After taking care of my brother as he wasted away and died from AIDs, the end of my 18-year marriage to my high school sweetheart in an ugly parting that made Divorce Court look civil, and years of wrong turns, things not working out, and being flat-out disappointed with life, I tried to kill myself in June of 2007, by swallowing over 90 pills, mostly brain drugs. Because I wasn’t found in time, the drugs went all the way through my system wreaking destruction.
After a week in a coma, I woke up with a global, acquired brain injury (ABI), technically labeled encephalopathy, to a very different world. Initially, I was seriously mentally impaired and couldn’t retrieve words, remember the day, my sons’ ages, or that I’d gotten divorced. Physically, I could barely speak, couldn’t coordinate the acts of breathing and swallowing anymore, and had no fine motor skills. My ex-husband sued me for custody of our two sons, won, and promptly moved out of state with them.
And I thought things were bad before?
Alone, for the first time in my life, I had no one to put my limited energy into but myself. Getting downright pissed off, I told myself, “If I have to live, I’m NOT living like this!” Over the first year, I naturally healed somewhat and, in the following years, the more I recovered, the more I learned. The more I learned, the more I recovered.
Through years of daily work and such practices as neurofeedback, Brain State Technologies’ brainwave optimization, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, acupuncture, voice therapy, music therapy, cranial-sacral massage, hypercapnia, visualization, meditation, cross-lateral movement, yoga, cardiovascular exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, and more, I made a remarkable recovery. Although I still talk funny and have some slight manual dexterity issues, I’m better than ever, even with these.
The brain injury forced me to make radical changes in my lifestyle and mindset that I’d needed to make long before. Better late than never! Because the underlying belief systems and the perceptual foundation upon which I’d built my reality withered away along with brain cells, I got to start with a clean slate, so to speak.
By consciously working with and altering my thoughts, behaviors, and emotions, I transformed my world which in turn, changed my physical brain and its default mode of operation. Today, I live a brain-healthy lifestyle incorporating mental health practices daily to maintain the balance and happiness I’ve found.
Our brains are neuroplastic, meaning that their structure and function are literally, physically shaped by that which we do repeatedly in our lives – behaviors, emotions, and even thoughts. This works both for you and against you. We have much more power to recover from a brain injury, improve our brain’s functioning, recover from depression, and create our own happiness and reality with the gray matter between our ears than ever thought possible.
Neuroplasticity is the superpower we all are born with and possess until the day we die. On my blog and website, I share information about the tools I used to heal myself and my life physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually and related topics to inspire and encourage you to take control of and change your brain and life for the better. Promise!
I live in Greensboro, North Carolina with my five cats (sometimes more). There you can find me reading, writing, gardening, and doing hot yoga. I have written an intimate, entertaining memoir, Sex Suicide, and Serotonin, in which I tell all the dirty details of how I got to a place in life where I wanted to die and how I recovered spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.
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I really enjoyed the information you shared, I wanted to tell you this as a retired law enforcement officer in Montana. I responded to suicides and suicide attempts and it was not until my own ATV crash without a helmet that I began to understand more about the human mind. I was in a coma for about one month and when I woke my world changed. I really wish a lot of this information was here years ago when I was trying to understand many things. BUT, it is here now and I continue to learn. Your steps through this discovery were for sure challenging and I am so glad you are feeling better. Hope you are having a good day Debbie…
Sincerely / Ed Todd
Thank you for your comment and kind words, Ed. It’s funny how having something taken away – like the ability of our brains to function correctly – makes us appreciate it. I totally took it for granted before. Not anymore! A lot of the info on neuroplasticity was not readily available when I was recovering, but it was starting to be. I’m glad to help spread the word. All the best to you. 🙂
Your website is most helpful, and your story very empowering. I’m a psychologist and shamanic wellness counselor with my own story of “impossible healing.” In addition to my work through Wholebeing Wellness Counseling, I’m the Founder and Executive Director of a nonprofit institute, Orenda Healing International. Part of our mission includes supporting the work of alternative healers, whom we feature in our online publication, Four Winds Journal. Let me invite you to visit the website, have a look at some of the archived editions of the Journal, and let me know if you’d like to be included in a future issue.
Thanks for so much for your kind words and the information and invitation. I’ll check it out. 🙂
Remarkable story. My dad, who recently died at age 93, used to tell me about his heroic feats while a bombardier fighting against Nazi Germany that “people are capable of accomplishing the most amazing things!” That surely describes you for sure. It makes me sad that this ever happened to you. However I’m glad that you’ve done well.
I’m developing a coaching program for people suffering from chronic pain. I was a physician for 30 years doing neurosurgery and pain medicine but am now retired with a disabling painful peripheral neuropathy that makes it hard to walk and use my hands. However we can make it and heal ourselves in many ways! Your story is very informative in many ways and I plan to refer my clients to read your hopeful story. Keep after it and focus on God. Best wishes for many blessings, Tom Purtzer
Thomas, thank you for your comment. I like and agree with the quip from your Dad. We all are capable of amazing things – we just have to believe it and try to know what’s even possible! 🙂
Thank you for saying you’ll be sending your clients my way. I appreciate it. BTW – you might be interested in reading this: Pain Is In Your Brain (and can end there) https://www.thebestbrainpossible.com/pain-is-in-your-brain-and-can-end-there/.
One of my clients just took his own life a few weeks ago. No one saw it coming or maybe we did but weren’t entirely aware. The client had a history of depression and binge drinking and ended up hanging himself. It’s been a horrific tragedy to know people can still take their own lives despite getting the help they need. Sad, sad, sad.
It is sad. I’m sorry. I know when I was suicidal, I intentionally let people think I was OK. I don’t know that you can always see it coming.
I find your story very heart-moving and inspirational. I am a licensed educational psychologist and I will be sending my clients to your articles. You really do sound like the “comeback-kid” and a real success story of overcoming great adversity.
Thank you for your kind words of support, Bob. I truly feel that by sharing our stories, we can help each other heal. 🙂
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That’s a remarkable story! Thank you for sharing it with such honesty. It is amazing you are alive and have taken on such a new perspective and radiance. I can only imagine how challenging recovery must have been and am just truly inspired by your story. Here’s to 5 cats, family, and learning to embrace the life God gave us.
Thank you for your kind words, Beau. You may enjoy my memoir Sex, Suicide and Serotonin. All the best to you.