Joey Buchanan

"So that others."

I woke up this morning before 4:30am I have no plans or therapy today and really wanted to sleep late. I was so disappointed because yesterday was such a busy, emotional, and stressful day filled with a doctor's appointment, lunch and shopping with my wife, and finally a meeting with a group of very special people. I will call them my friends. You see, we all have traumatic brain injuries. My injury is classified as mild. I assure you that there has been nothing mild about it. Yesterday for me was difficult at best. I have anxiety now. I used to run into burning buildings. "Give us the line, Chief, we will go in and put that fire out," was what I used to say. Now I worry about how I will feel when I wake up. Will my head, hands, and feet hurt so bad that I will not get out of bed? Or maybe today will be full depression, fatigue, or nausea. Nausea has always been my Kryptonite. Back to yesterday. I was anxious about traveling about 90 miles from my house, going to the doctor, making sure that all my concerns were addresses, then staying out all day so that I could meet with my new friends. You know, now that I think about it, they have become more like my family. This world does not know much about the brain. We can effectively treat diabetes, cancer, even transplant other organs. The brain, well, not so much. It seems to have a mind of its own. There were times yesterday that I became overly anxious. Times that I just wanted to cry. Times that I just wanted to come home and get into the bed. My new safe place. However, I was determined to make to our monthly meeting.

As my wife and I sat at the meeting by ourselves because we were early. I really just wanted to drop off the drinks and come home. We even left the lights off due to me being so tired. My brain now is easily overstimulated. The filters that used to subconsciously filter out the unimportant no longer work. I knew that just interacting with members of the group would provide further stimulation. I was determined, though, to stay at least an hour. I really just wanted to cry and go home. Currently the only way the medical community deals with my issues is to medicate. Pills that, if I am not careful, can become addictive. Ah, what to do? At this time I will medicate to deal with the pain, the depression, the anxiety. Not sure that I am willing to think about life without the medication. As members of the group arrive, we always greet each other and ask how each other is doing. I am the newest member. Many have suffered much longer and have had it much worse than me. I am amazed that many do the things that they do. Maybe even a little jealous. Then I am reminded that their walk is much different than mine.

Even though we all share the same injury, it has manifested itself in so many different ways. No two of us are alike although we may share many of the same symptoms. As we sat there and talked I grew more tired and more anxious, just ready to cry. I cry when I get flooded. Flooding is a term used in traumatic brain injuries for when our brains become overwhelmed. Crying is a symptom of lack of inhibition due to the injury. After an hour I told my wife that I was ready to leave. As we approached the car there were four men there who had been playing basketball at the church where we meet. I overheard them discussing a football player named Junior Seau. Junior Seau suffered many concussions (traumatic brain injuries) while playing in the NFL. He committed suicide several years ago most likely due to the repeated brain trauma. I really wanted to stop and talk. I wanted to kind of educate them on traumatic brain injuries and how they can disrupt your life. To tell them that they could walk into the room that I had just left and listen to all the stories and challenges that those with brain injuries face. I only said, "Excuse me," and got into the car. Their conversation hit me hard. I was already flooded and way overstimulated from the day's activities.

After getting into the car I told my wife about the guys' conversation. She, of course, was not familiar with Junior Seau, so I explained what little I knew. Now I am really stressed as I think about his fate and I can only wonder about mine in the future. I tell her that I am going to take some medication to help me relax and maybe, just maybe, not come home and cry. It worked. I was able to calm down and not cry. I will no longer feel ashamed or guilty about needing medication. I went into this injury vowing to not take a single pill. As a child I had cavities filled without Novocain. I played high school football my Junior year with a separated shoulder. Maybe I should say I attempted to play football. I am not that tough just hard-headed, or so I thought. Now I take 8-9 medications on a daily basis.

Those with traumatic brain injuries are no different than anyone else. We have just been chosen to live a new kind of life. A different kind of life. We are not special. Maybe even more normal than many out there. I do not know. I have often asked myself and God, Why? This is not meant to convert anyone but many of us do share a faith in God. But still the question, Why?

When I woke up this morning the thought that popped in my mind was, "So that others . . ." I laid in the bed for a couple of minutes. "So that others . . . So that others," kept going through my mind. I just needed to get up and write. I had devoted my life as a firefighter "so that others." Why was I and the members of the group chosen to have traumatic brain injuries? Then it hit me: "So that others." "So that others" may be educated about this injury. "So that others" may see that there are huge struggles associated with this injury. Most importantly, "so that others" may see that there is hope and a life after this injury.