstacles

Throughout this six year journey of trying to find ‘myself’, it has not been without struggle as I find myself coming face to face with this new “other”person I have become.  In many ways the obstacles I have faced as an ABI survivor often cause me to feel lost, no longer maintaining that important sense of self worth of who I am and the value I have within society. Those essences of “ME”, easily and quickly disappear when I stumble, trip or am confronted with an obstacle, in this, my life’s journey towards recovery.

In that car accident my life changed in an instant. It didn’t ask my permission, I was not given an alternative option, or an agenda in how it would complicate my life, it happened and so I must learn to live with the consequences. As a result, when obstacles rise up before me, making me fall off kilter, often feeling that I have lost my value as a human being, and a feeling of diminished ability in being a partner to my husband, no longer being able to exercise my previous role as the matriarch of a large extended family,  and to have lost that easy going camaraderie I had with so many friends and colleagues and people who were my clients.

Today  I was faced with a double sided coin. I had the best news possible, an article I had written will be published in a magazine called HOPE. Then, on the flip side, an hour later, the other proverbial shoe dropped as I learned the Insurer was again requesting another Independent Examination, in my view a misnomer, by denying continuing my Speech Therapy until the need has been reassessed. My experience with these last assessments have been flawed.

I am wallowing in my despair, in my sadness, my continued inability to control my environment. I understand that my different therapy sessions are continually under review and their frequency changed or limited as I progress forward. What I want the people who decide these things to know about “ME” is that I am not a quitter,  to please come to understand the value I place on becoming and continuing, in some way, productive and creative in ways to replace what I so unexpectedly lost, my pre-accident quality of life, my love of my job and relationships, travel without having to have a caregiver to make sure I am physically safe. I have lost my freedom to meet life’s challenges head on in a humanizing way.

As I sit here there is a side of me that knows the light will shine once again, I know that, and the pain and anxiety will ease and I can again breathe. But at this moment it is dark out.

Posted 66 weeks ago

A Day, A Week, A Month… we do make it through!

We have all had them. A difficult day, week, month, that is challenging, a downer, an obstacle that we are unable to make our way through. Mine was this past month of December. 

It was a month filled with challenges, obstacles, not feeling well both mentally and physically. No different than what I experienced in my life prior to my ABI. But now I am living with the ramifications of an ABI, the steps to move forward can be like walking in quick setting cement. 

December was filled with a negatively impactful Independent Exam ordered by the Insurer, often a misnomer to call it an independent third party but I will not say any more. I had a serious fall, got a cold, endured the headaches from a constantly changing  weather pressure system, wrapping gifts (and, yes, by tradition, I also wrap all the gifts for our stockings), cooking our Christmas Turkey, and finally recovering from all the associated activities of the holidays.

Today I am on the other side of that difficult month. It is a new year, literally and figuratively, and I am feeling calmer and more grounded than I did a week ago. In the clarity of a new day I am able to see that those things that depressed and saddened me, that made me want to hide away from everyone, were filled with many positive outcomes. That IE is being reassessed, I am continuing on with my Yoga sessions, online Christmas shopping was my energy saver, this year I “did not” wrap our dogs’ gifts for their stockings, Christmas dinner was a  collaborative labour of love that involved my husband and sister, again remembering to breathe, and having the down time between Christmas and New Year was a welcomed respite.

We need to accept that life continues no matter what our mental, cognitive and overall health status is. There is always sunshine behind every dark cloud, and eventually it does break through, our mood lifts and life will continue to move forward.

Happy New Year!

Posted 70 weeks ago
tumblr photo
Posted 77 weeks ago

Our Creativity is waiting to re-emerge...

Think about what you liked to do in your youth. Was it writing in a journal, building model ships or planes, drawing, playing an instrument, anything that held you captive as you created something new or continued to build on an activity or avocation you truly enjoyed doing?

 In my pre-ABI life’s story I went to university, entered into the work force and continued to build on an existing family business, married later in life, while always trying to provide emotional and personal support to others that needed me to be there for them.  I believe that we were all impacted by the proverbial treadmill of the “daily grind”. Those seemingly routine activities turned into an avalanche of responsibilities. For so many of us, we become seemingly unaware of how we are impacted by allowing our pre-ABI life responsibilities to take away our “ME” time, pulling us away from those long ago life fulfilling and socially enriching activities.

In this journey of coming to terms with my brain injury, and the impact it has had on me, I am finding my creative side once again. It took time. It took the cajoling, suggestions and patience of those around me to allow me to find my way back to those things I did in my youth. Because of their support I am richer in spirit for finding my way back to writing, drawing and a new passion for painting watercolours. Each activity energizes me, making me think and feel a personal sense of “self-accomplishment”.

It may be something you did before your ABI. It can be something, that until now, you haven’t given much thought to trying it out.  What about working on a puzzle, reading, or putting energy into looking at and cataloguing past and present family photos? And, even if you need someone to help you with that activity, the positive impact to your well being is that you will light up when you are able to carry it through, by talking about it in a social setting, with self-pride.

Find your escape back to what you enjoyed doing in your youth and allow those experiences to help you move forward.

Posted 77 weeks ago

Finding myself going backwards...

In those moments of darkness, when I find myself having awoken in the middle of the night, the string of words and thoughts swirling inside my head flow smoothly and succinctly. As I talk to myself in silent sentences I am perfect and whole. No stuttering, my words link smoothly, and I continue to breathe easily as those thoughts flow. During the daylight hours it has been another story as I once again find myself struggling to communicate to those who enter my everyday world.

Having previously written about my summer and the relatively brief but disruptive impact of changing medications, I had failed to understand, and even acknowledge how it had impacted my speech. Yes I heard the staccato of my stuttering as I searched for increasingly more and more missing words. I heard my repeated apologies of “I’m sorry, I’m sorry” and those anxiety driven “okay… okay…okay’s” and yet I didn’t quite grasp how I was so easily falling back into those chaotic speech patterns that were as a result of my Acquired Brain Injury. That was until a recent joint session with my OT and Speech Language Pathologist brought it out into the forefront. 

Well before that meeting, my RSW, Janet, was constantly telling me to breathe as I talked. I would look at her, breathe, then continue on with my broken speech patterns. She worked hard at trying to get me to focus on what I was saying. We even spent an enormous amount of time doing meditations to temper the impact anxiety was having on me. And to work on my speech she had me reading a funny book about a group of senior “wanna be” bank robbers out loud. I knew what was happening… but then again somehow I don’t think I did. Sometimes it takes a team to intervene and help you get back on track! It was a “eureka” moment and I am grateful to have them all on my side.

As my mood improves, and those anxiety gremlins begin to slink away into the nether regions of my world, and I remember to breathe while listening to the string of words and sentences I am producing out loud, I know I am back on the road to recovery!

Posted 82 weeks ago

As Seasons Pass

It has been a funny summer, not funny haha but funny strange. Everything in the garden was 2 to 3 weeks behind. There were virtually no June bugs but the clouds of mosquitos were vicious. Even the momma Raccoon, Rockie, kept her babies out of sight until they were only slightly smaller than her. Every season has its challenges, expectations and triumphs. And so followed my summer.

After my March of Dimes presentation to a group of ABI survivors my summer seemed to roll out before me like a straight and narrow pathway. Other than planning for two day visits from our Bermudian son and his wonderful girlfriend, and our dear friends from St. Augustine, Florida, I felt it was a good time to work with my doctor to make adjustments to my medication regiment. No matter how much they tell you it will be a challenging couple of months, I now know you have to personally go through it to understand the disruption these type of changes can cause. Moodiness, increased anxiety, wanting to escape from your family, close friends, even your therapists, the impact of noise, changes in weather pressure… and so on, I felt my days had been turned upside down. Has it been worth it? A resounding YES!

 As we approach fall, a new season of change, I am slowly beginning to feel closer to the me I was in my “New Normal”. It will still take another couple of months of adjustments to my dosages of medications but the difficult moments are becoming shorter and easier to manage. So if you are experiencing changes and challenges, as you move through this ABI journey, it will become easier, believe me, as someone who is going through it now.

Posted 88 weeks ago

March of Dimes ABI Conference

It was with anticipation that I looked forward to my final presentation of the Spring Season before taking a summer break. The March of Dimes, in Barrie, Ontario, had asked me to speak about “That Omnipotent Beast… FATIGUE” at their conference for ABI Survivors. Fatigue is something that I know we all face in our daily challenges with ABI and I welcomed the opportunity to explore how my peers dealt with this beast. 

An invitation was also extended to my Occupational Therapist and Speech Language Pathologist to speak at the conference. From a clinician’s perspective they offered various strategies and ABI Resources available to anyone struggling with ABI challenges.  We are working on including those resources on my website, so please keep checking in.           

Of even greater value, to me, was the opportunity to hear others with ABI talk about their experiences, their challenges, their accomplishments… much of what they spoke about was laid out before us with a sense of humour and heart felt emotion. Thank you for letting me be a part of this worthwhile event. It was a good day for us all.

Posted 88 weeks ago

© Copyright ABI - MY JOURNEY