Welcome 2021! As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, I feel his quote is particularly fitting for this blog: ” Even though we face difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”
This week I am going to deviate slightly from van life travel. After one year of retirement, touring the country– living in a van and experiencing life during a pandemic, I decided my New Year’s resolution would be that of being fully honest on my capabilities and accept I can’t do everything.
Being a Type A overachiever, who believed and spent the last 40+ years if you put enough effort and determination you can do anything you want to try, it’s hard for me to now admit I am prohibited in doing everything. Living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), now makes it no matter how hard I try there are things I just can’t do anymore well. TBI is a hidden or invisible disability I have been living with the last seven years. Many people don’t realize what is an invisible disability, a physical, mental or neurological condition that is not visible to others because they can occur in life but the person does not outwardly appear to have a problem since there is no need for a wheel chair, walker or crutches. After spending years multi-tasking, sitting on multiple global projects, advisory boards, commissions, tasks forces and doing it all successfully, empathetically, and professionally it’s hard for people who have interacted with me, that I just can’t do those things well anymore. When you have TBI your Amygdala and occipital lobe can be damaged. Your Amygdala is responsible for many important brain functions like, memory, learning, executive function and emotions while the occipital lobe controls your visual processing, distance and depth perception, object and facial recognition and memory formation. Due to my damaged Amygdala and occipital lobe:
- I now forget a lot of things and need lists
- If I am told something in confidence I may forget and discuss it
- I no longer have a filter and say things I should know not to say that may hurt someone’s feelings (lack of executive function)
- My emotions are constantly on over load,
- I get overly upset if I hurt someone and can’t stop worrying about it
- I anger easily over silly things
- I am quick to cry
- I am quick to yelling and raising my voice
- I feel like I need to apologize to my husband multiple times a day for my behavior
- It’s difficult when I drive, I must concentrate really hard due to my challenge with depth perception and reaction time has decreased significantly
- I get migraines often, feel woozy and need to nap daily
Because of this, I sold my business at the end of 2019 and retired. I finally learned I couldn’t work anymore when I needed to nap daily, I’d get frustrated and set-off so easily, and if I had a hard day, I would be dizzy, nauseous and have a migraine. So, Greg made the executive decision for us to hit the road and enjoy the vanlife and start RGBAdventures to document our adventures. When you visit our blog, our YouTube, Facebook and Instagram it looks like all fun but you don’t see the tough days dealing with TBI. In a social media world, we see all the positives and don’t share the challenges. It’s hard to be vulnerable when we live in a society that must show competence and achievement.
I write this post for four reasons:
- To remind us that many people have disabilities and challenges that are hidden and we don’t realize and that we need to be more patient and understanding, especially in a time of COVID-19
- Don’t let social media get you depressed and feel like I wish I had that life, as that person probably feeling same challenges and difficulties as you but can’t really show it and wants to create positive influence in your day.
- If I personally hurt you by my actions, I am so sorry it wasn’t my intent and I can’t make TBI an excuse but hope it gives you some understanding to forgive me eventually. And if you know someone who may have TBI please understand they may look normal but if they do something that upsets you try to understand that they may not have full ‘control’ of their brain anymore.
- To remind myself and others that we can’t do everything and that it is okay to lean on friends, family and loved ones and admit when we need help. I hope this also allows you to ask for help.
During this pandemic, we need to give ourselves and our community a break and be more understanding. It’s okay for us to have a little more self-care and do a little less. It is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and what mother nature can bring us to relieve anxiety and stress. When I can’t control my brain, the one thing I appreciate the most living in a van right now and being able to control is being able to run, hike, bike, ski, paddleboard, swim and focus on my physical health. It’s okay to be vulnerable, not be perfect at everything and let people help you. If you want to learn more about TBI here is a great article. Hoping for a positive and wonderful 2021 for everyone!