One Foot In, One Foot Back

Bitter, party of one.

Okay, that’s not quite true. I still can’t believe this happened to me. And yes, sometimes I get angry.

But you know the odd thing? I’d like to say I’m bitter, that I go to bed every night poking pins into a voodoo horse-shaped doll. But I just can’t. And I don’t.

Of course, I’m human. I wish this had never happened. It’s difficult not to imagine what my life would have been like right now, otherwise.

Sometimes, I feel a bit cheated when I think about the month of May. Both Paul and I were just starting to feel like ourselves – like we could finally remember what it felt like to be happy again after losing my dad.

You may have started to notice a common theme in these posts so far. Because, what I’m really writing about here is just being human.

Paul asked me something a few weeks ago that I’ve given a lot of thought to. At the time, I still couldn’t speak more than a few words, so I was using a dry erase board (a great tool!). I was about to turn 30, and I was crying. Not because of the number – but because I couldn’t believe that I was going to turn 30 and was on disability.

Now, of course, the disability itself was needed – I couldn’t work and needed to focus on recovering but we still needed to survive. But, it was the loss – what the disability represented – I cried because it reminded me of what I used to be. I was no longer just Jenni. I was now Jenni with a TBI (is that cooler than Jenny from the Block?).

I was really struggling to accept the “new” me. I began to finally speak (very haltingly at first), and I felt stupid.

Paul turned to me and asked what I thought about the riders I’ve been teaching for years. I didn’t quite get where he was going.

“Well, do you think they’re stupid?”

I looked at him like he was crazy.

Of course not! Why would he even ask that?

“What makes you different?” he said. I would never tell my riders to stop trying and pushing themselves to get better at riding. I would never tell them that they can’t be skilled, confident riders (of course, they already are!). I would never, ever look down on their disability or call them stupid.

So why am I doing it to myself?

I sometimes wonder how many other people feel this way. I see it sometimes in my weekly aphasia challenge group. At least I’m not the only one to pepper my speech with periodic self-disgust when a word just won’t come out right.

But, why do we blame ourselves when what’s happened is beyond our control? Having a TBI or a stroke or a speech disorder – well, it’s not high on many people’s wish lists.

We can’t live one foot in, one foot back. We can’t always be looking to the past – the “could have beens.” And we can’t fault ourselves for trying to go forward in this new reality.

Even if we think we sound stupid, at least we’re trying. That’s more than some people get to say.

Do it


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