where normal hides…
In my younger days, I despised the word “normal” when used to describe a person. Over and over I would hear parents, educators, and other professionals alike refer to a person as normal – or even worse, abnormal – and hate the description. Normal grades, normal learning style, normal development, normal behavior, normal test results and normal performance were all phrases that would boil my blood . I used to ask “what is normal anyway?” What or who defines normal? Just because the mass of the population performs a certain way, why is that considered “normal”. You have your path and I have mine, and we have the power to make changes and improve ourselves, and those around us. Neither of us is more normal than the other. We’re individuals with different developmental experiences and a sum of our collective parts. After all, normal is a dryer setting, not a group of human skill sets.
That was then.
In the last 18 months or so, my perspective has changed a bit, thanks to the people I have worked with that have suffered brain injuries. Whether caused by a stroke, AVM (arterio-venous malformation), roll-over car accident, head on collision, surgery to remove a cavernous angioma, 20 foot fall from a scaffolding, or a “routine” surgery gone horribly wrong, these fantastic people all seem to have one common goal; to find normal again. Whether by tragic event, or medical mishap, or just plain bad luck, their lives have been changed in the blink of an eye. Their understanding of reality, their ability to to find happiness, their well being, their direction in life and their relationship with the world in general, has been turned upside down. Day after day of wanting to get better, only to feel defeated when they cannot. Day after day of trying to resume some semblance of what life used to be, only to feel defeated yet again because although they appear OK on the outside, what’s inside is a much different story. Day after day of trying to string a few thoughts together, trying to make it through the day without a nap or a headache, without getting angry and frustrated at remedial tasks, without feeling like the world is moving much faster than they can process, or without getting overwhelmed in crowded places like the grocery store or a restaurant and being in bed the rest of the day because they cannot make things work. They lost their normal, and they are fighting like hell to get it back.
Dr. Bob Sanet told me one time that the biggest injustice we could ever participate in is allowing a patient with a brain injury to compare who they are today, with who they were before their injury. His point was simple, yet powerful: Not the same operating system. Not the same person. Apples to Oranges. His wisdom has taken a few years to resonate . I heard the words when he said them, but didn’t have a true understanding of their meaning until now. The old normal is gone, and we need to help them create a new one.
The point of all this is my respect for the word normal has grown. For these people, finding a new normal is their goal in VT and in life. They want quality and they want normal. Now I understand.
With permission, I’d like to share two blogs from patients of mine who have suffered brain injuries. The first is Joyce, who I met in Houston about a year after she had surgery for an AVM, and did about 16 months of VT. The second is Cavin from Austin, who fell 20ft off a scaffolding and was in a coma for over a week, and is currently in VT. Both are excellent blogs and both give insights on what a person goes through after a brain injury. I encourage you to read them.
Cavin – cavinb.wordpress.com OR http://www.cavinbounce.com
Joyce – http://www.gojoycego.com (click on the “My brain”)