WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE AND WHAT I CAN’T TELL YOU
I am a licensed clinical social worker with over 25 years of experience in the field. I worked for community agencies for many years, and 11 years ago I started a successful private practice. I have been able to open this up to other therapists and recently added a location with a training component. I specialize in treating trauma and co-occurring disorders, and have extensive training area in this area. I an an Approved Consultant in EMDR Therapy and provide consultation for other therapists. I have also developed and presented trainings on special topics. I have an amazing husband and we have a beautiful home. I have also been in recovery from drugs and alcohol for over 29 years.
THIS IS WHO I AM NOW.
MY PAST IS ALO PART OF WHO I AM NOW.
In 1990 I was found on the streets with a severe brain injury. Part of the hospital report states: “Patient is a 35 year old white female with a history of IV drug abuse who was found unresponsive by the police and brought to the Emergency Room. Past history: Significant for heroin and cocaine drug use and failed drug dependency in the past.” The report goes on to describe the recovery room and transfer to another hospital. I have no memory for about a month after that. The first thing I do remember was trying to walk and falling, because I forgot I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t read or use a phone. I remember my mother coming to visit and I knew I loved her, but I couldn’t remember who she was.
It took a long time to recover. It took me 6 months to read my first book. Everything was so hard because nothing was automatic. Taking a bus was terrifying because I had to concentrate on so many things at once. I had to focus on walking up the steps, putting the money in for the fare, finding a seat and trying to figure out where to get off.
The hardest part was that I didn’t have words for what was happening. I couldn’t tell what i needed because I could not remember the words. I knew I was different but I couldn’t explain that part of me had died. This all was further complicated by the fact that I was also recovering from a long history of addiction. As I think many of us do, I buried the pain of trauma with drugs and alcohol. But I looked damn good on the outside! (Or at least I thought!) I got into recovery and eventually was able to get treatment for the trauma.
Recovering from the traumatic brain injury has been a different thing. There were no guidelines. After a few months I “looked normal” so I started pushing my self to be what I thought normal is. But it has been so damn hard. When I tried to tell people what was happening, they couldn’t hear me. They would say things like “I understand” or maybe “I forget things too”. I tried to hide it from others and myself, but I would hit the wall – literally.
It has been almost 30 years since the injury, and I am still trying to navigate the minefields. I know I will always have the scars from the trauma that healed, but the TBI is a different thing. The consequences are not going to change. But I can change. I can take care of myself. I can speak up for what I need without making excuses.
I had the good fortune to run into someone last week who told me about the art of repairing broken ceramics. it’s possible to give a new lease of life to pottery that becomes even more refined thanks to its “scars”. The Japanese art of kintsugi teaches that broken objects are not something to hide but to display with pride. When a bowl, teapot or precious vase falls and breaks into a thousand pieces, we throw them away angrily and regretfully. Yet there is an alternative, a Japanese practice that highlights and enhances the breaks thus adding value to the broken object. It’s called kintsugi (金継ぎ), or kintsukuroi (金繕い), literally golden (“kin”) and repair (“tsugi”). This is a powerful image!
I invite others to share their experiences of this lesson.